My, what a difference a semester makes: Semester one was all about vigor, and knocking out recipe after recipe. In vast contrast, semester two emphasizes finesse and the focus is mostly on developing delicate skills.
Okay, on second thought, scratch that– there’s nothing dainty about hauling petit four batter out of the 12-quart Hobart mixer. A girls gotta have serious brawn to hold up that bowl with one hand, while vehemently scraping the bottom of the bowl before the biceps give out.
I’ve learned how to hide my klutzy-nature quite well. I mean, I’ve had a few close calls at school, but for the most part, I’ve managed to save myself from disaster. Here’s the thing: I’m really good at the fine stuff, like piping, decorating, chocolate work, and so on– it’s the other stuff that make me a liability. If it wasn’t for my awesome partner, I’d probably have 150 bowls piled up on my work station, flour all over the floor, and batter all over my apron (crap, that last one still holds true). We have an unspoken system: I sweat the small stuff, while he takes care of the big stuff, and together we get ‘er done.
The emphasis this semester is primarily on cakes and plated desserts. We’ve covered most of the classic cakes, such as the famous Sacher, Opera, and St. Honore. We also learned how to make classic ‘American’ style cakes, including pound cakes, angel cakes, and the ever-so-yummy, strawberry shortcake. To add to that list, we’ve made a variety of mousse cakes, cheesecakes, petit fours (both sec and glace), and strudels.
For the record, petit fours are pain in the ass. There’s no reason for me to sugar coat the truth: they are extremely time consuming, and after fondanting a couple dozen, they can make a sane person go crazy. Petit fours are these classic French tea desserts. Given their itty bitty size, they pack in a lot of intricacy, and require a lengthy process to produce. Unless you’ve attempted to make these at home, try not to scoff too loudly when you see the price of these little delicacies, because they can cost a small fortune.
[Heart Shaped Cake I made for Valentine's Day - "Occasion Cake"]
While we’ve learned a lot, the pace is much slower this semester. The week is usually divided into two prep days, and one finishing/plating day. At times, the class looks hopelessly bored waiting for the pace to pick up, and I too have to remind myself that we are there to learn and take our time perfecting the skills we are taught. Sure the program could squeeze in a few more recipes into the curriculum, but it is what it is.
[Chocolate Mousse w/ Hazelnut Feuilletine Bases]
With that said, I can’t fathom the ammount of planning that is involved in coordinating the program. Our recipes and ingredients are scaled and organized daily. We have just enough supplies so that each group can complete their given recipes– no waste, and rarely any overages. Given the scale of the culinary program, very little is overlooked.
[Strawberry Mousse Cake w/ Vanilla Sponge]
There is just a little over a month left to go before I wrap up my first year at culinary school, and there’s still a lot to learn. It isn’t always easy stuff, but I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.