Morning Pastry Class, Day 2

I left the first day of Morning Pastry Class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts really excited to return. Despite the class starting at 6:00 and being scheduled for around 3 or 4 hours, I didn’t leave until around 11pm. Adding to that, I had to drive out to my parents’ house to sleep for three hours before getting up to drive some family that was visiting to the airport and then go from there to my apartment and then back out to an early morning investor meeting for my company. Needless to say I was exhausted after the whirlwind of activity, but it was worth it. There was so much to learn and do in the class and it was a lot of fun. If there was one thing that I observed above all else, it was that people just don’t follow directions. It was very funny to have to see Chef Gomes save us from our selves. I wondered how our end products would turn out.

Rolling out croissant dough

It was amazing to see how Chef Gomes worked with and transformed the dough.

Le Croissant

These guys get real big once they have proofed!

Laying out the croissants

The ends of the croissants were brought together on the sheet pan.

Filling chocolate croissants

My classmates and I may have eaten some of the chocolate bars out of the box instead of putting them into the croissant dough. I’m expecting the bill any day now.

Filling bear claws with jam

The bear claws are harder to get right than they look.

Oh the shapes we made

We made stars with the dough and filled them with pastry cream and apricots.

Proofed Croissants

The croissants got much bigger when they proofed!

Scoring chocolate croissants

Using a razor blade, the chocolate croissants were scored for added texture.

Croissants baking in the oven

The smell of butter and waiting for these suckers to bake was torture.

Fresh baked croissants

If waiting for the croissants to bake wasn’t bad enough, we had to wait for them to cool down. Some over eager students were willing to burn their mouths to sample the goods. I may have been one of them.

The bounty

Things were just getting started with the first batch.

Croissants with pastry cream

The picture says it all. These did not last.

Croissants with a sprinkling of sugar

Whoever was on dusting duty was quite generous with the powdered sugar.

Palmiers (Elephant Ears)

If pounds of butter were not enough to cause serious health problems and weight gain, these elephant ears were like putting the final nail in the coffin. These were pretty much all butter and sugar.

Cinnamon Buns

Sadly I may never order cinnamon buns from a bakery again knowing that they will never be as good as these were.

Brioche

If I had to guess, the brioche was the most healthy item on the menu.

The pictures tell the story better than I ever could. I left the class with two boxes filled with the most delicious pastry items I have ever had the fortune of eating. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for a week, I was happy.

I can see this class being an annual tradition.

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Morning Pastry Class, Day 1

In October I was fortunate to take a two day morning pastry class with Master Pastry Chef / Pastry Program Director Delphin Gomes at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Without a doubt this was one of the best classes I have ever taken. Even though I took the class last fall, I took many pictures of the amazing pastry we made. I can almost taste the butter now as I write. The best part of the class was the fact that there were not written recipes. The focus of the class was on the method, and not the recipe. We were given clear instructions and sage advice at the beginning of the class which included basic ratios of ingredients and the instructions for combining them, where if done properly and as was the case almost properly, would result in pastry never experienced by the students this side of the Atlantic. The pictures in this post and the pictures and videos in the posts to follow speak for themselves.

Making Pastry Cream

You’ve never had better pastry cream.

Proofing Croissant Dough

The Chef and his assistant had created some dough prior to the start of our class so we could start working right away.

Smashing a pound of butter!

After a long day at work, there’s nothing better than being able to smack a block of butter with a rolling pin to get your frustrations out. The noise level of the class was insane. I’m guessing this activity would not be welcomed by my neighbors and would result in immediate forfeiture of at least half of my croissants.

Rolling out the croissant dough

Any frustrations assuaged by the flattening of the butter quickly returned when the croissant dough had to be rolled out into a straight and event rectangle. The Chef had to intervene…often.

The first day was primarily one of setup. We had to wait a whole week to return for the second and final day where we could make our croissants, puff pastry and brioche.

Culinary Wisdom: According to Chef Gomes, a good croissant takes two days to make. If yours didn’t take two days to make, you aren’t eating a good croissant. Joking aside, the reason for this is directly related to the proofing times required and the flavor production resulting from them. Throughout the proofing, the dough had to be folded (turned) several times to create the layers of butter and air required for an amazing croissant.

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Cooking Competition Ahead! My knives and skills need sharpening!

Last week I received word that Jumptap, the company I used to work for, will be having the annual International Buffet competition on March 10th. As always “alumni” are invited back to participate and even compete if they wish. The food is a big enough draw as it is, but as the reigning champion I have a reputation to uphold.

Needless to say, since leaving Jumptap in September of last year I have been quite busy getting my startup, Media Armor off the ground as is evidenced by my infrequent blog posts. Aside from the occasional pasta making and the cooking classes I took in the fall, I’ve all but hung up my apron and put away my knives and let them get dull.

All is not lost, there is time to hone my skills and sharpen my knives. Like a fighter called out of retirement I must retain my honor and claim the grand prize again (ok, that was lame). In all seriousness I’m excited to have something to prepare for.  Last year, I prepared a two part dish entitled “The Two Sides of Eric”, a combination of my Latin Mother and American Father’s backgrounds.

I cooked mini huevos racheros which involved hand-made tortillas, homemade refried beans, scrambled eggs, salsa and cheese as well as baked potato nests filled with scrambled eggs and topped with bacon bits and ketchup on the side. Everything was prepared fresh on a griddle and a hot plate in the competition room ensuring that the food was hot. The wafting smells of food being cooked may have helped secure my judging…presentation is everything.

With the competition ahead, I wonder how I can top my performance and retain my title as champion. Suggestions are welcomed. This is serious business. Jumptappers, you better get ready for a throwdown. It’s go time.

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