Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Nate Update: Classic Pastry Arts: Week Four

I'm an evening student in the Classic Pastry Arts program here at FCI. Food and writing are two of my passions in life, and I'm excited to bring you The Nate Update, snapshots from my life in and out of class.

Things started out with a bang in Week 4 as we hailed the arrival of Chocolate Week…which, sadly, turned out to be merely Chocolate Day (I misread the syllabus. But we'll return to chocolate again at several points in the curriculum). One class was more than enough chocolate for me in the end, however, as I wound up devouring an entire chocolate ganache tart by myself while watching American Idol’s “Songs From the Year You Were Born” week late Tuesday evening on a self-pity-soaked couch. One of the contestants popped into this world way, way back in…1992. 1992!! The thought was all too much for me to take, as she warbled Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me Anymore,” that I could have been her daddy. And so I kept eating. We also made a Bavarian chocolate tart in class that, thankfully, didn’t suffer the same gluttonous fate and was instead enjoyed by friends in a (presumably) much more civilized fashion.

Thursday’s caramel theme found us concocting delicious caramel nuts tarts and mini tarte tatin, with pecan bourbon cookies thrown in for good measure. Chef Kir Rodriguez, a former Franciscan monk-turned high school teacher-turned pastry chef (!!), stepped in for Chef Cynthia, who was out in observance of Passover. We had a lot of fun with him, and it was interesting seeing the difference in teaching styles between him and Chef Cynthia and how it changed the rhythm of class. Not surprisingly, Chef Kir gave off oodles of calm energy that must have been leftover from his time at the monastery and helped to balance the nervousness that sometimes pokes through when I’m tackling new recipes.

Linzer tortes and quiche Lorraine were the star subjects in Saturday morning’s class. Chef Cynthia returned and taught us how to make a lattice weave on our tortes. We spent the last hour of class reviewing for our first practical and written exams. Our last test on sanitation (which I ended up passing, by the way!) is regulated by the state and doesn’t affect my overall grade in class, while the practical and written pastry exams do. I’ve been studying for it since the end of class on Saturday and feel okay about the written portion, yet mostly uncertain about the practical exam, which entails making three recipes of Chef Cynthia’s choosing from the repertoire of tarts and cookies we’ve made to date and presenting them for judging by the end of class. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out, and I’m sure I’ll have a lot to report on next week. And not just on the test, as week five also marks the beginning of a new unit—Pâte à Choux, where we’ll dive into making éclairs and profiteroles, among lots of other yummy things. I’m looking forward to it, but first I’ll concentrate on getting through this exam…think good thoughts!

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