By the end of last week, standing for six hours was getting quite exhausting. Therefore, I had to concentrate even harder to keep all the details for recipes and dishes in mind. Nonetheless, I learned a huge amount. For instance, there are three main ways to shape brioches à tête. I practiced all of them. I also had the most successful croissant bake of all my attempts. (I wrote about croissant failures a while back.) I think I need to repeat the procedure a few more times until I’m entirely satisfied, but now I have the foundation to build on (hint, c.h.i.l.l.i.n.g). At the end of bread week on Friday, I brought home brioche – fluffy, eggy pillows of carbs – , pain au lait – fluffy, buttery baby-bum-like pillows – , croissants, pain au chocolat, pain de campagne – crusty, quite dense bread – , and fougasse with sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Oh, and my roommate brought back the same seemingly infinite amount as well. (Un)surprisingly, I think we have actually eaten quite a good portion of the bread already. Thus, on Sunday, we made French toast, or pain perdu, with some other girls. Garnished with some crushed candied peanuts, nectarine-raspberry compote, strawberries, and of course butter. I also couldn’t leave my sourdough unattended for so long, so I had to make a loaf of bread on Sunday… (Secretly, I think the fresh sourdough with cream cheese is my favorite of the week). Also, at the end of the week, we combined all of the most beautiful pieces on a table for picture-taking.

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Pastry class this week started off a bit bumpy because we were meant to make many piped pastries and crèmes, but didn’t have enough piping tips in the right sizes for everyone. Nonetheless, we spent about an hour on Monday piping and repiping meringue (see picture below). After a while, my regularity and form definitely improved! We also have made components for creating a charlotte and jaconde, but those are still in the fridge waiting to be completed, so pictures will come later.

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So much for my morning class adventures. Since I’m quite familiar with making bread and baking in general, understanding and executing the procedures in pastry class wasn’t too much of a challenge. Cuisine class, on the other hand, has me 100% alert and focused so that I don’t mix up steps as I go. I really truly worked with meat for the first time, making a pâté. It required (nicely) chopping pork shoulder, belly, liver, and fat and wrapping it in caul. And I shouldn’t forget the SEA URCHIN that I had to cut open, clean out, and serve in! Preparing foods is definitely great, but what I also enjoy a LOT is plating. Normally, when I serve my food, I simply put the food on a plate. Voilà. Here, not so much… After preparing all components, Chef Samuel shows us how to lay everything out on a plate in a modern style. It always looks so delicious. Next, we have to try to arrange our components in the same way. It’s never as easy as it looks. It takes patience and a steady hand to place a filled sea urchin shell on top of a molded mound of salt on top of a rock…

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Often, I can tell that something about my dish doesn’t look great, but it’s very difficult to identify the faults. Chef is fantastic because he can tell me that there’s too much space between my pâté and my salad leaf, that I should add dressing to the plate to make note of the fact that the salad is dressed, that my decorative chives are too short, etc. And at the end of the day, I always have a feeling of success!

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Yesterday, we had a somewhat different experience in cuisine. Quiche Lorraine – traditional and deconstructed. We started with the traditional variation, learning how to make a great crust using an interesting technique that I’ve never seen. After that, we were left to our own devices: create a dish using the components of a Quiche Lorraine (egg, pork belly, emmental, nutmeg, cream, and crust) that tastes like a Quiche Lorraine but doesn’t look at all like it! This challenge was extremely stressful and difficult but SOOOO much fun!! First of all, coming up with an idea is not easy. I figured out that I wanted to make a cone with the crust. But then, how to use the other ingredients… I decided to break up the egg and use the yolk as a surprise element and make a mousse with the white. Chef Samuel recommended I cook the yolk in salt water, i.e. without heat – totally new to me, but works. I then wanted to make a cheese mousse and some sprinkles of fried pork belly. I had also hoped to make a béchamel to drizzle around the dish as a warm element. Once I had the idea, I was happy, but then I had to make everything, which was much easier said than done. I ended up having to make 4 components at once and messed up my béchamel and undercooked the cone. So idea = good; execution = meh…

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The experience of creating my own dish was fantastic because it gave me an idea of what it’s like to work under the pressure of a real kitchen. Thinking of a bunch of components at once, making sure everything is done at the same time, and having a beautiful product. While it has been the most hectic experience so far, it was also the most fun!

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