I can’t believe I am already half way through week three of classes! While week 1 seemed to take an eternity, week 2 began to speed up and the days seem to fly by.

Once again, last weeks patisserie classes finished with a major production of picture-worthy goods. The topic was “entremets” – according to Wiki, this translates to a “multi-layered mousse-based cake with various complementary flavors and varying textural contrasts.” Chef Pascal places a strong emphasis on learning the basics during the first month. Thus, we created two different biscuits (very light fluffy cakes) and a genoise (a more classic sponge cake). We also made two types of bavaroise (basically a mix of custard and whipped cream) – chocolate and vanilla – as well as two types of crème patissière (classic pastry crème) – coffee and chocolate. We used the bavaroise to fill and decorate our “Charlotte” and “Joconde” cakes. The crème patissière became the filling for “religieuses:” these are stacked filled and glazed profiteroles. The name “religieuse” means “nun” in French and makes reference to the shape of the pastry.

Over the weekend, I was able to spend some time near Carcassone with a couple of friends from home and we ate the cakes and religieuses. Yes, all of them. Of the three, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the coffee-filled religieuses the most. The not-so-sweet filling, fluffy choux pastry and sweet glaze were absolutely scrumptious and will probably be added to my standard desserts. I’d also be interested in creating different twists on the cakes and religieuses by adding e.g. fruit.

Canal du Midi

This week is messy, i.e. chocolate week. On day 1, we practiced “tablage,” the art of cooling chocolate by spreading it on the table and then gathering it again. Way harder than it looks. So far, we have made caramel bonbons with dark chocolate as well as mendicants and rochers. I flipped my apron on day 2, i.e. I’m covered in chocolate all day.

The dynamic of cuisine class is quite different from the morning pastry classes because instead of making or completing or assembling a number of different creations, each day is dedicated toward creating a full dish.

Half way through last week, I made a beautiful discovery. I already told you about my experience of composing my own dish. But one day later, we used tonka bean. The dish was a tonka bean royale and pumpkin soup served with goat cheese ravioli.

Goat cheese ravioli in pumpkin soup with tonka bean royale

A royale is similar to a flan and it can be savoury or sweet. Ours was flavored with tonka bean, which is a South American bean – similar to cocoa beans – that has the spice and warmth of cinnamon and the sweetness of vanilla. That’s what it felt like to me, in any event. Tonka beans are illegal in the United States, but luckily for me, they are legal in France. They contain coumarin, and I have to admit that my research hasn’t been good enough to figure out why that’s bad… I was also really excited to be making pasta for the first, and certainly not the last, time. As you know, I’m not a cheese person, but I must admit that the salty goat cheese ravioli went extremely well with the sweetness of the rest of the dish.

Finally, we finished off last week with escargots! Of course I knew it had to be on the menu at some point, but I was still quite shocked. And disgusted. Cleaning the slimy creatures was not at all that easy and I definitely screamed a little bit, which the rest of the class thought was pretty hilarious. But I am very proud that I managed to prepare the snails. Not only that, but this week, I have been an absolute pro at preparing fish, including poking out eyes and tearing out gills. (I have to say, I sort of enjoy it!) This week – fish week – we have so far made sea bass twice and today, red mullet.

Escargots with crispy fried garlic sauce pillows on pea puree