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    Day 10 - BC Demo & Practical

    I woke up early this morning to assist the pastry Chef with the madaleine and Macaroon course offered through the continuing education program at the University of Ottawa.

    The students were scheduled to arrive at LCB at 10:00am, so we had two hours to prepare the stations (2 madaleine and 3 macaroon stations) with equipment and ingredients. One of my classmates joined me, along with three other students who had either completed the Pastry program and are currently working on the Boulagerie course or are pastry superior students. In total there was the Chef and five volunteers, including myself.

    We managed to finish preparing everything by 9:00am, so the Chef said to come back once the guests start to arrive. Prior to us leaving the student services coordinator asked for two of us to join him at 9:30am at the front of LCB to welcome the guests and to show them to the kitchen on the top floor.

    With thirty minutes to spare, all of us hung out in the student lounge and started to talk about what the other levels are like since my classmate and I are only in the basic level. Many changes were made to the program during the last couple of years, one being that the school is becoming more strict on who can pass the program. To maintain their reputation and high standards they will not allow just anyone to pass, which stands for the quality of the program; however it doesn't make me feel any less stressed about the final examinations. Next we started to compare the Chefs and we all agreed that the BP Chef is probably one of the sweetest Chefs they've had throughout all of the courses. They also mentioned how the Chefs become more critical as the levels progress and how sometimes their egos might get the better of them. Regardless, the program is tough and there is no time to slack or else you will get left behind!

    The time to meet the guests had come and my classmate, the Boulangerie student and myself offered to go upstairs while the others waited until 10am.

    Slowly the guests started to arrive and we showed them to the kitchen (I got lost the first time because I've always come in through the student area and not through the front doors). There were 14 students in total with only one being a male.

    As the last of the students arrived, we brought them to the kitchen and started to get them setup with aprons and hats. The Chef introduced himself and started to talk about the procedure for the madaleine recipe, but he went through it so quickly I didn't catch the steps and I also had no previous knowledge of working with the recipe as we haven't completed it in class before. This definitely wasn't a good start to my volunteering experience.

    The students started to ask me questions and unfortunately I wasn't able to answer them, so I went up to the Chef to ask. He explained it and when I returned to the students they had already mixed the ingredients together. Not only that but the superior pastry volunteer was already guiding them on what to do. Overall, I felt useless during the course and didn't have much guidance at the beginning on what to do. This was a good learning lesson for me when I volunteer for something like this next time. Instead of greeting the guests, I will ask the Chef for the recipe so that I have a better idea of what to do. Also I was thinking if I were someone who paid as much as they did for a class like this that I would have felt a little jipped. The students wanted to work on both the macaroons and madaleine, but the stations were setup so that they can only work on one. Also there wasn't enough time to do both. The madaleine students also finished earlier than the macaroon students and were standing around for thirty minutes doing nothing. Overall, I found the course lacking in direction and organization - they could have also printed the steps for them so that the students can focus on the techniques rather than figuring out what to do next.

    Anyway, I know what to do next time. Next up was the BC demo class where the Chef made Pissaladiere. (Southern France version of pizza with browned onions, anchovies and olives), sugar pie (France's version) and Lyon sausage wrapped in Brioche with a port wine butter sauce.

    The point of today's class is to work with pâté levees, doughs with yeast. The importance of these doughs is to work the gluten so that it creates the structure for the dough and then allowing the dough to sit and let the yeast work its magic. To know if the gluten has been developed enough, conduct the window test, which is stretching out a small piece of dough thin enough so that the light can pass through without breaking. Once the dough has enough elasticity, the dough is placed into a warm and moist area to allow to proof (rise). Once the dough had doubled in size you punch down the dough to release the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast and then shape the dough into whichever shape you want, depending on the recipe.

    The difference between brioche and the other yeast doughs is that the butter content is 50% of the amount of flour. The other yeast doughs have a lot less butter. I guess that's why I really enjoyed the brioche - it has the most fat which is where the flavour is kept.

    We also got to taste the Pâté Pantin made in yesterday's class. I'm not going to lie, this was definitely not my favourite. The texture was pasty and the liver flavour was very strong.

    For today's practical we're making pissaladiere. The best part of the practical was making the yeast dough. It was such a great way to get rid of stress and to have fun with my neolighbpurs - I almost got hit by my classmate's dough when she was throwing the dough onto the countertop.

    They was also a small fire in one of the student's pans. He accidentally heated the oil to hot and when he added the onions, some of the oil splattered into the flame and caught fire. Surprisingly one of the other students grab the pan from the one responsible and took over stirring the onions. The other student was not impressed and honestly the other person should have let him handle it on his own.

    Anyway, my pissaladiere was good but a little under baked. I knew this because the Chef told us we had three minutes until service and in order to meet the deadline I had to remove it early. It could have used another five minutes and it would have been good. Also, the dough was extremely hard to roll out because it was so elastic, which is good because the gluten was well developed, but made a big pain to roll out.

    Overall the Chef liked my dish, and surprisingly, the dough was soft and not chewy like other pizza doughs I've had before.


    Day 9 - BC Demo and BC & BP Practical

    Today (thursday) was a very long day!

    I showed up early to school to help the pastry Chef prepare for the Macaroon and Madeleine short course on Friday. He asked me to measure out the ingredients for the Macaroon recipe three times. After I was done the Chef said everything else will be prepared tomorrow morning.

    Having an hour to spare, I returned to the student lounge to review my notes. Students started to arrive and I started talking to one student who is in his early fifties. It was refreshing to see people following their dreams no matter what stage in life they are at. He talked about his Inn and his plans to renovate his old family home into a restaurant, dinning area and guest area. I was definitely interested in hearing how he did it and his budget and plans, as one day I hope to have a B&B of my own. Time seemed to fly by and soon our demo for BC was about to start. The classroom was already full, but to my surprise, one of my classmates saved a seat at the front for me (this is probably the best place to sit because you can see what the Chef is doing up front and personal). However, there is always a mad dash to the front at the beginning of every class.

    Today the Chef will be preparing Quiche Lorraine (will bake during the practical class), Leek Tart, Pâté Pantin, and Apple Tart (cuisine style).

    There were a couple of noticeable differences between the preparation of the tart doughs when comparing them to pastry. First of all, the apple tart was made with pâté sucree (sweetened dough) instead of pâté brisee (unsweetened pie dough). The pate a sucree dough was sabler instead of creamed, like in pastry.

    The Quiche Lorraine tart was pre-baked and then was filled with smoked bacon and Gruyere cheese. Approximately 2/3 of the egg and cream mixture was placed over the bacon and cheese and was baked for five minutes. The remainder of the egg mixture was them poured into the quiche and was baked until golden brown.

    The leek tart was prepared differently in that the tart crust was not pre-baked and the leek cream mixture was added to the crust and covered with Maroille cheese. The whole tart was baked until golden, brown and delicious as our pastry Chef would say.

    The compote for the apple tart was prepared by cooking the apples in butter over low heat. Near the end sugar and a little more butter was added to brown the apples over high heat. The compote was added to the rough pie dough and was covered with sliced apples. The decoration for the apple tart was more impressive than what the pastry Chef did and I also found the taste of the apple tart to be way more flavourful than the pastry one.

    The Chef had little time remaining so he quickly made the last tart - pâté Pantin. This is basically grounded meat with liver wrapped in a pâté dough. The Chef didn't have time to bake it so he said he will serve it to us at tomorrow's demo class.

    Everything looked wonderful and tasted delicious!

    Next up - two practical classes back to back, but first up was the BC practical. This was our first time working in the upstairs kitchen for cuisine. There was also a second Chef working on our side of the kitchen. He was extremely helpful and gave us tips on how to keep our stations tidy and clean. The class went well except for the time of the critique. Our cuisine Chef had asked us of the one slice of quiche should be an appetizer or an entree. I said appetizer; however, he had expressed that he wanted a garniture with it. I should have known since we had time to practice cutting vegetables and should have cooked and serve them alongside the quiche. Also because we has only two ovens and had to share it with everyone, some tarts were undervalued, mine being one of them. Also, I had the unfortunate luck to accidentally drop a tiny piece of egg shell into the dough. Out of all the pieces of quiche I could have served, I ended up serving him the one with the egg shell. I was so upset and apologized to him for it. He didn't seem to make a big deal of it, but I felt terrible! This night is not turning out well at all!

    Thankfully the pastry practical went well. The Chef like my lemon tart and said the cream was very good. Phew! I just have to work on my piping skills. The top of the tart was kind of a mess (secretly I sprinkled more almonds on top to cover it).

    Time for home and a quick bit to eat! It's so hard to find time to eat in between classes. Who would have thought you can lose weight while going to French cooking school with all the butter and cream you use?!


    Day 8 - BC Demo & Practical and BP Demo 

    Our regular Chef for cuisine was replaced by another Chef for today. I'm quite impressed how enthusiastic they both are at teaching. The one major difference between the two is that the substitute Chef was much better at explaining terms and scientific processes that take place during cooking. I found that the original Chef would mention the term, but then it's definition would be somewhat ambiguous. However, the pace of the substitute Chef was higher than the other Chef and caused many of us to be stressed during the practical part of the class.

    My hands were literally shaking because I had to finish turning 6 carrots and 6turnips and didn't have much time left. Also the fact that the Chef was constantly reminding me to clean my station was getting somewhat annoying (for those that know me well, I'm usually very organized in the kitchen). Of course, I know that they are only trying to prepare us for industry. Anyway, I didn't feel my best at the practical and this was somewhat reflective in my end product. I didn't completely cook the artichoke and amidst the chaos I totally forgot to taste the vegetables at the end. Thankfully everything was seasoned properly, but I ALWAYS taste everything before I serve, except for this time.

    By the way, the dishes we made are:

    - Portuguese: tomatoes with shallots, butter and bouquet de garni baked in the oven until almost dry; it is somewhere between tomato paste and tomatoes concassee
    - Duxelle: mushrooms cooked in butter with shallots (used as a garnish)
    - Jardiniere: batonnette/macédoine of vegetables (carrots, turnips, peas, green beans and cauliflower)
    - Bouquetiere: carrots and turnips are cut turner style and are cooked via etuver and are glacer as a finish
    - Concasse: simply means to finely chop

    At the end of the practical, the Chef asked everyone to bring their dishes to the front to be critique. I found it useful to see what the other students did and also to hear what we can do to make our dishes better. Here are the things I learned from this lesson:

    - Jardinere is a mixed garniture
    - always taste the cooking liquid (or in this case cuire a l'anglaise) before cooking any vegetable
    - always tidy up your station and put away items you currently aren't using
    - my artichoke was undercooked, so I need to make sure I cook it longer next time (the knife should easily pierce the artichoke in the centre

    Next up for the day was the pastry demo. The Chef made three tarts: apple, strawberry and lemon (which will be the dessert we will have to replicate in class). At the beginning of the class the chef handed out a quiz. Like most students I had forgotten that we get a quiz every second lesson. The quiz basically asked the following questions:

    1. Who invented chantilly cream?
    2. What is the ratio of chocolate to cream for ganache?
    3. What does TPT stand for?
    4. What are the technical differences between genoise and lady fingers?
    5. What is the method to make almond cream?

    1. Chef Vatel
    2. 1:1
    3. Tant pour tant (example: dacquoise)
    4. Lady fingers are piped and genoise is transferred into a cake pan. The eggs in genoise is whipped over a Bain Marie, while the lady fingers are not.
    5. Cremier (creaming method)

    After the quiz the Chef started to push through the three tarts. Once again I have been shown something different than what I was taught all of my life. To pre-bake the crusts for the apple and strawberry tarts, the Chef covered the tarts with plastic wrap and placed beams on top. I've always thought that plastic wrap can never go into the oven because it will melt. The Chef said that most commercial brands found in the grocery store are thinner and will melt, but because LCB has the industrial kind it can sustain higher temperatures.

    The more I work through the basic course, the more I'm realizing I didn't know much from the start. Because of this, I'm so grateful to be in cooking school.

    The Chef finished up the tarts and they looked fantastic! We tried all three and personally I found the lemon tart to be the best - it had a wonderful sourness to it with sweetness coming from the almd cream and meringue. The dough was also a great crunchy texture. The strawberry tart was light and subtle, while I found the apple tart to be a little bland. I would have preferred some spice like cinnamon or perhaps slightly more sugar. Regardless, it was impressive to see how the Chef worked through three tarts with ease in only three hours.


    Day 7 - BP Demo & Practical

    Today I touched boiling sugar! Don't worry it was completely planned! I'll tell you more about this later...

    The Chef prepared a variety of creams: pastry cream, creme anglaise, Bavarian cream, chantilly cream, ganache, French buttercream, French, Swiss and Italian meringue and almond cream.

    Pastry cream is comprised of egg yolks, milk, sugar, flour and vanilla. The milk is heated and then is added to the eggs to temper it so that the eggs don't undergo a temperature shock. The egg mixture is then transferred to the rest of the milk mixture and is heated to boiling point. Because flour was added, the cream has to cook for a while to allow gelification to be completed. If cornstarch is added instead of flour, the mixture will have to cook longer than with flour.

    Creme anglaise is prepared in a similar manner but doesn't have flour and cannot exceed a temperature of 85 degrees Celsius or else the eggs will scramble. The consistency is similar to that of heavy cream and must be stirred with a spatula instead of a whisk, which is used for the pasty cream.

    Bavarian cream is basically creme anglaise with gelatine and whipping cream. Gelatine melts at 40 degrees Celsius and sets at 20 degrees Celsius so the cream must be used immediately before it solidifies. Bavarian cream started as a drink and later was invented by a Chef in Germany by adding gelatine to the cream.

    The next recipe prepared by the Chef was chantilly cream. It's basically cream whipped with icing sugar and vanilla. Chocolate ganache is heated cream mixed into chocolate. When the hot cream is added to the chocolate it's important to mix the center until most of the chocolate has been incorporated before mixing the outer edges. Make sure to continue mixing until no solid chocolate reminds - I made this mistake in the practical class.

    Almond cream is creamed butter with sugar, eggs and almond flour. To give it some kick, add some vanilla and rum. I tasted my almond cream and thought I added to much rum, but according to the Chef 'you can never add too much!'. Phew!

    French buttercream is sugar syrup at the soft ball stage that has been whipped into the egg yolks. Butter is added afterwards to complete the buttercream.

    French, Swiss and Italian meringue are all meringues made of egg whites and sugar but are prepared using different techniques. French meringue is made my whipping egg whites to soft peaks and then adding sugar. The mixture is further whipped to the firm peaks stage whereafter additional icing sugar is added to the egg whites. Swiss meringue is made by mixing egg whites and sugar and whipping it over a Bain Marie (double boiler). Lastly, Italian meringue involves pouring sugar syrup at the soft ball stage to the egg whites.

    Returning to my experience with touching boiling sugar, we were told that we are not allowed to use a thermometer in the practical class. The soft ball stage is at 121 degrees Celsius and we have to touch sticky and hot sugar that can cause third degree burns?! I don't think so! Well, turns out the Chef wasn't lying. The trick to doing this is to freeze your fingers by dipping it into an ice bath and then quickly grabbing a small amount of the sugar and transferring your hand back into the ice bath. Once the sugar has cooled you shape it into a ball and drop it onto the countertop. If the sound is like a stone hitting the surface then the sugar is done. All my life I've been told never to touch boiling sugar because it can cause severe injuries, so it took a lot of courage for me to do it. In the end, you can't even feel the heat - all you feel is the numbness of your fingers from being so cold. My advice for anyone who hasn't done this before is to do this under the supervision of a professional Chef, and under no circumstances touch the boiling sugar without first freezing your fingers and having an ice bath nearby. If you don't do this it will cause severe burns!

    By the way, the creme anglaise was amazing!


    Day 6 - BC Practical & HACCP Seminar

    Legumes a la Greques

    The Chef said my dish had the right amount of acidity and salt. I also learned that the zucchini lost its green colour because it was cooked in white wine which is acidic. The picture was taken after the Chef tasted my dish.

    HACCP stands for Hazards Analyze Critical Control Points. This was basically a course on health and sanitation.

    Finally the long weekend is here! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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