Sunday, August 22, 2010

First quarter exams are overrr

I'm happy to report that I survived my first quarter exams, which consisted of a written and of course, a practical portion.

For the practical, we were given three days to produce the following: chocolate caramels, pâte de fruit, marshmallows, crème brûlée with chocolate cream and hazelnut biscotti, pastilles, soufflés, crêpes, and an ice cream vacherin — not so bad, eh? One partner and I were required to make these items individually, while sharing only ONE induction cooktop and ONE KitchenAid mixer.

Although it was challenging, my partner and I still managed to complete everything. I think I did pretty well overall, despite my slightly overcooked crème brûlée and super soft caramels.

It was definitely a grueling eighteen hours, but I swear my whisking arm has never looked better.

Chocolate Espresso Pots de Crème
Adapted from Gourmet, February 2004

  • 6 oz. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped 
  • 1-1/3 cups heavy cream 
  • 2/3 cup whole milk 
  • 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons instant-espresso powder 
  • 6 large egg yolks 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 300°F.

Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring cream, milk, espresso powder (to taste), and a pinch of salt just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until espresso powder is dissolved, then pour over chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Whisk together yolks, sugar, and a pinch of salt in another bowl, then add warm chocolate mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-quart glass measure and cool completely, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Line bottom of a baking pan (large enough to hold ramekins) with a folded kitchen towel and arrange ramekins on towel. Poke several holes in a large sheet of foil with a skewer. Divide custard among ramekins, then bake custards in a hot water bath, pan covered tightly with foil, until custards are set around edges but still slightly wobbly in centers, 30 to 35 minutes.

Transfer ramekins to a rack to cool completely, uncovered, about 1 hour. (Custards will set as they cool.) Chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours. Makes 8 servings.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jams and jellies — get in my belly!

Heyyy, got toast?

The plated dessert section of the pastry program is over, and my last two days of class were spent making jam — apricot-almond and strawberry, to be specific.

Jellies, jams and preserves... so what's the difference, you ask? Jellies are made from fruit juice, jams from crushed fruit plus fruit juice, and preserves are made from whole fruit plus fruit juice. There are only a few key items that are required to make a successful jelly, jam, or preserve — good fruit, sugar, acid, pectin and sterile equipment. I don't want to bore you with all the details, so you can read more about it here:

School policy doesn't allow me to share the exact recipes that were made in class (intellectual property and all), but David Lebovitz, whom I love, has a fantastic (and simple) recipe for apricot jam.

Next week is our first quarter exams (dread...dread...dread...), which will cover everything I've learned these past six weeks — plated desserts, ice creams and sorbets, sugar confections, and jellies, jams and preserves.

Then it's on to chocolate candies...muahaha.

Apricot Jam
Adapted from David Lebovitz

  • 2 pounds (1 kg) fresh apricots
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
  • 6 cups (1 kg) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon kirsch (optional)

Cut the apricots in half and extract the pits. If you wish, crack a few open and put a kernel in each jam jar you plan to fill.

Place the apricots in a very large stockpot, and add the water. Cover the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until the apricots are tender and cooked through.

Put a small plate in the freezer.

Add the sugar to the apricots and cook, uncovered, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. As the mixture thickens and reduces, stir frequently to make sure the jam isn't burning on the bottom.

When the jam looks thick and is looks slightly-jelled, turn off the heat and put a small amount of jam on the chilled plate. Put back in the freezer for a few minutes, then do the nudge test: If the jam mounds and wrinkles, it's done. If not, continue to cook, then re-test the jam until it reaches that consistency.

(You can use a candy thermometer if you wish. The finished jam will be about 220ºF, 104ºC.)

Once done, stir in the lemon juice and kirsch, if using, and ladle the jam into clean jars. Cover tightly and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, refrigerate until ready to use.

Storage: I find this jam will keep up to one year if refrigerated. If you wish to can it for long-term preservation, you can refer to the USDA Canning Guidelines for techniques.