Food quote of note

"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience"…Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Entremets - a fancy French word for fancy little cakes

So now the fun begins - classes started on Tuesday!  We essentially cover one topic per week - and we will be in class/lab 7 hours each day -- all of which leads up to a final "buffet" each Friday where we display our pastry creations and they are tasted/critiqued/graded by our chef instructor and a couple of the other instructors at the school.  Our schedules will vary from week to week, depending on the topic and the lab we need to use - some weeks are 6 am to 1 pm, some weeks are 1 pm to 8 pm (yes, you read that right - 6 am).  In addition to these labs, we have several other classroom sessions scattered throughout our time here - topics like food science, presentation and design, and, of course, French lessons.  I think this will be a busy 2 months!  Our class of 13 is divided by our level of pastry experience - I am with 7 other folks in the "initiating - or basic" class, while 5 of the folks who have more experience are in the "perfecting - or advanced" class. 

Our topic for the first week is "Entremets" - or composed desserts/cakes...these are the small, layered intricate cakes composed of different types of cakes, mousses, coulis/gelatins, creams, etc.  Our instructor is Chef Richard - an Australian pastry chef who came to France a couple of years ago and liked it so much he married a French girl and ended up staying.  He's a great guy - although at first it seemed a little odd to hear that Australian accent here in France. 

We spent a few hours our first day getting settled - learning our way around the lab, getting our lovely, personalized ENSP pastry kits and getting our recipes.  Actually, recipes is putting it generously - it was just a list of ingredients with no instructions - it's up to us to pay attention and take notes while the chef does a demo of each recipe.  We have 5 cakes/entremets to make over the next week - Moka, Charlotte au Poires (Pear Charlotte), Foret Noire (Black Forest), Fruit Rouges/Amande (Red Fruits and Almond) and Passion d'abricot (Apricot and Passionfruit).  Each cake has at least 3 components - cake layers, sponges, mousse, syrups, creams, glazes, etc - YIKES!! Each day at the beginning of class the chef puts a production list up on the board and we keep working our way through the 20 or so different elements - and finally, by the end of the week we will have mastered multiple pastry techniques and put together 5 lovely cakes - or so  he promises.

Our pastry kits come in a very chic brown and pink ENSP case...

...and are full of all sorts of fun toys and gadgets...

Our Chef Instructor, Richard, gets to wear the fancy hat.  He teaches us everything from the basics of equipment... techniques such as making meringues... the all important piping...and somehow he makes it all look so easy!

By the middle of the week he had moved on to a few more intense topics - such as making mousses to spray painting chocolate glaze onto a cakes...all with tools that looked like they were purchased at Mr Brico (the French version of Home Depot)...


Once he had demonstrated the various techniques, it was up to us to roll the sleeves of our chef coats up and start to make our own entremets...some things were easier than others...

...and finally some of the cakes started to come together - although I must admit, not nearly as lovely as his was...

By Friday we were starting to see actual cakes taking shape -  not simply pieces/parts and layers...

 By Friday evening, it was apparent that we weren't going to get all of our 5 cakes done - it had been a busy week, and we had lost some actual cooking time to a demo by a visiting pastry chef and all of our orientation.  So - it was decided that we wouldn't have buffet this week, but would come back to class for an extra few hours on Monday morning before our afternoon classes to finish up the finishing touches on our entremets.  We were all a little disappointed (first of all, because no one wanted to give up a free morning), but most of all, because we were really getting anxious to put all the pieces together and see the fruits of our labor...but, it can't be helped.

WHEW - what a week!!  It was a crazy roller coaster of getting here, getting settled, meeting lots of new folks, hearing multiple languages all of the time, and getting oriented to the school.  It was scary, fun, interesting and exciting to be in the kitchen - by the time we left lab at 8:30 on Friday night I was both exhilarated and was a great start to my time here at ENSP and in France!


  1. Crystal I can see in your face how much fun you are having and that you truly love this. I am so happy and proud of you following your dreams. I will hold you as inspiration until I can do the same someday... and then I will open an Italian Pastry Shop next to yours and put you out of business. hahah! Just kidding!

  2. I am so glad to share vicariously through this blog, Crystal. With all that stainless steel around, does it seem a bit like a lab to you? Everything looks sparkling clean--who does the dishes?