In general, making the ice creams and sorbets was relatively simple - some mixing and heating of ingredients before placing the mix into the machine for churning. The mousses were even simpler - these were simply mixed and placed into the freezer. The real learning, then, for the week was twofold - first, the recipes and ratios for sorbets and ice cream, which are very precise and, of course, legislated in France; and second, the techniques and approaches for using ice cream to make beautiful, inviting and delicous frozen desserts.
We loved the ice cream machine - it was magic! You simply poured a bowl of liquid in and, VOILA, after a few minutes of churning (accompanied by some strange and rhythmic gurgling noises), out came ribbons of smooth and creamy ice cream or sorbet!
This week was a favorite for everyone in class - no matter what the flavor, we all grabbed a taste (or two or three) when the ice cream came out of the machine. For some of the flavors (like the rich, chocolate ice cream below) I'm surprised we had enough left after our tastings to finish the desserts!
One of my favorite flavors for the week was the lime-mint sorbet - fresh mint leaves steeped in a lime puree with some sugar - it was cool and refreshing - and quite beautiful when piped into these hollowed out limes for serving.
We spent the second half of the week leaning how to put together ice cream desserts using our frozen concoctions and a variety of other sweets - daquoise, meringue, macarons, chantilly cream, chocolate, nuts, fruits and sugars. Below is our Vacherin vanille/fraise....
..a layer of baked meringue topped with a layer of strawberry sorbet topped with a layer of vanilla ice cream topped with a layer of chantilly cream - then surrounded with rods of sugared meringue for decoration.
One of the most challenging parts of making ice cream is that you have to work really quickly or everything melts - it can be quite a mess! This means that you are constantly handling frozen bowls, trays, molds and piping bags - it's really cold - I'm not kidding, really cold!! For our praline and chocolate Baked Alaska below, it was a race with the piping bag to get the meringue piped on the molded chocolate ice cream dome before our dessert started to drip everywhere.
To keep things at the proper (i.e., freezing) temperature, you would pop it in and out of the blast freezer while working on it. It seems like no big deal - just reach in and out of the blast freezer and pull out metal molds and trays filled with ice cream - until you realize that the blast freezer is -34 degrees Celsius - THAT IS REALLY COLD!!
I have to admit, reaching in and out of this thing was one of my least favorite parts of the week!
On the other hand, one of the things I enjoyed most about the week was the various techniques that Pierre showed us for making decorations and adornments for our layered ice cream desserts. We piped macarons in two different sizes and colors...
...we dipped almonds in a hot sugary caramel and then hung them upside down to get this cool effect...
...and, of course, we made chocolate decorations in all sorts of forms - squares, ribbons, and petals.
Here's our plain praline/chocolate dome transformed into a lovely Baked Alaska...a financier sponge cake is the base for the chocolate and praline half-sphere, a chocolate meringue is piped all over the molded ice cream and then baked at high heat for just a few minutes to set and color the meringue, then it's all topped off with chocolate ribbons and sugared almonds.
And then, it was Friday - buffet day! The trick to this buffet was that we had to move quickly - we had a very short window of time to create our chilled artistic display before it all started to melt! In addition to the lime-mint sorbet, I really loved our Souffle Glace Vanille et Grand Marnier - frozen souffle of vanilla and Grand Marnier: a layer of rich vanilla ice cream sits on top of a light almond sponge cake - and this is then topped with a layer of absolutely divine frozen mousse flavored with Grand Marnier -- all with a little chocolate and caramel for decoration.
Like I said, this week was a favorite for everyone - as you can see by the picture below -- some of our classmates stopped by to see our buffet and just happened to bring their spoons. I think the only words to describe this are "ice cream carnage"...oh well, must mean it tasted good!