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

Friday, March 15, 2013

Queen of Tarts

I know, I's been too suis desole (I'm sorry, in French).  I have some catching up to do! 

Hard to believe that my time at ENSP has come to an end...all too quickly it was the last week, and we were spending our final days in the kitchen with Chef Damien learning Tarts.  For those of you who know me, you know I LOVE to make me some, of course, I was very excited to roll up the sleeves of my chef jacket and start learning about tarts!

We started the week with the basics - the various kinds of crusts used for sweet tarts, such as Pate Sucree and Pate Sable - mixing doughs to the right consistency, rolling them out to just the right thickness (in centimeters, of course) and forming them with supposedly perfect 90 degree angles in the tiny corners of those lovely tart rings.  We began with classic tarts such as Tart aux Pommes (an apple tart - filled with a thin layer of apple puree and topped with thin slices of fresh apples)...

...and Tart aux Poires ( a pear tart - filled with a layer of almond pastry cream and topped with thin slices of pear and slivered almonds).

 In addition to making lots of crusts, we learned to  make many different types of creme patissiere (pastry creams) to use for filling tarts - plain/vanilla pastry cream, almond pastry cream, praline pastry cream, lemon pastry cream, and creme Chiboust (pastry cream lightened with an Italian meringue).  I'd like to think I built up my biceps from all of the whisking...

Of course, it wouldn't be a class on French tarts if we didn't make a lovely fruit tart.  After filling our tart shell with creme patissiere..

...the goal was to artfully arrange all types of beautiful fresh fruit on the top.  You know me - I do much better at making crusts than artfully arranging things...but I tried!

In addition to these traditional tarts, our Chef shared his recipe for Tart Snickers - yes, that Snickers - one of his creations from the time he spent as a pastry chef in Vegas.  While it may not be classic French - let me tell you, this is one tasty little tart.  It starts with a base of creamy caramel (which I carefully watched so as not to burn)...., a layer of roasted, salted peanuts tops the caramel...

 ...and finally, a layer of rich, chocolate ganache...

...and Voila - you have a Tart you might expect, the sweet-salty combination is just perfect.  This was definitely a class (and personal) favorite.

We also spent time this week on some other classic French desserts using doughs and creams, in addition to our tarts.  Of course, we made Pate a Choux...piping the sticky, pasty dough in several different sizes and shapes for baking, then filled them with various creams to make cream puffs, eclairs, etc.

One of my personal favorites is the classic Paris Brest - a ring of Choux Pastry which is cut in half...

....filled with hazelnut praline pastry cream...

....then the top is popped back on, with a few almonds and powdered sugar for kicks. 

Chef Damien also taught us how to make puff pastry dough by hand...he always makes it look so easy!

Ever wonder what makes puff pastry so light, fluffy and yummy - well, no surprise, it's the butter - lots of butter, layers and layers of butter. 

Essentially you have a layer of butter and a layer of dough - and you fold them, roll them, flip them, fold them, roll them, over and over again...until you end up with a multi-layer structure that yields beautiful, flaky layers of pastry when baked.  (BTW - this recipe gets filed under the category of "things I would not do at home".  All this folding and rolling is quite easy with the help of a machine called a "sheeter" - which quickly and evenly rolls the dough to the desired thickness...not so sure I would have the patience to do this in my home kitchen, without the help of that handy machine!)
And, of course, we filled our layers of puff pastry with pastry cream - making a classic Mille Feuille, literally translated as "thousand leaf".

As you can imagine, we were all getting a little punchy in the kitchen since it was our last week.  Here's just a peak at what happens when the Chef isn't looking!

Hard to believe, but it was finally time for our last buffet - our last buffet - how could that be?  It was definitely a mix of emotions - we were a little sad, a little tired, and very proud - all combined.

Of course, I had a few extra emotions piled on top of that...I was absolutely ecstatic that my sweet husband arrived for a visit just in time to see our last buffet.  It was a perfect way to end my time at ENSP - finally getting to share my pastries  with my biggest supporter and favorite recipe taster.  C'est Bon!


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