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Diary: September 18, 2002


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#1 Malawry

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Posted 18 September 2002 - 03:58 PM

Sunday, September 15

I spent a long day at school today with Chefette and Edemuth. I was preparing for the special desserts and champagne reception I am catering, and L’academie was kind enough to allow me to use their facilities. I started my morning by making puff pastry and pate sucree, and by the time Chefette appeared I was rolling out tubes of diamante cookie dough. She came over and showed me how to turn the cookie dough into very long, very narrow even tubes.

Watching the way Chefette worked was informative to say the least. She showed up with all of her own equipment despite the fact that she was coming to a fully equipped school. I was impressed with her foresight. She knew that she’d be able to work with familiar equipment and have what she was accustomed to at her fingertips without asking me to hunt everything down. Some things the school owned, like pastry tips, were locked away where I couldn’t get at them over the weekend (small items are typically locked in the office Chef Peter and Chef Somchet share), so I relied on her to provide those items.

Chefette works very cleanly. She doesn’t dribble flour across the counter like I do. (I was embarrassed to compare my work spaces to hers.) She’s organized and, like all professionals, she’s much faster than I am. She tolerated my million annoying questions and only once took exception to my frequent explanation that we were taught different things in class than she was doing. Among other things, she showed me how she makes the smoothest ganache possible. She put her hands on mine and showed me how to pipe miniature eclairs using pate a chou. She taught me how to candy nuts, the sort of candied nuts sold on the street in New York City. On many levels, I doubt I could pull this event off without her advice and assistance.

Edemuth came up in the early afternoon to join us, and Chefette set her up on filling macaroons while I made us some brunch. Later, they both helped me clean up and took charge of packing everything off into the freezer. Due to their assistance, I am mostly on schedule for my event, and have every confidence I will get everything done on time.

Wednesday, September 18

I have had very little time to write this week, as I have been getting my notebook together and studying for the midterm on Friday. As usual, the rumor mill has been churning on what will be on the test. We’ve given up on asking the second session students what will be on tests. “Oh, I think there was some kind of fish, and maybe something with a hollandaise or a bearnaise sauce…” I do feel sure there will be some form of puff pastry on the test, but after making two batches of it on Sunday morning I don’t feel too worried about my ability to produce a good dough.

Several people have asked me about the flambe technique since I started school. “Have you set anything on fire yet? I mean, intentionally?” I’m pleased to report that we started with our first flambeed sauces late last week, and this week I made a textbook steak au poivre…with flambeed cognac. I flamed the alcohol by tipping my saute pan towards the heat on the gas stove, and the flame was out almost before it got going. Just one tremendous flash and impressive orange flame and then a small whimper and it was gone. I am astonished by the power of this technique and can hardly wait to flambe something else. (No, I doubt I will become a flambe junkie or anything.) I don’t think it has a huge impact on flavor over, say, cooking off the alcohol slowly over heat, but I thought it was fun to do just the same.

#2 Varmint

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Posted 18 September 2002 - 05:55 PM

Thanks again for another great report, Rochelle. I think we all need our own personal Chefette from time to time! :biggrin:
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#3 Sandra Levine

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Posted 18 September 2002 - 06:51 PM

When you get a chance, can you share the secret of the smoothest ganache? I can't imagine ganache smoother than what Iproduce now, but you never know!

#4 Damian

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Posted 20 September 2002 - 04:53 PM

Rochelle,
If I haven't told you lately, you rule with an iron fist! Thanks for the continued posts - just great.

#5 Louisa Chu

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Posted 21 September 2002 - 04:33 AM

I would love to know if there are any tricks of the trade in rolling out the diamant dough. They were amongst the first things we made in pastry. Could not quite get my rolls even. Thanks.

I thought it was very interesting that Chefette put her hands on yours to show you the feel. Do you think you would have felt as comfortable had it been a man? I've been wanting to ask our chefs at school to do the same but so far I've had one who has been a bit too flirtatious and I don't want to encourage him any further.

#6 Malawry

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Posted 21 September 2002 - 07:01 AM

Sandra, when Chefette mixes a ganache, she stirs only from the center of the bowl using a spatula until the ganache starts to come together. (Chef Somchet taught us to do the same thing, but wasn't as patient about it as Chefette is.) Then she uses an immersion stick blender to continue to smooth it out. She's careful not to let the blades rise above the surface since she doesn't want to incorporate air. It really was supersmooth.

Loufood, about the diamante: Just take your time with it. Use parchment paper and a bench scraper to pull the tube tightly and evenly. I rolled it periodically to reduce the inevitable air pockets along the surface. I didn't do a great job but they looked better than they would have without Chefette's help.

I think sometimes there's no substitute for having literal hands-on interaction. I learned how to hone my knives by having a chef stand behind me, put his hands on mine, and physically demonstrate the proper technique. (This was before I enrolled; I took a knife skill class from L'academie's recreational program a year and a half ago. The chef-instructor there was the one who did this.) I would not mind if Chef Peter or Chef Somchet or Chef Francois touched my hands to teach me a technique. I don't generally differentiate between men and women touching me in a learning context.

But then, I don't feel like I am harassed at school. If you are, that sounds like a bigger problem than the already big problem of not getting the information you are paying them to provide you. I don't know your personal situation, but you shouldn't be afraid to ask for instruction that you need, and if you feel you can't ask that for some reason you may want to consider addressing the problem directly. I mean, why are you going to school if you can't feel comfortable learning there?

#7 Louisa Chu

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Posted 21 September 2002 - 09:26 AM

Rochelle,

Parchment paper! Was not taught that. And time, luxurious time, a luxury we do not have. But I will certainly try the paper next time. Thanks.

And no, I'm absolutely not getting harassed at school, but there are definitely cultural differences here in Paris and somewhat ironically I'm the one who's trying to be sensitive to that fact. And yes, I always ask questions. What shocks me are the vast majority of students who do not.

I will let you know how the hands-on go at school.

#8 Dana

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Posted 22 September 2002 - 09:44 AM

I just made the biscotti listed as a post in the August 18(I think) installment and they are super!! The pepper bite in the back of the throat is very different and very nice. This recipe will go in my permenant file. I made some cinnamon ones from the King Arthur Flour calalog, and they were not nearly so good. Thanks again, Malawary, and keep up the good work.
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