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I was undecided about the title of this post – The Child Within, Childish behaviour or Childish games – but the more I reflected on my behaviour today I knew what the title had to be.

As we grow up we’re reminded that childish behaviour is unacceptable and that it’s something we must outgrow. So by the time we hit adulthood we’re not stomping our feet in a tantrum because someone in the office took our pen. I don’t stomp my feet anymore but I’ll admit there’s still a child within. I like to watch ET. I wear bunny pyjamas and Hello Kitty underwear to bed. I eat dessert before dinner. I build snowmen and throw snowballs. And, I still want a puppy for Christmas. Mon Cheri says my “childlike spirit” is cute and innocent. Perhaps he’s right, but he still won’t buy me a puppy.

But, when does the childlike spirit stop being cute and start becoming childish behaviour? I had to ask myself this question after a little episode today in the lab. I perhaps sort-of maybe over-reacted over a cake I wasn’t willing to share with my comrades.

The class was divided, individually we had our own cakes to make as part of the French category of les gateaux de voyage, travel cakes. I chose a chocolate and raspberry cake, a classic. My recipe involved making two parts to the cake which I would at the end assemble into one. When the two parts were baked and cooled they were ready to be taken out of their square cake rings. Chef arrived at my workbench to demonstrate this and as he did he had an unfortunate case of butter fingers and as a result dropped one half of my cake onto the floor. We both stood staring down at the demolished cake, its baked interior now evidence of what showed to be a well baked sponge, but we both agreed, “Too much raspberry jam”. I now had only half a cake to work with.

The death of half my cake was not going to bring me down. I was looking forward to making the next part of my recipe. As I was setting up the ingredients to make chocolate ganache, a thick chocolate sauce, I heard Chef over my shoulder, “NO, NO, NO, it’s not necessary to make the ganache!”. Surprised, “But Chef, it’s part of the recipe.” As he walked away from me he insisted it’s not necessasary. I ran after him, “But, I want to make the ganache!”. You see, applying ganache is not easy. Ganache starts off as a liquid, and like a mason applying cement to a wall, you have few seconds to spread the liquid in a thin even layer before it starts to set leaving imprints of your movements. And, as it’s quite difficult, Chef tends to take over this part if the student is not speedy and accurate.

Despite Chef’s advice not to ganache, I ganached anyway, and to my surprise I ganached with perfection. I was a proud owner of a cake that had department store potential. I immediately Instagramed photos, and when everybody finished admiring my cake (even Chef) I was anxious to secure it in a white cake box. I was planning a perfect surprise for mon Cheri. The child in me gleamed.

As I carried my cake over to its intended white box, I was startled by the words, “We want to taste that one”.  Another voice backed up the first, “Yeah, that’s the one I was waiting for”.  I thought perhaps I could get rid of these enthusiastic voices and replied, “It’s only a chocolate cake”.  To my reply I was told I wasn’t being fair not sharing my cake, and that if I don’t share my cake I can’t have anybody elses. Am I really having this conversation? Chef interrupted to referee, “Noh, noh, you must share.”  The child in me stubborn as hell, “But, I don’t want to share, this is the best work I’ve done, and Chef, you dropped half my cake. This one is all I have!”  Oooh la la!  What’s this behaviour? Then, a classmate very reasonably and calmly said, “You know, we’re supposed to share and it’s only fair. Of course, if there was another one like it we wouldn’t ask, but, there is only one.” She was right. This is part of our job. We’re supposed to share, to taste test, to compare, to make notes –  it’s all part of learning even in a professional kitchen. We each have equal rights to the work we produce.

My reaction was startling and it made me pay attention to the insecurities I’ve been harbouring since the beginning of the course. The insecurity of failing. The insecurity of loosing and the insecurity of not getting another chance. These insecurities I knew well as a child, but as an adult, I knew better. The adult in me quickly made sense of the situation and referred to the famous expression which could be taken almost literally, You can’t have your cake and eat it too. I wanted both things. The first was to keep and protect the achievements I made all to myself. The other, to keep and protect the comradeship of my classmates. I knew I had to choose the one I valued most. I chose to share my cake.

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Bakery

BAKERY is part of the International Pastry Course at Ferrandi. Bakery is a whole different thing. You can’t be both, you’re either a Boulanger or Patissier, and now I see why. The only main domain that Boulangers and Patissiers share is VIENNOISERIE (Croissants, Pain au Chocolat, Pain au Raisins, etc) and certain breads, for example, the Kougloff.

Usually, bakery is a 5 hour lesson. You may have only this in your scheduled day or it may be shared with patisserie which means your day can look like this
Tuesday: 8am – 1pm Patisserie (pastry) and 1:30pm – 7:30pm Boulangerie (baking). And  7:30pm doesn’t mean one foot outside the school and the other foot in the doorway of your home. No, no, no…. at 7:30 you’ll most likely be cleaning up. This is the same for Patisserie and Boulangerie classes. These courses and this career requires you to be flexible with your time. But, the perks of this kind of work is you’re working with food. The downside, you physically may be exhausted. I don’t know about you but I like that feeling after a good hard day. I feel like, “yes”, I’ve accomplished something! (and not sitting around on my asse all day staring at a computer screen – but that’s just me).

LESSON 1

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LESSON 2 IMG_2846

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Ghost busters or macarons?

macaron wallOne of the best things about living in Paris is the supply of macarons. These perfect little round meringue sandwiches have officially solved my gift idea worries. Expect macarons for your birthday. And, if you’re not a fan of the macaron you can’t deny the world has gone crazy for them.

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of people by day, in Paris, who go chasing for macarons. For some, it’s merely to discover the famous French macaron. For others, it’s a more serious chase. There are those who take on the responsibility in naming ‘the best macaron’ in Paris. This requires dedication and effort. Sometimes it’s an individual effort but if the city’s supply of macarons is too much for one then an unofficial panel of “judges” is called in. The judges will taste test all the flavour combinations, judge the texture and shape and compare quality to price. Then, announce the Winner. Those judges can be you or me.

So, naturally, when the day finally came to making the famous macaron in the lab (at school), the class was excited, anxious and very much anticipating the results. Will our macarons make the top 10 list?

To make the macarons we began with a very crafty cardboard. On it are rows of circles and over this we put a transparent baking paper. For the macaron shells, we first make an Italian meringue mixture in a KitchenAid. When the meringue mixture is ready we transfer this to a plastic piping bag attaching a tip No.10. We then direct the tip towards the center of each circle and pipe an even dollop of meringue mixture but stopping just before the circle line. When the tray is full we rest it at room temperature so that the meringue can develope ‘a skin’, and only then do we bake. After removing the tray from the oven it’s necessary to cool down the shells. Once the shells are cool we pipe our desired filling (ganache, confiture) with a tip No.6. Sandwich the filling with two shells, and voila, a Macaron. Easy enough, noh?

Apparently not. At least not for me. In my defense, it was my first time.

I filled my piping bag with the glossy meringue mixture, and then as I went to approach the center of my first circle I had a sudden stream of meringue come leaking out from the tip, like an 80 year old man I couldn’t stop the flow. In panic to avoid squirting my canvas of circles, my piping bag released its contents onto the floor, the bench and myself. Chef walked by at this exact moment, always at the worst timing,Hurry up! What’s this mess?! You have it everywhere!
After a 5 minute clean-up I resumed working, squeezing dollops of meringue this time targeting only my meringue circles. As I regained my groove, I worked faster and more confidently, piping row by row without a hiccup. “I might just be Paris’ first Madame of Macarons after all”, the thought appeared with my sudden boost of confidence. My nose almost to the workbench I decided to step back to see my work. What? What’s this? As I stood-up straight and a foot away from my board I was surprised to see not perfect rounds of meringue but green slimy goo making its slow descent down the wall of cardboard. Immediately, I thought of Ghostbusters. You should have seen Chef’s face when I brought him my tray of Ghostbusters goo. Usually he makes a remark –  if he thinks your work is not good he’ll say either, “What’s this!?” or “This is, Whatever”. This time he was silent, he couldn’t find the words for my green goo. When my tray finally came out of the oven I became the proud owner of Ghostbuster macaron shells.

My shells were green because I was given the flavour, Olive Oil. Yes, folks, Olive Oil. Now, if I hadn’t already tasted Pierre Herme’s Olive Oil macaron I would squirm too, it’s actually very tasty. How were my Olive Oil Macarons? Not good at all. I found the Olive Oil dominating and as a result I lost any hint of vanilla flavour, because in fact the recipe is, Olive Oil and Vanilla macarons. Tant pis pour moi.

So for now my macarons will stay off the ‘best of’ list, but perhaps they have a chance to find their way into a candy bag . When is Halloween?

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miss pirisi Ghostbuster macarons before baking

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miss pirisi Ghostbuster macarons after baking

If you are still interested in recreating Olive Oil and Vanilla macarons despite my Ghostbuster story, here is a list of the ingredients:

Ingredient list for macaron shells:
Almond powder, 250g
Icing sugar, 250g
Eggwhites, 90g
Food colour, drop by drop to your desired colour. Be careful!
Granulated sugar, 250g
Water, 60g
Eggwhites, 90g

Ingredient list for Olive Oil and Vanilla Ganache:
White chocolate, 270g
Liquid cream, 120g
Vanilla bean, 1/4
Olive Oil, 180g, I found this was too much.
Pitted green olives, I didn’t use them

Just to finish my blog post, as I was just referring to my recipe book for the ingredient list I’ve seen a quote written by me this morning said by my Chef, the quote is:

“The judge is the oven”.

This quote was in reply to a student’s question regarding baking results of the macaron shells. The oven will determine if you prepared your mixture well or not. Always take care and faites attention to your preparation.

So then, let’s see what I was talking about regarding preparing your tray, cardboard with circles, baking sheet, piping technique and coloured  meringue mixture (referring to photos below):

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Now, let’s move onto the more successful macarons of other students:

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Merci for arriving to THE END of this post 🙂

A BIENTOT.

Chef, creator and influence

When Chef is in a creative mood, which can be often, we can find ourselves playing outside the planned syllabus. For example, a week of Pâte à Choux means we’ll be creating classics such as Eclairs, Religieuse and Chouquettes, all the standard pastries you can find in any French boulangerie. But, when Chef is feeling inspired we know we’re going to take those classics and evolve them into something more …… let’s say, “boutique”. This is the opportunity for students to begin thinking creatively along with our Chef. For many of us, it’s a time to imagine we’re finally here ……. in the kitchen of a 5 star hotel serving up our creations to the most honorable guests. Our signature on a plate. One can dream, noh?

Chef’s former years at the prestigious Dalloyau greatly influences the way he thinks, works and teaches in the lab. He can begin the morning by telling us how he’s been up all night thinking about how we can improve a recipe that we did the day before, “ce n’etait pas bon hier. On va faire encore!”. Or, he may have an idea to evolve a recipe and he’ll ask us if we’re interested in doing it. Of course we say, ‘Oui Chef!’, because this is the opportunity to have fun! To be creative! Instead of just being observers and doers, we become part of a real working, thinking, creative professional lab. Watching Chef improvise his ideas is very confusing intriguing, “Where is he going with this?”, but when we finally see the big picture we enter another hemisphere of thought or idea that we didn’t consider before and instantly we go back in our mind to re-evaluate our previous approach to our work. For example, yesterday for the first time we worked with food colouring adding it to butter cream, pastry cream and crumbles. Then, we were introduced to the world of chocolate: learning how to create those decorative pieces you see only on the most elegant of desserts. All this to create a new Religieuse. I’m not sure if Chef really knows how much influence he has on his students. I certainly saw it yesterday when I looked around the lab. Students experimented with their new found techniques and others were merely influenced to create something of their own.

Paris-Brest Re-Visited

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The French word écoeurant is used to describe when one eats something that feels heavy, or is sickly to eat. The Paris-Brest for some people is écoeurant. Is it the wall of stiffened butter cream piped generously around a sponge ring which gives that gagging reflex on the first bite?
Though, it seems the French are divided on this one, for some, it’s their all time favourite. Maybe, it’s the roasted hazelnut flavour reminiscent of childhood winter vacations that gets so many French sentimental over just the idea of a Paris-Brest. When I mentioned on Tuesday morning to my Frenchman that I would be making this at school on Wednesday, by Tuesday evening I had an order from 20 of his co-workers for their beloved Paris-Brest. Surprised and cynical as I was, even I knew that what we were about to make would be a recipe more evolved, totally edible and perhaps a real money maker.

Chef has been saying for quite some time the Paris-Brest “il va être à la nouvelle mode”, or “on va revisiter”, meaning it’s coming back or being revisited. Often in class we are on the subject of fashionable pastries, because at the moment we are in a world craze for macarons. And now, in Paris, it’s eclairs. In pastry, whenever we say  we ‘revisit’ something, it means to bring back in mode but evolved to the tastes of today. La mode of today is less butter and less heavy creams in general, and opting to push through more natural flavours, as well as, giving desserts more streamlined clean shapes. So, going back to what Chef said about the Paris-Brest being revisited. In our class recipe, we have certainly done that. There is less butter and what we use is of high quality. The creme patissiere we do is famously light but not light in taste. I may not have mentioned this before but the milk we use for all our recipes is in fact Demi-Crème (half fat milk). And then of course there is the principal flavour of the Paris-Brest, a high quality hazelnut/almond paste.

I believe Chef has found a nice balance with this recipe in terms of the texture, form and taste. So, let’s revisit the Paris-Brest. The ingredients list I’ve posted below the photos.

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Pate a Choux
Water, 250g
Salt, 5g
Sugar, 5g
Butter, 125g
Flour, 150g
Eggs, 220g

Creme Patissiere
Milk (Demi-Creme), 500g
Eggs, 100g
Granulated sugar, 100g
Flour, 25g
Custard powder (or cornstarch), 25g
Vanilla Bean 1 (Note: store always in the freezer)
Note: We have NO EGG YOLKS, NO BUTTER, in this Creme Patissiere recipe. Why? Less fatty.

Paris-Brest Creme Mousseline
Creme Patissiere (take above), 500g
Butter, 200g (soften in microwave to smooth creamy texture)
Almonds/Hazelnut praline, 200g

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Synopsis: So, what went wrong? (because something always goes wrong in patisserie even the smallest of details).
For the Pate a Choux: I followed the above ingredients list and my Pate a Choux did not turn out as I hoped, it was too liquidy. The reason for this, the temperature of the eggs were cold plus add a cold bowl, so instead of thickening my flour/butter/water mixture, it liquified it.  In this case, I should have reduced the amount of eggs to meet the temperature of the mixture. When it came to piping the Pate a Choux it didn’t have body to stand up like a good soldier. As a result, coming out of the oven, instead of a high fat sponge, I got a thin low ring of sponge. Temperature of utensils, bowls, machines, even the room can affect the outcome of your final product even if you follow the ingredients list exactly. But, that’s patisserie for you = a relationship you have to work at all your life… but I’m told it gets easier. 

A couple of students felt we could have added more hazelnut puree. But, that kind of thing is always going to be about individual tastes, and will most probably be the most challenging part of our careers…. satisfying our customers.

Brioche dough vs Croissant dough

A popular viennoiserie like Pain aux Raisins can be made with either brioche dough (sweet bread) or croissant dough (flaky puff pastry). Take your pick.

Brioche dough is made of :

Flour T45, Yeast, Salt, Granulated sugar, Eggs, softened butter and some water.

Chef starts adding in a Kitchen Aid (using hook attachment) flour, yeast, salt, sugar and add eggs gradually. Adding a little bit of water to pick up the dry ingredients. It takes around 15-20 mins or until the dough is not sticking to the side of the bowl. Then, add the softened butter little by little gently kneading but not excessively. Your dough is done once butter is mixed in and you should here the dough making a slapping sound against the bowl. It’s ready!

Place the dough in a prover. If you don’t have a prover you just need to create a warm environment for the dough to rise. You can for example put plastic over the dough with air surrounding it.

When the dough has risen, punch it down (“rompre” or “rabattre” in French) and put in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

Punch it down again a second time, shape and rise at 30°C.

Baking 220°C for around 5 minute and then turn down to 180°C to finish

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Note: In a recipe similar to this one you may see instructions to make a “yeast starter”  or in French a “poolish” this is mixing the yeast with a little water and a little flour from the recipe.

 Croissant dough or in french it’s called either, Pâte à croissants or Pâte levée feuilletée, this is made of:

Flour (farine) sifted type T45 and type T55, Salt (sel), Sugar (sucre), Yeast (levure), Milk (lait)

Pâte à lever feuillettée translates to dough rising pastry sheets, the rising is due to the yeast.

Knead a détrempe with the sifted flour, salt, sugar, yeast and add milk gradually**.

** Sift together flour and salt then make a well. Add the sugar in the well. Now add milk. You can add a tiny part warm water to your yeast before adding to the well. Warning: Do not mix the salt and the yeast together because the salt kills the yeast.

Stop kneading once the dough is homogenous and give body to the dough – measure temperature 23°C – 25°C.
Let the dough rise in a temperature environment.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down and keep it in the fridge for use the next day.
Add the butter as in the feuilletage procedure.
Give one double turn and one simple turn.
Let the pâton rest in the fridge for half hour, taking care to cover it with plastic film.
Roll out the dough (60cm x 40cm) and cut to size/shape. Place the croissants on a baking sheet and egg wash a first time.
Let croissants rise about two hours in a prover at 25°C.
Egg wash a second time and bake at 220°C.

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These instructions are taken from the cookbook Pastry Recipes Anglophone Pâtisserie created by Ferrandi Chef Averty.

The Danish broke my heart

Having a Hungarian father meant I grew up eating only “European” food at home, which meant the odd salami crept into my school sandwich and Sunday breakfast was smelly blue cheese. You can imagine the horror my Australian friends had when my mother was cooking cabbage soup. My father saw me as his Hungarian daughter. And I, having been born and raised in Australia saw myself naturally as a dinky-di Aussie.

So, where does the Danish come in? The Danish comes into the gammet of all European food products my father was constantly seeking out. Australia in the 1980’s and prior, was not exactly known for its culinary variety. But as Europeans began to settle and open up small family businesses, my father eventually found his Europe. He found an Italian coffee shop owner in Rockdale who made killer expresso’s. He found a Frenchman (or was he Italian?) who sold smelly french cheeses. He found an Italian delicatessen in Ramsgate, selling everything from Italian, Spanish to Hungarian salamis and cold meat cuts. He found the Macadonian butcher who would give him kilos (when the English only served slices). He found the Chinaman in Coogee who opened at the crack of dawn to sell him his cheese and bacon bread. He found an Austro-Hungarian cafe and pastry shop in Bondi who made his favourite Hungarian, Viennese and German pastries.

On my school holidays, it was a must that I go to work with my father. My father, a mechanic, got up at a chirpy 4am. This meant I accompanied him to work at 5am (from the South to the East of Sydney) and as my reward we’d visit the pastry shop in Eastgardens/Coogee where he was known like family. There, I was introduced to croissants, Danish’s, Vanilla slice (known as Millefeuille in France), Blackforest, you name it. The Danish croissant was my father’s favourite. We’d pick up a bag of them before work. He preferred the one with peach. I loved my Danish with cherries.

So, when it came time to make the Danish in class I knew I had to make the very best. Afterall, this was my childhood thing. What I didn’t forsee is that I would be the only one in my class not to have succeeded, at all. I blame it on that bastard of a dough. I think I started this recipe with too much emotion and high expectations because before I knew it I was upset to not get the result I wanted, eventually throwing it all in the bin before even making it to the oven.

The dough that we make for Viennoserie is a real stubborn shit. He doesn’t like to stretch out when you roll him out. You are rolling that damn dough FOREVER! Chef starts a new demonstration just as I’m fighting my dough. So, I’m like, ‘hell with it!’. I put the dough in the freezer on the advice of another to go watch the demo. The freezer idea was to stop the dough from shrinking. So, on removing my dough from the freezer I noticed it had shrunk, solidified and dried out. The sheet of dough, or shit of a dough, is supposed to be rectangle, the size of the wire rack and smooth like a babies bottom. Mine wasn’t rectangle and it had the skin of a reptile. I went into, “I can save you” damage control, and I tried to roll out the damn thing once more. It tore. I then tried to mend it. I figured I better get a move on and start cutting my dough into the pieces required for a the Danish. As I cut, my pieces shrank, again. Then, we were to fold and make beautiful little Japanse origami looking designs (not at all the Danish I remember). And when I folded my shrinking dough my pastry origami were Barbie size. If I was going to put half a peach over the top of my origami, you wouldn’t be able to see the pastry. I wanted to cry. Instead I threw my dough in the bin. If I wasn’t going to produce the perfect Danish, then I wasn’t going to produce any at all! I watched all my classmates produced gorgeous little origami Danishes. I was envious and heartbroken. My mini internal tantrum will now have to calm down, and eventually I’ll have to face the Danish once again, preferably in the privacy of my own kitchen.

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