CHecking my temper while tempering
This week was chocolate's week! I was so excited for this week because I have never had the opportunity to learn how to properly temper chocolate, I have always just used "chocolate glaze" which you melt down and it hardens on its own with no tempering needed. For those of you who don't understand what I mean when I say tempering, it is a process in which you heat up chocolate and then cool it down in a specific way and to a certain temperature that it allows proper formation of "good" crystals in the chocolate to form, resulting in a shiny finish and a proper snap to it. It can be a very challenging and frustrating task (do you understand the humor in the title now?) because of how sensitive it is to temperature changes.
When you really dive into the science behind tempering it can get super confusing so this week we simply just learned the basics and the process on how to do it. There are a few different forms of tempering such as tabling, seeding and block seeding, all of which are great ways to temper but they do require a varying amount of skill to master. We tempered our chocolate with the block seeding method, which is one of the easiest. To put it simply, we melt chocolate down and add a large chunk of already tempered chocolate from the factory into the melted chocolate. The chunk provides the "good crystals" needed in the melted chocolate. You stir the melted chocolate and the chunk around for awhile until it reaches the proper temperature, at this point you can play with the chocolate.
We were required to make a few different items before being allowed to experiment on our own. Those items were a minimum of 12 "disks" which are created by spreading tempered chocolate onto a piece of parchment paper and then dragging a comb through it to create a pattern. Once that stiffens up slightly you go through and cut out shapes, let it sit again until completely hard and then you have your final disks. We also had to do two separate designs of filigree. I chose the more classical designs, but filigree could be just about anything.
Once I got my work approved I was able to play around on my own a bit. I remembered seeing a video online of Chef Frank Haasnoot piping bird with chocolate and decided to try it myself. The body turned out pretty good but the head just slid right off and looked rather odd. On the second day of chocolates I tried again. This time I made the head separately and attached it. It looked great! Then I realized I had plenty of time left so I played around just to see what I could create. I am so proud of the final product! Unfortunately I don't have a decent photo of it because once it set I picked it up off the tray to take a picture of it on a clean table and I hit it on something, causing it to break :(
I managed to get a few photos though, look through the slides to see!
~ Remember to smile :)
A lesson learned
Okay so we all know that you are supposed to learn in college, but I would like to share a lesson with you all that I have recently learned. It is a lesson that no professor is going to lecture you on and put together a PowerPoint for, but it is important nonetheless. Are you curious what this monumental lesson is? Well grab some delicious chocolate and a good cup of coffee and let me tell you a story.
……….Once upon a time, not so long ago (literally this week) and in a not so far away land(Hyde Park, New York), there was a girl taking her first kitchen exam at The Culinary Institute of America. (That girl was me) The exam was pretty straightforward, make a finished éclair start to finish and a genoise cake. These were all simple items, ones that we had made many times in class, but I was still nervous.
So everything is going good and my pate a choux is all done and ready to get piped and my genoise cake is stabilizing in the KitchenAid on the table next to me. I grab a piece of parchment paper and fold it to pipe my éclairs onto and lay it onto a sheet tray. I get my first row of éclairs piped and pipe the next two dozen as required. After I finished piping the two dozen, I still have a decent amount of batter left and some room on my tray. I decide to pipe an extra eight éclairs out, as a safety net if all of mine don’t turn out perfect. (Who am I kidding? None of them were going to be perfect, but a girl could dream.)
Jump forward almost an hour and my éclairs are out of the oven, some are slightly misshaped but it is okay! That is why I have extras. I start poking holes into the bottoms of mine for filling, and I line them up on the tray to see which one would make it into the top 12 for presenting. I finally choose the prettiest ones and set the rest off to the side. At this time I go over to check on my cakes and see if I can pull them from the oven. As I am doing so, I look into the deck ovens to check on everyone else’s éclairs and see that one tray is absolutely horrible. I’m not just talking about being misshaped or even burnt. I am talking about the dough itself. It was just wrong. Somehow it was grainy, brown and looked like melted butter all at once. I had no clue whose it was, but I had to get back to finish my product on time so I left.
Jump forward again and at this point my cakes are out of the oven, my éclairs are ready to be filled and I still have 45 minutes to finish and clean. I refresh my pastry cream and begin to fill my shells. I fill 15 and leave the rest unfilled, figuring I already had three extras if I mess up the chocolate glaze on one or two. I’m feeling pretty good about myself at this point until I look over and see our groupleader looking very upset and on the verge of tears. I decide to be noisy and go see what’s going on. Turns out our groupleader is the one who had the messed up pate a choux and now she has nothing to fill and finish for her presentation, basically guaranteeing that she will fail the exam. Now I am not going to deny that part of me thought about leaving her to suffer in her own misery. After all, this girl has caused me absolute hell these past few weeks and took some very personal jabs at me when she didn’t get her way at the beginning of the semester and I figured it was Karma coming back at her. But then I thought about it and realized I couldn’t just leave her to fail when I knew I had extra shells. So I offered her 10 of my empty shells. That left me 15 filled shells to dip and present and a few empty ones as required. She wouldn’t be able to present the full dozen as required, but at least she would be able to show that she could fill a shell and properly glaze it.
I give her the shells, we all finish our exam and we don’t speak of what happened again……..until the next day. I ended up getting an 81/100 as my final grade. While there are a few point deductions that I don’t entirely agree with, I was overall satisfied with my grade. Out of curiosity I asked groupleader what grade she got. She got a 77/100. This is where our lesson comes into play. You see, her score really bugged me. There is no way she deserved a 77/100. She didn’t even make her own pate a choux! That is the main component of the exam for gosh sake! I don’t think it is fair she got a score only four points below me if she couldn’t even manage to make her own choux properly. I thought about telling Chef what happened, but decided against it. At the end of the day I didn’t have to give her my shells, she didn’t steal them from me, and she didn’t even ask me for them first. I willingly offered them to her because I knew I had extras and I knew she needed them.
At the end of the day, I am able to live with myself because I know I helped a person out when they were in need, even though I had nothing to gain from it. The whole point of this story is the lesson behind it all. Be a good person, to all people, for no reason other than the reason that you can be nice. You won’t always feel better after it, but your soul will be at peace. If you are able to help someone, do it, especially in situations where it won’t be detrimental to you, but could be monumental to someone else. My mother raised me to be the bigger person in hard situations and while I have to admit that I fail at that some days, I do my best and I encourage everyone else to do so too. So go into the world with a smile and an open heart, and show the world your kindness.
~ Remember to smile :)
My final tray for Skills 1, ended up getting an 81/100 on it.
(Top Left) Finished Eclairs, filled with pastry cream and topped with chocolate fondant glaze
(Bottom Left) Empty Eclair shells
(Middle) Genoise cakes, cut open to see the crumb and a container of pastry cream
(Top Right) My timeline we are required to create to help demonstrate our ability to manage time