Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Week 3 at Le Cordon Bleu (Basic Cuisine)

After last week, I was glad to leave the white pepper on the shelf for a bit. During week 3 at Le Cordon Bleu, we turned our attention to desserts. Crème anglaise and charlotte were the first tests of our dessert skills. These desserts are light, called "entremets", which translates to "between meals".

The first practical had us making old-fashioned apple charlotte. Fourteen students were cooking down the apples slowly, caramelizing them only after they were cooked, and the aroma was heavenly. We all lined the charlotte molds with bread, first cutting the bottom pieces into raindrop shapes to form a circle. Lastly, we made crème anglaise to a thickness called à la nappe. Everything was going along perfectly until the unmolding stage when I forgot to trim the excess length of my bread pieces, which in turn caused the apple compote inside to travel to meet the plate making the whole thing fall apart slightly. One miss-step in the kitchen, and everything is quickly ruined (except in this case it still tasted sweet)!



Here are the desserts the chef made during the demo.


Clockwise from top: Chef’s Poires au vin rouge (Pears cooked in red wine)
Crème renversée au caramel (Reversed caramel cream or Crème caramel)
Charlotte aux pommes, crème anglaise au Calvados (Apple Charlotte served with Calvados custard sauce)
Sabayon aux fruits (Fruit Zabaglione)

The next day was all about frozen desserts: ice creams, glace, granité, sorbet, and frozen soufflé. During the practical, we made frozen orange soufflé and tuiles. The soufflé is composed of whipped cream, Italian meringue and sabayon all made by hand using only a whisk. Click click click. Whisks were dancing in the bowls.

First up was the whipped cream. Next was the meringue where the trick was to get the sugar syrup to the soft ball stage (without a thermometer) at the same time that the egg whites were at the soft-peak stage and ready to accept the sugar syrup. Since we weren't allowed to use thermometers for the sugar syrup, we had to get a bowl of ice water ready to dip our fingers in before dipping into the 235°F syrup! Although a little scary, we all did it and now know what soft ball feels like. Meringue is like a Dairy Queen blizzard. Once you've slowly added the hot sugar syrup to the egg whites and whisked until it's cooled to room temperature, you should be able to flip the bowl upside down without any of the mixture falling out.

The next component was the sabayon. Only two ingredients (yolks and orange juice) form one of the most magical sauces you can make. The trick is in the whisking and the heat. Over a simmering water bath, you whisk and whisk and whisk some more. Never stopping in case it falls. About fifteen minutes later, you have a thick, rich, sweet sauce that you must whisk even more off heat just to cool off before folding in with the meringue and whipped cream. At least there's some exercise in the kitchen!

Here are the desserts the chef made during the demo.



Clockwise from top: Chef’s Crème glacée vanilla (Vanilla ice cream) and Glace au café (Coffee ice cream)
Soufflé glacé à l'orange (Deep-frozen orange soufflé) with Cigarettes aux amandes (Tubular almond biscuits)
Granité au Calvados (Calvados sorbet)
Candied Orange Slices

The last class was about salads and during the practical we made Niçoise salad. Parts of the salad needed to be cooked (potatoes, eggs, and green beans) and cooled. The rest of the ingredients just needed to be chopped uniformly. Finally, we made a simple vinaigrette to serve with it.

The trickiest part was cooking the eggs to the perfect point. We were told to bring water to a boil, put a room temperature egg in for 10 minutes ensuring it was covered with boiling water. If the egg was fridge temperature, it needed to stay in the boiling water for 12 minutes. I chose to leave mine in for 11 minutes since it was in-between room and fridge temperature. When my timer beeped, I pulled it out and set it under cool, running water for several minutes. Unfortunately, my egg was very slightly under-cooked, according to the chef's masterful eye. As well, my potatoes were too cold and hidden on the plate. Otherwise, taste-wise all was good and well-cooked.

Here are the salads the chef made during the demo.


Clockwise from top: Chef’s Salade Niçoise (Vegetable salad Provençale, garnished with tuna, anchovies and egg)
Frisée aux lardons (Warm chicory with bacon)
Salade Francillon (Potato and mussel salad)
Salade des nonnes (Rice salad with truffled chicken)

Well, that was week 3 at Le Cordon Bleu. I enjoyed preparing some desserts this week, but I'm looking forward to getting back to the fundamentals of cuisine next week.

Tools you must have in your kitchen: a whisk and an ice cream maker
Tools you don't need: a candy thermometer

. . . . . . . . . .

Here is a link back to the recipes as I did them last year (although they aren't exactly the same as what we did in class):

Class 7: Les Entremets (Basic Desserts)
Part 1 - Charlotte aux pommes, crème anglaise au Calvados (Apple Charlotte served with Calvados custard sauce)
Part 2 - Crème renversée au caramel (Reversed caramel cream or Crème caramel)
Part 3 - Poires au vin rouge (Pears cooked in red wine)
Part 4 - Pruneaux au vin blanc (Prunes cooked in white wine)
Part 5 - Sabayon aux fruits (Fruit Zabaglione)

Class 8: Les Entremets Glacés (Frozen Desserts)
Part 1 - Cigarettes aux amandes (Tubular almond biscuits) with Crème glacée vanilla (Vanilla ice cream) and Glace au café (Coffee ice cream)
Part 2 - (Granité au Calvados (Calvados sorbet)
Part 3 - Sorbet au citron vert (Lime sorbet)
Part 4 - Soufflé glacé à l'orange (Deep-frozen orange soufflé)

Class 9: Les Salades (Salads)
Part 1 - Frisée aux lardons (Warm chicory with bacon)
Part 2 - Salade Niçoise (Vegetable salad Provençale, garnished with tuna, anchovies and egg)
Part 3 - Salade des nonnes (Rice salad with truffled chicken)

Part 4 - Salade Francillon (Potato and mussel salad)



9 comments:

Malak said...

That sounds like a very heavy, but very delicious week! All that whisking!! You're learning so much about the very basic elements of cooking everything! Must be hard to absorb it all!! Thanks for sharing. It is sooo interesting!!

Darina said...

That's quite a week. It seems like you really learned a lot. Those desserts sure looked heavenly--hope you got to try some.

pinkstripes said...

It sounds fun...do you eat everything you make? I think I would fail on presentation. Those are beautiful dishes.

natalia said...

Ciao Shari, you work so much ! I keep on envying you !!

Manggy said...

Hey, an undercooked egg can only be better, heh :) Loving these chronicles Shari! :)

Dawn said...

one the most important things I could learn in class would be how to slice anything. I am horrible at it and need mucho help.
your dessert looks amamzing....I am so jealous

Eliana said...

What an amazing education you are getting. This food all looks incredible.

Pam said...

This is fascinating reading about everything you are learning!

syrie said...

Fantastic Shari. Thanks for sharing this experience with us. I'm still trying to perfect my cream quenelles shape!