Jennifer & John Wright et Moi in the Ille de la Citie
Today the sun was out off and on all day. That is such a treat here at this time of year. Everyone is getting ready for Christmas and all the patisseries have beautiful Buche Noel logs in their windows. We learned how to make one last week with pistachio cake and flour. Not so yummy. These French love their pistachios (pronounced pistach here) and their almonds. Haven't seen a pecan nor a walnut since I got in these kitchens!
There is a good chance the Buche Noel will be on our final exam. There are 10 recipes from which they will pick. We have been given the list to study and practice at home. We will go up to one of the kitchens and two of the ten will have been chosen. From those two, we will draw one or the other out of a bowl. Then we will have 2 1/2 hours to make this pastry, plus a tart crust and line of these weird French tart rings. It sounds so easy. 2 1/2 hours. But for some reason, when we make something, it takes all of our time. I can bake a cake at home in an hour, but not here. Probably because we have to whip BY HAND all the egg whites and whip BY HAND all the cream. Saturday we had both cream and egg whites in one recipes and I thought my arm would fall off!
Us again at the Place de Vendome, after having tea at the Ritz
Note the Christmas decorations behind us!
When we get to the kitchen, we start right away. We are not allowed to enter the kitchen until the chef arrives. Then we get out all of our utensils that we think we will need to make that recipe. It is the recipe of the most recent demonstration. Did I tell you we always get the ingredient list but not the directions? So much, of course, attend the demo and write them down in a way we can follow. Sometimes there is a translation problem, for me at least, and it often boils down to where I sit during the demo. If I get stuck in the back, I do not get the info as well. It is harder to hear back there, esp with a few of the chatterboxes. It is very difficult to get a seat in the front because many of the front people line up for class at least 20 minutes early! I just cannot stand and wait for something that long, unless it is for something fabulous. Not to go into a 3 hour lecture once or twice a day! However, if you want a front seat, that is what you have to do here at Le Cordon Bleu. Because it is so crowded here, you have to fight for your space all day. I heard that they have repeatedly tried to buy space in the building beside them, but whoever owns it will not sell.
Anyway, we go into the kitchen, line up our utensils, grab whichever bowls and whisks we think we will need from the shelves, and start weighing our ingredients. Then we proceed to make the recipe as best we can, asking the chef now and then for guidance. Well, that depends on WHICH chef is supervising us! If it is Chef Tres Horrible, I don't open my mouth. If it is Chef Nice I or Chef Nice II, then I do. In my group, two cliques have formed and they really stay together. I find that very distressing and very middle school. But most people here are young and hopefully they will grow out of this, although they should have by now. I tend to be pretty much of a lone wolf and I hope I am nice to everyone, regardless of where they came from or how great a cook they are.
My baking has improved. If I try not to freak out because of the hectic pace of it and the competitive spirit, and just focus on my food, I do pretty well. When we made croissants--oh yes and they were from heaven above-- I kept telling myself that I love my dough, I love my dough, I love my dough. I treated it with respect and love, didn't rush it, tried to listen to it when it needed to rest (most doughs need to rest or it will fight you and then you will tear it or ruin it) and the croissants came out perfectly. It is so fast paced in there that it is easy to ruin things!
Today was fun and a friend and I went to all the great chocolate stores. It was very thoughtful of the French to put them all within walking distance of each other. They are all around the Rue Madeline and all so beautiful. I bet I spent a small fortune on chocolate for friends and Christmas stockings! Now, if I can just keep from eating them until I get home....