October 28, 2016

Back to school or, step into the shoes of a Pastry Student

Days slip into weeks. Weeks slip into months. And before you know it, I completed the Basic Pastry level at Le Cordon Bleu.
Now it is already time to go back to school and dig into the Intermediate Pastry level. We are going to kick into more sophisticated desserts and start to work with chocolate, the promise of a lot of fun and challenges.

Getting ready for school means having your tools box clean and organized, because in the heat of the action there is no time to look for your little offset spatula, your pipe number ten or your scraper.

The uniform is a serious matter. Any student who does not comply with the rules is going to be kicked out of the class, period! So make sure your ugly black safety shoes are polished, your pants are hemmed, your uniform vest is spotless and ironed and so the neck tie, the apron, the kitchen towel and the cap.

What else do you need to remember? Nails cut short, wear on a hair net, no ring, no watch, the student name badge stick onto your uniform, a spoon and a fork carried in the pocket of your uniform sleeve. Those are useful tools when comes the tasting at the end of the demonstration.

Today I let you step into my ugly black safety shoes. Ready?

Alors, c’est parti!... So let’s go!


Half an hour prior the beginning of the class we are already agglutinated at the door of the demonstration room while the chef’s assistant is preparing the ingredients. The chef is listing the technical and culinary vocabulary, as well as the different components of the recipe on the white board.
8 o’clock sharp the chef is opening the door and it looks like the first day of the big sales. We are all rushing in for the seats on the first row. Unbelievable. I should not tell you that, so I don’t. Still, the chef keeps an eye wide open. Uniform must be spotless and ironed. Always.

Mascarpone mille-feuille and Red fruits tart

The chef is usually demonstrating two recipes that are either completing each other: same components but different technics or, two recipes that are too simple or too complex to be reproduced in the kitchen by the students but that has a culinary interest. Something inspiring or mind opening. We will execute only one of the two recipes in practice.

Today we are going to see the Mascarpone mille-feuille and the Red fruits tart. Both are based on the Brittany shortbread pastry. The mille-feuille is usually filled with a pastry cream. But instead Chef Daniel decided to share the recipe of his Mascarpone cream, a real signature cream. Then for the tart, we are going to learn how to make a creamy red fruit mousse and a mock blackcurrant marshmallow. Fancy, no?

Fancy red fruits tart

We are only given a list of the ingredients and quantities and, this is up to us to write the method. The Chef demonstrates in French and I like when he suddenly switches to English and confuses the translator. I am a lucky girl to be able to understand both languages.
As a result my notes are a mix of French and English with a couple of incomprehensible drawings. And very important, I get the untranslated jokes. Peek into my messy notebook.

The messy notebook

After three hours of demonstration the smell from the oven is tickling our senses, it is time for tasting. Not to mention that the bowl of remaining fruits mousse was already passed around...


Next day is another day. Practice in the kitchen. Fun or stress? Chef Park supervises the practice today. I like Chef Park. She remains calm and in control when things get out of control in the kitchen.
The team leaders are preparing all the ingredients and equipment we will need. Meantime we are waiting at the door with our tools box, hat and apron on.
Chef Park opens the door and let us come in. She calls the roll, gives instructions for the execution and we are good to go. We have three hours to reproduce the Mille-feuille from the demonstration.

Flour fly in the air, dirty bowls are piling up, uniforms start to have raspberry stains… A student with a baking trail is shouting Hot, hot!... to make his way. 
Ooops, my inverted puff pastry should have been in the oven and I forgot it in the fridge!
I was so busy with my Mascarpone cream… Why is not it getting thicker? Oh no! I used 10 g of dessert jelly powder instead of 10 g of custard powder.
Eventually I managed to come up with a nice Mascarpone cream and a shiny puff pastry. I should have started now to assemble my Mille-feuille but I wanted to polish my craft and get a nicer caramelized puff pastry. So here I am with a blowtorch to caramelize the icing sugar that did not get caramelized in the oven… I realized I burned something when I started to smell it. My baking sheet got on fire and one of my puff pastry got a little sunburn. Camouflage, I will use it in the middle of the Mille-Feuille!

The clock is ticking. We need to clean up our workspace and present our dessert to the Chef for assessment. We are judged on Hygiene & Security, Organisation, Technical skills, Presentation, Attitude and, it is all going to be recorded in our student evaluation journal.
The practical was chaotic but good. No surprise, I need to improve my organisational skills.

Piece of cake, isn’t it?


  1. finally ��
    and the shoes aren't ugly but practical

    1. Yes, finally. Practical is good, practical and nice is better

  2. si tu le dis... ça doit être vrai

  3. Si tu arrives à relire tes notes, chapeau bas !

    1. tu ne trouves pas mes notes claires et limpides?