Friday, February 29, 2008

Pass your plate

Hello, family. Here's just an update on my Arizonan life, which is shortly coming to a close (because I'm leaving Arizona, not because I'm terminally ill or any other such life-closing misfortune). I finally did find the nature in this place. All the pollution of a big city makes for some excellent sunsets from atop South Mountain, or Camelback Mountain, both of which I have had the joy to hike recently (I say mountain, but to those in the Rockies, you might know them better as "slightly exaggerated speed bumps").

We're finally getting to the good stuff here in school. I think this is the first cake I got excited about. We have here a devil's food with chocolate mousse filling and a chocolate glacage coating it. The little tiles and abstract flame-like garnishes are tempered chocolate with edible gold dust and colored cocoa butter. Chocolate and I have an interesting relationship when it comes to tempering. Sometimes it is submissive, compliant, and humbly behaved, and sometimes I wonder if I am trying to raise a teenager made of sugar, milk solids, and chocolate liquor. Well, after some early mornings in the kitchen and the purchase of a high quality thermometer, I think I've tricked it into thinking I'm boss for the time being.

And here we have the Brasilia, which I was able to share with Jay and John when they came for a law conference. (Yay for unexpected mini reunions!) This is a nice cake for those of you who like almonds, as it is full of them. Almond sponge cake with caramel buttercream, and a nougatine on top make for a very happy dessert. I still have no idea why it's called Brasilia, or if it has anything to do with the capital of Brazil, and neither does Wikipedia. Ah well.

Now we enter my plating class, which is becoming my favorite very quickly, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that it is the hardest thus far. The first plate here is a raspberry panna cotta (cream set by gelatin) with a brandy snap cookie and a sugar nut spear threaded through the hole in the cookie. (That's not easy to do with very very breakable sugar, a tiny hole, a hand tremor you inherited from your father and possibly a hint of hypoglycemia you may have inherited from your mother. It's okay, mom; I have granola bars in my backpack now, and this is the kind of school where they encourage you to eat during class anyway. Back to the dessert. . .) This was my exact copy of the master's design. The next is a mango bavarian mousse in a chocolate cage. This little guy caused me a lot of grief, trying not to break his delicate little lattice while I threw cut fruit into the cage and balanced a little star on top. Arg. Even now, I can't get his picture to stand up. P.S. If anybody knows how to rotate these pics a simple 90 degrees without editing software, please let me know. I'm feeling very foolish posting these sideways pictures here. Anyway, I kind of like the look of it in the end, so I think I'm going to keep working on the technique till I get it right. The next plates were my own creation. This is a peppermint white chocolate mousse (yummy) in a chocolate cone with a little chocolate garnish. Not that interesting. Oh well. This next one is hard to see and looked better in real life. It's a lemon panna cotta pyramid on a tuille cookie bridge with a sugar garnish that curves up and has a little sugar sun on the end. Yeah, you can't really tell from the picture. Maybe I'll do this plate again and take a better shot, because I liked the Egyptian look to it, and so did the chef. And if you'll now look to your right, next on our tour we have a little critter that makes me smile. This is a cream horn made of puff pastry, filled with diplomat cream and fruit. It reminds me of a crustacean of sorts. Chef thought it was creative. Fortunately today, it was on the good side of creative. It's a fine line we walk, and I've been known to jump over it on occassion. Hm, he's kind of hard to see, too. Sorry. And lastly, I put this one together today, along with the lobster. It's what's called a beggar's purse (did people used to give beggars apple compote instead of money? I don't know). It's an apple filling in a little pouch of flaky phyllo dough sitting on some oranges, with a set of cookie chopsticks resting on a strawberry to the side. In the box where the chef is supposed to write feedback like "sauce too thin" or "chocolate not tempered" or "too many busy lines," all I got was a "feng shui." I guess that's good? I'm really liking the creative freedom we get in this class. I always said I never wanted to work in a restaurant, but this kind of work is rather appealing to me. I think it's pretty awesome that I was born in America in the 20th century to goodly parents and have the means to take a year of my life to play with dough. Yeah, pretty awesome.

Before we leave tonight, here's a peek at a little sugar showpiece I started. Also obnoxiously on its side. It still needs leaves and maybe some cooler wings, but it's a start, and knowing sugar, it's likely to shatter before it gets finished, so I'm posting it now.

Well, the sun is setting, and it might be cool enough to go running now (neener neener) so I think I've yammered on enough for today. Oh, by the way, I'm hunting for a good place to do an externship, so if any of you go out to eat and are totally wowed by your dessert, let me know. Much love, and bon appetite!

1 comment:

Jay P said...

I can vouch for the Brasilia. It was wonderful!