Saturday, September 03, 2005

Exam Days

So the first round of exams are over. Between Wednesday at about 7:00 and Friday at 11:00, we had to produce:
1 wedding cake (two layers of sponge, frosted and piped with buttercream)
5 gum paste flowers (two roses, two daisies, and a carnation, plus three rose leaves)
6 blueberry muffins
6 streusel brioche
1 loaf of brioche
12 mini blueberry tarts (sweet dough, streusel, and blueberry filling)
6 croissants
6 mini coffee eclairs (which included pate a choux for the eclairs and pastry cream for the filling)
6 madelines
Wednesday was a little scary, only because it takes some time to plan things out, and there wasn't time to do that, really. I sketched out a plan and basically tried to get a lot of the little things out of the way. I started the croissants, because the dough has to rest overnight, then I knocked out the streusel, the pastry cream, and the sweet dough. We all had to make the sponge cake for the wedding cake on Wednesday, so I did that, too. Wednesday afternoon I sat down for about two hours and planned out Thursday and Friday. Thursday I baked and presented the muffins, the tarts, and the croissants; started the brioche (which also rests overnight); made the madeline batter (which should rest overnight but doesn't have to); started the gum paste flowers (centers for all of the flowers, plus petals for the daisies and carnation); and made the eclairs but didn't fill them. Friday I made the brioche, filled the eclairs, made the madelines, made the buttercream for the cake and frosted and piped it, and finished the flowers. Both Thursday and Friday we were only allowed to work from 6 to 11 (rather than 11:30), and we weren't allowed to help each other--everyone in the class had to produce the above. We talked, of course, to discuss baking times, and there was plenty of coordination between me and my partner, but everyone was pretty much on his or her own.

The only things that didn't work out all that well were the gum paste flowers and the piping on the wedding cake. I basically sacrificed the flowers: I got them done, in the sense of completed, but they weren't anything special. The piping suffered, too, because I had about twenty minutes to do it. The other stuff came out anywhere from pretty good to really good. The blueberry tarts were a little dry/overbaked, and the pastry cream for the eclairs was liquidy, plus the chef said the eclairs could have been a little bigger (they were about a quarter of an inch too short, so I don't feel terribly bad about that one). The muffins didn't have quite as good a texture as they could have (and I forgot the salt, but no one noticed, including the chef). The madelines were fine--baked about a minute too long, the chef said; I didn't tell him that I would have had to elbow a classmate out of the way to get them out that minute earlier (she was dicking around in front of the ovens). No biggie, though. The croissants were a huge success, as were the brioche products.

All in all, I'd say it went even better than I'd hoped. I figured I'd get everything done, but I really thought there was a possibility that (a) there'd be one real disaster (we could argue that the wedding cake qualified for that, but I can't bring myself to feel bad about that one) and/or (b) most things wouldn't come out all that well, and/or (c) nothing would come out really well. Neither (b) nor (c) were the case, and, as noted, the wedding cake wasn't a complete loss. Basically, I need to practice my piping, and that was something that wasn't going to occur in 20 minutes. In addition, two difficult things came out extremely well (brioche and croissants).

One interesting thing: Because I'm at one of the tables nearest the chef, I could hear some of what he was saying to my classmates as they presented. (Trust me, I wasn't eavesdropping: I was too busy for that. But occasionally I'd hear a comment.) The chef critiqued everyone fairly: no one got a break because he or she was stressed out or anxious, or a favorite or something. But a few of the people who were freaking out a little (really only a little), he definitely gave them some encouragement, and I think it helped them a lot, which I'm glad he did. Me--he gave me shit, mostly to make me laugh (and he succeeded in the latter, I might add). I'm going to miss him.

I'm still kind of exhausted, though. I met S at the cafe yesterday afternoon and sat in the sun reading for awhile. Around 4:30 we went back to his place and hooked up with his friend B; I went around the corner with B to see his new place, and then the three of us went out and had a couple of beers and some food. We tried to come up with occupations that S could claim he held (his current occupation--philosopher, or, more precisely, grad student in philosophy) doesn't seem to entice many women), but didn't get anywhere. They dropped me off around 10:30--and then went clubbing. S went ahead and told the truth to one woman, who got a completely blank look on her face, and either she or a different woman didn't know who Ernest Hemingway was. Which, I don't know, is a little frightening. S didn't have much fun after a short while, but nevertheless managed to stay out until 4:30. Our handball suffered a little today as a result of that and as a result of the fact that I couldn't do shit. Whatever. J is coming over to hang out with me and C tonight--a little steak, a little tomatoes, I'm going to practice my dessert for Monday, maybe a little wine, we're set. And did I mention that I didn't have to get up at 4:00 am today? or tomorrow? or Monday? Which is also good.

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