Thursday, July 9, 2009

12 Hours of Sleep Has ALMOST restored me

Drinking my morning tea with extra honey, and thanking everyone for their get well wishes. I took a little medicine last night, slept for 12 hours and feel mostly better, but today is another 9 hour day, so I hope I can keep up. We have a pastry shop visit in the middle of the day, so that helps break it up a bit.

I am trying not to talk at all, so my voice returns faster, which is very difficult for me. People keep asking if I am OK, since I am usually the most talkative person in class - SHOCKER! Classmates around me helped cleanup so I could get out the kitchen and come home - I think I had a fever because it wasn't hot and I was sweating like it was 120 degrees.

Dacquoise is my favorite dessert so far. It is a great combination of smooth and crunchy, nutty and sweet. Making it went without a hitch! It is a two-layer meringue-based cake with ground almonds in the batter, topped with praline buttercream and a marzipan flower. Remember, we do everything by hand, so we whipped the egg whites for the cake with a whisk until the whisk can stay in the bowl when you hold it upside down! It takes about 10 minutes, which doesn't sound like that long, until you try it. We also whipped the buttercream by hand - another 10 minutes.

French buttercream is delicious - no egg whites. We boil sugar and water to the soft ball stage - no thermometers, we cool our fingers in cold water, dip quickly in the boiling sugar water, and back to the cold water to see if the syrup will make a soft ball between our fingers. Pour the syrup into beaten egg yolks and whip until it is cool, about 5 minutes, then add 350 grams (about 3/4 of a pound) of butter and some praline paste. Beat until smooth. The buttercream can be flavored with anything - chocolate, coffee, or a liquor: rum, Grand Marnier, Chambord, etc.

The marzipan roses were fun to make, mine got a little smooshed to the side, but it was still OK. Some people made amazing ones - pink on the inside and white towards the outside. If I was feeling better, I would have tried another one like that. Others made ones that the chef said looked like cabbages! I will probably buy some marzipan at the store to practice, as this dessert could be the recipe for our final exam.

I had a little epiphany about making everything by hand - which pastry shops do NOT have time to do. It is a little like learning math. Yes, you can use a calculator to add, subtract and multiply, but you have to learn the process in your head so that you understand the basics. That is what we are doing, learning the basics so we know when the egg whites are ready to receive sugar, and how soft the butter needs to be add to the buttercream so that the consistency is right for piping. Once you understand the foundations, you can start to use a calculator or a mixer.

My refrigerator is starting to look like a pastry shop! I think all of my neighbors, at least the ones I met, are gone for the summer already. So I leave some of my creations for the cuisine students and the others I bring home, hoping to find a hungry family just waiting for dessert.


  1. Ouch. Do you have to test everything without a thermometer? However, it does make sense to learn the basics. If you always put your faith in a thermometer, you could have problems.

  2. Love this post... glad to hear you're feeling a bit better! Keep on updating - your stories are always SO interesting!
    xo - Trish

  3. Oh Sarah - I can already tell I'm going to love your blog. What a great experience and look at all of the delicious treats on here!
    Thanks for sharing how things work over there for those of us living vicariously through you :)

  4. I am calling you Perez from now on.


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