Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chocolate Frustrations

From before the chocolate exam, wow, I was frustrated!

Yesterday was our last conference - the session where the chef usually reads an essay on the production of flour, sugar or chocolate, which we hold an exact translation for in our notebooks.  Instead, Chef D asked us a few questions about tartaric acid, and other chemicals using in pastry, and got to work on a chocolate vase in preparation for his chocolate showpiece on Friday.   He asked us if we wanted to see his "Bible" and of course we begged, and he brought out a beautiful book by Stephane Leroux, it is only $439.93.   Chef D said he kept it on his bedside table for a year.  It is beautiful, and the techniques are innovative - chopping different chocolates in the food processor and gluing them together with cocoa butter grout to make a granite vase.  I was a little shocked to see the showpieces that the chefs have made in the professional sessions (like pastry graduate school), I thought they had designed them, but they are just copies.  I have to admit that I was disappointed, later the chef did Stephane credit for the granite idea.  I have been trying so hard to think of an original idea for my chocolate box, of course I have looked on the internet and in books for inspiration, but I wouldn't copy someone's idea exactly.  It just irritates me. 

Friday, February 26, 2010


I forgot to post this two weeks ago, but decided to bring it back from blog-limbo. 

Ok, it was no Snowmeggedon, Snowcopolypse, or my favorite name of the Mid-Atlantic storm, Snowtorious BIG, but Paris has been getting some flurries.  Not enough to close anything down, but enough to have a little snowball fight outside of school and get some pretty pictures.  

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

38th Birthday Checklist

1 - Eat three chocolate chip cookies for breakfast

2 - Watch Chef D make fruit jellies, marshmallows, jam and caramels
Read Steps 3-22 by clicking Read More below.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blister Fascination

This is what I SHOULD be doing:

Memorizing this and 5 other recipes for my written exam tomorrow.  As well as sugar temps, wheat production and chocolate making. Click Read More to Read what I am doing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Disappointing Dinner at Le Doyen

Sarah and Chef D.

Not so Fat Tuesday. I don't even know where to begin for our last class dinner at the three Michelin starred Le Doyen, located in a beautiful old building next to the Petit Palais off the Champs Elysees, but I will start at the so-called "Open Bar."  The bartender poured my glass of champagne perfectly and handed it to me on a little gold platter, and I was thinking, this is going to be an extraordinary dinner.  Smoked salmon on toast and a fois gras cube graced the table, I likedthe salmon, but didn't try the fois gras, since it had a weird looking jelly on top, and I prefer warm fois gras, so it melts on my tongue, and doesn't coat my mouth with what feels like cold grease.  After my first glass, the bartender informed us that we could have other drinks, but the champagne was finished, after only a 30 minute cocktail 'hour.'

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Coming Home? April 7!

Ah, so when I couldn't get a work visa, I decided to come home (duh) but forgot to change my ticket.  Rookie mistake, but I called today, and US Air changed my ticket without charging me a thing!  Seriously.  Not one penny. Not one mile, and the mileage needed is now 15,000 miles more.  Thank you USAir!

I will miss Easter and my sister's birthday, but I feel good knowing that I have a departure date.  Now I need to get going on internship, I have no idea how to rewrite my resume to include Pastry, it is very financial services oriented.  I would like to work at Citronelle with the amazing Michel Richard, and when I told Chef D, his eyes lit up because he worked with him in the 80's!  So, maybe, just maybe, I will get an internship with a famous French chef without the hassles of a French visa.

Chef D has a website -

So, April 7th is the date of my return.  I can't wait to get started.  I am dreading packing up 9 months of stuff.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thanks Mom!

Just 38 short years ago, I was born.  I am excited to be spending the first day of this year in Paris, going to school learning how to make fruit jellies, eating chocolate chip cookies that Rebecca made for me, doing French laundry, and thinking of my friends and family that make this life so happy.   Thank you for all the supportive emails, and birthday wishes.

Mom, thanks for not sending me back to Africa.   Thanks for always making me a homemade birthday cake, thanks for letting me lick the beaters and thanks for supporting this dream.  Jeannie, thanks for being the older sister I wanted to be exactly like, including the chocolate chip cookie recipe t-shirt.  Thanks to Tommy for keeping "a good little f-er" in line, and eating almost anything I ever made.  Thanks to John for many birthday dinners, and widening my culinary horizons.  Thanks to all my friends who make my birthdays fun and full of laughter.  I love you all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chocolate Factory Tour

Barry-Callebaut Chocolate welcomed the Superior Pastry class with a tour of the factory, a visit to the laboratory and time in the boutique.   After donning lovely caps and jackets, we entered the factory floor (no photos allowed) and learned step-by-step the process of turning cacao beans into my favorite substance.  I wish I could send the smell of the factory via the internet, but trust me, it was heaven!  
Watching the chocolate beans become little pistoles (buttons) or batons (sticks for making chocolate croissants), all of us wanted to snatch a piece or twenty off the assembly line, but we all managed to control ourselves.  Until, we explored the laboratory, where one can create a customized chocolate blend: fruity, acidic, bitter, etc.  Many pastry chefs have done so, and we were able to sample their concoctions - the milk chocolate blend I am holding was my favorite: strong cacao taste with a creamy finish - like a blend of the best part of dark and milk chocolate.  Just a delicious day.  

Tonight - we have our last Class Dinner at Le Doyen - a three-star (that's as high as it gets for the Michelin Guide).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chocolate Exam is OVER!

Here is my final creation, after many changes to my design, I went with the lotus? like flower with red centers and dusted with silver.

Monday, February 8, 2010


The colored clay of Roussillon makes the houses beautiful colors - red, orange, yellow, peach.  It just seems very Mediterranean.  One house had the ceramic cicadas displayed on the wall, just like the little ones I bought in Avignon.  

Chocolate Creations

A sad day for Chef D, France has outlawed 'cold spray' - at first I thought the translator said France outlawed Coldplay, wasn't even phased, since the government here mandates that one song out of three on the radio must be French.  I assume it is for environmental reasons, it might have been canned freon for all I know.  Chef D admitted that he has some hidden in the kitchen for us to use for our chocolate final.  Cold spray is used by many chefs during competitions building chocolate sculptures - the 'glue' chocolate would take too long to solidify and would melt in the area in contact with human hands - our body temperature is too hot.  So I am sorry environmentalists, I will be using some cold spray during my chocolate exam.  I wonder if it is the same stuff athletes use?  Interesting.  I will check the label when Chef D unlocks the treasure.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Driving Driving Driving Driving

After the aborted mission to find the mountain towns the day before, we hit the patisserie next to the hotel for breakfast and headed to the train station to buy a real map,  The pastry shop was tiny, but really good -  the quiche was great (I think it was Lorraine, but I can't remember at this point) and the chocolates were labeled "Chocolatherapie."  The bakery window faced the street and the old delivery bike was just underneath, how cool would it be to have your hot bread delivered by a cute boy on a bike?  A few circles around the train station parking lot later, we complete the map mission and decided upon three towns: Carpentras, Gordes and Rousillon.  Carpentras because it is their market day, Gordes because it is supposed to be one of the prettiest towns, and Rousillion because it is made entirely of red clay.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Marzipan Animal Collection

Preview of an upcoming blog post - see my photos on facebook even if you are not a member.

Scary, cute, and weird marzipan animals - Le Cordon Bleu style.

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