Category Archives: Lunch is served …

A Feast for The Eyes

“I get a 2 day break from you …” Chef Sebastien said to some of us on Tuesday.  For Wednesday and Thursday he would be crossing over to the cuisine lab to prepare for his Thursday Chef’s presentation over lunch.  He had chosen to present Mexican cuisine.  Chef’s wife Jamie, who is Mexican and also a chef, would join him in mise en place and cooking over the 2 days.

During these 2 days, Chef Kris would take over our pastry class.  Chef Kris is Director of Culinary Arts and a Cuisine Chef.  We wondered what Chef Kris was going to teach us, he promised restaurent style desserts and enticed us with some recipes he had planned for us when he visited our class earlier, we were excited. 

Chef Kris in Pastry Class

Our class usually starts at 8.15am, Chef Kris wasn’t in the class yet, he was preparing some ingredients for the desserts we are making.  Chef Philippe asked us to kick-start with chocolate tempering, which we found use in plating later.  No cutter in your tool bag?  No…   We got a little restless, believed Chef Kris did too as he was used to the fast pace in the kitchen.  The chocolate wheels took some time as there was only 1 circle cookie cutter to move around 4 teams.    The rest of us decided to volunteer for the other recipes while waiting for the cutter to come round and things started moving a little better.

Chef, … cups and tsp?

Chef Kris had emphasized building components for dessert plating.  Jennifer and I decided to work on genoise cake for Tres Leches Cake.  “Chef, we don’t know cups and tsp … can we use our own recipes which is by weight?”  Ha, Chef Kris’s recipes came by cups and tsp measurement and we were initially disoriented.  So how many recipes do we prepare?  Chef Kris said “a big tray, about halfway”.  Tray?  But usually we go by round cake tins?  We quickly took our initiative to estimate the number of recipes needed.  Chef Kris passed a measuring spoon and cup to another team who was also confused by the measurement.  We decided on 6 recipes estimated by the number of cake rings needed to cover the tray.  We started whisking over a double boiler till fluffy and ribbon-like, cooled in mixer and folded in the flour.  “Oh, no pink?”  I had not added pink to the genoise recipe, Chef Kris had wanted bright pink for the Mexican Tres Leches cake to go with the Mexican theme of Chef Sebastien.  “It is okay, we’ll have half pink and half vanilla, it is nice, I like it”  His style is very adaptive, make-do, and move-it move-it – he will add some words of encouragement to get us going instead of having us being stunned and clueless.  We must have terrorized him on the first day. 

Whisking All the Way

The cake took 30 min to bake, it filled only 1/3 the height of the big tray.  “I want to have cubes, I need the whole tray to be filled”.   It was already 12pm, the cookie cutter just got to my group, the chocolate then had became very brittle and it was just impossible to cut triangles from it.  We decided to work on the full tray of genoise cake, this time, we decided to go all the way with the recipes so that the whole tray will be filled.  Total of 16 recipes we decided!  I bumped into Chef Sebastien along the corridor, he suggested 10 recipes instead – I convinced him that it is better to have more than sorry.  So we starting whisking again, 4 recipes each per person by Jill, Elizabeth, Jennifer and I.  Alas!  The 16 recipes managed to just fill the tray to the brim.  Great!  It was close to lunch time when the cake went into the oven.  The tray of genoise cake took a full hour and a couple more minutes to finally get done.  By then I had opened the oven and stuck the knife into the cake umpteenth times.  When the day ended, Jennifer and I only remembered we have whisked the whole day, tired and uninspired. (Oh! Forgot a pix of the huge genoise cake)

Day 2 with Chef Kris in Pastry

Today, things felt different.  We moved faster and things started taking forms, besides some mise en place that was completed day earlier, we were also more used to Chef Kris’s style.  We volunteered to prep churros, “Chef, no eggs in the recipe?”  Chef Kris quickly confirmed the recipe will be prep like choux without eggs.  The churros turned out yummy, fried and dusted with cinnamon sugar, better than a choux paste recipe I tried before in Singapore.  He pointed out the secret lies in the addition of lard!  In the mean time, another team prep Kahlua ice cream – oh it was so delicious even though Chef replaced Kahlua with rum & mocha extract.  Love it!  By lunch time we would have Cajeta flan and Tres Leches cakes ready.  I liked the flan with a tinge of citrus lime taste, it was less eggy than the flan we did a few days earlier, Chef Kris advised low temperature in the oven.  The cake was too sweet for me even though the texture is nice.  A day earlier, he passed me a pecan praline candy to try, Like it?  No, I really don’t have a sweet tooth.  Don’t like sweets and in pastry class?  I guess I just need to memorise the taste even if I don’t like the sweetness.

Research Assignment on Chocolate

I love this pix of my classmates & me in the resource centre!

~ I love this pix of my classmates & me in the resource centre! ~

For the next 2 hours before lunch, Chef Kris needed to leave Pastry Lab to teach the assoc class.  He gave us an assignment on Chocolate which Chef Sebastien will grade on per team basis on a score of 100, to be completed in powerpoint, with 5 min presentation per team over lunch the following Tuesday, and each team will cover a different area in chocolate.  Jill and Amanda decided on the origins in plantation of cocao beans, Jennifer and I on harvesting to chocolate paste production, Elizabeth and Quin on components of chocolate and types of chocolate, and Sarah and April on ways that chocolate can be used.  We would spend the next 2 hours researching in the library.  It was pretty interesting scanning through the articles… halfway through I was reading Chocolatier magazines even though they were old editions – great stuff.  Oh I still prefer to be in the Pastry Lab during school hours any time.  Then we saw the lunch menu … and we were waiting eagerly.

Mexican Lunch is Served…

Lunch today was a Mexican feast planned by Chef Sebastien and his wife Jamie, it was sumptuous, more than a food tasting session.  I enjoy Mexican food, I was acquainted with Mexican food when I worked in a Mexican restaurant during pre-college days, I had then helped in mise en place before the restaurant opening hours, and was a server during its regular hours.  What we had today was more varied than the few I knew.  During the lunch presentation by Chef Kris, I learnt that the food varies by different regions of Mexico.  I had Mexican rice, a turkey tamales, some chipotle beef with a tortilla and pork skin in green sauce … I was really full but I still manage to finish a flan, a spoonful of Kahlua ice cream and a bite of Tres Leches cake.  Lunch was different today.  We ate heartily indeed.

The Cheerful Pastillage

When we got back to the Pastry Lab, Level 3 class next to us had rows of pastillage completed for the Gala dinner the following week.  They were so colourful and cheerful – it is just impossible to feel otherwise when you looked at them – they augmented the sugar high in me.  A nice touch before we left class for the day.

~ A Perk-Me-Up!~

~ A Perk-Me-Up!~

Last 2 days had been a different and an enjoyable learning experience.  Looking forward to resume pastry class with Chef Sebastien tomorrow.


Another Bite of Saint-Honore Chiboust Cake

Another bout of allergy, giving me runny nose, most probably due to the msg content in the can of diced tomatoes and jalepenos sauce I cooked with the fish for dinner.

It is week 7 through the term in Level 1.  Another 3 week and I will be doing my final for level 1 in Baking & Pastry Arts with CIAML.  How time flies when we enjoy and focus on the present.

I just realised the date as I was writing my journal – 19 August, I quickly called my sister via skype to wish her a Happy Birthday.  Singapore time is 13 hours ahead and it is about 2pm in Singapore.  She was standing by the roadside waiting for a cab, mum has cooked her “longevity noodles” for her birthday, as well as packed 卤鸡 (chicken in dark soya sauce stew) and curry chicken for her, David & children for their lunch and dinner.  I miss these treats!

Thinking through the recipes we have completed in the pastry lab for the last 6 week, I really love 2 desserts in particular.  The first one is a simple Lemon Tart with Italian meringue which we did on week 1, the next is of course Saint-Honore Chiboust Cake, which we did on wk 3.  I was reminded of St Honore Chiboust Cake again as Chef Sebastien included it as a keyword for our Monday quiz.

In the quiz today – Q4. What are the four main products you need to make a Saint-Honore cake?  Puff pastry, choux paste, chiboust cream and caramel, I wrote.  A tick for correct answer.  I scored 270 points of a total 300, again missing 30 points for 1 wrong answer.  I don’t call it a mistake as I pondered hard if financiers are small individual pastries or breads with sliced almonds in the bottom, I didn’t know the answer as I thought of financier as bite sized cakes.  

I did some searches on Saint-Honore Chiboust Cake to satisfy my need for information, I rarely have craving for sweets. 

I remembered popping a caramel-coated and chiboust-filled choux into my mouth, … Mmmwa, I loved it!  The caramel gave it a light crunch, complemented by the cool soothing chiboust cream, alongside  the light choux and flaky puff pastry.  As a whole, it did not taste sweet, surprisingly.  By the end of class, I have popped 3.  By the end of lunch, I had eaten a total of 6 choux.  It was simply addictive!  I was on a sugar high.  Be careful, don’t eat too much, or your husband can’t recognise you at the end of the year, warned Chef Sebastien jokingly.  Chef Sebastien doesn’t like sweet stuff, and even when he goes for it, he believes it is just for tasting, ie. in small portion.

As Chef of the Day, I got to present what we served to the school during lunch.  I presented St Honore Chiboust Cake that day,  “Level 1 Pastry we are serving St-Honore Chiboust Cake.  The bottom layer is a puff pastry topped with a layer of choux paste ring, baked and coated with caramel and filled with chiboust cream.  It is them lined with small caramel-coated choux, also filled with chiboust cream.  The cake is covered with chantilly cream.  The caramel crown is optional.”   This was the second time I presented.  In week 1, I got to present my other favourite – the Lemon Cream Tart.  It made presenting to a dining room of about 50 chefs, students and staff so much yummier when I love the desserts!

In Chocolate Epiphany, Chef Francoise Payard shared a chocolate variation of Saint Honore cake.  He wrote that the contrast between the textures of the components from puff pastry,  to small choux filled with pastry cream and dipped in caramel is unique.  He had given the recipe a chocolate twist by using chocolate choux and chocolate pastry cream.

I learnt & am still learning…  , Saint Honoré (pronounced o-naw-ray) cake is a traditional French cake named for Saint Honoré, the patron saint of pastry bakers.  According to Saint Honoré Boulangerie website, as tradition goes, a young man named Honoré became the Bishop of Amiensin 554. During his service a number of miraculous events occurred, which spared farmers, millers, and bakers from natural disasters. Residents of France connected the miracles with Bishop Honoré and in 1204 a Parisian baker built a chapel to commemorate him. Today, the chapel is no longer standing, but the name, Saint Honoré, is etched in a gate leading to Faubourg and Rue Saint Honoré in the heart of Paris.  (Added info:  Chef Sebastien shared that St Honore Cake was popular in bakeries in France in 1970s).

I also read that Pastry Chef Chiboust is rumoured to have created it in his Paris shop in 1846.  Before the search, I did not know that Chiboust is the name of a pastry chef?  The middle of the cake is filled with Chiboust cream using a piping bag and the signature Chiboust/St. Honoré tip?  I didn’t know there is a piping tip named after Chiboust or St Honore.  The cake is sometimes also referred to as “ball cake”?  May 16th was Saint Honore Day, to commemorate the day he passed away more than 1260 years ago…

So awesome!  So much history over a cake I enjoyed making and eating in class.

Taste, Taste, Taste!

Taste, Taste, Taste

I was reading “The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry” by Kathleen Flinn, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.  In her book, she wrote … Taste, Taste, Taste, said the chef.

In “My Life in France” by Julia Child, she who popularized French Cooking in America, she wrote … Taste, Taste, Taste, said the chef.

Mr Alain LeNotre, President of Culinary Institute Alain & Marie LeNotre, the culinary institute I am currently attending, during orientation with new students on 14 July, shared his 1st advice of 10 Good Advice he wanted the students to remember … Taste, Taste, Taste.  Taste Constantly, he said.  We have to educate the taste buds to new savours and old cuisine, know what the good taste taste like and memorize the taste.

Lunch is served in school everyday, based on what the students prepared in the cuisine and pastry classes.  Apparently this is the only culinary institute that serves lunch to students.  In CIAML, we do not call it lunch, we call the session “food tasting”.  We do not eat like gluttons, but to appreciate the taste of each dish that we prepared.