Monday, October 31, 2011

In preparation for the end...or is it the beginning?

It's been a while since my last entry because, to be honest, I'm exhausted. Eight months of 13-hour-a-day classes, written exams, practical exams, cooking, filleting, baking, tempering, sugar-pulling in addition to potty-training, apartment-cleaning, uniform-ironing, and all sorts of other fun stuff, have knocked the wind out of me. At the same time, however, these things have filled me with profound joy and excitement for what's to come. 

Today was our last (!) demonstration at Le Cordon Bleu. Chef Lesourd WOWed us with his detail-oriented presentations of a goat's cheese and bell pepper entree, veal loin a souffled potatoes, and poached pear dishes. We took photos of our group with the chef, and some of us started to get teary-eyed and feel nostalgic about the upcoming end of this course.

My sugar-pulling exam is on Thursday, and my cuisine exam is on Monday. I'll tell you all about this sugar-pulling business after my exam, and I'll also write about the cuisine final, and how I've prepared for it. 

For now, I wanted to share some more photos of the superior level at Le Cordon Bleu. This is the stuff the chefs are made of. Even though I'm more tired than I can express, I know I will look back at these photos and remember how inspired I was at this point in my life, and how I hope to some day achieve a similar degree of culinary perfection and creativity.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wine, chocolate, and a caramel recipe

It's not surprising that I've gotten excited about wine while living in France. It's everywhere. Anytime. Anywhere. The best part is that you can get a very decent bottle without breaking the bank. In fact, in France a mineral water or fruit juice can cost you more than a decent Cote du Rhone. 

One of my new favorite things to learn about is food and wine pairing. I plan to tell you more about a fantastic pairing session I attended recently, as well as the course on French wines I took at Le Cordon Bleu, but first I'd like to tell you about pairing wine with chocolate.
Chocolate and Maury wine. Maury wine (from the Languedoc region of France) resembles Port wine, except it's a bit less sweet. Therefore, making it the perfect match for a fine chocolate of the dark variety (at least 70%). It's as though the bittersweet cocoa is asking to be finished off with the sweet tartness of the Maury. 

You know how sometimes you have a sip of red wine left after you finish your main course, and when you take a sip of the wine with your dessert, it creates a disgusting bitterness in your mouth? Well, Maury allows for the opposite; a delectable sweetness without the possible cloying sugar fest of a Port. Try this Maury - MA Amiel (the 15-year is best, but this 2008 vintage was very nice).
fantastic Valrhona chocolate - 70% or 85%. my pastry chef says it's the best, and i agree
As long as we're on the subject of chocolate, this week I tempered dark chocolate and filled it with my own caramel. It was a total success! Not a streak in sight, nor a fingerprint to speak of. 

The caramel is made by making syrup from glucose and sugar, waiting until the perfect color and pouring butter on it to stop the cooking process. In a second sauce pan, bring whipping cream, vanilla, and sugar to a boil and add to the caramel/butter. Let the caramel rest in a cool area or the refrigerator, and bingo - the best caramel you'll ever have. 

The chocolate tempering is another matter all together, and it's a long, painful process that I've told you about before, and will be sure to tell you more about since I'm about to embark on a chocolate-tempering extravaganza. We have two exams in superior pastry at LCB - one is tempering chocolate  and making a chocolate sculpture, and the other is sugar-pulling for six hours. More on this later...if the burns on my fingers are not bad enough to prevent me from typing on this keyboard, that is.
my chocolates filled with caramel 
this took me 2.5 hours, so i have a new-found respect for chocolatiers