The Pastry School Diaries: Bake It 'Til You Make It
Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Baking & Pastry Arts program at New York City's Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences!
As if recovering from Labor Day weekend wasn't a feat of its own, I was promptly greeted Tuesday night by my first of four pastry school final exams. Luckily, I spent the long weekend practicing my creme anglaise and souffle skills, prepared to (hopefully) nail the recipes when put to the test.
This is the first time I've had to study for a test since college, and although that was only two and a half years ago, I knew my study skills were a little rusty. I'll spare you the details of the written exam itself and skip right to the final result: an A! I am not usually one who performs well under pressure, and admittedly, I didn't perform my best-- the creme anglaise was slightly undercooked and my souffles looked less than perfect. But being put to the test for the first time by myself (we always work in teams of 2 during class) showed me the importance of having confidence in the kitchen. I kept doubting myself, and it was apparent in my work. Luckily, my souffles were perfectly cooked and still tasted delicious, so I was only penalized for presentation. For anyone interested in trying their hand at souffle at home, here are my personal tips to making it successfully:
1. Find a recipe that calls for as little liquid as possible. The more liquid, the harder it is to keep the souffle light and fluffy.
2. Gently fold in your egg whites just until they are incorporated. Over mixing the batter is a surefire way result in a cracked souffle.
3. Fill your ramekins alllllll the way to the tippy top. This way, your souffle can begin to rise above the ramekin, and you won't have to worry about the vessel interfering with the batter.
4. Try not to open the oven to check on your souffles. Doing so interrupts the heat distribution and lets cold air in.
5. When all else fails, it'll still taste good. Like my exam proved, even though they didn't look the prettiest, I still received a good grade for the taste and degree of doneness.
Before I mentally prepare for Module 2, which includes breads and pastry doughs, I'll share some of my favorite lessons and recipes from Module 1:
One of the first things we ever made, blueberry muffins
The most delicious apple crumbles
Dacquoise, layers of almond cookies and meringue frosting
And a class field trip to Odd Fellows Ice Cream Co., which included a sampling of every flavor on the menu and this cornbread sundae. Yum-O!
Check back next week for another dessert adventure!