Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pastry Class at the Institute of Culinary Education - Part 1

Paris Brest

Ok, I messed up with the Daring Bakers again - but I have a great excuse this time. I took a 5-day pastry class at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York last week. It was so much fun! I'm usually all about cake, so pastry was definitely a great change of pace. We did pie dough, sweet tart dough, choux pastry, quick puff pastry, classic puff pastry, strudel dough, phyllo dough. We didn't do anything with yeast, but they do have a 2-day Brioche and Croissants class which is mighty tempting.

I highly recommend the ICE classes. They have so many choices, you're bound to find something that looks good. The classes are at all levels; they have classes for kids, couples, families; they have food-based walking tours of NY. The facilities are great, class size is limited to 16, and our instructor, Faith Drobin, was excellent. I know I'll be going back.

After class every day, I went back to my sister's apartment and played with my 3-year old niece Kate. We read a lot of Dr. Seuss, baked snickerdoodles, and did a lot of dancing (she's particularly fond of the songs Boom Boom Pow and anything by Pitbull). I even went to African, hip hop, and Belly Dancing classes - such a great week!

Baking snickerdoodles with Kate... Tsuki wanted a taste!

Day 1 focused on sweet tart dough (pate sucree). We made frangipane fruit tart, chocolate hazelnut tartelettes, coconut custard pie, banana walnut pie, lemon cheese tartelettes (similar to an Italian cheesecake), blueberry crumble pie, sour cherry crumble pie, and pecan pie. Well, my partner and I only made the first three, but the class together made all of the above. I've made a lot of pie before, but I can always use more practice in rolling out dough.

Chocolate Hazelnut Tartelettes

Day 2 was all about apples. We used the flaky pastry dough (pate brisee) for these.We made apple tarte tatin, apple pie, a pastry that was sort of a cross between an apple crostata and an apple dumpling, and individual fruit tarts with orange flavored pastry cream. I am a truly pathetic apple peeler. Although I only cut myself once, my partner Ana peeled the apples at least three times as fast as I did - maybe the knife skills class is in my future... Perhaps I should just go crazy and try peeling a few dozen apples all at once in an attempt to improve - like Julia Child did with her onions in the movie Julie and Julia (great movie by the way, even though I had to shield my eyes whenever there was any sort of lobster slaughter or duck de-boning episode...).

I prefer the taste of the regular apple pie to the tarte tatin, but the tarte tatin was so spectacular to behold - and it was fun to make: making the caramel, carefully placing the apples in the very very hot caramel, laying the crust over the apples, and baking it. I'd love to try a peach tarte tatin sometime, but a fresh peach tastes so perfect on its own, I can never bring myself to do anything else to it! I forgot my camera on apple day, so no pictures unfortunately...

Frangipane Fruit Tart

Day 3 was delicious: choux pastry. We made more pastry cream - praline and coffee this time. Either one would have made a fantastic "dessert" alone on a spoon. But we used the creams to fill eclairs and cream puffs. We also made a Paris-Brest (a bicycle tire-shaped pastry named for the cycling race from Paris to Brest). To make it, you trace a circle of any size on a sheet of parchment paper, then flip it over. Pipe one circle of pastry outside the circle, and another circle of pastry inside the circle. Finally pipe a third circle on top of and between the first two. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top and bake. When cool, you just slice the top third off the pastry, fill with whipped cream and strawberries, slice the top of the pastry into however many servings as desired, and place it on the whipped cream and berries. Finally top with powdered sugar.

This simple trick Chef Drobin taught us - cutting through the top layer of pastry before putting it on top of the whipped cream - was one of the most useful tips I learned last week. When serving, you only need to slide the knife through the previous cut and then cut through the bottom layer - easily done without smushing the pastry and cream together and destroying the look of the entire thing. I always find it extremely difficult to slice cakes and pies and tarts and even brownies without making an ugly mess, so I'll definitely remember this!

Somehow my pastries even made it home unwrecked that day, even after a half hour subway ride on a 90 degree day. When I was in Turin in July, I bought a lot of hazelnut praline, and I can't wait to use it in pastry cream form!

Praline Cream Puffs

Days 4 and 5 were devoted to puff pastry and strudel dough. Puff pastry was probably my favorite part of the class, and it's really the main reason I took the class. The strudel dough was also fantastic, so I think I'll leave those pictures and recipes for another day... here are some more pictures of what we made as well as a recipe or two.

Swan Cream Puff - made by Chef Faith Drobin

Recipe for Choux Pastry (from ICE)

3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs (approximately)

Preheat oven to 425

Combine water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When the mixture starts to boil, remove from heat and stir in flour.

Return to heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixtures dries slightly and begins to leave the sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes to cool; if using a stand mixer, beat for one minute to cool.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time; be sure to wait until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. You might not need the entire fourth egg; you might need another half egg. The dough should be stiff enough to pipe; if you swipe your finger through the dough, it should close up on itself.

Immediately pipe the dough into the desired shape (Paris Brest, cream puffs, profiteroles, or eclairs) and bake for about 10 minutes or until well-risen. Lower the oven temperature to 350
°F and continue baking until completely dry. Chef Drobin told us that once the pastry looks done, it needs another 20 minutes or so in the oven - it should be completely firm when you take it out of the oven or it will collapse.

Recipe for Frangipane (from ICE)

4 ounces almond paste
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour

Combine the almond paste, sugar, egg, and yolk in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed with paddle attachment until smooth. Add the butter and beat until light. This will take a long time - go do other things. On low speed, beat until flour until just absorbed.

For Frangipane Fruit Tart:

Roll the dough (we used the sweeter dough, pate sucree) into a 14 inch disk, and line a 10 inch tart pan with it. Chill the dough for several hours or overnight. Spread the frangipane evenly on the bottom of the pastry shell. Top with fruit, pressing it in to the frangipane slightly. Don't cover the frangipane completely, leave plenty of space. Bake at 350
°F for about 40 minutes, or until the filling is set.

Recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Tartelettes (from ICE)

1 batch pate sucree
2 cups whole hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and chopped
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoon butter
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons dark rum (I'd use Frangelico or Kahlua next time)

Preheat the oven to 350
°F. Melt the chocolate with the butter in a small bowl.

Combine the corn syrup and sugar in a saucepan and stir well to mix. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate mixture.

Whisk the eggs and salt with the rum. Beat in the chocolate mixture just until combined (this will keep the tart fudgier; it dries out if you beat too long). Stir in the chopped hazelnuts.

Roll out the dough and line a 10-inch tart pan or several smaller tartelette pans. Pour the filling into shell. Bake at 350
°F until the filling is set and the crust is baked through, roughly 40 minutes for a large tart and 20-25 minutes for smaller tartelettes.

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  1. I'm soo hungry after looking at this post! How cool is the swan cream puff!

  2. Oh wow! How wonderful your baking is...I am so impressed. Have always wanted to make a frangipane tart and now I can...just have to find a pate sucree recipe. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Here's a pate sucree from Dorie Greenspan that I've made several times, it's terrific.