So. By the time I got to this class in culinary school, I thought I was getting the hang of it. And by "getting the hang of it", I mean the schedule, the chefs, what's required of you as a student... However, I was pretty far off. This was by far the hardest practical I took throughout the program. I always thought that was weird because it was only the 3rd kitchen class, but it really kicked me in the butt. For this test we had to make eclairs, Paris Brest, a lattice cherry pie, and two vanilla genoise cakes. The cakes didn't have to be filled or anything, but that is completely irrelevant because we had to do it in 3 hours. For our previous tests to that point we had 4. Let me break it down for you so you know how completely head-reeling that was:
For eclairs and paris brest, you have to make pate a choux, but, they each have two different fillings that require pastry cream. So first you make the pastry cream so it can set. Paris brest gets a praline paste filling, and eclairs get chocolate. Add to that that they each have a different element that goes on top. Eclairs get fondant, but you have to make that chocolate. And make sure it's shiny! No dull fondant allowed. Paris Brest get almond slivers and dusted powdered sugar. So, number of elements that go in to only two of the required parts of the test: about 7, but don't forget that there are several steps in between.
For lattice cherry pie, a pie crust needed to be made, then the pie filling. Don't forget though that in order to make a lattice and roll the dough out, it needs to be chilled first. It gets very soft and hard to work with. But, the filling needs to be made first so it can set enough to be put in the shell. This seems to be easy enough, but then you have to watch the oven so the filling doesn't bubble out on to the lattice. You don't want a messy pie.
For the genoise, this was the most daunting. It's main leavener (how it rises) is air. So, you have to warm the eggs and sugar and whip the crap out of it for like 15 minutes in order to get maximum air. But wait! Don't forget all the dry ingredients. Those get mixed in after all the air was incorporated so that means work fast and very efficiently so it doesn't lose it all when the flour gets mixed in. Isn't that awesome?
3 hours? It was so stressful. I got it all done and was only 10 minutes late or so. However my genoise didn't rise quite enough, my cherry filling bubbled out a little bit, my fondant wasn't quite shiny enough, and my pate a choux should have been dried out just a teeny bit more. I can't believe I still came out with a good enough score. At least I got to go to lunch with friends after.
Below: top left, macaroon elephant and sable cookies; top middle, coconut macaroons, almond macaroons, and a bar cookie I can't remember the name; top right, lemon bars, almond biscotti, and pineapple macaroons; bottom left, linzer bars, madeleines, and chocolate covered pretzels; bottom right is The Test-lattice cherry pie, chocolate eclairs, and Paris Brest. If you look closely you can probably see my mistakes :)
I decided after this class to stop stressing so much over practicals... it worked for me.
Also, a fun fact for you. Paris Brest were named from a bicycle race that occurs in France. People ride from the city of Paris, to the town of Brest, and back to Paris. It's the oldest bicycling event still run. The shape of the pastry is supposed to be like a bike wheel. That's why it's round.