Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Puff Pastry

     Probably a great majority of whoever is reading this sentence right now (Inception, anyone?) knows that I've taken several cooking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education, called ICE in New York City. My latest adventure was the simple puff pastry class for teenagers last week. Several years ago, for my birthday, I received a Martha Stewart cookbook from my parents. At the time, I wasn't aware that I was making extravagant cookies from the most famous overachiever in 90s society, but rather I was making lemon meringue layered cake for my soccer parties from a cookbook written by some lady that went to jail. As an eleven-year-old, Martha Stewart was not the center focus of my pop-culture.
     From Martha's recipes came my first attempt at eclairs. The recipe said to use a cake-decorating bag to make small, two inch eclairs. Instead of the beautiful long strips of pastry I had envisioned, instead my eclairs resembled small, stepped on caterpillars. I couldn't even fill them with filling. Instead, I dipped my creations in chocolate and ate the pastry filling. I had years of practice ahead of me if my eclairs were to be as perfectly created as the ones in the Martha Stewart cookbook.
     I hoped with a fervent hope that my latest attempt at eclairs at ICE would not be so pitiful this time around.
     There were about twelve students in the class; the girls outnumbering the boys five to one. For people like me that took a good five minutes sorting through those numbers, there were about ten girls and two boys. For a good part of the class, we watched as the teacher demonstrated how to whisk the stubborn dough and the difference between savory and sweet pâte à choux creations. I did get the opportunity to try my hand at whisking, rolling, piping, and stirring. Oh, and snacking.
     When we got to piping the eclairs, I decided to give up on expecting my creations to be perfect. I just took that pastry bag and splurted that dough onto the pan. For the most part, they looked like big caterpillars. A couple of them were too small, so when I added more filling, they looked like caterpillars that had thrown up.
     While the caterpillars--I mean eclairs--were baking in the oven, the dough for fruit tarts were also made. The dough was molded into small metal molds. I wish I could describe them more, but I regret to say that I did not catch the name for them.
     After the tarts when into the oven, next the pudding was created. This pudding went on to be the filling for the tarts and for the eclairs.
     The last time I made eclairs, I had apparently done the dough wrong, because I had absolutely no idea how to get the filling inside of the eclairs. I was in a rut. In the end, I just stuck the piping back into the eclair and squeezed. Thankfully, it was explained to me during the class that the tops were cut open using a knife, and then the filling is put in using the pastry bag.
     My thoughts went as follows: "Ohhhhhhh."
     Although the eclairs were far from perfect, a little dipping in chocolate, and sprinkling of nuts and sugar tidied them up a bit. My only regret was that I wished I had made more.
     The tarts were more beautifully decorated. There were strawberries and raspberries with special glaze put on them, and chocolate that was drizzled lightly, not to mention the sugary nuts that were sprinkled gently onto the surface. They were a beauty to look at and even better to eat. Sadly, they did not hold up as delicately on the train back home.
     Finally, all the students were sent home with a large piece of napoleon, that I do not have credit for making. I do have credit for photo opportunities however. I didn't get to take pictures of the eclairs or tarts, because I was too busy eating them with my family.
     Lastly, I was surprised at how simple the recipes were. Butter, milk, eggs, sugar, etc. What I got out of the class was that puff pastry is all about the technique used to make it. I still recommend anyone who has a chance to take cooking classes. If you can't take any at ICE, then I'm sure there are other opportunities in the city or wherever else you can find good food.

Here's to the second time around, artistic creations, and cooking revelations.
     Yours, Kate

1 comment:

  1. I will never again eat an eclair without thinking of caterpillars!