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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Culinary School - Session 3: Banana Cream Tart and Gingersnaps

Culinary School: Session 3 (08.20.14)

Banana Cream Tart and Gingersnaps

After just three days of class, a routine is already taking shape... very helpful for feeling efficient in the kitchen. But the commute to ICC remains painful (and, oh! how I look forward to the winter months when arctic blasts and urban rivers of slush are added to the equation).

At 30 minutes, it's a quick trip on the 6 Train from midtown Manhattan to Spring Street. But a school issued duffle bag - an unwieldy monstrosity loaded with tools, textbooks and uniforms - makes it a true slog as a human pack mule. I already have some seriously bruised indentations in my shoulders to prove it.

Should I ever be stopped by the NYPD for a random bag search, please call my lawyer. Seeing as I'm traveling with several knives and a gram scale, no matter how clean cut I may appear, I am certain that I will be taken in for questioning. Now that I think about it, it's probably best not to travel with powdered sugar among the mix.

Pastry Class Mise en Place

The good news... we're half way through the sanitation lectures.

Soon every class will be dedicated to pastry and nothing but pastry. But kudos to the chef instructor tasked with teaching these sanitation sessions. Our class only has to view these videos once. She's seen them so many times that she can recite each line of the script.

Today's Sanitation Lesson Highlight: Feces - and how it's basically on every surface you've ever touched. I swear, it's a marvel that anyone ever eats again after these discussions.

Even better news... Banana Cream Tart for dessert!

Once the delights of Sanitation were behind us, it was time to get rolling... literally... a total of three tart crusts in 10 minutes. The tart molds needed to bake and cool before family meal at 8:30pm or else the evening would end in a gooey mess, cold banana cream melting and breaking when it hit hot crusts.

Trained pastry chefs, capable to turning out tart after tart of perfection even in a sleep deprived haze, will laugh at the task. But only about half the class completed all three tarts in this, our first true time-crunch exercise.

Blind Baked Sucree Crust

- Ingredients Running Tally -

It's adding up quickly (not that I am at all surprised).

Fun Fact: We are currently averaging a solid 4,000-5,000 calories per class, per person. Be thankful for doormen whole eagerly accept overage!

Ingredients used to date (08.20.14):
  • Flour: 1,063g
  • Eggs: 7x
  • Sugar: 538g
  • Butter: 450g
  • Milk/Cream: 705g

- The Recipes -


Banana Cream Tart (Tarte aux Bananes et Creme)

The Banana Cream Tart is a combination of fresh cut bananas and pastry cream (creme patissiere) that has been flavored with rum and lightened with whipped cream (creme fouette). The combination in known as a creme legere. You know you're working with French pastry when adding cream is equated with 'light'. The tart is finished with rosettes of sweetened whipped cream (creme chantilly).

Focus Techniques:
- "Cuire a Blanc" - the practice of baking a crust before adding a filling, used in situations where the filling has already been cooked or does not need to be cooked.
- Whipped Cream "Sacrifice" - a little trick to make it easier to fold whipped cream into heavier substances, like pastry cream. A small amount of whipped cream is "sacrificed", stirred into the pastry cream before the rest of the whipped cream is incorporated.

When it was time to eat, I enjoyed this Banana Cream Tart (Tarte aux Bananes et Creme) more than the Apple Tart (Tarte aux Pommes). What can I say? I'm a sucker for cream. And it was particularly delicious when I covered a slice with melted peanut butter.

Bananas for the Banana Cream Tart

Banana Cream Tart

Slice of Banana Cream Tart Covered in Peanut Butter


Gingersnaps (link to full recipe)

Traditional gingersnap cookies - crispy at the edges and chewy in the center (and according to Chef, excellent when served with cheddar cheese... who knew?)

Focus Techniques:
- Creaming butter and sugar with spices combines those flavors into the butter fat, which is a good carrier of flavor
- Emulsifying creamed butter & sugar with molasses produces an aerated dough that rises better in the oven
- Resting the cookie dough in the refrigerator prior to forming and baking reduces spread

Thanks to the time dedicated to Sanitation, we didn't get the cookies in the oven by the end of class. Something for next session.

That said, I couldn't help but make a test batch at home.

Great.. now I have 100 cookies laying around. Takers?

Gingersnap Cookies at Home

Next - Session 4: Fresh Fruit Tart and Pear & Almond Tart

Take a look at the full syllabus

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  1. i'm completely fascinated by both your knack for framing a photo and your syllabus. thank you!

    1. Glad you're enjoying it!
      So much more to come, so definitely check back often!