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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Culinary School - Session 4: Fresh Fruit Tart and Pear & Almond Tart

Culinary School: Session 4 (08.22.14)

Fresh Fruit Tart and Pear & Almond Tart

If you arrive on time, you're already late! 

Class starts at 5:30pm. That means class starts at 5:30pm.

I arrived at ICC at 5:10pm on Friday and couldn't help but feel hours late. On day one, we were warned: "If you find yourself sitting in traffic at 5:25, just turn yourself around and go home because you'll never catch up!" 

So true.

Dressing and assembling the necessary tools for class seem straight forward enough. But culinary school requires more than a notebook and a #2 Ticonderoga pencil (although you'll want those too). 

Wait, where did I put my bi-metallic stem thermometer? 

For me, getting prepared is a frantic back and forth from dufflebag to locker. Undoubtedly, it looks like a bomb went off in a William Sonoma... the culinary carnage of silpats and measuring cups scattered everywhere.

When my OCD finally makes order of the chaos, I'm left with a stack of textbooks and tupperware that I can barely balance as I walk down the staircase to the kitchen (I am so certain that I will fall down these stairs before graduation - you heard it here first).

And then there's the matter of mise en place. Come 5:30pm, it's time for the first demo, and then it's time to getting moving. Gone is any opportunity to assemble and portion the pounds of butter, sugar and flour that will be needed for the rest of the evening. 

I will start leaving the apartment much earlier...

Mise en Place for Pear & Almond Tart (Tarte Bourdaloue)

And today we're making... tarts!

Yes, tarts again. In fact, with a syllabus containing more tarts than a Liverpool school for wayward girls (British baking humor - nyuck nyuck), we're not even halfway there yet. 

But with several takes on the chocolate tart in our future, not to mention a couple of savory offerings including an Onion Tart and Quiche Lorraine, I'm not complaining.

That reminds me... I need to see if the doorman likes Quiche Lorraine...

- Ingredients Running Tally -

Flour has a commanding lead in these, the initial days of Pastry Arts.

When we eventually move to the bread kitchens, that lead will only expand. But come Spring, when we indulge our Willy Wonka tendencies with several months dedicated to chocolate and sugar work, that will all change.

Ingredients used to date (08.22.14):
  • Flour: 1,578g
  • Eggs: 11x
  • Sugar: 1,163g
  • Butter: 925g
  • Milk/Cream: 705g

- The Recipes -


Poaching Liquid (Liquide de Cuisson) 

A liquid base in which to poach fresh fruit, tenderizing and flavoring the fruit before it is used in myriad ways.

Focus Techniques:
- Customizing a flavor profile to complement and enhance the fruit using various sugars, spices and acids.
- Poaching using a parchment lid to ensure fruit remains submerged and cooks evenly.
- Achieving a fork-tender yet structurally stable consistency (i.e. no fruit mush).

Sugar, white wine, lemon, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg... that was the spice mix for this batch of pears, which were destined for the Pear & Almond Tart. 

As for all of that remaining Poaching Liquid... save it as a not-so-simple syrup for an evening drink? Why not! 

Poaching Pears


Almond Cream with Almond Paste (Creme d'Amandes) 

A very sweet and intensely almond-flavored custard-style tart filling. With several eggs in the mix, the cream is used for baked tarts.

Focus Techniques:
- Working with almond paste, a 50/50 mix of almond flour and sugar.
- "Blanchir" - beating a mixture until it is light in color and volume through the incorporation of air and the emulsification of ingredient.

Almond Paste for Almond Cream (Creme d'Amandes)


Fresh Fruit Tart (Tarte aux Fruits Fraise)

A tart with an almond cream base that is baked and then finished with pastry cream and decoratively arranged fresh fruit. 

Focus Techniques:
- Cutting fresh fruit (including citrus supremes).
- Creating decorative arrangements, ensuring no pastry cream is visible.
- Using apricot nappage to keep fresh fruit moist and to protect against oxidation.

Even with the protective coating of the nappage, these tarts needed to be eaten immediately. Don't mind if I do!

Fresh Fruit Tart Overhead

Fresh Fruit Tart Close-Up


Pear & Almond Tart (Tarte Bourdaloue) 

A tart consisting of a layer of almond cream that is topped with five decoratively arranged poach pear halves. The space between the pear halves is filled with raw almonds. The entire tart is then baked.  

Focus Techniques:
- Creating decorative fans of poached pear halves 
- Using raw almonds versus pre-roasted nuts to ensure no scorching during baking

As we were running short on time, these tarts were wrapped and frozen at the end of class. But when they are finally baked, the almond cream should rise up and create an evenly topped tart of poached pears and almonds.

Overhead of Pear & Almond Tart (Tarte Bourdaloue) Being Assembled

Overhead of Pear & Almond Tart (Tarte Bourdaloue) with Almonds Added

Unbaked Pear & Almond Tart (Tarte Bourdaloue)

Next - Session 5: Baked Fruit Tart; Alsatian Apple Tart; Viennese Vanilla Crescents

Take a look at the full syllabus

Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
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