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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Culinary School - Session 114: Restaurant Day (Evaluation)

Culinary School: Session 114 (05.22.15)

Restaurant Day (Evaluation)

Hand's up! Utensils down...

This is it. The last chance to get it right. Test those flavors one last time and refine that plating. Because next session is Restaurant Day, and hungry diners wait for no one.

Just a week ago, I would have said there was no way some of these dishes were going to come together. I anticipated having to whisper to my friends and family before service, "If I were you, I'd avoid the..."

But over the last few days, everything has come together - a menu of six full desserts, petits fours and other treats.

What remains is a (not always so straightforward) service for 50 guests. Barring any unforeseen disasters, it should be a success. 

I look forward to taking lots of sexy food photos of the final plate designs.

Restaurant Day Plated Desserts

The final menu...

Pre-Dessert: Raspberry-Prosecco Sorbet

Main Desserts:
  • Pate a Choux Waffle Sundae
  • Apple Pie Cheese Cake
  • Chocolate Budino
  • Individual Coconut Cream Pie
  • Frozen Lemon Meringue
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Rice Pudding

Petits Fours:
  • S'more
  • Buttered Popcorn Macaron
  • Cherry Tartlet

Take Home: Rosemary Pine Nut Cracker Jacks

- Ingredients Running Tally -

This is where it ends - the final tally (which has remained unchanged for several sessions now). All of the collective class recipes are behind us. Only the five day Practical Exams remains.

It's a hefty final yield, although nothing compared to those early days when we were producing Tarts and Breads by the metric ton.

In the end, the class used over 1,700,000 grams of ingredients... representing a whopping six million calories. Particularly noteworthy is the consumption of over half a million grams of sugar. And they say Coca Cola is bad!

Ingredients used to date (Final):
  • Flour: 26,080g
  • Eggs: 18,100g (362x)
  • Sugar: 38,715g
  • Butter: 18,575g
  • Milk/Cream: 19,870g
  • Chocolate: 9,335g (since 01.12.15)

- Restaurant Day Menu -

Raspberry-Prosecco Sorbet: If dinner gets an Amuse-Bouche, so too should dessert. But when you will be subjecting diners to several courses of custards and creams, it's best to start things slowly. This Raspberry-Prosecco Sorbet is a light and bright way to get the taste buds firing without overwhelming the belly (yet).

Pate a Choux Waffle Sundae: A Waffle Sundae is not a revolutionary idea. Brunch and dessert - they're amazing on their own. Why wouldn't you put them together?

But a Waffle made with Pate a Choux, the unique double-cooked dough typically reserved for Eclairs and Profiteroles... that's something different.

It took more than a few rounds of testing to get it right, but in the end, the Pate a Choux Waffle was a successful innovation. To celebrate, we decided to make it the centerpiece for an elevated interpretation of a classic Banana Split Sundae.

Vanilla Ice Cream and Sliced Bananas have been replaced with perfect squares of Chocolate Enrobed Banana Ice Cream. Hot Fudge, Peanut Butter Caramel, and Caramel Walnuts also made the cut. And to top it all off, we've tossed in some Candied Bacon Crumble and Fresh Strawberry Whipped Cream.

It's a big dessert... I know!

Portioned Banana Ice Cream Squares

Portioned Banana Ice Cream Squares Enrobed in Chocolate

Test Batch of Pate a Choux Waffles

A Cleaned Plate

Apple Pie Cheese Cake: Two other American classics had to be on the menu: Cheese Cake and Apple Pie. But Cheese Cake is... well... just Cheese Cake. It's not terribly exciting (unless you're Betty White or Bea Arthur). And Apple Pie... it's similarly guilty of being a bit boring.

Continuing with the dessert mash-up theme, these two sleepy classics got more than a superficial make-over.

The Apple Pie Cheese Cake is based around a Brown Butter Cake, but you might not know that it's there, because it is submerged in a liquid Cheese Cake (yay... hidden cake!). The Cheese Cake is then covered in a Graham Crumble and a Rum Apple Compote. To top it off, a spicy Cheddar Tuile rises from the chaos. 

Brown Butter Apple Pie Cheesecake

Chocolate Budino: A good dessert menu needs Chocolate, regardless of the season. And this Budino (from our resident expert of whimsy) makes for a spot-on twist to a basic Chocolate Pudding.

The Chocolate Budino is a perfectly creamy Custard that is served on a Chocolate Sponge Cake, making for a great textural pairing of Chocolates. The Budino is then covered with an Espresso Chocolate Glaze: a thick, fudgy sauce... the kind you hope for in a great Hot Fudge Sundae. And to finish it off, the plate comes with Malted Milk Meringues.

Chocolate Budino

Individual Coconut Cream Pie: If someone were to ask me if I wanted a slice of Coconut Cream Pie for dessert, I'd politely decline and go home with an empty dessert stomach. For me, it's a texture issue. Those little pieces of Coconut Flakes in an otherwise smooth Custard sort of freak me out.

And texture was the challenge for this dessert. Initial test batches suffered from the lumpiness I fear with these pies. But after several iterations, it came together. And unlike some generic diner slice, this Coconut Cream Pie will be served with Poached Pineapple and an amazingly tart and refreshing Lime Sherbet. Those additions make the Pie something that, yes, I would happily have for dessert.

Coconut Cream Pie

Frozen Lemon Meringue: Just as every good dessert menu must offer something Chocolate, balance requires that diners have a couple of lighter options.

A Lemon Meringue Pie... that would not have fit the bill. Despite the refreshing nature of fresh Lemon, when it is rendered in curd form, there's no escaping the richness.

But this dessert transforms that traditional flavor profile by mixing Lemon Sherbet and White Chocolate Ice Cream and serves it topped with fresh Blueberry Sauce in edible Meringue Cups. 

I won't name names, but I saw someone in class eat two of them in the corner.

Frozen Lemon Meringue

Strawberry Rhubarb Rice Pudding: By highlighting Strawberry and Rhubarb, this is one of the more seasonal desserts on the menu. And while a Rice Pudding can easily become very dense and rich, by relying on the natural starches of the Rice rather than adding lots of Cream, and with the subtle but effective addition of some Orange Zest to further brighten the flavor, this dessert fits perfectly in a Spring menu.

Strawberry Rhubarb Rice Pudding

Mini S'more: "I don't care what else we do, we have to do S'mores!"... or so declared a member of the class during the initial menu planning meeting.

She's not alone. Plated dessert interpretations of S'mores have become relatively common on restaurant menus. 

So, point taken! You want S'mores... you're getting S'mores... lots and lots of miniature S'mores.

One of three Petits Fours that will conclude the evening, these bite-sized S'mores feature homemade Graham Crackers and freshly made Marshmallow Domes.

Test Batch of Mini S'mores

Buttered Popcorn Macaron: Next to the Pate a Choux Waffle, no other item on the menu went through as many rounds of testing. Those who are familiar with making Macarons know that the product is notoriously finicky. It's not surprising that, when we started trying to stuff the Macarons full of Buttered Popcorn flavor, there were some less-than-successful batches.

But where there's a will... hunger... and salt... there's a way. And thanks to the determination of several individuals, Buttered Popcorn flavor now oozes (literally and figuratively) from these Macarons.

Buttered Popcorn Macarons

Cherry Tartlet: "Where's the Cherry Pie? We're doing Coconut Pie but not Cherry Pie? What the hell!"

Some people get a bit animated when it comes to their personal favorites. And while I'm not a huge fan of either Coconut or Cherry Pie (I'll have the as-of-now extremely unseasonal Pumpkin Pie, thank you!) But I had to agree. If Coconut Pie made the cut, Cherry Pie needs to be represented.

And it will be... rendered in miniature - little, individually molded Cherry Tartlets

Rosemary Pine Nut Cracker Jacks: It's a long journey home (or maybe it's just a couple of subway stops), so you'll need something for the road.

Everyone loves a take-away item. And you can't get much more iconic than good old-fashioned Cracker Jacks. And while Peanuts and Caramel are an undeniable combination, this is culinary school. We're almost required to make things unnecessarily more complicated.

So out with the Peanuts... and in with the Pine Nuts. And while we're at it, let's toss in some dehydrated Rosemary.

And while these Crack Jacks won't come packaged with stickers or temporary tattoos, I'd argue they're far superior.

Rosemary Pine Nut Cracker Jacks

Bags of Rosemary Pine Nut Cracker Jacks

Next - Session 115: Restaurant Day

Previous - Session 113: Wine and Restaurant Day Preparation

Take a look at the full syllabus

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