Brownies, Blondies, and Apple Tartlets

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In Pastry yesterday, we made brownies, blondies, and apple tartlets. You probably could have guessed that from the title of this post. Each group made at least 35 tartlets, a half sheet pan of blondies, and a full sheet pan of brownies. Our group was so awesome that we finished all of the above and cleaned our station before anyone else. We were then asked to make an additional quadruple batch of blondies (2 full sheet pans). We finished with that about the time everyone else finished with their items. I brought home a blondie and a tartlet for Marc and he quite thoroughly enjoyed both.

When I first got to class, Chef CJ recognized me and immediately asked if I understood her email about the Safety and Sanitation class. I told her yes, and thanked her for taking the time to email me the information. While people were filtering into the classroom, Chef CJ handed me a list of things we were going to need for the day, and asked me to take inventory to make sure that we had everything. While I was doing that, the girl that was in my group last week came up and asked what I was doing. I told her and she said, "Wow! You're sous chef for the day? She must really like you." I didn't realize that taking inventory was such a big deal. We were short on several things so I went to the stockroom to procure the additional items needed.

When class started, I was in the same group with the girl from last week as well as a woman who is one quarter away from completing her AA. It was nice to have someone who I could ask questions to, and I could feel confident that she knew the correct answers. At the beginning of last week I thought I could ask the other girl, but quickly realized that she knew little more than I did.

We made the brownies and the blondies first and we made them at the same time. We are thrown right into doing things like we will do in a real kitchen, which means making more than one item at once. I think our team did so well because we communicated very well with each other about what items we each were measuring out, we thought ahead so that our butter was softening while we got out other ingredients, we stayed organized, and we kept our station clear of clutter while we worked. Empty and dirty bowls were whisked away and washed as soon as they were not being used. We didn't have idle chitchat and we stayed focused on our tasks.

Once the blondies and brownies were mostly finished, we were instructed to prepare the frangipane for the apple tartlets. I was in absolute heaven working on the frangipane for the apple tartlets. Frangipane is an almond cream that we piped onto the puff pastry circles before we layered the apples on the very top. I absolutely love the smell of almonds, so I kept breathing deeply all morning. To make the frangipane, we started with a good amount of almond paste. We were instructed to taste this substance. I gladly complied. Not many people enjoyed the taste or texture of it, but I didn't mind it. I'm not saying I would like to eat more than a taste here or there, but I definitely was not turned off by the experience. You may be familiar with almond paste when it is in the form of marzipan, which is one of the most common uses for almond paste.

We then watched a demonstration by Chef CJ for preparing and putting together the tartlets. We cut out circles from sheets of puff pastry, docked them with a fork (this means poking holes in the pastry so that it doesn't puff up too much because it allows steam to escape), piped on frangipane in a zig zag, layered the apples on top, brushed with an egg wash, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. I was able to quickly do the math to figure out how many apples we would need peeled and sliced and how many sheet pans we would need prepped for the number of tartlets we were to make. I was a little nervous before school started that my math skills would be a bit dusty, but I have been able to do the calculations quickly and acurately.

I informed my group that I had not had skills class yet and it was decided that I would be the one to prepare the sheet pans and cut out and dock the pastry circles while the other two peeled and sliced the ten apples we needed. Then one girl piped on the frangipane while the other girl followed behind and layered on apples. I followed behind with the egg wash and the girl who piped on the frangipane followed behind with the cinnamon sugar.

Here is a picture of the raw tartlets and then a picture of the tartlets once they were baked off.


All in all it was a great day. I am having so much fun in the class and even with studying. The OCD side of me really enjoys making sure everything is organized. I checked with Chef CJ during a break at one point to make sure that I was doing my notebook correctly before we get too far into the quarter. Apparently, she is a little OCD, as well. She loved that my pastry notebook and binder were color coordinated purple so that I knew that they were both for pastry class. She loved that I have a chart in the front showing what highlighter colors mean what. She loved that I have everything labeled with dates and cross referenced to the index cards that are held together with rings. I'm glad to know I am doing things correctly.

Next week we are going to be making nine items. These items include baklava, crepes, ganache, and churros. I can't wait to get started!


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