Monday, August 8, 2011

Thats all folks

Today was the last day of our summer plated desserts class!

What did we do?? Chef was nice enough to give us a 3 question final exam... yay... but they were really long and thought out answers! Then we cleaned... cleaned the sinks, tables, stove top(thanks to stupid kids camp! yet again, another reason to hate kids camp), floors, ice cream machine, walk in, and put away 100s of dishes. I am sure Chef S. is very pleased to have all of his plates back! Chef surprised us and made us the chcocolate bacon loli-pops that melted a few weeks ago, they were AMAZING!

Thank you Chef for a great summer and I will see all of you girls in two weeks! Enjoy the break! -xoxo

Nonni's Italian Restaurant - Final Exam

Reprinted from Live Well, Eat Often, Snack Much: My Guide Through Baking & Pastry School in Charleston, SC.

Our practical exam for Plated Desserts included a great deal of preparation and work, both inside and outside of the bakeshop classroom. At the beginning of July, we had to submit a project proposal. Our main objective was to develop a six item seasonal dessert menu for a proposed restaurant of our choice. Each of the six desserts had to include recipes for the main items, complementary sauces and garnishes, and a drawing of each plating.

I chose to create a casual style Italian restaurant called Nonni's and I chose to create a summer dessert menu. This was my proposed menu:

Nonni’s Italian Restaurant – DOLCI – Dessert Menu

Summer 2011


Italian for “pick me up”
Ladyfingers, Espresso, and Mascarpone
Chocolate Sauce and Espresso Sauce

Cannoli Tart

Sweetened Ricotta Cheese with Chocolate Chips and Orange Zest
Cannoli Shell Crust
Caramelized Orange Sauce and Chocolate Sauce

Sorbetti e Biscotti

Enjoy three different types of sorbet and three different Italian cookies
Limoncello Sorbetto in a Lemon Shell with Pistachio Biscotti and Mint Sauce
Tangerine Sorbetto in a Tangerine Shell with Amaretti and Chocolate Sauce
Blood Orange Sorbetto in an Orange Shell with Anise Pizzelle and Apricot-Honey Sauce

Zeppole e Affogato

Zeppole (fried Italian doughnut rounds), Cinnamon and Sugar, Warm Chocolate Sauce
Affogato (Italian for “drowned”) – Espresso poured over a scoop of Chocolate Gelato
Fresh Strawberries and Strawberry Sauce with Balsamic

Budino di Gianduja

Custard of Dark Chocolate, Toasted Hazelnuts, and Crumbled Biscotti
Gianduja Gelato, Vanilla Praline Sauce and Chocolate Sauce

Frutti di Bosco Crostata

Rustic, Flaky Tart with “Fruits of the Forest” –
Blackberries, Blueberries, and Raspberries –|
Berry Coulis, Vanilla Bean Chantilly Cream, and Fresh Basil

All desserts are $6.00.

After reviewing my project proposal, Chef and I decided that I would create and plate the Cannoli Tart and the Zeppole e Affogato for my practical exam. We had one class day to prep our components and one class day to finish prep and plate two identical plates of each dessert for grading.

To date, this was the most detailed and intense project I have completed in my culinary school career. My aunt and uncle were visiting during the time I was working on the proposal a few weeks ago, so they can attest to the time I spent just working on gathering my information and recipes, and getting everything together initially.

Of note, I should tell you that my class was working out of the storeroom instead of our normal classroom because kids baking camps had taken over our usual bakeshop. So we had a makeshift kitchen set up in the storeroom and we had to use ovens and stovetops in two additional rooms. At one point, I had things going on in three different kitchens. I was getting my exercise in addition to attempting to accomplish my work.

I set out with a to do list of items to complete and the order I hoped to complete them. On Monday, I spent class time making my own ricotta cheese, preparing candied orange peel, making tart dough, churning chocolate gelato, and attempting to create chocolate curl garnishes. The chocolate gave me some difficulty and I lost at least an hour of time attempting to make these garnishes. It seems like I should have been able to do more than this in five hours of class time, but given the nature of the steps involved in these processes and a fire alarm in the middle of it all, this was all I was able to accomplish.

On Tuesday, I went to school to continue working on my components. I baked off tart shells, made a caramelized orange sauce, made a chocolate sauce, prepped a strawberry sauce, and again worked on chocolate curl garnishes. It was another five hours spent at school where I felt I should have been able to accomplish more, but the chocolate work was getting the best of me and my frustration level. Thanks to Chef V for helping me work through my chocolate frustrations and leaving the day with something to call a garnish!

On Wednesday, I got into class around 7:15am with a revised to-do list and spent the morning working on the following:
1. Using my home-made ricotta cheese to make the filling for the cannoli tart, with chocolate chips and orange zest.
2. Rewarming my chocolate sauce; bottling it for use.
3. Finishing the strawberry sauce; bottling it for use.
4. Reducing my caramelized orange sauce; bottling it for use.
5. Drying out my candied orange peel which was affected by humidity since Monday.
6. Melting chocolate and brushing the inside of the tart shells with it.
7. Making zeppole dough; allowing it to rise for 1 hour.
8. Gathering strawberries, plates, etc. and preparing my components for plating.
9. Un-molding my chocolate curl garnishes.
10. Making a chocolate dipping sauce and keeping it warm until plating.
11. Preparing oil and a station for frying.
12. Frying off zeppole at 11:00am.

I had all of my components ready at 11:15am, and I had 15 minutes to prepare my plates for presentation at 11:30am. The last thing I had to do was brew fresh espresso and present my plates to Chef.

I liked my overall concept of the cannoli tart because I found a way to take a traditional Italian pastry and create a new form of it. Making my own ricotta cheese was easy, but time-consuming, yet in the end, resulted in a delicious and smooth ricotta filling. The tart shell was too thick overall for the dessert, and proved a little challenging to break into, but I still believe it could work with some necessary tweaks. My favorite thing about this dish was the inclusion of orange in the ricotta filling, the sauce, and the garnish, and Chef liked also that this flavor ran through each of my components. Some will say that cannolis should include candied orange peel in the filling, but since it doesn't appeal to everyone, it's often eliminated. I wanted to use orange and was pleased with the results here; the caramelized orange sauce is so tasty, and even though the process to make candied orange peel is time-consuming as well, it's always a nice treat. It took a great deal of time, energy, and ideas to create the chocolate curl, and though I spent most of the process in utter frustration, I learned a great deal through the process.

I also liked that this tart concept can be made even smaller in the form of a petit four and can easily see myself playing around with this with my leftover ingredients. I wasn't thrilled with my overall plating of this dessert; the caramelized orange sauce wasn't as thick as I needed it to be, and because I missed the mark on the consistency I wanted, I couldn't plate it the way I set out to initially. The plate worked overall, but I would have liked for it to be more crisp and clear. All in all, though, the cannoli tart was a success.

The zeppole and affogato is a really fun dessert. I liked both of these components - the doughnut rounds with the dipping sauce and the chocolate gelato with espresso can both stand on their own, but together create a really pleasing dish. The zeppole are really good right out of the fryer, but even tastier when just warm with the sauce. The chocolate gelato is so good it speaks for itself really. Overall, I think this dessert definitely hit the mark in terms of taste.

Again, my strawberry sauce missed the mark on consistency, but it worked well enough to complement this dish. On this dessert, I learned a lot about timing because of the cold, warm, and hot components throughout. I also learned how challenging it is to carry plates with smaller plates and bowls on them, so Chef gave me some pointers on how to improve this in the future. Overall, though, this too was a success.

All in all, I successfully accomplished my goals with this project, and was pleased with my ideas and results. After 10 weeks of this course, I feel confident in understanding the basics to creating restaurant style desserts and their components. And if I ever find myself wanting to work in an Italian restaurant, I think I have a pretty great concept for a dessert menu.

Reprinted from Live Well, Eat Often, Snack Much.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Almost forgot goat cheesecake!

I was going through my plated desserts notebook this morning and realized that I'd forgotten to post about the goat cheesecake we plated last week. It wasn't my favorite dessert of the semester, but there were some things that I liked.

The components of this dessert included a goat cheesecake, a fig compote (mission figs soaked in wine and spices), citrus honey syrup, rosemary pine nut brittle, and a sugar decoration. The cheesecake was just okay. I’m not a fan of goat cheese so I was predisposed to not like this dessert. The cheesecake also had a slightly grainy texture that I didn’t like, which was partly from the goat cheese and partly from being over-baked. The figs were delicious, however. They were very juicy and had just the right amount of spice. The best thing on the plate was the citrus (orange, to be specific) honey syrup, which brought all the flavors together. The rosemary pine nut brittle added a nice crunch factor and the hint of rosemary also went well with the other flavors on the plate. The sugar decoration was fun to make and added nice height and visual interest.

Overall, the goat cheese would make me pass on ordering this dessert, but the other flavors worked well together and the plating looked great so I could see this being a popular dessert in a restaurant. If I made this dessert again, I would just go with a traditional cheesecake and keep everything else the same.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Bavarian Table Serves Up Dessert

Gingerbread Pear Cobbler with Pear Riesling Sorbet Bee Sting Cake with Honey Cardamom Ice Cream

Whew - what a relief! The practical final for Plated Desserts is behind me and I managed to execute two of the desserts on my menu with varying degrees of success. As posted earlier, I named my upscale German restaurant The Bavarian Table and the desserts I chose to produce were the gingerbread pear cobbler and the bee sting cake.

First, the bee sting cake. The cake featured rounds of brioche, piped diplomat cream, honey almond syrup, toasted almonds, and shards of almond brittle. The plate was drizzled with more honey almond syrup, garnished with a marzipan bee, and served with honey cardamom ice cream. I wasn't pleased with the way this dessert turned out - too big, too sweet, and not what I had in mind visually. I learned that diplomat cream isn't a wise choice for a la minute service, and that a little bit of honey goes a long way! The next time I approach this dessert, I will make the cake in the traditional way (in a pan with a baked-on honey almond topping, torted, and filled with pastry cream) and just serve slices rather than trying to be too contrived with the presentation.

I was more pleased with my second dessert, the gingerbread pear cobbler. The cobbler contained sliced pears tossed with sugar, lemon juice, candied ginger, and a bit of flour. The topping was a spicy gingerbread. This was served warm with a pear chip and a quenelle of ginger creme Chantilly on top as well as a quenelle of pear Riesling sorbet to the side and a piece of pulled sugar sprinkled with bits of dried cranberries to tie everything together. I loved how the flavors of the spicy gingerbread, juicy pears, and creamy ginger creme Chantilly came together and wouldn't change a thing. I would change the use of the pear Riesling sorbet, though. While very tasty, it didn't really go with the cobbler even though both components were pear based. Next time I'll go with a sauce that adds more creaminess to the plate, perhaps a creme Anglaise. Presentation-wise, I was happy with how the elements looked on the plate. I had height, a pop of color from the cranberry sugar and good visual interest. To me, it looked like something you'd pay $8 for so on this dessert I'll claim Mission Accomplished. :-)

Finally, I just want to say congrats to all my classmates on their desserts. I was so impressed by what I tasted and saw. Way to go, ladies!!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sweet Victory

YAYYYYY! I am so excited that I pulled off this practical final! I was really nervous... but in the end, I pulled it off! I chose to plate the Plum Pound Cake and Chocolate Panna Cotta from my menu.

I had made the Panna Cotta in class before (that recipe is amazing) but... for the final I did not get mascarpone so I was praying that it would work with cream cheese, and it did! I think doing it in the dome molds was a neat idea, and added a little variety. If I could change anything about the dessert, I would of crushed the pretzels a little more and use less pectin in the blueberry sauce because it was really thick. And After dipping my own oranges in chocolate to learn how easy it really is, I will no long be buying edible arrangements... so easy!

Plum Pound cake... yum! Well... the idea sounded like yum... I did not care for the cake really, the texture was kind of weird but I did love the look of the bright plums in the cake. Roasting plums and using them as the base for my peach icecream was probably the best idea I’ve ever had! They were delish and added a little something extra to the plate. The peach icecream was the recipe we used in class as well, but I increased the peach flavor by adding more peach puree. I was really happy with this dessert and would make it again, just changing the cake recipe a little bit.

In the process of making my sugar nest garnish for my plum pound cake... I burned the mess out of my finger! Reason #276 why I hate kids camp.... they distract you while playing with 300degree sugar!!


Southern Dumplins’
Historic Summerville, South Carolina

“Southern Dumplins’ is a locally owned small townl the fixins’ country kitchen.”

Dessert Menu- $8

ShortcakeSweet biscuits with fresh strawberries in a strawberry and blackberry reduction.

Turtle BrowniesChocolate fudge brownie bites served with a caramel icecream, chocolate and caramel sauce and topped with pecans.

Plum Pound Cake
Sweet warm plum pound cake paired with a peach icecream, dried apricots and roasted plum puree.

Blackberry Puddin’An abundance of blackberry goodness in a pool of white chocolate and blackberry sauce with a ginger icecream.

Chocolate Panna CottaSilky smooth chocolate panna cotta with fresh chocolate dipped oranges, salted pretzel crumbs and blueberry sauce.

Melon SorbetRipe watermelon and cantaloupe sorbet served in a martini glass with sweet Greek yogurt.