Wednesday, 28 March 2007

le cordon bleu - day 25, 26 & 27

What a relief that the theory and practical assessments are over! It's been a week of early mornings, strange happenings and some near misses. And well, I passed! Not sure exactly how I did and what mark I got but I gave it my best shot. I made mistakes but at the end of the day, I'm human and the teacher's are human too :P Thank god for that! But I got to say though, the beady eye of the assessor today made my stomach flip and half the time, made me think I was doing something wrong when what I was doing was perfectly fine. Funny enough, she seemed a lot nicer when I got my personal feedback at the end (maybe it was just me during the exam thinking she hated me and was going to fail me). Well, I'm glad it's all over; exams make me nervous :P

Anyway, I was speaking of strange happenings. I'm not sure what happened but on Monday after class, there was a note left on my car windscreen which said 'All entrants to Ryde college must pay parking fee' which was addressed to me from security. Well I always pay my parking fee but that morning when I drove to the college, I swear there was no one sitting in the toll booth, the gates were open; any sensible person would just drive through right? And really, if the booth was unmanned at the time, surely they couldn't chase me up for the $2 parking fee? So that got me thinking, was I so asleep that I drove through the booth with the security guard watching me? Well my classmates seemed to think so and I'm starting to think I did too :( *quite embarrassing actually* Anyhow, I didn't get chased for the $2 when I drove out. *strange enough though*.

Near misses: Argh...I absolutely hate fondant! And I officially hate eclairs! Not only did I slice my finger once again cutting open an eclair, I was nearly going to have to do a resit of the exam because my fondant wasn't shiny and hence made my product not as presentable. Seriously, my history with fondant does not look good and I doubt it will improve. I don't even understand how someone designed this product let alone eat it! Fortunately, the rest of my product was perfectly fine and I finished on time. It was actually quite a hectic day making the eclairs; about half a dozen people managed to cut themselves to varying degrees and this was made worse with a good half of the class not being able to finish on time. So a near miss yesterday and near miss today. One of my classmates blind baked my tart before it had rested properly and it just shrunk like mad. The good thing was that I still had some short pastry to do it again and can you believe it, it still shrunk despite resting it for a good 20 minutes. When I spoke to the chef, she says I've already lost marks for it which is fair enough. But hey, I still managed to get away with it at the end when I garnished my tart, you could hardly tell that it had shrunk and my tart was one of the tarts that the chef pointed out as one that someone would purchase in a store. yay! But it was definitely a close one.

And off the topic of class, I still have to thank everyone that came to my graduation, sent their well wishes or came to dinner afterwards last Friday. I'll put grad photos up on facebook soon. Simply said, Thank You!

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

le cordon bleu - day 24

I think I have enough croissants to open up a shop (well minus the 2.5 croissants which have gone into my stomach since I've come home from class). I noticed that the TAFE cafeteria was selling croissants for about $3.80 each; that's almost $150 worth of croissants that I brought home today, also equivalent to about 2.5kg of croissants in weight. And well, I reckon I did a pretty good job (taste is SUPER!!!) and I've got an offering of Plain Croissants, Cheese Croissants, Ham & Cheese Croissants, Marzipan Croissants and should you like, I can even do a Frangipane filling to fill up the plain croissants and have them toasted with almonds (hence an almond croissant). The chef was saying how almond croissants are usually the product of day-old plain croissants, in industry they just heat them up with the almond feeling the next day. Regardless of whether or not they're old or not, almond croissants have got to be the yummiest things!

Anyhow, I need to remind myself to be patient and make sure I plasticise my butter to get it the same consistency as the dough for both puff pastry and croissant dough. Whilst my croissants came out fine today, I still had a lot of butter running out onto the tray like with my vol au vents. Fortunately the butter didn't burn the bottom of my croissants like they did with the vol au vents. phew! I really don't want to have to resit my practical next week just because my puff pastry has lumps of butter in it. *shudders*, our chef today made the exam sound so scary!

So I guess that brings us to the end of croissant week and our week of rich doughs. It'll be final exam time next week so no new recipes till the following week!

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

le cordon bleu - day 23

I suppose I learnt a few things about myself today; both the good and the bad.

The good: I'm not that crazy with my bookshelves of recipe books, recipes, food magazines and food collateral. It's really just been the past 2 years for me whereas someone I talked to today has been collecting, archiving and sourcing all things food related for the past 10 years :P Not only is he a guy, but he even scabs the recipes out of his cousin's Marie Clare once she's done with it (Btw...I do recommend the recipes that Marie Clare publish - they're really quite aesthetically appealing even if you don't cook :D) So anyway, I'm pretty normal for the time being. Give me another couple of years and I'll probably have recipe books, food magazines and the like cramming bookshelves to the brim and filling up the garage. Till that day, I'm normal :D

The bad: I have a short temper and can be unforgiving for the smallest of things. A long story cut short, I was annoyed this morning at one of the girls in my class. What happened was she kept asking me questions as to what we were doing first, what needed to go in first etc. and well, we basically spent the morning watching a demo and this was already explained quite clearly to us. Not only that, the workflow was written extremely clearly on the board and so really, all I did was let her know that everything was on the board (maybe not in the nicest of tones but then I was too annoyed at that time to care). I already had to duck from her flying shards of butter which she sent my way as we were plasticising the butter for our croissant dough - there's really a limit to what I can handle. And well, after the class ended, I nearly had a heart attack because that particular girl said she wanted to speak to me. I wasn't sure what to expect and what came out of it was something I least expected. The girl apologised to me for asking me all those questions and admitted that she was clumsy and actually thanked me for helping her. So the outcome, I was a bit confused and then ended up feeling like crap; and hence I remind myself to control my temper and to take things easy, and to just be that bit more forgiving. I will definitely remember today.

Might I add, I'm also a little forgetful. Photos will be up tomorrow for today's brioche. Brioche filled with lots and lots of chocolate is tres yummy!

Monday, 19 March 2007

le cordon bleu - day 22

So I was saying how I couldn't make it for my Theory test this Friday; they gave me the option of doing it next Monday at 7am in the morning. $#%@! Next week also happens to be the week that my lovely, trusty alarm clock i.e. my wonderous mum is away in New Zealand. Wish me good luck and that I actually wake up for the exam. Anyway who wakes up at that time, please give me a buzz?! please? And far out, it feels like it's back to HSC days. We were given this sheet with a set of dot points which we need to study for and between me and two other girls, we've divided the dot points so we've got them covered. Seriously...
Anyhow, to make up for the unpleasantness of early mornings and an impending final exam and practical, we've got quite a nice line-up this week on the baking side of things. This week we're working with rich doughs i.e. doughs that are high in fats, so you've got all those yummy things like brioches, filled brioches, chocolates croissants, almond croissants, ham and cheese probabbly get the picture. I am definitely someone who won't turn down a croissant so a croissant in its many forms is more than welcome! Well, that's not till Wednesday. Today, we simply did some plaited loaves and the brioche dough which we're using tomorrow. Yay! I was the first person today to finish doing my 4 strand, 5 strand and 6 strand plaits. You can see the before and after in the photos (stupid me stuck my towel on the dough after I egg-washed it so one of the loaves doesn't have as nice a finish :( oh wells...)

And I suppose as a word of warning, I really don't recommend anyone to each too much of your sweet dough. Just like you watch the bread prove (i.e. grow bigger from the growth of the yeast), just a little piece of this stuff makes your stomach grow. Take me for example, I ate about 4 pieces (evil/nice teacher made us afternoon tea consisting of filled brioches) and at the moment, I still feel/look as if I'm about 3 months pregnant. They were nice though; although maybe your Asian 'Lai Wong Bao' is a tonne better than brioche dough filled with creme pat. Oh, and I would definitely put more chocolate if I was filling up my brioche :D

And yay, hail to the end of fall-asleep theory classes on a Monday afternoon :D

Saturday, 17 March 2007

happy birthday justin!

First of all, thanks to everyone that made it! Justin enjoyed his birthday, enjoyed the wasabi and of course, enjoyed the Pink DS :P Actually, he was about to settle for the Pink DS without complaint; maybe you guys shouldn't have bothered with the black one but anyhow, this little 'girl' had a good birthday and I thank all his friends for making it a good one! Just also wanted to let a few of you know, if you didn't say 'Happy Birthday' to Justin on the night, he remembers exactly who you are. He spent a good part of the car trip home complaining about these certain few. sigh...and you'd think he's actually another year older...

Hopefully everyone enjoyed the food at Masuya (albeit expensive) but I suppose it's a place that we can afford now that most of us are working. My apologies to those who were left hungry; I thought the servings sizes would've been slightly bigger and that I would've ordered enough. My bad! I've heard a number of good reviews about this place but I guess it did fall short on the serving size aspect. Anyway, hope everyone got some entertainment out of Justin eating the Wasabi (I suppose that was one thing they didn't give us too little of!).

So really, Happy Birthday Justin! Hope you had a good one :D

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

le cordon bleu - day 21

Save for the baked apple which didn't look too appealing to eat (both when I started making it and when it came out of the oven), I've eaten the tarte tatin, the almond and orange pudding as well as the creme brulee all today; my tummy is quite satisfied :P My favourite has got to be the tarte tatin; it's actually always been one of my favourites for some strange reason. Come to think of it, I've never actually made it before in my life. I might've tried once, having mistakingly used shortcrust pastry for something that distinctively uses puff pastry to give it it's crunchy fluffiness but really, the appeal of this dessert has come through to me in TV shows, recipes and more recipes. You can make mango, banana, pear, pineapple, you choose your fruit for this dessert; really quite a versatile little thing. I imagine there's a number of ways you can make a tarte tartin so I suppose I was a little surprised at how we made it today. Yet regardless of how you make it, I'm sure this dessert will always taste just perfect; trust me! :D

Anyway, excuse my lame effort at plating my desserts. We had to do that today so the chef could mark us on the lesson. I'm not sure what exactly I was thinking; in part I was hoping to use as much of the berry compote we made on Monday (hence the berry drizzle and blueberries) and then using the range of fruits we had available in the kitchen. Does the one at the back of the photo remind you of a tamagotchi pet as it's growing (I think it's when you feed your tamagotchi too much and it develops into this fat lip thing?). So yeah, that's what it reminded me of and it still does when I look at it. The chef made a few comments; the main one being I need to wipe down the side of my plate (haha...actually I was half asleep and didn't see the berry smear that I must've made with my towel as I thought I'd wiped it down :P).

Gosh, I think I'm really going to miss class!

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

le cordon bleu - day 20

This has to be one of my favourites since I've been at LCB. I know I said I wasn't a big fan of poached fruits but I'm taking it back; this tart is beyond yummy and it's garnished with a rather splendid array of poached pairs in red wine :P And no, my face doesn't go tomato red when I eat it (I imagine most of the alcohol would be boiled out when you poach the pears). Finally, alcohol which I can consume and which doesn't make me look silly! *yay* By the way, it's a poached pear tart filled with pastry cream (or creme patissiere) and a dacquoise base and topped with poached pears in red wine. It's got a syrup glaze which gives it a nice finish and off course stops the tart from drying out and hence improving its shelf life (I've learnt that apricot jam does a similar job in the absence of glaze).

Anyway, it's nearing exam time at LCB and I'm getting a tad nervous. Not only does the theory exam fall on my graduation day next week (hence I've requested to take the exam early), it's actually been a long while since I've properly studied. Those spot tests which we've had for our other theory classes don't count; I've managed to fudge my way through those cause they're not too hard (or more that I cease to care every Monday afternoon cause I'm desperately calling for sleep :( Speaking of which, this week has been quite a struggle; not too sure why.) The fact that I've been addicted to the TV doesn't help either :(

Yay to creme brulee, tarte tartins and puddings tomorrow! :D

Monday, 12 March 2007

le cordon bleu - day 19

I was never a big fan of poached fruit and after making it in class today, I'm not even the slightest encouraged to make it again. Haven't tasted it as yet but I'm pretty sure it's not that great (as confident as I am about my cooking skills). I looked at the poached apples and oranges swimming in my container as I was coming home; and really, I can't see how you can class it as a dessert?! The chef seemed to think that your poached fruits are quite a multi-purpose sort of thing - you can have it for dessert served with other fruits, with cream, by itself or alternatively, as a bit of a treat for breakfast. Anyhow, now that I know how to make it, I don't think I'll be ordering it off any restaurant menus; regardless of any good reviews. We made some poached pears for a tart tomorrow; that should be slightly more exciting :P

The other things we made were fruit jelly and a berry compote, and watched the chef demonstrate a raspberry coulis. The latter are for the plated desserts which we're doing on Wednesday. My jelly turned out nicely but again, not rocket science so I won't go into the details. I quite like the gelatine leaf which we used; does anyone know where you can get some? I agree with the chef and recommend that anyone making the fruit jelly should use aluminium containers or non-stick loaf pans and avoid the teflon. It's a lot easier to unmold (you should've seen the class hold their breaths as we watched the chef unmold hers - after much effort, it unmolded in a splatter of water but still fixable). And once again, I nearly fell asleep during theory; have no idea what I wrote on that test paper but hopefully it was something that made sense :(

Thursday, 8 March 2007

wei xiao pasta

Still on the topic of food, I spent last week 'boiling discs' (as the Chinese are known to say) and watched a Taiwanese series (sort of food-related; notice the title) starring Nicholas Teo and Cyndi Wang. Here's the synopsis from Wikipedia (I'm grateful for the Internet): I've been obsessing over Nicholas Teo since I finished watching the show as well as Gino, who plays his brother in this 17 chapter series. Loved it and I'm watching it again soon. I've started on a Korean series called 'Princess Hours' and seriously, why are the male leads always so good looking! Hmph...

condor @ york st.

I've been here a couple of times now and to this day, I haven't forgotten the first time I came here. It's actually a bit of a funny story; J & I were queueing for the adjacent Japanese restaurant when we were pulled out of the queue and sat down in Condor; albeit another Japanese restaurant. Bizarre as it sounds, we continued with the meal as both of us were on short lunch breaks and as we all know, it's hectic looking for a spot during the CBD lunch hour break. So the story continues; we order, we eat, we leave and we come back. Methinks Ramen is this little joint's specialty and having had it a few times now, I hereby stamp my recommendation.

Today, we were lucky and didn't have to wait long for a table. In true Japanese hospitality, the waitresses apologised for our wait and we sat down on their rather makeshift tables. I suppose if you're looking for a bit of decor, you're not going to find any here. It's pretty much open planned sitting by the side-walk with your York Street traffic providing your view. In the heat of summer, expect your flies and other flying beings swarm around your head and your meal (It's for these very reasons that I don't like sitting outside when eating - and really, today was one of those days). Instead of Ramen, I ordered the Chicken Teriyaki and what can I say, their food is consistently superb. It would've been awesome if they had some sort of cold noodle on their menu; that's probably the only thing that's missing. I saw a couple of tables around us eating the Green Tea Icecream. Unfortunately, J continues to show a dislike for anything too sweet so had to give that a miss; maybe next time. Costwise - expect to spend about $10-15 on a meal per person.

Anyway, I was in the city for a reason. Seems like my rollercoaster ride of events those that I've told, I signed the contract today :D

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

le cordon bleu - day 18

There's some kitchen politics going on at the moment which I'm glad I'm not a part of. The head chef has gotten involved, the teachers are wary, and for the rest of us; we seem to have either gotten involved or have noticed the conversations but aren't involved. Fortunately, I belong to the latter group and really, that's the best place to be. Honestly, I'm not too sure what's the commotion is about and I guess one question I would ask is, what's the point? Speaking of which, it's already been 6 weeks for me at LCB; Basic Patisserie is shortly winding up. We've already gotten our assessment timetable plus made all our assessment items; another week or so I've got to sit down and actually do some study and keep my fingers crossed that I'll do ok in the practicals *touchwood*. Time has really flown!

Anyway, today we continued with our puff pastry. I made about 2 boxes of products and still ended up with a good deal of puff pastry dough to take home. One of my classmates gave me her dough as well so I think there's about 1 kg of puff pastry dough which I can still use. Might work on it tonight if I'm not too tired (lol...I'm the biggest bum on a Wednesday afternoon after class :P). As bad as it sounds, I'm a couch potato for at least 3 days of the week :(

So today we had apple turnovers, pithiviers, cream horns and palmiers. My streak of good luck continued with everything coming out of the oven nice and golden brown. A slight drizzle from the lumps of butter that were in my dough but nothing too drastic or awful looking. Seriously, it's such a relief to see your things come out nice after spending so much time and effort on it. Hehe...I reckon I did a pretty good job with the Palmiers; they taste good!

All in all, a rather good week. It's actually really exciting to learn something new everyday and really, I just don't want it to end. Not only am I rewarded with the things I make, the things I've learnt have just been invaluable. It was a hefty price to pay for the course but man, I'm not regretting it one bit! *jenny jumps up and down*. Should be an interesting week next week with all your individual desserts like poached fruits, tarte tartin, creme brulee...hmm...what happens when all that goes in my stomach? :P

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

le cordon bleu - day 16 + 17

It's puff pastry week as well as a week of savouries; a most welcome change to the sweets of the past 5 weeks! Spent yesterday making our puff pastry dough and today assembling our assorted goods; a beef bourguignon pie, chicken vol au vents, vegetable parcels and a salmon en croute. Despite my dough having lumps of butter in it (the result being running butter on my tray as my things were getting baked), my end products ended up looking alright. My puff pastry managed to lift and rise quite evenly, and all my tops managed to stay on and not pop off; the life and dramas of a patisserie student!'ve got to love the fat lips on my fish pie (courtesy of our rather funny Chef Geraldine :P)

We're only about half way through our puff pastry dough so there's a lot more to come tomorrow. It's funny though; having been in class for so long now, I cease to be amazed by the amounts of ingredients which we're using. My mum was asking me about the butter we use and I simply said 'We used 2kg of butter for the pastry' and really, I didn't think much of it. You should've seen my mum's jaw drop and her mouth open and close like a gold fish. Hmm....puff pastry is quite unhealthy yeah?

Once again, I nicked myself on the finger with the knife. I really got to be more careful :(

Monday, 5 March 2007

capitan torres @ liverpool st.

The Friday night out in the city seems to be happening more regularly and this week I found myself with 15 of my friends at Capitan Torres on Liverpool Street. A combination of friends and food is bound to make it a good night out and it was! Having initially stumbled into one of the other Spanish restaurants on Liverpool Street by mistake, J & I made a rather fashionably late entrance to the right restaurant; really I'm not sure how we managed to go into the wrong restaurant when J knew it's name and all. Anyway, turns out we weren't the latest despite being close to 40 minutes late. phew!

On the menu for the night was the suckling pig which Andy had pre-ordered - probably a good choice for such a big group of us. We ended up ordering two lots of paella to go with it and in my opinion, it was enough to go around. There were a few complaints amongst the guys and talks of getting kebabs but for your average person, the meal was decent. Honestly, I don't think I'm a big fan of the Spanish suckling pig. Like your Asian suckling pig, the pig is presented to you whole before it's cut up and garnished with a rather disturbing stalk of vegetable. In this case, the pig was presented to us chewing a carrot, and courtesy of our rather flirtatious waiter, the pig's name was Louis. I imagine the pig gets roasted and given it's a young pig, you don't get that toughness with your regular pork roast. Served with assorted soft vegetables, it made for a reasonable meal. The only thing is that eating Asian suckling pig has taught me how nice pork crackling can be and really, the Spanish way of cooking the same pig just leaves the pig with a chewy and bland crust. Hence my proclamation that I'm not a big fan of the Spanish suckling pig. As for the paella, the crab in it must've been off, period.

Perhaps the highlight of the night would be the combination of the Sangria and our rather flirtatious waiter friend. No one knows what his name was but I believe the guys were in between spewing and having a good laugh at the entertainment we were provided with. Not only were some select few showered with messages and pictures scribbled on napkins (harmless and the not-so-harmless), another few had the pleasure of being squeezed around the waist and in parting, a rather enthusiastic farewell. I was asked to take that last photo so hopefully, it serves as a remnant of the night and our friend. Thumbs up to the guys who organised it; I had a good night!

Saturday, 3 March 2007

bar italia @ leichhardt

It's very rare that you'll find me in Leichhardt; a suburb reknowned for its Italian eateries and cafes (and might I add, cake shops). Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore the Italian culture and this is probably the best place in Sydney where you can experience the Italian hospitality without having to go to Italy per say. In the end, it all boils down to the fact that it's really quite out of the way for me and given I'm close to being the worst driver in the world, I wouldn't dare to take the car out because there would be just no way I'd be able to park the car (as embarrassing as it sounds). The other thing is that I'm absolutely hopeless at reading maps so put those together, I'm really a bit of a disaster so I'm told.

A number of people had been urging me to visit Bar Italia for their coffee and it wasn't till a couple of days ago that I finally made the trip out with Amy to see what it was all about. The Sydney Coffee Guide hadn't given them a particularly good review; a mere 3.5 bean rating out of 5; and yet I've had numerous people tell me it's the best and most authentic coffee in Sydney. It was a discrepancy which I was extremely eager to sort out (hence why this post comes late because I ended up doing a bit more research to get things clear).

According to my boss (who's half Italian), Bar Italia was one of your first coffee shops in Sydney that actually served a proper Italian expresso. As a result, they've built themselves a strong reputation for good coffee and a fellowship of drinkers who go there seeking only the best coffee. For these same reasons, Bar Italia only serves coffee on full-cream milk (you'll notice a 'No skim, No soy, No Light Milk' sign displayed near the coffee machine) and an almost distinctive lack of service on behalf of the staff because there is so much business passing through. I'm not too sure if this is intentional or not but I was quite taken aback at how curt and unfriendly the staff there were. My boss, however assures me that this is pretty much standard all year round. Apparently the shop has also the reputation of the worst customer service. It's a shame really; the perfect cup of coffee should be completed with good customer service.

Aside from coffee, we decided to have lunch there as well. Big thumbs up from me; both the Italian Foccacia and the pasta were delicious! They actually have quite an extensive menu on offer; it's actually worthwhile to head back. Food service was extremely prompt which was good given that it's quite hot sitting inside. (While we were there, the fans weren't on and neither was the air con and annoyingly we had this one big fly loom ominously above our heads.) In a way, they place is like your Hong Kong Cafe equivalent. Don't expect much service or attention but do expect a good feed. And did I mention, a few of the boutiques in Leichhardt are quite good for shopping :D