A Crash Course in Pastry

This week I have been at summer camp. Which is funny, because I was never a camp kid growing up.  And here I am all grown up (well, kinda), and going to camp. Not only that, but it's my dream camp - PASTRY CAMP! With three days down and two days left, I'm starting to wonder what's left for us to bake - we've covered a ton! So, I'm going to give you a little preview of what I've been baking and some of the tips I've been learning this week. Here goes my chronicles of pastry camp.

Vanilla Creme Brulee
A good creme brulee should melt in your mouth like a slightly thickened cream. And the best part is, you only need 5 ingredients to make it! Heavy cream, whole milk, egg yolks, sugar/sucrose and vanilla paste (or you could use extract).

Passion - Apricot Pate de Fruit
In French, "Pate de Fruit" translates to "fruit paste." They're kind of like fancy delicious gumdrops.  I had to resist the urge from eating them handfuls at a time. Plus, they only take 15 minutes to make! (aside from set time) Bonus!

Banana Pecan Bread
The best tip I learned about banana bread is the secret to creating that beautiful crack on the top of the loaf. Right before you put the filled loaf pan in the oven, take a pastry brush and dab some melted butter down the center of the batter. You're basically telling the batter where to form a crack - genius! Tell that batter who's boss!

Pate Sucree (Sweet Dough)
Later in the class we will be making a few tarts (one chocolate, one lemon) so to prepare, we made our sweet tart dough. A great trick I picked up, is to use the leftover scraps that don't fit into your tart rings to make sugar cookies.  Talk about being resourceful!

Chocolate Shells
We're making Navan Caramel and Fleur de Sel Molded Chocolate Bonbons this week, so to start the process, the first day we had to make the chocolate shells that the Navan Caramel will nestle inside of. Using a polycarbonate mold and a wallpaper scraper, it's easy to get the job done.

Day 2
Chocolate Raspberry Ganache
This ganache is going to be the filling for our Macarons. The thing about French baking is, there's always a way to add alcohol to things. However, it's usually for good reason. Because alcohol actually acts as a preservative - and when you're making ganache, you really want it to keep it's ooey gooey-ness as long as possible. For this recipe we used a raspberry liqueur (Wolfberger's Eau de Vie de Framboise, to be exact).

Navan Caramel
Caramel has always kind of scared me - I always think I'm going to burn it.  But today was my lucky day. The thing to watch for when you are heating up your caramel, is for the liquid to smoke a little bit and it should have "espresso foam" bubbles at the top. Then you know you are ready to take it off the heat and add your cream (slowly of course). And you'll end up with brilliant, not burnt caramel!

Caramels with Salted Butter
We got more practice with caramel today, and another trick of the trade our Chef Instructor mentioned is to associate the color of the finished product of the caramel with something you can reference. That way, each time you make it, you'll know when the amber coloring is just right. It could be the wood frame on a piece of furniture, a paint color, a pillow, your favorite sweater... whatever works!

Blueberry Muffins with Streusel
These turned out delicious! And the great thing is you can substitute almost any fruit for this recipe. We used frozen blueberries, but if you have them fresh, use them! A thing I never thought about, is taking fresh farmers market blueberries and freezing half of them for a cold & tasty snack in the summer - genius!

Exotic Sorbet
We just made the base and it will go in the sorbet machine later this week... but if you don't have a sorbet machine, its easy to make your own with two tools you have readily accessible - your hands!  Put some fruit in a bag with a bit of sugar and squish to a pulp (til it resembles a puree).  Throw it in the freezer and - voila! Handmade sorbet!

Day 3
Chocolate Diamants
We haven't baked these yet, but we made the dough and it looks amazing. You roll it out into logs and let it chill - basically exactly like an icebox shortbread cookie. It's called a "Diamant" because you roll them in sugar and they "shine" like a diamond.  Sweet!

There are two schools of thought when it comes to macarons, the Italian Style (using a cooked meringue) and the French Style (using a non-cooked meringue). We're trying out an Italian Style recipe which our Chef Instructor recommends because she things its more fool-proof. Regardless of the style you're using, the coloring of the cookie will be the same - the color of the cookie indicates to the consumer what type of filling will be inside.  The cookie will always be the same (albeit a different color), and the flavor(s) in the filling will be what changes. Since the filling for these is raspberry, we added red food dye - so the cookies are a deep bright "raspberry" pink.

Hazelnut Financiers
The best thing about these little cookies, is you get to make and use brown butter in the recipe. Brown butter = amazeballs. Ok now that I've stopped drooling, time for a little back story. These nutty cookies got their name during 1800's France when a pastry chef wanted to make a delicious no-mess snack for businessmen in the financial district to nosh on without messing up their business suits. Thus, the financier was born.

Chocolate Nougatine Crisp
This crisp will be for the top of our Chocolate Tart. Chocolate. Sliced Almonds. Need I say more?  It also gets along quite well with ice cream as a topping. Boom.

Vanilla Ice Cream
In my future life, I want to be a vanilla bean. When vanilla beans are being dried out, they get laid out in the sun during the day, and wrapped up in a blanket at night. Doesn't that just sound like the life? We just made the base for the ice cream today - but it goes into the ice cream machine tomorrow!  Can't wait!

Stay tuned for the rest of the sweetness I end up whipping up the rest of the week!

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