Week 6: Cake week, and the challenges of pastry school

Week 6 done! We are nearing the halfway mark of the program, which means our midterm theory and practical exams are approaching, plus a big entremet project coming up. We also have our second quiz as well. After all of these are over then I have to give my presentation to the class on Alternative Baking (a topic that I chose from the list of options provided). Basically it’s crunch time, and we’re in the midst of cake week. Which I am loving.

Once happy cake baker here. My delicious carrot cake.

One happy cake baker here. My delicious carrot cake.

If I thought the first 6 weeks were challenging, well, I think the next few weeks will be even more so. Which is why I’m focussing really hard on studying a little bit each day. I know from the past that cramming doesn’t serve me well, and especially won’t for retaining this knowledge in the longterm. As I said in my school application, I am here to learn.

With all the deadlines coming up I am feeling the heat of the pace and the challenges of pastry school, but I’m working through them all.

My hands are so dry each day from all the hand washing, and my uniform gets covered in chocolate and flour and random ingredients. Flour ends up in places you never thought would happen. I felt like I had a flour facial during bread week, a thin dust of flour on my face at the end of the day. I don’t know how it got there. Dough and batter ends up everywhere, from the mixing and whisking – little bits of batter or dough will just fly out of the bowl sometimes. You have to be okay with getting dirty here, its just part of it, and also keeping a clean work area at the same time. Our towels are constantly wiping up spills and messes and the dish pit piles up fast some days.

Ovens are hot, and so are stoves. Pans that come out of the oven are also hot, along with the products on the pan. You will get burned in the kitchen. You just have to toughen up and accept that it may happen. I see my Chef handle very hot things, like pulling a loaf of bread off the pan right out of the oven – smoking hot! But figure if she can do it, then so will I…one day. In the meantime, my fingers burn (not literally, but it feels like it) even through oven mits sometimes because the trays are very hot. I know I’m building up my tolerance to heat though, so I push through it. One day I will make it look easy too.

You will sweat. We are mixing almost everything by hand, ovens are on always, and it’s summer time, we work up a sweat. We are in a full uniform, so it’s not like working out in shorts and a t-shirt. Thank goodness for the air conditioning though, it does help. But I do know that I’m getting stronger each time I whisk up a meringue by hand, it gets a little bit easier each time.

We use knives, so you could easily cut yourself if you’re in a hurry or not careful. We move fast in the kitchen, so you have to communication. We alert classmates around us when we’re carrying a knife to the sink, and we always walk with knives to our side as well. Simple safety.

The pace of school is fast and intense, we are learning new material daily with not a lot of overlap. You have to be on the ball.

Our Chef instructor leads a demonstration and then we follow, and repeat. Sometimes the demonstrations are longer than others and standing still for a long time can be hard. My ankles have been hurting the most, I notice it mostly as I’m walking out of school at the end of the day. My knees bothered me more in the beginning but seem to have adjusted now, I figure my ankles will adjust soon too.

Patience is a virtue, especially in the kitchen. When we bake as a class, it is not a race to see which station finishes first. If you’re the first to the oven that doesn’t mean your cake will be the best, in fact, it could be the worst. We ideally want to finish as a class – together – so we have to communicate a lot with each other. And we can’t rush baking either, it’s just a process you have to follow. And I’m totally okay with that.

I get lost in school sometimes, and by that I mean I forget about everything outside of school. It’s amazing. Almost therapeutic. A happy place…

Last week we began cake week and made cheesecake – pumpkin white chocolate cheesecake, quark cheesecake, and classic new york cheesecake, a variety of european tortes including the famous Sacher Torte, and began entremets (fancy layered mousse / sponge cakes).

I love it all, and I feel like I say this in every post too. But it is true. Even the hot ovens, the standing, the dirty aprons, the flour facials. It is all part of a kitchen life. It’s not easy and it is dirty work – but someone has to do it! I am happy to be that person. Need a cake in the near future? Message me and I’ll help you out.

In closing, the highlight of week 6 for me was the carrot cake, cream cheese icing, and making marzipan carrots. Seriously. It was SO GOOD. SO FUN.

Now for the photos – these are in no particular order….

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Pouring the New York Cheesecake filling in the pans.

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The finished New York Cheesecake.

 

I was pleased with how this meringue came together for me nicely, I felt like I was making progress.

I was pleased with how this meringue came together for me nicely, I felt like I was making progress.

New York Cheesecake, a classic.

New York Cheesecake, a classic.

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I think this was the folding of the Sacher Torte batter. Meringue and chocolate… All the photo blur together after a while.

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Carrot cake in the works!

Folding the carrot cake batter.

Folding the carrot cake batter.

White Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake on a Gingersnap Crust. Enough said.

White Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake on a Gingersnap Crust wish Sour Cream Glaze. O M G. Enough said.

Gateaux Basque Torte, a special crust layer covers the whole torte that is filled with semolina filling. Very nice cake to have with tea.

Gateaux Basque Torte, a special crust layer covers the whole torte that is filled with semolina filling. Very nice cake to have with tea.

My first sponges! I was quite pleased to see they turned out well.

My first sponges! I was quite pleased to see they turned out well.

Carrot cake icing...

Carrot cake icing… Seriously, a happy place.

Oh ya, and we made pound cake with sour cream glaze and candied lemons.

Oh ya, and we made pound cake with sour cream glaze and candied lemons.

Practicing chocolate writing on  parchment paper before writing on the cake.

Practicing chocolate writing on parchment paper before writing on the cake.

Chocolate glaze on our Sacher Torte Cake.

Chocolate glaze on our Sacher Torte Cake.

Cream cheese icing...

Cream cheese icing…

Marzipan carrots. I had so much fun making these. I could have done it for hours...

Marzipan carrots. I had so much fun making these. I could have done it for hours…

Best looking carrot I have ever made!

Best looking carrot I have ever made!

Chef's demonstration of building our first entremet cake.

Chef’s demonstration of building our first entremet cake.

Our second entremet, we finish tomorrow, strawberry and vanilla.

Our second entremet, we finish tomorrow, strawberry and vanilla.

Classic sponge cake! Light and fluffy, like angel food cake texture.

Classic sponge cake! Light and fluffy, like angel food cake texture.

My first entremet cake, layers of sponge cake with raspberry and mango bavaroise (like a mousse).

My first entremet cake, layers of sponge cake with raspberry and mango bavaroise (like a mousse).

We are making more entremet cakes this week, and next so stay tuned for some serious #foodporn this week!

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