March 3, 2010

The day I learned...

to love macarons. French macarons.

After pâte à choux, we focused on our last section of cookies and petit fours. For students who had time and were interested, we could save 5 each of our cookies and petit fours for a platter display that Chef would critique. I went for it. It meant not only did I need 3 of most items for check off but two extra items. It was also important to safely store them over a couple of days (tuile cookies = fragile), and then come up with a platter and a design.

First, the cookies. We started with madelines and the incredible, wonderful, colorful, and tasty, French Macaron. I love madelines but the macaron really surprised me. It is so easy to change the color and flavor and the texture is really fun too. I always have the ingredients sitting around to make them and they are quick to make too. The ones I made in class I filled with ganache for Alan. He liked them so much he ate several in one sitting. Yippee!

We also made toscaner squares, which are actually rectangles, and birds nests. The toscaner squares are made from a cake with almond brittle on top and then tipped in tempered chocolate right up to the edge of the top layer of almonds. I cannot find much about it online so I do not have much to say about it. It tasted good but I would not eat more than one piece, it was on the sweet side. Birds nests are made with a small circle of tart dough and then you pipe out an edge of almond paste stuff on that circle, with a fancy star tip. The you fill it with bakers jam (or wait until they are baked and fill with ganache). They are cute but not exciting in the taste department. The baker's jam all taste pretty awful, super sweet and not like the fruit spreads I use at home.

The next day, we made an almond pound cake to start the process of making petit four glace. This is quite a production. You make the cake, spread on baker's jam, a layer of thin marzipan, cut it into shapes, glaze it with fondant icing, and then, decorate it with a design. Phew. It was intense.

One thing we did if we had time was the tuile cookie. It is a super cool idea. You make stencils out of hard plastic (the lids of buckets/yogurt containers work well). Then you spread a thin layer in the stencil (on a silpat) and bake it. It is pretty quick. I made butterflies and then I shaped them hot from the oven so they looked cool. I took the paste home, it will last about a year in the freezer!!!

We also used stencils to make fortune cookies. You spread the fortune cookie paste thin, in a circle stencil, and bake them. When they come out of the oven, you wait about 45 seconds and then you have to shape them with your hands. OUCH! If you were really fast/clever (which I was) you can be prepared with messages. Heehee.

Next up in the cookie lineup, florentines. You see these sometimes called lace cookies. We make a 'batter' and when they bake the spread really thin. You can shape them perfectly round while they are baking by taking a lightly oiled cutter that is bigger than the actual cookie is and then move it around the cookie to smooth the edges. Pretty fancy? Well, considering after that you then glaze one side of the cookie with tempered chocolate with a fancy decorative swirl, yes. It is fancy.

I was really excited that the next cookie, meringue fingers, was back to the meringues. I had really good luck with the French macaron. These were equally successful and also pretty tasty. It is basically egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, and dusted with chopped pistachios. The nuts are a lovely color contrast to the white of the meringue.

Chess anyone? The chessboard cookies are all about construction. You make the dough, vanilla, and to half of it, add cocoa powder. Then you roll it out to the same size and stack it, all the while chilling the dough of course. It has to be really cold to get really good shape to it. You glue the layers together with egg wash too so there is no sliding around. Once you have a brick of 4X4, 1/4 inch squares, you marble your left over dough, roll it out to 1/8 of an inch thick and wrap your brick in it for the border. It looks really cool! They didn't have much taste though.

Did I mention we made marzipan? We use it a lot for decorating so it is cool to just make a batch, kneed it, color it, whatever. My friend Denise would love it! :)

So... after all these cookies. I made the platter. We needed 5 passable of each item. Arrange it on a platter and well, they give you feedback. Here is a picture of my platter. Chef Wild-Wilson liked it and only said that if I were to serve something like it on a buffet line, never make one item a 'hazard' to get to another item... don't stack items weird and make reaching for a cookie scary for someone. The beautiful platter is our first wedding gift. K&L gave it to us before they moved away. They cannot make it to the wedding so I thought it only appropriate that they get to see it get used in such a momentous way. :)

All in all that was the last of my time with Chef Wild-Wilson. The first 40 days were CRAZY and super fun. I did fill my check list again. A lot of going in early, staying late, and asking tons of questions. I didn't do as well on the written test this section as I did the first but I am still happy with my grade, A-. I also am officially certified to work in a kitchen. Our Serv Safe test is complete and I even have a little card to carry with me now. Yippee! I understand how to keep a clean kitchen! I can work any where in the US and not have to have a food handlers card. Sweet.

I am now zooming through the second term and the advanced class with Chef Hall. Next post, cakes!


  1. The platter was amazing! Excellent design, and it was so much fun to pick over and eat various bits and pieces at will!

  2. O'BubbaMarch 04, 2010

    I'm sure it was fun "to pick over and eat various bits", considering how much fun and tasty they are just to look at (and drool over)!

  3. Your plate was beautiful! I would love to have tasted them! I love cookies and have always loved petite fours!