Tag Archives: Baking Class

Week 3 – Baking – Pâte Brisée

Ah, a class I was definitely waiting for, where we get to make Pies and Tarts. I love pie! Pies and Tarts are simple and yet require proper technique to get a great end result, a balance between flaky and tender, textures that are at opposite ends of the spectrum.


Chef Deb provided a brief history of pie and tart making and specifically Pâte Brissée in Europe and American influence on fillings, preparation and look. We discussed the difference between a traditional American crust, usually made with everything mixed in a bowl and Pâte Brisée (European) where butter is broken into flour. Pâte Brisée is also usually rolled thinner than an American crust. A variant of Pâte Brisée, Pâte Sucrée (sweet version) was also discussed allowing us to compare savory versus sweet products.

Pies as compared to bread, which we’ll cover in a future class, require the control of gluten. Gluten is our “enemy”, as too much will result in tough crusts. Just enough is needed for structure and nothing more.

Chef Deb went over different fats that go into crusts ranging from butter, oil to lard and shortening. Each have pluses and minuses with respect to the end texture and flavor.

We also went over a blanc (blind baking) techniques and when to use them depending on what we’re making, a pie, tart or savory item.

A final key element is the rolling pin and the balance of rolling and shaping vs. overworking the dough. Properly flouring your work area is important and is a learned skill. Too much and you’re changing the ratio of lour to other ingredients. Too little and you might find your dough sticking to your work surface.

Chef Deb gave us a demo from start to finish for mixing ingredients, adding water and rolling that helped round out everything we went over and then set us out to pick recipes and get to work. I selected the Honey Walnut Tart.

Chef Recommended Books: Pies & Pastries by Time Life Books (out of print)


For this lab I ended up with a recipe that didn’t call for working with the dough by hand although there were some other components that I needed to work on that were likely going to be challenging for me, caramel and ganache.

I set out my mise for the first part, the dough more quickly this time which felt great. It allowed me to get to work quickly, which was necessary given the timing and components to my recipe.

Mise en Place for Walnut and Honey Tart

I started out with my dough so it could be chilled while I worked on other components. As it came together in the mixer it was hard to tell if it was ready or if I needed more water.

Walnut and Honey Tart Dough

The dough seemed dry and I kept adding more water until I thought it was ready for chilling.

Walnut and Honey Tart Dough Walnut and Honey Tart Dough

As the dough was chilling, I moved on to making the batter for the filling.

The batter called for making caramel, something I’ve seen other classmates make, but I haven’t done myself. As I was making mine, Chelsea was making hers. She was using a brush to wipe the sides of her pot and I wasn’t. Uh-oh. Chef Deb had suggested she do that to stop the formation of sugar crystals which would ruin the caramel last time Chelsea made caramel. I remembered hearing that but didn’t know the technique. Fingers crossed, I moved forward until my caramel started boiling.

Sugar Water for Caramel First Try


I got a brush with water and wiped the sides just like Chelsea was, but I couldn’t get some of the harder chunks to disappear. Chef Deb came over at one point and immediately noticed the sugar crystals starting to form and recommended we add some lemon juice to the sugar water as an interfering agent with the hope we could save my caramel.

Crystallized Caramel

Unfortunately it didn’t work as I was too far gone. I had to start over. Chelsea’s caramel was looking great and she carried it over to complete her recipe. As her luck would have it, the cast iron pan she was using for her Tarte Tatin was so hot that the caramel burned and she had to start over.

Burnt Caramel

We both laughed at our fortune, and yet nervously worked on our next batch hoping to get it right. We did prevail and I combined the rest of my ingredients to finish my batter.

Sugar Water for Caramel Boiling Caramel

Finished Walnut and Honey Tart Filling Finished Walnut and Honey Tart Filling

I rolled out my dough and placed the bottom into a flan ring which is a ring mold with rounded edges instead of sharp ones. I had to cool down the batter filling first so that it wouldn’t melt my dough.

Walnut and Honey Tart Filling

Once cool, I added my batter to the dough inside the mold, spread it out and then put a top on, and rolled the edges closed. With it ready, I put it in the oven to bake.

Walnut and Honey Tart

Next was the ganache. It was quick and simple to make. With everything mixed together, I pulled it off the heat and left it on the back of the stove until I was ready. Big mistake. With my tart baked and cooled, it was time to pour on the ganache. The ganache wasn’t terrible, but it was grainy, likely from too much heat exposure. Chef Deb gave us a demo on how to easily cover a tart with ganache.

The end result was delicious, although very sweet! We also got a demo on how to decorate a fresh fruit tart.

With one final recipe to go, Chef Deb gave a brief demo on how to spin sugar or caramel with a fork. Pretty cool!

Combined with all of the other delicious items we go to eat, I definitely left class thankful for my stretchy chef pants.

My recipe,  Walnut and Honey Tart

Walnut and Honey Tart with Ganache

Tomato and Eggplant Quiche

Tomato and Eggplant Quiche



La Tarte de Demoiselles Tatin

La Tarte des Demoiselles Tatin

Fresh Fruit Tart #1

Fruit Tart 1

Fresh Fruit Tart #2

Fruit Tart 2

Gâteau Saint-Honoré

Gâteau Saint-Honoré



Key Observations and Learnings

  • Caramel requires constant attention to make right
  • Chocolate also requires attention. Too much heat or activity can result in an undesired texture.
  • Everyone could have done better with their crust. It’s hard to know what was not done correctly when your crust is baked. Control for variables and overtime improve your technique.
  • Pie weights and docking your dough are  important for blind baking.

Week 2 – Baking – Pâte À Choux

I found out that three of my classmates already have jobs in the industry. This is exciting news, but also made me think about getting more “real world experience”. I have a meeting later today with Jen in Career Services and I’ll definitely bring this up.


Class started off with again with a lecture, and then a demo on how to make Crème Pâtissière (pastry cream) and then it’s harder cousin Crème Anglaise which is a base sauce that can be used to create other things like ice cream. They both have the same base ingredients of eggs, sugar, and dairy (milk or cream) along with some salt and potentially vanilla, but Crème Anglaise is considered harder because it is more delicate. It doesn’t contain a starch like flour or corn starch which pastry cream does which acts as a layer of protection for the eggs so that they don’t cook or rather turn into sweet scrambled eggs!

The speed at which we cook some things is important especially when creating emulsions. Cooking something too slowly or to quickly can result in a bad product from separating or burning, poor flavor development and a myriad other challenges. Chef Deb cautioned us when making pastry cream and admitted that over time, mistakes in class will happen and those are good because that’s when we learned. As she stated in our last class, most things can be fixed unless you burn something.

Chef Recommended Books: Flour by Joanne Chang, How to Bake & The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri, Baking with Julia by Julia Child and Dorie Greenspan, Baking by Dorie Greenspan, The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg


Today I was responsible for three recipes to create one final product, cream puffs. I had to make Pâte À Choux, a Chocolate Crème Pâtissière (Pastry Cream) and a simple glaze made out of confectioner’s sugar and a tiny bit of liquid which in my case was milk.

I was paired with another classmate, Peter who was making èclairs, along with a Coffee Crème Patissière and a Chocolate Glaze. We were paired so we could mix and match flavorings and decoration for our final product.

My other classmates were assigned different variations of Pâte À Choux with sweet and savory treatments. This lab was a bit frenetic as most of us worked on multiple recipes or recipes with multiple components.

I spent a lot of time thinking about my mise en place and making sure I had everything I needed.

Pâte à Choux Mise en Place

Making the choux paste as pâte à choux is sometimes called in English, was fairly easy. It was much quicker than I imagined. I started by cooking my water, butter and salt. It’s important to not take too long so that you don’t lose too much moisture.

Making pâte à choux

Making pâte à choux

When everything was hot, I added my flour and stirred vigorously.

Making pâte à choux

At this point I was cooking out the raw flour taste from my dough. The dough is done when it looks like mashed potatoes. Once that was done, I cooled it down so that I could add in my eggs one at a time and not have them coagulate and be scrambled.

Making pâte à choux

Making pâte à choux

We learned the “spoon test” which is essentially putting the spoon in your choux. If it stands straight up, it needs more egg. If it falls slowly, you have just the right amount.

Making pâte à choux

After it was set, I had to pipe my cream puffs onto a sheet pan. Making them uniform and a good shape was tough and my first ones didn’t look so great. Chef Deb came by and showed me how to improve my technique which did get better as I went a long and got a feel for the pastry bag.

Piped pâte à choux for cream puffs


I had forgotten to dorure (egg wash) my cream puffs before putting them in the oven. Luckily, we have everything checked and Chef Deb noticed, saving me some execution embarrassment.

Piped pâte à choux for cream puffs with dorure (egg wash)


Baked Cream Puffs

I later had to work on my glaze and my pastry cream. I quickly found out that taking my time earlier, often meant I had to wait for things, or certain kitchen items were dirty and needed to be cleaned as I went along with my recipes. The glaze was super simple, being only confectioner’s sugar and a bit of water. It was the pastry cream filling that was challenging and where I made a mistake. I combined everything i the recipe and brought it to a boil, while trying to manage my heat.

Making crème pâtissière (pastry cream)

We were told not to cook the pastry cream for too long or stir too slowly as emulsion could separate. My pastry cream began to thinking with more cooking. As things turned out, I became the first class example of what happens when you don’t work with your pastry cream properly as mine separated.

Making crème pâtissière (pastry cream) - breaking

I managed to temper and my chocolate ok and after fixing my pastry cream, was able to mix the chocolate ok and set things to chill. The last step for my recipe after chilling was whipping up some heavy cream to a soft plop stage and folding it into the chilled chocolate pastry cream. I wasn’t sure what soft plop meant, and I had over whipped my cream in my first Food Basics class. Chef Deb offered a demo to the class.

I was confident about folding. I had learned the proper technique last week, although Chef Deb demonstrated it to the entire class this week once the cream was set.

Chef Deb also showed us how to properly fill both the cream puffs and the èclairs.

At the end of class, we got to see another demo. This one was for assembling the cream puff swans which was great as we saw them come “alive”.

This lab was full of challenges and technique. I definitely left happy, knowing that I could practice this at home and refine my technique.

My recipe, Creme Puffs

Cream Puffs with Chocolate and Simple Glazes


Eclairs with Chocolate and Simple Glaze

Cream Puff Swans

Cream Puff Swans



Cheese Beignets

Cheese Beignet

Dauphine Potatoes Choux

Dauphine Potatoes Choux

Dessert Beignets

Dessert Beignets with Sour Cream Orange Sauce

Petit Choux Hors Dœuvres

Petit Choux Hors D'œuvres


Paris Brest

Savory Cream Puffs Filled with Caponata

Savory Cream Puffs Filled with Caponata


Key Observations and Learnings

  • I’m slow! I’m the last one done this week.
  • Timing is important especially when working on multiple things at once. Read the recipes for all of your components and think about how to execute them in order so that they all come together at the end without much downtime.
  • Fighting for the stove and ovens. Get mise done quick and get your stuff in so you don’t run out of time later!
  • There is only one bad question, “what do I do next?” You should read your recipes and ask questions then, not while cooking.

Week 1 – Baking – Fruits & Spices

My Baking class is slightly different than my Food Basics one. We have more students which is great because the ones that aren’t in my Food Basics class also have varied backgrounds. My Baking class is in kitchen C, in the basement with Chef Deb and an assistant, a recent grad named Sherry.

This class started off with some housekeeping items as well, but not as many as we had Food Basics. Chef Deb gave us some quick things to keep in mind.

  • Almost everything can be fixed unless you burn it.
  • We’ll experience less creativity at the start of this program while we learn the basics. Classic recipes will be executed based on how they “should” look.
  • “If you’re working messy, you’re cooking messy”.

We also went over some quick baking basics to keep in mind before the lecture.

  • Don’t separate eggs with the shell. It’s sharp and can break the yolk. We are to use the 3 bowl method we learned in Food Basics to prevent egg white contamination. This is key for success with whipping egg whites.
  • When using salt, Kosher salt is for savory food. Pastry uses table salt.
  • Always use a double boiler when melting chocolate.


Lecture was really interesting. I like the science behind cooking which is one of many reasons why I enjoy baking. We covered the properties of fruits, and proper storage as well as interesting facts about how the sugar added to frozen fruit protects it’s structure when it defrosts, and it’s not really for the flavoring.

Color, protecting your food from oxidation, selecting optimal products and flavor were also discussed. I enjoyed seeing the fruits and smelling spices that were passed around as well as learning about their origin and use.

Fun fact: Successful poaching requires sugar. For instance, when poaching pears or other fruits, cooking breaks down the cell walls. Sugar replaces the cell walls so that the fruit can maintain it’s structure and not fall apart. Acid helps as well and that’s why poaching usually happens in an acidic liquid like wine. Health conscious people can’t just cut the amount of sugar used for poaching from a recipe as sugar does more than sweeten the pears. I guess that’s another case for moderation.

Chef recommended books: CookWise & BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes by Shirley Corriher, On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, I’m Just Here for the Food: Version 2.0 & I’m Just Here for More Food by Alton Brown


For lab I was assigned Peach Fritters with Spice Infused Whipped Cream which sounded great of course because they are fried and have whipped cream. Yum. As I read through this recipes I realized that both the fritter batter and the whipped cream needed resting time in the fridge. This meant that I had to stop half way through the fritter recipe, start the whipped cream and then come back to the fritters to cut the peaches. I’m glad I was a little more thoughtful with my recipe reading that I was in Food Basics this week. My recipe called for whipping egg whites into a soft peak stage and then folding them into my fritter batter just before frying.. Chef Deb was more than happy to verify that my eggs were whipped the right amount before moving onto the proper folding technique. She did a quick demo for me of the proper procedure for folding and then set me loose, making sure I kept up the correct motions. This is a technique that won’t be covered until next week, when we do Pâte à choux, but I am lucky enough to get a first glimpse. It will come up many times throughout the program including Soufflés in Food Basics. Frying the fritters took way longer than I expected and it was hard to tell when they were done. Even harder was dropping them into the hot oil without getting burned all while making them a nice shape!

Peach Fritters

It was hot work! They were finished off with some powdered sugar and plated for service. It was a lot more work than expected, but they were really flavorful and light.

My Recipe, Peach Fritters

Peach Fritters Servedd

Poached Pears with Caramel Sauce

Poached Pears

Fruit and Spice Granola

Fruit and Spice Granola

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster

Blueberry Cobbler

Blueberry Cobbler

Passionata Smoothie

Passionata Smoothie



Grilled Chicken Breast with Spiced Kumquat Chutney

Grilled Chicken Breast With Spiced Kumquat Chutney

Mango-Tomatillo Salsa

Mango-Tomatillo Salsa

Guacamole with Homemade Tortilla Chips

Guacamole and Fresh Tortilla Chips

Fried Plantains

Fried Plantains

Prosciutto and Brie Sandwiches with Rosemary Fig Confit

Prosciutto and Brie Sandwiches with Rosemary Fig Compote

Key Observations and Learnings

  • Powdered sugar is not sprinkled on like Kosher salt on a steak!
  • With more students in the class, getting the recipe you want is likely going to be harder than Food Basics.
  • We must be precise. It’s hard to keep your area clean and things setup properly with more people in class.
  • Read the recipe over and over! Measurement and timing are important. Recipe times are guides, not absolutes.
  • Our eyes like odd numbers. When plating, set things out in odd numbers.