Week 10 was all about the many forms of frozen desserts, and we really ran the gambit of them. Week 10 also concluded with Exam #2 on Friday, which was def. less intense and terrifying than the first round. At the end of the week, I started my first stage at Manresa Bread as well. Here’s what happened:
Ice Cream, Gelato, Sorbets
Looking back on the week, I’m quite surprised we were able to get through as many recipes as we did, especially given there is only one ice cream machine at school. This week, we made about 8 different ice creams, 7 gelatos, 5 sorbets, 5 granites, about 7 semifreddos, and 7 types of popsicles, plus some syrups for floats, and a few extra goodies to serve our ice creams in. There was SO MUCH. Every day was another tasting of a bunch of different treats, and probably the first time I got to a point where I really didn’t want anymore.
We started with ice creams on Monday, making a bunch of different bases that hung out in the refrigerator over night before being spun the next day. Each of us got to choose a fruit puree combo to use for our own sorbets (coconut mango with a touch of lime for me. All you need to do is throw a little rum in it and you’re basically transported to Hawaii. It’s amazing). And we juiced a few different types of vegetables to make granites. I got red bell pepper, which was quite refreshing frozen with a bit of simple syrup.
Later in the week we moved on to gelatos. I made a typical gelato base, but folded in some crumbled speculoos/biscoff cookies as it came out of the machine, plus a little ribbon of caramel. It’s to die for. Ice cream and gelato is so fun to make and you can really get creative with the flavor combinations. I enjoyed it so much that I’m considering taking a stage or two at a local ice cream shop to learn more.
To go along with the ice creams and gelatos, we made a few fun additions. I worked on two different concentrated syrups for floats: ginger ale syrup made with lemongrass, ginger
and lemon and rootbeer made with straight sassafrass and other herbs. We also did a fun play on a baked alaska by piping stiff swiss meringue into a cake ring, baking until dried out, lining with chocolate and then filling with gelato. It then sets overnight in the freezer and you cut it like a cake. We also made a giant ice cream sandwich (seen below) and baklava that we sliced in half and filled with a honey semifreddo. I didn’t expect to like that (baklava is so sweet and adding ice cream seems crazy), but the semifreddo was kinda salty and balanced out the sweetness really well.
The standout for the week to me was a Vanilla Fountainbleu. It’s a really light, mousse-y dessert typically made from fromage blanc and heavy cream. I believe we used ricotta or creme fraiche in this one, combined with some sugar and vanilla bean and then it’s set in cheesecloth to drain out the whey overnight. This tasted like the most luxurious yogurt I’ve had, so I happily put it on my fruit in the morning for breakfast. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture, but at school it was paired with a very light quince granite in a glass the made it like a parfait. I’ll def. be making that one again.
On Friday, we did our second of three exams. The format was the same: an hour long written exam followed by a three hour practical exam. The written portion was very straightforward without any surprises and the practical (in my opinion) was a bit lighter than the first. Maybe I’m just getting more comfortable or maybe the additional experience in the kitchen is paying off, but I got through it unscathed and much less frazzled.
The trickiest part was making a tart, which we knew we’d have to do in advance because we made our doughs a few days earlier. The tricky part about that is all the steps needed in order to successfully make the tart. First issue: my tart shell was being a pain in the ass and cracking all over the place. I knew this was going to be a major problem because the filling was very liquidy so it really needed to be a solid shell. I’m fairly sure the reason it was cracking was because I wasn’t patient enough when I made it earlier in the week and didn’t let the water really bring everything together before chilling. Second, there are many steps in making a successful tart, including chilling, blind baking and baking. This one also required a pre-made streusel topping, which tied up the oven. We only had three hours so you really had to make sure you were organized and had things in the oven in the right order. The cracks ended up being an issue, even though I patched them when the shell came out. The filling leaked slightly, which made getting the tart out of the pan impossible (fortunately that wasn’t part of the exam!).
The rest of the exam was a breeze, especially since I practiced making caramels and dicing carrots. I went through 2 lbs of carrots the night before and made a batch of fleur de sel caramels. That practice paid off. And I’ve eaten more carrots in the last few weeks than years combined I think! Only one more exam to go, and 6 short weeks. It’s really flying by.
First Stage – Manresa Bread
On Saturday and Sunday of last week, I spent 8 hours each day working with the pastry crew at Manresa Bread. Manresa Bread is a bakery that comes out of the famed three-star michelin restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos, CA. They make all the bread for the restaurant, and now have two store fronts, two farmer’s market stands and have their pastries in some coffee shops. It’s a big production! They make loaves of bread – mostly baguette and levain in the front, and pastry in the back. Their lamination work is incredible as they pump out gorgeous croissants packed with layer after layer.
Needless to say, I was excited and anxious to actually get into a real bakery. The crew was awesome from the very beginning. Right away, they showed me around and then put me to work. The first day I browned 10lbs of butter, made gluten-free squash cakes, made another round of the batter for the cakes, broke down an entire slab of bacon and rendered it off, shaped danishes, and lined tart shells to blind bake them.
I left completely exhausted, but already felt like I learned a lot by just being there and watching. And seeing how large equipment works (rotating rack ovens! gianormous hobarts!) was awesome to learn and use. Also, there were other stages there – some with no experience at all and not even in pastry/culinary school. They were just interested in learning and helping. I thought that was pretty cool that the bakery allows that, and I mean, it’s win/win for everyone. They get free labor and we get experience.
Sunday I came in and did another shift, with some similar tasks, but also some new ones. I learned more about lamination, the giant sheeter and how to shape pain au chocolat. I also broke down about 20 lbs of delicata squash. The whole time I was asking lots of questions (mostly because the people there are so chill and nice, and clearly want you to learn) and observing as much as I could.
I’ll be spending two more full weekends there before Thanksgiving. I’m hopeful I’ll land somewhere like Manresa Bread for my internship that starts after the holidays, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Week 10: Pro Tips
- Staging: If you’re interested in getting experience in a kitchen/bakery, but don’t want to commit to a whole career change, ask around at a place you love to see if they’ll take you as a stage. It just might work!
- You can make ice cream (sort of) without a machine! Look for semi-freddo recipes, which are basically mousses frozen in loaf pans.
- Find or develop a solid base ice cream or gelato recipe. Once you have the base, you can add things in or tinker with it in millions of ways.
- Staging: Always have a sharpie in your bag. Oh, and hair ties.
- Staging: It helps to ask in advance what you should wear and if you need to bring tools.