Saturday, February 11, 2012

Culinary IQ: February 11, 2012; Plated desserts

For 120!

Two weeks into my new job, my first job out of culinary school, I have to plate desserts for 120 honored guests at an 85 year old member of the country club's birthday party! And no, not just any dessert but chocolate lava cake! 

Making chocolate lava cakes for 2 is stressful enough in the fact that you never know whether they are going to lava. Without any further baiting I will tell you that I had complete success, 120 chocolate lava cakes came cleanly out of the pan and they oozed!

So here is how I pulled it off. Immediately after arriving at work I began making the florentine cookie bowls for the ice cream to go in on the plate. While they baked I buttered the individual pans for the cakes. When I had finished the pans I started making the raspberry sauce to go on the plates for garnish. Then when all of that was done I started the batter for the cakes. First I melted the butter and chocolate, 5 pounds of each. Then cracked the 66 eggs, measured out the sugar (3 pounds, 11 oz.), flour (2 pounds, 7.5 ounces) and 2¾ teaspoons of salt. Then left the butter and chocolate mixture to cool.

I then began plating the components for the dessert, the florentine cookie cup went on first followed by the garnish of raspberry sauce and then mint tops.

Back to the kitchen to mix up the batter and portion it out into the pans and wait for the signal to bake them the short 10-12 minutes required to get the desired flowing lava affect.

Go! And in they went. I kept a watchful eye on them for just the right amount of doneness and when they were done I pulled them out of the oven to wait for time to plate them. And then it came, all hands on deck. I had help from every direction to get the cakes inverted onto the plates and the ice cream put into the florentine cookie cups.

Off they went to the tables for all to enjoy. Everyone was pleased, but none more than me as I had been nervous about this lava extravaganza from the moment I heard about it. And then it was time for me to go home and I left with the satisfaction that I had pulled off my biggest baking feat to date. I can sleep well knowing that I won't have to do anything like this again until Tuesday! Valentine's Day desserts for 140, flour less chocolate cake. 

I am knee deep in chocolate, who could ask for more?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Culinary IQ: Wednesday, February 9, 2012; After the Assessment

What Happened Next!

It has been a while since I last posted. And for good reason, after completing my first baking assessment I was offered the position, and I took it! I am now the pastry chef at The Club at Morningside in Rancho Mirage, CA! I interviewed with the executive chef on a Monday and did my baking assessment the next day, when I was done he offered me the job. I was to start the following Monday.

So I had time to think about the job ahead of me, preparing all pastries for the clubhouse, including menu desserts for the restaurant, desserts for special events, card club refreshments and much more. I started to worry, was I ready for all of this responsibility? The excitement about the position outweighed the worry fortunately. One exciting thing about the position is that it is seasonal, September to May. Lots of time off for R&D and R&R!

So Monday came and off I went to my new job. The first two days were stressful, but fun stress. I needed to get familiar with the working environment, the equipment, the people and the responsibilities. While I was having a blast, I didn't know how I was ever going to get myself around everything. Not only were the desserts for the restaurant low, I didn't have any recipes to stock them from so I had to come up with my own versions of them. Friday nights are bistro nights so I needed four unique desserts for dinner, so I sit here trying to recall what the four were. First I did an individual Carrot Layer Cake with Candied Walnuts and Rum Caramel sauce, Lemon Meringue Tart with Raspberry sauce, a Blonde Bombshell Brownie Sundae and since it was my first week the chef suggested that I use a Chocolate Coffee Creme Brûlée tart that was in the freezer. I am sure the look of panic on my face is what prompted him to suggest I do so. Truth is I am having an absolute blast so I would be curious to know if that shows on my face in the heat of things. With a little luck and a lot of help, I made it through bistro night, next comes steakhouse night.

For steakhouse night chef wanted traditional steakhouse desserts. Based on my favorite steakhouse and research of other top establishments I decided to do Chocolate Stout Layer Cake,  Mile-Hi Cheesecake, Tiramisu and Fresh Northern Berries with Vanilla Creme Anglaise and a Tuille Cookie. All made by me! Fruit was the number one choice of the night followed by Tiramisu.

Two great days off, I did have to go in for a few hours my first day off to make sure everything was in order for the next week.

Week two has gone much more smooth. I am getting a handle on the things that need to be done regularly and planning ahead for the special events. So far this week we have had an Italian themed lunch for the men, we served Cannoli, Paula Deen's recipe, who would have thought. We also served cheesecake and tiramisu. Today was the big day, lady's guest golf, the ladies of Morningside invite the ladies from surrounding clubs to breakfast, 9 holes of golf and lunch. The theme was western and so was the lunch, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cornbread muffins and for dessert I made peach cobbler, Dutch apple pie and blueberry crumb pie and triple chocolate cookies. The peach cobbler was gone!

Tomorrow is bistro night again, this week I am making Banana Cream pies, Chocolate Brandied Mousse, Louisiana Bread Pudding and Poached Pears with Mascarpone. Saturday an 85th birthday party, Chocolate Lava Cake for 120!

Well I have more on my calendar but I don't want to wear you out with it all. I will check back in another time and get you up to date.