We meticulously arranged our desserts on platters, carefully wiping the rims, and making slight adjustments to each angle and spatial disparity. A newfound sense of ownership swept through the classroom. We claimed products as our own creations and took their pictures, as if the proud parents of a pre-school graduate. This was “Individual Production Pastries,” and a capstone class marking the completion of first half of the program here at school. Aside from the occasional over-caramelization (aka: burnt sugar, darkened to a bitter, unpalatable state), daily confusion between the magic of refrigerator storage, versus the freezer, and the unfailing inability to identify one’s own tools at the wash sink, we felt accomplished and confident in our abilities.
I must say that we did make some beautiful products. None of them were remarkably complicated, but they involved an informed method of assembly, transforming an ordinary mousse or ganache into a mysterious wonder to the untrained eye. Perhaps I should claim that all of the desserts were indeed exceptionally difficult and say that the technique is an, “Old Polish Secret,” as our chef encouraged us to do.
We presented our pastries at “Grand Buffet,” to which my reaction is always, “Holy Forcemeat!” because of the overwhelming number of gelatinized looking meat products, artfully prepared by the culinary student. As a baking student, this is a wondrous world that remains a mystery to me (clearly full of old polish secrets). I wonder through the aisles and see what I believe to be everything from head cheeses to galatines (better described as stained-glass of the meatworld.) My twisted and dessert-skewed brain has automatically categorized all of these food items as “Savory Jell-O.”
I realized that looking at the dessert tables, one might be inclined to cry, “Holy Molded Mousse!” Almost every product that our Production Pastries class sends to the buffet is a mousse or Bavarian cream, layered and formed in an assortment of shapes, giving each product a consistent and polished appearance. Even with our basic level of knowledge, we began to imagine the potential and possibility that lies in basic products. The creation of future masterpieces seemed like just a gelatin sheet and whipped egg white away.