Before returning to the subject of our Boot Camp week, I have to digress to my dinner at The Progress. The sister restaurant to State Bird Provisions has a totally different look and feel, yet all the same high standards for food and service. While Mimi had to bow out, Megan, Hilary and I had still had an amazing meal!
It was an incredible meal and, like State Bird’s, one I’d like to repeat! I am not even sure I could pin down my favorite dish. I was also able to show Megan and Hilary the behind-the-scenes action at the restaurant, as our waiter led us into the back. We saw Chef Mikiko, who was on her way out, and I introduced her to my friends.
Back at school on Thursday, it was more of the same in boot camp week. However, after a few successful days of making crepe cakes, something went wrong with my pastry cream. Seriously wrong.
I have a feeling that I didn’t cook my pastry cream long enough, so it didn’t thicken properly. It also could have been that the whipped cream that I folded in wasn’t whipped enough. Or it could have been both!
We also learned how to make macarons. I was excited about this, because they’re a very popular dessert right now and I knew they were notorious for their difficulty. Chef presented us with a list of Maca-rights and Maca-wrongs before we got to work. While the cookie shells are often colored to help distinguish the flavors from one another, they aren’t often flavored. The fillings do most of that work, although we were given the option to flavor and color if we wanted. I decided to use a ground dehydrated strawberries in my dough, but in the end it may have backfired.
Things looked good during the piping process, even if the batter was a little thick. And even during the baking, things looked OK at first. They developed the signature “feet” of a macaron, but as baking continued, the shells started to collapse in on themselves. The only other person who used dried strawberries also had an issue, so Chef believes this error (unlike the crepe cake) might have been the ingredient and not the baker. Either way, it was another disappointing effort on the day.
The one thing I managed to do completely right on the day was oversee the baking of our chocolate chip cookies. We each tried changing a different element of the recipe to see how it would improve flavor, and many were winners. We all loved the grated/whole chocolate mix, the use of Plugra (European) butter and the flavor of the buckwheat. I drowned my day’s failures in many a chocolate chip cookie as the day ended, before heading off to the gym to work off the frustration. This was by far my most disappointing day at pastry school and while no one was mad at me and nothing happened that couldn’t be learned from, I have high standards for what I do and messing up two things really upset me.
However, after the gym, I went to Trader Joe’s, bought some supplies and came up with a new plan for my crepe filling – and a topping – for the final (and most important) day of boot camp week. Nothing like getting right back on the horse and making sure you aren’t bucked again.
After lunch, we spent the afternoon making macaron fillings and then putting them together. We had a variety to choose from, including our passionfruit jam, salted caramel, dulce de leche, lime basil and more. Some worked better than others, but it was fun to grab macaron shells (my classmates shared with me since many of mine were disasters) and pipe in fillings.
Overall, it was a pretty good week and I felt so much better when Friday ended, having had a much better day. We all knew the next week was ice cream week, and while a weekend awaited, I don’t think any of us could wait to get started!