After a long flight from L.A. into JFK I raced home to grab my chef whites and knife pack to get to Monday night’s class. Our last class before our Midterm and you can cut the tension with a paring knife.
My last recipe to practice on for Level III is the Tarte aux Pommes (Apple Tart). It is very likely that this recipe will appear on my Midterm but I won’t find that out until tomorrow’s exam.
So let’s talk about the Midterm for a minute…tomorrow, I will go into our kitchen classroom and learn my fate. Each student picks a piece of paper from a bowl and the letter/number combination is associated with two dishes that are to be prepared. You either get a appetizer and meat or fish and dessert. These dishes correlate with a specific time that they are to be presented to the judges.
For our written exam, Chef chooses one of the 16 dishes we have been making over the past 7 weeks and we have to write down all the ingredients and the procedure to complete it.
I’ll be upfront, yes I’m nervous, one slip up can set me back on the practical exam. Everything needs to be perfect no matter what – no mistakes. Deep breath…I just need to focus and be on my best game.
Back to the tart, I carefully mix my dough which is not the easiest thing to do in a 95 degree kitchen – my pâte sucrée needs to remain cold so the butter in the mixture doesn’t melt. It is a simple dough recipe: 200 g all purpose flour, 100 g cold butter, an egg with 2 tsp of cold water, 30 g sugar and a pinch of salt.
It is vital not to over knead the dough, or it will be tough and glutinous. Also, the dough needs to rest for a good 30 minutes so timing matters – get the dough made first then work on the apple compote filling and then the topping.
With my tart in the oven, I assisted with making the Amuse Bouche – a curried carrot soup puree conceived by one of the team members. Each night we present Chef with an Amuse Bouche made by the team – since we have four team members in our group we each have had the opportunity to drive the Aumse Bouche decision. One night I made a roasted garlic and mushroom soup that I pureed and served in Chinese porcelain soup spoons with bacon dust and chives. Another evening, I was really on the soup kick, and I made a Vichyssoise (cold potato and leek soup) that I served in tall aperitif glasses that were tied with a thin strand of leek that I had blanched.
Once my tart comes out of the oven it needs to cool before I glaze it with apricot jam. The color on the tart is beautiful with the overlapping apples nicely browned on the edges. On the side I made a Crème Chantilly which is basically like a whipped cream but not as sweet. I presented on time which is always a plus and Chef came over to my station to judge the results. He flipped over a slice of the tart and started to tap the crust with his fork. The crust should easily crumble with no or little resistance. Chef had to chisel through the dough with his fork, I rolled out my dough a little too thick which made it a little tough to get through and he thought it might have been slightly over baked.
Overall the tart looked amazing and filling was very nice – nonetheless, all aspects have to be perfect and my dough did not cooperate fully. I guess that’s the way the cookie – or dough crumbles.