Pastry School — Lessons 3, 4 & 5

Apricot Pate de Fruit Pastry school is now in full swing and I’ve got 2 weeks under my belt!

In lesson 3 we continued doing lots of math problems and eventually got to make our first recipe using a pot, hard caramel. The caramel was made by mixing some sugar in a pot with a little bit of lemon juice to help prevent crystalization of the sugar.

For lesson 4 we finally got to bake something! We made gingersnaps and I learned many tricks to getting perfect cookies. Did you know that the way you know gingersnaps are done is that they darken and fall? If you don’t want your batter to spread in the oven make sure it is room temperature before baking. Since the butter in the batter will be cold it will take longer for it to melt, therefore preventing spread.

And for the best tip — when making cookies, you should always put them on the pan in staggering rather than straight rows. Anything you put in the oven, including cookies, gives off moisture as it bakes. If you put all of your cookies on the sheet in straight rows, they will absorb too much moisture from each other and may come out soggy. Staggering the rows allows the steam released from the cookies to be spread more evenly.

In lesson 5 we learned some interesting facts about baking powder. Did you know it is usually only good for about 6 months? To test if yours is still active put a little bit into some warm water. If it begins to bubble, it’s fine. If not, throw it away.

We also got to make our first french dessert – Apricot Pate de Fruit (shown in the picture above), which are essentially fruit jellies. I actually tried these on my trip to Paris and you can see them in my picture of a Parisian pastry store in the post Voyage à Paris, partie 3. There is a very particular way you need to make them and you have to follow a pretty specific recipe — better take out the candy thermometer if you’re going to give these a shot as exact temperatures are needed for the jellies to set properly. Unfortunately, I read my thermometer wrong which led to my jellies burning, but luckily my teacher was nice enough to share hers with me to take home. These can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer until you’re ready to use them, but make sure not to store them in the fridge as the humidity there will ruin them.

If you want to try making them, you should make sure you start with a good quality fruit puree. We used Borion which is well known is good restaurants. Because the recipe for Pate de Fruits is so exact, you should look on the website of the puree company for exact ratios of puree to sugar, pectin, and gelatine.

I’m definitely going to try making these again!

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