This was a crazy busy week for me, which means 1. I had very little time to be taking notes and snapping photos of what we did each day and 2. I’m exhausted. Although it was only a four day school week, I was a TA for a breadmaking class one evening, worked catering a private event another evening, and went back to school for a one-off knife skills class on Sunday. That meant very few hours were spent at home to focus on the work and homework that needs to get done from my laptop, so I got very little sleep and started to feel like I was running on fumes by Friday. Lesson learned: limit late night events on school nights.
On a lighter and fluffier note, this was the first week we practiced cakes! We started off the week by making four classic cakes – genoise, biscuit, dacquoise, and high ratio. From there we spent several days playing around with different cakes – everything from hohos and Boston cream pie to coffee cakes and soaked rum cakes. Best of all? At the end of the week we baked canele, which is one of the handful of things I was praying we would make over the course of the program. I love canele, but they are tricky to perfect and aren’t often found in bakeries around here. I made them for Christmas last year and they’re a bit of a passion project for me to keep improving on over time.
One of the larger projects for the week was to prep our layer cakes, which we will use for a cake decorating workshop on Monday and Tuesday. We each made a three layer chocolate cake with sticky caramel filling and a four layer vanilla cake with a blackberry buttercream filling. We baked, assembled, and added a buttercream crumb coat on Friday so that we’re ready to go come Monday. We have Jodi Giusti as a guest chef for two days to give us a deep dive into cake decorating styles and techniques for working with both buttercream and fondant. Honestly, I sort of hate decorating cakes. Intricate design is not my forte or even my preferred style. Don’t get me wrong, I want everything to be beautiful, but in a much more natural and minimalistic way. The reality is that people assume as a baker you should be capable of producing crazy beautiful and over the top cakes, so I know it’s an important skill to have. I’m excited to learn more about it next week because I definitely need the instruction.
Next week, we’ll start with cake decorating, move onto entremets (yay!), and finish out with our first exams on Friday. Exams consist of a written portion and (more importantly) a practical hands-on portion. For the practical exam we will be handed a list of items to make and we have three hours to complete them, using the techniques we’ve now committed to memory (ie. no instructions given). So this is basically my own personal GBBO moment.
A note on elective and TA classes: as part of our coursework we’re required to log a certain number of elective and TA hours. SF Cooking has an amazing selection of recreation classes for home chefs so we get to take our pick of those to either participate in as a student (elective) or assist teaching (TA). This was a huge perk to the program for me since I love to cook and it allows me to explore areas outside of pastry too. As a TA it’s great experience to work with other chefs and experience new working and teaching styles.