This week was a little out of the ordinary because we did a whole bunch of different tasks and recipes, rather than being focused on a particular topic. The theme of the week was repetition and timed drills, which ended up being far less intense than it sounds. I was sort of looking forward to the idea of each day being like my own version of the Great British Bake Off, but I won’t complain that the days were actually much less stressful.
There were two things that we made every day of the week: crepes and macarons. Crepe making was my favorite part of each day because it was a real lesson in repetition and efficiency. Creating efficiency is where I shine, so this was right up my alley. We timed ourselves each day and had the goal of increasing our speed throughout the week. By Friday I was onto using three pans at once and managed to have my best time yet. We turned all those crepes into many delicious creations, including crepe cake, crepes suzette, cheese blintzes and more.
Consider the crepes my success of the week, because macarons were my failure. Surprisingly, I have never actually attempted macarons at home before. They’re notoriously finicky with so many possible issues (some within your control and some not) and I’d rather spend my time making kouign amann since that’s what I’d prefer to eat anyway. Nonetheless, I was excited to learn how to tackle the challenge in class and make something I had never made before. That enthusiasm early on didn’t seem to do anything to help me, since I pretty much ran the gamut in terms of macaron flaws throughout the week. The good news is that I wasn’t alone because no one’s were perfect, but I hate to say that mine were consistently near the bottom of the class. I won’t be too dramatic and say macarons were the biggest struggle of my entire life, but I’ve definitely never struggled with something so much in the kitchen. I hate failing. So much so that I continued to practice my macarons at home in the evening. I have two big pearls of wisdom to share from Chef Nicole this week:
1. Your final product will reflect your mood and headspace while making it. It sounds crazy, but I swear those damn confections could sense my frustration and hatred for them.
2. The goal is progress and improvement. By Friday, my macarons were passable and she reminded me (as she has before) that the goal was not perfection. Success is learning and improving with each day that passes.
The rest of our time throughout the week was filled with miscellaneous recipes and activities. We took a tour of the Feve chocolate factory, listened to a panel of women talk about their experiences in non-restaurant food jobs (a food writer, a food stylist, and a food tech founder), began our sourdough starters for breadmaking in a couple of weeks, revisited some old recipes we loved, and started some new projects. My favorite new recipe this week was opera cake – thin layers of cake, soaked with coffee syrup and layered in with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. I now have about a hundred ideas for ways to translate the light and moist opera cake into new flavors.
Next week we dive into ice creams and frozen desserts! I think this will be a really fun week since ice cream lends itself to creativity in flavors and textures. Ice cream also happens to rank pretty high on my husband’s list of favorite foods, so I doubt it will last too long in our freezer.
p.s. I did a truly terrible job of taking photos this week. I’m blaming it on the macaron frustration and producing things unworthy of photographic evidence, so I’ll do better next week!