April 17, 2011

crème, cream, and everything in between

Also on our first day we made vanilla cream pie. Sydney made the crust while I made the cream - which involved using an actual vanilla bean (so much nicer than the extract stuff!). The recipe came straight out of our pastry textbook, which is literally our bible, since we need it for everything we do.

vanilla cream sieving

After I made the vanilla cream I had to comb it through a sieve, which was challenging because the cream was thick and didn't want to go through. Despite the difficulty I was extremely excited about the task because it was something I had never done before or imagined doing.

And the thing about the pastry side is that it's a bastion of specialized knowledge, and part of why I came to culinary school was to be privy to that. Most everybody will cook at one point or another, or bake cookies, but pastry is a whole other realm. And even though I don't particularly like pastries or sweets, I am really taking to the process of making them because of the structure and its built-in perfectionism. In pastry there is a right way to go about things - from measuring the ingredients, to the order you incorporate them, to the temperatures they need to be at (and for how long), and it's quite evident from the final product when you have done everything correctly (and thus succeeded). Savory, on the other hand, is composed of a lot of open-endedness and improv, since one can arrive at "delicious" in ten thousand ways, all in varying degrees of taste and texture.

(And getting personal: even though my life goes the way of savory and my personality has evolved to accommodate that, the inner overachieving perfectionist in me really takes to and finds expression in pastry.)

Anyway, after the cream was poured into the pie and allowed to chill, it settled into a firm jigglyness - the "just right" consistency between solidity and liquidity. We topped it with streusel and piped some whipped cream (basically whipped heavy cream, no Reddi-whip here!) on the edge.

vanilla cream plating

The dot of vanilla sauce on the plate was to anchor the pie slice, so that in case the plates were being moved around, the slices would not slide.

And there you have it, just another drop of knowledge in that vast bastion-pool known as pastry.

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