Plated Desserts is known as the fancy station, not only because all the desserts are made for the Pierre Coste Room (PCR), the fine dining restaurant on campus, but because the station requires the most work in presentation.
Given my previous success with presentation, I was thought to be able to excel at this station. I did all right - presentation requires skills and not just natural ability, obviously.
Chef's requirements for the station were that we produce three types of desserts a day: usually one chocolate item, one fruit item, and one cream/custard item. Something we did often were tarts: they could be filled with any of the three.
I had some familiarity with tarts from the Cakes & Tarts station, but Plated Desserts was like Cakes & Tarts to the next level (in fact, leftover desserts from Plated Desserts would be given to Cakes & Tarts to sell the next day in the cafeteria). In other words, a tart in Cakes & Tarts might have some pastry cream and sliced fruit in it, but a tart in Plated Desserts would involve something more like poached pear.
Poached pear is one of those things that sound super fancy but are easy to make. I peeled some pears, halved/cored them, then boiled/simmered them in a simple syrup liquid. Simple syrup = boiled sugar water (equal parts sugar and water), used in drinks because it's concentrated sweetness that mixes easily, especially for cold drinks where sugar crystals don't dissolve easily. You can infuse simple syrup with whatever flavor you want - in the case of this fashion/food blog that I follow, the designer made mint simple syrup for mojitos but she also reserved the liquid to flavor other drinks such as iced tea. In my case, the simple syrup was infused with a cinnamon stick and peels of orange zest (from using a vegetable peeler). The pears simmered until they were knife-tender (so you poke a pear with a knife and it slides in/out without any resistance).
The tart shells themselves also receive a lot of attention in Plated Desserts - the bottoms are completely flat (done by pushing the dough carefully against the sides and bottom), and the tops are smoothed out (after baking the uneven parts are shaved by a microplane zester).
I came up with the presentation by myself, and it's not bad, but behind it is a failure. A day or two before I had been attempting a plated dessert presentation, and Chef came over to supervise but he took over and I felt like: 1) I had no clue what I was doing and 2) I was overestimating my own abilities by even attempting to do the arranging myself. This time I slyly put everything together while Chef's watchful eyes were elsewhere, so maybe it was just the pressure of him watching that made me doubt myself.
I do have to admit though, the pointed elliptical shape of whipped cream I had put underneath the pear chip (called a cannelle) was rather unprofessional looking, because to make it correctly takes lots of practice. You have to dip a spoon into piping hot water, then deftly twirl it in some whipped cream and plate immediately. These 2nd semester culinary students took an hour just doing them over and over.
And to conclude, here are just some other tarts that were made at the station while I was there:
Banana cream tarts with toasted coconut and whipped cream and bananas brulee
Chocolate covered peanut butter tarts (gourmet Reese's cups, basically)