Archive for the ‘Pastry Bites’ Category


Me and chef Kir, my level 3 chef instructor

Long time, no write! Forgive me for my brief sabbatical. A LOT has happened in the last month and unfortunately my blog writing was pushed to the back burner.

I’m back now and wanted to share that I officially graduated from the French Culinary Institute with a grand diploma in Classic Pastry Arts! Yahooooo! Nine months sure flew by.


It’s official!

I’m very excited to embark on a new chapter in my life and hope to work on more catering/wedding projects over the next couple of months (call me!). I’ll also be getting back into the swing of writing (gelato recipe coming up!).

In the meantime, I thought I’d share photos of a few of my final projects. Enjoy!


My wedding cake project, which had a Barcelona theme for a wedding in Park Guell, Barcelona


Flower close up


My final sugar showpiece, which had to showcase espresso bon bons, a classic genoise cake (in this case covered in green marzipan) and palmiers


My final presentation, awaiting my judge Zac Young, contestant on Top Chef Just Desserts

Oh, and I had to throw this one in here. One of many memories from the best meal of my life.


One of several sweet endings to our celebration dinner at Daniel – exquisite


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Cakes I

Rum soaked genoise cake filled with raspberry jam and topped with an Italian meringue buttercream and tasted sliced almonds

Cakes – yum. The dessert that my friends and family tend to get the most excited about. The possibilities for flavors, fillings, finishes and decorations are endless. We are just now finishing Cakes II, the second installment of our cakes unit, which builds upon the basic techniques (layering, finishing, etc.) that we learned during Cakes I.  The above cake was the very first one we made and the project we were required to create for our Cakes I practical exam.

Genoise is a stable cake that’s great for layering. One drawback is that it doesn’t tend to have a lot of flavor. Every time we make a genoise, we soak the layers in flavored simple syrup, which prolongs the shelf life of the product (by creating a moisture barrier between the cake and filling) and is a fun way to infuse flavor. You can use virtually anything to flavor the simple syrup (juice, liquor, spirits, wine, etc), but we tend to use a lot of whiskey, rum and kirsch.

Angel food cake

I’m not a huge Angel Food Cake fan, but for those of you sticking to New Year’s resolutions (I’m not even going to pretend that I am), this is a naturally fat free cake. That’s right, there isn’t even one drop of butter. Angel Food Cake slices are great with fresh berries and whipped cream – a perfect and light summer dessert.

Marjolaine cake

The Marjolaine cake was one of my favorites. This picture doesn’t do it justice. So much work goes into the creation of this product. I love it because it combines some of my favorite things – chocolate cake, dacquoise, chocolate ganache, coffee buttercream, whipped cream and more. It’s a small cake, but retails for quite a hefty price tag due to the cost of ingredients and labor.

Charlotte russe cake

Not only is the Charlotte Russe cake elegant, it’s delicious. I happened to have this while my parents were visiting for the weekend. I was surprised to see that my father and husband, who are not easily impressed by fruit forward desserts, loved the pear mousse this cake is filled with. It didn’t last long.

Dacquoise au cafe

I love dacquoise cake, especially when it’s draped in coffee buttercream (my favorite from Tartine in NYC is actually pictured in the above header of this blog). There is just something about that combination of the crunchy, nutty meringue mixed with silky mocha buttercream and toasted nuts that makes me happy.

Carrot cake

I’m a big fan of Carrot Cake and have tried dozens of different recipes over the years. This one is a keeper. In fact, you will definitely want to try this one at home (I’ll post it soon!). This cake landed in my husband’s office, where it received rave reviews. The marzipan carrots were a fun touch, and tasted great too!

Dark and white chocolate mousse cake with whipped cream and chocolate curls

While the dark and white chocolate mousse in this cake were fantastic, this project was really about making a Pate a Cornet, which is a paste that you place over a stencil to create a design on the exterior of a cake. It’s an impressive technique.  The center of the cake can be filled with anything your heart desires.

Dobos torte

The Dobos Torte was a fun project. The top layer is actually a cake layer that was topped with a thin layer of light caramel and then cut into equal pieces before the caramel hardened. It looks special and was a very easy decoration.

There are so many more projects from Cakes II to tell you about!

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A flaky pain au chocolat

I know I’ve been a bit absent – sorry about that! Between the holidays, work and school, my blogging schedule moved to the back burner in late 2011. But I’m ready to get back on track in 2012. I thought I’d offer a summary of the units I’ve covered in school since my last Pastry Bites update. Let’s start with Viennoiserie, which are yeast-based baked goods.

Challah loaf

In this unit, we experimented with so many different types of bread and pastries, focused on the importance of fresh yeast and learned that a proof box can either be your best friend (there is no substitute for a beautifully risen danish or croissant) or your worst enemy (it’s a sad day when the proof box doesn’t perform).

Cinnamon danish with whiskey soaked raisins

Viennoiserie items ranged from Cinnamon Swirl Bread and Fruit Cake to Brioche, Croissant and Scones. We baked so many things in this unit. My sweets carrier was stocked every night!

Brioche a tete

I think my favorite creations during this unit were the Croissants and Danish. They are so worth the effort (and the calories!).

Sally Lunn rolls

Tom recently enjoyed a Sally Lunn Roll that I froze during this unit and thinks they are fantastic. It’s a great bun and nice accompaniment to nearly any meal.

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Tarte tatin

Puff pastry was a fantastic unit.  It’s the base for so many great desserts, from croissants and tarts to napoleons and palmiers.  The method for creating puff pastry, or Pate Feuilletee , isn’t particularly difficult, but it is time consuming and the dough is very sensitive to temperature.  Your working environment needs to be just right.  I’m a little nervous to replicate these recipes in my own kitchen, but that won’t stop me from trying!

Classic napoleon

We learned three different types of puff pastry – quick, classic and inverse – and the proper use for each type of dough. We had a lot of fun with recipes in this unit, and I was really excited to build on this foundation for our next unit which would finally include croissants.

Pineapple pistachio tart and napoleon cake

Pears in a cage

Puff pastry is about creating hundreds of layers of butter and dough, by combining the dough and butter, rolling them together, folding the package in a certain way, rolling it out again, folding it again, etc. etc.  It takes a while, but the end product is well worth the effort.

Fresh fruit tart

This photo offers a great view of the butter and dough layers.  It was so crispy and flaky.  Yum…

Conversations - almond tartlets

These tartlets were quite weird looking (they bake up so high!) but tasted fantastic!  They were filled with almond cream and so delicious.

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Linzer torte

Linzer torte

Wow, unit 1 is over already! I can’t believe I’m already 6 weeks into school.  Time is flying.

The grand finale of our Tarts & Cookies unit is the Linzer Torte, made with Pate a Linzer (linzer dough).  You may have had, or baked, linzer cookies around the holidays.  This torte is essentially one big version of that.

The Linzer Torte is an Austrian dessert that’s delicious and relatively easy to make.  The most challenging component of it, is how quickly the linzer dough softens.  You really need to work quickly to get your tart shell lined.  In Austria, it’s traditional to fill this with a red currant compote, however, Americans seem to prefer raspberries, which is what we used to make this filling.

This project was also our introduction to making a lattice top, which I’ve done before.  I did, however, learn that the technique I have been referring to as a lattice crust is actually a basket weave.  Both look great.

You can also use this dough, and the leftover compote to make those linzer cookies you love so much!

Au revoir Tarts & Cookies!  I’m sure I’ll see you again soon…

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Nutty tart fun

Tarte aux noix

I’m finding out that European desserts are super nutty, which I love. Europeans use nuts as garnishes, fillings, flours and crusts. At school, we work with all types of nuts, but mostly focus on hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios. It’s interesting to learn about the differences in flavor and texture of each nut.

This Tarte aux Noix, or Nut Tart, is a great example of how well different nut flavors can be combined to complement one another. It starts with a thin layer of baker’s jam, followed by sliced almonds and then topped with a gluten-free nut cake made of hazelnut flour and almond cream.

Tarte aux noix

This tart is traditionally finished with a powdered sugar topping. We had the opportunity to play with stencils in this class and since I had an weekend trip to an upstate apple orchard on my mind, I had a little fun with this one.

This tart bakes perfectly and works well for breakfast, dessert or as afternoon treat with coffee or tea. In class we also had the opportunity to taste just the filling, baked in a mini loaf pound as a small pound cake, and it was fabulous. Perfect for any gluten-free folks!

Tarte aux noix caramel

In the same nut family is the Tarte aux Noix Caramel, or the Caramel Nut Tart. This might be my favorite tart so far. It’s a tart dough filled with freshly-made walnut caramel and topped with almond cream, then baked and finished with half powdered sugar and half nappage (apricot glaze).

I brought half of this tart to work and by 11 am, there wasn’t so much as a crumb left. I guess that’s a good sign!

Inner workings of the tarte aux noix caramel

Now, this isn’t exactly a nut tart, but it does have nutmeg in it, so here is a Quiche Lorraine I recently made in class.  I’m not a huge quiche fan, but this was pretty yummy, and these little tartelettes are the perfect size for breakfast! It’s cream, milk, eggs, bacon, salt, pepper and nutmeg. That’s it, just a simple baked custard!

Quiche lorraine

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Chocolate Bavarian Tart

Now, we’re getting to the good stuff – chocolate!  I knew these chocolate tarts were coming and I’m sure glad they’re here.  This first tart is a Chocolate Bavarian Tart, which is a creme anglaise based tart, mixed with chocolate and topped with whipped cream rosettes – yum!  It’s basically, the fancy European version of Chocolate Pudding Pie.

This was also my first time working with gelatin, which we used to pull the pudding together.  It was very easy to work with and the chocolate filling was silky smooth and delicious.

The below Chocolate Ganache Tart is probably the easiest tart we’ve made.  You pre-bake, or “blind bake” the shell, make a simple chocolate ganache with cream and chocolate and pour it into the shell.  After giving the ganache some time to set, we played around with piping white chocolate designs.  This tart would also be great topped with chocolate shavings, whipped cream rosettes, nuts, fresh berries, candied fruit – the sky is the limit!

Chocolate ganache tart

FCI offers a Cake Design course that purely focuses on intricate cake design and decor techniques.  I was luckily enough to get a peek at their recent wedding cake projects, which are parked outside of my classroom – WOW!  Really inspiring.

No, I did not make any of these cakes, but I wish I did!

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