Sunday, December 27, 2009

Feeding frenzy

The holidays are always full of friends, family and food. I'm not sure why it is, but people always seem to bond over food. It seems to be the common thread that always brings people together; at least it always brings my family together.

That said, I can't seem to stop eating! Perhaps my palate has been devoid of some Californian flavors, or subconsciously I know I'll need to fatten up to deal with a cold January in Paris. Whatever the reason is, life sure has been tasty as of late!

Halibut soft tacos from Orale Mexican Grill. They're SO good, but they were out of scallop tacos that day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

California: good eats and sweet treats

I'm finally back in California. After a delayed flight, pleading with American Airlines personnel, and running to my gate, I finally made it home. Well I guess I can't technically call California home now, since I'm officially homeless here. Paris is home. California is where good food and family are.

Needless to say, I've been baking up a storm and feasting on stuff that I've missed while in Paris. In this case, I'll let the pictures do most of the talking!

My first meal back: a complete American breakfast!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas cakes

This past week marked the last week of class before winter break. I really can't believe that there are only 3 more weeks of class. It's amazing how time really flies. Sometimes I wish the program was 10 months instead of 5, but I feel like we're usually on overdrive mode to cram as much in as possible.

With the holidays upon us, we made a few holiday cakes including a buche noel and holiday wreaths. Though I can't say I'm a fan of the marzipan pine cones, they turned out very pretty.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Les bons bonbons

After working on icecream, I realized that a fistful of warm tempered chocolate really isn't so bad. True, it's messy, but in comparison, I'd much rather have my hands coated in chocolate than stinging from being frozen.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rungis visit

WARNING: This post is not for the faint of heart or squeamish. Be advised that the following includes pictures of dead animals. LOTS of dead animals. You have been warned!

Yesterday morning I found myself waking up early. Really early. 3:30AM early. Why you ask? One word: Rungis. Rungis is the largest wholesale food market in the world. Supposedly if Rungis closed, all of Paris would be devoid of fresh food within 36 hours. Its quite amazing and impressive.

We first hit up the fish hall. It was freezing, but well worth the visit. There were stacks and stacks of Styrofoam containers housing all sorts of seafood on ice.

Bretagne butter cake of death

On Monday I decided to make a cake from the Bretagn region of France called a kouign amann. I guess it can be considered in the viennoiserie category since it's made with leavened dough, but this is not your average croissant... or pain au chocolat. Well maybe a distant cousin of the croissant on steroids chocked full of insane amounts of butter and sugar.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What cauchemars are made of

Sometimes I'm in complete awe of the things we make in class (in a good way) and sometimes I just cant wrap my head around why we're making something. Case in point.. chocolate clowns. Yes, I understand molding chocolate eggs, airbrushing, and modeling marzipan are very important skills to learn. But really, a clown? Are you kidding me? What child in their right mind would want one of these. They're quite creepy if you ask me; and I'm sure they'd give some kid cauchemars (nightmares).

I scream, you scream, we all scream...

...for ice cream, or rather because our fingers are being frozen beyond recognition working with the chilled treat. And trust me, its quite painful removing sheet pan after frozen sheet pan out of the blast chiller, especially if you're someone who is always cold.

A soupçon that soups on

When its cold, I always look towards comfort foods, whether its a steaming bowl of tomato soup or some haphazardly put together fried rice. I guess it reminds me of home, which reminds me of warmth, and in turn warms me up just a little? Okay, not really.

Last week I took advantage of our Thanksgiving dinner amongst friends. Where most people were packing up stuffing and potatoes, I jumped up and laid claim on the chicken carcass. In my defense, I am Asian and we do make the most out of every animal and I knew that the lovely bird would make a wonderful stock! Case in point, my friend and I went to Tang Frères and the Asian grocery store chain sells raw chicken carcasses just for making stock. See! I'm not all that nutters.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pho in Paris

It's getting colder in Paris. Much colder... like 6 degrees celsius cold, which translates to 45 degrees or so for you Americans. As you can imagine, it's quite difficult for a girl born and raised in sunny California to adjust. But I'm trying my best.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Giving Thanks

This is the first Thanksgiving I've spent out of the country. Though I was homesick for some American style gluttony, my fellow classmates and I put together a pretty decent Thanksgiving spread with all the fixins. We had roast chicken (not enough time to roast a turkey with our school schedule), garlic mashed spuds, stuffing, homemade mac n' cheese, salad, and profiteroles for dessert! Not too shabby, if I don't say so myself!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gateaux de voyage and trip to Champagne

Monday we made a bunch of 'gateaux de voyage' translated as travel cakes, as they don't need to be refrigerated. They include fruit cakes, pound cakes, and anything that has high amounts of fat/sugar/alcohol that helps to extend the shelf life of the cake. Chef was even telling us about how some 80 year old fruit cake sold at auction in the UK a few years ago. We were harried to finish them (I think they went off to the restaurant or the freezer) and I didn't get to try the English fruit cake and raspberry cake I made.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Restaurant and entremets

This week we had restaurant service and worked on entremets. It took me a while to figure out exactly what entremets are. According to Miriam Webster's dictionary, etymologically, the word comes from Old French meaning "between food", and is a "dish served in addition to the main course of a meal; especially : dessert". Well what is the difference between an entremet and any other dessert classification such as mignardises, chocolates and sorbets? Well they're pretty much cakes; something you'd buy in a patisserie to serve 8-10 people.

Though winter is upon us, we're still using fresh fruits in our desserts, which is quite nice.

Monday, November 16, 2009


What is a croquembouche you ask? If the French could ever conceive an ornate and unnecessarily complicated pièce montèe, this would be it. Apparently this monstrosity was created by Antoine Careme in the late 1700's. The name comes from the French words 'Croque en bouche' meaning 'crunch in the mouth'. If you ask me, it should be called pain on the fingers, since so many people burned themselves dipping and assembling the cream puffs with molten sugar. It makes for pretty cream puffs though, and I was lucky enough to not maim myself.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chocolate piece

So I'm really excited about this blog post! For about a week we've been working with chocolate. Its messy, its difficult to work with, but in the end I finished my chocolate piece and am very happy with it! I'm not sure what I was going for, but I wanted a cracked earth with things coming out of it. Its sitting atop a granite block with fluid chocolate lines coming out, accented by hearts and 'fire balls'. What do you think?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Restaurant and molded desserts

Wednesday was another night of restaurant service. Aside from the chocolate work, I haven't been too excited about this week's desserts. The day before we quickly threw together some chocolates for service.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chocolate work

Yesterday I realized that its about six weeks until I fly back to the states for the holidays. My brother's 30th birthday is coming up, so I need to beef up my repertoire of cakes and goodies to bake when I get back. I'm even thinking of building him a chocolate sculpture.

This week we're starting on chocolate and creating chocolate sculptures in class. I was initially very apprehensive. Not only is chocolate very temperamental (ha ha inside chocolate joke), and not very forgiving, its a mess to deal with! I have a feeling I'll be doing laundry more frequently, as my chef whites are going to invariably end up brown.

In class we practiced making molds and molded some eggs. I added some oil based coloring to my egg, though it would have shown up a lot better had we been working with white chocolate.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Feeling like a traiteur

Last week was a full week of traiteur, which is catering. True, I did feel sort of like a pastry traitor, pulled from the familiar pastry lab and dropped into a large kitchen, with a new chef (who actually cleaned up after himself... and us!), and lots of odd French catering foods.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Milling around

Last Friday marked our first class field trip. We visited Les Moulins Bourgeois in Verdelot, which is a bit outside Paris. It was the perfect day for a bus ride and visiting the flour mill, since I was quite under the weather... even though it meant being at school at 6:45 AM.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Macarons and petits fours secs

Last week in class we made macarons and petits fours secs. Petits fours secs are dry petits fours, or rather cookies, biscuits, and small cakes that aren't frosted, such as madeleines and financiers. We had a ton of cookies and macarons, and I was able to box some up for a birthday party this weekend.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Green with pain de mie envy

So Chef Maurice knows that I'm obsessed with pain de mie since every time I've had the chance to make some 'special bread', I've opted for it. This week was a bit interesting though as a cuisine course requested some green pain de mie. Yes thats right... green. And no we're not talking about lime or pastel green. We're talking incredible hulk green.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


This past weekend, some gals from class and I decided to rent a car and take a day trip outside of Paris. We stopped by Ikea on our way to Rouen, which was really exciting; I loaded up on some much needed things for the apartment.

Rouen is the historical capital of Normandy. It is well noted for its history of being demolished several times and for being the site where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake. The Notre Dame cathedral of Rouen was also painted several times by Claude Monet.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Moka, roulade, mont noir, and marzipan

Not surprisingly, I've been slacking on the posts. Please bear with me as I'm trying to write a post in the library with a French keyboard. Its almost as painful as a mont blanc, but I digress. So last week we worked on a moka cake, roulade, mont noir, and marzipan. I think my roses don't look half bad.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Restaurant encore

Last Wednesday marked the second night of restaurant service. Once again I got to do pre-desserts. The pre-desserts were mont blanc and a dessert in a glass. However, we didn't have glasses that were small enough and instead made a biscuit sandwich with basil lemon curd, strawberries, and strawberry jelly.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pain de mie for me

One of my favorite breads growing up was Pain de Mie. Interestingly enough, in English there is no word for 'mie'. Mie is the white part of the bread, and as a child I liked the crusts cut off mine. For some reason I thought the 'burnt part' aka crust, was bad for you. Maybe I was onto carcinogens at an early age.

My mom used to go to a nearby French bakery and buy these long square loaves of white bread with thin crusts. They were perfectly square with creamy white insides.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Feuille d'Automne, foret noire, and giverny

Friday we finished up all of the cakes we had been working on throughout the week. At first I figured chef just wanted to have us work on several cakes simultaneously either to torture us, or as an exercise in managing different recipes. Well, Friday came along and I figured it out. We had to do some chocolate work for two of the cakes we were slowly building, and quite frankly it doesn't make much sense to coat the entire lab in chocolate twice a week.

We made a fueille d'automne, which I believe means autumn leaf. Quite fitting, since its starting to get cold and rainy here in Paris. The cake is made up of two layers of baked meringue with a chocolate ganache filling. It is then slathered in chocolate chantilly and covered in chocolate shavings. It was a pain to shave all that chocolate, but fortunately powdered sugar hides all mistakes!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Successful Opera

This week we've been working on cakes. They're called "entremets" here, and I'm not quite sure what that exactly translates too. They have "gateaux de voyage", which are cakes that are suited for traveling, individual sized portions, and entremets that usually serve six to eight people. My French dictionary translates the word as "desserts", but that just seems too vague. Two of the cakes we worked on this week were Succees and Opera.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

First dinner service, millefeuille, and babas

So my blog posting lately feels like its taking a back seat to my social life. Its a good thing though since I am in Paris and should be out and about meeting and mingling instead of glued to my laptop.

Wednesday we were at school for a ridiculously long time: 10AM to 11PM. We did our first restaurant service and it was quite hectic, but with all the tasks divided amongst ten people, it wasn't too bad. The stressful part plating ice cream or something that needed to be served hot when you have a small window of opportunity. The dessert would be ready, but the servers MIA, and with melting ice cream... well you can imagine the mayhem.

Here is a tarte au chocolat with cocoa sorbet atop a tuille on marmalade served with raspberry coulis. The tuille was a pain in the butt to make. I burned myself about six times. There are only about three seconds between when the tuille can come off the baking sheet and when its too hard to mold around a metal tube. Funtimes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another day in boulangerie

We've had three boulangerie days in a row. Aside from it being way too hot in the bread baking lab, I really do enjoy these days since I'm generally bringing home carbs instead of carbs and fat. Plus its a lot easier to justify eating a baguette for dinner than a pastry, at least for me. Today we made brioche, baguettes, and croissants.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cepes for Mary

Its nearing the end of cepe mushroom season here. Cepes are the French name for a variety of mushrooms akin to porcini. Cepes are also known as the "king of mushrooms" or the "poor man's steak" as they are hearty and flavorful. The mushroom season for cepes has been quite long this year and some people have attributed it to the "canicule" aka heat wave that we had in August.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Olé for pain au lait

What a whirly dervish of a weekend. It's been busy, but fun and I'm feeling slightly guilty for not posting lately. Friday we had another boulangerie class and baked off our pain au lait we made last week. We also made some butter croissants and brioche, but they're going to be baked off another day.

Here is the pain au lait prior to baking. We made a lot of fun shapes and animals. However, the proofer made them expand too much and some of my animals lost their eyes!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Saint Honore, bread, and more!

I feel like I'm in a perpetual state of playing catch-up with my blog posts. I think it's because we bake so many things each day and I feel like every pastry needs to have its own blog post to reflect the amount of work that goes into them. But alas, waking up at 5 AM doesn't really lend a lot of energy to that, so instead... I have photos!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Conversations and Paris brest

So today we made conversations and Paris brests, which are two traditional French pastries. The former is made with puff pastry and the latter with choux pastry. I don't know where/how the conversation got its name, perhaps the pastry struck up some lively banter when it was first made? The Paris brest (not breast) is supposed to resemble a wheel, more specifically bike wheel, as there is a yearly cycling race in the town of Brest.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chocolate and coffee eclairs

As I'm typing up this blog post with a cup of tea at hand and a dozen eclairs in the fridge, I know there's no possible way I could even stomach eating one. Though eclairs are held in just as high esteem as croissants when it comes to French pastry, like many things I bake in bulk, there's just no way I can handle more than a taste.

Yes, the soft choux dough full of pastry cream and topped with gooey fondant is beckoning, but thank goodness the calls of temptation fall on deaf ears. Perhaps I'm not so excited about them because I've made choux pastry countless times. From cream puffs, to ice cream filled profiteroles, to a croquembouche, throwing together some choux dough is more than familiar. It's times like these that I wish I could teleport pastries.

When I think of eclairs, they slightly make me nostalgic of the custard filled chocolate bars of my childhood. In a sense, they're a sophisticated donut replacement, but yet... not quite. I also think about the eight dollar atrocity I saw at a bakery in Mountain View, which was about four times the size of my eclair, but filled with whipped cream and strawberries. Oh the horror.

Anyhow, today we made chocolate and coffee eclairs, starting with a simple dough made out of water, butter, sugar, salt, eggs and flour.

The flour is added to the boiling water/butter mixture to create a thick paste, and removed from the heat once it pulls away from the pan. Then eggs are slowly added until the dough is smooth and all eggs are incorporated.

We then piped the dough out using a pastry bag and tip, and popped them in the oven until they came out looking like tiny hot dog buns. Mine weren't completely straight. Sadly, my morning coffee habit is resulting in jittery hands.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pain au chocolat

I have warm memories of pain au chocolat, known as a chocolate croissant to most. My mom used to always buy them for me as a child from the local French bakery. Flaky crust, tender dough, and hidden deep in the folds of pastry was what I savored the most; chocolate. I used to gingerly eat around the edges saving the chocolate for last.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Loads of loaves

I'm loving the loaves.. but loathing the lethargy with lumbering to lab before its light out. Okay, I know a baguette isn't quite a loaf, but I couldn't help throw in a mild alliteration. Today class started at 6:30 AM. That meant getting up at 5:00 AM. Which means that if this blog entry is riddled with spelling/grammar errors and nonsense... you know why.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Puff the magic pastry

This week we learned how to make puff pastry. Normal puff pastry where you envelope butter in flour and roll it out countless times...and inverse pastry. Inverse pastry requires enveloping dough in a mixture primarily made out of butter.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pierre Herme tarte au cafe

The last few days at school, we've been slowly assembling one of Pierre Herme's recipes. At first glance, his coffee tart doesn't seem that impressive. I've never purchased one and now that I can make one, don't intend to. But then again, with all the work that went into it, I doubt I'd make one of these suckers for myself. Perhaps if someone commissioned it, or for a birthday, I'd consider it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

It's tarting to get boring

It's not until you spend over a week making tarts that you realize how many different variations, doughs, fillings, etc you can have. I guess that goes for most desserts, but all I can say is that I'm getting pretty freaking good at rolling out a circle of tart dough.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

No one is perfect...

...except maybe our chef. Today was just one of those days. Our kitchen was 20 degrees Celsius instead of an ideal 16, which made it very difficult to roll out a new tart dough recipe we were trying. All I have to say is sweet dough with creme fraiche = FAIL. One of my classmates was nice enough to let me take a picture of her lemon curd tart; how mine should have looked like if it hadn't died.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

More tarts!

Continuing with the theme of tarts, today we made a pear tart, an almond tart, and a mirabelle tart. All three tarts were lined with a base layer of frangipane, which is a cream filling made out of butter, sugar, almond meal, eggs, flour, rum and vanilla.

The pear tart:

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tarte aux pommes part deux

If practice makes perfect, then repetition is a must-have at Ferrandi. Today we made another tarte aux pommes. This time I painstakingly arranged my apples. I didn't want any more comments about aggressive claw-like slices! Fortunately it came out pretty well and chef said it was "tres bon". Hurrah.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tarte aux pommes

So this week at Ferrandi, the first recipe on our list was tarte aux pommes, an apple tart. The tart consisted of dough, applesauce, and sliced apples. Sounds relatively simple, doesn't it? Well don't be fooled by the french version of an apple pie.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Making every day count

So today was the first day of class. As I eagerly made my way into a room already full of apprehensive and expecting faces, it finally dawned upon me. Holy crap, I'm actually doing this. I have to make every single day count. I won't be doing any justice to what I've worked so hard for, unless I make like a sponge and pull everything I can out of each and every day of this experience.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Off and running again!

So I began this year with a list of New Year resolutions. One of them was to log at least ten miles a week on my Nike+ Sport Band watch. I'm happy to report that I've maintained my resolution for the most part.

Being in Paris has in a way upped the ante on the walking. I'm logging in 16-18 miles a week so far. However, it's all just been a whole lot of walking. Back in the Bay Area, I'd get my ten miles in by running the Stevens Creek trail every other day.

This morning, I got up and decided to go for a run in the Luxembourg gardens. When I was in Paris a few years ago, I could have sworn I never saw anyone running in the gardens. Now the dirt trail around the garden is flooded with Parisians. The funny thing is that they don't really seem to be running. More like a casual jog, which makes my labored canter look somewhat normal.

People watching while running here is a lot more interesting than back home. From the lady who could really use another sports bra (or two or three) to waif like girls who look like they can barely hold themselves up and are desperately searching for some fried chicken to women in full makeup and regalia casually jogging as if afraid of looking 'gauche'. And that's only the women. I have to say the Stevens Creek trail has nothing on the Luxembourg gardens. Jogging in the shade of grand oak trees, surrounded by purple and yellow pansies and dahlias, listening to the gurgling fountains, and seeing Saint Sulpice church looming in the distance, it's pretty easy to forget the trail back home.

The only problem with the gardens is that it's a mile walk from my apartment. I actually contemplated jogging in the Montparnasse cemetery, but I don't know if that's really socially acceptable.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A "bonne marque" and the Monoprix

So yesterday I went with my landlady to her banker to fill out some insurance forms. Though my French is quite limited, especially in the presence of those who jabber on at a mile a minute, I picked up that the banker liked to travel to London to buy clothes.

Apparently there are some "bonnes marques" aka good brands, especially American, that you can find there and not find here. Upon further inquiry, the banker mentioned how he absolutely loves "Ahh-bear-crom-bieee" and how it's so much better than "Hole-eeesst-staire". It took me a minute to realize he was talking about Abercrombie and Holister. I mentioned that I can't stand the brands myself since the stores play music at a deafening volume and reek of perfume. Well I figure it's gotta be someone's cup of tea.

Today I decided to run some errands and check out the Monoprix located near the Montparnasse tower. I figured it would be like a Target with some basic house hold items and a line of clothing, but lo and behold I was wrong!

They have a pretty extensive food section. Imagine if Target and Trader Joes had a love child with a seafood, cheese, and meat section. Exactly. I perused and perused. I even found 'ethnic' food! Japanese, Indian, even Tex-Mex.

Now I bet you're all wondering what Tex-Mex is, at least to the French. Of course there was salsa, chips, and tortillas (yay!), but also lumped into this ethnic category included peanut butter (outrageously priced), popcorn, and marshmallow fluff. How marshmallow fluff is Tex-Mex is beyond me. I went a bit overboard and this is some of what I came home with. Can you figure out what I decided to make?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Random eats in Paris

Believe it or not. I'm getting tired of eating. To be honest, tired of eating out all the time. I can only handle so many restaurants before I'm craving a home cooked meal. Cooking is therapy for me, so naturally I crave it every now and then when I'm feeling down.

I've been craving some foods too from home. Particularly Mexican food and In-n-Out. It is possible to find burgers here, but they're just not the same. Their ground beef is actually of a higher quality... maybe too good to be put in a burger.