Workworkworksleeptraintubebusworkworkworkbeerworktubesleep…Or the one about the Commis and a pictoral week at work.

You’ve probably guessed by now that I try to be as diplomatic as possible. I don’t like confrontation or getting in the way or expressing emotions or being a bother. I want to pastry chef, eat croissants and drink coffee, walk in the sun and stare a pretty buildings, and read funny books by sad, dead people. I’m not complicated. I don’t like drama.

You’ve also probably guessed that my job is not especially…hard. At all. C was run off her feet when she was at the Brasserie because the Gods decided to overwhelm London with people January through May. And as the man who I suppose is the Food and Beverage Manager at the Hotel said yesterday during a very boring second-quarter meeting, AND THEN JUNE HAPPENED.

What happened in June? The Jubilee happened. And the Olympics happens in 3 weeks FOUR DAYS (I obviously wrote this a while ago). So why are there no people?


Sorbet trio: Apple, Passion Fruit, Raspberry.

The Stats on what the Olympics does to cities that host it should be enough to deter anyone from the bid in the first place. The Olympics cost an insane amount of money and everyone stays the hell away because they don’t want to be bombed or try to maneuver through busy streets or overloaded transit, and they certainly don’t want to pay inflated prices on everything. It usually takes about 20 years for a city to pay back the Olympic debt. This is why I think Olympic Island should happen. So the games stop destroying the great cities of the world.

But this isn’t a rant about sporting events.

The hotel is dead. The resto is dead. I am bored out of my mind. Normally, quiet bouts are when you work on developing new dishes, but the reality is that I am responsible for spending in my section and I certainly don’t want to throw someone elses money away just because I want to play around.

On top of this, I still have a commis. Lord knows why.

Diplomacy, I must exercise diplomacy…

Raspberry Sorbet with it’s Coulis and Sorbet. Again with the raspberry, sigh. Good height, though…

The Commis Situation is tough. Or rather just frustrating. I never work with the commis because they are cutting down on hours. Now, I feel like because I run the section and I moved across the sea and Im the one with the experience and I don’t live with my well-to-do parents that I deserve to work as much as possible, but maybe I’m just being selfish.

Commis attended culinary school.

What they taught Commis, I have not yet figured out.

The problem is less that he doesn’t know how to make anything and I have to remake things when I get in at 3pm. The problem is not so much that he fell in the walk-in fridge and dislocated his knee and cannot really walk or stand so anyone working with him must fetch everything for him, and he cannot essentially do all the things commis are meant to do (clean fridges, run around for the Chef de Partie – this guy – organize the freezer).

My most recent special: White Chocolate custard, Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote, Crunchie White Chocolate, & Lemon Mousse “Fool”.

The problem is not especially that because he is on during the day, the commis is the one that talks to the chef about everything, and that he knows the executive chef better than I do. It is mostly that, because we don’t work together and I don’t like confrontation, every time he fucks up, I can’t bring myself to tell him. And I certainly can’t show him how to do anything. So he keeps doing things wrong, and I keep fixing them, and the head chef keeps going on about how this kid is a prodigy, and I want my head to explode.

On top of that, everyone takes the piss out of me because I’m “never at work” and they work 5 doubles a week. The irony is in being nicknamed Arthur and running out of money in the first week of the month. This is a worse money-making scheme than deciding to become a chef.

A dish from the Fine Dining leg of the resto (Im in Brasserie, there’s a Michelin Star resto down the hall, both under the same celebrity chef name) — Chocolate Crèmeux, Peanut Mousse, Lime Granité, candied peanuts, and Caramelized Banana.

OMG the Kent Strawberry Tart is still happening and I still hate it with all the emotion I can muster. 

I asked the Commis to come up with a dish that would be easier to plate than the Kent Strawberry Tart that is à la minute make-my-head-explode on saturday when I have to plate 50 of them all alone because COMMIS DOESNT WORK ON WEEKENDS BECAUSE OF HIS KNEE. I asked him because though his execution leaves a great deal to be desired, his ideas are good, thought they need tailoring, and he’s English, so he knows what English people want to eat after they eat roast beef and potatoes.

Eton Mess with Melting Espuma. The melting part isn’t referred to on the Menu.

He came up with Eton Mess, which we have on the menu. He said he didn’t like that one. I explained that he can’t re-do a chef’s dish while the guy is on vacation, and that there is a chain-of-command in kitchens, something I’d been meaning to explain ever since the time he fucked up soufflees for a week and when I finally taught him how to make them, he packed up his things before the lesson was over and went home without saying a word.

Did I mention this was through text?

That’s when I msged the Canadian a foul-mouthed text about how the commis doesn’t understand anything. Except I msged the Commis instead. Whoops.

Worst CdP ever.

Let’s just say things are a little…awkward at work now.

I will deflect by giving you my recipe for a marmalade Bakewell tart I put on the Sunday menu. Apparently, because I didn’t fill it with Cherry or Raspberry jam, I’m not allowed to call it a Bakewell. It is, however, bloody delicious and draws servers and chef whites alike to pastry every Sunday, sniffing around, asking if there will be any leftovers. I highly recommend making the marmalade yourself if you aren’t generally a fan of the spread. It is very simple and the tart is better balanced with the sweet than traditional marmalades. And please, for god’s sake, blanch the oranges slices 5 times. It’s the only way to get rid of the bitterness. When the Head Chef tried it,

How many times did you blanch the oranges?

5, Chef.

I knew it! It just melts in your mouth, you can really TASTE the fifth blanching. 

……Yes, Chef. 

Orange Marmalade Bakewell with Mascarpone Ice Cream — ahhhh the shadows, the kitchen is a terrible place to take photos.


Three Oranges, thinly sliced and blanched 5 times

Sugar equal to half the weight of the oranges

Half a cup of water

Add the water and sugar to the drained pot of blanched oranges and simmer on low heat until skins are translucent. Add more water if the syrup becomes too thick before rind becomes tender. Cut the rinds with scissors or drain and chop with a knife. Combine with syrup, cool, and reserve. Lasts many many weeks.


Apparently, this marvel of the pastry world came about when Pastry Chefs in Italy were inspired by almond-scented gloves a bloke was peddling, though that could be wrong. While C has an extensive Pastry library that likely houses the history of this delight, I am sitting on the couch for the first time in six days so I will not be venturing six feet to the bookshelf.

I’ve seen recipes that are equal parts egg, almond flour, sugar, and butter, with a touch of flour thrown in to help stabilize it all, but considering how sweet the marmalade is (because it isn’t truly marmalade I must admit), I found pairing it with an easy frangipan was too sweet and too buttery. I have toyed with toasting the almond meal, but have yet to do so.

250g Butter

180g Almond flour

250g Sugar

5 Eggs

50g Flour

Whip soft butter with sugar until light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time until incorporated, then add almond flour, then finish by quickly folding in flour until just mixed. Pipe into pre-lined tart tins on top of marmalade and bake immediately for 18 or so minutes at 350, or reserve for later. This also serves as a nice sponge for entremets.

I really love this tart, though I will be changing the marmalade to Cherry Compote and the ice cream to Marzipan from Mascarpone. The clients aren’t biting at the Almond Tart description, so I guess I have to try them with a “real” Bakewell. The English are so fickle about their traditional food.

And considering for staff we’ve had the English Classic Chip Butty (French fries between buttered, factory made, white bread — I didn’t eat that day), Jacket Potatoes which consisted of taking a baked potato, cutting it open, and pouring beans into the wound,  and the Fried Sausage (above) from which I suffered 6 hours of indigestion, I can’t say I really have a great deal of faith in their taste. Just sayin’.


14. Pie vs. Tart… Dark Chocolate Ganache and Salted Caramel Tart (pg. 261)

I wasn’t going to make anything for the blog this weekend because I posted my “this is why pastry chefs cry” rant, and because I decided to sandwich mint chocolate ice cream between macarons, which is never a bad idea.

But then I was thinking about pies, which led me to tarts, so I flipped through the book and found the Dark Chocolate Ganache and Salted Caramel Tart.  In it’s most basic form (which is not how it is presented in publication, but that’s not the point), this is super basic and totally delicious.  And if you bake frequently, you probably have all the ingredients for this in your cupboard.

So I decided to make this simple, elegant tart as a calorically dense high-five for my pie-a-versary.  This week, I will have made 5000 pies.  I dunno how you feel about pie, but I think that is a lot of pie.

I’ve often shown up at events, tart in hand, and people have said things like “Wow, that’s a great pie!”

And I smile and nod and try not to grit through my teeth in a completely rude way “Thanks,” smile, “it’s a tart.” Keep smiling. SMILING.

So what’s the difference?

In the most basic way, a pie is made in a pie dish — it has sides that are probably at 45 degrees and range between 2 and 5 inches.  Sometimes they have tops (double crust) or lattice work.  Their dough is often crimped along the edge by hand (using the thumb and forefingers), sometimes they are crimped with a fork, or a twisted braid, or edged with dough cut into shapes like leaves.  They are usually filled with a fruit, sugar, and cornstarch, but can have cream or custard fillings.  They are more often than not described as “rustic” with their flaky pastry and are very, intensely American.

Everything about a tart is more refined, reduced.  The sides are often short, only 1 or 2 inches, either 75 or 90 degree angles.  Rarely is the rich filling baked in a tart, unless it is lined with almond cream, which is used mostly to keep the cream filling from soggifying the crust or is a baked custard enrobing thinly sliced and perfectly lined up apples or pears.  If the sides are fluted, it’s usually because it was made in a fluted tart tin — not fluting by hand (and using a shortcrust, which is more like a butter cookie with little flake) keeps the crusts clean and perfect.  If there are berries, they are more often fresh and given a sheen of neutral glaze.  Tarts never have tops.


In December I was going to give a class on making ice cream.  But then the lovely ladies running the program suggested that perhaps the class size would be hindered due to it being…December.  Well.  I can’t say I consume a great deal of ice cream, but if it’s offered to me in December I’m just as likely to accept as in July.  In fact, maybe more so.  I don’t care for melted ice cream.  If I did, I’d just drink crème anglaise.  Anyway, I’m now doing it in July.  This is not something I can do in July:

The only time you will ever hear me cheering about -20 temperatures is when I want to make two batches of ice cream in a twelve hour period.  My freezer cannot accommodate such volume.  My balcony is the only reason my ice cream production spikes December through March.

Since my new rules for this project dictate I need only technically make a recipe once, and not over and over again as many times as various recipes appear throughout the book, I am declaring right now that, unless I feel it incredibly necessary for some kind of structural integrity, I am not making Crème Fraîche quenelles again.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike them.  I very much dislike either taking four days to make crème fraîche or buying a tub of it.  The stuff will turn before I can use it for another recipe (I can only photograph on the weekend due to my work hours and a north-facing apartment), and then I slowly melt into the Sneaky Hate Spiral no one wants to witness.

For years I’ve been drooling over a book written by Frédéric Bau called Au Coeur des Saveurs.  It is out of print.  For some reason I haven’t minded throwing down a couple hundred for other books, but this one I’ve always put off even though I have it on very good interweb researching authority that it is most excellent.  Maybe I don’t want to believe that plated desserts is my thing.  Everyone has one, and in pastry you develop a strength in one of four things: Cakes, Confections, Plated Desserts, or Viennoiserie.  Cakes I can do well, desserts I <3.  Keep in mind I make pie for moneys, not dessert.

Blahblahblah. Anyway, he edited a new book cause now he’s the big toque at Valrhona’s Grande École. And this ice cream is in it.  I thought there was nothing it could be more suited for but this tart.

Cocoa Nib Ice Cream – Adapted from Cooking with Chocolate

400g Milk

225g Cream

2 Yolks

90g Sugar

2 tsp Honey

85g Cocoa Nibs

Toast nibs in 300 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Bring dairy and honey to boil, temper blanchired sugar and yolks, cook to 84 degrees, add nibs and give ‘er a good stir, transfer to a bowl and cool down over ice, on your balcony in -20, or lacking those pour into a large cake pan and stick it in your freezer.  Mature overnight in fridge.  Strain. Churn. I threw about 20g of nibs back into the ice cream.  NOMNOMNOM. Makes a little over a pint.

No wait! Don’t eat it.  Make something nice for it.  The bitter, smokey flavour of the cocoa nibs needs nice things:

I used a GF version of Valrhona’s Almond Shortcrust.  At the bistro I had to make hundreds of individual tarts.  The sucrée dough was easy to work with speed-wise, but very finicky when it came to baking.  Underbaked meant the sides would collapse or absorb too much curd or mousse, baked as you would a full sized tart and you couldn’t cut through them with a fork (so embarrassing), so just ever so slightly underbaked was perfect. When you’re baking in a demo room or in the basement because your oven is full of drying pancetta, this was difficult to achieve.  I am still ashamed of some of the tart shells I sent out.  This almond shortcrust is phenomenal — I ate the tart with my preferred dessert utensil (spoon) without issue.  It’s a pain to fonçage, but totally worth the effort.

Valrhona’s Almond Shortcrust (GF) — This recipe is practically identical to that in MC

120g soft butter

1 egg

90g icing sugar

15g Almond Flour (toast first for deeper flavour)

60g sweet white sorghum flour (or pastry flour)

15g potato starch / 15g potato flour / 150g brown rice flour (or 180g pastry flour)

Combine all but the second scaling of flour, the add flour in two additions until just mixed.  Roll between saran wrap or acetate (don’t use parchment! I tried, it sticks like crazy) and chill for 30 min.  Dough should be cool but pliable.

The only adjustment I made to the ganache (which is 42% chocolate, 53% cream, 5% butter) was to add 2 tbsp of Honey and 3/4 tbsp Espresso Powder to the cream.  Awesome.  Lick the bowl awesome, and I don’t generally do that.  It turned out well.  I think this would be a hit with all the customers I don’t have (my cafè friends will be over the moon methinks), but this ice cream is perhaps better then the time I churned a bunch of left over crème brulée.  And you know how much I like  to eat burned things.

I finished it off with the gorgeous Coffee Bean Brittle à la BraveTart, cause I think I’m in love with her blog.

Random ice cream macwich!

…1. Hey there, and the Apple Millefeuille and Bavarois Tart (pg.259)

It is 9 am on Sunday.  The tart is done, photographed and in the fridge awaiting delivery.    I am eagerly awaiting my brewing coffee.  I would be perched before the machine, salivating and humming, but instead of degrading myself so early on such a loverly fall day, I have forced myself to sit here and type. Words. That enter. My mind.

My galley kitchen — actually, I think it’s a half galley, more of a lower-case L shape than a U or a shape that utilizes both sides of the space.  Here, I offer a panoramic view:


It does not look like this now.  It is more like a pastry explosion, with strips of parchment, pieces of caramelized apple, barvarois trimmings, flakes of sablé.  When I finish all the elements of a cake at 3 am, have a quick nap on the couch, then spring into action in the morning for assembly, I am often too excited (and admittedly rushed, but only because I don’t want to be late, I tend to finish up with many hours to spare) to tidy as I go.  Then I fret over the things I don’t like, but convince myself that I am “insane” and “no-one will notice or care” and I need to live with cake that looks like cake rather than the photoshopped perfections that are so rampant these days.

So my form needs a little work.  That’s why I am here.  As a Canadian, there are more jobs that require a pastry chef to create more…rustic confections.  That is to say, with this tart in mind, that a plain-Jane double-crust apple pie is in greater demand then anything with the words “Bavarian Cream”.  I don’t make the delicate and somewhat more finicky French pastry elements where I work. I make pies. And scones. And cinnamon buns. All kinds of very North American treats.  I enjoy it, it pay the bills (aaand the student loan), but I am terrified of losing my fancy French training.

And that’s how we arrived here, with the Apple Millefeuille.

The “mille” refers to the thousand layers a properly made puff dough will have – the “feuilles” – sheets of which are enrobed with pastry cream or jam, stacked, and glazed with liquid fondant.  Personally I find traditional Millefeuilles a tad too sweet and very messy to eat, which is why it’s somewhat ironic that they are found more often than not at standing-room formal functions.  You can always tell who has indulged by the snow-fall of feuilletée on his or her suit and dress.

Migoya offers a clean alternative to the messy puff.  His millefeuille takes apples, peeled, cored, and sliced, layered with cinnamon and sugar, and slow-baked to soften and caramelize them into a beautiful slab of concentrated apple-hug with the burnt sienna hue of maple syrup. He places this a-top a Bavarian cream, which is nestled in a simple French crust.

Here, I have layered the apples (15) with sprinklings of cinnamon and brown sugar (3/4 C), 4 layers.  Not gonna lie, I had to read the instructions several times to figure out how they were supposed to be layered, but I still didn’t do it right.  In my defense, I was in a hurry as I just needed to get the apples pressing in the fridge so I could continue on with my over-scheduled Friday night, but I know this is a silly stance because in my heart I know a pastry chef should never have to rush.  Fast and efficient is a-okay, but rushing is a no-no.

I tell myself that once the apples have baked down, there will be fewer…gaps.  I line the top with saran, put two baking pans identical to the apple vessel on top, weight it with two 8lb dumbells and set off for my glass of wine and pint of beer because I’ve eaten too many apple trimmings and rogue slices to accommodate dinner.

The apples did not release as much liquid as I thought, and I did not save it like Migoya suggested because I knew it would just plant itself among the other inhabitants of the pastry cemetery in the back of my fridge and I’d start swearing at it come February.  I must reiterate: my professionalism abounds at work, but at home I’m a mess. I’m working on it.

The next day I procrastinate by going to the market, picking up more expensive pastry utilities at the commercial supply shop, and go to the video store to pick up the box-set of Twin Peaks I’ve ordered so I have something awesome and fall-ish to watch while I wait for the apples to bake for 8 hours.

8 HOURS.  Good thing I get home at…6pm?

Apples go in oven – non-convection gas, start at 300, end up reducing to 250 after 4.5 hrs.

Here are the results after 6 hours.

Make Bavarois.

Madagascar Vanilla Bavarois — adapted from The Modern Café’s Tahitian Vanilla Cream

210g 35% Cream

420g Milk

1 vanilla pod or 1T vanilla paste

225g sugar

8 yolks

450g 35% Cream, whipped to soft peaks and chilled

30g Gelatin – I used Knox as my gold-leaf options are limited, and since Knox sets up firmer than gold-leaf, I reduced the original recipe, but I had to change whole recipe based on the quantity I was making, and the quantity of cream I had, which, as it turned out, was not enough. Ha. Ha ha *sigh*.

Have a square (or circular if you wish) pastry mold or ring on a Silpat or lined with saran (or acetate if you’re fancy — I am not, because there are few pastry stores here, and I don’t actually PAY for the internet, so I don’t order things on-line. Yes I’m a luddite. Yes I should go back in time and live happily there. Again, working on it.)

*Cooking a Crème Anglaise*

Place cream and milk in heavy pot, medium heat.  Add over half the sugar and stir to encourage dissolution.  With your yolks in another bowl, add the rest of your sugar and whisk until they’ve lightened in colour.  When your milk simmers, pour a quarter (or so) of the milk into the yolks, whisk briskly, then add the yolks to your pot.  Stir evenly and quickly with a spatula or wooden spoon (no whisking!) until mixture reaches 82 degrees or you can run a line through the mixture when it coats the back of your spoon.

Remove from heat!  Pour through a strainer.  And for god’s sake, if you over cook it, don’t put it in a blender.  If you always strain your Anglaise, it will be fine.  At this point you should ice-bath it to cool it down.

Once cooled, bloom your gelatin in a quarter of a cup of Anglaise, or soak them in water if you are using leaf gelatin (but remember to squeeze the water out) and warm about a cup of Anglaise over a hot-water bath.  Add the bloomed gelatin then stir it in to the reserved Anglaise.  This should now be about 30 degrees, or cooler then body-temp, but not cold.  If this is cold you’ll run the risk of setting the gelatin when you add it to the whipped cream, and then you’ll have lumps.  You’ll cry, and I’ll laugh, as a Chef instructor of mine used to say.

Okay, here goes: Add a bit of the whipped cream to the Anglaise, stir it around, then add the Anglaise to the whipped cream and whip it quickly with a whisk to incorporate everything evenly before the gelatin starts setting.  Pour it into a prepared pan and freeze.  Lick the spoon because you’re at home and no one is watching.

*Tart Dough*

I hesitate to post the recipe here.  See the About section for my reason.  Martha Stewart gives us this Sablée recipe:

225g butter, soft

3/4c. Icing sugar

300g all purpose flour

pinch of salt

Cream butter and sugar till fluffed, sift salt and flour, add on low mixer or by hand until combined.  Wrap and chill well before rolling.

OR you can make it Gluten-Free with this recipe, which I adapted from ________. Not a Sablée technique wise, but the result is very good:

1c Brown Rice flour

1/4c Amaranth

1/4c Millet

1/2c Arrowroot

2 T Cane Sugar

1/4 t salt

2 T Ice Water (I needed more…)

1 Egg

3/4 c Butter – cold

In food processor, combine dry and pulse.  Add cubed butter, pulse until an almond-flour texture.  Add egg. Pulse. Add 1/2 water, pulse.  Add more until it just comes together, but not moist.  Chill before shaping (may be difficult to roll…)

Bake frozen crusts at 325F, but don’t brown them or they will be too difficult to cut with a fork.  I admit, I don’t own pie weights or even dry beans, so silly me, my square shell collapsed on one side. The extra round one I made was fine, but (obviously) shrank too much and my round version was an epic fail as I didn’t have a cutter the right size for the shrunken crust.

I don’t know why I didn’t take amazing photos of this.  Next time, I promise I will photograph disasters.  The square one I salvaged by cutting off the sides, so the end result was more like a giant sugar cookie than a tart, but I don’t actually care, it looked awesome.

I trimmed the frozen cream and unmolded my apples (which I froze after they cooled from 6hrs in the oven — the batch was small and they were the colour I was going for so I didn’t give them the full time) and trimmed them.

I carefully stacked them.  The apples shrank a lot, which I anticipated, and so I put two layers on the cream to a) go with the proportions in the book and b) so the cream doesn’t over-power the star, the slow baked apples.

Woohoo.  I don’t have a problem with this result.  It looks a little shabby, I had to do some cutting and pasting with the apples, but overall I’m happy.  I topped it with dried vanilla pod, tiny heritage apple I sugared and torched, some african mace, and gold maple nuggets because edible gold-leaf is not available.

What does it taste like?

Tart Tatin à la mode, but not sweet in all the right ways.  If I wasn’t giving this away, I would plate it with a smear of caramel pumpkin butter (recipe later if you’re nice) and apple cider reduction.

Up next: The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie…