The classes at Le Cordon Bleu Paris start at 4 different time slots. 8am, 12pm, 3.30pm and 7pm. I usually arrive 30 minutes before and take about 15 minutes to get dressed.
My first official day at school started with a demo class on the “simplest” of recipes. Recipes so simple pastry chefs simply do not bother with making them on their own. Fondant, nappage blond (apricot glaze), praliné, pâte d’amandes (both cooked and raw almond paste), essence de café (coffee extract) to sirop de base (basic syrup). The only one made in house is the basic syrup of course. Who would pay for boiled sugar and water, right? After Chef Cotte (who is extremely funny by the way) finished all the recipes, we were encouraged to try everything. The thing about being a chef is that it is important to try everything. I guess that’s why they say “never trust a skinny chef”! The praliné and almond paste was so delicious, I could eat them for days.
As most people already know, the French are very proud of their language, and for good reason. The language is beautiful. Just listening to it makes me want to learn it so bad. The demo classes at Le Cordon Bleu are taught in French, with an English translator. Most of the intensive students do not speak French, so I am not alone. The English translators speak fluent French and English, so I’m pretty sure we are not shortchanged of any information at all. We are given a recipe file and take notes as the chefs demonstrate the recipes.
We had slight over an hour’s break before our next demo class. I packed some leftover wild rice and mushroom salad from the day before and ate at the atrium.
Our second demo class was all about French shortbread, or sablés. At the Sweets Factory, those were my favourite and I use to sneak all the not so aesthetically pleasing ones into my mouth! There were 4 different kinds of cookies made – Sablés Breton, Nantai Style Sablés, Sablés au Chocolat et Ganache and Diamants. The latter we had to pay close attention to as we would be making them during practical later at 7pm. We got to try all the of the cookies after the demo ended. I think my favourite is a toss up between the Nantai Style Sablés and the Sablés Breton. The shortbreads are all nice and crunchy. And I thought I knew what sablés were. These were the most delicious I’ve ever had. I think the thing I like most about them are that they aren’t too sweet at all. Unlike “American” cookies, they are low in sugar and have a higher butter content. French butter is LOVE! I haven’t gotten the photos taken by our team leaders yet, but I will update the post once I do. Everyone gets an opportunity to be a team leader for a week. Next week is my turn.
I went home feeling really full from the wild rice salad and the munching on sablés. I had planned to exercise but I was so full that I felt so sluggish. Instead, I decided to do a quick yoga session. At 6.20pm, I walked back to school for my first practical.
I was pretty nervous about the first practical. You would think for someone who made so much sablé at the factory, that I would breeze through this, right? NOPE. Firstly, we don’t use mixers. We employ techniques using only our hands. Also, the sablés I’ve made have been rolled and cut out. These are rolled into logs, chilled and then rolled in sugar before slicing. I thought everything was going fine and dandy initially, until I sliced into my dough and realised that I didn’t roll it compact enough, and hence there were tiny cracks or holes in the middle. I tried to fix it, but after baking, there were still little holes as though I pierced them with a skewer in some of them. I was super disappointed. Like really. How could I have messed up the easiest recipe out there?! I got a smiley face rating on all other criteria other than the saleability factor, which I got a neutral face rating. I guess it beats a sad face?
While we were waiting for the sablés to bake, the chef taught us how to make a cornet to pipe chocolate. He made it look so damn easy, but as anyone of us would tell you, it was definitely harder than making the sablés! From patterns and borders to letters, we were all trying our utmost best to replicate what the chef had done. I have always had problems with my cornet folding. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. At least I felt comfortable with the chocolate, having worked quite a bit with it at the factory. Chocolate is so finicky. And because once they cool down and harden, you have a hard time doing any more piping, you’re better off remaking another cornet.
At the end of the day, we are allowed to bring home whatever we make. It was about 9.40pm and the sun was just setting. Because summer. Haha! I brought my diamants home and my mum tried one and exclaimed that she’s never had anything quite as good as these back in Singapore. She thought they were beautiful though I did not. Anyway, as I promised, a photo of my diamants.
I’m off to school later today at 3pm for a demo and practical. I believe we will be making some madeleines today!