Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Last Demo, Final Exam, Graduation (and David Lebovitz!)

Last Thursday and Friday were kind of a blur. We had a final demonstration Thursday morning, followed by the practical final exam in the afternoon. Friday was spent rushing from Versailles to graduation to the airport (curse the malfunctioning RER trains), finally landing in Edinburgh.

The final demonstration was on chocolate bergamot mousse cake. It was the most complicated cake we've seen so far, with a sponge base, two mousses, and an orange almond crunch. Not that anyone was paying much attention, though. We were all madly revising, trying to memorize all ten recipes that we might be tested on that afternoon.

The chef seems to have guessed our intent, because the demonstration only lasted two hours - to give us more time to study, presumably. The cake itself was not too interesting - I would have included orange segments in the bergamot mousse and done away with the chocolate glaze - but we got champagne to go with our cake : )

The practical exam was one of the most memorable events in my life. When I walked into the school, I could feel the nervous excitement in the air. Everyone was reading through their recipes, trying to remember every last step (do we need to butter the dacquoise mold? what's the pipping pattern on the Saint-Honoré?). For the actual exam, we had to draw lots to determine which recipe we actually make.

All I can say is, thank god I didn't get the Saint-Honoré. The memory of second-degree burn was not something I wanted to be reminded of during the exam.

What I actually got was the dacquoise. Aside from a lot of whisking, it was a nice, easy cake. The only hitch was that the kitchen was too hot for the buttercream to hold its shape, but some ice and fast pipping solved the problem. I even made a decent marzipan rose to go on top. I held back my usual recipe-tampering because there was a tasting portion on the exam, so the buttercream had more praline than usual, but otherwise I went by the book. I even used the gold side of the cardboard for once!

The technical portion of the exam involved making a tart pastry and lining a mold with it. I was the most afraid of this section because my crimping has never been good, but I managed to do a passable job on the first try.

Unfortunately there are no pictures. We didn't get to take anything home, and I was too afraid to bring a camera into the exam.

After the practical exam, my friend Edilyn and I rushed to David Lebovitz's book signing. I've been following his blog since college, so it was great finally meeting him in person. I'm now the proud owner of a signed copy of The Perfect Scoop (where I found fantastic recipes like the lemon speculoo ice cream).

(I feel much more like a real food blogger now that I have a picture with David Lebovitz!) 

I spent the first part of Friday at Versailles. I'm glad I visited, but it wasn't the most enjoyable experience for me. I'm not a fan of the superficial château or gardens (or the hordes of tourists), but I did like the chandeliers.

We had to rush back from Versailles in order to attend the graduation ceremony at 4 pm. It felt weird being at the school for one last time, without my uniform or knife kit.  The ceremony itself went by in a blur, I vaguely remember getting my diploma, taking a picture with the token pastry chefs (I was sad that the chefs we worked with the most weren't at the ceremony), and signing the alumni book.

I didn't quite agree with the scores I got on the final exam (10.8/20 for presentation? I liked my presentation!), but that doesn't matter. I would have been okay even if I failed the course. I've learned enough to make this trip worthwhile, and that's what really matters.

Here's a picture of everyone in my practical class with our favorite chef. I miss everyone already.

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