Today at school we had an introduction to meringues. Meringues are very simple in terms of the ingredients – they only consist of egg whites and sugar. The ratio of the two ingredients can change and the temperature of the ingredients can change – depending on how dense and stable of a meringue you want to make. One thing to note, when whipping meringues, fat and soap interfere with a meringue coming together so make sure your equipment is clean and that no yolk (fat) gets into your egg whites! We focused on French meringues today, which when dried out are very crunchy in texture.
We started with a basic meringue, where we whisked a two to one ratio of sugar to egg whites into a stiff peak. Once we made this meringue and piped a few shapes to dry out, we took the remaining meringue and turned it into a Rocher, which means we added flavor and mix-ins. Today, we added a coffee extract and cocoa nibs to the meringue to give it a coffee chocolate taste. Unlike the French meringue, which you dry out (not bake), you bake Rochers. You have to eat them right away because they fall apart, but my class had no problem doing this!
The next Meringue we made was a Japonais, where you take a stiff French meringue and fold in a mixture of sugar, almond flour and all-purpose flour. There are a few shapes you can pipe the Japonais into. For starters, Japonais can be used in a cake, so we piped a circle to fit an 8” cake. We also piped Sponge Buttons, which are small circles finished with granulated sugar that get sandwiched together with raspberry jam. The final shape we worked on is called a Rothchild; it is a long and skinny cookie that is finished with finely chopped raw almonds and gets sandwiched together with chocolate ganache, but the cookie is open – like a clam shell. We only worked on piping and baking these shapes today – tomorrow we will fill them, so stay tuned for better pictures!
After we finished with meringues for the day, we had a tutorial on how to make paper cones. It sounds silly, but it is super hard to be taught and takes a lot of practice. Essentially, we are taking full sheets of parchment paper, cutting them into quarters using our 9” chef knife and then cutting the quarters into triangles that get twisted into small paper cones. We use these cones a lot to pipe small things, such as the raspberry jam that was in the center of the Piped Sablé cookies that we made last week, or to pipe “Happy Birthday” on a dessert plate going out to a guest. The test today was to make a cone that would hold water without leaking. It took me a while to get the technique, but I successfully made a cone that held water! The most challenging part for me was cutting the paper with our knives. I am still scared about cutting myself and you should have seen how awful some of my triangles looked!
Before we went to lunch we made one more petit four called a Diamant. There are several variations that you can make of this cookie, but we learned a vanilla variation and chocolate variation. These cookies were fairly easy to pull together and they are slice and bake… no piping required!
Lunch today was more of a brunch – eggs benedict with a side of green beans and sliced potatoes and onions. Unfortunately for me, I don’t eat eggs that are not cooked all the way through – it is a texture thing I guess, but seeing a yolk run on a plate grosses me out, so one lucky culinary student got two eggs!
After lunch the Chef Instructor for culinary came to our class to teach the pastry students more on knife skills. We diced another onion today and also learned six basic shapes to cut carrots in – from larger rectangle shapes known as baton to tiny julienne slices. It was slow going, but I finally got the hang of it. Again, with my cautions nature the knife freaks me out, so I think I may be the world’s slowest chopper… but my fingers live to see another day!