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Basic Pastry Course in Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa (2)

I'm becoming more accustomed to the routine at school. I usually arrive at school 30 minutes before class, place my packed lunch in the student fridge, change into a full uniform, grab my notebook, and start waiting outside the classroom 15 minutes ahead. I can then have a quick chat with classmates and/or preview recipes for the day. After entering the demo classroom, we are all required to silence our phones and place them in the phone bag provided by the school. The class then begins. The chef will then teach. Until 10 minutes before the end, we are asked to retrieve our phones and take 1-2 pictures of the dessert plating and presentation for reference. We also share and taste the dessert. The practical class is then 30 minutes apart. We all return to the locker room, review the written notes, have lunch for a maximum of 10 minutes, double-check our uniforms, gather the knife set and other necessary equipment, and then line up in front of the classroom 5-10 minutes before the practical starts.

The demo class is where I must pay 200% attention, as the chef instructor will only demonstrate the recipe once, along with an explanation behind each step. We are responsible for hand-writing everything in order to duplicate what the chef did, down to every little detail. The details include the exact temperature at different stages of the sugar syrup, the consistency of the cream, how long I have to whisk the egg, why hand-rolling both sides of the rolling pin instead of the middle, how many centimeters cube I have to cut the apple for the compote, and so on. Presentation is crucial, with expectations for an exact plating as in the demo, such as cutting blueberries in halves from side to side, not from top to bottom, the direction of apple slices, and checking for fingerprints on the plate. Marks are deducted for every mistake or inconsistency we make.

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Despite having a lot to write down, we cannot take too many notes, as it would be difficult to read them in the rush of the kitchen. My background in running a small online cakery helps, as I can easily identify the important points without writing unnecessary words on paper. However, I've also discovered my weaknesses in the kitchen. My hands are not strong enough for prolonged whisking, and although kitchen aids are available, whisking cream or egg whites by hand until stiff peaks form is a fundamental skill that any pastry chef should master. Additionally, I find it challenging to peel apples using the provided peeler. While the chef can peel it in 1 minute, it takes me at least 5-6 minutes with tired hands and bruised apples. Although I can use any peeler or another method in my own kitchen, we are only allowed to use what's given during exams by the end of March. So, besides practicing basic desserts, I need to focus more on improving my apple peeling skills. Fortunately, I love apples, so this weekend, I brought the peeler home and started peeling and eating 2 apples per day.

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Over the past two weeks, we've made hotel desserts, including Cream Caramel, Creme Brulee, caramel dome, tulle in different shapes, fruit coulis, success cake, fruit tart, and apple tart. While they are all flavorful, they tend to be a bit too sweet for an Asian like me. I will further investigate whether they can be altered to incorporate less sugar outside the classroom. Some should be fine, but for others, sugar not only provides sweetness but also sufficient moisture and acts as a preservative. I'm also curious about whether I can use floral-infused cream/milk in the recipe since, as you all know, I'm a floral person. Anyway, that's about it at LCB for the past two weeks. Maybe I'll write a bit about my non-school life here next time.

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