My life has changed exponentially in the last two weeks!
Why? Because I’ve started pastry school!
And it’s great — actually, better than great — no, better than better than great — it’s amazing! I love it to bits. For the first time in my life, I wake up (at 5:30am) actually excited for class.
This is a big change for me, considering that I normally hate, hate, hate school.
Not that I hate learning — I love to learn, but the standard institution in which education is applied has some serious failings. University was a place in which I never really felt like I fit in or had a passion for (save for a couple Sociology and English classes — but truly enjoying only 4 or 5 out of the 40-something classes you have to take for a BA makes for some frustrating years of your life).
To be honest, I’m always surprised that I even got through university.
But pastry school is totally different! The chef instructors like me and they don’t seem to mind that I’ve got a seriously willful, independent streak.
As one chef often tells me (and I take this as a huge compliment), “Christine, I like your moxie!”
I’m learning all sorts of technical and scientific stuff about baking — because pastry arts, as it’s called, is very theory-intensive.
There’s a ton of reading to do every night — lots of protein names and chemical reactions and temperatures and step-by-step processes to memorize. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up and still have time to get errands and laundry and cooking and blogging done, but that’s cool with me. I’m following my dream!
Speaking of which: no more lazy time — I’m on a strict schedule of early bedtimes and even earlier mornings (and still working on the weekends).
Class starts at 7am on the button and you can not be late. Three lates make one unexcused absence, three unexcused absences make an automatic fail, and the pass/fail cut-off is 70%. Yeesh!
Getting to class, caffeinated, fed, and in uniform (complete with goofy blue hat) hasn’t been a problem so far, but I wonder how I’m going to feel when mornings in Vancouver get ridiculously cold and dark — ask me again how I like busing my butt to school when its -10°C outside. Ha!
Anyways, the school curriculum began in the most basic and most challenging place to start: bread.
Bread only has to have four basic ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt — yet there’s so much that can go wrong! We’ve been learning lots of technical terms for bread-making, like “bulk fermentation” (the first rise), and “deflating” (punching down), and “bench rest” (the second rise), etc., and all about using starters and CO2 production and the gluten window.
I used to be afraid of making bread because mine always tasted good but looked stupid-demented.
Turns out the oven I’ve been using really is the worst possible way to break your bread! Bread and convection ovens? No, no, no! The air whistles rise through the precious bread, prematurely removing gas bubbles that need to expand, which is why my bread never rose right.
See? I didn’t know that two weeks ago.
Which is good, since we’ve already had our first practical test in bread making. The assignment was to develop a recipe and make a bread of our choosing — I chose to make an enriched bread (read: bread with eggs, sugar, and fat) with — you guessed it! — chestnut flour.
I even shaped it like a chestnut and egg-washed the top two-thirds of the bread to make it look like a chestnut. It was super cute and had a sweet, earthy flavour — really tasty first thing in the morning with a bit of butter and tea.
I just wish I had remembered to take a photo before I sliced it open! Derp.
Anyways, my fellow patisseries-in-training seem nice — half of them are fresh out of high school, but everyone has a unique personality.
There are a couple high-strung ones, a couple laid back ones, a couple lazy ones, a couple hardworking ones — the same sort of mix you’ll find anywhere. I’m bonding well with at least one other classmate and my baking partner (we work in pairs), so it’s all good to me.
As one might expect, the class is mostly made up of young women, but there are two guys in the class (who have no complaints about hanging out with a bunch of fine and floury ladies all morning)! Ha!
Tomorrow we’re moving on to viennoiserie — the proper term for croissant, danish, brioche, and other sweet, yeasty delicious bread stuffs.
We did a test run on croissant-making on Friday and mine turned out pretty damned good for a first try — good taste, texture, and I actually didn’t mess up making the lamination (delicate layers of dough and butter)! I’ll get another shot at croissant on Monday, so I’ll see if I can duplicate my lack-of-failure again.
Anyways, for those of you who’re wondering, I’ll still be posting recipes at least once a week. There are no plans to turn my blog into some kind of lame-o diary about pastry school, but recipes will have to be less frequent than before (this makes me sadface, but I’ve got to be smart with my time) and I do want to occasionally post about school adventures, too!
Please look forward the changes around here as Angry Cherry evolves with me! As always, thanks for reading!
PS: Like this dorky photo of me in my uniform? It was taken by my class partner. I just know some of you have always been curious as to what I look like — and I’m definitely going to try to be less camera shy from now on.