Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cooking Class: Part 4 The Finale

Alas, the fun and excitement of watching and learning from a brilliant chef has come to an end. The last session was a whirlwind I can hardly recount. Chef told us to come hungry and we ate nearly everything we made in this plated dessert session.

Once again, the quality of the ingredients used at La Tulipe is just extraordinary. The butter- always the high butterfat Plugra, the milk- organic, the vanilla beans- fat juicy beans from Tahiti, and tonight was no exception. We made a pear sorbet from the most wonderful pear puree and a liquor called Belle de Brillet. It is Brillet Cognac blended with Williams pears. Pear tends to be a fleeting flavor at best. Even the ripest pear seems to fade into an incapturable vapor leaving the suggestion of pear essence more than an intense mouthful. Packing 22 pounds of pears!!! into a 750 ml bottle of Cognac results in an intensity that is astounding. Combine the top notch puree, the liquor and an Italian gelato machine that mixes and freezes quickly so as not to create too large a crystal while not whipping in too much air, and frozen pear perfection is achieved. The photo is the last remaining tablespoons of what I brought home. In the class this was served with the most amazing caramel sauce I've ever seen.

Jessica, who escorted the C&H brown sugar all the way form Oregon for us, and who first introduced us to La Tulipe by (rightly) proclaiming the croissants the best in the land, has lamented that sorbet is a seasonal item at the bakery. Chef Steenman creates chocolate works of art in the cooler months and gelato in the warmer months. I now understand why Jessica is counting down the days to gelato season.

Now, that's not to say that the chocolates aren't also extraordinary. Again, I am overwhelmed at the quality of ingredients, the chocolate, the marzipan and the seemingly limitless talent. Pictured here are some of the chocolates that Chef Steenman makes for Easter. The frog and chick contained foil wrapped eggs and nuts, the pink bunny, duck, and rooster were made of marzipan. What a face on the bunny!! They were so beautiful we almost didn't dare to eat them, but knowing the quality of ingredients involved we had to sample!

The other items we enjoyed on that last day of our class included a strawberry compote with champagne sabayon, chocolate crepes with nectarine and a black pepper creme anglais, apples and raisins with frangipan baked in filo served with creme anglais, and praline beignets with lime basil creme anglais. The unsweetened, yeasty, beer beignet batter against the soft sweet filling was delightful.

Robb and I both enjoyed this experience so thoroughly- thanks to Michael, Kevin and my Dad for the wonderful gift!!


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