Cooking School Journal: Puff Pastry II… II

Puff Pastry II… II

After destroying my car, I got the kids to camp in one piece. I headed straight for class and was lucky to arrive at the same time as Chef. My pastry was looking pretty good (coffee grounds, temp and all).

I was nervous anyway. I was joining the Wednesday class and a group of strangers. This is Bigfoot’s regular class so I was relieved when I walked in and she wasn’t there. But everyone else was a stranger.

After a demo of cinnamon rolls by a student (apparently a demo is something we will all have to do at some point), it was time to break into groups. She divided the class in half. I was with a group that, in hindsight, was not the one I wanted to be in. They were a bunch of bitchy ladies. I was given several rolls of the eyes, ignored more than once and even walked up twice to see someone catch a glimpse of me and say “shhhh.” Nice.

The other group was across the room eviscerating fish. They stood in a circle around the prep tables laughing, smiling and telling each other how great they were. The other group was way better.

But, I just donned my invisible cloak, the one that reads, “F*ck off” in 36-point Helvetica (invisibly, unfortunately)and kept cooking.

My first job was to roll out my pastry dough. I was the only one smart enough to bring one that was not frozen. Everyone else had to use store-bought because they brought theirs in frozen solid. Idiots. Didn’t they realize that all you had to do was refrigerate it,  then dump coffee all over it, crash your car into the garage door, chase your dog all over town while leaving the pastry to defrost in the car?

I was nervous rolling it out with the TA watching. She helped me divide it into two and roll them out 1/2 (or maybe one) inch thick and gingerly place them on two parchment-lined baking sheets.  When I was done, she told me to write my name on the parchment so that we would know that it was mine.

“I’m not so sure that I want to know which is mine.”

She looked at my pastry and with a positive nod in my direction said, “Oh. I think you do.”

Hmmm. Maybe it’s good. Must be the coffee.

We made chicken pot pies. After boning and chopping whole birds, we browned them then removed them from the pan. We deglazed with port, then added wild mushrooms, shallots and cream. It boiled and thickened. We added butter and then returned the chicken to the pan. Yum! It tasted wonderful (after adding about 17,000 tablespoons of salt and a little pepper). Its only drawback for me is that port plus cream yields a sauce that much resembles Pepto Bismol in color and texture. Maybe Madeira, sherry, or white wine would have worked better? I don’t know.

Then we put the mixture into glass bowls. We painted the edges of the bowls with egg wash and covered them with circles of puff pastry sealing it against the wash. They puffed beautifully in the hot oven. I was starving and more than happy to pierce the hot, flaky puff, let the steam escape and then dig into the chicken.


The next dish was filet of trout en croute. You place a filet of seasoned trout in the center of your pastry, top with scallop mousse, add another layer of trout and then fold the pastry over to seal. After that the fun begins. We trimmed and decorated our pastry to resemble a fish, scoring with the dull side of the knife to make gills and using the large end of a pastry tip to make the scales. The peppercorn eye was the best part. When it was done it looked just like the star of finding Nemo (no, not Albert Brooks, the animated fish). Wash with egg and then put it back in the fridge to chill again. Those butter layers have to stay cold or they just won’t puff.

In the meantime, Chef made Palmieres and sweet pastry twists which sadly went uneaten because we were all still craving an insulin shot from the samples of cinnamon rolls.

The ovens were packed with fish that weren’t puffing. Some were as big as Marlins, others lay in the oven like limp goldfish. Mine was still in the fridge.

Time was getting short. They had a teen cooking class coming in at 2:30pm– just a mere half hour away. We all began furiously cleaning the kitchen and watching anxiously at the clock and the fish. At 2:27 with the room clean and my Nemo in the fridge I asked Chef if I could take mine home to bake. She reluctantly agreed.

When I came home, I was so proud of the little guy. But, I was so full and knew that I couldn’t eat it. The calories in the cinnamon roll alone meant that I couldn’t eat for the next three days, not to mention pot pie!  Joe would rather eat our poodle than trout, and the girls won’t eat anything that’s not made out of semolina flour and doused in reconstituted powdered cheese. They were all getting ready to head off to the Brownie Troop 471 pool party anyway.

Ding! Lightbulb. I’ll give it to the Brownie moms. They’ll eat anything.

I whipped up a beurre blanc sauce with lemon and tarragon and put my fishy into the oven. My name still sat on the parchment. Please God! Let this fish puff!

And, it did. It was glorious. I placed it on a platter, encircled by beurre blanc with a few sprigs of tarragon from the garden as garnish. Joe and the big girls raced out the door. I gave Hannah leftover mac and cheese.

When he came home he said that they all loved it.

“Did you slice it on the bias?”


“But was it enough of a bias that the people who got the head and the tail had fish in theirs and not just a plate of crust?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“How was the sauce?”


“No, did they say anything about the sauce itself?”

“Umm. Yeah. I think so. I’m not… well, I think so.”

“They didn’t like it. ”

“Jules. It was good. They all liked it.”

“Even Emily?”

“Who’s Emily?”

“Emma’s mom. Emily! You know the one you volunteered with in art class all of last year.”

“Jules… everyone liked it. It was really great.”

“Did you accidentally leave it in the car and never serve it?”

“I’m going to bed.”

Oh thank God. It was good.