Chocolate Burned & Lessons Learned at Pastry Boot Camp

I learned that lesson the hard way when I poured too-warm chocolate into cream. When the two met—disaster (see photo above!). The chocolate dried too quickly and seized up, creating small beads in a chocolate mousse that was supposed to be smooth. It was my second great blunder of the week, but in the midst of my mistake, Chef Hans found a learning opportunity: The chocolate still had good flavor, so Chef taught me to hide it with berry mousse. Instead of piping the chocolate mousse in the goblet to create a visible chocolate layer, we kept the chocolate centered in the glass with berry mousse piped all around to hide my messy mistake. In the pastry world, things don’t always go according to plan, but you can’t be defeated by a little setback. There’s no crying over spilled milk, and there’s no quitting over seized chocolate!Class was so much fun, and I loved sharing every moment with our little gang of 12, such as seeing our perfectly browned croissants and pains au chocolate come out of the oven. I learned techniques that help me every day in my home kitchen. Yes, it’s great to know that I can make a fabulous dessert or produce a perfect croissant if I have a weekend free to create. But I also learned things that come in handy all the time, like how to see the signs of dough being ready, or how to know whether peaks of egg whites are soft, medium, or stiff. I now know how to gauge temperature, texture, and signs of doneness to help me navigate any recipe. These days, I cut my own vanilla beans instead of using paste. I crack my eggs on the counter instead of the bowl. And whenever I’m folding ingredients, I hear Chef’s voice in my head saying, “12 o’clock, 6 o’clock, give a quarter-turn. 12 o’clock, 6 o’clock, give a quarter-turn,” a method that allows whipped ingredients to be incorporated and retain their fluffiness instead of having the mixture collapse.

Pastry boot camp was a longtime dream that taught me more than I ever expected. Each of CIA’s Boot Camps is a different experience. They have courses at all four of their campuses: New York, California, Texas, and Singapore; find a complete list at the CIA website. There’s no need to be a professional. All you need is the ability to follow a basic recipe, a love of learning, and excitement about all things culinary.

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