Culinary Arts Project



  • Use the egg yolk AND egg white if you want the custard to stand by itself i.e. crème caramel (the egg white’s albumen holds it in place). Otherwise, just use egg yolks.
  • Add a little bit of sugar to your milk to prevent it from scalding.
  • Vanilla extract taste pretty close to using vanilla beans – but customers paying a big price are expecting to see those vanilla seeds in their custards!

Today we learnt about the three types of custards (starch, stirred, baked). A custard is a thickened egg-dairy mix, that is thickened in three main ways: Using flour/cornstarch – as in Crème Patissiére, or by stirring – as in Crème Anglaise, or by baking – as in Crème Caramel. Today we made all three. Yum. I was licking the bowl all day.

Chef John 'carameling' sugar
Chef John ‘carameling’ sugar
Sugar, at different states of caramelization.
Sugar, at different states of caramelization.

First we started with a crème caramel demo by Chef John, who was filling in for Chef Jeff. Chef J showed us how to caramelize sugar, making sure to brush the sides of the bowl with water to prevent crystallizing. The sugar went from slightly yellow to dark brown very quickly. Chef J kept dropping some of the caramel on a plate so we could see the different shades. Nina and I executed pretty well on our crème caramel. We were supposed to eat them at the end of the day, but somewhere in the mayhem, we didn’t. Hopefully tomorrow.

Chef J demo'ing Creme Brulee - ala Le Cirque
Chef J demo’ing Creme Brulee – ala Le Cirque
Chef J sprinkles with sugar prior to torching
Chef J sprinkles with sugar prior to torching

We all paid special attention to the Crème Anglaise demo, as it is on our practical exam. The key here is not to curdle the eggs, while heating and stirring enough so that it thickens to nappant texture (‘like cool motor oil’). Crème Anglaise (Vanilla Cream) is used as a base for many dessert sauces. It tastes like custard, but is still quite runny.

We had 45min for lunch today, which must be a record. Generally it’s between 0 and 15 minutes… so the day was seeming a bit relaxed, but then when we had to make a Bavarian cream and a Pate Sucrée (sweet tart dough), suddenly most of us were all in panic mode. The Bavarian cream was another tricky one temperature wise. It uses gelatin sheets to thicken (I had never seen or heard of a gelatin sheet before today – it’s exactly like what it sounds, a little sheet of clear plastic). We had to warm the custard so that the gelatin melts, but not so high so that the eggs curdled. We also couldn’t cool the custard too far or the gelatin would seize up. It sounds a bit more complicated than it was.

Nina standing guard at the mixer
Nina standing guard at the mixer
Terrence wrapping his Pate Sucree
Terrence wrapping his Pate Sucree

Then the ‘sweet dough panic’ really started, as there was only one tamis (sifter) for the entire class which clogged the production, and we were using one stand-mixer per team which also clogged things up. Suddenly there wasn’t enough time. I got to try out my new digital scale which proved to be very useful – it saves standing in line waiting. I was teamed up with Nina, who will be my teammate for the whole pastry section, and we managed to get through it all, but the day certainly did not end like it started out. Nina made figurine shapes with some of the extra caramel, which we thought we were really going to be able to show off on our crème caramel, but this all got lost in the mix. Somewhere in there as well Chef J demonstrated Crème Brulée – using a welding torch and the recipe that is used at Le Cirque – we’re all going to get copies….cool!

No bread at the bakery class today, so off to write out tomorrow’s recipe….ice cream…yeaaaah!!!!

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