Monday, January 18, 2010

Gettin' Judged

My partner and I gettin' judged by a panel 0' chefs!

Today was "Mystery Basket" day in our class. Chef D has done this exercise for only a few of his classes. He will pick an exotic fruit that is in season, let us do a little research, and then we have one day to come up with a plated dessert. It's pretty intense - a fruit that none of us have ever heard of and we're expected to produce something delicious! Well, at this point in our education, it is totally doable, and I was surprised at what our class came up with. This exercise really opened my mind and I'm excited for opportunities like this in the future!!

The "Mystery" Fruit
Chico Sapote. Sapodilla. There are several other names, but this is a fruit with a skin like a potato, a smell like a pumpkin, and a taste like sweet brown sugar and rootbeer. So interesting! It grows in warm climates like Mexico, South America, Florida, and was recently introduced to the Philippines.

The fruit has a yellow-orangish soft flesh and 4-5 large black seeds. The seeds can wreck havoc on your insides if ya eat a few, and they have a small, lethal hook that will catch in your throat. Stay away!

Chico sapote doesn't ripen until it's picked. At that point, it is rock hard! At this state, the fruit is very astringent, and actually contains a gummy substance referred to as chicle. It is from this fruit that chewing gum originated! The Mayans chewed it in private, and as time passed, it became common in Mexico. A Mexican president was chewing on it while waiting passage into the USA at Staten Island in New York when a Thomas Adams noticed it, procured some, and created the first commercially sold chewing gum. Today's chewing gum does not contain any chicle.

Here's the fruit raw. We all got a taste when it first arrived in our bakeshop fresh from Southern Florida.

My partner and I decided on pairing the chico sapote with a variety of flavors and wound up doing Creme Catalana in four flavors. Creme Catalana is Spain's version of creme brulee (and the Catalans claim to be the inventors, but who really knows). We made a base using egg yolks, sugar, heavy cream, the puree of the chico sapote, then paired it with dark chocolate, strawberry, blood orange, and pecans. The strawberry was by far my favorite! We made all the flavorings just subtle enough so that the chico sapote would still be "heard" in the dessert.

I wanted to put the creme in those asian noodle spoons, but I couldn't find any in our dishrooms here at school, so we opted to use mini ramekins. When we tried to brulee the top, the granulated sugar just melted into the creme, leaving us burning the creme black. Undesirable! We decided to go with an invert sugar piece called "bubble sugar" to use as decor instead, a modern twist on the dessert. The green stripe under the ramekins is a banana leaf cut to size.

Chef D thought it would be great to have a panel of chefs "judge" our desserts and give us some criticism. This turned out to be such a wonderful experience! We had the Dean of the baking and pastry department and two of our past chefs (Chef H and Chef S). They were great judges.

Even though their criticism wouldn't affect our grade, it was still nerve-wracking! Would they like it? Hate it? Put it down? I was worried that it would come off as too elementary, but I was stoked that we had put out four different flavor combos that were really interesting.

Finally, it was our turn. We set a dessert in front of each chef and explained what we'd made, then went away for a little bit to let them judge things on their own. Chef D was taking pictures of everything, and his camera died so I let him use mine. He was like a crazy paparazzi! Taking pictures of everyone's desserts and reactions. He is going to send the pictures to the company in Florida where he got the chico sapote, our school newspaper and alumni newsletter. Pretty cool!

Chef S. really getting into his critique about what we could improve on.

The Dean listening and Chef H offering some suggestions.
They loved it!!! The Dean said he immediately wanted something to dip into the creme, like cake, a cookie, or fresh fruit. Chef H said he immediately thought of fondue. They all loved the flavors. Chef S thought we could have added a few more elements to the creme. They offered suggestions of things I hadn't even thought of!

It was a great exercise, and all the guest judges encouraged my partner and I to expand on this idea and take it to the next level! I am definitely keeping this in mind for the future.

1 comment:

Patti MacLeith said...

Bravo, I love it all. Wish I could taste your creation!

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