I believe the last thing I thought as I headed out the door to my HRM 124 Practical Final Exam was, ” I hope it doesn’t involve piping…” The exam was supposed to be three hours long and could be on anything we had made this semester. In fact, someone specifically asked Chef if it would be a recipe we had already worked in class. Answer: yes. Reality: no.
This kind of final exam was new to me. It was a tiered Final, meaning that we would have three choices of production: one worth 100 points (hardest), one worth 90 points (intermediate), and one worth 80 points (easiest, obviously). Here’s the kicker: the final is worth 100 points regardless of which level you choose, so if you choose the 80 point production and ace it you’re still only going to get 80% — a low B. Um, what’s that now?? Who would choose this, you ask? Many people, it turns out. Maybe this kind of exam is common in culinary, but I found it quite odd for several different reasons which I won’t go into because it would be boringly pedagogical. Let’s suffice it to say that I was aiming for the regular ol’ 100 point choice. I mean, I’d have to screw up a decent amount to drop myself to an 80 so let’s hedge those bets and start higher, right? Hence, my desire as I left the house for the Final to NOT involve piping.
I was pretty sure chocolate souffle would find its way onto the hard list — pastry cream, chocolate, and meringue in one dish? That screams Final Exam. But, there isn’t anything in the lab manual I couldn’t produce in three hours. There are, however, plenty of things in the lab manual that I wouldn’t want to produce in 90 minutes, which is what The Powers That Be decided to give us — “More of a challenge,” they giggled. Add a Creme Anglaise side to that Chocolate Souffle and you are looking at a girl who swiftly recalculated the eggs in her basket and decided to point her arrow firmly at the middle. So, it was Pear Frangipane Tart for 90 pts. –and, as it turns out, 90 minutes — thank you very much. Here’s the fun(ny) part: we’d never done a Pear Frangipane Tart in class. Hmmmm. A recipe we hadn’t seen before? Dee-lightful. And typical. And I was off to the races.
The tart actually turned out fine. Since everyone else in my time slot chose the 80-pointer (biscuits and lemon tea bread? Seriously? Come on, people) and were done rather quickly, I had the convection oven all to myself and I got to see the convection oven actually act like a convection oven for the first time all semester and bake something faster than a conventional oven. I would rather have had the deck oven since I really prefer the way it bakes, but it was tied up doing biscuits. So, even though your bottom crust was a little pale while your top crust flirted with burning, Pear Frangipane Tart, you and I rubbed along alright tonight.
And the good news? No piping.