Wednesday, January 27, 2010

CIC Vintner's Dinner: Team Pithivier

a panoramic shot of the dinning room  (click for a larger view)

In January, the Culinary Institute of Charleston hosts a black tie benefit dinner fundraiser for the school called the Vintner's Dinner.   It is attended by nearly 600 people!  This year's theme was "A Night in the Valley" and everything served was of French Influence.

the transformed entrance to the building

a portion of the transformed hallway, complete with a view of the Tallow Dragon

The Chef Hall of Fame changed into a chic lounge area.

The event is completely run and staffed by students at the school as well as Chef instructors and other instructors.  Since this is my first year in school, it was my first experience helping with the event....   Here's a link to the promo video they showed at last year's dinner about all the work that goes into such an event......  It's craaaazy!  But so absolutely unforgettable to be a part of.

I was a member of "Team Pithivier" headed by Chef Jeff Alexander.  We worked exclusively on the plated dessert: A Freshly Baked Traditional French Pithivier with  Apricot Rum Sauce, Mint Emulsion, and French Roast Ice Cream.

an example of the final plate. 

The amount of work that went in to this dessert is absolutely extraordinary.  Really.

A pithivier is composed of homemade puff pastry (made with European Plugra Butter, I must add) that is then cut into squares, egg washed, filled with almond frangipan and a small amount of apricot jam, then toped with a second square of Puff Pastry.  THEN the edges are scalloped, the pithivier is egg washed twice, and a spiral pattern is carved into the top, all before baking.  Pithiviers are traditionally made in a circle shape (to mimic the shape of a wagon wheel) but when you're making 600 desserts, sometimes sacrifices and deviations have to be made.  Whew!

Chef scalloping a pithivier

This project was most definately a group effort.... Many many people helped with the assembly of the pithiviers as well as the pre-scooping of the ice cream and the piping of the chocolate decorations.  I personally helped with the scalloping and the carving of the pithiviers, as well as with piping the chocolate decoration, and then the final plating technique.

piping chocolate decorations

Did I mention we had to pipe 800 of the chocolate decorations instead of just 600?  Just in case we had lots of breakage.....

Making 600 Desserts has it's challenges.....  Are there enough sheet pans?  How will  they be stored?  Is there enough freezer space?  Where will we set up all the pans?  How do we time it correctly so that the pithiver is served warm while the ice cream is still frozen?

Here's how it all went down the afternoon/night of the event.....

Step 1: Pipe 800 chocolate decorations.  At least there was a group of nearly 10 of us to do this....

Busy pipers

trays and trays and trays of finished chocolate decorations

Step 2: Preparing the mint by removing the buds because there was a screw up in ordering and regular mint was ordered instead of strictly "mint buds."  Turn the rest of the mint into the impromptu "mint emulsion" and incorporate that into the plate design.

Step 3: Set out plates on every surface available/imaginable in both bakeshop classrooms.  And then when you're out of space, start stacking....

Step 4: Pipe the Apricot Rum sauce on the plates.

Step 5: Place the Chocolate Wafer on each plate (New thing I learned: Ice Cream will start melting immediately if placed directly on a plate; if placed on top of something {i.e. a chocolate wafer} it will melt more slowly)

Step 6: Arrange 5 drops of mint emulsion around the edges of the plate, but still in the plate cavity.  Yes, only 5.  I was slightly scolded for putting 7 or 8 drops because I didn't realize we were being so specific.

Chef Willson carefully piping mint emulsion

Step 7: Bake the lovingly-made Pithiviers so that they are done in time for service, yet still warm.

some of the baked pithiviers

Pithivier Detail

Step 8: Plate the Pithiviers at a slight angle.

Step 9: Add the mint bud to the vent hole of the Pithivier (where possible, since we didn't have enough)

Step 10 & 11:  Place the French Roast Ice Cream on the chocolate wafer and set the Chocolate Decoration (gently) on the ice cream.  

A classmate adding ice cream to plates

Step 12: Load desserts as quickly as possible on a piece of equipment called a "Queen" (this, I also didn't know before the event).

Step 13: Wheel the Queen, full of precious desserts, to the proper place for the student servers to bring to each person.

Step 14: Let the people enjoy their desserts!

And that is what we did.  Times 600.

It was fun.  It was hard work.  It was great experience.  It was unforgettable. (sorry, it's cheesy but true).

p.s more pictures can be seen on my Flickr


  1. oh i LOVE THIS. I'm calling you tomorrow before I depart. xoxoxo

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