Blog: Life through Rose-Colored Lollipops | The French Pastry School

Blog: Life through Rose-Colored Lollipops

Life through Rose-Colored Lollipops
The French Pastry School |
October 13, 2009

It’s a rainy October day in the city; out the window of the ground floor kitchen, we can see the business men and women running by with umbrellas or newspapers over their heads.  My classmates and I, however, are snuggly buttoned into our crisp, white uniforms perched over our pots of boiling sugar.  Today, Teaching Kitchen One resembles the inside candy shop around the holidays.  It’s one of our first days in the new kitchen—we switched classrooms halfway through the term—and the unfamiliar surroundings lend to the pleasant surrealism of the experience.

My pot is pink, filled with what will soon be lemon-rose lollipops, but I look around to see baby-blue marshmallows, green apple hard candy, white nougat and purple pâte de fruit sparkling with sugar.  While I check the temperature of my syrup, my partner twists amber caramels in shiny wrappers and ties bags of them closed with curled ribbon.  We’re chatting happily and surrounded by all this candy, we can’t help but smile.

Across the room is a tray filled with different Amoretti flavorings, the small glass jars lined up like those in an elegant perfumery.  The recipes in this class aren’t as strict as the traditional cakes and breads; within the boundaries of the candy’s formulas, we can choose to be quite creative with those intriguing flavors.  The now familiar personalities of my classmates shine through in their choices: Megan, an eighteen year-old high school grad, makes raspberry hard candy reminiscent of Jolly Ranchers; Sam recreates the old-fashioned root beer barrels of his past but shows his more adventurous side with his delicate orange-flavored marshmallows; Tasha, an avid follower of molecular gastronomy gets a thrill when she adds the most volatile peppermint extract into her molten red pastilles—a puff of minty steam envelops her face and fills the room with the smell of candy canes.

As soon as the sugar sets into dots, hearts or squares, we pop one into our mouths and take a jar of them around to our classmates, eager to show off our experiments regardless of their outcome.  Raquel forgot to add the violet-lavender extract to her beautiful hard candies, the color of purple stained-glass; my sky blue raspberry candies turned black after I squeezed the bottle of dye too hard; and Marty accidentally let his lollipops set before inserting the sticks—‘Are they technically still pops?’, we wonder.  It doesn’t really matter to us—learning by mistake is one of the best ways— and there is still plenty to enjoy.  When I first try my root beer barrels, they are warm—how many times in my life have I had candy that fresh?  Probably never, I think, and the novelty of it makes me beam.

The rest of the class is giddy as well with a shared sugar high and the kind of childlike energy that comes from enjoying such simple pleasures.  We’ve been transported to grade school and this is show and tell.  Chef John calls us back to ourselves, pleased that we’re sharing but reminding us of the importance of staying on task.   It may be a relatively straight-forward subject but like anything else worth doing well, it requires our full concentration.

Chef John aims to run the classroom as close to a real kitchen as possible—he encourages us with thoughtful advice and peppers his lectures with humorous anecdotes worthy of a professional story-teller, but, ultimately, he demands our undivided attention and efficient work.  “It’s important to have relationships with the people around you,” he explains, “but if you have time to stop working and talk about last night’s party, then you’re showing your employer that you don’t really need to be there at all.  Always be doing something. ‘If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.’”  This advice sticks with me; the satisfaction of a good day’s work can be just as invigorating as a sugar high, if not more so.

After class, in the locker room, we’re all feeling a little sugar sick.  We’re looking at the surprisingly heavy bags of candy with disbelief and wondering how long it will take to consume it all.  When I get home, I pass the treats out to my visiting family and friends and, in doing so, recreate in them the glow that I’ve been feeling all day.