Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Eggs, Tea, Chocolate

Contrary to what the light speckling of snow in my garden might suggest, Easter has come, layed its annual batch of chocolate eggs, and gone. This, to me, marks the end of my first 'chocolate season'. Starting in Summer '12  and going through Chocolate Week, Halloween, Christmas, Valentines and finally Easter where chocolate consumption rockets to its final peak before the summer lull.  It has been a great season, full of challenges and I genuinely feel like I have learned a lot about working in a production kitchen, the industry and of course, chocolate. Always chocolate.

So much chocolate

Just before Easter weekend, the winners of the Acadamy of Chocolate awards were announced and amongst the gold medal winners were three of our newly developed ganaches from the season: salted chocolate toffee and crunchy praline, kalamansi lime caramel and passion fruit and rosemary caramel. It's been great seeing these chocolates right the way through from development to chocolate counter to awards! They are all tasty deserving medal winners. Other Rococo winners can be seen here and a full list of acadamy winners here

Away from chocolate, my mind has been rather preoccupied with tea recently. Drinking tea, trying new tea, using tea infusions. My go-to tea day to day tea is black Earl Grey with a slice of lemon if I'm feeling fancy. I've been trying to work these flavours into an edible treat, resulting in a lemon and Earl Grey s'more which I have to say is pretty yummy. I've also been making sweet, smoky lapsang souchong caramel sauce and I'm keen to get started on a popcorn green tea ganache. I had spent a fair amount of time day dreaming about a proper builders tea chocolate truffle until I went into Paul A Young and found that, not only had he pipped me to it, but he has cleverly rolled the truffle in buttery biscuits. Tea and biscuits all in one chocolate, heaven. There are so many teas and ways to use their flavours to enhance or reinvent dishes that I have a feeling this infusing obsession could continue for a while.

  I want s'more.

Tea, biscuits, chocolate.

In other imporant tea based news, kickstarter Good and Proper Tea are now out and about in London town. I'm yet to try it but the brew bar combines a perfect cuppa with another of lifes pleasures: great street food. I've got a few days off work to go and hunt the van down and get myself a proper brew. Hope you're all as excited as I am. 

The end of the season means the start of a summer of planning and developing new ranges and seasonal specials which I am really looking forward to. I also have a few personal projects in the pipeline giving me plenty of blog based ammo.  In the mean time, hope you all had a wonderful Easter and found eggs hiding around every corner. 

Friday, 18 January 2013


On New Years Eve, I was (I hope) jokingly told that my resolution should be to be nicer to my boyfriend. I looked across the room at him, on all fours, dressed as a donkey, with a mexican on his back and thought; naaah. I've got bigger issues at hand. Namely this slowly sinking ship of a blog. 


1. Bake more. I'm worried my kitchen aid might divorce me if it has to put up with coming second to chocolate any longer

2. Blog more. Hardly a challenge since I think my last entry is dated May.

My first resolution is going well. I have been baking every weekend of the new year, even whipping out my all time favourite recipe from college last week - Chef Julie's sticky toffee pudding. Something I should probably share at some point.

However, somehow, it's half way through January and I am yet to blog. But I am making amends right now! I'll keep it brief with a quick summary of a few Rococo highlights and a promise to write again soon(er)

The most common question I get asked is some variation of : ''how much chocolate do you eat'. So, let's clear the air and get it out of the way. I pretty much eat chocolate everyday, who wouldn't when your literally surrounded by the stuff? Enough so that on my days off I get definitely mid afternoon chocolate cravings, not enough that I need to go out and buy new jeans. Having said that, I don't think I ate any chocolate during our Christmas break. Sometimes we all need a break from even the closest of friends.

So life as a chocolatier is just as full of chocolate as you would hope it to be. I can't lie, there have been days when its late and I am on the tube home being given slightly odd looks for the overwhelming smell of cocoa powder I am emitting, which away from a kitchen is a surprisingly hard smell to place.  

Here are a few Rococo based snaps. Including a few slightly unglamorous backgrounds. 

Collection inspired Chocolate afternoon tea (excuse the background)

Getting ghoulish for Halloween

Goats cheese ganache elevenses 

Christmas trees

In other non sweet related news, I have aslo been working my way through Yotam Ottolenghi's latest book Jerusalem which is not only a taste sensation but is also providing perfect repayment for the donkey incident. 

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Claire and the Chocolate Factory

Move over Charlie, there's a new kid in town. Me. That is to say, I have a new job working as the assistant chocolatier for the wonderful Rococo Chocolates. For anyone who hasn't heard of the company, its a London based chocolatiers that has been running a staggering 29 years. It has a distinct slightly quirky style and, most importantly, makes really tasty chocolates. Basically, despite only having done one full days work for the company, I am very excited about working for them. Its great to be part of a small, passionate team working on many exciting projects whilst being completely surrounded by sweets treats at every corner.

Throughout college I was always excited about the chocolate modules, despite the inevitable blur of cocoa covered mess I produced. Now, after a bit of professional grooming,  my whites are definitely a lot more white when they leave the kitchen than ever before and my new chef promises to iron out the last few stubborn messy wrinkles that remain. I'm sure in no time my whites will remain at a level that even Daz couldn't beat.

For now, rest assured that my days will be filled with ganache, marshmallow, caramalised nuts, chocolate cats and the biggest tubs of edible shimmer I have ever seen. Its a tough life..

Thursday, 12 January 2012

New Year, New Post

Its been a long time since I even logged on to my blog, let alone posted. But its a new year, and probably time for a brief update. At the end of this month I will of been working at the Mandarin for 8 months as a real adult person, with a real job, cooking food that people are willing to part with money for.  I've worked on breakfast, room service, afternoon tea and banqueting. Had a promotion from a commis to a demi, started work at 4am, baked cookies for celebrity rappers, burnt myself a horrific amount, learnt about how to work in a professional kitchen: writing lists, delegating jobs and being organised.  Somewhere along the lines, I have started working in a way that doesn't leave a trail of destruction behind me. Although my chef is probably still dreaming of the day he arrives to find me with a clean apron. Basically, amongst all the hard work, I've had a ball. Made friends, learnt new skills and worked on some exciting events. At the risk of sounding smug, its exactly what I hoped it would be.  Thats not to say there haven't been days when I've thrown a hissy fit because somebodies accidentally burnt my scones, or talked my boyfriends ear off about some mislabeled creme brulees. And there was a time, when there were only 3 of us running the Pastry kitchen where I basically lived there. But overall, I am one happy girl.

I have to head to work in an hour, so its probably about time I got up and showered. But in the mean time, here are a few snaps I've sneaked on my phone.

My First afternoon tea function

All the burns

Carved watermelon

Current afternoon tea pastries

Evening Ameneties

Dessert Canapes

Table of treats

I'll try not to leave it so long next time.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Pastry Chef

I've been neglecting my blog a bit lately, trying to get myself ready for the big end of school exam. I handed my portfolio in the other day and have been practising in odds and ends trying to perfect my sable/ brioche/mousse/ganache/etc. The exam is just over a week away and I've started having those classic panic dreams about turning up late/ burning my macarons/ general disasters but hopefully it will be okay on the day. Fingers crossed all round. In light of the end of school rapidly approaching I thought I better start hunting for a job in order that my perfect pastry bubble didnt suddenly burst, leaving me no chioce but to turn to serving up soggy sausage rolls in Greggs. Fortunately, and wonderfully, I have actually managed to land myself a great job! So ladies and gentlemen, I am officially (well soon to start) a Commis Pastry Chef!

Its very surreal that this time last year I was finishing up a degree in social sciences and now my career dreams seem to be unfolding right before my eyes. I'm going to be working at an amazing 5 star luxury hotel in London, The Mandarin Oriental, in the pastry kitchen. The pastry kitchen covers everything from breakfast to room service, afternoon tea to one off trial menus so its an amazing opportunity to keep on training and learning with some fantastic chefs. I had a trail shift last week, had a really great day and managed to keep my mess levels low enough and my enthusiam high enough to land a job! The hotel has two amazing restaurants in it, one is Heston Blumenthals latest venture - Dinner and the other is by Daniel Boulud. Basically the place is crawling with amazing food and chefs.

I'm starting on the 27th June giving me 20 days to finish school, find myself somewhere to live and move! Reminds me a bit of when I started school, at least I already have my knives and shoes this time round..

Monday, 23 May 2011

Afternoon Tea

Last week it was time to host our superior patisserie afternoon tea. Its strange to think it was only a few months ago, back in september, that the prospect of producing it seemed mind-boggling and now its been prepped, baked and eaten! Here are the vital stats. We made everything over 2 days, 14 hours of kitchen time. There were 16 of us in total, working in two teams. We made 21 different types of cakes as well as 3 types of scones and preserves.  There was at least 30 tea sized versions of every cake as well as their larger counterparts. The scones numbered in the 200+. We hosted the event for about 70 people. Okay, so thats the fact and figures out the way, here's a picture before the wordy bit.

Although we did have to work quite hard to get everything ready in time, doing solid seven hour stints in the kitchen was quite enjoyable. Sometimes I think its better to work right through because its not until you have a break that you realise you are tired. Its also much more realistic as to what will be expected of us in the real big bad world once we finish. On the first day we had a briefing, split into groups, allocated jobs and then set about doing all our mis-en-place. By the end of the first day we had pretty much everthing made up ready to be put together and be pretty-fied the next day. I also had a raging appetite for something savory and ate perhaps the largest bowl of pasta that I have ever laid my eyes on.  Thanks very much to bonne bouche and their abmormally large portions, a carb overload was definately required. On the second day we finished everthing off by glazing, piping and decorating with various fruit, chocolate and sugar charms. In our team we also had to make up all the scones so that they were still hot for service. We had a nice little system going and, before we knew it, a kitchen overrun by scones!

Scones as big as your head!

Normally the tea party is done in bigger groups (the last one had 30) and although we got everything done in time, the main rush was getting it all across to the hotel. In the end we had to recruit stray students to grab trays and run them across. Dispite the last minute panic we got everthing set up in time, ready to host. Through the event we served the various tables, explaining what was what and topping up the supplies. My mum, dad and aunt all came so I enjoyed playing the role of chef, hairnet and all.

Overall it was really enjoyable, its nice getting into bed at night feeling both exhausted and excited. I'll try and scan the menu in at some point but here are the last of the few pictures I managed to take. There were also some press about so I might try and scout down some reviews too. 

Under a month left now! 

Monday, 16 May 2011

Bake dreams

Plated desserts are quite literally taking over my life. Not only do I now have to carry around an emergency note pad incase of exam inspiration/desperation, but we have spent the last week in school having demos and practicals entirely based on plated desserts. It all came to a head the other night when I had a very long, rather distressing dream, entirely based on plating up desserts. Thats what 8 months in culinary school will do to a girl. Anyway, I thought I'd share the burden a bit and post some pictures of the plates I made last week. Included is an apple parfait, a bijoux box filled with chocolate brûlée and a lemon ricotta mousse. 

Today, after seven solid hours of prepping for our afternoon tea tomorrow, I felt like I had somewhat neglected my dessert daydreams. I managed to resolve this by buying some shiny new plates ready for my exam and writing this. Heading to bed soon so who knows what recipes may await me.