Saturday, 27 November 2010

A lovely lady named Charlotte

This week our efforts have been focused around the pleasently named Charlotte cake. This is a cake lined with sponge or bread and then filled, hot or cold with a custard/cream/mousse/puree. The sponge lining in this case is classed as a biscuit because it is cooked spread out flat rather than as a cake. So, for the first time since writing, this week, I quite literally have been whisking it for a biscuit. Who knew the day would come? Other highlight this week have been having a chance to play with all kinds of new things, namely gelatin, but also more chocolate work, using cake rings and glazing. This week I've decided to throw it all into one blog so prepare yourselves to see a whole lot of Charlotte.

On Thursday we were introduced to charlottes number 1 and 2, these consisted of a piped biscuit lining and base, constructed into a cake in a ring and filled with bavarian creams. As any good basic patisserie student will tell you, a bavarian cream is a custard set with gelatin and lightened with whipped cream. The end result is basically a dairy based mousse. In demo the bavarian creams used were chocolate and passion fruit. These were put together in appropriate sponge cases and decorated accordingly and, as expected, beautifully.

Bavarian chocolate charlotte

Passion fruit

Having been introduced, it was time to take things a step further and make a Charlotte. Here is a quick break down of class. Make a chocolate genoise sponge mix, do not over fold. Pipe mixture into firstly a long strip of fingers and secondly a spiral circle. Bake. Make a chocolate custard, add in gelatin and more chocolate whilst hot, leave to cool. Whip up some cream and fold into cooled, setting, custard. Take cooked sponge and line firstly the sides and secondly the base of a cake ring. Fill with mousse and level. Chill in fridge. Make chocolate decorations and put it all together. The only slight problem I had in class was I forgot to weigh down my baking sheet in the oven resulting in it folding in on itself  and half of my sponge being unusable. Fortuately there was enough sponge about to salvage the situation. Making the chocolate decorations was the definate highlight. Good, messy, fun and I was pleased with the resulting flower. 

Moving on to the third Charlotte. This was still a cold cake, but filled this time with a mousse. The key difference from the baravian cream is that the base of a mousse isnt dairy based. This week I have discovered I really love mousse. Its not something I would of usually considered much in life before, but I have definately been missing out. The mousse of the moment was a vibrant blackcurrant, topped off with a shiny blackcurrant glaze and here are the examples from demo.

Practical for this cake was really enjoyable. The cake ring near enough ensures a neat finish, there was plenty of time so no rushing about, the blackcurrant meant that everything was super bright and we were in a warm kitchen away from the cold. If I was to be asked again, I'd have a date with Charlotte every saturday afternoon! The main tricky bit was the lining. To get that striped effect you have to construct a kind of jam- sponge tower, slice it up and squeeze it tight round the edge of the ring. The glaze also requires a bit of accuracy with temperature, and of course there was the dreaded piping but I think that is gradually starting to improve. 

On tasting the blackcurrant Charlotte gets my vote. Which lovely lady does it for you?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Black Forest Stress

On Friday a terrible thing happened. I was woken up by a text message only to find it was 8am. Class starts at 8. I am meant to be up way before 8. But there I was still snuggled up in my nest. A bit of a mad rush panic ensued and I managed to get to class in time to see most of demo but still late enough to get an absence mark. This kind of threw me off balance for the whole day so I dont have much to report to you about black forest gateaux except that it is really quite alcoholic and probably doesnt rate that high in my list of cakes. Nontheless it looked great and it was a good chance to do a bit of chocolate work and cover some more chocolate theory.

Dispite being a very naughty chef, fortunately I was allowed into practical. I think this was because the basis cake recipe was a chocolate version of the genoise so I didnt miss too much. Was a relatively stress free practical today and the masking was a lot easier because we were using chantilly cream. I was pleasantly pleased with my piping this week and my chocolate was okay, although the design was a bit 'Jaws' shark attack esque.

Still a bit hazy from my mornings mishap I managed to demolish half my cake on the tube home. Commuters looked on in horror as my cake headed for the tube floor. Fortunately I caught half of it in the tupperware. Oh dear indeed.

Supreme Cuisine

Just as we through a tea-party in our third and final term at school, the cuisine chefs host a dinner evening. Its held in the school and is a chance for them to create a menu to show off their skills and, more importantly, for us to eat it. We had canapes, amuse bouche, starter, main, cheese course, pudding and petit fours and champagne flowing. It was really great to have a chance to try some of the cuisine and see what they get up to in their kitchens. Here are a few, fairly low quality, pictures of the delight of the night, themed la Belle Époque

One of many glorious canapes - tuna tartar


Amuse Bouche - Espresso Trompette

Starter - Menage a Foie Gras; parfait, confit & Seared

Main - Confit belly of pork & stuffed pigs trotter with black truffle tian & madeira jus

Cheese - Parfait of roquefort with poached pears

Dessert - Praline glace & caramalised apple, pain d'epice mousse with spiced wine syrup

Tea & Petit fours

We left the meal tipsy, happy and stuffed right to the brim.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Classy Victoria Sponge

Continuing on the theme of cakes, mixing and aeration methods, this week we turned our hands at the genoise sponge.  Although in home cooking, most cakes are classified as some type of sponge, this is not the case for pâtissiers. The genoise is a super light  and is described as a sponge due to its resemblance to the natural under-the-sea type sponge when cooked.  There are a few easy mistakes to be made when making this cake. Firstly the aeration of the eggs (by hand of course) is done at 40˚C over a bain-marie. This means keeping a close eye on the temperature because if it sneaks up those pesky egg proteins begin to coagulate. The second chance for error is folding in the flour. A light touch is definitely required to achieve the desired effect of coating the air pockets in flour rather than bursting them altogether. In demo, once chef had her perfect sponge in the oven she showed us how to make a true buttercream to coat it and  a fresh jam filling. All of this was then put together in a classic Victoria sponge sandwich style and rolled into a roulade as an added class bonus.

Before turning to demo, I want to take a brief interlude to tell you how well I have been fed this week - so very well. The two main events of feeding both happened on Thursday, firstly with a beautiful homecooked Finnish lunch cooked up by the lovely Henrika - a girl from class - and secondly by the Superior chefs in school who put on a great evening to show off their now honed skills, which probably deserves a post of its own. Anyway, inbetween demo and practical this week we truly feasted and rolled up to class with a full set of food babies.


Anyway, stuffed as we were, we had a cake to bake! This is the last of our potential exam pieces and is a real tricky one. Again the masking of the cake is a tricky one as the more attempt you have to get a smooth finish the more likely the butercream is to become overworked. There is then the great risk of ruining your cake at the last hurdle with the dreaded chocolate piping. Although mine was a bit smoother this week, my design ended up being somewhat smaller and lopsided than it was in my head. 

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Oh crumbs!

Friday was another day of cake making, however this time we got a hearty workout as we turned to mechanical aeration. The cake of the hour was the Alhambra cake. This is a recipe specific to LCB, and is a take on the protected recipe of the Sachertorte. It is very rich, very moist, very chocolaty and very very tasty. Alhambra consists of - a chocolate and hazlenut sponge, baked and brushed in a coffee and rum soaking syrup, filled with a rich chocolate ganache, covered in a layer of ganache, covered again in a chocolate glaze, piped with the word 'Alhambra' and decorated with marzipan roses. Basically its not a last minute jobby. But this doesnt mean the chef didnt manage to make it look like it was. In demo I was, yet again, slightly astounded by the skills on show. Especially the perfectly smooth glossy finish (you will see why later). I think I'll let the cake speak for itself.

In class there was a lot of chocolate, which for me means a lot of mess. The cake itself was quite fun to make. First off we made our batter. To get the necesary aeration we made it in three parts, dry ingredients, creamed 'wet' ingredients and a french meringue and gently folded them together, trying to avoid losing the air we'd spent 10 minutes whipping into our meringue. As they baked we made the rest of our components, ready to finish off. It is the finishing off that caused me problems. Specifically the chocolate glaze. In demo chef poured hers over her ganache covered cake and it settled in a perfect glossy coat. Mine chose to be bubbly, uneven and a bit dull. Not good. I hasten to say the picture has actually made it look worse than it was, even so I think my report card would be saying 'must try harder'. Despite this the cake still tasted too good to last very long and I ended up serving it over the bar at work when customers spied it lurking in the back.  

Bubble trouble
My rose (well okay then, carnation)

Very zesty

Another week, another topic. This time we have turned our hands to some classic, basic cakes and the theory that goes along with it. Current theory hot topics are aeration methods closely followed by cake mixing methods. For those of you not privaledged enough to be fed this information in school, the three menthods of aeration are chemical, natural and mechanical. Heres a quick break down. Chemical aeration uses products such as baking powder to create the rise in the cake. This is what is most commonly used in home cooking and what I have relied on for many years. Natural aeration is what we saw last week with the breads where a cheeky bit of yeast is used to give the lift. And finally, most painfully, is mechanical aeration. Opposed to what the name suggests this is pure man power. The batter is aerated by hand - whisk till you can't whisk no more.

Thankfully lesson one on cakes we stuck to the tried and trusted chemical aeration and only had to endure the minor pains of creaming butter into a frenzy. In demo the chef taught us four such cakes. A fruit cake, lemon cake, almond and pistachio and some lovely little madelines. Anyway, enough chat from me, here are the pictures your waiting for.

Chefs mirrored plate of delight

Madelines, described aptly by a coursemate as 'baked love'

This week we were out of demo and straight into the kitchen to make our lemon cake and madelines. It was our first, and eagerly anticipated, lesson with the head of patisserie so we creamed and zested till our hearts content and hoped for the best. Feedback this week was really good and detailed, by which i mean chef literally tore our cakes to pieces to show us where we went right/wrong. The more specific you can get your feedback the better, for example chef said my madelines were good but would have been better if they were slightly less whisked - perhaps just a minute too much. Madelines are definatley something I dont mind perfecting at home, they are cute, bite-size, tasty and (with a few tricks) relatively easy to make - whats not to love?

Friday, 5 November 2010

Bready, steady, go.

In my opinion, baking doesnt get more classic than your good old fashioned loaf. Freshly baked bread is just one of those things that is faultless in taste, touch and smell, especially when its cooked well. Today was the first of many lessons in bread I will be taking over the coming year. In class chef showed us focaccia, brown bread, small white buns and soda bread. We also covered quite alot of bread theory - the joys of pastry school. I've been quite looking forward to learning some of the tricks of the trade with bread so as dull as it sounds, the ins and outs of yeast were like top gossip to me. The bread was, as expected, delicious and the perfect start up to the day.

Todays practical was just a really fun class. Kneading bread is a good stress reliever - I even served mine a few hefty karate chops. We made the soda bread and the adorable bread rolls. This was a good balance because the soda bread is a rustic, dense bread and the rolls and much more refined. We spent a fair while shaping and decorating the white dough into spirals and knots, left them to prove and got them in the oven. I practically had my nose up against the oven for the next 10 minutes waiting for them to cook with a knob of butter in hand ready to get a freshly cooked roll out of the oven and into my mouth in record time. Happy days at LCB.

Soda bread


Packed up and ready to go home