Monday, 20 December 2010

The big bad basic exam

I've been a bit slack on the old blog front recently but what with the end of term and begining of Christmas I think I should be forgiven. Over the last few weeks we havent had all that much school, what with the exams looming. We did manage to fit in a rather fun lesson on truffles which took a somewhat childish turn towards chocolate face painting, well on my part at least. But with the exception of a quick spell as the chocolate cat I've been spending my time reading up on theory, learning recipes and, of course, baking.

The written exam went pretty well, somehow all the recipes stayed in my head and most of the technichal questions were easy enough. To be honest, there isnt all that much else to say about it. I got 90%.

The practical exam is a bit of a different tale. Much to my dismay, the recipe I pulled out the hat was the genoise. Strangely, although I had practised the sponge and made it well at home, it was still the one I felt the most unconfortable with because there is quite a lot of space for error. Space which I managed to squeeze myself into during my exam. I've ben putting off writing this for a while because, to be honest, I felt a bit disappointed in myself after the exam. Everything went okay, except my butercream. I didnt whisk my eggs enough and I knew as soon as I had done it that it had gone wrong. Other than that, I made my sponge and jam well, covered my cake in dodgy buttercream and left feeling a bit glum. Although after spending the rest of my morning drinking champagne and eating cheese with my classmates I felt a bit perkier. I got my results the next day and, as expected, most of my comments revolved around the buttercream. My mark, considering, was okay at 73.

Overall for the year I got 79.2 which is annoyingly close to the 80% merit boundary but we'll get there next time. Maybe.

The rest of my class had some really great results and we had a lovely time at graduation, firstly being a bit posh at the Dorchester and then spending the rest of the evening guzzling beer and cocktails in an american style diner in Angel. Good times indeed.

What an attractive bunch

Its been a really great term all round and has truly flown by. Quite looking forward to a couple of weeks  enjoying the countryside snow before heading back to it to face intermediate. 

Thursday, 9 December 2010

A bad workman?

Im sat pondering that old phrase about a bad workman blaming his tools and begining to feel a bit sorry for the old chap. Perhaps this workman was infact a fellow LCB student trying to recreate his recipes at home? Well if he was, I for one feel sorry for him (and myself for that matter). At school we have an endless supply of bowls and pans of assorted sizes, top quality ingredients at our disposal, lovely pre-heated temperature controlled big ovens, blast chillers to cool things rapidly and blow torches to heat them up. In short we have everything that you need and more. At home I have this:


and a lot of this

Saying that, practise today didnt go too badly so perhaps I should stop complaining and keep baking. The exam is looming.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Friends and Fours

Without getting too soppy, this weeks blog is going to have to be a bit of a shout out to my fellow budding pastry chefs in group D. Since that momentous day when we met in the Boulangerie in the beginnings of October we have become quite a close knit group and they are certainly the cherry on the top of my LCB days. Anyway, enough of that for now, time to talk about the matter at hand: petit fours.  Petit four or ‘small oven’ are miniture treats served with your coffee at the end of a hefty meal, and should be no more than 2-bite sized. They can be quite a variety of things from meringues and biscuits to pastries, chocolates and fudges but the one thing they must be is small. I do quite like the idea of miniture food, mostly because it looks cute and so with a whole variety to cover I was looking forward to the lessons on the topic.

We began on Thursday with a demo that covered sables hollandais, meringue a l'amande and tuiles a l'orange. Sables biscuits are named so because of their sand-like texture, They are like a french shortbread and come in many varieties. The aim of our sable game was to make both a chocolate and a plain mix and use them together to make patterened biscuits. For the almond meringues we were shown three different ways of piping and finishing off the mixture and the tuille was an alternative to the plain batter we first covered way back in October. Because petit fours are so small, even low quantity recipes produce enough to feed the masses so there was more than enough to go round after class, all served up on a mirrored platter.


In class our task was to make the sables and meringues and if there was anytime we could make the tuiles as a class as an added bonus. The sables can be quite time consuming because there is alot of cutting and fiddly work to get the patterns and they need to be chilled inbetween layers, but the end result is satisfying enough to justify the time spent. At the end of class we found ourselves with a miraculous half an hour left to frantically make some tuilles. The result was a lot of mad dashes up and down the stairs to the stockroom to get the ingredients that hadnt been accounted for and alot of hands around one bowl zesting, mixing & piping. Without enough time to chill the batter it spread a fair amount across the tray in the oven and we ended up with what chef called 'road kill tuile'! Nothing a bit of artistic liscence and a bagette rack couldnt solve though. They were an added bonus not only because they make a tasty take home treat but also because we seemed to be the only group who managed to make them.

Selection of sables

Almond Meringues

Best roadkill I ever did see

On Friday it was time to be shown another multitude of sweet treats. Class covered two types of fudge, florentines, financiers and macarons. Macarons have, much like cupcakes, become very fashionable over the past few years with a lot of shops stocking all sorts of brightly coloured and different flavoured styles and so are potentially quite important for the budding pastry chef, but do require a bit of time to fully master. Heres the end platter from demo, my favourite were the financiers topped with fresh raspberries.

With alot to get done in class we worked together as a group in practical this week. I quite enjoyed it as it was a bit like being in a real kitchen. We each had to make our own macarons because that was where we were being marked but the rest was a group effort all round. The end results of everything were really good and dispite everyone being a bit tired and ill we worked well as a group. Anyway, before I start getting soppy again, here are the pictures

Petit Fours a la group D

Very bright macarons

We are heading into our last weeks of the first term, which has well and truly flown by. First exams start on Tuesday with our theory exam so a weekend of revision awaits me. So if anyone need to know egg coagulation temperatures in the near furture then I'm definately your gal..