Friday, 28 January 2011

That's done the trick

Happiness restored

Lost in the post

If "The Social Network" attempted to teach us one lesson it was "don't blog when angry".  There is nothing quite like the Post Office to rile us Brits and so it goes without saying that after spending half the morning trying to track down a missing parcel I'm not in the best frame of mind. As a result, I'm going to keep this one as sweet and short as possible.

This weeks recipes were: a celebration cake (fruit cake), a Savarin and a Fraisier cake. The fruit cake we made was to be soaked in alcohol, wrapped up tight and left till the end of term to decorate. The Savarin is an another alcohol soaked cake which is a bit like a Rum baba - not really to my taste. The final cake is one of potential exam dishes and is a very girly layered strawberry cake, decorated with pink marzipan, roses and swirly piping. It also has a healthy dosing of alcohol thrown in the mix.

Selection of Savarin

Pretty in pink


This week our practicals were split into two 3 hour sessions again, with a technichal class inbetween. Finishing off the Fraisier I was again reminded that I really need to practise my piping and writing skills which currently more closely resemble a note scrawled by a 13-year old boy in a maths class than a cake topping. My marzipan rose was looking a lot healthier than back in basic, but still too much on the carnation side for my liking. 

I'm off to get a brew, make a banoffee pie and, if that doesnt cheer me up, write a stern letter of complaint. I know, fiesty. 

Monday, 24 January 2011

Technical: confectionery

Last terms technical classes involved much listening, writing, word filling-in and generally things normally associated with being in school. This term, the joys of being in a culinary school are shining through. The classes this term are less theoretical and seem to involve the chef teaching us various techiques by cooking for us. Fine by me. This week we were being shown about some of the uses of sugar and pectin in confectionery through the medium of caramel, jelly and nougat.

Friday, 21 January 2011

The wonderful world of Viennoiserie

According to our helpful friend wikipedia, viennoiseries are "baked goods made from a yeast leavened dough in a manner similar to bread, or from puff pastry, but with added ingredients (particularly eggs, butter, milk, cream and sugar) giving them a richer and/or sweeter character". And indeed they are. But I mostly like to think of them as all the things that make a perfect breakfast. There are few things that can brighten up my morning as easily as a warm, crisp butter croissant and the thought of being able to make my own is simply delightful. This week our demos were split into making up the doughs and preparing and baking them. We were making: croissant, pain au chocolat, danish pastries, a few varieties of brioche, hot cross buns and devonshire split buns. Fot this we required a batch of bun dough, brioche dough and pâte levée feuilletée - a laminated dough, like puff, but with the inclusion of yeast.

In demo chef had an unfortunate bit of bad luck with some seemingly dead yeast in his bun dough, meaning it didnt rise, but he made up for it by bringing an abundance of them the next day. Everything else turned our wonderfully and by the second day we had a breakfast buffet fit for a king

This week we had another mid-week wine tasting demo, this time on dessert wines. From this I can draw two conclusions:

1. My school is truly like no other, and
2. Sweet wines, much to my surprise, are infact delicious.

In Wednesdays bake-a-thon, although we had a fair amount to do, we also had a bit of waiting around for the doughs to prove so overall it wasnt too hectic. By the end of the 6 hours we had so much pastry, it was a bit unbelievable. The surfaces were covered in croissant, brioche and hot cross buns and then ovens filled with danish.

My only concern after learning how to make such tasty croissants is my waistline. Here are all my tasty treats good to go

One a penny, two a penny


Pastry goodness

Breakfast time will never be the same again

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Return of the Puff

First week back, no longer feeling like the babies of the school, it was time to begin Intermediate Patisserie (IP). Monday and Tuesday were spend in demos on more puff pastry recipes. Somehow the dreaded pastry we first tackled way back in week seven didnt seem quite so scary second time round. The first recipe of the term was for a gateau St Honore. This is a fairly technical dish as the recipe includes not only puff pastry, but our good old friend choux, as well as sugar work, creme diplomate and, of course, piping. Charmingly, this cake is named after the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. In demo, the chef finished the cake of with the classic spun sugar decoration and a bit of crystalised lavender.

On Tuesday we covered two more classic puff pastry dishes: pithiviers & mille-feuille. A pithivier is an enclosed puff pastry dish, filled with an almond creme. It is egg washed for shine and marked with a knife for general prettiness. There is an old french tradition (I am told) of baking this with a bean inside, and whoever gets the lucky slice au bean gets to be king for the day. To avoid the consequences of a demanding IP king, ours was baked beanless.

All pithiviers, great and small.

The final dish of demos was the mille-feuille; thin layers of puff pastry sandwiched with jam, cream and strawberries, traditionally finished with a layer of fondant icing with feathered chocolate. Im salvating just writing about it. Again, the chef made both a larger 'cake' and smaller individual sized slices. 

Really rather lovely looking

Moving on to wednesday and our first bake-a-thon of the term. Between the hours of 3 and 9 we were in the kitchen rolling, whisking, piping and slightly sweating to create the dishes above. The first half of the lesson was spend making the puff pastry and the St Honore. I was pleased to find my basic skills hadn't disappeared along with the snow in the winter holidays. Being back in the boulangie was great, although my spec right by the oven wasn't the best of calls. Nonetheless, here is cake #1 minus the spun sugar.

We then had a 15 minute break, during which I ate a pastrami sandwhich in all of three bites and downed half a litre of water. Fed and watered, I was ready for the next two treats. I was a bit apprehensive that the puff pastry might not have had enough time to rest, but everything went according to plan and overall I was pleased.

King for the day

Good enough to eat

I'm not going to lie, after six hours of baking I was well and truly ready for bed and didnt enjoy my mission across London laden with cake tins. Having said that it is definately a better reflection of real working life and it shoundn't be long till I'm hardened up to it. The dilemma of fitting the cakes into the fridge was solved by my hungry housemates who made sure they all slotted onto one plate nicely

In other news, I have a French speaking test tomorrow for evening classes so perhaps I'll be learning the lingo in no time.