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. 

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