Saturday, 26 March 2011

Choc-a-bloc chocalate.

We start back for the grand final of our course in April and so have a short holiday break inbetween before the maddness begins. I've managaed to get myself a bit of work experience with the wonderful Artisan du Chocolat to learn a bit more about chocolates from a slightly more industrial point of view. The company makes luxury and innovative chocolates with lots of exciting flavours and textures ranging from basil and lime to liquid salted caramels. I've only been there a few days but so far its been great to see a whole new world, literally full of chocolates. I've been making lots of moulded eggs and rabbits in the build up for Easter as well as seeing some of the exciting industry equipment. The rabbits are sprayed with coloured cocoa butter to give them an adorable furry effect. Being shown the in's and out's of a steam pressured heater might not be everyones cup of tea but watching that cream cook away truly makes my day. Another week to go so hopefully I'll get to see (and eat) lots more.

A bear and a bee

As Spring and Easter rapidly approached, my second term at school can to an end. We finished off Intermediate with a few classes on cake decorating, finishing off our fruit cakes that we made at the begining of term to create some glorious celebration cakes. There is big business in cake decorating and if your good at it, it can be quite a lucrative skill. However, although my training has helped iron out alot of my previously cack-handed ways, I don't think I'll be called upon for any wedding cakes anytime in the near future. Fortunately for me, I'm not too fussed with cake decorating, its all a bit too fiddly for my liking.

In light of it being Spring, and needing quite a simple design, I opted for a teddy bear's picnic theme. Grass green cake, gingham rug and a pot of honey to enjoy in the sunshine.

I think it worked out okay and was quite fitting to my personality next to some of the beautiful flowers created by my peers. The teddy did look particularly cute poking out of the box on the way home and made me feel like I was on the way to a childrens party. Shame the cake was heavily laced with rum.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Mixed Bag

This post is going to be a bit of a mixed bag of various subjects to swiftly get us all back up to date. Since last posting there has been souffles, sugar, exams and a bit of light craft on the side.

Firstly: Souffles.
In order to sum up our plated dessert module for the term we took on the ultimate sink or swim pud - the souffle. The challenge is to create a light fluffy souffle that is plated up and won't collapse before reaching its eater. We made two souffles: one that is served in the ramekin (hot souffle) and another which is turned out onto a beautifully designed plate (pudding souffle). Despite having distant fears of a collapsed heap of lemony scrambled eggs, all our souffles turned out a real treat. The chef even finished off the class by showing us an exciting way of serving the hot souffle, flambé included. Here is a photo of my plated pudding souffle courtesy of Iphone.

Next is a brief word on sugar because we have been dedicating a fair amount of time towards it the last week or so. Firstly we had a techinchal class showing us some of the sugar skills we will be utilising next term making sculptures and what not. Secondly we have been learning how to make sugar paste cake decorations. We are in the midst of making a decorated celebration cake so watch this space. I'm thinking ladybirds and bees. 

Thirdly: EXAMS!
I have had both of my Intermediate exams, written and practical. The written one was harder than last term and asked a few questions that I found a bit dubious so we will see how I get on. For the practical I got the Opera cake which I think went alright. I was quite pleased to of got the Opera because it has buttercream in it. Those of you who can remember the last exam will recall that I made a fatal buttercream related error so I was pleased to have the chance to make it again and show it who was boss. (Me). Overall I left the exam feeling a lot more elated than last time so lets hope thats a good sign. Results to come next week.

Finally, some of the more mouthwatering pictures I have posted on here have earned me the nickname "Cake tease" from a friend ("Oh Claire, your such a cake tease"). In light of this, I took to a bit of light craftsmenship and made myself a little slogan jumper to wear with pride:

Thats all for now, fingers crossed for results!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Rate my plate

This week we had the chance to plate and present some of our efforts in our hot dessert module. Its really nice to have the chance finish off and present a dessert in its true glory because ninety percent of the time my cakes have to suffer a traumatic tube ride home before I get to slice into them, by which point they look a little less polished. It also means we can add our own touch to the plates.

The desserts on menu were: a hot chocolate fondant, an individual tarte tatin and an exotic mousse cake. The chefs showed us a few plating ideas, of which I think the mousse plates are just lovely. I think I would struggle to destroy them in a restaurant. The mousse itself has a patterned sponge and is packed with girly pastel shades; I really can't get enough of the mousses these days.

Fancy Fondant

What a mousse

In class we made not only the desserts but the sauces, tuilles, chocolate and sugar work to decorate. We worked nicely as a team again for the desserts and then made our decorations and plated up individually. 

First to plate was the tarte tatin, followed by the fondant. Whilst marking our plates, the chef cut into the fondant to ensure it had the required oozy, gooey chocolate middle. Unfortunately, this tantalised my taste buds so much I ate the whole plate right there and then and by the time it came to take a picture, this was all that was left..

The tarte had only made a short journey into my cake tin, so I quickly re-plated for the snap. I kept the plate simple with a piped sugar apple decoration and sauces sat in chocolate swirls. A bit too much sauce in some cases.

The missing fondant was a plate a really liked so I am quite annoyed to have let my stomach do the thinking. It was sat on a sugar lattice,poured with custard and had fresh sliced raspberrys and sugar spirals sat on top. Alas, you will just have to use your imagination.

The final dessert we made was the mousse. I decorated with an abstract tuille basket and a chocolate crown. The picture doesnt show it up that well but the sponge had an "XOXO" hugs&kisses pattern on which looked particularly cute.

Plating up is a tad nerve racking for fear of ruining your dessert in the blink of a misplaced sauce. However, I feel like I must actually be starting to overpower my messy ways because my plates were smudge free and relatively neat! 

Long time no see

I better start this blog of with an apology to my number one reader. Sorry Mum. It has indeed been a while since I last posted and there is much to catch up on, pictures to see etc, but I promise, I'm on it. So far in the story, we had reached the part where the mousse-y module came to an end and the chocolate work was about to begin, so lets start from there.

Two weeks ago, my week began and ended with these little delights:

Our lessons were spent making a variety of chocolates that could be used as nice petit fours, or scoffed in greedy handfuls, whichever tickles your fancy. We made: white chocolate truffles, filled with raspberry and Malibu ganache, dark chocolate truffles filled with milk chocolate and cointreau, caramel cups loaded with Baileys and, my favourite, the heavenly Malakoff. Although all the chocolates were delicious, the Malakoff stands out as a bit special, filled with sliced almonds, praline and pistachios. We worked as a team again to ensure we had bundles of chocolates to take home.

The only chocolates we had to make individually were these hand moulded gems which may just pop up in our superior exam next term.

The main challenge faced is making sure the chocolate is well tempered but also warm enough so that it doesn't set the instant you use it. One more tap and a bit less chocolate dripping off my fingers and I'd score myself well on these.

The next task of the lesson was to make a chocolate centre piece. School gave us some templates to choose from, or the option of bringing in out own. I opted for the latter, choosing to make a chocolate Totoro. For those of you unlucky enough not to have come across this guy, he is a cartoon character from a Studio Ghibli film. He is also very popular in the novelty baking world. A quick google image search for "totoro cake" will prove this. I've been quite keen to get on the totoro patisserie ladder for a while now, so this was the perfect opportunity.  I was quite pleased with the way his cute chocolatey expression turned out. 

All in all, despite having thoroughly stained aprons, this was a brilliant week resulting in enough goodies to share about with the masses. I even had excess chocolate left over to try take on the big boys at Lindt and make a chocolate Bunny, after all, Easters on its way