Sunday, January 31, 2010

01/28-29/10 - Class - Cakes

This week we began work on display cakes. It was our intention to make two cakes, one would be a layered chiffon cake covered with Happy Anniversary or something on it. The second was to be a high-ratio chocolate cake that would be carved, covered, and designed to resemble a butterfly. Simply put, things didn't go exactly as planned.

On the first day we baked the cakes, splitting the two cake recipes between the group. Two other members of my group did the chiffon. The first attempt didn't come out, not exactly sure what went wrong since I didn't work on it. But either way we had to make them again. The second try turned out. I did the chocolate cake, but with no better success. When baking, the cake kinda exploded, bubbling up over the rim and then deflating and not really setting. It turns out this happened to all but one group so I'm not exactly sure what happened. I don't think that it would be the recipe since it was from the CIA book but it is strange that it wouldn't work for so many groups. We did finish off the chiffons by layering them and then giving them a crumb coat of buttercream-I used raspberry jam as a filling and flavored the buttercream with raspberry.

On Friday we found that we weren't going to be able to remake the chocolate cake so we had to use the chiffon for the butterfly cake. It is somewhat interesting to see my cake's degeneration from something halfway decent to a mess.

First we cut off a layer of it to make it shorter and then carved it. We then covered it with a layer of fondant. Despite the cuts not being too even, it doesn't look half bad.

Next we piped a design on the wings. We had a template design but we were able to do as we wanted so I sorta followed it and sorta did it my own way. Regardless, you can see what a mess my piping is.

Finally, we colored it with flow icing, which is thinned out icing that is pretty much a liquid consistency that you pipe in to fill the design. Here's where it completely fell apart to create a mess of a cake.

Needless to say, I'm pretty disappointed with this week's results. I'm kinda fearful that I have no skill in this kinda stuff. I don't have the patience or the eye for detail; I have no artistic talent. I like the more physical aspect of actual baking, so I'm not crazy about my classes this quarter, unfortunately.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

01/25-26/10 - Class - Ganache

This week we did more work with ganache, and so more truffles. We made some molded truffles this time and also made some butter ganache. As its name implies, it includes butter and so it is softer and won't set, thus facilitating the need for dipping or molding. We culminated the class by observing all of the production of the last two weeks and all of the recipes that were made.

The following pictures show all the truffles made over the past two weeks: Liqueur Ganache, Truffle Truffles, Amaretti Truffles, Chai Tiggers, Poodle Truffles, Caramel Ganache, Lemon Mint Ganache, Vanilla Milk Chocolate Truffles, Cherry Kirsch Truffles, Dulche de Leche Coffee Truffles, Pumpkin Caramel Ganache, Ginger Bread Squares, Madras, Strawberry Balsamic Butter Ganache, and Spiked Eggnog.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

01/21-22/10 - Class - Viennese Pastries

This week in my Advanced Patisserie class we did Viennese Pastries. I'm not sure if they have specific traits other than that they are very intricate mini-pastries. Like last week, each group did two recipes which, when completed, were plated for presentation. My group had two kinds of tartlets: Margarita Chiffon Tartlets and Apricot Passion Fruit Ganache Tartlets.

On the first day we made tart dough, the chiffon, and the ganache, and refrigerated all to bake and fill the next day. In addition on Friday we made decorations to go with the plating. What our group did for presentation was that I made spun sugar. It is pretty interesting. All it really is is heating up sugar to about 290, around the soft-crack stage. Then you shock it and it begins to cool and thickens. At that time, you can begin producing the spun sugar. The implement most commonly used is a whisk with the end cut off to make a number of tines. You then flick the sugar over a surface and it becomes a fine nest of sugar. Alternatively you can go slower over a shaped object to create various shapes like we did to make bowls.

We made them up in a nice presentation. We topped some of the Apricot Ganache tartlets with a slice of apricot and gold leaf, and others had a flower piped on. We finished the chiffon with small designs of spun sugar. We had a lot of extra tartlet shells so simply filled some with raspberry jam and topped them with a fresh raspberry. They all came out pretty good. I wasn't too crazy about the tart dough, it just tasted like shortbread as opposed to a tart/pie. The Apricot Ganache tasted fine though I'm not crazy about chocolate. The Margarita Chiffon tasted interesting. The recipe called for tequila but we didn't have any so replaced it with Grand Marnier. The alcohol flavor was pretty strong in it since the alcohol was added after cooking so none was cooked off. At first I didn't care for the taste but as a whole tart I thought it was actually pretty good. It had a very complex flavor, not predominant notes, but I liked it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

01/18-19/10 - Class - Ganache

This week in my Chocolate class, we began making ganache. Simply put, ganache is just cream and chocolate; you boil cream and pour it over chopped chocolate to melt it, stir it together, and there you go. Of course we went a little further in-depth than that.

There are two basic ways of working with once you've formed a ganache; piped or slab. With piped ganache, you pipe it into balls after it's been formed. After sitting, you roll them into spheres and then in tempered chocolate and/or whatever other coating you choose. With slab ganache, you pour the ganache into a ring mold on top of acetate and allow it to set. Afterwards, you put on a thin layer of tempered chocolate for a solid base. You then cut the slab using a "guitar", a tool with a series of guitar strings that cuts through the slab, kinda like a cheese cutter. Afterwards, the perfect squares are dipped in tempered chocolate.

Since we didn't have class on Monday due to a holiday, we were only able to do half the recipes. My group made Liqueur Truffles and Chai Tigers for our piped ganache and Caramel Truffles for our slab ganache. The Caramel Truffles didn't set because there was issues with the chocolate and the Chef had add cream to keep it from breaking entirely (but in turn made it to viscous and coudln't set), so those didn't turn out. The others turned out well, however. I don't have any pictures, but I'll try to get pictures of all of them next week (all groups did different recipes so there are some of each).

On a plus note, I'm tempering chocolate fine now, I did it twice and did it right both times, so that's a plus. I still don't like working with it though, too finnicky and a real mess if you aren't a pro.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

01/14-15/10 - Class - Petit Fours

And so begins my second course this quarter, Advanced Patisserie and Display Cakes. We began with petit fours of various varieties.

On Thursday we made macaroons. Unfortunately, they didn't turn out so hot-they cracked on top and some didn't puff up at all. There is some solace at least that it wasn't my fault; it happened to the entire class. The possible issues are that the almond flour was too moist, or the recipe just sucks. Even if they weren't very presentable they still tasted okay. Each group colored and flavored them in various ways. We made vanilla ones colored yellow and peppermint ones colored red (pink). They were then sandwiched with buttercream.

On Friday we made more petit fours. Each group had two recipes for two different kinds of petit fours: petit four sec, meaning dry, and petit four glace, meaning glazed. Our petit fours sec were mini madeleines which we flavored with almond. Our glace were simple enough; mini eclairs which I've made a dozen times now after last quarter. Instead of dipping them in chocolate, they were dipped in colored fondant and had designs piped on them.

We combined our three items to make a pretty nice presentation. The macaroons were made into a macaroon tower, for no reason other than making it more interesting. We then presented them with our other two items and since they were all color-coordinated, it made for a pretty nice showpiece.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

01/12-13/10 - Class - Chocolate

Classes resume this week so something to post again.

My first class this quarter is called Chocolate, Confections, and Centerpieces. This week we began with the fundamentals of chocolate, tempering, and creating some decorations.

Tempering chocolate is a bit of a pain but after a few tries, I was able to get it okay more than once so I guess I have the hang of it. There are a few methods to temper chocolate, we learned by doing the "tabling method", which involves heating the chocolate then cooling a portion of it on a marble or granite slab and then adding it back to the rest of the portion. That lowers the temperature of the chocolate in the bowl and raises that which was just cooled, bringing it to the ideal temperature that is then maintained. The result is a shiny, flowing chocolate that is easy to work with, tastes smooth, has a clean snap, and sets very quickly.

We also did a little practice making various chocolate decorations. Namely we made chocolate cigarettes, fans, and some things using acetate. There was also acetate with designs on them-they are made with cocoa butter that gets transferred to the chocolate, but none are in the picture.