Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Cooking Is Love Made Visible"

Wow, it's been a while! Crazy busy... and it's not even December yet! *Sigh*

Well, let's get to it. Again, in no particular order...

Apple desserts & mini Paris Brest
These little apple guys had many steps! First we piped an apple mousse into dome molds & chilled. Then we put in a drop of apple-rhubard compote, more mousse, an apple-infused cookie, and smoothed with more mousse, then froze. Once frozen, we unmolded, covered with ivory ganache, and airbrushed with green, then made little chocolate stems (which taste like Tootsie Rolls!).

We also made miniature Paris Brest, which were super cute, and the same as the big ones - choux pastry rings, hazelnut butter cream. :)

Apple desserts

Mini Paris Brest

Mint meringues with chocolate-raspberry mousse & maple tartlets
Simple meringue with fresh chopped mint, piped out in curly-q's, chocolate mousse made with raspberry pulp. Sandwich the mousse between 2 meringues and a raspberry on top finishes them off!

Nothing special about the tartlets, they were yummy. :)

Mint meringue sandwiches

Maple tartlets

 Framboisier Christmas log
There were lots of steps involved in this log. We started by baking 2 thin sheet cakes (they're called cookies in French, but...), one strawberry, the other pistachio. Then we made mousseline and a gelled raspberry coulis. We cut the cakes into strips, and using a half-tube mold, alternated the pink and green strips at a slight angle. Then we soaked with a raspberry syrup and put some mousseline in the bottom. Then we placed the raspberry gel in the mousseline, added more mousseline, and more cake to seal it all in, then froze it. Once solid, we unmolded, cut into 2 logs (12-inch & 8-inch), glazed with apricot and decorated with the decorations we've been making!

"Framboisier" log

Oh my goodness, pretty sure these are the prettiest and tastiest things we've made so far! We start with a cookie with chocolate on the bottom, cover with coffee butter cream, next layer cookie, chocolate mousse, cookie, coffee buttercream, chocolate glaze, and then decorate with treble clefs! :)

 Raspberry-pistachio macarons
I was really excited to be making macarons, but I was slightly disappointed with the results, I think because of the size. And the flavours. We will be making more at some point - hopefully they will meet my expectations! ;) French macarons are made with powdered almonds, the dough resembles that of choux pastry. Pistachio mousse between the cookies, with raspberries around the outside. To finish off, we airbrushed half of the top with red colouring, and dusted the other half with powdered sugar, with a little more mousse on top to stick a raspberry and a mint leaf to.

Raspberry-pistachio macarons
Really, they should be called triangles or maybe mountains, but anyway... We started by making a flourless chocolate cookie cut into rectangles. We then layered cookie with coffee butter cream and chocolate butter cream and chilled. Once set, we cut diagonally and attached the now triangles back together and cover with more butter cream and chill again. Then cover with chocolate ganache and drizzle ivory (white chocolate) ganache along the crest for snow, and cut in slices. I didn't manage to get a picture of mine before putting them in the store, so then I just took a picture of one of the trays in the window, so these aren't mine, but mine resembled more the ones on the left.

Pyramids (my work not actually pictured)
Barquettes are kind of strange little confections. I guess they can be decorated in many different ways, but basically it's half tart and half butter cream. We made 2 models, little boats (coffee flavoured, pictured) and little hats (chocolate flavoured, not pictured). We covered the bottoms of the molds with pie dough, added a dab of raspberry preserve, then filled with the same almond creme we used for some of our apple tarts. Immediately out of the oven, we pressed another pan onto them to ensure a flat surface. For the boat ones, we covered with coffee butter cream, creating a ridge along the middle, then chilled. Once the butter cream was solid, we dipped half of the butter cream in coffee fondant, and pressed sliced grilled almonds into the other half. For the hat ones, we covered with chocolate butter cream, creating a cone on the top and chilled. Once set, we dipped the whole cone in chocolate fondant and decorated with butter cream. Again, I forgot to take pictures of my own barquettes before putting them in the store, so then I quickly snapped a shot of these in the window, and didn't get the other model, but did get the rum balls!

Coffee barquettes, rum balls on left (my work not actually pictured)

Hazelnut butter cream logs
Fairly straightforward, we made a white sheet cake (or cookie?) and covered with hazelnut butter cream, then rolled. These ones we also cut into 12-inch and 8-inch logs. We covered with butter cream and made "bark" with a fork. We cut off little ends of the roll to use as limbs on the top. Then we used a special little tool dipped in cocoa powder for the cut ends of the logs & limbs. We made chains around all the edges (mine are kind of messy, my butter cream was pretty soft for some reason), and added a vine with leaves and red berries... and then decorated with more of our decorations. It seems a bit overwhelming, but this apparently what people want. :)

Hazelnut buttercream logs

Black Forest log
For this log, we baked a chocolate genoise in a half-tube pan, then cut length-wise into 3 layers, and proceeded as usual - chocolate mousse in the first layer with cherries, Chantilly cream in the second layer. We covered the logs (two 10-inches) with Chantilly and made bark with a comb tool, then did the chains around the edges again and used the spiral tool. Then sprinkled with chocolate shavings and decorated. I like my almond paste reindeer heads :)

Black Forest log
Chocolate-pear-cherry log
For this one, we made a chocolate sheet cake, covered with chocolate ganache, then mousseline, then sprinkled with cherries and chopped pear, rolled, and froze. Once solid, we cut (12-inch & 8-inch), covered with meringue, piped chains around the edges and piped spirals for the cut ends, then toasted with a torch, and added decorations. I took the picture before adding the decorations.

Choco-pear-cherry log

I guess that's all for now, that more or less covers the last couple weeks. Next week we are making a third batch of dark fruit cake, making more Christmas logs, and much more. Monday is a make-up day, but I am still all up to date, so I get a (much needed) day off. :)

Saturday Mom and my sister and I went to the annual Christmas craft sale in Magog at my nephews' school. It was really stressing me out because I haven't had time to make new stuff, but I still had lots of leftovers from other years. I did pretty well, Mom didn't sell much, I think Rebecca did pretty well. It was a fun day, but I'm glad it's over with. Now to start preparing for next year!!

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Baking is like washing..."

"... - the results are equally temporary." - Patricia Briggs

It seems to be getting more and more difficult to find a few moments to write a blog post, so they keep getting longer and longer! November means getting ready for Christmas (both at home and at school), so things have been even busier than usual. I'm going to continue with my recent habit of just listing what we've made in no particular order, but I'll try to put the picture with the description rather than having all the pictures at the end... makes more sense, right? :)

*Note: when I refer to caramel, I'm talking about cooking sugar and water to the caramel stage.*

Savarins and Babas
Savarins and babas are made using the same pastry, which is like a brioche dough, baked in different molds, but then treated more or less the same way. If you've never made brioche/cinnamon rolls before (which I have! Just a few months ago!), it's kind of an odd method. You basically mix all your ingredients together, and then add your butter, and it always seems like a lot of butter to be adding when you've already got a dough formed... but it all comes together! Savarins are baked in little round molds with a bump in the middle (almost like a mini Bundt) and babas are baked in little cups. After they've baked, you take them out of the molds and put back in the oven to dry out. Then you soak them in hot syrup and let drain. For the savarins, we filled the dip in the middle with crème légère (custard mixed with whipped cream), arranged fresh fruit on top, and covered everything with apricot glaze. For the babas, we just put a rosette of whipped cream at one end with some berries (there weren't enough so I used chocolate covered coffee beans), and glaze the whole cake.


This was a pretty basic cake, very similar to the Ambassadeur. A white genoise in 3 layers, crème légère and raspberries between the layers, a very thin coat of butter cream (to create a moisture barrier), and then almond paste rolled out to cover the whole cake. The almond paste was supposed to be marbled pink and white, but after 4 tries rolling it out and near tears, it was just pink and I was ok with that - just happy it finally worked. My gel decorating looks pretty good, but I wrote too high (should have been more across the middle), so I didn't really have the space to do the other decorations properly. But it tasted pretty good. :) (My brother-in-law bought it.)

Truffé (Truffle)
This cake is super rich, you don't want a very big piece, and you definitely want a glass of milk with it! It is a chocolate genoise soaked with rum syrup, with chocolate ganache between the layers, and covered with ganache, then all the piping is ganache, and then it's heavily dusted with cocoa powder. Phew! And I didn't realize until finished that I missed part of the design, right in the middle of the picture! Doh!

 Reine-Élisabeth (Queen Elizabeth)
This is a pretty traditional cake in Quebec, but I don't think I've ever actually eaten it before. And there are apparently a few different versions of it, but the distinguishing ingredients are dates and coconut. This one has dates and walnuts in the base. Once it's baked, you unmold it and spread a mixture of butter, cream, coconut and brown sugar over the whole cake and stick back in the oven to brown. It's very dense and not overly sweet. It definitely tastes like something your grandmother or great-grandmother would've made.

*FYI: I did a little online research to see what I could find about the origins of this cake, because I seriously wondered why anything named after the Queen of England would be popular in Quebec... The only information I find, whether true or not, implies that this was the only cake the Queen Mother made herself, and she gave the recipe to a charitable group (the group changes depending whose cookbook you bought! ;) ) to sell as a fundraiser. In some versions this is the church, in other versions it's a girls' group such as Guides or Brownies. The stipulation given being that the recipe must be sold and not passed along, according to the Queen's wishes. Who knows what the true origins are?

Mini mochas
This is part of our small cakes & petit fours module. We made a sponge cake but baked it in a sheet so it was a bit more like a cookie. Then we built them the same as the big mochas - soaked with coffee syrup, and layered with coffee buttercream. To finish the sides we covered them with sliced grilled almonds. Then we had 3 different designs we could do on the top. I decided to try all 3 - mine are the 3 columns on the right, the rest are my lab partner's.

Charlotte aux fruits 
This charlotte was the same concept as the chocolate one we made before. But this time we made the lady fingers separately, not in a sheet, and we used a sponge cake for the layers instead of cookies. In between the layers we put crème légère and canned fruit. The top is covered with fresh fruit and glazed. The funny shape sticking out of the middle is a fanned apple wedge.

Crème caramel renversée
We have made these before (I didn't get a picture), but it's going to be on our exam, so the teacher is having us practice. First you make caramel and put just enough to cover the bottom of a ramekin. Then you make a sort of custard which you pour onto the caramel, and bake in a water bath. Once cooked, you very carefully run a knife around the side and flip out so the caramel is on the top and runs down the sides. They're pretty, but I think it's an acquired taste. :) The caramel turned out better this time, but I didn't do so well at unmolding this time.

Carolines and Sarambos
These are both miniature eclairs, made with choux pastry, but they have special names. The carolines are 6cm long and the sarambos are 8cm. We filled the carolines with chocolate custard, covered with chocolate fondant and decorated with piping gel. The sarambos are filled with crème légère and dipped in caramel.


Unbaked Cheesecake
Very easy - graham crumb crust, cream cheese mousse (no lemon). Then we made a strawberry coulis for the top, which we poured over chopped strawberries. Then we covered the sides with white chocolate shavings. Yum!

Tarte Tatin
So this is kind of an upside-down pie. You cover the bottom of a cake pan with caramel, then pretty much just fill the cake pan with chopped up apples, tossing in pieces of butter and sprinkling with sugar as you go, then cover the top with puff pastry. After baking, you flip it out of the pan and voila! Mine was a pretty juicy - not sure if that means it was over- or under-cooked - and I wasn't terribly impressed. We glazed the whole thing, put almonds around the sides and decorated with dried apple slices, which we also made.

Maple Cake etc.
Today was a pretty relaxed day. We made a maple cake, and the rest of the day we spent making decorations for Christmas logs. The maple cake was a white genoise with maple sugar substituted in for part of the sugar. Instead of the regular light syrup we use to soak the cake layers, we used maple syrup, which was kind of tricky because it's so thick. And we made an Italian buttercream with maple extract for between the layers and to cover the cake. Then we sprinkled maple sugar on the top and decorated with 3 chocolate maple leaves. I think this was the best buttercream I've made yet, it was perfect! But my genoise was crumbly, not sure what I did wrong.

I haven't finished my decorations yet, so I haven't taken a picture. But we've been using royal icing, almond paste, chocolate (with molds), and lots of imagination. :)

Oh, and we made lemon tartlets this week, because there were too many lemons. Yum!

We've also been mass producing fruit cakes in our "spare" time to prepare for Christmas. And earlier this week we made a massive batch of rum balls. This is apparently the biggest seller at the school - I really can't imagine why, and I don't think any of us will ever buy/eat one ourselves. If you know anything about the cake ball phenomenon... that's basically what this is. We collect scraps of cookies, cakes, breads, etc. and buttercreams, and that's the base of the rum balls, all mashed up together. This particular batch had our leftover Halloween buttercream - lots of food colouring... :/ Then a whole lot of rum gel, which was totally gross, and a bit of melted chocolate. Then we formed into balls, chilled, coated with chocolate and covered with sprinkles. The end. The kitchen & fridge smelled so strongly of rum that day, it was almost gag-worthy. :/ But apparently it was worth it because I'm pretty sure we're sold out.