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.

Savarins

Babas
Framboisier
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.

Carolines

Sarambos
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.




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