Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"You don't have to make everything from scratch....

"... Nobody wants to make puff pastry!" - Ina Garten
Well, unlike this quote, we do have to make most everything from scratch, including puff pastry - the worst, especially when making millefeuille! My first attempt turned out ok, but the teacher was helping a lot, and it was more in the form of a cake. The second time wasn't great, the third time I completely messed it up and had to start over and even then it wasn't right, and this last time, well, it actually turned out ok. There are lots of difficulties, for me anyway, with making puff or flaky pastry. First is the pastry itself, but I think that's because the recipe we have right now is the "quick" method, and one teacher teaches it one way while the other teaches it a different way, which leads to confusion. You want to have bits of butter through your dough, but not big chunks that will harden in the fridge and crack when you roll it out. Then you have to roll it and fold it and let it rest, and that takes some time. But then you have to roll it out to use, and it has to be big and thin (because we bake it in a big sheet), which requires space to roll it out and some upper body strength. It is not for the weak! Nor for the faint of heart. It is not my favourite thing to make. Then you have to bake it, which can be a bit tricky sometimes. Cutting it the first time isn't usually a problem if it's cooked properly. Putting it together is easy. Getting the fondant to the right consistency is tricky, and spreading it out on top isn't the easiest, but it's doing the marbling that really takes some quick work. The chocolate has to be in a parchment cone and ready, but not too far ahead so it solidifies. As soon as the fondant is spread out, you have to draw on the chocolate and then immediately marble it. If the fondant is too thick, you will just cut it (like every other time I've done it). The fondant and marbling part of it actually went perfectly for me this time. But the hardest part of all is cutting the individual pieces. You have to cut through the fondant and 3 layers of pastry without squishing all the filling out. The first few cuts usually go pretty smoothly, but once the pieces you're cutting get smaller, they get squishier. So, all that to say... There is a lot of effort put into millefeuille! :)


Let's see... I actually started this post over a week ago, so there's quite a bit to add. First off, some pictures of the last Christmas logs I finished... Chocolate butter cream (we had lots of butter cream left over, so we were split up into teams to do different flavours, and mine was chocolate again) and the Framboisier I hadn't taken a picture of before. We made another batch of bûchettes, these are called caramélitas. They have a sort of almond nougatine crumbed up inside with a caramel butter cream, and decorated with molded chocolates and the nougatine.

Chocolate butter cream

Chocolate butter cream



We were still practicing for the petits fours module, so we made another batch of mini mochas, a dessert called Alizé, and a dessert called Caracque. The Alizé is layers of white cookie covered with chocolate, with coffee butter cream and raspberry preserve, and then airbrushed and cut into pieces. The Caracque is a chocolate sheet cake in a half tube mold, with chocolate mousse and partially preserved apricots in the middle. It was then frozen, covered with a type of ganache, and sliced. This week, we also made little verrines véracruz which are just little layered dessert cups. The bottom layer is a kind of vanilla pudding. After freezing, we added little cubes of brownie, then added a layer of chocolate mousse. After freezing again, we covered with ganache and topped with more brownie pieces and chocolate filigrees.

Mini mochas


Caracque (just missing dried apricot pieces to finish off each slice)
Verrine véracruz

Thursday and Friday were interesting days. The teachers decided to split the class in half so that half the class would do the cake module exam with one teacher, while the other half made gingerbread houses (for fun!) with the other teacher, and vice versa the next day. So Thursday was my exam day, and aside from cutting my thumb right at the beginning, it went pretty well. The only thing the teacher mentioned was, for the Black Forest, that I had added the powdered sugar after placing the cherries on top. So, it was a success, and I remembered to take pictures! Yay!

Black Forest - exam

Birthday cake - exam (still hating the piping gel...)

Friday was actually my day to work the store, so I really didn't end up with much time for my gingerbread house. I was so disappointed! I had been so psyched and bought loads of candy, but didn't end up being able to do anything, and what I did manage to put together, with my friend Kelly, looked... pretty awful. So, I brought it home and we (Mom, Dad, Reuben and I) added the candy to it that night, and then it looked...ok. lol We put them together with chocolate because it dries faster than royal icing, but I have to say... chocolate mixed with candy and gingerbread is gross. I have another house cut out, maybe this weekend I will put it together and decorate it. I'd like to try doing more icing work.

My friend Sarah's house (as an example of what everyone else did)

My house before... house after

Yesterday we did our exam for the petits fours and small cakes module (mini mochas, barquettes, and carolines). I was the last one finished/graded, but I did well. I forgot to take a picture tho. :(

Today was a really relaxed, fun day. We worked in teams to make sugar waffles. Then we made Aztec hot chocolate - soooo rich, but very yummy! Then we all worked in small groups throughout the rest of the day making some of the following: marshmallows, sucre à la crème, sponge candy, rum balls, and beaver tails, and just generally cleaning out the fridge. Tomorrow we're spending the morning doing a big clean up of the kitchen and then we're going out for lunch as a group, which should be fun! Not really sure what the afternoon will hold, but after that, we are on vacation! Woohoo! :) So I probably won't be making any more pastry related posts until mid-January, 2014!! I wish you and your families all a very merry Christmas, and a happy and safe new year!

Aztec hot chocolate with lots of milk added...


Sugar waffles

Sponge candy

Sucre à la crème (My teammates made this, I was doing something else. It's a bit hard, but very tasty!)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pastries, Practice, and a Priceless Adventure

We are still busy, busy, busy getting ready for Christmas! So busy that I haven't had time to take pictures of most of my work. I'm finding it hard to keep up the pace with the logs, I'm not sure why. We've done a few more flavours... lemon-raspberry, a real Framboisier, and a chocolate one. For the lemon-raspberry, we made a white sheet cake, covered with a mixture of buttercream & lemon curd, sprinkled with raspberries & rolled. We covered with the same lemon buttercream, and decorated as per the norm. For the raspberry one, again we made a white sheet cake, covered with crème légère and sprinkled with raspberries & rolled. But that one we covered with Chantilly, like the Black Forest log. I haven't quite finished mine yet, I still need to decorate it, so maybe I'll get a picture tomorrow. For the chocolate one, we made a chocolate sheet cake rolled with chocolate buttercream in the middle. Yum! I brought home a 12-inch one, to keep for the holidays. I am sure that somebody will help me eat it! I also brought home an 8-inch Black Forest one to use as a door prize at the Car Club's Christmas Banquet this weekend. My dad suggested it, and I thought that was a neat idea - why not? :)

This week we have also been doing practice exams, because we have 2 exams to do next week (AH!), for the petits fours module, and for the traditional desserts module. I didn't take pictures of my practice exam yesterday, but they all turned out pretty well. We did 12 mini mochas, 6 barquettes (we could choose which model, I did the boats), and 6 carolines (the teeny weeny eclairs). Today we did a Black Forest and a birthday cake. Both turned out very well, I was proud of myself so I made sure to take pictures. The only points lost for my Black Forest was because the chocolate shavings I used on the top weren't big enough, but those are major points for decoration, so I have to remember that next week!

For the birthday cake... It turned out well, everyone kept telling me how great it looked, and the teacher had nothing negative to say about it, but I feel there's still room for improvement. I need to figure out how to keep my buttercream from getting... bubbly. I don't know how else to describe it, but it's full of air bubbles, which makes it really hard to smooth out, or use the comb. Apparently this is a temperature problem (not warm enough), but it happens to me every time, with almost every buttercream recipe. Yes, I can still manage to make it look nice, but it takes longer. By the time I got around the making my roses I was having a hard time. My work table is too high, my pastry bag was too full and therefore too heavy, and the buttercream was getting soft. But I persevered and got some decent roses. I even managed not to scrap the whole thing with the gel piping. Still not perfect, but much better than my previous attempts! I don't like the writing. The teacher said I should have written Bonne Fête in a larger font, but it's nothing I would be docked marks for.

Black Forest practice exam

Birthday cake practice exam

So yeah! That's my most recent pastry school update. :) Might have some more pictures to share tomorrow, we'll see.

For those of you who have been wondering how the stick shift is working out, or what recent adventures I've been having while driving... Well, I've successfully made it to school and home every day since school started, without any major mishaps, so I guess that should be considered a pretty big success! I was trying to avoid all stop signs and lights at all costs, especially those in hills, but circumstances sometimes don't allow for that, and with lots of construction happening around these parts... I've been forced to make a lot of stops in hills - at lights, or otherwise. But it's been at least a few weeks since I've stalled it! Yay! And I've been getting braver and voluntarily taking routes with lots of lights and/or stops and/or hills (not hard in Sherbrooke). She's finally grown on me, I've become attached enough to give her a name, so she is now called Loretta. Loretta the Jetta. :)

And my most recent adventure was tonight, but I warn you, it's a much better story in person because there are sound effects & hand motions. It started when somebody cut me off in the middle of a hill (going up), which ticked off both me and Loretta. We carried on, but then I made a booboo further up the hill (somehow only put it in neutral when trying to change gears? Then put it into the high gear instead of the lower one...) so I was apologizing to Loretta, begging with her not to hate me, as I was coming to a stop at a light when suddenly Loretta screamed at me! Apparently Volkswagens beep loudly when any sort of dashboard symbol comes on, and my windshield washer fluid was empty. Thankfully, I was just pulling in to Walmart. But first I went to Dollarama to pick up some candies for our gingerbread houses we're making at school next week (SO EXCITED!). So then I'm going to Walmart with 2 dollar store bags, and I tell myself I can only get the washer fluid because I only have 2 hands. But they had 2 kinds and I couldn't decide so I got both. So then I'm waddling thru the parking lot with a bag on each wrist and a jug of washer fluid in each hand, trying to get keys out of my pocket and open doors... And then, because I obviously don't look under the hood often enough, I couldn't remember where the hood release was. *Sigh* But I got it, managed to get most of the fluid into the receptacle, and Loretta and I were on our way once again, with no further incident.

And before anyone comments with things like "Why didn't you use a cart?" I asked and wasn't allowed to take a cart outside thru the mall, because there are no cart stall thingies in that end of the parking lot. Hence juggling 2 shopping bags and 2 jugs of windshield washer fluid.

...The End. :)