Monday, January 27, 2014

"Seize the moment..."

"...Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart." - Erma Bombeck

Last Saturday my mom and brother and I went on a little adventure in Sherbrooke. We shopped at a few of our favourite spots, walked by my school to admire the beautiful cakes and sugar work in the window that the previous class made, we had lunch at Caffuccino (yum!), and we dropped into Choco-Là at their new location. At the beginning of the school year they were kind of rude to my friends and I when we asked to go their for that project we had to do in the first module, so I've kind of been boycotting them. But my curiosity got the better of me, and I had to go in. Because the thing is, I have never had a French macaron! I think they are super cute, and they look amazing, and we made some at school once (that were not what I pictured and were pretty disappointing), so I needed to try them. And they have some interesting chocolates and things. I have nothing to really compare to, but their prices seemed pretty ridiculous, but it was an adventure! So I bought a package of 6 macarons: 2 maple, 1 double chocolate, 1 espresso, 1 caramel, and 1 raspberry, as well as 3 chocolates. I don't remember the names, but one was coffee, one was maple, and I don't remember what the other was supposed to be. They were all pretty great, I didn't have a favourite. For the macarons... They were all alright, but the prettiest one, the raspberry one, had a kind of jelly filling that caught me off-guard and was an unpleasant texture, so that was disappointing. The chocolate one was not as good as I had hoped, nor the caramel one. I think the maple was actually the best. Anyway, just a little pastry-related story I thought I'd share.

Treats from Choco-Là

We ate the vol au vent the other night for supper, and they were great. We made more the next day, using a different method for the puff pastry (who knew there were so many different ways to make the same thing?), but we have not tried them yet.

Vol au vent supper

Now on to the masterpieces we made this past week...

Carrées Alsaciens
To make this confection, we had to roll out the pastry very thin onto a large sheet to bake, the same as we would to make millefeuille. Except that this was easier because it didn't have to be one solid sheet of pastry, it could be patched up (thank goodness)! And we covered the sheet with granulated sugar before baking so it would caramelize. We then cut the cooled sheet in half, spread (bought) raspberry preserve on one half, flipped the other half on top, and covered that with a nid d'abeille ("honeycomb" - sugar, honey, butter, cream) mixture which had sliced almonds in it. And we put it all back in the oven to crisp up, then cut in squares.

Carrées Alsaciens

Close up :)
For this dessert we rolled out our pastry dough fairly thick and cut into two rectangles, one slightly wider than the other. We spread a thin layer of the same raspberry preserve along the center of the smaller rectangle, then put a thick layer of almond cream on top of that, and then covered with the other pastry rectangle, sealing the edges, and baked. As soon as they came out of the oven, we brushed syrup over the top and sprinkled sugar along the edges, and after they had cooled, we cut into slices. I didn't try them, but they look really neat!

Mousse aux fruits des champs
For our other module (Modern Desserts) we've been making lots of mousse cakes. This one is so superbly spectacular and tastes amazing. There actually wasn't enough fieldberry purée to go around, so mine is raspberry - even better! To start off we made our white génoise mousseline cake, which we divided in 3 layers, but we only needed 2 layers each, so we kind of worked in teams for that. We also made "decorated cookies" which is pretty awesome. You make up this sugar paste which you can tint any colour you want with food colouring, and then you can use a screen printer or stencils or a piping bag to free-hand designs onto a baking sheet (Silpat). Then you freeze your design so it won't smear when you spread your cookie batter over it. We cut these into bands just slightly shorter than our molds and placed them around the inside of the mold with the design facing out (the molds are lined with an acetate film to prevent sticking). Then we layered cake, mousse, cake (which came to the top of the cookie band) and then mousse to fill the mold (so you see mousse above the cookie). We let it set up in the freezer, then covered with a berry jelly, removed the mold, and decorated with berries. Lovely!

Pretty top

Check out that decorated cookie!
This one is way up there on my list of favourites so far. For this dessert, we made the same chocolate sheet cake recipe we used for the Christmas logs, but with chocolate shavings sprinkled on top before baking. Again, we cut into bands slightly shorter than our molds, and also cut out 2 circles. the bands go around the inside of the mold with the chocolate bits facing out, then we layered cake (soaked with rum syrup) and chocolate mousse. We used 70% dark chocolate, so it was a pretty bite-y mousse! Oh, and in the middle there is a kind of hazelnut crunch disc (very much like what Ferrero Rocher are made of). And then the top is glazed with chocolate. To finish off we were supposed to make a sort of flower/bow on the top with different sized/shaped loops of chocolate. I was really stressed about it and I'm pretty disappointed with how my chocolate decoration turned out. We were supposed to put a caramelized hazelnut in the center, but by the time I got finished with the chocolate, I didn't want to see the thing anymore, so I didn't. And I bought it, so that was ok. :)


Monday, January 20, 2014

"Nothing is too much trouble..."

"...if it turns out the way it should." - Julia Child

Ain't that the truth? Appropriate for so many of life's situations, but especially in the kitchen! :)

Here's a recap from last Wednesday to today (Monday).

Babas and savarins
We made these before (so I won't explain), but I guess it might be on the exam, so we needed to practice. There was no fruit left, tho, so we just used Chantilly cream and sprinkled with chocolate shavings. I don't think I tried the ones we made before, but I tried them this time, and it's really good - especially when they syrup is still warm!

We used a new cake recipe for this one, called a génoise mousseline, which is like the other génoise recipes we have, but with butter and an emulsifier added. So we made a white cake, divided in two. We layered the dessert as follows: cake (soaked with syrup); mousseline cream (pastry cream with butter added to it); fresh strawberries, halved (with open sides facing out); a bit more cream and the second cake; more mousseline, evened out across the top of the mold. We chilled it, removed the mold, then rolled out a circle of pink almond paste for the top and decorated with leaves (green buttercream with red piping gel for berries) and one half strawberry. We also made little cups with the leftovers. Oh, and we used the airbrush with red food colouring to make the edges of the almond paste slightly darker.
I thought I might like this one, but I don't really like pastry cream or mousseline, and I found that to be the most significant flavour.


Little cups... the handiwork of me and my friend Kelly :)

Bavaroise Mayela
This is a kind of mousse cake. There is a layer of cake on the bottom, then a thick layer of mousse, and topped with a jelly of the same flavour. In this particular case, the flavour is mango (Mayela is the name of a person... Our teacher got the recipe from someone who named his cakes after his employees...). So we made a chocolate génoise mousseline, but only used half a cake each. So in a 20cm circle mold, you start layering your chocolate cake, soaked with mango syrup, and a mango mousse. After it set up in the freezer, we spread mango jelly on top, removed the mold, and decorated. To finish the sides, we made little chocolate squares which we "glued" to the chocolate cake with either buttercream or piping gel. Then we took a mango side, cut a grill in it, turned it "inside out," added 3 pineapple leaves, and 2 squares of chocolate. Voilà!
I am not a big fan of mango, nor do I particularly like mixing tropical fruits with chocolate... so this one, tho very pretty, did not appeal to my taste-buds. The mousse also had a strange consistency (too much gelatine?) that I didn't care for.

Bavaroise Mayela

Close up on the decoration :)

I don't think I've ever actually had a palmier before. I have seen them often, at restaurants, in the grocery store, etc, but never tried one. I like puff pastry, but it's not my favourite thing in the world, so I don't go out of my way to eat desserts made with it. However, these are very tasty (well, ours are, anyway!). Instead of rolling the pastry out with flour, you roll it out in white sugar, making sure to get the sugar really packed in. You roll it into a long rectangle, then fold in twice from both ends, meeting in the middle, then fold in half at the middle. Then you slice it, and when you lay your slices on the baking sheet, spread the 2 ends slightly. To bake, you let it caramelize in the oven, then flip over and brown/caramelize the other side. So it's a sweet, crispy treat, reminiscent of a cookie (maybe that's why I like it!).


Packed up for the store

Vols au vent
Super easy! The hardest part is rolling out the pastry. You just cut circles, and cut a hole out of half of them. You cover the circles with egg wash, attach the rings to the circles, more egg wash, and then you make 4 knife points in each ring. This helps them stay even as they rise in the oven. And that's it! I made a few booboos with this one... We were supposed to make 6, but I only made 4 because I rolled my dough out too thick and didn't realize it until I had already started cutting out my circles (and you can't cut vol au vent out of scraps). Then I forgot to make the knife holes, and we had frozen them last week. So when I got them out today to stick in the oven I couldn't make the holes in the frozen dough, so they were toppling over in the oven, but I just gently squished them back and it all worked out. They are tonight's supper, so I'll give a report in the next post.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Puff Pastry, My Nemesis

Last Wednesday was a double whammy. It marked the first day back at school after a 2 and a half week vacation, and it also marked the passing of my Uncle Darcy. And my winter boots broke. Not the most conducive way to get back into a routine, but alas, thus is life. Saturday was the funeral which took most of the day and Sunday we had errands to run (namely, finding new winter boots), so I didn't have a very relaxing weekend, and today is only Tuesday but I am already (still?) pooped.

So upon our return Wednesday, we started a new module called Modern Desserts. Over the course of the rest of the week, we made Arlequin and tiramisu.

To make the Arlequin, we made a pistachio cake and a chocolate cake (very thin sheet cakes, like big cookies). We cut a square from each cake and cut the rest into wide bands which we then "glued" one on top of the other with apricot glaze, and put in the freezer long enough to be solid enough to slice. We then cut thin slices from this cake sandwhich and laid the slices flat to make stripes, and then cut a square from the striped cakes on the diagonal. We left this square in the mold to build the dessert. We then made a chocolate and a pistachio mousse and layered them in with the other squares we had previously cut (ex: pistachio mousse, pistachio cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate cake) and froze. Once frozen, we flipped upside down, removed the mold, glazed the top with apricot, and garnished with pistachios and chocolate "eyelashes". :)


Different angle...

We could choose whether to do a regular tiramisu or chocolate. It wasn't a conscious decision, but I ended up making the chocolate one, and it was amazing. The best thing we've made so far, in my opinion. One I'll definitely be adding to my own recipes. We started by making a lady finger recipe, but baking it in a disc shape instead of fingers. Then we prepared a coffee syrup and made the cheese filling. It's way too expensive for the school to buy mascarpone, so we just used cream cheese, but I kind of think I prefer the cream cheese anyway. So we soaked the lady finger discs in coffee syrup and layered them in a mold with our chocolate cheese filling, and froze. Once set, we removed the mold, covered the top with a generous dusting of cocoa powder, and placed chocolate squares we had prepared ahead (white chocolate spread over cocoa powder sprinkled on a sheet) around the outside. Love it!

Chocolate tiramisu


Yesterday we started another module with our other teacher, which is all about puff pastry - the bane of my existence. Ok, it's not quite that bad, but I have a really hard time with it. We made two different recipes yesterday, using different methods - the simple method and the quick method. The quick method is what we learned before with our other teacher, which is to break up chunks of butter into your flour, then add the water and combine without over-mixing, chill, and proceed to roll and fold. I have a really difficult time with the water part, I don't know why. With the simple method, you made a simple dough with your flour, water and a small amount of butter and let that chill for a few minutes while you make work a large amount of butter into a pliable square. Then you roll out your dough, leaving a hump in the middle, plop the sheet of butter in the middle and fold the dough around the butter like an envelope, then proceed with roll and fold and chill. I have to say, I think I prefer the simple method. But I will never like rolling out the dough. :(

Between yesterday and today, we've made 3 different styles of chaussons (turnovers): American, French, and Italian. American turnovers are squares folded diagonally to make triangles (we put bought strawberry filling inside and covered the top with course sugar before baking). French turnovers are ovals folded in half to make sort of half circles (we made an apple compote for the filling, and scored the tops like veins on a leaf before baking). Italian turnovers are completely different. We rolled out our puff pastry dough into a long rectangle, covered with a layer of butter, rolled it up and froze it enough to be able to slice. We cut into 2cm thick slices, which we then rolled out into ovals. The filling was a mixture of choux pastry and pastry cream/custard, with dried fruit mixed in. After adding the filling, we just folded over the oval and pressed the edges without sealing them. The butter melts in the oven making a really interesting lacy/ribbon effect.

Chaussons aux fraises - American style

Chaussons aux pommes - French style

Chaussons italiens

In France, the end of Lent is (was?) celebrated with La fête des rois (The Kings' Ball), and a major part of the celebrating was the galette des rois (King's Cake) into which was baked a bean. Whoever found the bean was named king of the festivities and he got to choose his queen. Long story short... we made galette des rois without the beans. :) Very simple, we rolled out the puff pastry quite thick, cut out 2 8-inch circles, filled one of the circles with almond cream, placed the other circle on top and sealed with egg wash. Before baking we coated with egg wash and scored lines into the top, like with the French turnovers. And, as with the French turnovers, once removed from the oven we brushed simple syrup onto the tops.

Galette des rois

We also made little baskets for jardinières, which are super cute, but mine didn't rise as much as they should have. It's impressive looking, but quite simple. You roll out your dough, cut into squares, then cut along the edges and into 2 (opposite) corners. Then we put egg wash around the square in the middle, and flipped one loose outside corner over the other, laid onto the middle square, which makes little knots on two ends. I'm not explaining it very well, it's something you have to see anyway. We blind baked them, then filled the little basket with pastry cream, covered with fresh fruit, and glazed with apricot. Cute. :) We also worked on palmiers and vol au vent, but I didn't finish them, so no pictures! Until next time!

Jardinières with puff pastry