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. :)


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