Saturday, July 31, 2010

Florentines, Sable Hollander

Chef's Checkerboards

After 2 arduous days spent preparing our Sable Hollander (or Checkerboard cookie) dough, mixing and kneading, precise layering and slicing, they were finally ready for the oven!

Great Florentines Come In All Shape & Sizes

Pretty as Hollanders may be, the Florentines are by far my favourite cookies to snack on: thick slabs of sweet, crunchy almond slices topped with an equally thick coating of dark coverture chocolate, the Florentines were not only easy make but more so a breeze to devour straight after!

But wait! There's more! Notice how smooth and shiny the chocolate disks are? That, my friends, is what you get from tempering the chocolate, something else we tried our hands at doing today. How wicked is that!?!

A Little Treat

One of Chef's little helpers brought along the Concord she made in Intermediate Patisserie for us, how lucky are we? I gave it a miss, though, thoroughly content with the Florentines I still had in my mouth. I remember Concord being a decadent chocolate mousse and meringue cake, having my first taste of it from Sweet Secrets when I was just a wee little girl...ah sweet memories...

My Cookie Tray

I managed to get most parts right today, Hollanders looking pretty good, Florentines tasting even better. Tempering chocolate I'll have to try again, seeing how I wasn't able to hit the exact temperatures. You may also notice the sky scraper of a chocolate disk each almonds base was struggling to support. That, my friends, is the result of unbashful, undeniable  greed. Not that there's ever anything wrong with that. ;)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Biscuits Viennois, Biscuits Sables Rounds (Sables Diamantes), Sables Hollander

Chef's Cookie Collection

Cookies galore today as we made 3 simple yet so scrumptious varieties: Piped Viennese cookies with a hint of rum, sugar crusted sables with a light touch of orange, and yet more prep work on our Hollander, or checkerboard cookies. I haven't baked too many cookies in my lifetime,  so simple as they may seem in the making, and esp given yesterday's follies, I was taking nothing for granted.

Cookie Art

Gotta admit I was very pleased with how mine all turned out, and always happy with a creative outlet, I went all out decorating the various shapes with chocolate buttons, sliced almonds and to a lesser extent (for color and brownie points with the Chef), macerated cherries. Yeeeww... 

The secret to Viennese success? Lots of rum! In fact, go crazy with it, not so far as to alter the ideal texture of cookie dough, but push the envelope on this one. I sure did, and I tell ya, I've never had such a rummy-ly perfumed cookie in my life: in fact, this might be the first time I've even tasted rum cookies, so I'm telling you now: they are the future. Not the children, not Gaia, but Rum Cookies. 

Orange Mosaic

As for the sables, go with twice the amount of orange (or your preferred citrus) zests called for,  and you will be duly rewarded with a whiff of citrus heaven every time.

For The Cookie Jars

More than enough, but I've come prepared. I cannot wait to share these gems for I'm sure they'll go down a treat. When has rum ever failed to? ;)

Update: Kept in an airtight contained, the cookies will stay crunchy for at least a week. I gave most away to some friends I made that very weekend when I in Fiji to attend a wedding; they kept their crunch and rummy/orangy flavors and made for a great gift. :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tarte Aux Fruits, Creme Patissiere, Sables Echequier

Chef's Creation

This one's for the gold, the Fruit Tart being an item we will be required to produce in our practical assessment, so no mucking around now. 

It seemed straight forward enough on paper: A sweet crust base filled with lusciously thick pastry cream and topped with a mountain of gloriously rich coloured berries. And I thought I did a pretty good job with my tart, which looked sexy and rather French to me, somehow. 

My Masterpiece

Looks can be so deceiving. When I sliced up my Tart at home I found the crust much too thick, which explains the bucketful of cream left over from filling it. Speaking of which the cream did not set into the solid, wobbly base as expected. Oh no, it was as runny as your nose can be on a cold winter's night after you've been caught in the rain and are down with the flu and what you suspect to be the onset of hypothermia; worse yet, being terribly allergic to pollen you were in a field of sexually heightened pollinating oak trees when the thunderstorm began (ok imagine it's summer now). And now your nose is so runny you're losing invaluable fluids as you slowly dehydrating to death through the facet on your face.

Crowning Glory

But enough about you, I was pretty upset about my tart not turning out like Chef's. There's something bloody annoying not getting it right on the first go that makes me want to try and try again until I do, more so when it's something as important as The Tart That Will Be Tested On. 

Convention aside I rather prefer my custard runny. There's nothing more alluring than a wave of sweet berries swimming in a pool of silky rich cream as they come pouring down on your crust, and when you scoop a big spoonful of the party into your mouth, you crunch down on the sweet berries and crunchy tart as the custard fills your mouth in a wave of orgasmic delight. 

Unfortunately sex alone will not get you far in the LCB marking scheme, so I have to find a way to right the oh-so-good-it's-bad wrong, gotta get this right, I must. I must. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Genoise, Gateau Weekend

Chef's Lineup

They must give a lot of thought to lesson planning, having us round off our first week and head into the weekend with, well, a Gateau Weekend. So much so we made not 1 but 3 cakes to see us through the coming class-free days. 3 times the merrier, I say. 

White Wonders

With more whipped cream than I needed, I started piping the top of 1 cake with a sorta kinda flower arrangement design in mind. A smaller nozzle might have served my intentions better; I ended up making what looked more like fungal growth then floral bouquet. Ya, that'll really sell. 

Then again, there's nothing a little, or a lot of, white chocolate buttons can't fix. 

My Genoise, Genoise

Soft cake with light cream and sweet berry jam (no apricot or marmalade for me, thanks) works a treat: the macerated cherries: optional. Throw those ghastly coughdrop gumballs out the first chance you get. >p 

Heavy Duty

Heavy on 2 counts: the unbelievably I-am-Sam dense texture of the cake, and the OD of rum that went into the soaking syrup. I wouldn't start the weekend without it. *hic* 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Madeleine, Financiers/Friands, Scones Aux Fruits

Chef's Creations

Day 2 was a lesson on petit fours and redemption. Still irked about burning yesterday's scones, I was determined to get them right today and start off the course on a good note.

Keeping a close eye on the erratic oven granted me rather pleasing results: scones cooked and colored the way they should be. Now if I can just pick out all the raisins they'd be perfect... 

Rounds Of Joy

Another great thing about today's class was the chance to make the 2 things (among countless others) that I've always wanted to try: Beurre Noisette (nut brown butter) and Friands.

Melting and heating the butter to a deep mahogany hue did not, to my great surprise, result in burnt butter (what I've always mistook Beurre Noisette to mean). Rather, the name refers to both the deep, rich color of the melted fat and its most intense aroma of well, nuts. Toasted hazelnuts, in my amazed opinion.

Into the madeleine batter they went, giving them a sunset golden finish (over-romanticizing here, I know) and a subtle richness that paired perfectly with the tart lemon and orange zest. 

Friands I liked for one reason and one reason only: the almond meal that goes into it. Despite topping them off with the best intentions and best dark chocolate, upon tasting one I actually thought the fragrant almond meal would have stood out more if they had gone solo on this trip. 

Live and learn, I say.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Scones Nature, Creme Chantilly

Chef's Creations

A get-to-know-thy-neighbours, get-to-know-thy-kitchen, try-not-to-stab-or-burn-yourself class, we flagged off the semester with the basics, and you cannot get more basic then with the cupboard staple, scones.

Creme Chantilly

Probably my third attempt in recorded history, and second successful go. Good start.

I Am Beautiful...No Matter What They Say

Now, the scones I've seen on shows such as "Naked Chef" and "River Cottage" champion the barely-mixed, almost-there dough method, which was not nearly the case in class. We kneaded the dough a little more than the biblical shows command, achieving a smooth and still baby bottom soft result. 

Mine turned out slightly burnt, for which I wholly and grudgingly blame the kitchen oven. Temperamental thing. Saving grace was the crumb, which managed to survive the nuke and still emerge soft and light. 

Heavenly Pairing

Fondant Piping

Some piping practice while the oven burnt my lovely scones, which begs for more practice.

Update: 3 weeks on 3 bags full of the scones sit untouched in my fridge. Scones really only taste divine moments after they come out of the oven, after which they harden to a sorry, solid mass. But I have no heart to throw them out. Maybe, one fine spring day, I'll take them to the park to feed to the birds. Or pelt them to death with my terrible aim.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Orientation Day

Getting Suited Up

So it begins! My first steps into Le Cordon Bleu and the gloriously sweet world of Patisserie.

Orientation was a gentle introduction into the regiments of school life: long lines to stand in, forms to fill, talks to attend, and over a hundred unfamiliar faces to get acquainted with. You would probably imagine me jumping with excitement, which wasn't the case. Strangely enough I felt underwhelmed by the entire exercise, experiencing mini episodes of muted excitement at best. 

On the agenda was collection of my chef's uniform: coat, pants, hat, scarf, apron and washcloth. I also got my boots earlier in the week: Rossi's, an Aussie favourite. But the best part has yet to come.

Knives Oh Shiny Knives

Aren't they a beaut! We all had to buy a standard toolkit that came with more weapons for Cuisine then Patisserie, quite ridiculous, if you ask me, as the knives cost a bomb. And though I acknowledge my baking skills aren't quite up to scratch yet, surely my cakes do not require a cleaver to hack through?!? 

I do love my palettes though. :p

Pastry Gear & Knife Guards

Now we're talking. Piping bags, 12 nozzles, scraper, meat thermometer (seriously??)...

Have I mentioned the knife guards come with velvet lining?


Last but least thrillingly, books. 1 recipe book for the kitchen, the other 2 for theory classes. I just can't seem to get away with not studying. 

Next week, classes commence. Wish me luck, folks!