Thursday, March 31, 2011

Judgement Day: Original Gateau "The Hangover"

My Mosaic Hangover

Once more and for the last time, it's the moment of truth: our final Kitchen Assessment. Fresh from the nuclear meltdown / white goo disaster of catastrophic proportions, adjustments were made today to hopefully secure success for my gateau. I speak of coz, of my kirsch mousse.

So what changed, you ask? Well I followed the recipe for a start!

Instead of portioning 300g of pâte à bombe for the mousse in my first attempt, I mistakenly dumped the whole 750g lot into the whipped cream and gelatine mix, resulting in a heavy and under-gelatinized mess. Heck even Jello-from-a-box was more attractive than my pool of slop. Lesson well learnt, my portion-controlled mousse came out much better today, holding its shape while yielding a creamy consistency when sliced into.

Another variance was a vanilla bean added to the pâte à bombe; the black speckled seeds not only brought life to the otherwise anemic-looking mousse, it added a subtly sweet perfume which I think makes any dessert more comforting to eat. Taste, touch, sight and smell, we feast with all our senses, don't we?

Hangover In Small Doses

While the mousse had sufficient gelatine-coverage, I reduced the gelatine in the strawberry jelly to avoid the same rubbery chew toy I made the last time, while into the jaconde soaking syrup I added lemon juice to liven things up. Who doesn't love a kirsch-lemon cocktail, aye? Bongo Cola, Burgundy Punch, Florida, KGB, Unsung Hero...
Right-o, Happy Hour aside, I surrounded the gateau with a strip of tulip paste-stenciled jaconde for a neater finish and to hide any spillage from the many layers that went into my creation.

Gateau Lined Up For The Judging Panel

Today's gateau was much better than my first go, but not my best work. On 20/20 hindsight, I should have added some lemon juice and zest to the mousse for zing, or crumbled a layer of white chocolate shortcake in the middle for crunch.

That said, I've done my best, now we play the waiting game.

The Long Wait

What of the result? Believe it or not folks, I passed! This Assessment was no mean feat and the marking criteria was equally tough, which goes to show how creativity - key to excelling in this industry - is not a skill one readily possesses; for some (and I harshly mean me) it'll take years of practice before one can truly understand the different flavors and textures of pastries and how to match them for the best results.

Here's a look at what some of my amazingly creative pals came up with. Behold!

Song & Erica's Creations

Smital & Margarita's Gateaus

Matin & Mystery Chef's Masterpieces

Lucy & Mystery Chef's Works Of Art

Lining Up The Troops

After the assessment we were herded into the demo kitchen for an individual critique and feedback session, gladly welcomed by us all. What better way to improve than by learning what worked and what failed, both of your own and that of your peers?

Say Cheese!

This being the last week of the last term of our pastry journey at LCB, a photo session was in order and Chef Keith and Chef Luigi gaming-ly moonlighted as our photographers. 

Finally, A Pic With Chef Keith :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Afternoon Tea 2

Our Delectable Spread

It's our turn to host Afternoon Tea: the week leading up to today was spent practicing our prep which had to be completed in record time on service day.

I find this menu more appealing than the last: smoked salmon and roast beef sandwiches "loosely" translates to extra treats for the chefs, and with the previous week's experience, our petit fours came out extra petit and adorable.

Sizzlin' Beef

For a pastry chef, I really dig my meat and fell in love with the huge cut of cow flesh we were given; and can there be any sound sweeter than that of meat sizzling on a hotplate? *swoon*


Soft Roll With Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese & Chive
Mini Baps With Rare Roast Beef, Horseradish Cream & Rocket

Rye & Linseed With Brie, Cranberry & Pea Sprouts


Breton With Caramelized Chibouste

Lemon Tart With Fresh Fruits
Date Scones With Double Cream & Raspberry Jam


Dark Chocolate Mousse With Chocolate Shavings


Gateau Concorde (Gluten Free)


Fruit Plate


The Crepes Crew: Me, Sunny Smiles Smital, The Talented Erica
Fighting Over The Grand Marnier

I scored a job on the crepes station, which was as close to cooking as one can be on the service floor. With me are Erica and Jing, and Smital as our trusty assistant. :)

Caramelizing Sugar, Butter, Lemon & Orange Juice
Preparing To Flambee With Grand Marnier (Photographer Simon Backing Up For Safety)


Voila! So Worth The Torched Eyebrows

After Service Wedgie :p

Winding Down With Drinks & Food

Ivan The Terrible
(Just Kidding, He Was Great!)

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Love Affair...With Coffee

 The Beans

It's my Birthday today! And it may well be the best birthday ever as I got to spend the entire day in coffee class! As you all know, I have an unhealthy love affair with coffee and indeed all guises of caffeine (click here for symptoms of my addiction) and I thank the great cosmic alignments for putting me in this class today. :p

The Tools (Starter Kit & Coffee Grinders)

I skipped my morning joe thinking we'll get to taste some first thing in the morning, but lo and behold the introduction and theory (origins of coffee, where they are grown, the difference between Arabica and Robusta etc) lasted a good 1 1/2 hours, by which time withdrawal symptoms had set in and I was struggling to keep my eyes open while fending off a loud, throbbing headache; I finally resorted to munching on coffee beans to stay alive awake.

The Love Affair

Alas, we finally got down to business, starting with the basics blacks.

 Trickling Black Gold Into Measuring Glass

Standard Single Shot (7gm Coffee & 30 ml Water)
Long Black (Double Shot, Hot Water)

Espresso (Double Shot)
Ristretto ("Restricted" 7gm Coffee & 15ml Water)

Ivan Demonstrating Various Coffee Creations

Ivan's the guy in charge of Afternoon Tea, and had the challenging task of training us on every aspect of said day from coffee to service to flambeing Crepe Suzette's, all in just 1 day

The eccentric Frenchman's a wonder to behold: smiling one minute, foaming (like milk froth) the next, speaks a billion languages (English, French, Italian, Korean...) and is probably the most passionate expert in his wide field of fields. Kept us all on our toes he did.

Black coffees done, we proceeded to learn the whites i.e. milk varietals.

Pouring 65°C Steamed Milk (Careful Not To Disturb The Crema)
Cappuccino (1/3 Cup Single Shot, 1/3 Milk, 1/3 Foam, Cocoa Powder)

Flat White (Single Shot, More Milk, Less Foam)
Baby Cino (Milk, Foam, Cocoa Powder)

Macchiato ("Stained" Single Shot, Foam)
Cafe Latte (Single Shot, Milk, 10ml Foam) & Piccolo (Mini Cafe Latte)

At this point of class I've had more than 10 cups of coffee (quality control, you see) and was developing symptoms of a different kind: sharp, throbbing headache, heart palpitations and a very sick stomach. Simon reckons I'm a sucker for punishment - I ain't arguing with that.

Mochaccino (Chocolate, Single Shot, Milk, Foam, Cocoa Powder)

My Cappuccino & Flat White

My Band Of Coffee: Over-foamed Mochaccinos, Alright Macchiato
Cafe Latte That Reminds Me Of Singapore's Traditional Kopi

Brewing coffee's easy; controlling the milk and foam is the hard part. Mine was consistently too frothy, which is how I prefer cappuccino to be, but it wasn't quite up to standard for today's class. I just have to keep practicing (and drinking) till I get it right. Have I mentioned I'm a sucker for punishment?

Preview Of Tomorrow's Afternoon Tea

By midday I've had enough of coffee and was ready to get back into the kitchen where I am truly at home, doing what I am most comfortable with: baking. :)

 Coffee, Anyone? :)