Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mr. Chocolate

Thursday was Jacques Torres Day. My second time meeting Mr. Chocolate himself, and dean of Pastry here at the FCI~ He did a chocolate demo in school and what an experience it was.

My the French have their minds perpetually in the gutter- that's why I love em'~ Plus there was glitter, chocolate sculptures, balloon blowing, chocolate mouse sampling and lots of laughs. The man can certainly entertain. I can only hope that one day I will have half the success he has in the industry~

 Popping a bottle MOF style...

 Now where did it go?

 Making a chocolate centre piece

 Front row seats to the show got me a sprinkling of holographic glitter disco dust

 He actually made a chocolate painting

 Let me reiterate, this was a completely edible painting made completely out of chocolate~
He got us blowing up tiny balloons~ I could only manage one! Those tiny balloons are tough to blow up! Geez~
They were for dipping in chocolate to make these cute little cups to fill with chocolate mouse and fruit :)



On Friday, we started cakes! Our resident chef instructor couldn't make it so we had a replacement teacher yesterday~ So it was certainly different.

We started with the making of the Genoise, the cake that every patissiere must know how to make and make well. The challenge is in getting the right amount of rise and texture as this is a very light cake made by beating up a whole egg foam and pouring in softball stage sugar into the mix and whisking up to form a very very light foam. Flour is then double sifted and folded in gently in 3 additions. It then has to be baked immediately to retain its volume. In this time, the oven doors must not be opened for the first 15 mins of baking to prevent any collapse of the cake, yes it is that delicate! We then proceeded to make our very first butter cream which we used to coat and decorate the cake.

The Genoise

 The flour has to be sifted once, then sifted again above and onto the egg foam mix to be folded into the batter

 The cake tin has to be very well buttered and floured, tapped hard upside down to remove all excess flour. Also a small circle of parchment is placed at the bottom of the pan to ease removal

My Genoise. Not bad for a first attempt! But it could be an inch or more taller~

 To assemble the cake, it is cut into 3 layers

 Cutting the layers into equal thickness is an art form. One I aim to perfect in time.

 A ring of butter cream icing is then piped around the edges roughly and a layer of raspberry jam is spread within

 Here's how it looks within!

 Oh yes, each layer was also given a soaking of simple syrup~ yummy.

Carb Overload~~~

Oh yes. A very significant carb binge has occured.

We made boozy danishes, brioches, croissants and more in the last week! Phew~ Our production has really stepped up by leaps and bounds since day one. So let's get to the pictures now shall we?

Let's start the ball rolling with fruit cake! 
This is a favourite of the men in the Lim clan. My dad and grandfather are huge fans, and so am I... Think its got something to do with the fact that fruit cakes were always a special little treat to bring home in a tiny box at the end of weddings back home~

 These were so yummy, made with a large variety of dried fruit and nuts :) Dried apricots, sour cherries, raisins, sultanas, apricots, walnuts and pecans to be precise

Think I forgot to mention the candied orange peel too~

Once the batter was made, the fruit and nuts were added, and baked in loaves and in little muffin cups~ Once out of the oven, they were bathed in a boozy syrup of whiskey and brandy and then given a little icing coating
What's there not to love?

Now whoever doesn't get slightly turned on by a pile of Danishes is not human.

 Sorry to break it to you guys, but yes. This is how much butter that goes into danish dough...

 Its all covered up now, you can open your eyes~ *pat pat, there there*

 Once rolled out, delicious boozy raisins and sultanas that have been getting drunk in a hot tub of rum all weekend are mixed with chopped nuts and some cinnamon sugar to add texture and flavour to the roll

 Danishes are round, and they are that way because we roll the lil baby up and cut them into their signature shapes


 A little egg wash and into the oven they go~

 Can't you just smell it through the screen? Glazed with a little apricot jam and its ready for a nomming! Traditionally they are also given a second coat of icing but you know what? I'm a purist, plus I figured, that's kinda enough sugar and butter for now~

The Mother of all breads- Brioche
If the word is unfamiliar, I'm sure the taste and texture is not. I can guarantee that at one time or another you have all had a brioche of some sort, whether you had an amazing sandwich once but couldn't quite put your finger on why it was so fantastic, or had a bread pudding that you found sooo buttery and delicious, it was probably cos it was made with Brioche~

 The dough is a little pain in the tuckus to make, having to do a little target practice by aiming little cubes of butter into the centre of a hard glutinous ball of dough

 The sticky mess then needs to proof and get flipped and proofed again~

 Be sure to leave some growing room if you wrap your breads up as they continue to proof in the fridge~ You will find a little tight air filled pillow of dough the next morning like we did :)

 Brioche can then be shaped in any way desired, but traditionally they are made into these lil guys, and into loaves~ 

There's a little technique to getting the shape of the brioche to stay in 2 separate balls one on top of the other. I'll try to say it without sounding too dirty. Its hard. Trust me. Ok, so, shape a 50g ball of dough into the shape of a bowling pin, place it into the mold, push the base down into the mold and then flour up a finger, and poke into and under the top ball till you can feel the bottom centre of the mold. Poke all around the top ball till it sits nicely and looks even and leave to final proof before egg washing and baking 

The result of all the hard work! Isn't it cute!

From this you can see the flaky soft texture of the brioche. This dough contains alot of eggs so it has a eggy taste to it amidst all the butter~

Another way is to shape the little balls and let them final proof in a loaf tin

 Once they have had a good 30 mins to plump up, they are too egg washed and baked

 Unmolded and left to cool on a rack, they can easily be pulled apart into little segments. Brioche makes for fabulous french toast by the way, and egg sandwiches~

 As I found out, you can also make tarts with brioche!

 Roll out a circle of brioche dough and cover in a thin layer of pastry cream
 and a little sprinkling of cake crumbs

 The crumbs help to absorb some of the moisture from the fruit that then goes on top!
 We used apricots, but this works well with any berry or stoned fruits

 Once baked, the tart is ready for a coat of apricot jam to create the shine and tuck in!

 What's this? Who are these little guys I hear you ask?

Well now, they belong to my family of bees that reside in the above yummy abode

 Made out of marzipan (which has always been something I detest till now! The one we had in school was actually very yummy indeed!) These little bees were shaped and given little smiles from the help of the rim of a piping tip. Next, melted chocolate was piped on for the stripes and eyes and they were given little almond wings glued on with the chocolate

 To assemble, first we need a little brioche bun. I know what you're thinking. Out of everything you could possibly imagine that was inside the hive, bread was not one of them! That was my initial reaction too!

 But it is. It was cut into 3 equal parts

 Given a good soaking of a lavender-honey syrup

 With a thin layer of pastry cream spread between the layers

 Next, we made some Italian Meringue and piped it all along the outside of the brioche in the shape of a beehive~ 

 Then we took a blowtorch to it and browned the meringue. You can really see the hive structure once the meringue browns!

A good drizzle of honey and the bees come a flockin'~~~

Whoever says that right the first time gets a prize.
 When working with breaks, always make sure to butter molds generously to prevent sticking! Here we added some naked almonds to the bottom of each curve of the mold

 The dough which contains dried fruit is then poured on top and left to final proof

 Did I mention that this too was boozed up? I think you're probably starting to get the picture... I like to get my pastries good and drunk before having my way with them.

 Ok so, once baked, the Kugelhopf needs to be unmolded and cooled on a rack or the steam from the pan will break down the bread and cause it to get all soggy

 Isn't it pretty? Usually it is dusted with some powdered sugar, but once again... sugar overload. So it was skipped this time too~

 I've had a couple of you tell me that we have been making alot of things that you have never seen in stores. Firstly, that's cos we're awesome. Second, with that, I give you, the muffin. 

We piped our muffins into the cupcake molds, which actually, is a wonderfully neat way of doing things! Not to mention, they came out really even in size although I just eyeballed it. Good tip right there people! Are you guys still with me??

 Next, we made a crumb for the top. Consisting of brown sugar, melted butter and some flour. The crumbs were super yummy.

I have to admit, these were not everyone's favourite, but once I took them home and had them the next day, I found them to be rather delightful actually! I loved the contrast of the sour cherries against the sweetness of the crumbs on top and the orange zest added a punch to the otherwise dreary muffin batter~ Would have been even better with a good splash of the orange liqueur in my opinion...

Another old time fav, the chocolate chip cookie.

 Mine are not the ordinary choc chip cookie though! As a class we are so efficient that our chef let us improvise with this recipe! As such, I stuck to 2 flavour profiles- Hazelnut and Chocolate. By not being too greedy, there isn't too many complicated flavours involved to distract the tastebuds~

So for this, I used large chunks of Gianduja Chocolate (Hazelnut Chocolate, think of Nutella but in a bar form), dark chocolate chips, roughly chopped roasted hazelnuts to keep the crunch alive, substituted a handful of flour with hazelnut flour to carry the hazelnut flavour throughout the cookie, and I added an extra egg yolk so as to make the cookies chewy!

 They smelled so good. Never again would anyone want have to have a Subway cookie.

Mmmmm... They were a huge hit at the dinner party at my place that very night that my room mates had~ The sounds that were being made by the guys having this needed to be censored lol


 This is a Stollen loaf. It is a speciality bread made at Christmas time and is supposed to resemble baby Jesus- Uncanny isn't it?

 Folded in a particular way, this loaf contains, you guessed it, more dried fruit and nuts! The nuts were left whole this time though, which I felt really made this yummy.

 Here we have chef Jeanne demonstrating what comes next after baking... Yes. That is a pot of melted butter. OOOhhh Yeeesss... copious amounts of brushing of melted butter or if you so prefer, you may dunk the loaf in the pot of liquid gold up to 3 times if desired... These pilgrims but have had harsh winters to need that much of blubber to keep them warm. Unfortunately for us, it is almost swimsuit season so... this is bad.

Of course, no dunking into melted butter is done without a then roll about in vanilla and powdered sugar~~~ So evil. But so good.
Evil. But good.

 Upside down Eiffel Towers??

 Now it's sideways!

 What's so interesting about the base?

 Ahhhh I see now what this is.

 Oh yes we did. We made Croissants.

 What is this?

 Chocolate sticks 

 Ummmhmmm. They are the chocolate croissant. Strangely enough we had an influx of guests and visitors the day we made these... almost as if they knew there were chocolate croissants being baked... ... ...

 The remaining croissant dough in my opinion made the most delicious treat! Cut up, egg washed and sprinkled with a GENEROUS helping of raw sugar, these were truly AMAZING!

 Better than an actual croissant if you ask me. But don't tell anyone I said that. Shhh.

Everybody, this is Sharon. Sharon, meet everybody~
This is Sharon on a lonely day without her partner. 

 She is a washed with melancholy watching her mixer knead her dough, waiting for it to be strong enough to pull a window~
All together now~ Awwwww...

 So... you know how I'm kinda British inside?
 Well that side came out when we made scones.

 Yummy, crumbly, buttery, light, Savoy Scones.

 Little currents were used and they were even cut all rustic style which made me just love them that little bit more.

The shimmer on top you see is a sprinkling of raw sugar... these were the best scones I've had apart from the ones with clotted cream and home made jam had in Cornwall...

 To end the bread section of Pastry Level 1, we made the quintessential loaf of white bread.

The Pullman loaf was made with a tin with a lid to keep the bread square and looking perfect! It tasted amazing, smelled incredible and had a slight chew to it. I have always feared bread making, and now, I cannot believe I have successfully made white bread!

Tip of the Day!
For breads, always proof in a well oiled bowl to prevent sticking, and always make sure to butter the pans or tins you bake them in well! Afterall, you wouldn't want to go through all the effort of making the bread only to ruin them trying to pry them out of the tins!