Monday, August 29, 2011

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate!!!

Oh yes. As mentioned in my previous few posts, I have been up to my elbows in chocolate recently. Here's what we made.

 Inside the chocolate decor is a dense chocolate fruitcake~ Bet you a dollar you've never tried a chocolate fruitcake before. Around the cake is my first attempt at wood grain chocolate. Chocolate wood. Yum. Also on top are chocolate leaves. We dipped lemon leaves in chocolate, let them set up and peeled the leaves off to get the impressions of their veins, so simple yet super effective. Try it! Just note that you need to use a waxy leaf so it peels off easily~ Those little stringy decorations are hand piped onto parchment, left to set and placed onto the cake

 Here is my first attempt at a chocolate box! I made the templates myself and cut them out of semi-set tempered chocolate that I wood grained on one side, then placed transfer sheets on top for the design you see in gold. A technique our replacement chef on the day said would be impossible!
 What I learned is, don't listen to people. Just try it yourself, just cos they couldn't do something doesn't mean you can't!
Each round corner was made individually then glued together with more tempered chocolate. You can see the wood grain on the bottom of the lid there :) I thought it was pretty cool. The ribbons were made on acetate, when it was slightly matt, I bent them over on themselves at the edges and let them set that way overnight then peeled the acetate off and voila!

 We were all tasked to make a chocolate stand. It had to be at least 6 inches high and a maximum of 12 inches across. I came up with this Victorian design

 Firstly the day before, we made all the chocolate candies. Chocolate Carres (Dark chocolate sandwiching a mixture of crunchy feuilletine and praline paste), candied and chocolate dipped roasted almonds, Rochers (chocolate coated candied nuts with candied orange peel) and Mendiants (little drops of chocolates topped with dried fruit and nuts- so good. My fav combination was a toasted hazelnut on a milk chocolate droplet with some currants and candied orange peel)

 I made the base out of white tempered chocolate, it came out really nicely as you can see from the shine. I poured the chocolate onto a texture sheet and let it set up until it released by itself from the mold

I then made the umbrella stand using tempered milk chocolate poured into a candy cane cookie cutter and left it to set up overnight at room temperature. The fan pieces were cut out of a thin sheet of tempered milk chocolate with another cookie cutter mold that I found, I believe it was meant to  be a tall glass of sorts, but it worked perfectly as fan pieces don't you think?! Score. The details were then piped on by hand with some tempered white chocolate in a paper cone. The tassel and roses were made out of molding chocolate :)

 The platform for the candy was made out of a sheet of marbled white and milk chocolate which I then cut out with a 6 inch cake mold

Everything is glued together by tempered chocolate or by melting down a side of the piece and gluing it to the next

 Initially I had the idea of making the umbrella top lace-like by piping chocolate onto the outside of a round mold or onto a balloon and then releasing it so that it forms a lace cage of sorts, allow you to see the candy within. Unfortunately, after 3 failed attempts using 3 different techniques, it was unsuccessful and I molded the top out of 2 molds and stuck them together instead. The tip of the umbrella was made from a chocolate bon bon mold and stuck on with chocolate as well.

Tip of the Day!!
When working with tempered chocolate, note that as it sets, it will shrink slightly and curl, so if you want your work to be flat, sandwich your chocolate between 2 flat wooden boards and leave to set overnight for best results. Chocolate that sets against acetate (smooth plastic) will peel off with a brilliant shine, as compared to a dull finish if left to set on parchment or other surfaces. 

FYI for those who don't know what tempered chocolate is, it is the heating and cooling down of chocolate to specific temperatures and agitated by stirring, to produce a chocolate that "snaps" when broken, melts evenly in the mouth for a luxurious mouth feel, sets up quickly and has a glossy sheen to it. This is done for chocolate that is to be eaten or used in showpiece work. It doesn't sound like much and just like you, I often wondered why I needed to go through all the trouble to just make shiny chocolate. But it's much more than that. If you ever had a piece of out of temper chocolate, that grainy texture will haunt you forever. Only thing that can bring back your love for chocolate would then have to be the smooth velvety unctuous sensations of a good piece of tempered chocolate slowly melting on the tongue.

Btw. Chocolate is an aphrodisiac. Eat irresponsibly.


Hurricane Irene Blows Through NYC~~~

Hi everyone, it has once again been awhile~~~ Since my last post, we have embarked on a mystical journey with Chocolate, as well as completed our first module of Plated Desserts. Oh yes, and survived through an EARTHQUAKE and HURRICANE!!!

It was actually no biggie... the hype was much more than the actual event. For us here in Brooklyn anyways. There have been flooding and power outages in other parts of the city and the subways are just picking back up after having shut down at noon on Saturday. It was mostly drizzling with short thunderstorms all day on Saturday, with increasingly strong winds and rain throughout the night till the early morning. Trees outside my window were bending closer and closer in which did freak me out a tad but besides from that it wasn't that bad. We did not have any flooding nor power outages in the house, just a couple broken branches and fallen trees down the street. Here are some pics of the destruction around the neighbourhood which I gathered on a jog around yesterday and today.

Oh NO!! Hurricane's a comin'

 Subways were all cordoned off in NYC

 Some stores like Cubana Cafe down on Bergen boarded up their storefront
 Puppies at Pup Slope were evacuated for their safety too~

 Why was I out braving the rain, you may ask? Well for pre-hurricane bagels of course!!

 And muffin... This was a mondo blueberry muffin also from Bergen Bagels. This is my second time ordering from there. Each time I try 2 bagels and so far, I gotta say, Olde Brooklyn Bagel Shoppe on Underhill has proven to be better~ 

 What is there to do in a hurricane but partaaayyy~~~ My room mate Michelle kindly prepared this feast which included roasted veggies, garlic scapes and chickens which were brined overnight. I helped by fingering the chickens highly inappropriately, stuffing them with butter beneath their skins which were perfumed by lemon zest, garlic and rosemary.

 They came out soooo delicious and super moist and tender. Best chicken I have had Mich!! Ever! We will definitely have to repeat this to perfection~~~

 She plates so nicely~ I would have just ripped into the thing with my bare hands...

 Veggies also roasted up nicely as we watched Footloose on DVD along with My Best Friend's Wedding 

 Mmmm roasted beets and carrots from the farmer's market with balsamic vinegar and olive oil

 At one point there was a tornado warning for NYC but nothing came of it... 

 I attempted to take some pictures of the storm but it was way too dark to pick up anything good... I should have taken a video really but you know what? It was 2am in the morning and I got tired of waiting for the hurricane to reach us in full force and went to bed instead~

 I woke up to this~

 This guy was overly prepared~~~

 Tree fell down the street on to 2 cars~~~

 This tree was found almost coming down on the car, leaving like 2 inches of space between the trunk and the roof of the car. 

 Trees have shallow root systems here as it seems... this is right outside my house

 My leafy steps

 All day on Sunday, strong winds were still blowing... I decided to go for my jog and at some points I actually found myself jogging on the spot as I tried to go against the wind. Yeah it was that strong still! Fun times though as the skies had cleared and rain had stopped. The cool weather these days is perfect for a good walk or run about the neighbourhood. They do however keep opening the door of my room. Those of you who follow my blog here would know that where my door knob is supposed to be is a large gaping hole. As such, nothing keeps the door closed except 2 hand-me-down handweights by the previous tenant so to keep it shut in a hurricane takes the above: A printer in its box, 3 bottles of water (my hurricane rations), my chair, handweights, handbag and a dictionary for my closet door~

 Remember that falling tree? 

 Its falling even more today when I went out this Monday morning!

 Dude. Like seriously. Move your car!

I did another walk about today and came across this cordoned off area around St Augustine Church down on 5th and Sterling Pl. The policeman behind the yellow tape proceeded to explain that this is a safety precaution as the steeple you see in the background is due to fall any moment due to the hurricane.

Well that's all for me for now, as I sit here munching on remnants of the roasted veggies from the fridge and my BBQ potato chips which were part of my hurricane supplies~ Hurricanes are SUCH a good excuse to stock up on junk food! 


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mid-Term and Me~

Hey everyone~ I had my mid-term a couple weeks ago and what it entailed was a written exam which covered everything we have learned so far, along with a practical exam. For the practical, we had to pick our selection based on a lottery system so we reach into a bowl and pull out a slip of paper that states what we each had to incorporate into our 6", 3 layered cake. I picked milk sponge, mousseline and marzipan, which meant that my base cake had to be a milk sponge, filled with layers of mousseline (which can also be used as a crumb coat, luckily! So I did not have to make another butter cream to crumb coat with, which some of my unfortunate classmates had to do) and cover the cake in marzipan.

Oh yes. To make things all a little more difficult, since this is now level 2 and a mid-term test, the cake has to be decorated in a specific theme. Our chef was kind enough to let us pick our own individual themes instead of picking an overall one as he likes to see what we all come up with and make for a helluva interesting line up of cakes at the end of the day.

So... with little time to think and plan as I was busy interning, I picked a simple Japanese Cherry Blossom theme. Very zen, and kept things simple so as to not over do things. I remembered in a demo, a chef mentioned that you can always spot the work of a young chef by the over ambitious nature of over crowding their work with as much as they can in the hopes of being able to show off their capabilities every chance they get.

We also had to produce our very first sketch in colour, of our design, and itinerary for the day and we were also graded against how well we stuck to the plan and design. So, for my written I did pretty well and got a 98, surprisingly! But even more surpising was my perfect score for my practical! This was a first for me, which got me motivated once again to do well going forward.

 Here's my mid-term cherry blossom cake!

Inside was a milk sponge soaked with orange blossom simple syrup to give a floral note and a pistachio flavoured mousseline, a tinge of green to complement the green buds on the cake

 First off, I baked my milk sponge on a sheet tray. A milk sponge is almost like a richer version of a genoise. Which means it has to be folded and mixed with great care so as to not deflate the meringue as that is its only form of leavening. The use of milk however gives this a denser crumb as compared to the genoise, as well as a less eggy taste that I'm not a huge fan of in a genoise.

 I managed to keep mine pretty high, which I was glad for, as this will make building the cake better, making for a high cake

 I then cut the 3, 6" layers out via the use of a 6" cake ring pressed down onto the sponge so that I got even circles of cake

 The came the pistachio mousseline which I spread evenly between the layers and well as used as a crumb coat on the outside of the cake once all 3 layers had been stacked

 The aim of the crumb coat, as mentioned in my previous post, is to stick all crumbs to this layer, such that it does not disrupt from the final layer of decor that goes onto the cake. This creates a clean cake, as well as a good structure for whatever you will be covering the cake with. A crumb coat needs to be well chilled in the fridge or freezer before covering the cake. If working with marzipan, the danger with putting it in the freezer however, is that condensation will occur on the surface of the marzipan as the cake is being covered which will cause it to become sticky and difficult to work with. So it is best to chill the cake in the fridge, but to ensure that the crumb coat layer is firm.

 Next up, I mixed this pastel shade of pink marzipan using food colouring. Mixing colours, as I found out, is as much a skill as the actual covering of the cake! To get one's desired colour takes alot of kneading and mixing and experimenting to perfect. Out of everything that I did for the exam, I believe colouring the marzipan was the single most time consuming thing done that day!

 I made sure to trim the sides well, as in my original sketch I had included a border around the edge but on the actual day, I decided against it as I felt it would ruin the zen look of the cake.

 I then rolled out brown marzipan and stuck them onto the cake to be the tree branches, etching them with a paring knife to create a wood effect.

 I then proceeded to make different sized cherry blossom flowers in a different shade of pink, marbled with white, along with little flower buds and petals. It is difficult to colour marzipan as in its original state, it is an off white ivory colour due to the high percentage of almond paste that it is made out of. So I used white food colouring to achieve the white, as leaving it off white would not have made the cherry blossoms stand out quite as much. I also added little green buds to add a little colour contrast on the cake. But not too many, once again, less is more.

 Not to leave out the back of the cake, but to keep things simple, I just adhered some individual petals of varying sizes spaced out along the sides of the cake so that when each slice is cut, there will be some decoration on each slice

The missing slice you see there is the one my chef cut to taste. He took a look, tasted it and told me that he had no comments for me as I had made a perfect cake. That damn nearly brought a tear to my eye. It feels good to be validated for one's hard work.

Working with marzipan is actually pretty difficult as it is stickier and softer to work with than fondant. Colouring it is also more difficult, especially making pastel colours bright and vibrant due to the off white nature of the product. That is why, normally, cakes are iced and covered in fondant rather than marzipan. Rarely does one come across cakes these days being sold that are covered and decorated in full marzipan. A pity though, as personally I have taken a liking to the taste of marzipan. Fondant on the other hand just tastes sweet and is usually peeled off the cake and not eaten.

Well that's all folks! More to come in the week ahead is chocolate! This mid-term marked the end of cakes part 2 for us and we are now in the first lessons of chocolate. So stay tuned if you like that sweet nectar of the gods. I know you do. We all do.


Cake Decorating!

Finally! We're getting into making pretty cakes :) Here are my first attempts at icing cakes with butter cream, doing a basket weave, covering a cake with marzipan and fondant. Lets take a look at what they look like!

 This is the Fraisier. It is delicious X 10.

 Strawberry halves are placed perfectly around the inside of a cake ring 

 Filled with layers of soaked sponge cake

 And vanilla mousseline... with strawberry pieces in the centre. I gave mine 3 layers :)

 Level off the top and chill

 Roll out a piece of marzipan and place on top of the cake

 Trim off the excess carefully

 Decorate with white chocolate in a paper piping bag and voila!

 Look how pretty each slice sits on a plate! I loved this.

 Everyone loves a lemon chiffon... inside this cake are 3 layers of lemon chiffon and sandwiched between is tart lemon curd

 Crumb coat the cake to prevent crumbs from mixing into the final icing layer. A good crumb coat should be smooth around the edges and flat on top with nice crisp edges

 My first attempt at a basket weave!

 I thought that the cake with basket weave only on the side looked naked so I filled in the top too :)

 Another first was this cake! 

Done fully in marzipan... The marbling was fun to do :)

First attempt at covering a cake in fondant! Ignore the bumps as it got a little knocked up when traveling home with me~

 Inside was this. Chocolate sponge with pistachio cream... Yuuummm.

 Once the vertical log was crumb coated, it was covered in fondant that I made out of powdered sugar, corn syrup and gelatin kneaded to the right consistency

The bottom skirt is then trimmed off cleanly... I used a spackling tool for this ;)

 Once cut into, you get this cool effect from the way it was rolled and wrapped vertically


The Black Forest Cake.
 So delicious. I single handedly ate half of this myself.

 Layers of chocolate cake, Creme D'or (decadent chocolate cream) and sour cherry compote

 Simply frosted in whipped cream, garnished with rosettes topped with brandied cherries and chocolate curls

 Now that is what I call a good looking slice.

 I made the sour cherry compote for the class. Take one huge ass pot and fill it up with sour cherries, a little sprinkling of sugar and 3 vanilla beans... one it comes to a boil, take some of the juice out, cool it and add some corn starch to make a slurry and pour it back to the cherries and boil for 2 mins and let thicken

Now ever hear that expression "Christmas in July"? Well rightly so, as I found myself making a Yule Log in the middle of July last month!

 It started out with a layer of soaked sponge

 Covered in a layer of spiced sour cherry buttercream... mMmmm..

 Next it is rolled up carefully to form a log shape

 From there, I cut off both ends at a slight angle and attach them onto the top of the log with chocolate butter cream and proceeded to spread the chocolate butter cream all over the log to make it look like a tree branch

 After which, small little meringue cones and rounds are piped and baked. Why you ask? 

 To make little mushroom and snowmen of course! I dipped the underside of my mushroom heads in cocoa powder to imitate the dark fins on the undersides of mushrooms as well as a light dusting on top to make them look more realistic.

 How do they stick together you ask? Well, a little hole dug into the caps with a little dollop of white chocolate helps the pointed stems to fit and stick nicely! Do you like my double little mushrooms in the background? Cute aren't they??

I hope you enjoyed this post, I'll try to remember to take more photos as I bake~ Its sometimes so fast and busy in class that I tend to forget.  Anywho, next up? Chocolate! But first, my mid-term exam~ That's in the next post so stay tuned!!