Week 3 started with us making puff pastry. Laminated dough is not something new to me so thankfully the technique used was familiar. They teach you the English method at the school, which is the book method and is what I’ve used to make rough puff, croissants and Danish pastry in the past. I learnt that there’s an inverted method, which is regarded as the most difficult method, where you wrap the dough in the butter. I can definitely understand why it would be tricky as if you don’t work quickly enough the butter is likely to melt and you won’t get good lamination. With the dough we prepared the day before, we made a ‘bande feuilletee aux fruits de saison’ or mixed seasonal fruits in puff pastry slice. The pastry has bands on the two long edges, forming a sort of channel for the creme pattssiere and fruits to sit in. The main challenge was making sure that you don’t roll your pastry out too thinly and to control the puffing up of the middle section by pressing it down with a palette knife ocassionally during baking. Sadly my dough was rolled out a bit too thinly and therefore didn’t puff up as much as it should have, but I did manage to get straight sides and I think the overall presentation of the fruits is quite pretty.
The next challenge thrown at us was the second of our potential exam dishes – eclairs! I have attempted choux pastry before with some degree of success, but trying to pipe out 16 identical choux fingers of the correct size proved to be not such an easy task. We also had to glaze the eclairs with icing fondant, which is also known as patisserie fondant. The key to keeping the glaze shiny is ensuring that you do not heat the fondant to above 38°C. If the fondant gets too warm, the sugar crystals change in size and the result is a dull finish. Did I manage to keep my fondant shiny? Of course I didn’t! Not during the practical session anyway. As it’s a potential exam dish I did a practice run at home with some homemade patisserie fondant and I did manage to keep the shine second time round. I managed to finish in exactly 2.5 hours during our lesson, so at least that gave me some confidence that if I had to make these for my exam I should be able to finish in time.
The week ended with a fun lesson – bread! I’ve really started to enjoy baking bread at home, especially sourdough, so I was really looking forward to this class. Surprisingly out of the 10 of us in our practical group, only two of us had made bread before. We made simple white bread rolls and soda bread, a quick bread leavened with bicarbonate of soda rather than yeast. It would have been nice to have maybe one more lesson about bread in the basic course, but we’re only given an introduction to bread making. The white rolls were lovely and soft, and although I wasn’t a big fan of the soda bread, the friends that I gave some to seemed to like it. In hindsight I should have made more rolls with a sundried tomato and cheddar filling as they were so delicious. Of all the practical lessons we’ve had so far, this class has had the most relaxed feeling and I think it’s down to the therapeutic effect of channeling stress into slapping a piece of dough down on the bench. Or maybe that’s just me.