Basic Patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu: Week 4

I can’t believe that this is the halfway point in the course already. This is the week where we start making actual cakes, which is a bit of a relief as I think I’ve had enough of tarts for awhile. The first cake that we make is a simple gateau au citron, or lemon cake. Is it the same as a Madeira cake? Well, I think it’s pretty similar but I’m no expert in either so I really couldn’t tell you. I did have to make my nemesis, candied lemon julienne, as a garnish. I don’t know why I dislike making these so much. Maybe because to me it doesn’t add that much to the dish itself so seems a little pointless. I’m sure someone somewhere loves them though, they’re just not for me. I am however partial to a madeleine or two, and happily that was the other thing we made. These were some pretty tasty madeleines, and I had not used honey in madeleines before so that was new to me. We piped the mix into the moulds instead of just spooning them, and I must say I actually prefer this method. And the madeleines all had such beautiful humps – the supposed holy grail for madeleines, a result of delayed rising action on top.

Gateau au citron

Gateau au citron

Madeleines - are you staring at my humps?

Madeleines – are you staring at my humps?

Next up was the last of our possible exam dishes – the genoise a la confiture de framboises or genoise sponge layered with raspberry jam. I definitely found this the easiest of the three exam dishes. The key is not to overfold the batter, and to attain a crisp and even finish with the buttercream masking. I’ll have to admit that masking a cake without the aid of a turntable is hard work. I have become so reliant on my trusty turntable at home and I wouldn’t dream of covering a cake in buttercream or ganache without one anymore. But at school, at least for basic patisserie, turntables are a no-no. As is the use of an electric mixer or hand mixer to make the genoise sponge. It’s all about elbow grease, and it really makes sense as they want you to learn how it feels. Achieving ribbon stage by hand takes some muscle, but with the correct whisking technique it’s not too bad. My masking was not as even as I would have liked. It probably would have been smoother if I had stopped messing about with it earlier – sometimes it’s about knowing when to just leave well enough alone.

Genoise a la confiture de framboises

Genoise a la confiture de framboises

The final cake for the week was a gateau foret noire, otherwise known as a black forest gateau. The cake is a chocolate genoise sponge, with very boozy cherries and a generous amount of whipped cream. As I was giving the cake away to a couple of friends who I know like a bit of alcohol, I loaded the cake up with the kirsch soaked cherries. The sponge on its own is pretty dry, so I had to make sure that I didn’t skimp on the imbibage (soaking syrup). For the chocolate decoration, instead of the usual chocolate shavings we had a bit of practice using a chocolate transfer sheet. It was my first time using transfer sheets and I do quite like them. They’re not terribly complicated to use and the end results can be quite stunning if done properly. I cut out some triangular shards to go around the outside of the cake and some other smaller shapes for the central decoration. Unfortunately I had forgotten to take a photo before moving the cake about, and the central decoration had fallen so it looks a bit messy.

Gateau Foret Noire

Gateau Foret Noire

All in all a fairly decent week in the kitchen for me and back on more familiar ground with cakes. I need to really work on the finishing of the cakes. They are just not as polished as I want them to be and I know that I can do much better. I’ll just have to try harder next week.

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