Basic Patisserie Course at Le Cordon Bleu: Week 5

Week 5, also known as cream in everything week. Not a bad thing if you like cream, a very bad thing if you’re on a diet! This was a week of many firsts for me – the first time I had made a bavarois (bavarian cream), a gateau St Honore and a gelatine-set mousse.

So what’s the difference between a bavarian cream and a mousse? Well, a bavarian cream uses creme anglaise as a base, to which gelatine is added as a setting agent, followed by flavouring (for example melted chocolate or fruit puree) and the the whole mixture is then lightened with whipped cream. Dessert mousses do not use creme anglaise as a base, but may contain eggs to enrich the mixture.

We first made a charlotte au chocolat – a chocolate bavarian cream encased in a light chocolate biscuit sponge. The sponge is a separated sponge, where yolks and whites are whisked separately with sugar to stabilise. The whites are then folded into the yolks, alternating with flour. You should end up with a fairly thick and pipeable mixture that will hold its shape so that you can still see the ridges once the sponge is baked. The sponge is used to line an entremet mould or cake ring, then filled with the chocolate bavarian cream. We also made some chocolate fans for the decoration on top. My fans turned out quite decent, but I went a bit OTT with the amount that I placed on top of my charlotte. Oopps! The photo below is after I had removed a few chocolate fans to tone it down slightly. However I did receive good feedback about the texture of my sponge and that my chocolate bavarois was made well.

Charlotte au chocolat

Charlotte au chocolat – with chocolate bavarois filling

Later in the week, we made a charlotte aux cassis (blackcurrant charlotte), this time instead of a bavarian cream we made a mousse, poured a glaze on top and piped a white chocolate border. For the sponge lining we created the vertical effect by sandwiching thin layers of sponge with jam, slicing the sponge sandwich thinly and laying the pieces on their sides. I really liked this cake as it’s very light and fruity, and would make a perfect summer desert. My chocolate piping on top needs improvement, especially with controlling the pressure as it doesn’t have a smooth flow to it. On the plus side, I was quite please with the uniformity of the sponge lining and the glaze application on top wasn’t too bad either although I did have to use a blowtorch to warm the glaze so that I could apply it more evenly.

Charlotte aux cassis

Charlotte aux cassis – with cassis mousse filling

The other item we made as I mentioned earlier is a gateau St Honore – named after the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. This is a classic French dessert that has either a puff pastry or pate brisee disc as a base, on to which a ring of choux pastry is piped. The base is then baked and the choux ring is crowned with choux buns that have been dipped in caramel. Traditionally the filling is either a creme diplomat (pastry cream mixed with chantilly cream) or a creme chibouste (pastry cream mixed with Italian meringue) – for our lesson we used creme diplomat. The filling is piped on top using the St Honore piping nozzle, the same nozzle that was used for the Italian meringue on the tarte au citron. I actually liked this more than I thought I would. The contrast of the crisp pate brisee base with the airy choux buns and creamy yet light creme diplomat, plus the added crunch and sweetness from the caramel was a winner for me. I just can’t believe that I had not tried it before! My piping of the cream could have been neater and it needed clearer definition between the ‘head’ and ‘tail’ ends, but overall it looked quite tidy, especially with the caramel dipping and my choux pastry turned out really well.

Gateau St Honore

Gateau St Honore

This week turned out to be a pretty good week and I brought home three very tasty bakes. It’s probably been my favourite week in terms of eating and decorating, and we managed to finish almost everything, bearing in mind that I gave away more than half of the gateau St Honore to friends. Looks like it’s time to hit the gym!

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