Basic patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu: Week 6

I can’ believe it but this is the penultimate week of my course, which means that it is exam week next week! Eeek! Am I ready? Definitely not. But with only five classes this week there is plenty of time to practice and revise so there’s no need to panic. Much.

This week is all about petits-fours, which means small oven. We made three different types of petits-fours this week – batons de Marechal, sables Holandais (Dutch biscuits) and macarons.

The batons de Marechal are baton-shaped almond meringue biscuits partly covered or dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with nibbed almonds. The sables Hollandais have a checkerboard effect with alternating squares of plain and chocolate biscuit. The batons came out alright but my sables Hollandais were sadly slightly under-baked and not square-shaped enough, and the border was also too thick. I would say that overall in the class I didn’t fair too badly so I wasn’t terribly disappointed, but we did end up with a huge amount of biscuits that I wasn’t very keen on. Oh well, it’s just as well after the pigging-out session that was Week 5!

Batons de Marechal and Sables Hollandais

Batons de Marechal and Sables Hollandais

For the macarons lesson, I thought that I was going to do much better than I did as I have made macarons before quite successfully. We had to make chocolate macarons using the French meringue method, and pistachio macarons using the Italian meringue method. The chocolate macarons were a complete disaster – the tops were wrinkled, the shape was no longer a perfect round, and it didn’t really have the chewy texture that makes a good macaron. The only saving grace was that EVERYONE in class had a tough time with the chocolate macarons. Personally I suspect that it may be down to the recipe as even during the demonstration the chef could not get it to work well, although at the time he thought that it was because of the oven temperature. The pistachio macarons turned out much better and the shells certainly looked the part. I was so disheartened with my chocolate macarons that I had completely forgotten to take any photos, even of the pistachio ones, so I don’t have any evidence of the good and bad attempts. The macaronage technique that they taught us is slightly different from what I’m used to in that you fold in the ground almonds and icing sugar completely first before deflating the mixture. I usually deflate as I’m folding as I find it more efficient, and I will probably be sticking to this method as I don’t really see an advantage with the other way.

I’ve really enjoyed the last 6 weeks. The one thing that I’ve noticed is that I tend to second guess myself more when I’m at school. When I’m at home I trust my instincts a lot more, largely because I don’t have a choice, whereas at school I know that I have someone there whom I can seek advice and guidance from. This is both good and bad. Good in the sense that I can be sure that I’m doing something correctly, but bad because there is a danger of becoming too reliant on constantly seeking reassurance and not developing your own instincts and independence. On the whole I probably seek guidance and reassurance less than some of my other classmates, but as I progress to the higher levels I really need shake off this habit and learn to make my own judgement calls on things. After all that really is the whole point of attending patisserie school.

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