Intermediate patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu: Week 2

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Viennoiserie selection – hot cross buns, Devonshire splits, croissants, pain au chocolat, Danish pastries, brioche nantaise, brioche a tete, craquelin and nut loaf

This week our practical lessons focussed on viennoiserie preparations. Traditionally a viennoiserie is responsible for the production of morning goods or breakfast items, for example brioche, puff pastry goods, croissants, Danish pastries and sweet rolls. Viennoserie translates to ‘things from Vienna’ and the items are made from yeast-leavened enriched doughs.

Our first practical session for the week saw us preparing the brioche dough and pate levee feuilletee dough, which is puff pastry leavened with yeast, to be used in the next practical as well as making some sweet buns. This was a fun session that went quite smoothly for almost everyone in class. We made the brioche and bun doughs in pairs using a similar method to prepare both doughs. The main difference between the two doughs was the amount of eggs and butter used (a scary amount in the case of the brioche dough). It was a bit disconcerting at first to see the Kitchen Aid trashing about from kneading the dough, but I got used to it after awhile. You really couldn’t leave the Kitchen Aid alone unless you turned the speed right down for fear of it falling off the counter. I doubt I would be able to do that with my KMix at home – it would probably blow the motor! I also learned that with croissant dough you should never give it more than four turns, unlike with normal puff pastry.

With the individual pate levee feuilletee and shared brioche dough prepared (hopefully correctly), we focussed on shaping, baking and finishing the sweet buns. We made two different types for sweet buns – hot cross buns and Devonshire splits, which are plain sweet buns filled with jam and chantilly cream. I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed eating the Devonshire splits as I expected it to be a bit sickly with the cream but in reality it was delicious. I even had a small feeling of regret that I had given half of the buns to our hard working and under appreciated kitchen porters, but it didn’t last long of course. I was pleased with how the sweet buns turned out for my partner and I, and thankfully chef shared my sentiment.

The second practical session unfortunately did not go as well as I would have liked. The positives were that both the brioche dough and pate levee feuilletee dough were made quite well. I had managed to get decent lamination of my croissant dough and the pain au chocolats were not bad at all. The shaping and overall look of my croissants and Danish pastries however were a bit of a disaster. Oh well, you can’t win them all and it’s all about the learning process. My brioche nantaise had a bit of an altercation with the side of the oven and came out with a battle scar, and my brioche a tete ended with a bit of a droopy head due to slight over-proofing of the dough. They wouldn’t win any beauty contests but they were all so good to eat. I ended up freezing half of the items as there is no way that we would be able to finish them in 2-3 days and Chief Tasting Officer took some to work with him to share with colleagues who aren’t on a January health kick.

We also had one of my favourite lectures of the course this week, the cheese lecture! The cheese lectures are always given by the same person, Tom Badcock and he is a passionate cheesemaker. I really enjoyed his enthusiasm for the subject and was thoroughly entertained. The cheese lecture focussed on fermentation, looking at the different types used and effect of the length of fermentation on how a cheese tastes. Almost all of the cheeses that we sampled were good, but my favourite cheese of the night was the epoisses de Bourgogne – I enjoyed it so much that I took some extra cheese home with me. It’s a cheese that I’ve been meaning to try for quite some time now and it did not disappoint. The runner up was the Tunworth camembert, an award winning British cheese. Tom also showed us an alternative way of eating feta by soaking it in water first, which dials down the saltiness and firms up the cheese slightly, reducing the crumbliness.

cheese lecture

The wheel of cheese – and yes, I did eventually finish all of the cheese

To round off the week, I decided to volunteer to assist in the 10-day boulangerie course that LCB run. Earlier in the week one of the chefs asked if anyone would be interested in helping out and I thought that it would be a good experience, plus I might even learn something new. The class was small with only 2 participants, both of them former students at the school, so it was quite a relaxed atmosphere. Although it’s probably not most people’s idea of a fun way to spend a Friday night I quite enjoyed myself and even picked up a few new ways to shape bread.

Next week starts with the demonstration and practical session for the first of our exam dishes, the gateau Sabrina. I’m hoping that it goes reasonably well but at least I’ll have 5 and a half weeks to practice if it doesn’t! So stay tuned to find out if it’s a triumph or a tragedy.




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