Intermediate patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu: Week 3

I’m now almost a third of the way through the intermediate patisserie course and I’m beginning to feel more at home and at ease. We did not have the easiest start to the week with our first lesson at 8 on a Monday morning being the demonstration for Gateau Sabrina, which I’ve mentioned before is a potential exam dish. Eeek! There are quite a few elements to bring together for this dish. Each of the elements are fairly simple as individual tasks but timing is likely to be a big factor for this dish. The Gateau Sabrina was created by one of the chefs at Le Cordon Bleu in honour of Audrey Hepburn in the movie Sabrina, hence the name. It is a very light cake with a thin disc of pate sucree (sweet pastry) as the base, followed by a thin layer of jam and concentric circles of sponge and a strawberry mousse-like cream (kind of like a Swiss roll turned on its side). The cake is then masked with more of the strawberry cream, the sides combed scraped and finally topped with a thin disc of marzipan that has been coated with two very thin layers of tempered chocolate. The second layer of tempered chocolate has a zig zag design applied to it using a serrated knife. The marzipan disc also has to be pre-cut into 8 equal portions, and the cuts concealed with piped strips of strawberry cream. The final finishing touch is the piped chocolate design on the strips of strawberry cream and of course fresh strawberries. Sounds simple enough, right?

During the practical, we worked in pairs to produce the pate sucree, biscuit sponge and strawberry cream, and yet we still did not manage to finish within 2 and a half hours. How are we going to be able to finish on time when we have to make everything on our own? The answer is practice, and a very clear plan of attack! Other than our tardiness, overall I was fairly pleased with the finished product. Yes, the marzipan layer was a bit too thick but the tempered chocolate layers on the marzipan disc were good and I somehow managed to get a nice even design using the serrated knife. The chocolate piping on the buttercream could have been a bit more even and open but it wasn’t terrible, and my masking technique was decent as well. The overall eating quality was pretty good too. Would I be nervous about getting this for my exam? Of course I would, but it will probably be the same for the other two dishes.

Gateau Sabrina top

Gateau Sabrina side

Gateau Sabrina

For our second practical session this week we made a fruit cake, which will be left to mature in school for the next 7 weeks and will be used in our final practical session for this term on cake decorating. In addition to making the fruit cake, we also had a skills test. For the skills test we had to prepare and blind bake a pate sucree tart case, pipe 10 rosettes and 10 shells with buttercream, pipe the word ‘Fraisier’ along with a border design in royal icing, pipe the word ‘Alhambra’ along with a border design in chocolate and make a marzipan rose. The skills test was designed to test the different skills that may be used in our practical exam and I certainly found it very useful. I was happy with my pate sucree tart case and the marzipan rose was alright although a bit too large. My piping skills however still need more work. The piping of the words wasn’t too shabby, but the borders were not fluid enough. I had plenty of design ideas prior to class, but once I started piping my mind just went blank. I will need to practice more this weekend in preparation for a very busy week ahead, especially with royal icing as you need to apply a lot more pressure compared to piping with chocolate.

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Skills test – piping with royal icing, chocolate and buttercream, pate sucree tart case and marzipan rose

As I had some extra pate sucree leftover from this lesson I made some dark chocolate and raspberry tarts as I do not like wastage. I had a bit more success with the chocolate feathering this time – I remembered to alternate the lines! These tarts are delicious. The dark chocolate ganache is a Jamie Oliver recipe and it is so smooth and creamy and it is very easy to make. Yum!

Choc Rasp tarts

Dark chocolate and raspberry tarts

The last class for the week was a technical/ demonstration class on verrines, which are savoury or sweet dishes served in a verrine or glass. Serving dishes in this way allows you to display different layers, textures and flavours. They look quite pretty, especially when displayed as part of a buffet service. I’ve had verrines before in restaurants without knowing that’s what they were called. The original concept for verrines came from Phillipe Conticini, the co-founder of La Patisserie des Reves. Chef made two different verrines for us, a lemon and speculoos delight and a white chocolate and raspberry verrine.


Lemon and speculoos verrine and white chocolate and raspberry verrine

The most interesting part of the demonstration was chef’s use of two pieces of equipment that hadn’t been shown to us before, the espuma gun and the Pacojet. You’ve probably seen the espuma gun used on television before if you’ve watched Masterchef – it’s the fairly large canister that they use to make an instant foam. You may have seen it being used in some shops to dispense whipped cream in an instant. It is less likely that you’ve seen a Pacojet before unless you’ve worked in a commercial kitchen. The Pacojet is an amazing piece of equipment that allows you to micro-puree deep frozen foods to produce ice creams, sorbets, mousses and more. It’s basically a glorified heavy-duty blender but the results you get from it are beyond what any normal blender is capable of. It can join my list of ‘Things I would love to own but probably never will’.

Next week we will have to kick things up a gear. We will be having three demonstrations and practicals, two of which will be for our remaining potential exam dishes, the Fraisier and the Alhambra. I will be bringing home so much cake next week that I need to start thinking about how I’m going to give some away. Any takers out there?




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