This week has been all about plated desserts (both hot and cold) and practicing for my practical exam, which is happening next week.
I would not say that I have a natural artistic flair so plating up isn’t really my forte. I’m always in awe when I see such beautifully presented plates and have a lot of respect for people who have the vision and talent to come up with them. With practice it does get easier, but the fact is some people just have an eye for this sort of thing. I use images from the internet as inspiration for my designs but try to put my own little twist on them so that it’s not blatant copying. As chef says the best thing to do when you’re starting out is to replicate things that you’ve seen to get a feel for it until you’re ready to come up with your own designs.
We made two hot desserts and one cold dessert this week. The first hot dessert was a fondant au chocolat avec sirup d’orange et gingembre (chocolate fondant with orange and ginger syrup). The fondant was rich and indulgent, and a recipe I would make again for my chocolate loving Chief Tasting Officer. My partner and I managed to cook the fondants to perfection, with a lovely gooey centre that flowed out when you cut into it. We also did a tiny bit of sugar work using isomalt. I was a little disappointed as during our demo chef said that we would not be doing sugar cages and spirals for this particular practical as we would be doing them in the next one so I only did some basic shapes on a mat, but as it turned out that was our only opportunity to work with the isomalt. Ah well, I do have some isomalt at home so I can play about with shapes in my own time. I was delighted with my plating for the chocolate fondant. The design was simple but I think quite effective. The only down side was my sugar design was a bit too chunky and horror of horrors, my plate was deemed to be not clean enough by chef. A rookie mistake that has surely cost me a point!
The second hot dessert was a tarte tatin, which is an upside-down caramelised apple tart. I wasn’t happy with this dessert at all. Our caramel had gone too far so the apples ended up with a slight bitter taste and as I was turning the tart out from the mould and transferring it across onto my plate it broke apart slightly so it was no longer neat. I tried to push it back together but the damage had already been done. The plating up was so-so, nothing to shout about. I underestimated the size of the tart so part of the design I had piped was covered up.
The cold dessert was a delices aux bananes (banana mousse), which was made up of flourless chocolate sponge and banana bavarian cream with a salt caramel cremeux centre. I like bananas so this was quite a nice dessert for me although I think that the cremeux could have been a bit more salty to balance out the sweetness and creaminess. We could have piped the mousse into the mould with a bit more care to eliminate gaps so that the surface was perfectly smooth. Bavarian cream uses creme anglaise as a base, and I will be perfectly honest and say that making a creme anglaise is something that scares me. I have had a couple of experiences with turning it into scrambled eggs so I’m always apprehensive. Thankfully this time I managed to just about catch it in time before disaster struck. This near miss was playing on the back of my mind when I had to make a creme anglaise again for plating up and I erred too much on the side of caution that my sauce was too runny. So I tried to ‘fix’ it by heating it up again to thicken it and it sort of worked, or at least it was just about holding its shape on the plate. We also did some messing about with pulled sugar, the first time I’ve worked with it and it’s hot! It will definitely take some getting used to and a tip that chef gave us was to purchase some cotton gloves to wear underneath the latex gloves to give some added protection. I made a couple of spirals and but they were very thin and didn’t show up in the photos that well. We will be working a lot more with pulled sugar in superior so this was just a small taster session.
I had something in mind for the plating up of the banana mousse based on a photo I had seen on Pinterest, but my execution was a bit lacking so it didn’t turn out quite how I wanted it. I think chef was happy enough with it but he got distracted by one of my classmates so he didn’t quite finish his sentence and when he came back he went over to my partner. This has happened before with another chef and I do get slightly annoyed as unless it’s something really important that can’t wait (for example if something is on fire) there should be a bit more respect and you shouldn’t interrupt, and I’m sure it hasn’t only happened to me.
Anyway, I have more important things to concern myself with such as practicing for my impending exams. I made the gateau Sabrina and gateau Alhambra for the second time this week. I’m definitely happier with how both cakes turned out this time around and with the timings. I’m still about 20 minutes over for both but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that things will run a bit more smoothly during the exam so I should be able to get it down to under 2 hours and 30 minutes. Hopefully. The worse case scenario is my finishing is a bit more slap dash and I lose some points for that but at least the cake will be finished and the base elements will have been correctly made. I don’t think I will be practicing the whole cakes anymore, but I may work on certain aspects like making the marzipan rose and the piping in the next few days. The cakes have gone, or are going to good homes so there’s no wastage and I have some happy friends. Please wish me luck for next week as I do think that I will need it!