First week back as the ‘big kids’ in school and it’s already been a step up from the intermediate course. For our first lesson we had a briefing on the examination and assessment procedures. I’ve spoken to past students before so I had an inkling of what we would be expected to do, but after our briefing I realised it was a lot more work that I had anticipated. The portfolio is certainly more complicated than I had thought it would be but as long as I keep on top of it and ensure I complete the relevant sections as soon as we have completed each unit it will be absolutely fine.
The most exciting part of the briefing was receiving our ingredients list for our final summative exam to be used in designing our own entremets. I have quite a lot of ideas buzzing around in my head already and I’m sure I’m going to end up changing my mind about what I’m going to do a hundred times before we have our first session in four weeks’ time. We will have two chances to practice and perfect our final entremets and accompanying mini-entremets as plated desserts, one of these chances being our mock exam, before the real thing and we’ll be getting feedback from the chefs so that we can tweak our design and flavours.
As superior students we’re expected to be more independent and creative with our work. A big difference with our course folder this term is we have actually been given the methods to the recipes! I was not expecting that at all, but it does make sense as the chefs would not be demonstrating every single item that we would be making. Instead we will be shown key skills and techniques from some of the items and for the rest we would be expected to be able to interpret the methods on our own, although the chefs would still be available and willing to help during the practical/ workshop sessions.
Our first introduction into life as a superior patisserie student was the chocolate unit. This week was the start of back to back practical or workshops sessions. I feel that the assisting that I did during the two week break between terms actually helped me to prepare for this as I didn’t feel that tired as I was used to spending more than 12 hours on my feet pretty much non-stop. Chef demonstrated 6 different truffles and confectioneries out of a possible 28, which means we would have to make four or five items that we have not been shown before. Eek! Time to show chef what we’re made of then! We were split into five groups of three and each group was assigned a different selection of chocolates and confectioneries. My group was tasked with making coffee truffles, framboise (raspberry) truffles, spice logs, passion fruit ganache slabs, mango pate de fruits (fruit jelly) and caramel mou. Even though I hadn’t met the other two members of my group before we worked really well as a team. We were very organised and efficient, and divided out the tasks quite evenly. Two out of the three of us are very comfortable with tempering chocolate so that was quite a good advantage as some people are still struggling a little bit with that aspect. Despite a small hiccough with the caramel mou (when I attempted to make a caramel without sugar!) we still managed to finish ahead of time and we could even afford to have one of our group members help out another group as they were running slightly behind on the first day. In total we worked for 10 and a half hours and produced hundreds of chocolates and confectioneries. And I must say that everything looked and tasted really great so we were all extremely proud of what we had achieved.
We also had our last ever cheese lecture at the school. Tom Badcock, cheese lecturer extraodinaire, was as effusive about his favourite subject as ever. His aim today was to get us thinking about where a cheese has come from and understanding the history behind it as well as recognising the craftsmen behind the cheeses. We tasted 12 cheese in total and every single one of them was delicious. It wasn’t easy picking my favourite but I think it’s between the cave aged gruyere from the Geneva high Alps and the Brillat Savarin en Truffe from Burgundy, a type of triple-creme cheese. It’s a bit sad to think that some of these cheeses, for example the Lancashire Bomb made by Andy Shorrock, might be in danger of being lost in the not too distant future. It’s made me realise the importance of supporting the small cheese makers, many of whom do not make much profit and are not well known despite having amazing products. It would be a shame if all we had available were commercial, boring cheeses lacking in flavour and character.
Next week we will be tackling the chocolate box, our chocolate show piece, which will be the final element in the chocolate unit. So there will be a lot more chocolate tempering to do next week and having tempered more than 5kgs of chocolate in total last week I think I’m more than ready. The harder part will be designing the box and creating the decorative ornaments that will go on top.