Superior patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu: Week 2

This week marked the end of the chocolate unit for our group and it’s safe to say that most of us are happy to see the back of it. Personally I love working with chocolate and because tempering chocolate has not really been an issue for me so far I enjoyed trying out the new techniques that were shown to us in the demonstrations. In the first demonstration for the week chef showed us what key elements we would need to incorporate in our chocolate box centre piece plus a few optional extras. The lesson did not start smoothly as the fire alarm went off almost as soon as chef finished the roll call, which meant that chef lost about 15-20 minutes from the lesson and considering he only had 3 hours to prepare the various components AND assemble the box that’s a significant loss. But finish on time he did and it was of course beautiful. I was quite excited to begin and had originally planned on constructing a lotus flower as the main focus for the lid. We had to wait until the next day for our first practical session, for which we were required to bring in the templates for the base/lid and the overlay piece as well as produce a time plan and equipment list.

The first practical lesson started well for me, as I was the first to have both of my chocolates tempered BUT I had a small setback when I let my tempered white chocolate get a bit too hot. I had left the chocolate over a bowl filled with hot water to keep it at a workable temperature but unfortunately either I had put too much water in the bowl or the water was too hot and subsequently it took my chocolate out of temper. Having to temper the white chocolate for a second time threw me right off my time plan, which was already pretty tight to begin with. As a result I had to abandon my lotus flower attempt as I wanted to focus on ensuring that I had all of the compulsory elements made in the first lesson. The thing I was most disappointed about was the woodgraining element on my side piece. My first mistake was choosing to do white on dark instead of the other way around. Chef did mention in the demonstration that dark on white would be the better option as the effect is generally nicer and it’s also more forgiving. I had wanted to do dark on white but I was getting impatient waiting for the correct woodgraining tool to become available and I was starting to run out of time. I really should have been more patient as I was very unhappy with my end result. My second mistake was not asking chef to show me how to use the woodgraining tool properly. I noticed that quite a few of my classmates had asked chef for help and actually ended up with chef more of less doing the woodgraining for them. Obviously the end result looked good, but I do have to wonder if everyone was honest about whether they had done it themselves when it came to presenting the following day as we had a different chef for our second practical session. I’m probably just a bit annoyed at myself that mine turned out way below expectation. I tried to rectify this by making some ribbon pieces using the woodgraining tool during the second practical session and these turned out better than my side piece, but it’s a case of too little too late I think.

Overall I was just not happy with my chocolate box and I told chef as much when I presented it to him. There were too many mistakes and I know that I can and should have done much better. The pieces made using the textured honeycomb mat did not come off cleanly so I was missing the honeycomb in some parts, I had one small break with my overlay piece, and because I was rushing to finish (sort of) on time my shell piping around the cut edges was not consistent and the free flow piping on the lid was appalling. The only things that I was happy with were the butterfly I made and the two-toned striped ribbon pieces. I was satisfied with my lid as well, which had a stippling effect, but chef was less impressed and said that the strokes should have been lighter so that you can see the brush effect and that mine was verging on looking more like dots. Hey ho, can’t please everyone. I’m dreading finding out how badly I’ve scored for this when we have our mid-term tutorial in less than a month’s time. I’m hoping that this will spur me on to do better for the other modules.

chocolate box 1

Finished chocolate box centre piece – can’t believe that it took me 5 hours to make this

chocolate box 2

Close-up of the slightly more acceptable woodgraining element

chocolate box 3

Close-up of the butterfly and heart

I will definitely utilise some of these techniques for my chocolate decorations on my final entremets for the exam, most likely the tendrils and who knows, I may practice the chocolate flower at home and make a small one for my entremets.

The only other class we had for the week was a lecture on food costing. For our final exam entremets we will need to produce a food costing sheet to work out how much the ingredients for the large entremets and two plated desserts would cost. It’s pretty straight forward really and we were given some formulas to calculate food cost %, selling price and monthly food cost. In general a food business such as a restaurant will spend about 30% on ingredients, 30% on labour and 30% on overheads leaving you with a 10% profit if you’re lucky. These are estimates and every business will be different, for example a patisserie may spend less on ingredients but more on labour and overheads. When you’re first starting a business it’s vital to have an idea of what your food cost % should be as you will need to to calculate how much to sell your products for. For example, if you’re making cupcakes and it costs you £0.60 for all the ingredients and you estimate that your food cost is 30% then you need to sell your cupcakes at £2.00 each. In reality though, you’re unlikely to have a different selling price for every single type of cupcake or cake but it’s still important to have a food costing sheet for each item, and this should be kept with the recipe so that it’s easy to find and refer to.

Next week we will have our boulangerie unit and I’m very happy about that. Lots and lots of bread to go with some lovely cheeses that I’ve bought recently – a half log of Sainte-Maure de Touraine purchased from a stall at Broadway Market and a Lancashire black bomb bought from Waitrose. That’s my lunch sorted for the next week then!

 

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