Wednesday 11 March 2009

Notation 2 - pressure cooker

Our tests continued today with a lot of tasks to complete. We started by preparing some crème d'amandes and some pâte sucrée. We then had an hour to line 6 tartlets, one large large tart ring (with fancily pinced edges), line with the almond cream and garnish with apricots and pears. That was all right on the time front.

We then had half an hour to produce 5 each of 4 different piped shapes for fours poche like these (i.e. spiral, rosette, tear and double tear with mini rosette). In the same half hour we also had to knock out a marzipan rose with leaves. This was very testing time-wise because to get the piping sufficiently regular (not only amongst the pieces of the same type but maintaining the proportions between them) is monumentally tricky. I restarted several times and got very hot and nearly sweated through my paper hat.

We then had half an hour to produce three marzipan plaques (for want of a proper English word) inscribed in chocolate with birthday, easter and, curiously, baptism wishes.

Writing with a cornet (and attempting French cursive script at the same time) is bloody hard. If you've never tried/seen, imagine writing with a paper pyramid from which flows a thin ooze of chocolate you cannot stop. You cannot rest your hands on the writing surface so you have to hover and the tip cannot touch the plaque so you have to squeeze the stuff out from a cm above and hope it drops in the right place. There are several surgical procedures I would sooner attempt under pressure.

I popped my accent on the wrong vowel of baptism (not a word I often use in French) and had to scrape it off. Not entirely successfully as you can see below. And I left an 's' off the end of Joyeuses. Trust the French to make Easter a plural noun. Apparently no one told two of the natives either.

I was, however, happy with my marzipan. Everyone else was doing random cut-outs with corrugated pastry-cutters so I thought I would try and be arty.

I love the fact the French will wish you a joyful Easter, a happy birthday but just a 'baptism'.

Our hardest task was just an hour to give the last turn to our puff pastry, crimp out a Pithiviers (with its impossibly tricky decor) and produce 6 decorated apple turnovers. This is really not a lot of time given everything needs to rest after each phase of production and between the two layers of glaze. These shall be cooked tomorrow. I was dead chuffed that in its raw state my Pithiviers looked better than the ones I've made before. But I hadn't set a very high standard. And the cream will probably leak out in the oven while the pastry deflates.

So it was quite a pressured day. And once again we are glad that pastry kitchens are air-conditioned.

Unfortunately, unless I am very much mistaken, tomorrow we will have to whip up brioche from scratch to cooled final product in just 6 hours. Not so fun.

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