Thursday 16 April 2009

Writing - nasty burn - all change, please

We know we will have to do an inscription with a paintbrush at our next set of exams so everyone is practising very hard. Because it is hard enough to calligraphate with a nib let alone a bundle of horsehairs.

Today I burnt myself VERY painfully while caramelizing some apricots. I had a large saucepan of dark caramel bubbling away nicely (160°+) and was, for some reason, somewhat jolly, so decided to lob in the butter a lump in each hand. Gusto got the better of me and the caramel spat back, all over both hands. Bit of a prep school mistake.

Got to the sink as quick as a whippet but the blisters had already formed and the pain was searing. Surprisingly there was no burn cream in the first-aid box. So I greased up with the cuticle cream I did find and donned some vinyl gloves. In the end I snipped off the fingers so I could at least feel things. Photo at the end of the post.

I was completely out of action since I could not grip or lift anything. Even weighing the flour made me buckle and throb and I had to go back to the cold water 3 times. At least Joan of Arc did not have to spend the rest of the day doing manual work.

In fact, I am now in a strong position to say that thoroughly burning your mitts is the secret to rolling out sweet pastry. We were working with an extremely soft pastry which was a real nightmare to handle. You'd take it out of the fridge and it would be too hard to roll out. But as soon as it was mouldable, it went the other way, heated up and became impossible to work with.

The best way to deal with this kind of dough is to let the weight of the rolling pin do the work and not to apply any pressure at all. I did not have any choice in the matter and ended up the only person to get my first attempt past the prof. Other tips for working this kind of dough are to flour little and often and keep moving the pastry around.

The entire endeavour so far was to make a rather smart looking chocolate and apricot entremets. Here is the base which is a sweet pastry ring baked with flesh-caramelized apricots and crème d'amande.

A disc of chocolate mousse is popped on top. This had been frozen and then sprayed with couverture to give a velvet effect. There is another layer of caramelized apricots inside the disc.

The whole lot is surrounded with non-caramelized apricots. I singed mine with a blow-torch. 

Had a long wait for the bus home so nipped up to a little corner-shop cum grocer's to get a drink. The little girl who was playing with a skipping rope outside followed me in and when I turned around she was sitting at the till. Turned out she was on duty and when I had purchased my Rubicon she skipped back outside again.

Squatting on the floor for want of a bench, I decided to try a snap of the blistered hand against the clear blue sky over the station. I suddenly noticed a flurry of movement and the little girl had pegged it back into the shop. I wonder if I had scared her. With my one fingerless, plastic glove I must have been an eerie hybrid of Michael Jackson and Fagin. Plus, I was flailing the camera wildly in her direction with my sub-dominant left hand. Must have been terrifying. Took the photo against the pavement in the end.

I like the fact the main blister is shaped like a question mark. In all there are 12 on my right hand/wrist/arm. Plus some little mini ones for good measure.

Then I moved out from my family and in with their lawyer friend for a bit.

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