Thursday, 30 April 2009


Today we put together the fraisier I mentioned a little while ago. Here it is being put together. A layer of Viennese biscuit is placed in a circle, imbibed then covered with a layer of crème diplomate (crème pâtissière lightened with whipped cream and set with gelatin). Then the half strawberries are set into the ring.

Then there is a layer of diced strawberry, another layer of imbibed biscuit and then some more cream.

A very thin layer of marbled marzipan goes on top (not a fan of this, but it is good and kitsch like most classic French patisserie).

Spot of decor in the shape of a marzipan carnation and some huge, clumsy writing. The acetate is still around the entremets hence the condensation covering the strawberries which is a shame for this photo.

We also revised the hideous Moka. Made even more hideous by my ropey inscription. Need to do some practice before the exams...

So exhausted, glad tomorrow is a bank holiday in France.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Hidden Fruit

The above are known as fruits déguisés. They are marzipan combined with various dried fruits such as dates, hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds (nuts qualify as fruit in France). The ones on the left have been candied (i.e. left in a very concentrated syrup) while the ones on the right have been been dipped in cooked sugar (just before it colours and becomes caramel).

I think they are hideous and do not understand the name. What are they disguised as?

We did another little practice for our exams today, knocking out 20 eclairs, 10 carolines, 12 palmiers, 6 apple turnovers and a pear and chocolate charlotte. Nothing there aren't already photos of before.

Starting to get very tired.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Raisins breads

One good thing about getting the hang of the croissant dough I posted about the day before yesterday is that it forms the basis of a host of different Viennoiseries.

Here, for instance, are some pains aux raisins under way. The dough is rolled out as per usual (this is half of a half-batch rolled to 45 x 30cm), spread with some crème pâtissière (except for the margin at the bottom which will be used for sticking) and sprinkled with some macerated raisins. The pastry is rolled from the top down to form a loose sausage, it is chilled and then cut into rounds every 3cm.

Similarly for pains aux chocolats. Base is 45 x 27cm (again, half a half-batch) making the goodies 9 x 15cm each.

An interesting fact is about the chocolate in the eponymous pains. Normally you see them with two batons but sometimes, as here, with one. When there are two batons, they are usually what are known as bâtons boulangers, which are rubbish quality chocolate. The batons in the photo below are not only twice the weight (hence only one) but also made of a much better quality chocolate. So these are the ones to look out for.

We also knocked up another Black Forest Treat to amuse ourselves while the PLF rose.

And here are the goods cooked. Almost over-cooked. While talking to the prof about the best way to cook Viennoiseries, I forgot they were in the oven.

Monday, 27 April 2009


I keep meaning to write a post about the mad people in France. There's a fair amount to say.

On the way to the cinema on Saturday, for instance, I bumped into one of the boulangers from the school (who share science lessons with us). He stopped me in the middle of the street and set off one one about the history of French celts, the oriental origins of the English language and how our problems all started when we dispatched the Jews to Wales.

And yesterday, on the way to the swimming pool, a really odd case came and sat next to me at the bus stop. He told me he was an artist of life, that he'd trained as a lawyer in England in 1986 and how, now, it was terribly funny to think he'd been depressed for so many years. Every now and again he'd pause gravely and try and come out with an English word. When, encouraged, I'd correct him, he'd write it down on a different scrap of paper each time. Very odd words like "bench" and "ambassador" and "rug".

Either nutters or my French is considerably worse than I'd thought.

Here are some flowers in the rain at the swimming pool:

And here I discover my town (really a close suburb to the city centre) is twinned with Edenbridge, right next to my prep school. I'm not sure it's actually that close unless you're a crow. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before I discover a Frenchman pretending to be one.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Croissants: recipe

Today, especially for Dr. Rouge-Gorge, a classic croissant recipe. Click here to see a photo post showing the various stages of croissant-making. Most of the process is contained therein, save for the quantities themselves. A few elaborations below.

For the détrempe

55g fresh baker's yeast (or 40g if rising overnight, see notes below)
500g white bread flour
500g ordinary plain flour
150g butter, melted
120g sugar
25g salt
590g whole milk

For the beurrage

500g butter

Notes on ingredients

We never work with dried/easy-blend yeast so I don't want to give advice on how to go about it. It should be possible to substitute easy-blend yeast without too much hassle and no doubt some noggin has written about it on the Internet elsewhere. You could always go to your local baker's and ask for some yeast, but they might be a bit peeved!

If preparing the dough the night before, use 40g.

The bread flour is used because it will provide more gluten to the dough which will help it rise. However, to avoid overdoing it, ordinary flour makes up the other half.

I suggest weighing the ingredients directly into the bowl of your mixer in the order listed. This means the yeast will be covered by the flour to precent it drying out, and it won't come into contact with the salt which risks killing it.

As with the inverted puff pastry, I would recommend shooting with a half quantity. I would also strongly recommend getting the hang of puff pastry and all the rolling out before taking on the croissant dough. The croissant dough is quite a bit tougher on the rolling out front due to the higher levels of gluten.


1. Slowly combine the ingredients in a mixer with the dough hook. Once combined, turn up the speed to medium until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.

- You can hold some of the milk back and add it at the end on checking the consistency of the dough. Problem is, if you're on your own and not sure of your target texture, there's little point.

- You're probably a bit loopy if you want to do this by hand. I never have, but just follow your usual dough-working procedures... combine everything together at fingertips or with a scraper then turn out the dough and work until smooth and elastic.

2. Transfer to a plastic bowl covered with cling film and either leave at room temperature for 60-90mins, knock back then pop, still covered, into the fridge overnight or let rise for 45mins at 25°C, knock back, then spread on an oven tray (c.2cms thick) and leave covered in the fridge until well chilled.

- We use a proving chamber for these rising periods which helps control temperature. Domestic alternatives are stretching the scope of this little post but ideas include a turned off microwave or a polystyrene box, heated with a bowl of boiling water. Some people go with the airing cupboard -- but this risks being even too hot and drying out the dough.

3. In either case it is now time to move on to the beurrage. Whip the butter out of the fridge and soften it by walloping with a rolling pin in a an acrylic or silicon sheet. This gives you a chance to shape the butter into a square (c. 20 x 20cm for a half quantity) and to soften it while keeping it cold. Roll out the détrempe to c. 40 x 20cm and pop the butter on top.

- A crucial point is to seek the same texture between the butter and the détrempe. If they are significantly different, you risk marbling the pastry and not having distinct butter-détrempe layers. If the butter is too hard, bash it more with a rolling pin. If the dough is too soft, pop it back in the fridge/freezer for a bit.

4. Then you need to follow steps 2,3 and 4 here. Which amounts to a tour d'incorporation immediately followed by a tour double, resting until well chilled, a tour simple, resting until well chilled, then rolling out and chilling. Takes some time, especially without a blast chiller.

- Aiming for 50 x 60cm when finally rolled out (with a half quantity). It is easier if you cut the dough in half and do this in two stages. It is quite thin. You may well need to chill the dough during the process. The warmer the dough gets, the more elastic the gluten and the more frustrating the endeavour becomes.

5. Proceed as per the first croissant post here. The proving is done after the first glaze at 25-30°C. The proving space needs to be get humid to prevent a crust forming on the croissants. This is done with a bowl of boiling water in the proving space. It should take about 90mins.

- At each of the stages of fermentation it is hard to know how long to leave the dough the first few times you try. The classic rule is 'until the dough looks like it has nearly doubled in volume'. At this final stage you want the dough to be quite loose/baggy - so if you prod it gently, it doesn't spring back to its original shape.

- Glaze lovingly with beaten eggs. Most people say to add a pinch of salt since this helps break down the egg proteins - since we use liquid egg in the first place, no need.

6. After glazing for a second time, pop in the oven at 190°C and cook until golden. Transfer to drying rack &c.

PS Croissant making is not one of the easiest things to get off a blog. Regular readers will know about my early struggles and that was using professional equipment and with a teacher in the room. Further, I don't think I've been particularly eloquent and I've rather rushed it. Sorry. Still... any questions or doubts, pop me an email/comment.

Saturday, 25 April 2009


Woke late then over-indulged in Fanny Craddock from the comfort of my bed. By the time I had got to the swimming pool via 4 patisseries for industrial research, I only had 20mins to bash out some lengths. So to make up I went to watch a film about swimming. The cinema was very slick -- just two days old. The film was pretty average.

Friday, 24 April 2009


The fraisier is a real classic of french patisserie. It's a strawberry entremets with slices of strawberry visible all around the edge. Today we didn't make a fraisier. We did make a poirier which is the same thing made with pears. We'll be making a proper fraisier next week after today's practice.

I thought it might be interesting for some to see the layers going into an entremets. Here is the first layer, a Viennese biscuit, going into a ring lined with celluloid tape, sitting on a laminated paper circle. The word biscuit in patisserie refers to all kinds of sponges, too. The Viennese biscuit is soft and supple. It is imbibed with a Poire Williams flavoured syrup.

 The body of the entremets is a Poire Willims flavoured crème diplomate. Crème diplomate (lit. diplomat cream) is crème patissière lightened with whipped cream and lightly set with gelatin. A ring of the cream is piped onto the edge of the biscuit leaving a half-cm gap with the mould. The pear slices are inserted then the layer of cream is completed.

Then a layer of diced pears.

A touch more cream then a second layer of bisuit.

A final layer of cream and everything is smoothed over.

The entremets is blast chilled to ease the passage of a decorous layer of Italian meringue. The thin layer of meringue is patterned with the blade of a serrated knife and some swirls are piped round the edge. The meringue is singed, the inscription inscribed and a chocolate fan and miniature pear half are added.

Foil chimneys in our Berrichons. These are puff pastry cases filled with slices of potato sprinkled with parsley, onion and lardons. Once cooked, the tops are excised and a healthy spoonful of crème fraîche added. Very delish.

One of our quiches from the other day. It's a funny kind of regional quiche (can't remember the name) with far too much carrot for my taste. The pastry, here, has been blind baked but once the filling was added, the quiches were frozen raw. That is what you see here, hence the funny colours/textures.

(And here is that bitch of a test in all its glory.)

Thursday, 23 April 2009


We never know when we are going to have tests on the theory of baking. The idea is that this will make us revise every night.

Sadly, I can't make myself function like that -- life's too short to sit at home reading about gelatine each evening -- but I generally revise a few chapters on those days a test is likely to fall.

Last night I toyed with the idea but thought sod it. Today we had the most vicious and horrible test yet.

I just managed to remember the minimum legal quantities of dry cocoa matter in dark and milk couverture, was lucky enough to guess the ingredients of baking powder (along with their respective roles) but could only manage "harvest", "grinding" and "putting in sacks" for the processing of flour. As for the absorption rates of starch and gluten -- didn't even bother guessing.

In the labo and feeling slightly better, we set about making a load of different quiches. We also finished our "Costa Rica" entremets from yesterday. From the bottom up: a layer of walnut biscuit, chocolate mousse, a disk of coffee crème brûlée, a crunchy layer of walnut/almond nougatine, more mousse, another layer of biscuit and finally more mousse.

Once decircled, we sprayed the entremets with couverture/cocoa butter from an airbrush to give a velvet finish. The secret to the velvet finish is to spray onto a frozen surface -- so the entremets had been in the blast freezer to chill them right down.

We used the puff pastry I've been banging on about to produce a couple of rather strange savoury dishes (not yet cooked). Here's a quick vid showing 500g inverted puff pastry. The beginning shows the beurre manié coming together as described in the puff pastry post, then you see the turns. Each time a slide pops up is rest time in the fridge. You can see the prod-marks which are a reminder of how many turns have been given.

NB Just noticed the contrast is a spot dodge and the last slide too short. Bad luck.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Nothing like a French tart

Despite hopes and expectations, the puff pastry was not used today so we'll have to hold out for tomorrow.

We did, however, make a chocolate and coffee entremets which I shall snap and explain once we have done the decor. We also lined a few quiche rings.

This was the only thing we finished:

Something ghastly has happened to my camera. Absolutely jiggered. Despite sitting comfortably in its draw all day, the rocker switch suddenly stopped working. It'll still take snaps but I cannot scroll through the ones taken, turn off the flash or select special modes. It didn't get banged at all so I really can't work it out. Bloody annoying.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Another day at the office

We reeled out some brioche today -- been a while. Probably not worth taking a photo, though.

We also prepared some inverted pp for tomorrow. I tried surreptitiously to take photos at every step of the process. When I've done the final turn tomorrow, I'll upload the whole lot for anyone interested in seeing.

And that was all, a rather quiet day.

I got home and cooked a duck breast with a honey, ginger and orange sauce. As a reward for an honest day's work, I bought this cracking bottle of wine from the funny grocer's. Had to use it in the sauce...

Monday, 20 April 2009

More catch up

No practical, as usual on Monday.

Thrilled that my sister got engaged today after her boyfriend proposed on the top of Mont Blanc. That helped me get through double food science. I wonder if they'll want a wedding cake.

I've added 6 new posts from Easter weekend including snaps of Berlin:

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Catching up

Today I have been catching up on all of last week's posts. See below.

Nearly all food blogs are white. I may investigate a makeover to toe the line.

Puff the magic dragon

I haven't done a step-by-step for a while, so thought it was time to crank one out. We make pâte feuilletée inversée or inverted puff pastry pretty much every two days, sometimes daily. An ideal candidate.


In making puff pastry, you are alternating layers of butter with a moist flour-water dough (known as the détrempe). When the pastry is cooked, the moisture in this dough vaporizes but is trapped by the impermeable butter layer. Because the steam cannot escape it causes the pastry to puff.

I've read some explanations which say it is the moisture in the butter which causes the puffing. While there is some water in butter (c.15% but even less for special pastry butters) and this will vaporize, there is a higher proportion of water in the détrempe (30%+). 

What is inverted about it?

In a classic puff pastry, the détrempe is wrapped around the butter. In the inverted method, the butter is wrapped around the détrempe. The cooked pastries are pretty much the same (some say identical) but the inverted method is a bit easier in the earlier stages.

Also, if you think about how the pastry is puffing (see above), it makes sense for the top and bottom layers to be butter and not détrempe. Small point.

We exclusively use inverted puff pastry.

Additional point

To make it easier to wrap the butter around the outside of the détrempe, it is mixed with a little flour to give what is called beurre manié. So, for inverted puff pastry, you are layering a détrempe with a beurre manié.


For the détrempe:
400g water
750g flour
100g melted butter
25g salt

For the beurre manié:
650g butter
250g flour

- ordinary flour works fine
- unsalted butter

NB I recommend starting with half these quantities like we did (it's a bit easier), but avoid going any smaller as feuilletage does not work well in mini quantities. The dimensions mentioned below are for a half quantity.


1. Lob all the ingredients for the détrempe into a mixer with a dough hook. Mix just until the dough becomes homogenous. Flatten (to speed chilling) and pop in fridge in cling film.

- Any mixing after homogenization develops the gluten and will make the dough harder to roll out. Some questionable folks recommend kneading to develop gluten in the détrempe. The little devils.

2. Mix the ingredients for the beurre manié in a mixer with a dough hook. Film and fridge.

- No need to wash the mixing bowl or the hook.
- The butter can come straight from the fridge. Chop into chunks on the way into the bowl.
- During the mixing, the ingredients will break down to form a sandy/breadcrumb type mixture. As the hook continues to turn, the butter will win out and the crumbs will start to clump together. Once the mixture is starting to resemble butter again is a good time to stop as this indicates the flour is well distributed throughout.

3. When both the détrempe and the beurre manié are well chilled, roll out the beurre manié to around 40 x 20cm, and the détrempe to around 20 x 20cm. Pop latter on former as per Exhibit A.

- The neater the easier later on.
- It is also a lot easier to do in a cool kitchen.
- Flour work surface frequently to prevent the beurre manié sticking. This is the only tricky bit about puff pastry. You can see in the photo the flour layer is really quite thin. But it is reapplied after every few strokes of the pin.

Exhibit A

4. Fold the top 1/3 of the beurre manié down then fold the whole lot in half.

- This is a kind of tour simple. A tour simple is when the dough is folded in thirds. You're aiming for this from the side:

Exhibit B

5. Roll out a little in both directions to speed cooling, film and pop in the fridge until well chilled.

- This chilling helps keep the dough easy to handle (after all, the outside is mostly butter) and relaxes any gluten which may have started to get excited.

6. Give the dough a 1/4 turn. Roll out.

- The quarter turn means going from the orientation in Exhibit A to that in Exhibit B. From the position in Exhibit B you are rolling primarily away from the camera.
- You are aiming for something long and thin like a (small) bowling alley. Maybe 25ish cms across but 50-60 long (I always go for rolling pin plus 1/4).
- You'll end up with something a little like this:

7. Fold the top down and the bottom up to meet.

- They can meet at any point, does not have to be the centre.

8. Fold the whole lot in half. Roll out a little and chill as usual.

- This action (steps 6-7-8) is known as a tour double.
- A side-on view:

9. Repeat the tour double and chill.

- Don't forget the quarter turn. You should always be looking at the folds (as in Exhibit B) when you roll out.
- The dough can be frozen after this step. To use, thaw then carry on.
- If you want to make palmiers, cover your work surface in sugar before the next step.

10. Roll-out again (after a 1/4 turn) but this time fold the dough in thirds (like in step 4). I.e. give a tour simple.

- The aim is to have 6 turns all together. (Two singles and two doubles.) Any more and the layers start becoming so thin they risk merging.
- Chill as usual then roll out for use. Chill before cutting.
- Always cut with a very sharp knife so you cut cleanly through the pastry without destroying the layers.

Summary: 1 tour simple, 2 tours doubles, 1 tour simple.

And that's it. Puff pastry in 10 easy steps.

People often lament the fact that the process is very long-winded. Well, it does take time mainly because of all the chilling (which cannot be left out). However, the actual hands on time is minimal. Once you know what you are doing you can do each tour in a minute or so, so if you are in the kitchen cooking anyway, you may as well have some puff pastry chilling in the fridge. You can just give the tours at suitable breaking points in whatever else you are doing.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

A day in Dieppe

Today I went to Dieppe. Dieppe is mostly a rather grim example of a seaside town. Take the dry cleaner's, for instance: neoned to the 90s but rooted in tradition thanks to the altar boys poised in the window.

I was fortunate to catch the jetsam after the market. I wonder why the jeans didn't sell.

Nice bit of salt-air rust.

The seafront is pretty decent, however, even on a day like this.

Not least, the people.

Is that Rolf Harris?

The reason for being in such a lovely place was to visit the allegedly famous Bains de Dieppe, an idea provoked by the numerous posters which are all over Rouen. It's a seaside swimming pool filled with purified but salty seawater.

What rocks to get all the way there and find the main pool was shut all day for an 'aquathlon'. A solo tour of the mini-golf not overly attractive, I spectated a little and then came home.

Fellow spectator.

Part of the running course. The pool is on the other side of the beach huts.

A great umpire.

Looking quite Edwardian.

Reminds me of the Berlin rhinos.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Croissants come together

Absolutely delighted by this morning's laboratory time. It started rather irksomely, though. Reminiscent of my last change of residence, the "10 mins max to the station" turned out to be 15. I missed my metro and had to get a cab to school. £££.

But it was all worthwhile as we had another run at our pâte levée feuilletée in the shape of croissants and pains au chocolat. They went much better than ever before and I was really satisfied with how they turned out - really light and very buttery.

The secret was in boosting the milk by 20%. This gave a much softer dough which was easier to roll out. It needed to be kept very cold to be workable but it was well worth it.

Showing the light innards. Spot prof in background.

We also crimped out a mirabelle tart and something else I cannot quite remember due to retrospective writing. EDIT: Oh, yes, 8 eclairs and 20 carolines (mini eclairs) from inception to icing.

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.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

resuming normal service soon

sorry to the hoards who have visited expecting to see lush updates. I have been Eastering in Berlin and then had two ratty days at school and tomorrow I am moving families again so there will be something of a hiatus

expect grand photos of the zoo on my return

More classics

Can't remember what we did today since I am writing 5 days in the future. Good, eh? I know we cooked the cannelés for which we prepared the batter yesterday. They were really delicious. One of my all time faves. Not sure why I did not take a photo.

I think we also made a large conversation. The conversation is a little like a Pithiviers in that it is almond cream in puff pastry and circular. But the conversation is iced with royal icing before being baked. Not my cup of tea.

With the rest of the puff pastry we made some sweet palmiers. These are so simple but improbably morish. For the last turn of the puff pastry you use caster sugar instead of flour to cover the work surface. Then you roll out to 18 x 68cm or similar (again in sugar) and fold each end repeatedly into the middle. After chilling you cut the sausage each cm.

They are light, crispy, sweet, part-caramelized. Ideal for munching.