Friday, June 30, 2006

End of Week 2

Today we finished off all the projects we'd been working on during the week. This is a Baba Savarin. It's like a brioche (rich yeast bread). It tastes a bit dry but then you soak it in a warm sugar syrup laced with rum... lots of rum (the recipe says "to taste"). We brushed the tops with glaze and then piped whipped cream into the center and garnished it. A little mint leaf would look nice here.

This is a passion fruit tart. We glazed the top with a clear glaze for shine and piped Italian meringue around the edge. Then we lit up the torch to give the meringue a toasty look. The tricky part was figuring out how to aim the flame. It browns really quickly when you actually hit the meringue. Next time I would also put a little powdered sugar on the raspberries in the center.

The flavor of the passion fruit puree is tart like a lemon, but more complex. It's a surprise because the color makes you expect lemon.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Charlotte Russe (Day 4)

Here's the Charlotte Russe I didn't bring home. My refrigerator is bulging with dessert options. Tomorrow will be really stressful trying to decide which desserts to bring home and which donate to the nuns who visit a couple of times a week to gather donations for their local hospital.

Today we worked on raspberry and chocolate mousse cakes, a passion fruit tart, and more. I'll at least take pictures tomorrow of the ones I don't bring home.

The Charlotte Russe is composed of the lady fingers I described a couple of days ago, and a bottom disk made with the same batter. The center is filled with diplomat cream (a mixture of pastry cream and whipped cream). All of that is frozen until it is firm enough to unmold. Then we refrigerated it until time to decorate the top. Here you can see we were working with apricots, peaches, mangoes, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. I glazed all except the blueberries. Then when I sprinkled on the powdered sugar, the glaze absorbed the sugar on all the fruits except the blueberries. Pretty clever!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Finished Strawberry Cake

Here it is finished. The final touch was to color the marzipan we made yesterday and cured overnight. We rolled out the marzipan and gave it a basketweave pattern before we put it onto the cake. Unfortunately you can't see the pattern in this photo, but you can see the view from the side... and Dave's hand. I wanted to leave the marzipan its natural color, but the pattern allowed the golden cake layer on top to show through the pattern, so I colored it pink. Some people colored theirs green. (I wonder if it made their tongues turn green.)

Strawberry Cake (Day 3)

Le Frasier (Strawberry Cake) was assembled in a 7" diameter piece of PVC pipe (from Home Depot gourmet kitchen supply). Works perfectly.

We cut our genois cake (a light sponge cake) into four layers. We each got one layer for the bottom and one for the top. We brushed the bottom layer with Grand Marnier syrup. Brian has cut strawberries in half and put them on top of the cake layer facing cut side out (he'd lined the PVC ring mold with an acetate strip). Then he put whole berries into the center.

The filling is a mousseline cream that we made at the beginning of class this morning. It's a pastry cream with lots of butter whipped into it to make it seem like it has no calories. We piped the chilled calorie-free cream between the berries and filled the rings to the top with it. Then we took the second layer of cake and put it on top. That went back into the refrigerator until later in the day.

Meanwhile we made lots more creams and began to assemble more cakes that you will see finished in the next couple of days.

Opera Cake (Day 2)

Whew, after our lady finger success we were ready to get started on next items. Mostly we prepped items for finishing later in the week. But here's one we finished and took home.

The opera cake is composed of layers of Biscuit Viennois (a thin cake) brushed with an intense coffee-flavored syrup. Between the cake layers is a layer or coffee-flavored Italian buttercream or ganache. Note the layers in the picture. The top is brushed with coffee syrup, coated lightly with buttercream, and then the whole thing is chilled.

Brian demonstrated the ganache glaze process while our cakes chilled. Then it was our turn to glaze. It looked really easy when he did it... not so easy when we did it. However, when you cut the cakes to the proper size, you can cut off all your mistakes. That's the good news. The bad news is that at the end of the day we'd all eaten far too much of the cut off parts and our cakes were a little smaller than Brian's. Oh well.

The Lady Fingers

Ha! We did it! Well it looked like we'd overbeaten the whites again but Brian poured in the rest of the sugar and it mixed up to a beautiful batter which piped onto the trays perfectly. Looks like someone else thought they looked good too... notice the missing one? Posted by Picasa

Day 1 - Pastry II

Creams, cakes, and pastries this week, with a focus on creams and mousses used in pastry assembly. On Monday we spent most of our morning in the classroom learning about the ingredients and methods we'll be using this week. Lots of meringue and whipped cream, with some gelatin thrown in for stability.

Then we went downstairs to the lab for demos and to begin making our bases. I'm in a group of three with Vivian and Michele. Our chocolate sponge cakes came out great and our Biscuit Viennois came out fine. We overwhipped the egg whites, but Michele's skilled hand at folding in the egg yolks saved the day.

However our first batch of lady fingers came out like soup... no chance of piping that batter onto a pan, so we stayed after school to try again. Again the egg whites went from soft peak to watery clumps without appearing to pass through medium or soft peak (we were aiming for medium). We managed to fold in the yolks and flour, get the egg foam into piping bags, and ooze it onto the sheet pans, but we knew we'd done something wrong since our lady fingers didn't stand up nice and firm like Brian's. We agreed to come eary in the morning to try again... and we reminded ourselves that mistakes are an essential part of learning.Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Lemon Curd Cake

Here is a miniature version of the Lemon Curd Cake that we made last week in our pastry class. This is actually my first attempt at the rosemary lemoncello marscapone cake for Shaun's wedding. The cake batter was flavored with fresh minced rosemary and rosemary essential oil from the SF Farmer's market. I brushed each layer with a lemoncello cake syrup and put a marscapone whipped cream filling between each layer. Unfortunately when I tried to use this mixture for the crumb coat, it became very grainy so I covered that with a whipped cream and cream cheese frosting... which I didn't overbeat this time. After slicing it, I decided that this particular cake is too moist for a cake syrup. But it did look pretty. Posted by Picasa

Completion of the First Week at SFBI

What a week! Ours was a large class for SFBI, but small compared to my classes at SBCC. Our teacher, Brian, spent the first half of the first day introducing us to the ingredients and methods we would be using. Then we headed downstairs from the classroom to the lab. We split up into groups of two or three. All of our equipment was ready for us to pick up and get started... no time spent running around trying to figure out where the tool we needed was kept.

Before each hands-on project Brian gave a detailed demo explaining how and why the ingredients were combined in a particular way. The first three days were spent putting together the bases and creams that we would assemble into cakes and pastries on the last two days.

What I like best about this program is the nurturing environment where even mistakes are treated as good learning experiences. Fortunately most of our mistakes weren't obvious in the finished product... such as the cream of tartar that went into the cake base flour instead of the meringue...oops. Or the vanilla that was still sitting on the counter top when the angel food cake batter was already in the pans. So when the puff pastry tore on its final trip through the sheeter or part of the tart dough landed on the floor instead of rolling onto the rolling pin, we were able to laugh and blame it on the sheeter.

On Thursday afternoon Brian, himself, showed us how a professional responds to a pastry disaster when the gelatin in the cherry cream for our Black Forest Cake refused to gel. Part of the gelatin may have dissolved into the water it was soaked in. Admirably keeping his cool (in a very hot baking environment), he put aside the mixture which might make a good smoothie base but was unlikely to gel in our lifetimes, and whipped us up a really big batch of chocolate whipped cream flavored with kirsch. The finished cakes were delightful--the result of a little baker's magic and some quick thinking!

The most challenging part of the week was actually using the sheeter. Sheeting buttery pastry in a 90-degree plus oven-heated room gave us a clear understanding of the challenges commercial bakers face. But with Brian's help we all succeeded in the end and carried home boxes full of cakes and pastries guaranteed to impress our friends and family... or for those of us staying in hotels, the desk and shuttle staff. Posted by Picasa

Pastry I - SF Baking Institute

This is just one of the creations from my first week of pastry making in the San Francisco Baking Institute's pastry series... the only item that hasn't been polished off or donated to feed someone skinnier than I am.

The chocolate sprinkles migrated up the praline buttercream sides, but aside from that, the view down onto the cake is quite lovely. Inside are two layers of high ratio chocolate cake. The bottom cake layer is coated lightly with apricot jam and spread with praline buttercream then topped with a disk of hazelnut meringue that was baked until crisp. The meringue layer is spread with praline buttercream and topped with another layer of chocolate cake coated with apricot jam before the final frosting of the top and sides. This is one rich cake, but thinly sliced it's perfect with a cup of hot freshly-brewed coffee. Posted by Picasa

Shaun's & Kris' Wedding Cakes

Since Shaun and Kris asked me to make their wedding cakes, I've been working on the flavor combinations Shaun has requested. This one is a chocolate chipotle cake. There is chocolate in the cake as well as in the ganache glaze... just enough for the beginning of a tingle on the second bite.

We are making 4 cakes--all different flavor combinations: chipotle chocolate, rose petal chamomile lavender with white chocolate sides and a whipped cream cheese top, green tea marble (recipe courtesy of another blogger), and rosemary lemoncello marscapone.

We'll be using fresh flowers to decorate and keep the focus on the flavors of the cakes rather than the artwork. Posted by Picasa