Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 19: Pretty in Pink

Alas, the day of our last practical. Earlier that morning, we were taught how to make the beautiful Charlotte. Pink sponge fingers hide layers of sponge, raspberry mousse, red berry jelly and almond bavarian cream. I was just happy to be making something that looked that pretty. The only other cake that we made that was comparable was the Fraisier. Everything else looked dull, mostly brown, not much decoration. The chef brought us through the demo which lasted longer than usual, but at the end, we were rewarded with a delicious cake.

IMG_1001Chef’s Charlottes

We had to work in pairs for this cake. I think if we were to do this by ourselves, it would take almost the entire 3 hours. I requested for a slightly more pink sponge finger and my partner did not protest, which was really nice of him! First, we piped our sponge. I tried my best to pipe them as evenly as possible. I was pretty happy with the way they turned out. Next, we moved onto the jelly, mousse and bavarian cream. As my partner can’t take pork, we had to split everything in half before adding the gelatin into the mixture. I wasn’t very happy with the way the chef dealt with it because although my partner was given a substitute, he was not told how to use it. This resulted in a less than ideal texture for the mousse and bavarian cream, and it did not set as well.

IMG_1204.JPGCharlotte aux fruits de saison

I had cut the sponge fingers at both ends to even them out, as the chef did during demo. I know this is a little unconventional, but the chef did mention that he preferred to do it that way. However, it seemed like not many people cut it for practical. When I looked at the uncut ones, they looked better and I was a little upset, but the chef which graded us totally understood that we were just replicating what we were taught in demo. I got pretty good marks for it, so I was happy again. He commented that my cake was extremely feminine and that the sponges were very well piped and defined. When I got home, I cut a slice to see how it looked inside, and I was quite pleased! The layers were straight and in good proportion. However, because we didn’t have enough time to chill the cake before arranging the fruits on top, the bavarian was still a little soft and the fruits sank in slightly.

This is truly a delicious cake. It’s not too sweet (very important), has good texture and is visually appealing. I just watched an episode of Masterchef Canada and they had to make a Charlotte in an hour! OMG! Obviously it was not as elaborate as ours and definitely not as pretty. There was a tropical one, a chocolate and mint flavoured one and caramel pecan one. Very innovative. I will have to try to bake some non-traditional ones too!

Our last demo is a “open” one, meaning the chef will be creating his own recipe, but we won’t have a practical on that. Let’s see what he comes up with!

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 19: Pretty in Pink

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 18: A Legit Slice of Chocolate Cake

I was pretty excited to make this cake. I absolutely love chocolate. That was how I gained 7 kilograms over 5 months in Europe. I was on a mission to try all the chocolates of the land. I think it’s safe to say that I had a bar of chocolate almost every single day.

The hazelnut sacher sponge is a relatively easy sponge to make. Honestly, even without soaking it with coffee syrup, I would still love it. It isn’t dry like a genoise, but I guess the coffee keeps it moist for longer, and also enhances the flavour of the chocolate.

After the hazelnut sacher, we worked on the ganache. Ganache is really simple to make, but very decadent. Less is more in this case.

After assembling our cakes, we queued up to glaze them. This was not that easy to do. Cakes with edges are a bitch to glaze in my opinion. I believe this cake was once round, but they changed it to a rectangle recently. Very modern.

My glazing went ok, except for one side. I think the cake was too cold and the chocolate cooled too quickly. However, I was able to get nice sharp edges and a flat top on mine. Overall, I was quite satisfied with it.

Processed with VSCO with j1 presetAlhambra

Chef’s only comment was that he would prefer less piping on the cake. I totally agree with him. I think I went overboard with that. My marzipan flower also improved from the last time I made it for the dacquoise. But there’s still a long way to go! I find it hard to handle the marzipan because it gets really sticky fast. Also, once you make a mistake, you can’t undo it otherwise you wreck the whole flower. I much prefer working with fondant, however, we all know fondant tastes like hell!

I was glad to have such a short day in school. I went home, had a Skype meeting and took a nap. I worked out and I felt amazing after! I’ve been sleeping really well here; much better than when I’m back home. Maybe I am really that tired!

We have our last practical tomorrow. We’re going to make a real pretty cake. It’s pink! HEHE.

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 18: A Legit Slice of Chocolate Cake

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 17: Who Doesn’t Love Chocolate?

The day I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived – the first of our chocolate recipes!

There were two recipes demonstrated – soufflé au chocolat (chocolate soufflé)  with crème glacée à la pistache (not ice cream) and chocolate sauce, and moelleux chocolat – a soft-centred chocolate cake with a vanilla crème brûlée filling. I was very excited for these to be finished because really, who wouldn’t be? I only know a couple of (weird) people who don’t like chocolate at all. Like they would never eat chocolate because chocolate is “disgusting”. Question: What’s better than a slice of chocolate cake? Answer: Warm chocolate cake.

 BUT… the soufflés were a failure! They were lopsided and the tops were cooked but everything below was a disaster. It spilled from the sides and made such a big mess. This was the first time that we had an unsuccessful recipe during the demos. I guess the chefs can’t always be perfect too. However, we couldn’t let all that chocolate go to waste, so we ate it anyway and it was still delicious and we wiped out everything. As for the moelleux chocolat, we were expecting something like a lava cake, but when it was cut, there was no flow at all. We all thought it tasted just like a brownie, so it was a little disappointing that we were making “brownies” this far into our course. This was a new recipe for the programme apparently, so I’m sure they will try to improve it.

For practical, we would be plating the moelleux chocolat with a vanilla mascarpone whipped cream quenelle and chocolate sauce. This was a pretty uneventful practical. The team leaders this week had to make the vanilla crème brûlée filling and chocolate sauce for the whole group, so we only had to make the chocolate cake batter. Someone else made the whipped cream too so… Yeah, nothing much to do! At the end, we simply plated our desserts. This was the first time ever making a quenelle, and the first time I did it, it was decent but the whipped cream was too soft and I decided to redo it again. It looked much better after the the cream was cooled a little.

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Processed with VSCO with a8 presetVanilla crème brûlée filling 

As I mentioned, it tasted more like a brownie. It was still delicious, but it was just that. I brought them home and refrigerated them, and actually, they taste better a couple of days after, and cold! Haha! What was I saying about warm chocolate cake? We didn’t get the molten centres, but Group A did. So jealous!

After this relatively easy-going practical, we had our written exam. I WAS SO PISSED OFF. We had been told that we would be tested on our theory lessons – eggs, milk, cream, butter, flour etc., but we got questions mostly on recipes that no one actually studied for. I only flipped through all the recipes once before the exam. Thankfully, I have quite an extraordinary memory (thanks, SMU). There were some problems with the questions that I wasn’t very happy about. As the paper is written in French and English, obviously I only bothered reading the English part of it. I remember there was a question about choux pastry, but they were referring to chouquettes and if you didn’t read the French version, you would’ve answered wrongly for sure. Fortunately, a caught that at the last moment and I changed my answer. Also, the last section was a little unfair because it was a list of French culinary terms that most non-French speaking students would struggle with. I made some intelligent guesses and I think I got everything right. I think. I hope! Will definitely feedback to the academic department.

Our 7pm lesson was a demo for another cake. Chocolate. Again. At this point, we were all pretty tired as we had started the day at 8am. The Alhambra cake is a chocolate cake named after a place in Spain. It consists of three layers of hazelnut sacher soaked in coffee syrup, and filled with dark chocolate ganache. It is then glazed with chocolate. Very chocolatey, very yum! I’ve had Sachertorte in Austria thrice, and not because it was good, but because I just had to. The first time I had it was when I just got to Graz with my mum and we went to Café Sacher. We both agreed that it was very underwhelming. The second time I had it was with Cindy in Vienna at the original Hotel Sacher. It was even drier than the one we had in Graz. The third time I had it was with DJ in Graz again. Still, we were not impressed. Then Alex sent me an entire Sachertorte via post from Austria and I had it in my freezer for quite some time. I decided to heat it up one day, just for fun, and actually, it’s pretty nice when it’s warm! This is another cake which is just famous because of the story behind it. I don’t think I’ll ever eat it again. I might make my own though.

Ok, so anyhow, this cake was so good! I can say that it is one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever had. I loved the hazelnut sacher sponge. It was not dry at all, even without the imbibing syup, it was still moist and tender. I think I was really wowed by it because the quality of chocolate used was excellent. I believe we were using Cacao Barry in class that day. I’m also a big fan of dark chocolate. I’m one of those people who loves to tell anyone who tells me that white chocolate is their favourite that white chocolate isn’t even chocolate. What a snob. I know.

Tomorrow, we make our Alhambra. I can’t wait!

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 17: Who Doesn’t Love Chocolate?

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 16: Unchanged Opinions

We had a scheduled chef meeting on Wednesday which was postponed from last week. The purpose of the meeting was to find out how well we’ve done thus far – we were given our grade out of 5, taking into account six or seven practicals. However, the session also included some time for us to give feedback to the chef regarding our experience in Le Cordon Bleu over the past few weeks. In turned out to be almost an hour of complaints (mostly). Le Cordon Bleu has its flaws. I knew this before I came to Paris and I’m sure it’s quite a well known fact. You just have to speak to a couple of students and you will hear the same things. Small lockers, chefs don’t speak English, chefs don’t give adequate feedback etc. I shall not make public my annoyance with certain aspects of school, because just as no one is perfect, no institute is perfect either. If you want my honest opinion, please feel free to ask me privately:)

After the meeting, we had a quick brunch at Starbucks before returning to school for our demo. We were taught quite a few recipes –macarons à la framboise (raspberry macarons), macarons à la pistache (pistachio macarons), moelleux caramel (soft caramel tea cakes), sablés orange amandes (orange and almond shortbreads) and sablés pochés (piped shortbread biscuits). I am pretty firm about my dislike of macarons. In my lifetime, I only remember two instances that I’ve ever liked them – the first time I ate a macaron was a rose-flavoured one in Singapore at the  Grand Hyatt’s Mezza9, and the macarons that I ate at Pierre Hermé. Pierre Hermé has the best macarons in the world, at least to me. When I try a better one, I’ll let the world know! I didn’t fancy the macarons made during demo. I especially hate pistachio-flavoured desserts that use pistachio paste or essence. Guys, let’s agree that pistachios don’t taste like that. It’s just like almond extract; it sucks. I rather eat the raw pistachios and almonds! The caramel tea cakes were so-so, but both sablés were the best.

For practical, we had to make raspberry macarons and the piped shortbread cookies. We use the French method (#becauseFrance) for the macarons, which means whisking egg whites and sugar to a meringue and folding in the dry ingredients until the right consistency is reached – macaronage. The recipe we have is not a “tant pour tant” macaron base recipe (equal parts of ground almonds and icing sugar). We started by preparing our templates first. The chef gave us a few to trace onto baking paper. Then we started on our batter and piped them out onto the sheets, tapped the trays a few times, and allowed the macarons to crust before baking them. We then made our ganache à la framboise (white chocolate raspberry ganache) and our piped shortbread cookies with an chocolate praline filling.

When the macarons were out of the oven, I looked at mine and was extremely disappointed. I thought the colour wasn’t vibrant enough, and that they were flat and some misshapen. Some of my classmates had made their macaron batter too red by accident, but after baking they came out a nice fuchsia. Mine were a like browned pink – picture that. When it was time to fill them, my ganache had not cooled enough and we were running out of time, so I asked the chef for his opinion about the consistency of it. He told me to whisk it more so that it would thicken, but instead, the ganache split and it looked so lumpy and disgusting! What a disaster!

IMG_0857Raspberry macarons

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I think you can see how horrible they look. Actually, the photo makes them look better than in reality! I hadn’t realised that I had used a bigger template that we were not supposed to refer to. So although my macaronage was ok (according to the chef), it was only suitable for macarons which were smaller. He didn’t make any comments about my split ganache though. That was surprising.

Fortunately, my piped shortbread cookies were much better.

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I love it when we use praline! We combined chocolate and praline for the filling and I really love this cookie. I think it is super simple to make and it isn’t too sweet. The texture is nice and crisp, and the filling just balances out the flavour really well.

Anyway, I went home super depressed about my macarons because the thought of me using the wrong sized template was just so ARGH! You would think that if there was one place where you would learn to make perfect macarons would be in a culinary school in France. HAH. A lot of people didn’t think that the recipe was good too. Disappointing…

I still don’t like macarons. Maybe I’ll go to Pierre Hermé to cheer myself up.

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 16: Unchanged Opinions

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 15: Nothing Like French Butter

We had six straight hours of practical in the morning. Our brioche and croissant doughs were frozen over the weekend and moved to the refrigerator to ferment on Monday, ready for our practical on Tuesday.

We had our lesson in the boulangerie practical room, St Honoré (the patron saint of bakers). They have a beautiful wooden work top and fancy proofing chambers and ovens. We started by weighing out individual portions of our brioche dough so that we could make brioche à tête and some bigger loafs as well. The brioche dough had risen a lot and looked like it was going to rip through the plastic wrap! I enjoyed shaping them. It is a little tricky because the dough is quite sticky, but after a while, I did get a hang of it. The brioche à tête is really adorable. I think it’s my favourite one. However, because they are quite small, they turn stale by the next day.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetBrioche à tête

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetBrioche parisienne

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset Brioche nantaise

For our croissants, we had to complete our turns with butter before we cut and shaped them. We also made pain au chocolat with our croissant dough, and the chef made pain aux raisins.

IMG_0750.JPGCroissants

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I made a big mistake with my croissant dough. I rolled them out too thin and so they didn’t have the size or grandeur of the others in class. I was super disappointed. The croissants made in class are really big though. We seldom see croissants that big in Singapore. Dough-wise everything was ok. I guess I have to work on the shaping next time.

IMG_0688.JPG

This was all everything that we made in those six hours. I can’t tell you how much butter we used that day. It’s disgusting. I smelled like butter by the end of the class.

Of course, mine were not perfect, but other than the croissants, I didn’t think that they were that bad. The chef gave me three out of four sad faces for the evaluation, which means he failed me. I just don’t understand why! I thought it was really unfair. Honestly, I feel like he had a problem with me because once in the class, he told me to do something in French and I had no idea what he was saying; I simply smiled and looked around expecting someone to translate what he had said for me. He then said something rude to me and that really surprised me. Anyway, I made a complaint yesterday during our chef’s meeting about that chef. I hope they do something about it. I don’t want to be penalised this harshly because I really don’t think I deserve those marks.

I gave all of my brioche and croissants to a homeless lady who I see almost everyday near my place. I only saved a quarter of a loaf of brioche for myself.

After the six hours of practical, we had another six hours to go. This was the first 8am to 10pm day we had, and it was super tiring! We had a demo for dacquoise right after. I didn’t even have time to eat my lunch. I just ate a little bit of the white chocolate-lime brioche before the demo.

Dacquoise is a cake which is made with ground almonds and a meringue. I don’t really like to call it a cake though. It is pretty sweet on its own, but with a layer of cream it tastes much better. The dacquoise we had to make for practical was to be filled with crème au beurre pralinée (praline buttercream). I like French buttercream more and more. I don’t think I want to make Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream anymore. It is not as sweet, and it is richer due to the egg yolks used instead of just egg whites. For decoration, we would make a marzipan rose and leaves.

IMG_0693.JPGDacquoise

I did not like the dacquoise when I ate it during demo because I found it too sweet. But after refrigeration, it does taste a little better. I think the texture of the dacquoise improves overnight. Or maybe it’s just me? I also prefer when the buttercream is cold and firm.

I have to improve on my marzipan rose. Mine was not as delicate as they should have been. Chef makes really beautiful ones and I hope I can make them as nice someday.

And finally, the end of the most tiring day ever.

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 15: Nothing Like French Butter

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 14: Disastrous Doughs

The day started with our practical for the Écossais (Scottish log), croissant and brioche doughs. To be honest, I was dreading this practical. As much as I am very interested in boulangerie, I definitely do not have much experience working with dough. I also felt that we did not have a very good demonstration on the doughs the day before.

Doughs are finicky. They need a lot of care and attention. You have to give them time to grow. I think that’s what really got me interested in bread making to start with. The fact that they have life.

We started off with our Scottish log, making the vanilla mixture first. I was really tired of whisking; my arms were so sore from my HIIT and yoga. I’m still trying to exercise at least four to five times a week because of all the eating! We chose to use the mixer for our chocolate mixture because it involved making a meringue.

IMG_0561.JPGÉcossais (Scottish log)

The cake is pretty delicious. I really love the texture of it. There is quite a bit of almond in it. The vanilla mixture has almond powder; the chocolate dacquoise has crushed almonds too. We ran out of rum, so I didn’t get to put as much rum as the recipe called for. I preferred it with more rum like the one from demo. The chocolate dacquoise should be in the middle of the cake, but most of us had cakes like this where the chocolate was at the bottom. I had piped a layer of vanilla mixture on top (which is the bottom when inverted out) of the chocolate, but somehow it all disappeared. Oh well. Still good!

I decided to give the entire cake away. I gave a third to the owner of the Thai restaurant I visit at least once a week, and the rest to a homeless lady who is always outside the supermarket. The Thai restaurant owner was so happy and so I was really happy too. The homeless lady said thanks but she kinda just snatched it from me once I offered it to her. Still, I feel really good doing that. I’ll definitely be giving away everything from now on. I’m seriously getting sick of all these cakes and pastries. I told myself I would just try a little of everything, because I should. It’s part of the job really.

We moved on to making our pâte à croissant (croissant dough). We kneaded the dough by hand, and though very satisfying, it was pretty exhausting. I was honestly perspiring by the end of ten minutes. I think I spent fifteen to twenty minutes kneading and slapping the dough on the work surface.

We had to do our brioche dough in pairs in the mixer because it is a very wet and sticky dough. Our first dough was a failure because we put in all our butter at once and it just did not incorporate well. Our dough was so much more liquid than it should have been. Chef asked us to redo our dough so I think we finished last this time.

We will be baking our croissants and brioche on Tuesday. Group A has already finished their practical earlier today and I saw pictures. It is really amazing! I think each person will have more than twenty pieces of croissant and brioche in total!

After practical, a bunch of us went for lunch at the Korean restaurant opposite my place. I had bibimbap and it was not as good as the one we have at Kopitiam in Singapore. Quite disappointing but I still ate almost all of it. My stomach was upset the whole time after, up to this morning when I woke up with terrible tummy ache. This is what happens when I eat too much rice. My body seems to reject it!

After lunch, we had to go back to school for theory class; this time on water, eggs, sugar and salt. This was the most interesting theory class and also the one with the most involvement. By the end of the day, I was pretty tired and I didn’t really want to do anything. I really knocked out last night.

This afternoon, Hyemin and I practiced crimping pâte sucrée at my place. It was quite a disaster because the weather is super warm and my kitchen is not the best place to do it. The crimping of the dough is not as easy as it looks. I think we can pass with our current standard, but I am just not satisfied with it yet. I’ll try to practice again next week. It will be out for our technique part of our practical exam.

We went for a walk with Nadia after dinner to Pont de Bir-Hakeim to take photosThis bridge is really popular with photographers and for wedding shoots. Maybe they are all Inception fans!

Nadia is a really awesome photographer and we are planning to take photos along this bridge in our chef’s jackets tomorrow after our picnic dinner. She made me pose with very serious expressions and I think I look like a joke!

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetNadia, Hyemin & I

I can’t believe that by the end of next week, we will have no more practical classes. Our theory exam is next week, and our final practical exam is on the following Wednesday. We then have to say goodbye and that thought is pretty upsetting to me. These two girls are really my two best friends here and I am so glad to have met them. I will be sad to leave because I don’t know when I will see them again ):

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 14: Disastrous Doughs

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 13: Dairy & Some Dough

We had another theory lesson today. This time it was about dairy products such as milk, cream and butter. These are some of the most important ingredients in French pastry and baking in general. Of course, I feel that the quality of dairy products here in Paris is so much better than what we have in Singapore. I am most upset about butter though. The good ones in Singapore are usually really expensive. For some recipes, the quality of the products is extra important. Take for example, bread. The quality of the flour is an important factor that will impact the quality of the final product. Chef also mentioned chocolate, and how the quality of the chocolate would affect a dessert such as mousse au chocolat. This was quite an interesting lesson. I know to some it may seem a little boring, but I am always interested in learning about how these products are produced, how they affect the taste and texture of food, and what are the options available to us.

After our theory class, we had a demo on Écossais (Scottish log),  brioche and croissant dough. The Scottish log is a cake made with two batters – one vanilla and the other chocolate. The chocolate dacquoise is hidden in the middle of the cake. It was quite yummy. I now appreciate cakes with less sugar😛

The brioche and croissant dough preparation was quite difficult to understand. I’m not very experienced with viennoiseries. I have made some bread before, but not brioche, and croissant is almost impossible to do back home. The boulangerie chef took us for the demo class and of course, he insisted it isn’t as difficult as we think. But from the little experience that I have, kneading can be quite challenging. For practical on Friday, we have to do the croissant dough by hand, and the brioche in the machine. Brioche dough is very sticky and supple, so the chef doesn’t want us to make a big mess probably. And also because it will take a long time to do it. We will do the Scottish log, and prepare the two doughs which we will then be folding and shaping before baking them off on Tuesday next week. Group A is completing their croissant and brioche on Saturday. I guess it’s because they have a lack of boulangerie chefs in the school at the moment.

Tomorrow is Bastille Day, which is France’s national day. I’m sure there will be quite a bit of festivities around the city. Not sure what I will be doing. I wanted to hold a little picnic along the Seine, but that is subject to the weather for now! I’m pretty tired at the moment. Had to do some work for my tea project. Not sure if I should head out now for the Firemen’s Ball!

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 13: Dairy & Some Dough

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 12: Strawberry Fields Forever

We had two days off – Sunday and Monday, and I was feeling pretty recharged for the new school week.

On Monday, I went out with a friend to see some of the specialty kitchen stores. In the last two weeks, I have lost quite a few things – paring knife, bench scraper and pastry brush. The paring knife was the most heartbreaking, because it costs 36 Euros. ):

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I felt like a kid in a candy store. I really wanted to buy everything there! All the stores are in the same area, but most are on the same street – Rue Montmatre. The list of stores we visited: Deco Relief, Mora, A.Simons, Dehillerin and La Bovida. We got off at the metro stop Etienne Marcel and all are within walking distance.

We walked quite a bit after, and did some shopping along Rue de Rivoli. The stores everywhere are having sales now, so we managed to snag some footwear at half price! We stopped for dinner at Les Deux Palais.

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I had the Croque Madame – that awesome “sandwich” with gruyere, ham and a fried egg. Oh man, it was so good! We sat and chatted for almost 3 hours before heading home. It was a good day!

On Tuesday, we had an internship talk in the morning. This was for students who are considering doing an internship at the end of the superior course. I have no idea when I will be able to finish the entire course – hopefully next year. The school assists students with looking for an internship at either a hotel, restaurant, bistro, brasserie, catering company, pâtisserie, ice cream shop, chocolatier or boulangerie. Alternatively, students can also look for their own. I don’t know if I will ever do an internship here. I guess a part of me really wants to because France is, to me, the best place to learn. Of course, there will be some places which only make you peel apples or do some mundane tasks, but if you manage to find the right place – jackpot!

In the afternoon, we were going to make another cake – a Fraisier, which is another French classic, made with two  layers of génoise soaked in kirsch syrup and filled with fresh strawberries and crème mousseline. We then roll out a thin layer of marzipan to top. It is definitely one of the prettiest cakes around! During the demo, Chef made it look pretty easy; easier than the Moka at least.

When it was time for practical, I have no idea whether it was just me, but everyone was moving extra fast and I ended up being one of the slowest. When people were done with their cake, I had only just started assembling mine! I felt super pressured, so I rushed and I don’t think I did the best I could’ve.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetFraisier

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetInside the Fraisier

I had a couple of strawberries which were not flat against the side, so now the cream was covering a small part of the berries. However, once I peeled the plastic wrap off, the cream also came off and the cake looked so much better. I wish I pushed the strawberries down a little more; it would make the proportions look better.

The chef who took us for demo was really encouraging. She is the only female chef in school, and I really admire her! She’s very observant, helpful and motivating. Usually, the chefs don’t really bother with us during the practical, letting us do our thing until the end (unless we are endangering our lives or seriously struggling). However, she goes around and takes note of what each of us is doing and she either corrects or praises us for our good work. Really, she’s great! This was the first time we had her for practical. At the end of the lesson, she told us that she was honestly very impressed by our group’s organisation and speed. The chef next door who was in charge of the other group walked into our class and he was so shocked that we had already finished, while the other group was so much slower. I heard from my friend in the other group that he went back to them and told them that there must be something wrong because we were already finished and they were much behind. So maybe, just maybe, my group has more experienced people? So I’m not wrong to feel stressed in this group, right?

For our next lesson, we will be learning how to make brioche and croissant dough! Here come the viennoiseries!

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 12: Strawberry Fields Forever

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 11: Where’s The Chocolate in Moka

After the success of my Paris-Brest the day before, I was both stoked as well as nervous about making the Moka. The Moka is a traditional French gâteau. It is coffee-flavoured and doesn’t have any chocolate in it. Why is called mocha then? Is the single chocolate-covered coffee bean enough to warrant it’s name? It should just be called gâteau au café, no?

Chef Olivier brought us through the demo class. He made three cakes in the three hours. The Moka is made of three layers of génoise imbibed in coffee syrup, and frosted with coffee-flavoured French buttercream. The sides are then covered with caramelised almonds. This was the first time we would be using our thermometers for practical. I use thermometers at home for making buttercream, so this was not new to me. However, we were using it for the syrup, for the final temperature of the “sabayon” and the buttercream. This was the most technical recipe thus far. Anything and everything could go wrong. From the whipping of the batter for the genoise, to the buttercream, to the almonds, to the piping.

We had to whip the genoise batter sufficiently, otherwise we wouldn’t have tall enough a cake to cut three layers from. Mine barely made it, but I know there were some others who hardly had a third layer. The next component I was worried about was the buttercream. I was a little slower than the majority (as usual), so almost everyone around me didn’t have sufficient buttercream to fill and frost their cakes. We all had the same recipe, so once again it came down to how much volume we were able to incorporate while whipping. This was challenging because we had to whisk vigorously for an extended amount of time. My arms were so tired. I blame my height. If only I were taller, or had a stool!

Fortunately, I had enough buttercream to both fill and frost my cake. Chef had to make extra buttercream for the rest, but because he didn’t have the time to make it the same way as ours, it came out really pale, unlike our buttercream which was a darker brown. I was able to pipe my shell border rather decently. Glad all that frosting cake back home helped again. The thing I did struggle with was making the pattern on the top of the cake with the serrated knife. It didn’t come out like how Chef Olivier showed us. Mine had larger chevrons and definitely wasn’t regular like his.

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A pretty ok job I believe. When Chef was evaluating our cakes, he made us cut out a slice to see the interior. He told me that I hadn’t imbibed the genoise enough with syrup; that I should brush both sides of the sponge with coffee syrup. However, this was not how we were taught in demo, so once again, the chefs weren’t on the same page. However, someone told him at the end that the demo chef didn’t do that, and even showed him a photo of the cake from demo. So he understood why everyone’s cake was not well imbibed. I didn’t particularly like this cake very much because it’s a little too sweet. Maybe less syrup was a good thing. Or maybe don’t caramelised the almonds. French buttercream is also very rich because it is made out of egg yolks, unlike Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream, which are made out of egg whites.

The course is definitely getting more interesting and challenging. I can’t imagine we started with diamants and in a span of less than two weeks, we are already making such elaborate things. In the next couple of weeks, we will be making super fancy stuff like charlottes which I’ve never made before. I really can’t wait. I’m not as tired as I was last week too. I think I’ve gotten used to the hours and the intensity of it.

In the past week, the weather has really become much warmer. It is finally summer in Paris and I am both loving and hating it. Mornings are cool, and I can walk to school comfortably but once it’s the afternoon, I am literally perspiring after a minute or two of walking in the sun. The week before, I was cold and miserable at night, especially the two days the water heater wasn’t working and I was dying in the shower. I didn’t have warm enough clothes for sleeping and my feet were cold and clammy. Now, all I want to do is wear a tank top, shorts and slippers when I go out!

Today is Sunday and I met Léa, whom I met in Graz while on exchange. We had really delicious French galettes (not the pie but crêpe) at La Crêperie de Josselin. I forgot to take photos but it didn’t look very appetising anyway. I ordered the original and it was such a generous portion that I think I only finished slightly over half of it. The original is filled with ham, cheese, eggs and mushroom. It was très délicieux! It was great catching up. Exchange is really a wonderful thing. You get to meet such amazing people and you still meet up whenever you’re in their homeland.

I’m going to enjoy my Sunday alone. I did my laundry, vacuumed the floor and for the first time in my life, I cleaned the toilet. I know, I’ve been pampered. Tonight is the Euro finals and I’m pretty sure the whole city will be going crazy. I already saw lots of people in their jerseys and flags on the streets. Will try to go for a run along the Seine later too and see what’s happening around here!

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 11: Where’s The Chocolate in Moka

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 10: In Love With Choux

This morning, we had to recreate the Paris-Brest from demo. The Paris-Brest is a very beautiful looking dessert. Two rings of pâte à choux (choux pastry) are piped, with one sprinkled with flaked almonds. They are baked, then the bigger ring is sliced in half and filled with noisettes caramelisées (caramelised hazelnuts), the smaller ring and crème mousseline pralinée (praline mousseline cream).

We first start with our pâte à choux, and while that is in the oven, we start on our crème pâtissière (pastry cream). Basically, crème mousseline is pastry cream that is enriched with butter. Some call it German buttercream. Someone please enlighten me how buttercreams such as Swiss, Italian and German got their names! Anyhow, this is a very delicious buttercream. Mmm… all that butter.

We also had to caramelise hazelnuts. This was, to me, the most delicious part of the Paris-Brest. Because it is hidden underneath the crème mousseline, it is quite a pleasant surprise and gives a good contrast in textures. I was snacking on the leftover caramelised  hazelnut after class!

Somehow, I managed to produce a very nice looking Paris-Brest. I’ve always loved decorating cakes with buttercream, so all that practice definitely worked in my favour today as Chef complimented my Paris-Brest. He even measured its dimensions and took photos for reference. Of course, I felt very proud and happy inside, but I didn’t want to show it in case people thought I was damn haolian or something! Haha. I had classmates tell me that my Paris-Brest was the most beautiful today. I seem to have had some luck with pâte à choux over the past two days.

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Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetCross section of Paris-Brest

I will need to whip the crème mousseline over ice for longer next time because it wasn’t as stiff as it should’ve been. The piping would’ve been much neater and more defined if my crème mousseline was colder. Some people ran out of cream because they did not whip it long enough to give it more volume. As usual, we had to whip my hand and my arms were already sore from exercising the day before. I swear my arms are getting bigger.

As you can see, there is an extra layer of choux pastry in the middle. This is to give a better ratio of pastry to cream. Otherwise, it would be cream overkill! I wouldn’t complain though. I love the cream a lot! The caramelised hazelnuts also give a good crunch. There is a generous amount sprinkled at the bottom.

I ate half of it myself. Oops😛

I met WZ this afternoon for an Asian lunch followed by a drink at Starbucks. It’s really amazing how well we click though it’s really just the first time we’ve met. Thoroughly enjoyed speaking in Singlish and talking a whole lot of shit for almost three hours. Hehe! Nice to have company now:)

I had to go back to school for a theory class which ended earlier than we expected. We learnt about different kinds of flour and how wheat is milled, parts of the grain etc. Quite interesting, and definitely got me even more interested in boulangerie. I think it is really amazing how the French are so particular about their flours and have all these types which are so formally named Type 45, 55, 65 etc. To think we only have flours like all-purpose, cake, self-raising, bread and Hong Kong flour in Singapore. We are getting all the inferior stuff!

I’ll be attending a 6 hour bread-making course later this month so I can make legit bread for my grandpa. I will only be making croissants, pain au chocolat and brioche in the basic patisserie course.

Tomorrow, we will be making Moka (mocha cake). It will definitely be the most complex thing we have made. Can’t wait!

 

Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Day 10: In Love With Choux