Sunday, 22 February 2015

Le Cordon Bleu intermediate patisserie week 6 - fire in the kitchen

An entremet, by definition of Le cordon Bleu, is a multi layered, multi flavoured, multi textured 'cake' or gateau, held together using a delightfully light and fluffy mousse. This week was entremet week, and although we'd already made a couple in the past, including the mysterious and overly complex Gateau Sabrina and the much less fussy Gateau Charlotte, this weeks entremets would see us spend more time on the decoration using tempered chocolate than the creation of the cakes themselves. 

First up was a caramelised pear and dark chocolate mousse cake. One bite of this entremet and I was whisked back to my childhood. I was sat in the kitchen with Mum and Dad eating chocolate Angel Delight with tinned pears after dance class on a Friday night and I was in heaven. Essentially, this cake was just the same, just a little more refined, with the inclusion of a flourless chocolate sponge, of course making this treat gluten free and with a little more fuss spent caramelising the pears. 

The making of the cake went mostly to plan. Working in pairs, I'm sure for comedy effect due to the title of the cake (pears in pairs), I whipped up the sponge mix whilst my partner tended to the caramel and the cutting of the fruits. I then spread the sponge mix thinly over the baking tray, covered a third in chopped nuts and popped it in the oven. Numerous times we checked the sponge to ensure a healthy bake and when satisfied turned it out into a cooling wrack. Almost instantly an issue was spotted... Dry edges. We needed all the sponge we could get our hands on in order to make the side and base of the cake and as I felt the error had come about due to my spreading of the mix too thinly, I sacrificed a nut covered side in favour of having a side at all. 

Once we'd cut out two base discs and two side strips there was nothing left but thin and crispy, sand like chunks destine for the bin. Into the bin they went and we turned our attention to the making of the mousse and tempering of the chocolate needed to create the finishing touches. This all ran smoothly and in fact so did the rest of the construction process. Mousse made we decanted this into our tins, added the pears, topped with more mousse which was then levelled off, glazed our entremets and chilled them. It wasn't until it came to the de moulding of the cakes that we had a small problem... Using a blow touch I began to warm my tin in order to encourage the cakes release. My partner grabbed some blue paper and placed it next to the cake in case we needed to clean off any melted mousse and whoosh... A huge ball of fire formed. 

Naturally, being in a room full of girls there was instant panic but as the fire was small, on a marble surface and we'd quickly removed any further fuel from the area surrounding it, I patted it out as much as I could with a water bottle (obviously) and allowed the embers to naturally die away. No damage was done, nor injury sustained. Not even our cakes were effected. With the fire drama over, all that was left to do was pipe a design, delicately place a pear or two on top and finish off with our tempered chocolate P's. And here he is. I call him Pierre. He's not beautiful, he's missing his nut covered side and the piping is a little shaky but he tasted incredibly delicious. 

When reading around the subject of the entremet, I was interested to learn that the literal translation means "between servings" and is defined as a small dish served between courses or simply served as a dessert. It seems that in the middle ages, a entremet was served as an elaborate form of entertainment, typically enjoyed by nobility and the upper classes. The serving of the entremet would mark the end of the meal and could be anything ranging from a simple frumenty (essentially a porridge made of wheat which would be coloured brightly and served with exotic fruits and flavours including spices) to the super elaborate which included models of palaces or castles made of sugar as well as other ingredients, complete with wine fountains and musicians. 

As the entremets became more and more elaborate they moved away from being a simple filler course and became more a form of entertainment in their own right. Heston would have been in his element! Royals and nobel men would fight over the pastry chefs in their kingdoms, wanting only the best to ensure their entertainment was of the highest standard. Pastry chefs could no longer just specialise in creating edible works of art but also needed to add stage building, theatre and goodness knows what else to their skill set.  

Shown below is the staging of an elaborate entremet at the banquet of Charles V in 1378. No doubt the boat was edible and everyone had a jolly good time eating it. 

It seems that Heston's tendencies to do crazy things with food is nothing new at all. We've been cooking foods and dressing them up as something else for many, many years. The first evidence of this being in Roman times. In his book Satyricon, the Roman author Pentronius wrote about a dish consisting of a rabbit dressed to look like the mythical horse Pegasus. My favourite of all the mythical creatures...and a little fact for you. When next you happen to visit London or you're in the country side, and you're stood at a road crossing, as soon as you've pressed the button to cross, look up. You may see one of these. This is known as a pegasus crossing and is designed to allow horses and their riders to cross safely without the rider needing to leave the saddle. Totally unrelated to cakes but it's a fact that I quite enjoy. 

Back to entremets...In the UK there is written documentation stating that illusion foods were often served at Royal banquets and balls. Food such as roasted peacock or swan would be served. The fowl would be skinned, cooked and seasoned and then redressed in its original plumage. If the meat itself wasn't to the King or Queens liking, the plumage would be filled with something tastier and more appealing. As time went on, entremets continued to grow in popularity. The well known children's nursery rhyme "sing a song of sixpence" has the entremet to thank for its very existence. As you can imagine, a large pie was baked and was filled with live black birds. Four and twenty to be precise. As soon as the pie was tapped into the birds flew free much to the delight of the banqueting guests. After all, there wasn't any television or cinema in those days so they had to find their entertainment elsewhere. I'd take immersive theatrical eating over an episode of live Eastenders any day! 

The most noteworthy entremet served in the UK was in the 17th Century at one of the Duke of Buckingham's banquets. At this particular banquet a person of restricted growth was baked into a pie - the man in question was Jeffrey Hudson and although small, he was a pretty big deal in his day. "Pet" to Queen Henrietta Maria, he was viewed as a miracle due to his perfectly proportioned, small body. He stood at just 45cm in height. Guests were amazed and delighted when he popped out of the pie before they tucked in! Health and safety clearly hadn't crossed their minds. In any capacity. Sadly, following years of mockery, Jeffrey killed a man and was expelled from court. He was sold to the African slave trade which saw him spend 25 years in slave imprisonment before being ransomed back to the United Kingdom. He died two years later. 

Really its a shame that such elaborate culinary theatre has disappeared from our menus. Heston is clearly leading the way to change this and others aren't far behind. During my time in London I've heard rumblings of its popularity beginning to increase. Not long ago a Game of Thrones style banquet was held at the Andaz Hotel in London's Liverpool Street. An elaborate menu was conjured up by the extremely creative pop up geniuses, The Wondering Chefs and was served, banquet style to many very lucky guests at an event titled "All Men Must Dine". 

Featuring delicacies such as poached veal's tongue, honey roasted locusts, 'dragon' eggs and flaming suckling pig, this feast would have been right at home during the middle ages. Talking to the Daily Mail, the Mistress of Entertainment, Lalie Jacout said 'guests will experience a huge Game of Thrones style lavish feast which will be accompanied by entertainment including live music, fools and even and extraordinary contortionist'. A feast fit for a King. 

An edible immersive theatrical experience I'm going to try my damnedest to attend this year is Alice Underground. If you're in London in April or May try and grab yourself a ticket, it looks incredible AND it involves cake; Alice Underground

Although the entremets made at Le Cordon Bleu contain no live stock, human beings or theatre, they are still rather tricky to make. Especially when you have to make two. This term our form has an uneven number of pastry chefs in training and when faced with the entremet au chocolat blanc et pistachio avec sa gelee aux fruits rouge I was to do so alone, for the very first time. Partnerless, chef offered to assist me which felt a little strange, dishing out orders to someone far more experienced than myself. As I whipped eggs chef was measuring my next set of ingredients and whilst busy piping the sponge circles chef was making a start on my creme anglaise mousse base. Perfect. 

Well, it was all going perfectly until I started to panic. Not knowing what chef had and hadn't done I somehow managed to upset my chocolate mousse which went a little lumpy but only on the surface and mess up the tempering of one of my chocolate sheets. Wobbles aside, I produced two entremets. I presented the neater of the two (on the left) and all in all didn't do too badly. As mentioned, I messed up my tempered chocolate when making the second cake. Not wanting to present chef a cake with no sides at all I used broken shards of chocolate. Its patisserie, but with a little more edge. 

Happy with my weeks baking at school I hurried home to whip up some pancakes to celebrate pancake day before heading out to meet some very exciting people. Not satisfied with making traditional pancakes, and inspired by the pancake artists who have been doing the rounds on all forms of social media, I had a think and eventually came up with this little fella. There's nothing quite like a plate of edible art. He looks hoppy don't you think? 

Pancakes munched, I headed off down the canal destine for Hackney, my entremet au chocolat blanc et pistachio avec sa gelee aux fruits rouge in hand. Making two cakes in one week meant of course that they had to be shared and who better to share them with but fellow bakers. And not only fellow bakers, bakers whom I admire and who have inspired me. I was going to meet the Meringue Girls! Over a year ago I was sat alone in a friends house, she'd popped out and left me with a new book of hers that she thought I might like, the book was titled "Meringue Girls Cookbook - incredible meringues everybody can cook". The cover was an bright and enticing rainbow of meringue kisses and I couldn't help but turn the page with eager anticipation. On the first page it read...

It was reading this singular sentence that planted the seed in my mind to leave my 9 to 5 and to take to the kitchen more permanently. Meeting the girls at the bakery and discussing their business with them was incredible and has inspired me further. Theres nothing quite like an injection of optimism and positivity, and to discuss your most favourite past time with like minded people over a slice of cake  - perfection. I hope to be able to see them again soon. What I really admire about them, as well as the guys from Crosstown Doughnuts is that they've taken one product and they've really owned it. One simple product, done well in a creative and imaginative way and its taken them perfectly in the direction that they want to go in and has ensured their success in breaking London and the foodie world. Now I just need to think about what my one 'thing' could be! 

My final encounter with the world of patisserie was an unplanned trip to Said in Soho. Said is a boutique, artisan Italian chocolatier selling chocolates, cakes and liquid drinking chocolate produced in their factory across the sea in Roma, Italy. I'd been asked to pop over to collect a canister of drinking chocolate for Crosstown. Of the many available, Crosstown have selected Said's drinking chocolate to sell alongside their doughnuts in their Piccadilly store and the customers LOVE it. It was 8:30am on Friday morning and the sales assistant had barely turned the key in the lock and there I was, stood before her, eyes as wide as saucers, turning slowly on the spot trying to take it all in. I was like a kid in a...chocolate shop! 

Like a magpie, first my attention was caught by the hundreds of vintage chocolate moulds hung from the walls. Hearts, rabbits, chickens, monkeys, flowers, diamonds - you name it and they had a mould for it. Turning towards the chocolate counter I was drawn in by the opulent piles of hand made chocolates...truffled and filled will many glorious accompanying ingredients. Naturally I got a little over excited and went off on a chocolate rant, explaining that I was about to dive into chocolate week at Le Cordon Bleu. As the sales assistant hurried around the shop trying to get things done before officially opening for business, she swiped the canister from my hand and replaced it with a chocolate to sample. That shut me up. My mouth was in heaven. Two seconds later she re appeared with the full canister and I was on my way with nothing but the very best after taste and an object that resembled a weapon of mass destruction. Needless to say, walking back through the crowds of business men and women was made so much easier as they gave me a rather wide birth, concerned by what I might have been carrying. Little did they know it was the purest, most delightful chocolate. 

If you find yourself needing a pick me up after a heavy shopping session in the West End, I highly recommend you pop in there. If only to gaze upon the wonderful tins and chocolates. Sometimes just looking can be enough, but in this case, you've gotta have a taste too!

Next week on my path to patissiere its CHOCOLATE WEEK!! First we'll be making batches of truffles, moulded chocolates, malakoffs and caramel cups, and following that we'll be creating a 2D pictorial chocolate centre piece. Unimpressed by the templates provided I've found my own. Expect to see the head of the Bey hive tuned into an edible piece of art. Or at least an attempt! 

I'm still yet play around with choux buns, so that's on my agenda once again for this coming week and following meeting my first bride of the year, I'll be working up plans for her wedding for a spring chateau wedding in the Loire Valley. Tres romantique. 

 *Please note that the views I express are mine alone and do not reflect the views of my place of study*

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