Today I attended a "Variety Day" cooking class at Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School in East Brunswick, Melbourne. The class description promised that we would make "a gateau, a tart and some chocolates". And that, in fact, is what we did. However, the final results were so much more wonderful than that prosaic description would lead you to believe, as I am sure that the photographs accompanying this post can attest.
This class gave me a glimpse of the differences between being a capable home cook (as I believe that I am) and being a professional pastry chef. Equipment, technique, ingredients and presentation are all essential to ensuring that you can achieve a professional looking, delicious product. Although I doubt that the results I will achieve (or even aspire to!) at home will match those of what was produced in the class, I learned a lot, and hope that I will be able to put at least some of the techniques to good use.
On arrival at the class, we were "greeted" ("Hello, here's your apron and recipes and there's your name tag") by our tutor, Paul, an Irishman with a rather acerbic wit. All ten of us were at the mercy of Paul's tongue for the day; however, at least from our perspective, it was all in good fun and kept us entertained throughout what proved to be a very long day.
After being divided into three groups, we had to weigh out all of the ingredients for every recipe before commencing. This subsequently resulted in some chaos, because although everyone had to label which ingredients were theirs so that they could be found later (each group made different quantities due to different mixer sizes), there was still understandably some confusion and mix-ups, resulting in wrong quantities being used on occasion.
We made three complete items - a "gourmet delight" (a very fancy frangipan-like dessert, pictured at the top of this post), a chocolate and vanilla charlotte (pictured in the centre of this post) and some truffles (pictured at the bottom of this post). The chocolates interested me the least because it is not something I want to do myself, and I am not a huge fan of these types of chocolates, even though I am a chocoholic.
The gourmet delight was comprised of a shortcrust pastry base that proved to be rather cantankerous, a scrumptious berry compote and an almond dacquoise (similar to a frangipan). The charlotte consisted of a joconde biscuit base (actually just a very sweet, thin sponge, not unlike that used in chocolate stripe cake) brushed with sugar syrup, a vanilla bavarian cream body and a chocolate mousse topping.
I have tried the completed gourmet delight, and it is delicious. Although it can be frozen for up to 6 months, I am going to share it with a friend this evening, as I believe that baked goods are best when they are fresh. The individual components of the charlotte are certainly delicious, but the completed cake is presently residing in my freezer, awaiting an occasion for me to cut it.
The cute round decals pictured immediately above were made by Paul using special chocolate transfers made from cocoa butter, some chocolate sheets with round cut-outs and white chocolate. Unfortunately, the green one melted slightly on the tram journey home, hence the indentation that you can see. These decals were made as chocolate garnishes for the gourmet delight. Other chocolate garnishes demonstrated by Paul were "black and white cigarettes" (thin chocolate curls made using white and dark chocolate) and bronzed chocolate shards made with metallic cake powders and dark chocolate. These latter garnishes are featured atop the chocolate and vanilla charlotte in the photograph.
We did not make the square and marbled caramels in the photograph immediately above - these were a gift because Paul had an unfortunate encounter with most of our white truffles. The white and dark truffles featured in the photograph were made by filling commercially made truffle shells with vanilla ganache, sealing the hole with more chocolate, then rolling the truffle in melted chocolate between your left palm and right fingertips (for a right-handed person). As you can imagine, the latter was not a pretty process.
I adored this class because of the insights it gave me into making restaurant-standard desserts, and the techniques and ideas that I have acquired (yes Paul, I did learn something!!). I am also pretty chuffed with the final results, all of which were made by a group effort (we each received a whole gourmet delight and a whole charlotte to take home).
Thanks to the Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School for making this class available and to Paul for teaching us and for his entertaining (though cutting!) commentary throughout the class.