Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Sunday, 18 March 2012

Week 32: The final countdown

A week of set and baked desserts for the first few days then The Final Assessment where we have to cook and plate two identical mains and desserts. The main is specified: Pan fried chicken with beurre blanc, mushroom risotto and turned (remember turned vegetables for a zillion weeks ago - cutting vegetables in ways you will never cut them again?) carrots and zucchini.  More on that later......  the suspense must be killing you!

So much cream.  I know you know by now that fat = flavour in savoury dishes, so it is no surprise that fat = flavour + texture + and volume in desserts.  

We kick off with a couple of classics: Crème Caramel and Crème Brûlée - kind of the plain, skinny girl and her sexy, curvy sister.  For the plain girl, start with a basic Anglaise  (egg yolk, sugar and milk) and pour onto caramel in the bottom of a mould.  Bake in the oven in a bain marie, then chill. When cool  turn out the set pudding, and  you are rewarded with a caramelly bit on top and a thin caramel sauce that coast the custard. The tricky bit is making the caramel and getting it in the mould before it sets, and then cleaning the set caramel out of the freaking mould once it's turned out! 
the sugar starting to caramelise

Crème Caramel's sexy, luscious older sister Crème Brûlée has a greater proportion of egg yolk, sugar and cream, is also baked in a bain marie and when cold, has caster sugar gratinéed on top. The tricky bit here is caramelising the top quickly enough without melting the set custard underneath.  You want the top thick enough so you have to give it a good hard crack with your spoon to break into the creamy smooth, unctuous and yes, voluptuous, custard below.  Ooh ahhh.

Much to my surprise, Condé  Rice makes an appearance! No, not the former Secretary of State in the US, but rather a cold set dessert.  You could be forgiven for getting the two confused as when you google Rice Condé  you get references to Conde Rice. This is really just a creamy rice pudding, and while ours is fairly plain though rich (much like Conde herself), the addition of fruit such as apricot would be rather nice.  

Other cold set dishes include a Boysenberry cheesecake and a DELICIOUS Raspberry mousse.  It is slightly tart but creamy, and  I have no trouble scoffing it down.  Note I did not eat that huge slice out of the cheesecake - that was the Mammographer and the Public Servant, who also manage to sample the Chocolate and Vanilla Bavarois, which you may know as Bavarian Cream.  It is an Anglaise base again, mixed with gelatine and then when on the edge of setting, lightened with whipped cream.  One of the first celebrity chefs, Marie-AntoinCarême (1784 -1833) is credited with creating Bavarian Cream, along with the toque, the traditional chef's hat!

In a somewhat fancy pants way we set the first layer on an angle as you can see, though in this picture it is melting a bit. The tuile biscuits are a bit of a sod to get exactly right. While the mixture is easy - flour, icing sugar, melted butter and egg white - spreading out, cooking to just the right colour and then shaping while warm are the tricky bits.  First we make templates for the shapes.  It is at this point this blog gets a censor's classification - adults only -  and I not longer offer the protection of anonymity.  While most of us make pedestrian templates such as triangles or oblongs, the student chef formerly known as Dumb, now revealed as Jordan, has his own take on it.  Don't say you weren't warned.  Are all 17 year olds like this?
teenage boys - every 6 seconds they think about sex
What seems like a very long time ago, but was really only Week 23: How much butter is in that? we made brioche and froze it for use this very week.  We make a fig and white chocolate bread and butter pudding, served with Orange Syrup.  Now I don't try the pudding at all though I suspect it is over-the-top sweet - I know the syrup is - but the fishermen who consume it tell me it is fabulous.
Layering up the bread and butter pudding
I miss the class (for reasons too complicated to explain) for ice cream, sponge fingers, Pannacotta and Lemon Soufflé. This is a shame as I have never made ice cream before.  I do take the time to practise brandy snap baskets however, as I want to use these in my assessment. 

Ah yes, the final assessment. We are divided into two groups on two different days so each chef has their own bench and oven.  As I said, the main was set - serve two plates, exactly the same at a specified time with a 5 minute window either side. I am very pleased that I get everything cooked properly and up on time,  with a clean and tidy bench. No-one else has theirs up within the specified time frame, and they have dishes from here to Christmas. I don't understand how people can be such messy cooks!
For plating style, I elect the 1970s!! though I hasten to add it is the angle that makes the turned vegetables look out of proportion.  
 We have a list of dessert ingredients and limited quantities.  The instruction is we must have a main component, a biscuit or pastry and a sauce.  I opt to recreate the Vanilla and Chocolate Bavarois, and serve it with a brandy snap basket, strawberries macerated in Grand Marnier, with Chantilly cream and Raspberry coulis. The coulis is a little thicker than I mean it to be, but overall everything works. 

And then it's over. Final practical assessment done. With Distinction! YAY.

The next three weeks will be work experience, so we get to find out how what we have learned over the past eight months translates into the real world. I'll let you know.


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