Category Archives: Research Project

On A Sweet Note

Tuesday, 21 October 2008 

The pastry buffet was served during lunch today.  Within minutes that lunch was served following the presentation of the cuisine and pastries, the dessert table was almost empty.  A total of 180 dessert petit fours were prepared for the dessert buffet.  Woh ~ 

The dessert buffet was part of resource project for Pastry Arts Level 2.  I still remembered I was amazed at the Pastry Buffet which was prepared by the previous class of Jennie, Rafa, Nicole and Abigail about 10 weeks ago …  I can still vividly picture the desserts which were served – velvet spray on Jennie’s, a chocolate cup in Rafa’s, a layered cake by Abigail, and macaroon & choc mousse in a cup from Nicole.  I was in level 1 then, and with full admiration, I wondered then what would mine be, and I was defnitely cluelesscould I achieve that within weeks?  I wondered indeed.  It is sort of an incredible feeling looking at all the creations we had today … it is a definite beginning for all of us.

We started researching the project about 3 weeks back.  It all started with a visit to the resource centre, explored the links on the ciaml pastry blogspot as well as the pastry magazines Chef Philippe recommended.  The first objective was to find an idea we fancied and discussed with Chef on feasibility … and developed the ideas based on the season, the design, the temperature, texture and taste.  Chef advised that since these are petit fours which should be eaten in a few quick bites, we were to create volume to the pastries.  I enjoyed coming up with ideas within the boundaries of briefing provided by Chef.

Back then, my first thought was to experiment with Matcha (green tea), a popular Japanese flavour, and the green pastries will add a dash of colour to the pastry showcase.  I had seen a picture of a matcha opera cake from a Japanese bakery in Paris on the website.  Matcha is an acquired taste, and not many bakeries in Singapore do good matcha cakes, I have had one which I thought to have a balanced taste and it was from Sun Moulin Bakery.  My first impression of the design I fancied was approved by Chef.  I ditched the matcha idea for a safer taste – mango mousse with dark chocolate.  Last week when we submitted the plan to chef, I couldn’t decide if I should go ahead with mango or bananas with dark chocolate.  Chef’s recommendation was that bananas were more suited for plated desserts – bananas tend to become mushy when cooked, discoloured easily, and the taste on its own may not be distinct when coupled with chocolate.

I comtemplated for half a week before my final submission.  I decided to go ahead with bananas.  Chef let me make my choice.  I heard, understood and respect Chef’s advice, no doubt about it.  I decided to give bananas a go for 2 reasons – back home, bananas are in abundance and are commonly used in local nonya pastries, I like it but I don’t know how to do it … if I were to try anything, I try it now with guided help and under watchful eyes of Chef.   

What I learnt while experimenting the recipe: 

Rum.  Rum is relatively inexpensive, and can only be found in liquor store and not supermarkets which only carry beer and wine.  Liquor stores closed on Sunday, not sure if all of them do, but the 2 I visited were.  I may still need to show an ID even if I look obviously overage(?).  Jennie offered to let me try the 2 bottles she got at home – a Myer’s dark rum and a Puerto Rican Bicardi rum.

Deglazed Bananas.  The recipe book recommended deglaze caramelised bananas with rum.  I have never done it before, I only knew I need to heat up the rum.  I poured a cupful of rum into the pan, and I flambed the banana … but I also set off my apartment fire alarm at 11pm.  Oops

Rum with Tea-infused Syrup.  I like the tea infused syrup which was used in class earlier.  I wanted to find out if rum goes with the tea, and which rum would taste better with the tea.  I made a small quantity of sweet masala tea, I didn’t make a syrup, added too much rum to it, and knocked out almost immediately after I drank both.  I forgot I was supposed to taste only.

Fast forward …  Last 2 days were enjoyable.  I guess it is the only time in our life we get 2 days to fuss over 20 petit fours.  Chef let us organise and manage our own mis en place.  My conclusion is that Chef’s vision and observation power is super – we have 9 students in the class, but he managed to dish out advice or appear at our side at the right moment.  On day 1, I prepped the chocolate biscuit, on my notes taken during class, I wrote it will make me 4-5 6″ biscuit disc, alas it made me 2?  Oops I must have missed out my handwritten notes that Chef had asked for 2 recipes per team then.  I prepped a second recipe and popped into the oven.  Just then, I heard Chef said, “Joy, why are you making 6″ biscuits when you need small ones?”  He pointed me to the silpat molds which I could have used and saved me time cookie-cutting it later.  Too late, he said.  I guess he only told me after I popped my tray into oven as the result still will not mess me up big time, and to make sure I got the point.  I never thought of using silpat mold then, I was sticking to my comfort zone of following the method of instruction.  Hmm.  Day 1, everything went smoothly … prep short dough mix for next day use, chocolate biscuit, and the macaroons baked with no crack despite my initial concern (though the shape and size should be more uniform) and I left chocolate tempering to the last, was I glad I did.  Somehow the time went by me, and I was still fiddling with chocolate at noon.  Conclusion … seeding method got me to where I needed with the chocolate disc and the 2 coloured cigarette.

Today I only had to bake the short dough, soak biscuit disk with syrup, do the mousse and glazed the bananas.  What is this?  Dark chocolate mousse.  Again Chef appeared at my side at the right time, just before I piped onto my short dough.  Actually I doubted my own answer too, it looked like thick chocolate icing to me.  I had earlier asked at my table why this recipe had only 40g whipped cream which I could hardly whisk, everyone advised just follow the recipe … I guess if I follow Chef’s recipe I would not go wrong.  The recipe was done in class last week, by a different team.  Alas.  While taking down the recipes from the white board, I must have mistaken “400” that Chef wrote as “40g”.  Ha.  Next, got some help again from Chef glazing the bananas – I don’t cook with butter except in school and usually the olive oil I used barely coated the pan… after his demo I managed to deglazed a 2nd batch of bananas successfully.  Finally, I sliced the bananas and made some glazed bananas macaroon sandwich… yum

Time to plate.  I liked the final colour combination.  Topped it with the 2-choc cigarettes that Chef had done in his demo, mine was too thick to curl into a fine cigarette, but I got the point – my combing angle should be closer to the marble to achieve a thin layer of white choc.

At the end of class,  Chef’s key observations to the class – wastage – something we need to be mindful, – sanitation – clean up before prepping next recipe.  I appreciate Chef’s 1-1 feedback session with each of us after class.  His comments for me ~ good prep, end result looked good, prep order as advised – eg prep short dough day earlier and baked fresh on the day.  Areas I should improve and I will ~ Chocolate tempering to get the right temperature for chocolate to set;  Think about what size of biscuit I needed and prep accordingly;  Need to pause and clear up when I am overwhelmed;  Even if I got the wrong choc mousse recipe, I should recognize how the mousse should look;  Bananas are more suited for plated desserts.  I appreciate the specific comments from Chef so I can on the specific areas particularly.  Thank you, Chef!

My own verdict of my creation ~ I liked my colour combination, it was pretty close to what I had drawn with some modifications.  I loved the chilled banana macaroon sandwich, the taste was just enough in the mini macaroons.  Banana flavour-wise, that was about it.  For the total flavour of the base product, it tasted like dark rum flavoured dark choc mousse, the banana taste was not distinct to complement the dark choc mousse, as advised.  Mouthfeel?  I think the texture is ok, should taste better when served chilled.  

I am happy things fell in place on a sweet note.