Last week started where the previous week finished, with a bevvy of tarts. For any newcomers, don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a tale of my sordid weekends in San Francisco’s brothels, but rather the pastry variety. And what a way to start.
Using the left over Pâte à Foncer and the vanilla Sucree, as well as a chocolate version made for us by our instructor, Juliette, we made a trio of tasty treats. The first was a Pear Bourdaloue. A rectangular tart filled with frangipane, jam and topped with artfully sliced pears. Right up my ‘rue’. Next, using the chocolate sucree, a salted caramel tart. Quite a lengthy process this one, as it involved making a salted caramel with which we lined the base, a chocolate ganache which formed the bulk of the filling, all topped off with ‘black glaze’, which contrary to it’s name isn’t a new tone from Dulux, but a silky chocolate flavoured glaze which gives the finished tart a shop ready sheen.
The final tart of the trio was a creamy passion fruit tart, which had a tasty curd like filling similar to a tarte au citron, topped (slightly un-necessarily in my opinion) with blow-torched Swiss meringue, to give a nicely burnished effect. Or at least that’s the theory. For most of us, this was the first time we had used a piping bag to finish a desert, and there were some mixed results. My effort (not pictured) wasn’t too bad, but lets just say Pierre Hermé hasn’t been knocking down my door to offer me a job.
The following day we got busy making choux pastry, hence the HILLARIOUS title of this post. The good news is that choux is, comparatively speaking, a doddle to make. The bad news is that you have to pipe it to make your creations. This being the case, we started off slowly making croquembouche (choux puffs covered in pearl sugar) and a cheesy version on the theme called gougères. Luckily, both just involved piping a small ball of the pastry onto a baking sheet.
More choux shenanigans followed with the Paris Brest (pictured above), a pastry created to commemorate the cycle race of the same name which is the warm up for the Tour De France. Made by piping a circle (or as close as one can manage) of choux, filled post baking with a praline flavoured cream, and topped with flaked almonds. I love anything with praline, so I was a fan. I imagine Lance Armstrong eats a bunch of these every day when he’s training. We also made éclairs later in the day, but for me these were eclipsed by the Brest. No laughing at the back.
Wednesday was almost entirely dedicated to baking and assembling the Gateaux Saint Honoré, a French cake named after the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. The cake has no less than 6 separate elements. 1 – a puff pastry base. 2 – a choux pastry ring running the circumference of the base. 3 – choux ‘puff’ balls filled with 4 – Mouselline and dipped in 5 – caramel, finally the centre of the cake is filled with 6 – chantilly. Complicated, but seriously good stuff.
After three days of sweet architecture, the rest of the week was comparatively mundane, as we made cookies, muffins, meringues and what we would call ‘tray bakes’, brownies and ‘lemon bars’. Thats not to say it wasn’t interesting, as it’s been good to get to grips with different techniques and learning the right way of doing things. A special shout has to go out to the peanut butter cookie. Biscuit crack.
So that was last week. This week its cakes, cakes and more cakes…see you then.
Tags: Blow Torch, Caramel, Chantilly, Choux, Cookies, Cream, Creamy, Eclairs, Frangipane, Gateaux Saint Honoré, meringue, Muffins, Paris Brest, passion Fruit, Pastry, Peanut Butter, Pear Bourdaloue, Praline, Salted Caramel, Tart