Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sheet cakes, and more adventures in cake.

Working fast is important in the food industry because ingredients are very expensive and saving time is the only way to make money. But when I first became a pastry chef I found that quality standards were still very high and I asked my boss whether I should prioritize speed or perfection. His answer was a short, "both!" I was upset because I felt like I needed somewhere to begin, so I chose speed and did the best I could within those parameters. My new chieftain, Nicole, believes in quality first and I think her attitude is reflected in the delicacy and beauty of her pastry.
I revisit this dilemma every time I make a cake because so much time can get lost in decorating. Cake decorating is something that I'm really growing to enjoy and eventually want to perfect. But instead of making careful decisions or straightening every line, I find myself watching the clock and falling back on motifs I use again and again. I think my unchanging writing style is one of the biggest factors in making all the cakes look so similar. Hopefully under Nicole's influence though you will begin to see new attention and techniques in my work. I think ultimately it doesn't matter where you begin, practice will bring both speed and skill, but its nice to see beauty and experimentation along the way. Here are some of my latest "experiments."

The St. Patrick's Day Menu I designed:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More from le Flour

Nicole asked me to make some chocolates for Valentine's Day to put in boxes she had left over from her wedding. I love doing chocolates because tempering can be so challenging and the results are always gratifying. I tempered the chocolate using the seeding method in which you chop up chocolate pieces, put them in a bowl of melted chocolate, and stir like crazy. Because purchased chocolate is already tempered, the pieces pull the melted chocolate into temper and you are left with a bowl of tempered melted chocolate.
To save time we purchased pre-made chocolate shells. I filled them with a simple dark chocolate ganache, a peanut butter ganache, and a brandy caramel ganache and dipped the whole thing in chocolate. Pre-made shells can be too thick but in a pinch they are very usefull.

Cake for one manly dude.

This cake was two layers vanilla, two layers chocolate cake, banana slices, and whipped cream. The roses are gumpaste.

We made mini versions of all our tarts for a barmitzva: Blueberry with streusel, almond cream with peaches and chopped pistachio, chocolate ganache, and lemon cream with candied lemon zest. She ordered lots of miniature treats including brioches, petit fours, and croissants. The little pastries got me thinking about tea service. I've always loved petit fours and the Chinese equivelent, dim-sum. The small size makes them ornaments in themselves, unlike larger foods which need a smaller garnish like a tuile to make them beautiful. I think I might start throwing tea parties.

Gumpaste footballs piped with buttercream to decorate superbowl cupcakes.