Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pastillage and the French Pastry School

After almost three years, I am back at the French Pastry School attending their very first session of l'Art du Gateau. The 16 week course focuses on everything cake, such as sugar and chocolate decoration, recipe creation, and business planning. If the school's l'Art de la Patisserie was like pastry boot camp, l'Art du Gateau is like pastry finishing school. The amount of focus and attention to detail can be maddening, but I've kept it together knowing that I'll come out with higher standards.

This week was devoted solely to pastillage. Pastillage is a dough made of confectionery sugar, gelatin, and vinegar, and is primarily used to make edible showpieces like the one I made in class. Because pastillage is slightly elastic when wet and dries hard, it can be rolled very thin. The end result is an appearance like matte porcelain.

I think everyone in class was surprised at how difficult it was to assemble our sculpture. The pieces were so delicate they snapped just from the vibrations of setting them on the table. We glued the sculpture together with hot sugar, and if used too hot the thermal shock cracked our pieces. If the sugar was too cold the pieces would falsely adhere and fall off later. The sounds of shattering leaves and stems filled the classroom for almost four hours! Only one student cried, but needless to say, we were stressed. I was thrilled that I didn't have that many pieces break and that I have something to show for all of my hard work this week.

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