Thursday, July 29, 2010

Living on the Edge

(Sorry for the lull in the posts, life has been pretty crazy since the middle of last week, with the final exam, graduation, and a quick trip to my beloved Edinburgh before rushing back to Seattle and going back to work. I'll try to keep the posts in chronological order for the sake of completeness)

In the last week of class I started getting a little, well, rebellious. I made changes to the recipes to suit my tastes, like adding cinnamon to the pastry cream for the pithivier and increasing the ratio of pistachio to almond paste in the chocolate pistachio log above. I also became more creative in my decorations, abandoning the more classical styles for my own designs. I'm not sure if the chefs entirely approved of my decorations, but at least no one yelled at me for it (then again, maybe it was because chef Nicolas had already gone on holiday...).

Speaking of my designs, I think I've been on a nature kick. There's the flowering branch on the pistachio log above, and I turned my truffles into acorns for the Alhambra cake below.

The last two cakes we had to do were both heavy, chocolate-laden affairs. The chocolate pistachio log is quite clever - layers of pistachio sponge and ganache are stacked in a mold to look like a log. The entire thing is then covered with chocolate glaze (another one of those looks-nice-tastes-horrible things) and decorated with more ganache. Here are some that the chef made in class.

Personally I think the students did a better job decorating.

I'm very fond of my flowering-branch-on-top idea, especially when the cake is served on black (as opposed to gold) cardboard. It just looks more elegant, don't you think?

The last cake we made was an Alhambra cake. Again, like with the Mogador, I have no idea how certain regions came to be associated with certain cakes. The Alhambra is also a layered cake, this time chocolate-hazelnut cake is soaked with rum-coffee syrup before being encased in ganache and glaze. It's a very masculine cake, with all the dark chocolate and rum and coffee. Of course, if I had it my way, I would use a scotch soaking syrup (Islay of course for the smokiness) and coffee ganache, with sea salt and caramelized hazelnuts sprinkled in for crunch.

Hm, that sounds like a good recipe to try out. Who wants a birthday cake?

Back to the class, this time I quite liked the demonstration chef's decoration. It's balanced and elegant, without looking too old-fashioned.

Of course, I also have a weakness for free-form chocolate pieces and gold leaf.

I just wish the cake didn't taste so stodgy. It's basically dense brick of cake and ganache. Maybe they should have named the cake after some British city instead...

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