Cooking my way through Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets, plus other treats I come up with
Monday, July 19, 2010
Pear Charlotte, Written Exam
On Friday, we actually made a dessert that doesn't contain butter! The pear charlotte contains a shell of pipped lady finger sponge, filled with diced pears and pear mousse.
It's certainly one of the prettiest desserts we've made so far. The pear decoration on top is quite clever. A pear is thinly sliced, then scorched with a blowtorch so the slices become clearly delineated. The leaves are made from plastic chocolate (cocoa butter, sugar, and glucose). I have to say, making leaves is a lot easier than making roses, although my marzipan roses are getting better. They look less like cabbages now!
During the pear charlotte demonstration, the chef showed several different ways of decorating the cake. The traditional way (which is what we did in practical) involves putting a lid of pipped lady fingers on top of the cake. The more modern way does away with the lid and just has pears on top. I prefer the cleaner look.
Here are all five of the cakes the chef made during demo:
On Friday we also had our written exam. The ingredient list section was the worst because we had to memorize the ingredients and quantities for six recipes. I wouldn't have minded so much if the recipes covered all the basic components and didn't overlap with each other, but instead, four out of the six recipes contained slightly varying tart crusts!
Actually, the recipe memorization ended up being a fun exercise in pattern-finding. I reduced the recipes to their basic ratios so I could have an easier time memorizing them (I'm a big fan of Ratio). For example, apple tart crust has a 10:5:1 ratio of flour to butter to sugar, but the crust for Saint-Honore has a 5:3:2 ratio. Then you'd have weird recipes that call for 150 g of sugar but 160 ml water. Seriously, does the extra 10 ml of water really make a difference?
The test itself went pretty well, there were some trick questions and I probably should have read all the material in the recipe binder, but all in all it was painless. Now I just have to worry about the practical exam that's worth 40.5% of my final mark...
p.s. Speaking of recipes, I wish all recipes were listed in reliable, precise measurements. Sloppy recipes drive me crazy, especially the American ones that call for "2 eggs and 1 cup flour". Eggs have different weights and volumetric measurements are hardly consistent. If I had my way, all baking recipes should list error tolerances and be given in multiples of the weight of the eggs; so instead of "2 eggs and 1 cup of flour", you'd have "2 eggs and 2.5 x weight of the eggs".