Wednesday, 30 May 2012


As a rule, I tend not to venture into buffets (and not just because of the stodge frequently proffered). After scenes of horrific gluttony even as I tried to exercise my feeble self control, my bf and I had after great consideration branded such areas unsafe to the health and subsequently off-limits. Thus my many attempts to lead us to such establishments are usually tactfully thwarted by him. This evening however he succumbed and, following the gusty feeding, we came away like the fat squirrel in the park we used to feed, who waddled off triumphantly with two nuts instead of one.

It was a strenuous walk home and once back I flopped onto my bean bag like an exhausted walrus without even the saving coolness of monster tusks. Between myself and the beanbag, in both form and nature, 'it was impossible to say which was which.' (Animal Farm).

Friday, 25 May 2012

chocolate piping

I've been a most lazy creature all week. Summer in all its sticky glory has arrived. Already, it has begun its toil on me and the soaring temperatures have left me a forlorn thing, creeping around the house, searching for all places cool and shady. It was past ten tonight before I dared venture forth from home and finally now, with a cool breeze drifting in through the window, I am revived.

Here you see random piped designs in tempered white chocolate- not quite my original intention: I meant to trace over some pretty Rococo motifs. However, this proved impossible due to the scale of the motifs I had printed out. Rococo is wonderful though. It is possibly my favourite style and a very suitable inspiration for pipework for it uses lovely graceful shell-like curves and likes asymmetry. I have every intention of finishing an entremet idea (still under experimentation) with an awesome rococo motif. Next time then...

Saturday, 19 May 2012

opera (for sale)

The last of the LCB's exam pieces: the opera. Not having the right tray size became quite a bit of a bother. I had to double the recipe and bake three sheets of jocunde sponge, which I then halved, hence the abundance displayed here. I also made an extra sponge sheet for a mini opera specimen- my contribution to the our family's weekly boardgame session. Sadly I didn't do too well and, if not for my brother's momentous botch at the end of our game of Container, I would have placed last. A certain feeding of false information during the game caused significant misvaluation of our bids; it surely had a part to play in our fail. Anyway, due to the extra mini-opera, the fillings are spread a little thin.

For anybody who is interested, the opera consists of three layers of a dense-ish almond enriched sponge, a filling of coffee buttercream and of ganache, all liberally soaked in coffee flavoured imbibage and topped with a chocolate glacage. The ingredients are expensive, and you do get a lot of opera, so each cake costs £20.

This endeavor has really highlighted my irregular spreading and piping bungles. Another good lesson learnt is absolutely no touchy the chocolate glacage, remember the accent (!!), and try keep from squashing in the edges of the cake.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

dredging up the past

The interview is over! Here you see the wreckage that comes from trying to selectively recall works from three years past, unnecessary effort as it occurs. Should have thought about more standard questions such as why this particular company should do this for you. But I didn't, and blubbed on foolishly. It was a trying time for both me and the interviewer. Gloom.

Prayers now, it all depends on God's favour. Him willing, I shall get munnies so I need to stop being silly with the worrying and wallow in His goodness.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

chocolate and honey brickwall cake

This is it, the exciting thought that had me babbling mid-week: brickwork cake!!! It looks a bit shoddy at the momentbut I will someday achieve clean cut edges and well arranged 'bricks.' I used a heavily enriched chocolate sponge (from the Black Forest cake taught us at LCB) for the 'bricks' and the motar was a honey buttercream taken from Rose Levy Beranbaums' 'the cake bible.' Besides being lovely and moist, this sponge also has a denser crumb which is perfect for my special brickwork presentation! Over the top of the cake are some minty chocolate leaves, making it look rather autumnal. I shan't be painting chocolate over mint leaves the next time round though. They made the chocolate bloom as it set, and didn't impart as fresh a fragrance as I thought it would- it tasted more like wilted mint chocolate.

I didn't segment the cake layers to get this-only used a plain nozzle to cut little notches into the edge of the sponges-so it still retains its structural integrity. I suppose the next obvious step is to actually build a cake out of sponge bricks and a brief consideration has persuaded me that a carrot cake would do excellently. It is of a good dense material, and a carrot and cream frosted brickwall cake would mean the cream frosting is nicely distributed about the cake rather than just being concentrated in a super thick layer over the top of the cake, which is another thing that irks me.

An earlier attempt at this presentation was actually for a soya roasted rice chocolate cake order (apologies to my lovely customer for the struggling presentation). The 'motar' layer in this cake is much thicker than I would have preferred, but necessary in order to get the taste balance acceptable as it consisted of a light mousse. However, with the use of buttercream, I could make the motar layer much thinner (a small amount of buttercream goes a very long way). T'was a grievous thing that my mousse starting setting on me as I was piping it on. I did already have a trial of my brick idea with the trimmings of the mango Sabrina before attempting the order, so this little order was not a complete experiment (rest assured!). I am still at two minds as to whether not having the 'motar' layer coming up flush to the edge of the sponge yields an improvement in appearance. It makes it look less clean and refined but the rustic-ness it gives is more in keeping with the crumbling brickwall theme.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


Wisteria is possibly my favourite plant of all time. I love its hanging blossoms and its gnarled vines with murky green leaves; it looks picturesque no matter the season and its flowering sprays are one of the few things (along with the glut of plums and peaches) that consoles me over the inevitable summer days to come. Did you ever notice that the vines only spiral in one direction (depending on the species)?

There is wisteria where I live, trained over some wooden arches, that have recently come to bloom, seemingly to the displeasure of some odd another who has torn them off their wooden support much to my consternation. It was a sore sight to behold, a wreck of twisted vines and crushed blossoms with little leafy buds only just forming. It seemed an incredible waste to allow these flowers to wither away, so I gathered an ample armful and pottered home. They would be wonderfully ornamental if crystallised and I have a cake idea that it would garnish splendidly. So I washed the flowers and left them to dry (as you see in the photo). I was pretty sure they were edible (wouldn't it be marvelous to flavour chocolate with their sweet bouquet?), as I had heard about people munching and even making a wine out of their blossoms but I thought to check it out in case, and truly it was a good thing too. Some species of wisteria make very good eating (flowers only), while others are severely toxic. What a pity...

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

wedding reception mousse

Good things- I am glad to say the wedding reception has trundled off without too much of a hitch. The mise en place for the mousse pudding began on Thursday with the making of over 200 genoise and pate sucree discs, continuing through Friday to Saturday morning. Above, you see the mousse being sent up sans one tray that was accidentally left in the fridge, much to the delight of us servers later on when we discovered we did have pudding after all.

Here are some photos of the Thursday night's preparations.

There were some changes I made to the presentation of the mousse. Hidden from sight within the mousse are two pieces of genoise sandwiched together with mango and lime coulis and instead of having everything sit on the pate sucree base (it turned out that the glass diameter was slightly smaller than the 4cm of the pate sucree discs and meant they could not sit nicely in the glasses), I had the pate sucree topping the mousse, over which I piped a mousse swirl and finished with some tempered chocolate.

almond engadiner

As well as the orange cake, I also sent my brother off with an almond engadiner- another sturdy dish that would endure the rigors of travel well. Engadiners are always made with walnuts, even a walnut and nut mix is rare. But in this, I don't love walnuts either. It is their bitter brown surface 'skin' that puts me off. I like the sweet white core of the walnuts but not the bitter ending I am left with from the skin. The same applies with all nuts with 'skins,' even almonds are slightly frowned at unless blanched. But, it is especially bad with walnuts, with their gnarled form and large surface area to volume ratio. Anyway, I also sloshed in a bounteous measure of my brother's special rum (unbeknownst to him), not just into the pastry but also in the filling.

I am sure many peoples are starting to notice a clear failing on my part as a cook. Bitter things simply don't sit well with me and I do stir clear of a great many foodstuffs. I lose a whole dimension in my cooking because of this. My palate is still callow and I shall work on it.

orange mini muffins with lemon curd

Despite all the LCB creations I have been dutifully bringing home, my brother still insists that the dish he likes best remains the homely Hugh F-W style lemon loaf cake. As him and his friends were embarking on an awesome boardgame weekend away, I thought it would be a good time to send him off with a hardier ration, such as this cake he often requested for. I only hope that it tasted as good as the first time; the flour I use feels a lot drier than in LCB and I've found that often I need to use a lot more liquid than the recipe calls for, such as in puff and choux pastry, and this cake.

In the other restaurant where I had a trial day in the kitchen, they also served lemon curd in a very light steamed sponge. I personally thought it would do better as a filling in a more substantial and crustier cake so I baked some of this orange cake batter in some mini muffin pans, cored out little wells, and filled with lemon curd before corking it back up and topping with fondant. The faces are the inspiration of some stickers I bought in Artbox. I have to admit that while a nice moist filling is pretty essential in a drier muffing such as this (I did raise the baking temperature to try retain some moisture) and that the lemon curd does the job admirably, I still only find the curd just about palatable. Normally, I wouldn't touch the stuff- it is the strange metallic almost aftertaste (curbed in this case by the cake) that so puts me off.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

mango sabrina (for sale!)

One of the LCB exam pieces is a Sabrina and I am anxious to get as much practise on it as possible. A slice through the middle will reveal vertical layers of a light sponge, with an even lighter mango cream filling. It is decorated with a chocolate covered marzipan plaque, and roasted chunks of hazelnut.

If anybody would like to purchase this for the meagre price of £10, please leave a comment alluding to your interest on this post! I will need at least a day's notice, and can vary the filling to taste. This deal is extended to Fraisiers and Operas, posts of which will be following shortly.

The day is lovely and soggy but it has meant my preparations for photography on the garden table has come to nought.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

wedding pud update!

The pudding is to be!!!

The cups it shall be presented in are of a convenient 4cm diameter, the same as the discs of pate sucree and sponge I have been cutting, and will solve the precarious problem I had with the stacks. One of the sponge discs will be dropped, as will the almonds in the chocolate decoration for the bride has a nut allergy. This works rather well as I can now make the chocolate piece a lot thinner. I am also considering sprinkling over either crushed meringue or limey sugar, made by grating and drying the zest of limes with sugar.


So this blog isn't exclusively on food...a hapless little spider shall be documented too.

I met it on my way home last night; it barred the entry to my flat with the foundations of a massive web stretched across the stairway. Initially, I just wanted a photo of the spider, but as I sat on the, thankfully dry, stairs and watched it meticulously building its web, it was hard not to be caught up (ho ho) with it. For the first time in my life I witnessed the construction of a web! Twenty minutes later, stiff but marvelling, I scrabbled under the webbing, with no small amount of difficulty, to my own home. I only hope the spider caught a juicy morsel soon after my departure as a mere half hour later my brothered tramped through the door casually remarking on a web he had blithely strolled through.

chocolate mousse with mango and lime

This isn't the mind boggling idea that plopped on my head yesterday (that is still pent up in my head and gnashing its teeth to be made). Instead, I have a more pressing issue at hand: a moussey pud for a wedding this weekend. The worthy fellow who roped me in under his service has kindly allowed me to exercise my piddling creative muscle (singular..), the only constraint being that they had to be served in little cups, and this is the mouthful I came up with. Hopefully, there are a lot of hopefully's in this blog, it will hop the bar to be granted permission to grace the table of a blissful couple and post-Friday lectures shall see me racing off to the kitchens to prep for the big day.

So here you have: a chocolate mousse sitting atop a crispy thin pate sucree base, within which are two discs of biscuit sponge very liberally doused in a mango and lime coulis and topped with a (too big) fragment of salty almond chocolate.

The pate sucree is to provide the crunch in this dish and does not need to support anything, which is why I rolled it out fairly thin, about 2mm. To keep it crisp, it was also eggwashed to seal it from the soggifying influence of the mousse. I did think of spreading chocolate over, but worried some of the crumbliness of the pate sucree would be lost then. It also has a hint of lime zest in it.

The biscuit sponge here is made by separately whipping up the whites and yolks, instead of the genoise method, resulting in a slightly coarser and drier texture. It doesn't sound as appealing as the moist and tender genoise version, but necessary as it is to sit in the mousse overnight and needs to be able to hold the coulis (a lot of the decisions made concerning this pudding had to account for its extended spell in the fridge before serving). The sponge took a little swim in the coulis, rather than the customary soaking- I wanted it to be soaked through so its 'wetness' melds with the mousse around it, while itself still retaining a little chew. A genoise version would have descended into mush with this wet treatment. The lime was a very necessary component of the coulis: to offset the sweetness of the mango and brought a refreshing tang to the dish; and to loosen the coulis that it may soak through the sponge better.

Lastly, the chocolate decoration draws from an earlier cake I made where toasted flakes of almonds were sandwiched between a salted chocolate ganache. The almond flakes did not stay as crunchy and this seemed a good time to rectify that, being now now more acquainted with tempering chocolate and with my weakness for salted dark chocolate not yet abated. So, I toasted some flaked almonds, crushed and tossed them into some tempered chocolate along with some coarse sea salt, and rolled out. I didn't realise just how small the chocolate piece would need to be as I was cutting it (too late as well- it set while I was cutting and you can see sad little cracks) so it is larger than I would have preferred, and also thicker. On the other hand, it does have a snap to it!!!

I wasn't sure if it would be better to have the sponge layers concealed or not- they do make an ungainly wodge between the mousse. So here you have a photo of both. In the 'stacked' version, I used thinner layers of sponge in keeping with the smaller quantity of mousse, while the more bountiful version, as well as having more mousse also had a much thicker portion of sponge. I didn't realise piping into a cup would pose so many issues either, but it did, and the curved sides of the cup coupled with my bad piping in general gives this sorry look. On the right-hand side is a none-cup version of the dessert where I set the mousse in a ring and topped with a square of the chocolate. I can't seem to get the removal of the rings right. Before with the soya mousse, I overtorched it and it started to dribble, but this time I warmed it with my hands before removing the ring and tore chunks of mousse off the sides (besides also having the dreaded air pockets). The presentation is making me want to kick myself.

It feels that since Monday my clumsiness has reached unparelled heights. It began with the soaking of myself rather than the Opera I was making (which in the end turned out well), followed by a layered sponge cake that I sat upon, leaving neat bum imprints on its squashed remains, and topped off today by my thoughtfully nudging a chocolate charlotte (from the leftover chocolate mousse) off the windowstill onto some indignant redcurrant cuttings as my bf stoof by gaping. The plants weren't too impressed by this unexpected shower either and gave me a curt little prick as I scooped the cake back up. I am at two minds now: to give up baking for the day in case of any more maladroit occurences, or to continue as I've met my blunder quota for the day. Above, you see my chocolate charlotte in its pristine state before the fall, and the shattered wreck after.