Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Week Seventeen: Cakes, continued

It has been an incredibly long week due more to my job than anything else.  I have been reminded this week just how miserable I was last summer and why I was driven to start considering a career change in the first place.
The height of summer brings a lull to trading, which may have been a welcome break in other thriving financial times, but now just makes an already slow day quite unbearable.  Day after day, I find myself finished with my work less than half-an-hour after stepping into the office.  It's draining to sit and do nothing, not be productive, try to fill my time with something meaningful that will make me feel a little less like I am losing my mind.
Class has been my only refuge; the only place where I feel interested, excited and productive.  I know I am working towards being able to pursue a career in something that I truly love and feel I will bring talent, however small it may seem at the moment, to the industry.  But since it does not appear I will be able to pursue a career in pastry until about March of next year, it still seems like a distant dream that I cannot quite touch yet.
On Monday, we set about frosting and decorating yet another cake, this time using the chocolate genoise layers baked last week and frozen over the weekend.  I decided on the chocolate praline flavor combination, which used rich ganache whipped with praline paste and butter as the frosting.
I forgot to mention this last week, but a genoise cake is very dry and flavorless by itself.  To give the layer moisture and flavor, the cake layer is brushed heavily with a liquid made of simple syrup and some complimentary liquor.  The suggested liquor for flavoring was dark rum, so I measured 2 ounces of the rum into 6 ounces of the simple syrup.
The praline ganache was quite difficult to smooth on the cake, as it was very light and flimsy.  I decorated the sides with chocolate shavings and the top with twelve piped flowers, using toasted hazelnuts as the center.

Unfortunately, the rum completely overpowered the other flavors of the cake.  Chocolate and praline are not wallflowers when it comes to flavors, but they were no match for the school's cheap, dark rum.
Tuesday brought a new chef-instructor to the classroom, Chef Chad.  He substituted one evening during breads and, as he is quite funny, had everyone in the class laughing for the entire four hours. 
With Chef Chad's arrival, we set about making roulades, basically a rolled genoise, for the evening.  I was a little bit over genoise cakes at this point, but the curriculum decided we needed another lesson on this type of cake.
We were to make up double batches of the genoise cakes to be baked in half sheet pans.  Each team chose to make the chocolate genoise over the plain, probably because the cocoa powder provided just a touch more flavor.  As my partner heated the eggs and sugar and then began to whip the mixture, I thought something was a bit off about the texture of the eggs.  I sifted the dry ingredients together, observing that our mixture had much less volume than the other groups.
But I didn't say anything.  My partner has made it blindingly clear that he will not accept criticism or questioning of any sort.  But Chef Chad was happy to question the measurements of the eggs, to which my partner finally realized he forgot to add 8 ounces of egg yolks.  So I remeasured all the dry ingredients again and the half sheet pans finally went into the oven.
Chef Chad encouraged us to use the flavorings in our curriculum as suggestions, using them as a jumping-off point to create our own ideas.  So, for my roulade, I decided to use brandy and simple syrup as my flavoring and sweetened whipped cream as the filling and the outer layer of frosting.  I would decorate the top with chocolate piping and strawberries.

I was a little disappointed with the roll, which was not as tight as I would have liked, and the chocolate piping on top was not exactly even.  I do not think the chef particularly liked the decoration I had done on top, and suggesting it might be a little intricate for a cake that does not have a smooth outer layer.  Taste-wise, the cake was okay, the sweetened whipped cream definitely made it, but was nothing extraordinary.
Wednesday night's lesson held a special place in my heart - it was the lesson I observed when I was trying to decide whether to attend pastry school at ICE.  I remember watching the students in awe as they hurried around the kitchen, impressively whipping up beautiful mirror cakes and sharing their final product with me at the end of class.  I left my observation that day sick from all the sugar and whipped cream, but completely convinced this is something I wanted to pursue.
So when it was my turn, I had a bit of an advantage when it came to choosing which flavor I wanted to produce.  I remembered all of the flavors (blueberry, strawberry, raspberry and mango) being quite delicious, but I remembered the stunning color of the blueberry, which is what I decided to create.

The color was just as beautiful as I remembered, only this time it was something I actually made.  The mirror was composed of two very thin layers of genoise moussilene, with a healthy portion of blueberry bavarian piped between the layers.  A blueberry "mirror" was poured on the top and then decorated.  The next day, it took less than two minutes from when I sent out the email to my team for the cake to be gone.
Charlottes were on the menu for Thursday night's class.  I fell in love with Charlotte Cake during my first job as a hostess/dessert waitress when I was in high school.  At first, I loved it because I thought it was the most beautiful cake to cut and plate - the delicate lady fingers holding in the light chocolate mousse.  When I finally tasted it, I thought it was pure heaven on a plate.

I was pleased with the way the Charlotte turned out.  The lady fingers were a bit difficult to pipe and they turned out being fat, stubby fingers, but they tasted just delightful.  I think a different chocolate mousse recipe would have worked better, but the difference was not all that noticeable.  I topped it with chocolate curls when I got home and my official taste tester seemed to approve.

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