Saturday, July 31, 2010

Opera!


Ohh yesss.. one of favorite cakes is the Opera - a symphony produced by layers of almond sponge, coffee butter cream and chocolate ganache. Simple concepts combined together to form a complex and sophisticated piece of art. I still remember the best Opera I tried was made by the chef in Paris school.. it was freshly made and so the cream together with the ganache were still soft, enhancing the overall flavour. So goooooodd..


This is the one I made during practical.. had a bit of difficulty with the butter cream since it was hot that day - was getting soft too quickly while working on it, but still managed to produce a decent finish with the help of the fridge and some quick hands.

Hm.. I have tried Masison Blanc's opera cake, bought from Waitrose. It was not bad I have to say - the taste is there, not too heavy and it looks alright.


Opera by Maison Blanc

Has anyone tried any really good slice of opera around London??

Friday, July 23, 2010

Torts & Gateau

This week we learned a variety of traditional torts, tarts and gateau which were.. a bit out of date but still delicious! Well, the important thing is all about learning the techniques involved. 

First up, is the traditional fruit cake and the savarin. (No pics were available for the fruit cake because it needs 3 hours to cook! Which was not possible in during the demonstration.) 


This doughnut looking sponge cake surprised me with its softness and moist interior, and was very, very good. The process of making this is similar to that of making bread, which involves the use of yeast. This provided the softness. In addition, the sponge was heavily soaked in a zesty syrup - Ohh~ and I mean some HEAVY soaking, as in soaking the cake in its tin half filled with syrup. Usually this would totally destroy the structure of the cake, making it soggy and mushy. This was not the case for this Savarin - the bread like structure formed from kneading and working the gluten in the batter gave the cake a strong, sponge structure. All the goodness soaked into the syrup accompanied with cream and fruits - heaven in your mouth.

Next we have the Fraisier - which most people might have tried before as they are sold at places like Paul and Patisserie Valerie. A fairly simple cake to make and taste wonderful when fresh strawberries are used.

by chef


I thought it would be slightly on the heavy side since creme mousseline was used, but it was actually has a lightly and fruity feel to it due the use of strawberries. However, it was a bit sweet because of the layer of marzipan which is placed at the top of the cake - I believe it is more for decoration really and a substitute should be used instead.

Practical was alright, made a few silly mistakes here and there but managed to fix them and go through the whole two sessions. It is good to make mistakes in the practical sessions now, so that they can be corrected before the exams. Understand and learning from the mistakes is what makes a person excel and grow.

The fruit cake and Savarin were not really much of an issue for the first session, but the fraisier was a bit troublesome towards the end of the session during the assembly of the whole item. The overall assembly involves positioning the sponges and strawberries, piping in the mousse, cover with marzipan, decorate with marzipan rose+leaves and piping with royal icing. I have to say piping with royal icing was much hard than I thought - it requires quite a lot of pressure and it needs to be constant. To add on to that, royal icing hardens really quickly so we had to do it fast and smooth to avoid the piping tip getting stuck.

Well, I think I will just leave you all with some pics of the end product.. and see for yourselves =.="



Friday, July 16, 2010

Food Hunt [5]

Flat White
Location: 17 Berwick Street London W1F 0PT
www.flat-white.co.uk

In the aim of searching for a cup of good coffee, I set off to Soho to look for a coffee house featured on one of Financial Times's articles. It was hidden within one of the lanes in that area bringing a "back-street" cafe feel to anyone who has been there.

The place is run by a couple from Australia I believe.. (I am only guessing at the moment :P), where flat white was originated. For those who are not familiar with this beverage, it is a cross between a cup of cappuccino and latte - much less foam than a cappuccino (sometimes no foam at all), but with nearly same amount of milk in a latte.


It was a small cafe - lit with dimmed lighting, quite homely setting with wall-benches and tables. A small variety of rustic-looking pastries were displayed at the counter and some sandwiches listed on a blackboard behind were available to anyone wanting a quick snack with their beverage.


Since the place is named "flat white", you know you have to order a cup of flat white and see if the barista is skilled and if it lives up to the store's name. It has been two weeks now since I drank that cup of coffee, but I can still vaguely remember the slight tropical aftertaste of the beans that lingered after ever sip. You know it is a good cup of a coffee when there is no horrible bitter aftertaste - created from prolonged extraction of the coffee from the machine. This is a sign that the barista knows his/her beans and how long it takes to extract all the goodness from the grounded beans.

I would recommend this place to anyone who happens to be around that area - which to my surprise, has many promising-looking cafes/restaurants around the corner. Will be back with more post later on for that area, but for now I will leave you with a pic of the coffee art from the cafe flat white.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Food Hunt [4]


Wafflemeister
Location: 26 Cromwell Place, South Kensington, London SW7 2LD
http://www.wafflemeister.com/ 

It was one of the hottest day in London and we went to a waffle house. That's the story :P 

Well, I have came across this waffle house from ads in newsletter emails so just of giving a good as it looks decent from the website. I gathered two of my foodie schoolmates and went to have a try at this waffle house (who supposedly have been in UK for 11 years now). It is located adjacent to the South Kensington tube station, which I have been traveling back and forth through that station for four years now and I have not once noticed it was there. Lol..

Thought it would be an air-conditioned cafe of some sorted turned out to be one of those order-at-the-counter waffle shops with a few chairs and tables outside the premises - it was a small shop.. minus points there.


With high expectation of receiving good crispy waffles, I ordered one topped with a strawberry ice cream and dark chocolate sauce, while my friends ordered one with chocolate ice cream and one walnut ice cream. 


Hm.. my verdict is that the waffle was not crispy at all on the exterior, which was rather disappointing. However, I have to say that the ice cream was good (even though mine was a bit sweet) - the flavours of each ice cream was accentuated by the heavy crème anglaise (English cream) used, which was not overpowering the individual flavours. Fans of walnut would love the walnut ice cream as it is filled with walnut chunks and the cream itself is full of nut flavour. As for the chocolate ice cream, which was the best out of the three we had, has only a hint of sweetness and is full of cocoa flavour in every bite. 

Overall, I might go back for the ice cream.. but most probably not for the waffle (even though it is a waffle house) unless they are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Food Hunt [3]

Maison Blanc
Location: 303 Fulham Road, London, SW10 9QH

Raymond Blanc, owner of Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons and Maison Blanc, is one of the more respectable chefs in London who hosted the BBC show "Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secret". I remember watching this show with my mom during one of the winter nights, and we would count how many "Voilà" he will say during the show.. and he does says it a lot! Whether it is in front/end of a sentence or on its own, he always finds a way to corporate it into his speech. 

A chain of Maison Blanc boulangeries and patisseries can be found in London and rest of UK. The one that my friends and I visited is located along Fulham Road (where you can also find Demarquette - a artisan chocolate shop). 


Once you enter the premises, the first thing you will notice is the display shelf showcasing the different varieties of patisseries which will have you spellbound within seconds. Next is the quaintly decorated interior which was quite warm and welcoming - it is just something Raymond Blanc would like to have I imagine with his French background. Another feature is the outdoor seating at the back of the store which is lightly shadowed by trees planted in the neighborhood - a very nice place to have a piece of pastry along with a cup of tea while enjoying a book peacefully..



We ordered a beverage each and a pastry to share. The coffees and hot chocolate were decent and we're not complaining. St Michel Aux Fruits Rouges was the name of the pastry and it look delicious (so does his other pastries!). As pastry students, we did what we have to do and dissected the pastry into bits. Analyzing every element and taking photos at every possible angle to capture all there is to this little pastry.


The overall pastry was light and had a summer feel to it. the base is lined with a thin layer of sable (biscuit) base and a slice of joconde (almond sponge) wrapped around the bottom half of the pastry. A mix fruit compote filled the centre while the framage blanc holds the components in place. A light dash of the berry puree topped with fresh blueberry and a stick of white chocolate for the finishing touch. A well combination of simple ingredients gave rise to this delicate and delicious pastry. Definitely something that can be produced at home with some small mousse ring molds and some nice fresh berries.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Week of the bread


The chef taught us not one.. not two.. but three different bread/pastry doughs! It was fun making all of them during the back-to-back practical as well - a lot of work but it was all worth the effort at the end. 

First we have the bun dough, which is the base for common products like the hot cross bun and doughnuts. It contains quite a fair bit of milk in comparison to the amount of flour (about [1 part milk : 2 part flour] respectively). Below are the products made by chef with the bun dough:


Hot cross bun


Photo by Ky Ha


Devonshire Splits


Photo by Ky Ha


Doughnuts


Photo by Ky Ha


Chelsea buns


Photo by Ky Ha


It was the first time hearing the names of some of these even though I might have eaten them before, such as Devonshire splits and Chelsea buns. Devonshire splits is actually a bun with a slit filled with jam and cream, and Chelsea buns are like cinnamon rolls but with raisins, mix peels and almond cream.

Out of all the four buns, I like Chelsea bun the most - raisins and mix peels go well together and it reduces the richness of the bun making it great for breakfast or as a snack during the day.

Next we have the pâte à brioche (brioche dough) and pâte levée feuilletée (laminated yeast dough). The brioche dough will be turned into different types of brioches, and the laminated yeast dough into croissants, pain au chocolat and different types of danishes.

The brioche dough is a very rich dough containing a lot of eggs and butter (and sometimes it is referred to as the eggy-bread dough). The amount of eggs and butter combined is more than the flour needed in the recipe - this results in a dense, flavourful and fragrant bread when baked. 

Chef showed us quite a variety of product we can make from the brioche dough like brioche à tête, nantasie, croquelin and walnut loaf. 





Lastly is the laminated yeast dough which very similar to the puff pastry dough, just that the laminated one has yeast in it. The process of making it is the same - make the initial dough, fold in the dry butter and start doing the turns/fold. However, for this dough, we only did 3 +1 turns since there is yeast in it. 

This is used for making those delicious croissants and pain au chocolat that you see in the a lot of bakeries. There is no egg in the dough which gives the result of a flaky texture to the product. In addition to the flakiness of the product the yeast and butter incorporated in the dough provides lift that makes the croissant or any of its baked goods a very light body.

During the practical, we had to make all 3 types of dough and make a few variety of products from them. It was a tight schedule to get all three doughs made, let them proof, shape them, proof again and bake them. However, everyone was able to finish in time and ahead of the schedule as well, which the chef was very please (since practical was scheduled to end at 9pm). 




Yes.. there was a lot of bread made and if we combine all our products together, we could have opened up a store to sell them. Gave some to the cleaners and my friends.. but there are still quite a bit left. Well, I guess they will be breakfast for my bro and I for the next few days!

Week 2 has ended. Produced a lot of bread and danish. Practiced rolling croissants and shaping dough. Possibly lost another 2 pounds.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Soufflé

Raspberry Soufflé

Mmmm~ a soufflé made with freshly made raspberry coulis.. <(´ー`)>




A really simple recipe which gives a fool proof result and a great way to impress your guests at a small dinner party. Other coulis can be used in place of raspberry - freshly made or packaged. 

A great tip is that soufflés can actually be made before-hand. Prepare the soufflé batter and transfer to the well-buttered ramekins, then store them in the freezer. (The soufflé can be kept for 1 day in the freezer - it is, of course, recommended to be consumed in the same day.) Remove from the freezer 10~15 minutes before banging it into a preheated oven to cook. Easy. No sweat. :)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Food Hunt [2]

Kaffeine (Café)
Location: 66 Great Titchfield Street London W1W 7QJ
www.kaffeine.co.uk

If you're looking for a place away from the buzzing streets of London to have a down time with your mates, I would recommend Kaffeine. Off Mortimer St. and just 5 minutes north of Oxford St., it is easily to find and hard to miss with it's totally black exterior contrasting to its neighbourhood of white buildings.





A step into the café was quickly followed by a friendly greeting from the staff behind the counter. A comfortable setting created by well-matched interior sets us at ease and the air-conditioning was just what we needed to escape from the summer heat. The indie music playing in the background echoed off the high ceiling made it possible for conversing without having to shout at one another. 

We each ordered a beverage and some snack, sat at a table in front of the counter, and chatted away until we were well rested and ready to out into the blazing weather..





It was the right choice to have the banana bread toasted - leaving a slight caramelised exterior giving a light crisp texture when bitten into. It was, however, a bit crumbly for me. Other than that, I loved it and finished it off quickly before my mates could have second tasting. The flat white was rich and had a body to it - not like those watery cup of coffee you get at some fast-food chain in a hurry. An experienced barista will take the effort to put time and care to produce a cup of good coffee. You can sort of taste a bit of the barista's soul if you focus hard enough.. Well, enough of me blabbing about it. It is best if you give it a go and taste it for yourself :)



 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Food Hunt [1]

KOYA (Udon house)

Location: 49 Frith Street, London W1D 4SG

www.koya.co.uk


Quite an authentic Japanese Udon place off Shaftesbury Avenue. Had a clear broth Buta Miso Udon (miso pork udon) £8.50. Slightly more pricey than those Jap places in China Town, but I believe it is worth spending on the quality noodle and broth. Will definitely be going back to try other noodles/dishes.

 

 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

4 pastries under 6 hours

Well, I am sure it might not be a tall order for some.. but it was for me and I think I lost a pound or 2 after that session. It was nearly 30C inside the kitchen as well and making puff pastry at that temperature is a total disaster. This just means all of us have to work fast - roll fast and turn the dough twice before entering it into the fridge. Everyone was trying their best to not let the butter break through the dough. Some succeeded and some didn't - and I was one of the latter ones. A quick fix with a generous dusting of flour was what the chef suggested and it worked, but it will of course alter the output slightly - it will result in the dough getting patches of flour and it cannot be dusted off completely leaving a baked good looking like a sheet of crocodile skin.

The schedule for that day was to make:
  1. Puff pastry
  2. Gateau St Honore
  3. Pithvier
  4. Mille-feuille aux frises
(Yes.. I have bring home all 3 baked goodies home)

1. Pâte feuilletée (Puff Pastry)

For those who have made puff pastry before, you will know that it takes much more time and effort to produce a good quality dough from scratch compared to other pastry doughs - the dough needs delicate and constant care (a lot like a newborn). Other shortening can be used in the tourage ("turn"), but the use of butter (and good quality butter of course..) is recommended as it gives the best flavour. However, the trade-off is that butter is harder to handle as it melts easily. 

We used this puff pastry to make the pithivier and mille-feuille aux frises later on in that session.

2. Gateau St Honore




3. Pithivier



(This cross-section view is just for you Elisa :P)


4. Mille-feuille aux frises




So this first week of classes we have learned the of making and using puff pastry.. similar to what I have learned in Paris but different techniques were applied. I would say it is worth making your own puff pastry at home - make a large batch of it and freeze it.

I will try to make a more detailed post about puff pastry with recipe and techniques later on.. so stay tuned!

Have a good weekend everyone ヽ(´▽`)/