I'm studying the Grand Diplome at Cordon Bleu in London

Archive for 19/02/2012

Days 25/26 – Bread and eclairs and more bread – Fri 17th and Sat 18th Feb

On Friday we just had one class which was a demonstration of making bread with chef Graeme.

He started with a white bread dough. Strong flour plus a little salt and sugar were sifted together, then warm water and melted butter poured into a well in the flour. Fresh yeast was worked into the liquid and then the flour worked into the liquid. Once combined it was kneaded for 10 minutes ont he bench then allowed to rise until doubled in size.

While it was rising he made soda bread. Soda bread uses a chemical reaction to provide lift, rather than yeast. Strong flour, salt, sugar, sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar were sifted together and a little butter was rubbed in. Then milk and buttermilk was added and all mixed together to make a soft dough. This was formed into a ball, brushed with water, dusted with flour from a sieve and a cross cut in the top. It was then baked in the oven. The chef incorporated raisins into some of the dough to make one loaf of raisin soda bread and one plain.

While it was baking, he returned to the bread dough. He portioned it into 45 g portions and formed each into a ball. Then he shaped them into lots of different shapes and topped some with seeds, olives or sundried tomatoes. The rolls were baked in the oven for about 12 minutes.

Here are the chef’s finished soda breads and bread rolls:


On Saturday we had 2 practicals back to back, firstly making the eclairs and then the breads.

The choux pastry was easy enough to make, though I learned I needed to have piped the eclairs a little further apart in places as some of them didn’t rise fully. The chef said it was because they were too close together and the steam from them prevented them rising properly. Looking around the class, the eclairs had a huge variety of sizes and shapes. Some were very wide and high, some were more like biscuits and were actually less high than when they went into the oven.

We made creme patissiere and flavoured it with coffee extract (we had no choice in this, even if we, as I do, loathe coffee) and piped it into the eclairs via holes we had poked into the bottom of each. Even the rather flat few of my eclairs filled with the creme ok, though I thought it might not flow inside easily. The chap who made biscuits rather than eclairs had to present his creme patissiere as an accompaniment.

Next we warmed the fondant to a coating consistency, flavoured it (more coffee, yuck!) and draped it over the eclairs to cover them. Then we had to pipe some chocolate on each to decorate them. I’m not great at piping yet so my decorations weren’t perfect, but passable.

Then it was on to the bread. Fairly easy to make the bread dough, though one person did ask when they should add the yeast while he was already kneading his dough! Surprisingly, he was ok to add it to the dough and work it in that way. I think everyone managed to make some decent rolls, though the shaping was very variable.

The soda bread was pretty easy, though 3 people managed to leave out the sodium bicarbonate so ended with a pale brick rather than a light loaf.

Here are my finished breads:

Day 24 – Puff Pastry slice, Eclairs and Eggs – Thurs 16th Feb

Today we had 2 practicals and demo class sandwiched in the middle.

The first practical was to finish off the puff pastry that we started last week. I am hoping and presuming that it had been frozen in between. Puff pastry freezes well.

We were to make the puff pastry slice with fruit that was demonstrated last week. First task was to roll out and shape the puff pastry and then bake it.
This would show how well we had made the puff pastry and it was evident from the various puff pastry cases around the kitchen that my classmates and I had made a wide variety of puff pastries, some rising well, some hardly at all, some very unevenly. I was pretty happy with mine.

A few minutes later, one of my classmates managed to set his pastry on fire. Not just blackened, but actual flames and smoke! We were lucky the fire alarm wasn’t set off.
While the pastry was baking we had made the creme patissiere and he had placed the oven tray on the hob when he took it out of the oven. We have induction hobs and they only heat up things placed on them if they contain lots of iron. So stainless steel pots heat up well as do baking trays, but your hand wouldn’t if you placed it on the stove. However he hadn’t turned the hob off after making his creme patissiere, so when he placed his baking tray there it heated up quickly and burnt his pastry. Fortunately it was at one end of the pastry, so he was still able to use half of it.

Once the pastry was cool, we spread the creme patissiere in it and topped it with fruit, then glazed it to give it a shine and prevent oxidisation of the fruit:

Next we had a practical on making choux pastry and eclairs.

Choux pastry is a very different pastry to anything we had learnt so far. Water and butter, plus a little salt and sugar, is brought to the boil, then strong flour is tipped in and mixed in until a smooth paste is achieved. Once cool, lots of beaten egg was beaten in until a dropping consistency is achieved.
The chef piped the paste in cylinders about 12cm long and well spaced so they have room to expand and the steam to escape when baked.

Once baked and cooled, they were filled with coffee flavoured creme patissiere piped in through small holes made in the bottom of the eclairs, then covered with coffee flavoured fondant. Fondant is just sugar which has been boiled into a syrup then worked as it cools to make a glossy and very fine textured paste. It is very stiff at room temperature and needs to be warmed to 38°C to be usable, but no higher or it loses its gloss. Once warmed it was run in a ribbon from a spoon over each eclair to cover the top of each eclair. Then the chef piped chocolate on the fondant to decorate the eclairs:


Lastly we had a practical cooking eggs.

We were to make eggs florentine and an omelette.

Not a hard practical and all went pretty smoothly, except for the classmate beside me who is in a perpetual panic in every practical and drives everyone nuts.

The egg poached nicely – yolk still runny – and the mornay sauce was delicious and the spinach a lovely counterpoint to the richness of the rest of the dish.

The omelette wasn’t too hard though I needed to agitate it more as it set. Not something I’ve made much before as they’re not something that interests me much to eat.


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