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

Archive for March, 2012

Day 51 and 52 – Exam results, truffle making and end of term – Thurs 22nd and Fri 23rd March

On Thursday we got the results of our cuisine practical exam. Just the result for the practical exam, not for the whole of basic cuisine. I got 82.6%, which is 2nd in the class and counts for 45% of the total mark for the term. Pretty pleased with that!
I’ll get the rest of the results for cuisine at the start of next term, or at basic graduation next week if I wasn’t going to be away.

In the evening we made the truffles that were demonstrated yesterday. We made them in pairs and my colleague Thomas and I made white chocolate and Cointreau truffles. This had the advantage of not getting covered in dark chocolate or cocoa.

Unfortunately, most of the class had been in the pub all day, having got their cuisine exam results early in the day, and some were far from sober. The class turned into a bit of a kiddie’s playtime with half the classing giggling and messing about, covering each other with chocolate and really annoying the chef. I must say I was impressed with how cool chef Nicolas managed to remain, though he did tell them all that it was the worst class he had ever had to take and next time, please stay out of the kitchen if they’ve been drinking.

At the end he came and thanked Thomas and I for helping him by taking the class seriously, not being drunk and getting on with making our truffles. He really appreciated our attitude and I appreciate his teaching. He is a good teacher and I’ve enjoyed all the classes we’ve had with him and told him so. We’ll be having much more of him in the next 2 terms and I look forward to that.

On Friday morning we got the results of our patisserie exam and I got 77.7%, 3rd in the class this time. Another good result. Hurrah!

Term finished with a final lecture about the production of chocolate with chef Graeme. We were meant to have had this a fortnight earlier but it had been postponed. Given that it was the last class of term, we had our exam results and several people had already left for a short holiday, it wasn’t too surprising that only half the class were there.

Now a week off before I start term 2 – intermediate cuisine and patisserie. Intermediate cuisine will be covering French regional cuisine, so lots of yummy dishes.

Day 50 – Patisserie theory exam and Demo on chocolate truffles – Wed 21st March

Today started with the Patisserie theory exam which was a 1 hour written paper. There are so many people studying basic patisserie (about 150) that the exams had to be held in 2 large rooms and in 2 shifts.

It consisted of some multiple choice questions, some true or false questions and some longer written questions. It was nothing like the practice exam that we had been given and took me about 45 minutes to complete. It must have been quite hard for the majority whose 1st language is not English.

Then we had a demo on making chocolate truffles. Chef Matthew took this and he made 3 different truffles.

He started by making the ganaches which are a mixture of chocolate and cream. He made a dark chocolate and rum ganache and white chocolate and kirsch ganache. He also made a milk chocolate and cointreau muscadine which is similar to a ganache but contains water instead of cream, plus praline paste. Each was then allowed to cool until firm.

The dark chocolate ganache was piped into small balls on a tray and refrigerated. The white ganache was piped into white chocolate shells. The milk chocolate muscadine mix was piped in long lines on a tray with a star nozzle.

Once each was firm they were finished. The dark chocolate ganache balls were rolled between hands to round them off, dipped in dark chocolate and then rolled in cococa powder.
The white chocolate shells were dipped in white chocolate and then rolled on a cooling rack to give a spiky finish.
The muscadines were cut into 2cm lengths, dipped in milk chocolate and then rolled in icing sugar.
We have a practical tomorrow to make these. Yummmmmmmmmmmmm!

Day 49 – Cusine theory and Patisserie Practical exams – Tues 20th March

Today started off with a 1 hour cuisine theory exam. Mostly multiple choice plus a few short answer questions. It took me about 15 minutes to answer most of it and then I spent some time on the few questions I wasn’t quite so sure about. Still had to sit about for half an hour – there’s only so many times you can check your answers!

I’m not saying that I’ve got it all right but I think I’ve got a decent pass.

Then, after a couple of hours in between, it was the patisserie practical exam.

We drew numbered cards which indicated which work station we would be at for the exam and also the dish we would be making. I got the genoise sponge with raspberry jam and buttercream icing, which was the dish most people were wanting not to get, but which I had practiced last weekend and wasn’t worried about getting. The other possibilities were lemon tart (with meringue on top) or coffee eclairs. I didn’t mind which I got though I think I would have been happiest with the lemon tart.

The 1st 15 minutes were to write out the recipe and method and hand it in. Then we had 2.5 hours to make the dish and also present some piping on a cake board.

I managed to make all the elements of my dish in the 1st hour: the sponge cake, soaking syrup, raspberry jam and buttercream.

This left me a good amount of time to assemble it. I had to cut the cake flat, cut in half horizontally, soak each half with syrup (flavoured with raspberry eau de vie), spread jam then buttercream on the bottom layer, put the top layer on and spread buttercream over the top and sides smoothly. Then decorate the sides with flaked almonds and pipe buttercream and chocolate on the top and decorate with some fresh raspberries.

I was pretty pleased with the results of all that but the piping on the cake board was more problematic. We had to pipe 10 rosettes and 10 shell shapes in buttercream on a cake board and they needed to be even. I made a mess of quite a few of them and had to redo them and really wasn’t happy with the end result, but at least I was happy with the cake.

Tomorrow is the patisserie theory exam, and a demo on chocolate truffles. We get the results for cuisine on Thursday and for patisserie on Friday.

Day 48 – Practical Cuisine Exam – Mon 19th March

Today was the start of exams week. We have 4 exams in all, one practical and one theory exam in each of cuisine and patisserie.

The cuisine practical was 1st thing this morning. It was going to be either chicken fricassée or sole bon femme. We would all be doing the same recipe and wouldn’t find out which one until it started.

As it turned out we could see chicken stock and then chickens through the windows into the kitchen, so we could tell what we would be cooking before we entered the kitchen. But only a few minutes before so not really any advantage.

The first part was 15 minutes to write out the recipe and method. This went ok I think – I just hope they can read my handwriting!

Then we went into the kitchen in pairs, 5 minutes apart. I was in the last pair so had to wait for over half an hour to start. This was so that the chefs tasting each dish wouldn’t get them all in one go.

Once in, I cut up the chicken pretty quickly and then peeled and cut or turned all the vegetables. Then it was onto cooking the chicken, the vegetables and finally the sauce.

I was pretty pleased with the results though it took every minute of the 2 hours allotted. It may not have been perfect (I can always improve the vegetable turning) but I think it was all cooked ok and looked good on the plate. Results later in the week.

Day 47 – Assorted Desserts – Fri 16th March

Today we had just one demo class, taken by chef Graeme. It was the last demo before the exams next week and the corresponding practical would be the exam so we wouldn’t be making any of these recipes.

The chef made 4 desserts. The 1st was a cold lemon soufflé which was a mix of italian meringue, pate a bombe (whisked egg yolks plus sugar syrup at soft ball stage), lemon juice and zest, whipped cream and gelatine. Once set, the chef decorated them with chantilly cream, chocolate, sliced strawberries or candied lemon zest.


Next was shortbread which is butter rubbed into flour and then sugar added, brought together, rolled out and baked.

Third was trifle. A layer of sponge and berries lined the bottom of a bowl and was soaked with sherry overnight. This was covered with custard and then chantilly cream and decorated with piped chocolate and more berries.

Lastly was tart tatin. The chef made a dry caramel in a large pan and finished it with some water and butter to make a thick caramel and then poured it into the baking tin.
Apples were peeled and quartered and placed on their sides around the tin in a ring and also in the centre. The tin was topped with a circle of puff pastry which was tucked into the tin and then it was baked in the oven. Once baked, it was turned out onto a tray and decorated with a sugar cage.

Day 46 – Ice Cream and Macaroons – Thurs 15th March

Today we started with a technical class on ice creams and sorbets. Chef Nicolas talked about and demonstrated the making of both and we got to taste several of each: Malibu ice cream, chocolate ice cream, passion fruit sorbet, red wine sorbet, Baileys ice cream and Champagne sorbet. All pretty good, though the chef tasted his Champagne sorbet with a large measure of the left over Champagne!

Then we had a demo on Macaroons, again with chef Nicolas.

Macaroons are a meringue like product into which sugar and ground almonds or ground hazelnuts plus flavourings and colours are mixed, baked and then sandwiched together with a flavoured filling.

The chef made 2 flavours – chocolate macaroons flavoured with cocoa and sandwiched together with a dark chocolate ganache, and pistachio macaroons, for which the macaroon mix was just coloured green and sandwiched together with a buttercream to which pistachio paste was added.

Lastly we had a practical making the macaroons ourselves. Chef Matthew took us for the demo and we were to make both types of macaroons and fillings that chef Nicolas had demonstrated.
They went pretty well and I am pleased to say they looked just as good as in the demo.
Finally, as there is no flour in macaroons, it was something that my wheat intolerant wifey could enjoy.

Chef Nicolas had told us that they were better the next day after being in the fridge overnight and this was indeed the case – they had better texture and flavour the next day.

Day 45 – More Desserts and Cheese – Wed 14th March

Today we had the last cuisine demo of this term and chef Eric took this.

As he is the head of Basic Cuisine he answered questions about the exams next week as well as cooking 3 desserts.

He made a vanilla soufflé, which has creme patissiere as its base

A chocolate mousse, which was melted chocolate folded into italian meringue and whipped cream

And red fruits with a sabayon browned under the grill. The sabayon was made of egg yolks, sugar and white wine, whisked in a bowl over a bain marie until thick.

We won’t be making any of these ourselves this term as the corresponding practical to this demo is our exam next week.

Then we had our last cuisine practical for the term, with chef Neil, making the creme caramel and oeufs a la niege.
Having made the creme caramel in patisserie classes weeks ago, I can definitely say that the patisserie recipe is much more precise and consistent as everything is measured accurately. There were a huge variety of results in the creme caramel here, some cooked after 30 minutes, some not cooked after nearly an hour.

The oeufs a la niege were simple enough as a recipe, the only hard bit was shaping the meringue into quenelles and poaching it.

Having tasted both desserts, I hope we never do them again as both taste like sweetened scrambled eggs, not my favourite.

Lastly we had a 3 hour class on cheese from Tom the cheese man (not actually made of cheese) which was excellent as he really showed his passion and knowledge for the subject and we tasted some pretty good cheeses. We’ll be having more lectures from him in the next 2 terms and I look forward to them.

Day 44 – Eclairs, more desserts and petit fours – Tues 13th March

Today we had a couple of practicals and a demo between them.

The first was to make the eclairs from the previous day’s eclairs and we all treated this as a practice for the patisserie exam as eclairs is one of the dishes we might get asked to make.
Doing this again showed me that this dish was not hard to do and I made some pretty good eclairs, filled with pastry cream and decorated with fondant and chocolate.

The demo was another cuisine demo about desserts and chef Neil made 3 desserts:

Pears poached in port served with chocolate sauce

Oeufs a la niege, which are meringues poached in a sugar syrup and served with creme anglaise

And creme caramel

We finished the day with a patisserie practical making some of the petit fours. We had to make the sablé biscuits and the almond meringues.

The almond meringues were quite straightforward, as long as you didn’t knock all the air out of the meringue while folding in the dry ingredients. They came out well and were decorated with chocolate.

The sablés were more challenging. This is a mixture which goes from too firm to too soft to work in seemingly nanoseconds so was quite problematic. I did manage to make a reasonable checkerboard and spiral, though we will be repeating this a lot in intermediate and superior patisserie classes. I think the answer is to really chill it well between working it.

Day 43 – Eclairs, Sablées, Bavarois and Petit Fours – Mon 12th March

Today in the cuisine demo we had chef Gilles and he was covering a few basic desserts: Eclairs filled with creme patisserie, sablé biscuits with fruits and cream and a vanilla bavarois with a red fruit salad.

The recipes were the same as we have used in pastisserie, though the amount of sugar that went into the eclair paste was not measured correctly and was much too high, making eclairs that were much too brown.

The sablé biscuits (similar to shortbread) were layered with strawberries and raspberries and chantilly cream and served with a raspberry coulis

The bavarois was plated with raspberry coulis and a salad of strawberries, raspberries and redcurrants.

We then had a practical making the beef stroganoff and rice pilaf from last week. Quite a quick practical (we finished an hour early) as it all cooked quickly and it was very tasty indeed, but not nearly enough.

Lastly we had a patisserie demo with chef Nicolas, which was a pleasant surprise. He went very quickly in the demo, which was good as I couldn’t stand the constant noise at the back of the class from those who just can’t shut up for more than 1 minute. Considering how much money the course costs, I am amazed that people want to talk through it rather than paying attention and I wish they would shut up or go out to have their inane chats.

Anyway, some repetition of recipes today as the chef was making sablés too as well as almond meringues and orange tuiles.

The chef made the sablé paste (a shortbread like mix, rich in butter) and coloured half of it with cocoa powder. He then made a couple of different designs, one being a checkered pattern of the 2 doughs, the other a spiral. Slices of each were cut and baked.

The tuile mix contained orange juice, zest and grand marnier and nibbed almonds. It was piped in small circles, which, once baked, had spread out and were shaped into curves.

The almond meringues were made of whisked egg white into which sugar flour and ground almonds were folded. It was piped in baton, circle and oval shapes. The centre of the ovals was filled with almond cream. Once baked the small circles were joined together with jam. the batons spread with chocolate and the ovals topped with fondant.

All the petit fours were arranged on a silver tray for presentation.

Day 42 – Blackcurrant and Strawberry Charlotte Bavarois – Fri 9th March

Today was a similar lesson to the chocolate charlotte bavarois last week.

Instead of chocolate, the flavour was fruit purées, in this case blackcurrant and strawberry purées.

The chef started by making a plain genoise sponge, baked as a  sheet on a baking tray. From this he cut 2 circles to fit the cake ring which the charlotte would be made in.
He cut the rest into rectangles which he sandwiched together with raspberry jam. Thin slices of the multilayer cake sandwich were cut and used to line the sides of the ring mould, so that the different layers were visible as vertical lines around the edge of the ring. One of the circles was used to line the base of the ring and was brushed with a cassis flavoured syrup.

A bavarois made from blackcurrant purée, sugar syrup, gelatine and whipped cream was used to fill the centre and topped with another circle of sponge, also brushed with syrup.
A final layer of bavarois was spread on top of the sponge and then topped with a thin layer of glaze, made of fruit puree, gelatine and sugar syrup.

Finally the charlotte was decorated with piped white chocolate and fresh fruit. The chef made 3 charlottes, 1 blackcurrant, 1 strawberry and 1 a mix of blackcurrant and strawberry.

In the practical, there was a limited amount of blackcurrant purée and no strawberry, so I ended up getting blueberry.

It all went pretty well, except for the piping of the white chocolate, which looked a bit like a kindergarten kid’s painting, not like the piping above.

Interestingly, the chef had asked me to make double the recipe of the glaze in case someone messed theirs up. As it happened it ended being used on the charlotte of the classmate next to me!

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