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

Posts tagged ‘Puff pastry’

Day 53 – Intermediate Patisserie – Dobos Chocolate Slice – Mon 2nd April

This term we mostly have our patisserie classes at the beginning of the week and cuisine at the end of the week.

We started with a demo from chef Nicolas who made a Dobos chocolate slice. This is a sponge cake, layered with chocolate ganache, cut in half on the diagonal, and made into a long triangle with ganache, then covered with more ganache and chocolate coating. The chef decorated one with some nibbed pistachios and piped ganache.


He also made some puff pastry, which will be used in tomorrow’s class.

We had chef Nicolas in the practical too and this term there are only 12 in our group, rather than 16 last term. This is due to 1 person having only come to Cordon Bleu for 1 term and a few failures in either cuisine or patisserie which means that some have been placed in other groups.

We made the puff pastry for use tomorrow and while it was resting between turns, we made the Dobos chocolate slice.

The hardest bit of the Dobos cake was the diagonal slicing as we first made a rectangular cake and then sliced it lengthwise with the knife at 45°. Unfortunately, just at the point when I had almost finished, and was lifting it onto the cake board, it cracked in the middle. However it didn’t affect the taste and was quickly devoured by my family, particularly my nephew who is as much of a chocoholic as I am.

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.


Day 20 – Making the pear and almond tart and other puff pastry desserts – Fri 10th Feb

The first class today was making the puff pastry and pear and almond slice the chef made yesterday.

We started with the puff pastry and while the détrempe was resting we peeled and poached the pears.

Next we incorporated the butter and gave the first turn to the pastry. While it rested again we made the almond cream and rolled out some puff pastry. As our puff pastry wasn’t ready to use yet, we were using ready made puff pastry of good quality. We’ll be using our puff pastry in the next practical.

After another couple of turns on the puff pastry we piped the almond cream, laid on the poached pears, topped it with latticed pastry and baked it.

We finished by giving the pastry the last 2 turns and took the pear and almond slice home to eat. It tasted excellent and looks pretty good too:

Next we had another demonstration with chef Matthew, who does a sideline as a comedian, with jokes thrown in throughout his demo.

He used the puff pastry made the previous day to make palmiers and a puff pastry slice decorated with fruit.

Palmiers are made from puff pastry rolled in caster sugar and rolled up, then cut across the roll, laid flat and baked. The shape always reminds me of the head of ET.

We got to taste one each and, while well made, I didn’t find palmiers particularly interesting and wouldn’t think of making them myself. Perhaps a way to use left over puff pastry but I think there are more exciting things to make with it. Imagine  using parmesan, instead of the sugar, for a savoury snack to accompany a martini.

The chef then made the puff pastry slice.

The puff pastry was rolled out and a wide strip cut and two narrow strips all the same length. The 2 narrow strips were placed on the sides of the large strip leaving a central strip which he filled with creme patissiere and fruit.

The chef crimped the edges of the pastry, egg-washed it and baked it, then left it to cool.

Once cool, creme patissiere was piped across the central strip of the pastry and then assorted slices of fruit were arranged on top, The chef had made a couple of these slices and arranged the fruit on one in a regular pattern and on the other in a more random arrangement. Lastly, the fruit was given a glaze to give it a shine and stop the fruit getting oxidised. We’ll be making one of these next week:


Day 19 – Puff Pastry and Pear and Almond Slice – Thurs 9th Feb

Today in Patisserie we were going to be learning to make Puff pastry (yes, we made it last week in Cuisine last week already) and using it in a few desserts.

The chef made puff pastry using the English method – we’ll be learning the French method later in the course. The version we used in the Cuisine lessons seems to be some hybrid of the 2 versions, dismissed with disdain by the pastry chefs.

In the English version the chef started with the détrempe which is a dough made of strong flour, water, melted butter and salt. It was mixed together in a bowl then kneaded until smooth, shaped into a flat rectangle and chilled in the fridge to rest.

Meanwhile the butter was prepared. A slab of butter was kneaded until pliable and formed into a rectangle.

Once the détrempe was rested it was rolled out into a rectangle half again as long as the butter and just a little wider. The butter was placed on the détrempe towards the bottom and the top third of the détrempe was folded down over the butter and then the bottom one third folded up to make 2 layers of butter encased in 3 layers of dough.

The pastry was turned 90 degrees and rolled out lengthwise, then folded into 3 again, turned through 90 degrees again and refrigerated to rest. Each time the pastry is rolled, folded and turned is called a ‘turn’.

Once rested, the pastry was given another couple of turns, rested again, then given a final couple of turns and rested again for use later or the next day.

The chef next made the pear and almond slice. Pears were peeled, quartered and poached in syrup until tender. Butter, sugar, eggs, ground almonds and a little flour were mixed together and flavoured with lemon zest and rum to make the almond cream.

Some puff pastry was rolled out and cut into 2 strips. On one, the almond cream was piped in the centre and the poached pear quarters laid on top. Then the remaining pastry was cut with a lattice tool and laid on top, egg-washed and baked. Here is the chef’s finished dish, cut into portions:

No practical today. Instead a lecture on flours and sugars.

Day 13 – Completing the Puff Pastry – Wed 1st Feb

Today was about completing and cooking the puff pastry.

All the hard work was done yesterday in making the puff pastry, so it now needed to be rolled out, cut to shape, filled if required and baked.

Chef Eric took a back seat today and let chef Gilles do all the work.

He first made Allumettes du fromage – cheese sticks – which we would be doing in our practical.

These are puff pastry with a mornay sauce filling. A mornay sauce is a bechamel sauce flavoured with cheese, gruyere here, and enriched with egg yolks. A thicker than normal sauce was made here as it needs to be thick enough not to squirt everywhere when you cut or bite into the cheese stick.

The chef rolled the puff pastry to about 3 mm thick and cut 2 identical rectnagles about 12 cm wide and 25 cm long. On one of them he piped 5 lines of the mornay sauce about 1 cm wide and 4 cm apart. He brushed around the edges and between the lines with water and then carefully laid the other sheet on top, pressing down between the lines of sauce to make sure it was sealed. Then he cut the pastry into individual straws, each with a line of sauce inside. The edges were crimped and the tops brushed with eggwash and they were baked in a 200 °C oven.

While they were baking, the chef made some vol au vents with the remainder of the puff pastry. He cut some circles and cut a smaller hole in the centre of some of them to make rings, which he then placed on top of the complete circles to create a rim.The rims were eggwashed and were ready for baking.

To ensure that they all ended up the same height, and no vol au vent rose too far, the chef placed a dariole mould at each corner of the baking tray and then placed another baking tray n top. This would mean that they could only rise until they touched the baking tray on top.

To fill the vol au vents the chef made a chicken velouté sauce into which he put diced, cooked chicken breast, sautéed mushrooms and chopped parsley. A velouté sauce is a sauce not dissimilar to a bechamel, but the roux is cooked a little longer to a sandy colour and texture, and chicken stock is used instead of milk.

Here are the baked puff pastries, showing one allumette and one unfilled vol au vent:

And here are some cut open allumettes and one filled vol au vent, with sauce:


In the practical we had chef Eric. I must say that all the chefs know their stuff but all have their own personalities. Chef Eric is quite no-nonsense and businesslike, but is very helpful and willing to answer questions.

We made the allumettes the same as in the demo. Everyone used the puff pastry they had made the day before, so the results were quite variable, dependant on the quality of pastry people had made.

Mine turned out ok, though one of them rose up and then flipped the top off, which was a bit disappointing. The others were ok though and 2 were particularly good, rising straight and evenly. 2 others rose a bit diagonally.

The reason for rising unevenly is partly due to the pastry not being layered correctly and also how well the 2 pieces were sealed together. The one that flipped its top wasn’t well sealed on one side at all.

Unfortunately the amount of cheese delivered to the kitchen was only half what it should have been, so the cheese flavour was a bit weak.

Here are a couple of my allumettes, one good and one wonky:


Day 12 – Puff Pastry and Lemon Crepes – Tue 31st Jan

Puff pastry was the main focus of today’s lessons. Chef Eric was alone in giving us the demo. No chef Gilles.

Puff Pastry is made from a dough which is folded over a slab of butter, rolled thinner and folded into 3, repeated so that it has been folded 6 times. This creates hundreds of thin layers of dough separated by butter. When baked, the moisture in the dough turns to steam which puffs the pastry apart and the butter allows the layers to separate to produce light flaky pastry.

The dough was made from flour, a little salt, water and some melted butter. Mixed into a form dough, it was formed into a ball and a cross cut in the top to about half the depth of the ball. Then it was wrapped and put in the fridge for 20 minutes to rest. This stops the gluten in the flour being stretched too much, which would make the pastry tough.

While it was resting some butter was formed into a square about 10cm wide and pounded within greaseproof paper to soften it a little.

Once the dough was rested, each of the 4 corners of the cross-cut dough was flattened then rolled out to make a cross shaped dough, with the centre of the cross a little wider than the slab of butter. The butter was placed in the centre of the cross and the 4 flaps folded in to cover the butter.

Then the pastry was rolled in one direction only, back and forth, to roughly the length of the roling pin, but no wider than it started. The rolling pin can be used side on to keep the edges straight.

Once long enough, the pastry was folded: the top into the middle and then the bottom to cover it, thus foldng it in 3. The pastry was turned through 90 degrees and the rolling and folding repeated. Then it was wrapped again and rested for another 20-30 minutes.

After resting, the rolling and folding, rolling and folding was repeated and rested again. Then it was rolled and folded for the final 2 times, wrapped and will be used in tomorrow’s lesson.

While the pastry was doing all that resting, the chef made crepes. The batter was a mixture of flour, egg, a little salt and sugar, and milk to make a thin batter. A little nut brown butter was mixed in for more flavour (butter that has been cooked until it goes a little brown, then spooned off of the solids) and some lemon rind. Then it was left to rest for 20 minutes for the flour to fully absorb the moisture.

A lemon syrup was made of sugar, water and lemon juice, brought to the boil and put aside.

To make the crepes, a thin-rimmed crepe pan was heated, brushed with clarified butter and a ladleful of batter poured in and swirled around the pan to thinly cover the bottom. Once nicely coloured on one side, it was flipped over to cook on the other side.

Once all the batter was made into crepes, then were folded into 4 to make a triangle, put on a plate and some lemon syrup drizzled over them

In the practical chef Franck announced that this was his last ever practical class as he was leaving to pursue other avenues. He has been strict about time in the few practicals with us but quite fair. He has been reinforcing the need to work quickly.

Nothing about the practical was particularly difficult. Just a matter of being methodical with the pastry and it looked ok at the end of class. Tomorrow will show how well I have made it as I will be cooking with it.

I’ve made crepes lots of times before so that was quite easy for me, though many others in the class were having lots of problem with them sticking to the pan. It usually means the pan isn’t hot enough or possibly that they haven’t greased it enough.

Off to eat my lemon crepes now.

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