Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been in pastry school for three months! Crazy. We’ve been in the intermediate part of our course since our last exams week six and this week we had our practical exams based on those skills. Pavlova and panna cotta for the patisserie exam and croissants and Guinness bread for our bakery exam. We also had our class Christmas dinner and Secret Santa on Tuesday night which was a lot of fun!
Tuesday: Practical Exam 2: Pavlova and Panna Cotta
For our intermediate practical patisserie exam we had to make meringue pavlova and panna cotta. I started out fairly relaxed because I had done my work plan well in advance and I felt confident about meringues, having just learned pavlova the previous week and making french meringue for work experience the previous day. Chef said we could use mixers (hallelujah!) for our meringues, but I had a momentary idiot moment and decided to do it by hand. I messed it up and ended up having to start over, in the mixer this time which worked great. I’m not sure why I doubted myself in the mixer since I’ve made French meringue in the mixer nearly a dozen or so times. Anyways, the day moved on and my meringue was in the oven, panna cotta was setting in the fridge and things were coming along fairly well. Until the nut brittle/nougatine wafer. It kept crystalizing (one of the times was my fault) but the other times I was baffled as to why it kept crystalizing. I ended up switching sugars and it worked out. Fifth times a charm, right?! 😉
I was the last to finish (but I still finished with some time left to spare in our allotted amount) and felt for sure like I failed. The day, which started so calm with a gorgeous sunrise, seemed to get the best of me. Chef was a lot more complimentary about my products than I was (thankfully) and said that my panna cotta’s tasted very nice and were plated and presented well; that my meringue pavlova was cooked very well and tasted excellent. His critiques were that my pavlova was piped a bit thin on the base layer and I should’ve made a thicker ring and that I needed to include more fruit, so that if the dessert was being served for 6-8 people, the amount of fruit matched the serving size. I got a merit for my work and I was pleased with that because the critiques he gave me are relatively easy ones to fix. Plus, I’m working hard on learning from my ‘mistakes’ and not beating myself up every time I’m not perfect. Ha!
Wednesday: Practical Exam 2: Croissants and Guinness Bread
On Wednesday we had our second practical exam in the bakery where we had to make two Guinness bread loaves and twelve croissants. I really enjoy the laminated doughs so I was excited about the croissants being on the exam. For the exam, we cut the croissant size in half compared to the previous week, but the main principle of croissants is the length must be double the width. With our croissant scraps, we deep fried them and rolled them in cinnamon and sugar to make a cronut of sorts. Delicious.
I got distinction on the exam which I was really pleased about. Chef said that my Guinness bread was slightly under proved but cooked beautifully and that my croissants were perfect. I was very excited about the feedback!! 🙂 Going to be making some croissants at home over the holidays for the family.
Thursday: Sugar Flowers
Thursday we spent in the chocolate lab making sugar flowers. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the sugar and chocolate work we do on Thursdays is up there as some of my favorite lessons. Making the base sugar flowers was a bit delicate, but it was a lot of fun once you got the hang of it. I’m excited to see how these finish off in week 13.
Friday: Chocolates & Christmas Cakes
On Friday, we came in to school early and traded in our theory lesson in for some extra bean to bar chocolate making. It’s safe to say everyone loves chocolate making. Chef prepared our bean to bar chocolate all week long and on Friday morning we began making chocolates filled with various ganaches, truffles, bar chocolates and the mint for our mint chocolates which will dip next week! 🙂
In the afternoon, we stayed in the chocolate lab to decorate our Christmas Cakes. We soaked the cakes in brandy, then put a layer of marzipan on our cake, followed by a layer of royal icing. We made some logs, berries and candles which we’ll be using in our final assembly.