I can’t believe it’s week 20! Only one month left of the pastry part of my course. I was only in the kitchen one day this week as we got the opportunity on Wednesday to go to the World Chocolate Masters UK/Ireland pre-selection finals because it was held at my school, Westminster Kingsway College. Thursday and Friday I took off to travel back to the States for the wedding of one of my dearest friends from high school.
Tuesday: Choux Pastry & Modern Croquembouche Nougatine Design
On Tuesday, we finished our final prep work for our nougatine croquembouche design. A croquembouche is a French dessert made up of choux balls (cream puffs/profiteroles) typically in a cone shape and bound together by caramel. Our modern take uses nougatine (nut brittle), choux pastry, caramel and royal icing. We are allowed to use whatever design we want. After playing around with some more complicated designs on paper, I scraped it all for clean and simple. 🙂
My caramel is a bit dark, but since it’s just for practice, I didn’t redo it. We were also allowed to freeze our choux balls for the exam, so I just used my castaways for this test design. I’m going to make some tweaks here and there for the finale, but use this basis for the design.
In the afternoons on Tuesday, those of us in the full 48-week program join up with the culinary course to work on our menu planning event and recipe development. I forgot to order ingredients, so I helped my partner Tom on his take on a scallop, squid & mussel potjie (a South African one pot stew-type dish) as one of our starters.
Wednesday: World Chocolate Masters UK/Ireland Pre-Selection Finals
On Wednesday we got to attend the UK & Ireland finals of the World Chocolate Masters which was held at Westminster Kingsway College. We started off the morning watching the finalists finish off their centerpieces on a live feed from the kitchen. Then we had a chocolate demonstration from renowned Spanish chocolatier Ramon Morato.
We listened to the Cacao Barry folks talk about the cacao/cocoa bean process. Once the beans come out of the pods, they ferment for four days and after that it moves onto the sun drying phase. I’d love to visit a cocoa farm and walk through the process like I’ve done previously at a coffee farm in Colombia.
Later in the day, we did a chocolate tasting. During the tasting, you eat a piece of neutral chocolate between tastings to cleanse your palette. Typically the best tastings are conducted at 11:30am or 4:30pm which yields a better flavor for tasting due to our natural eating schedules. Also, tastings are best under a red light so it creates a neutral color environment and won’t bias the tasters based on the color of the chocolate. Cacao Barry has a cool free app called Itinero that will recommend chocolates for different moods and drink pairings.
The day finished off with a champagne reception and Michel Roux Jr. announcing the winner of the competition. Alistair Birt, head chocolatier at William Curley won the competition and will go on to represent the UK/Ireland at the World Chocolate Masters Finals in France in October. I’ve been doing some work experience at William Curley and Alistair is a great guy so I was very happy to see him win! 🙂
Thursday & Friday: Trip to Charleston for the McCarthy Wedding Festivities!
More on this trip later. A city I love. Some of my favorite people in the whole world. An exciting weekend I couldn’t miss!