Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Day 54, 280409

(I have a couple of things to write up, but it'll be in separate entries; this one is a biggie.)

This week has all been about the chocolate. And commuting to Whitefield, but aside from saying that I've never been so road-ragey in my life, least said the better.

Task 8 is "learn how to make chocolates". I didn't really know what I wanted out of this, as I've made chocolates in the past but really wanted to learn how to make them properly; the week-long course I've just finished did this in spades.

Slattery's is a fab place. It's a choccy and cake shop, where they decorate cakes in the back room, have a cafe on the first floor and a school in the attic. A former pub, this place is a brilliant building and it's still too small for them; the shop is enormous and still they're short of space. People are in and out all the time, between two sites they employ 60 people and 14 saturday staff, they're seemingly unaffected by the current economic climate and make some pretty stunning stuff. They also sell ingredients in small batches, which is bloody brilliant from my point of view.

So, day one was making stuff in moulds; bears, boxes, truffle shells. We also made a quick ganache - simple truffle mix - and learned that you can temper chocolate by careful use of a microwave. And a huge chocolate lolly. We learned about presentation being important, too, so it was put together on a baseboard with choccy scribbles, and cellophaned.

Day 46

Day two was more about truffle mix; flavourings, expiry dates (quick ganache needs eating in 6-10 days, the one we did today was good for 6 weeks), practicing filling moulds, more tempering, making circular boxes out of cooking rings, lids, and decorative techniques; hand-rolling, dusting, transfer sheets, how to make dominoes, the importance of cocoa butter and colourings (shiny!), and more presentation.
Day 47

Day three was shoes and handbags; these things sell for astonishing amounts of money. This was more coloured cocoa butter, decorative techniques, piping, care and attention to detail and contrasts, all arty stuff you pick up over the years by osmosis. This was probably my least useful day, and I'm not terribly happy with one of the pieces (the handbags are rubbish), but still fun. Unfinished the shoes looked like this:
Day 48

Finished, they looked like this:

We ended the day with a talk on packing and legislation that was fascinating and very useful.

Day four was cake decoration. Nearly everybody started with the idea of making a cake suitable for a wedding, so we ran out of white chocolate (seriously, 15 Kg of the stuff). We learned how to make chocolate paste (alternative to marzipan), pouring ganache, chocolate fans and ruffles, marbles, more (neater!) dominoes, curls, twists, pillars, and how drawing shapes on sugar can make some lovely effects. My cake ended up looking like this:
Day 49

See the cigarettes on the right-hand side? I'm very proud of them; two-tone, they're not something you normally see on cakes or in shops.

Day 5 was insane; we had individual oval cakes, truffles, truffles, more truffles, more dipping, decorating, rolling and tempering, caramels, Q&A, more truffles, shells, gathering everything together and buying ingredients. As I have no need of 10x10kg sacks of chocolate I was happy to pay a bit extra to just buy the 2.5Kg ones. Just some of the stuff I made on Friday looked like this:
Choccy selection

I loved this week. It was outstanding, the food was good, the students lovely, the tutor knowledgeable (a former patissier) and an excellent teacher, the staff incredibly helpful and willing to chat to us no matter what was going on. I'm stunned at how happy everybody there was, and it's all down to the management, who is a couple of people who have known the business since it was four people selling hand-rolled truffles. No kidding, if you're at a loose end for a week and have the money to do it, this is an outstanding course to attend. If you don't have the money or the time, do the 2-day chocolate excellence course instead. Really.

So, I'm looking into getting the kitchen up to the sort of standards an environmental health officer wouldn't have a problem with. This might take a bit of thinking about.

Currently running habitual tasks: #3 (53/365), #13, #26, #66 (19/250), #85 (2/4), #87, #88
Currently running exploratory tasks: #38 (1/18), #17 (1/54+), #57 (1/9+)
Currently running growing tasks: #41, #52
Completed: 6
Remaining: 95

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