Monday, August 3, 2009

Failing to rise to the occassion

IP Lesson III: Gateau Mille Feuille

'a thousand layers'

What else could you do with a reverse puff pasty?

A mille feuille, of couse!

The Mille Feuille means ‘a thousand layers’ in French. Frankly speaking, it really does have a thousand of butter and dough layers in the puff which makes it so crispy and its ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ kind of goodness.

The Mille Feuille go by other names such as vanilla slices and/or napoleon.

But a mille feuille by any other name will still taste as sweet.

This is one of my favourite ways of using, or rather eating puff pastry.

First of all, we had to bake three equal-sized discs of reverse puff pastry so we can assemble them. We had to ‘dock them like crazy’ in the words of one of my coursemates to prevent ‘blisters’ from forming; we don’t want a high puff, we just want the crispy layers.

It was really rewarding to take the reverse puff pasty out of the oven- the even tan of the puff pasty, the consistent puff amongst all three of the puff pasty. Next we had to prepare crème diplomat which will be the layers in between the puff pasty. Crème diplomat is similar to crème patisserie; the difference lie in the use of the gelatine in the crème diplomat which will give it a more stable structure and holding the crème in place in between the puff pastry layers.

The elements of my gateau mille feuille were coming together beautifully in a manner that I would be very proud of. Even the assembling of the gateau went without a hitch. However, the fondant icing failed me.

Or technically speaking, I failed it.

Fondant is such a finicky creature. It is easy to dismiss fondant as a sickly sweet sugar mess. You can probably say that as a consumer but as a chef working with it, you are under its mercy. Work too slowly, and you will have it setting before you can say ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ (well, that’s the longest word I know..)

That was precisely the thing that happen to my fondant. I had to spread a layer of fondant in its original state over the cake before piping a round spiral of chocolate and neon pink over it before making a design by feathering it. Before I got to the feathering bit, the fondant decides to play some mind games with me.

The worse thing about pastry is that you can’t do much corrective action like in cuisine; to add more seasoning if the soup is bland. All I could do is to helplessly allow the fondant to set before me and accept the way that my gateau had turned out. It wasn't a pretty sight (both my gateau and I).

My three hours in the kitchen has been wasted. There’s no point in having a perfectly great tasting gateau when it doesn’t look good, not to the Chef at least.

Despite it all, he was being very encouraging towards me.

"We all have these moments. Don't be too hard on yourself. Even the best chefs take time and practice to get things right."

Which brings me to this question: what if this is my one chance, that one opportunity and I let it slip? I have a feeling that there wouldn't be that many chances and opportunities for me to waste.

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