For the past several weeks we have been working on our first showpiece, which is made primarily out of pastillage and royal icing. We could make whatever we wanted on our plaque, but it had to have something that was fine piped on it, and everything had to be edible, though I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to eat it because it doesn’t taste good! I debated for a long time about what to put on my plaque. Originally I wanted to do an orchid or something that represents my time volunteering at the Smithsonian Gardens; however, I quickly learned that orchids are quite hard to make out of royal icing, so I settled on my other love… fashion! I cut out the Chanel logo from pastillage and painted it black. I also cut out a purse, which I decided to paint red. I had wanted to make a spiral piece out of marzipan for the chain strap; however, the marzipan would not attach easily to the pastillage, so I settled on fine piping the spiral. Finally, I added a few pearls, which I piped on to look like a necklace. I thought it turned out cute, considering décor and fine piping is not my strong suit!
We had our final written exam today for phase one, but this morning we worked on a cake called Savarin that is served with Savarin Syrup and a fruit salad. The cake itself is funny; it is similar to a brioche in the way it goes together and that it contains yeast; we proof the dough and bake it, and then we let the cake dry out in the oven. After it is completely dry, we start soaking it in a syrup, and the cake expands. As one student put it, it feels like a soggy donut! It was quite delicious, though it should have been considering all of the sugar that was in the syrup. We served it with a fruit salad. I think it is the first time I’ve had fruit at school… it was refreshing!
We also spent a chunk of time working with pulled sugar. Pulled sugar is sugar cooked to 320° that is poured onto a silicone rubber mat, where color can be added. The sugar is obviously extremely hot, so we work at first with tools in both hands to resist the urge to touch the sugar as we fold it over itself. Once it has cooled enough to handle, we work with gloves on to stretched and fold the sugar on itself repeatedly. This process incorporates air into the sugar, and gives it a bright sheen. The sugar can then be sculpted by hand into various shapes, made into ribbons, or blown. I was able to pull a few spirals today and one petal for a rose. You have to take lots of breaks because the sugar is so hot, and often you burn and blister your hands without even realizing it because you are wearing gloves. Chris and I watched a documentary over the weekend called Kings of Pastry that my friend Meghan recommended to us, which is about a competition that occurs every four years in France – sort of like the Olympics. All of the final contestants were working with sugar and pulling it for their showpieces, so it was interesting to me to actually get to work with it… they make it look so easy in the film. Anyway, it was a really good documentary if you have any interest in watching it, and it is on Netflix.