I had my mid-term tutorial on Friday. That means that we’re already halfway through the Basic Patisserie module.
In some ways, I still can’t believe how quickly the term is progressing. I’m trying to hold on to each fleeting moment, making the best of this experience even as it passes me by. The last few weeks have been some of the best and most joyous of my life and although there have been lows along with the highs, that’s a natural part of life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
On orientation day, as a nervous new student, I never imagined that it would be possible for me to turn out the Tarte au Citron I made in week three, let alone make puff pastry from scratch in week four. (Thinking about how nervous and scared I was in our first practical session, it’s a wonder I made it through the first week at all. Getting used to a new school and a new kitchen is not as straightforward as it sounds…!) Our teaching chefs tell us that these things, various types of pastry and custards and meringues and cremes, are just the foundations of patisserie and of course they’re right, but it still amazes me the range of techniques and methods I’ve learned and put into practice in such a short time. It’s a whole world away from where I was as an amateur baker just five weeks ago. (Just think, I might never have made puff pastry if I hadn’t come to LCB; now it’s just another recipe/technique that I have to know.)
In other ways however, it does feel like the middle of the term. Although the last five weeks have flown, I have learned and done more than I thought possible in that time, to the extent that I don’t understand how it has only been just over a month since I started at LCB. At the same time, it feels like I’ve been studying there forever, in the best possible way; I’ve fallen into a semi-routine of spending my Wednesdays-Fridays in class, whether in technical lectures, demonstrations or practicals and it’s been nice to be busy again, doing something that I enjoy and that challenges me to be constantly improving.
Naturally, because I am a self-confessed perfectionist, my mid-term tutorial has only served to reinforce this challenge. While the feedback I got was basically positive – something which is reassuring in itself, as it was the first time we’d actually been given marks and comments on our work so far and I had no idea what to expect beforehand – I don’t want to become complacent, not that there’s much danger of that at the moment. If anything, the tutorial has spurred me on; I want to continue doing well, improving where I can, working to the best of my ability. It’s still early days and I have no idea what my potential is. I only know that I want to push myself and, as cliched as it sounds, be as good as I possibly can. (Because I love what I’m doing and because it means so much to me, I feel like it would be a disappointment both to myself and to the teaching chefs if I gave anything less than my best. Thursday’s practical was a prime example; we overran slightly and because we were rushing to finish things off at the end of the class, my work was not as good as it could have been, which frustrated me hugely because I knew that I could do better. Still, it’s something to learn from, which makes it a valuable experience in its own way, right?)
Anyway, enough about school; on an entirely unrelated note, here’s a birthday cake.
This is the cake that I made for my mum’s birthday back in November. It’s composed of a vanilla sponge flecked with chocolate shavings and sandwiched with chestnut cream and frosted with chestnut cream and chocolate ganache. Light cake, sweet and earthy chestnut and milky chocolate combine to create a very interesting cake indeed, not least in part due to the unique texture of chestnut puree. All in all though, it went down very well and is definitely a recipe to work on in the future!
(Basic sponge cake recipe taken from the book Best-Ever Cake Decorating by Angela Nilsen & Sarah Maxwell. Chestnut cream made by combining sweetened chestnut puree and chantilly cream. Basic chocolate ganache made by heating double cream and adding to an equal quantity of chocolate, stirring to melt chocolate and mix, then allowing to cool before using.)