Finishing Up is Such Sweet Sorrow . . . or Is It?

Hello again, everybody!

As my time in the Advanced Pastry course dwindles down, there was just some finishing touches that needed to be completed for this semester. From sugar work to chocolate work, I finally had to combine all of my knowledge learned over the semester into one showpiece. This showpiece happened to be the final lab project for the semester. For our final lab project, I had to create a showpiece that required the use of three items – pastillage, some form of cooked sugar, and some form of chocolate (either modeling or tempered chocolate could be used). I had to design a showpiece including all of these items and have it contain an abstract element as well. Along with a showpiece, I had to demonstrate making bonbons to show that I could do it correctly (this mainly demonstrated the chocolate tempering process).

The designing process was quite difficult. At first, I had the idea of doing a butterfly snow globe, which would have left out any time to demonstrate the ability to make bonbons (that was also part of the lab final). I then went to a candy shop window, but that idea would prove to be too time-intensive for what I would have wanted to do. That’s when I found out before the lab final that I had to have an abstract component for my showpiece.

There was just one problem: I am very literal, so trying to think more figuratively is not my forte. After some much needed help, I finally came up with some sort of tree with modeling chocolate roses, spun sugar grass, a pastillage tree and base, and tempered butterflies for the final showpiece:IMG_1068

(Sketch of Final Showpiece)

I made a cutout for the tree from card stock, which I cut two trees from pastillage. I also cut out some bases from the pastille with a cookie cutter, which I then used 2(+) piping tips to cut holes into the base (I did the same with the trees). I also made some spirals from the pastillage, which I airbrushed green. I also made dark modeling chocolate for the roses, which I let sit overnight, and then attempted to make tempered chocolate butterflies (the attempts were not successful and were eventually removed from the overall piece).  Instead of making the spun sugar grass, I made green cast sugar to fill the holes of both bases with. Finally, I made a little cast sugar piece to attach to the actual tree:Final showpiece

(Final Showpiece)

The first day of making the piece was not too bad, as I managed to get most of my components done. However, the second day proved to be problematic. I began to run out of time, so I had to nix some items that I wanted to include in my showpiece, such as the tempered chocolate butterflies. Also, when trying to attach one of my trees to one of the bases, it broke when I tried to do something else while holding it up at the same time. Not only this, but filling the holes with the sugar did not come out as cleanly as I wanted it to. However, with some help and quick thinking, I managed to make the showpiece shown above.

This class, overall, was one of the more interesting ones. It was more scientifically based than any of the other courses I ever had at SNHU. I learned a lot about chocolate: how to temper it, what makes a good brand of chocolate, how to make modeling chocolate, and also how to make anything out of modeling chocolate. I learned how to cook and create any kind of sugar creation as well. I also learned about molecular gastronomy – while it was not my favorite unit, the concept of keeping the flavors pure through science was cool. I also learned to make fudge during the semester.

Will I miss this course? Yes, I will – it is not everyday where I get to make anything chocolate-related or cook rock sugar or anything like what I have done this semester. With that being said, I am very happy with what I have done and I am thankful for being able to learn and do what I have done this semester.

I want to thank you all sincerely for staying with me throughout this entire semester and for reading this. I hope you all have enjoyed this read as I did this class. 

Chances are, however, that you may see me again, either cooking or baking. What will I be doing? We will have to see.




  • Final Showpiece [Personal photograph taken in SNHU]. (2016, April 13).
  • Sketch of Final Showpiece [Personal photograph taken in Home]. (2016, April 25).
Sketch was a collaborative effort.

Sweet Showpieces

Hello again, friends!

Sugar seem to be the basis of awe. From creating a delicious but not-so-good-looking dessert to creating showpieces from sugar-based confections, life has literally become sweet for us. However, aside from satisfying our current indulgences, sweets and sugar-based items have even become accessories for any baking spectacle like wedding cakes ( and competition showpieces. Some of these accessories are made out of pastillage, like this one below.Pastillage first attempt.

So what is pastillage?

Pastillage (Pahs – tee – ahj) is a powdered sugar and gelatin mixture that is similar to gum paste (a paste normally used to make flowers for decorated cakes), but is rolled out thicker and is sturdier than gum paste. Pure white in color and like fondant in texture when freshly made, its ability to hold its shape equates to its ability to stand on its own (literally).

If you ever wish to work with pastillage, make sure to have your templates cut outs or desired cookie cutters ready before you even make the pastillage. Also, if your showpiece has any other elements to it, it is best to complete the pastille pieces first because they take at least 24 hours to dry completely. However, it starts to crust and dry out much quicker than gum paste, so much so that you have to make and cut out your desired pastillage shapes within an hour. Also, pastillage is very brittle when it is completely dry (and even while it’s drying), so extra care has to be taken when carrying a showpiece based off of pastillage and when assembling pastillage. (Another note – please don’t eat anything made out of pastillage. It’s edible, but trying to bite into rock-hard pastille may just break a tooth).

While not unknown in the pastry world, only some hotels and restaurants showcase the pastry chef’s talent in pastillage-based showpieces. One of them is TRACE Austin restaurant in Austin, Texas ( in the W Austin hotel ( The restaurant has a very experienced pastry chef on their team, Angel Begaye, who mainly is experienced in decorative pastry work like wedding cakes and showpieces, although she has also done other things like making ice cream for restuarants (, who also creates the wedding cakes coming from TRACE (

Aside from showpieces, sugar can be used to make confections (candies), such as maple fudge and peppermint patties. What happens with these confections is that a sugar mixture is boiled on the stove to a certain temperature and then the mixture is poured onto a marble slab or Silpat with a greased frame on top, left to cool to a lower temperature, and then agitated (scraped back and forth onto itself) until it has solidified somewhat, spread into a frame, and left to harden fully. Some of them can be a little granular in texture because they are crystallized confections (some solid sugar crystals have been reintroduced into a fluid form of a melted sugar mixture while it is cooling and the mixture turns semi-granular again during agitation).

These can enhance a bakery or restaurant by showing the amount of skill of the kitchen crew has in order to make the confections. This is more shown within city-based areas, where people can afford to buy more specialty items (Unique Sweets). One example is Van Otis Chocolates, which specializes in chocolate confections.

Thank you again for sticking with me throughout this experience. I hop you enjoyed reading this.

See you again soon!




Location. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2016, from

Meet Our Team. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11 – 13, 2016, from

Unique Sweets [Television series]. (n.d.). Cooking Channel.

Wedding Cakes. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2016, from

Sugar Galore!

Hello again, friends!

In a world full of sweets and other delectables, sweet foods have become one of the biggest pick-me-ups and cravings we have today. While a lot of sugary treats take shape in the form of candies, we often forget that sugar is not just meant to be eaten. In the pastry world, sugar is like a pastry chef’s clay – there are many forms pastry chefs can shape sugar into, whether it’s pulled sugar, blown sugar, cast/poured sugar, spun sugar, or rock sugar (all of these were used in the showpiece, below).

Fish Showpiece

Cast or poured sugar is cooked and poured into molds to achieve any desired shape used for the base of a showpiece, like the the green circle base at the bottom of the showpiece (above) and the red coral used to decorate the base. Rock sugar is used to make edible rocks due to its bubbling affect as it cools over crumpled-up foil to give the mass a textured look, similar to rocks. As for pulled or blown sugar, once the sugar mixture is cooked, it is poured onto a Silpat on the counter and left to cool shortly before it is kneaded onto itself. Spun sugar is when sugar is cooked and then a spun sugar tool (a tool made up of a base with nails and attached to a handle), is dipped into the sugar and then the tool with the sugar is whipped over two dowels for the cooled sugar to hang on. This is used to make decorative bird’s nests and for other decorative purposes, such as for cakes.

One of the products from the sugar mixture, the pulled sugar, is formed by literally pulling, cutting, and forming the sugar into a specific shape. The pulled sugar can be made more opaque and shinier by repeatedly folding and pulling the sugar mass (using multiple layers of gloves, as the mixture is extremely hot) until the desired opaqueness is reached. The other product, blown sugar, is made just after kneading by creating an open pocket over a pump and then pumping air into the sugar pocket until the desired size is reached, closing up the gap between the sugar and the pump, cutting the sugar off the pump and then heating up the loose ends to close off the gap.

There is a substitute for sugar when creating showpieces – this is called isomalt, primarily used for decorative purposes and gluing sugar pieces to the base when all of the elements are made and ready to assemble. While it is edible, isomalt is only mildly sweet compared to regular sugar and it is not used in baking like regular sugar is, so isomalt is only used for garnishes and decorative elements of a dessert. Isomalt can cook to a higher temperature without caramelizing and must be stirred while cooking to dissolve, unlike regular sugar (which caramelizes at a lower temperature and must not be stirred while it is cooking). Isomalt granules are also larger in size than granulated sugar granules.

The first time I worked with sugar was in lab, about three weeks ago, and I found it fairly easy to cook and mold the sugar. We also made spun sugar on the first day, which I loved. However, making pulled sugar and blown sugar is much trickier as it sets up so quickly. If I let the sugar sit too long it rapidly became unusable. With all of this being said, I was able to make the fish showpiece above, which is one of my favorite pieces so far.

Thank you all so much for staying with me throughout this journey I am on and I hope you enjoyed reading this post.

See you soon!



Modern Times, Modern Desserts

Hello again, friends!

In today’s food scene, so much more has been channelled into the food that we make, such as how we represent our family memories through holiday dishes or even if we just feel like being creative. From sticking to Grandma’s original recipe to updating a regional classic, food truly represents what we feel at the moment and how we feel during and after it’s being made. No matter the circumstances, food has become a huge form of art for some establishments, such as El Celler de Can Roca (, pg. 1) in Girona, Spain (Google, pg. 1).

El Celler de Can Roca is owned by the three Roca brothers (Joan, Josep, and Jordi), with Joan as the chef (, pg. 1) and Jordi Roca as the pastry chef (, pg.1). El Celler de Can Roca focuses on being original with their dishes while keeping with the original concept of why their ancestors fed others (, pg. 1). With items such as Iberian Suckling Pig with Pepper Sauce and Garlic and Quince Terrine and Dublin Bay Prawns with Curry Smoke (pg. 1), modernist cuisine* runs through the veins of this restaurant. The menu changes according to the discovery of a new cooking technique or any other sort of inspiration, whether it’s a specific cuisine or an old memory (pg. 1). Over the course of 14 years (1995-2009), the restaurant has been awarded 3 Michelin stars (pg.1).


(The Lactic Dessert at El Celler de Can Roca)

One of the famous desserts at El Celler de Can Roca is what they call “Lactic Dessert” ( and, pg. 1). A heavily dairy-based dessert, it comprises of “ ‘curd foam, sheep milk ricotta ice cream, sheep milk custard, guava and cotton candy’ ” (, pg. 1). It is not only sold at the restaurant, but a variant of it using guava marmalade instead of slices is now a best-seller at Rocambolsesc, the restaurant’s partner ice-cream shop (pg. 1).

In the last Advanced Pastry lab I was in, we made chocolate mousse using only boiling water and dark chocolate to enhance the flavor of the chocolate instead of using primarily dairy and egg items for the base and whipped the water and chocolate by hand to aerate the mixture (which did not take very long). This was unique – the focus was on the flavor of the chocolate used, not the chocolate combined with sugar and dairy. Also, it defied the way mousse is traditionally made, showing that there may be no need for the longer process of whipping cream and egg whites to fold into the mousse for the light and airy texture of the mousse to be achieved.

I  was in a group that made a dessert with mint and chocolate elements to it, one of them being a modern version of the tuile cookie. This is completely different from a regular tuile cookie in which while normal tuiles would rely on egg whites and flour for structure, this tuile batter is cooked and uses slow-set pectin and a lot of sugar to create the structure of the cookie. Also, while traditional tuiles are used quickly to form a shape when warm, you leave this cookie to cool after baking and then break it into pieces to serve as a crunch factor for the dessert, since there was also a sorbet within the dessert.

Food has truly evolved, from its humble beginnings as a necessity to survive to becoming more of an event to the point where restaurants prepare dishes that involve the somewhat psychological way we eat food. Aside from visual presentation in which we “eat with our eyes first”, food has now come to play with our taste buds as well. From the textures to the tastes and even to the temperatures of each component, it is truly an art form in which there are (almost) endless possibilities.

Thank you all so much for staying with me. I hope you enjoyed this read.

See you later!




“ricard67.” Ricard67’s review of El Celler de Can Roca. (2009, May 24). Retrieved March   07, 2016, from

Dessert by Jordi Roca on Trencadís [Photograph found in Art in a dish, El Celler de Can Roca]. (2012, August 09). Retrieved March 07, 2016, from

 – Pordamsa is the blog name.

El celler de can roca_cuina. (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2016, from

El celler de can roca_index_a. (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2016, from

  • Can Sunyer may be the author of this website (author unknown).

Girona – Google Search. (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2016, from

Modernist Cuisine in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. (2013, May 01). Retrieved March 07, 2016, from

Smith, O. (2015, April 09). One-year wait: Eating at the ‘best restaurant on the planet’ Retrieved March 07, 2016, from

Just a Little More Chocolate

Hello again, friends!

As this blog has slowly but surely progressed, we have discovered that chocolate truly has many fascinating uses and interesting characteristics, from each chocolate bar’s flavor profile, to how we can manipulate it into a shape we need for just about anything, like this little guy . . .

IMG_0654 (1)

(Hey there! Remember me from last time?)

Allow me to formally introduce Purdue, my dear owl-shaped showpiece and, in fact, my very first showpiece. He was made with modeling chocolate and decked out with a bow tie, a top hat, and white chocolate eyes and beak. He sits on top of a tempered chocolate half-egg shell, accompanied with branches and roses as well (he is, of course, an elegant owl). Like all other owls, he likes to sit amongst his favorite branches and observe his surroundings.

Following his creation, I now look back and believe, all in all, I had tried my best with creating Purdue and his habitat. I feel that the roses were fairly well-done and that the branches I made for Purdue to sit around fit in with the theme of a natural habitat. That being said, I wish that I had not only added more details to the branches, but also polished Purdue so that there were not any smudge spots on him. I also wish I had placed pupils on his eyes. Again, however, it is my very first showpiece, and I’m sure it will not be my last time to practice making such things.

Now that we have discussed how we can use chocolate for anything besides eating, we can briefly focus our attention on one of the many brands of eating chocolate –  in this case, Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate. Founded in the early 1990s, this company was started by a husband-wife team (made up of Craig Sams and Josephine Fairley), who tasted a sample of chocolate made from organic cocoa beans (this sample was sent to Sams, who was the founder of Whole Earth, an organic foods company) (, About Us, Our Story p. 1). Afterwards, they went to Belize, bought cocoa beans from some Mayan farmers and started to make their chocolate from these Trinitario cocoa beans (, About Us, Our Story p. 2). The company has grown ever since, featuring chocolate bars from straightforward 70% dark chocolate to their first award-winning chocolate, the Mayan Gold bar (, About Us, Our Story p. 3).

Wish to know more? Here are some facts to start you off:

  • Green & Black’s was sold to Cadbury in 2005, creating a lot of negative press involving the companies and also Kraft Foods (Milmo, p. 1).
  • Green & Black’s was named the “coolest food brand” by a company called CoolBrands in 2011 (, About Us, Our Story p. 4).
  • The Mayan Gold chocolate bar was the first FairTrade chocolate bar to be sold in Britain (Smithers, p. 1)
  • The company claimed to be planning to convert all of their products into FairTrade products (Smithers, p. 1)
  • Green & Black’s also sells beverages (Smithers, p. 1)
  • The chocolate produced from this company contains no GMOs (genetically modified organisms) (“James”, p. 1).
  • The company is, at least, fairly popular in the UK (Media, p. 1).
  • Throughout its lifetime, the company has partnered/worked with several others such as Pret a Manger and airway businesses (Burkitt, p. 1).
  • With these partnerships, the company has increased their product lines from just chocolate bars to miniature bars and ice cream (Burkitt, p. 1).
  • Green & Black’s 70% chocolate bar rivaled Lindt’s bestselling product in between 2003 and 2005 (Burkitt, p. 1).

With all of this said, there is a vast world of chocolate to be explored (and tasted, of course). There is always much to learn from chocolate companies and how they feel about their products. This is a perfect excuse for eating different chocolates – after all, beans are good for you, right?

green-and-blacks-organic-chocolateThank you all for reading this – I hope you have enjoyed it and I hope to see you next time.

See you later!




About Us | Green & Black’s. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2016, from

APA Citation Style, 6th edition: APA. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2016, from

– Subject Guide is Gisela Butera

Burkitt, H. (2012, July 5). Green & Black’s take a niche into big league | Marketing Articles, Market Leader 2007. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from

Dark Chocolate: The Best and Worst Brands. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2016, from

  • Author goes by “James”

Marketing Green & Black’s: Organic plus luxury adds up to the taste of success. (2006, April 16). Retrieved February 22, 2016, from

Milmo, C. (2011, January 17). Cadbury deal turns sour for Green & Black’s. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from

Smithers, R. (2010, January 27). Green and Black’s to go 100% Fairtrade. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from

[Untitled online photograph of Green & Black’s chocolate bars. Retrieved February 22, 2016 from


The Many Uses of Chocolate

Chocolate seems to be in (and on) everything we eat these days. While some of its current uses may not sit well with some people, a few of chocolate’s purposes, such as covering confections when it is tempered, are quintessential to today’s dessert/food scene.

Tempering chocolate can be a tricky task. Trying to get that clean “snap” of broken, shiny chocolate makes most baking students cringe.

While we desire to attain such qualities for confections like candy bars, it may seem like a lot of effort for what seems to be only an exterior quality of the food item. However, if you see the end result, it is truly worth it.

With all of this said, is tempering chocolate really necessary?

Well . . . yes. 

Allow me to explain.

The whole point of tempering chocolate is mostly scientific – within any kind of couverture chocolate (what you should use for tempering), there are several kinds of cocoa butter crystals that “build” chocolate’s structure after it solidifies (The Cooking Geek 1). Most of them (Forms I, II, III, and VI) are unstable, resulting in chocolate that melts too easily when held for a few seconds (the least unstable crystal, Form VI, melts at temperatures up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, lower than the temperature of an average human) (1). The goal of tempering chocolate is to get the first stable cocoa butter crystal (Form V) after finishing the tempering process (The Cooking Geek 1; Corriher 1). Obtaining these crystals means you now have the “snap” when you break the chocolate and it will not melt as easily when you hold it at room temperature (you have then obtained Form VI cocoa butter crystals, the most stables crystals in chocolate) (The Cooking Geek 1).

Now that we know why chocolate is tempered, how exactly do we temper this modern-day version of liquid gold?

Well, there are two different methods to temper it, but for this post I’ll show you how to do this via the seeding method. This method is very easy and less taxing than tabling chocolate (when you scrape chocolate onto itself on top of a marble slab to cool it down).

To temper chocolate by seeding . . .

  1. Set up a double boiler on top of the stove (make sure the water is simmering, not boiling). Chop 1 lb. of couverture chocolate into chunks; reserve 5 ounces for later use.
  2. Place the other 11 ounces into the bowl used for the double boiler. Melt the chocolate, stirring with a rubber spatula, until it reads 122 – 131 degrees Fahrenheit on a digital thermometer if using dark chocolate (113 – 122 degrees Fahrenheit for milk and white chocolates).
  3. When this range has been reached, immediately take the bowl of chocolate off the heat and bring it back to the counter (take care not to burn yourself or get water into the chocolate – the chocolate will bunch up and become unusable if there is water in there).
  4. While stirring, gradually add up to the full 5 ounces of leftover chopped chocolate into the bowl and cool the mixture to 80 – 84 degrees Fahrenheit for dark chocolate (78 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit for milk and white chocolate). Make sure to melt all of the chocolate you added before you add any more. Also, if you reached the temperature range before all of the chocolate has fully melted, just remove the unmelted pieces and set aside.
  5. After this, place the bowl of chocolate back onto the double boiler and reheat it while stirring to 86 – 89 degrees Fahrenheit for dark chocolate (84 – 86 degrees Fahrenheit for milk and white chocolate).
  6. Once the temperature range has been reached, take the bowl off the heat and test to see if the chocolate is properly tempered. To test it, spread a little of the chocolate onto the back of an offset spatula and let it sit on a flat surface at room temperature until it has set (about 5 minutes) (Corriher 1). If tempered correctly, the chocolate should shine. Then, bend the offset spatula to see if the chocolate breaks evenly and hear if the chocolate snaps. If nothing happens, temper the leftover chocolate again with 5 more ounces of chopped chocolate.

Now that you have successfully tempered chocolate, you can use it for any confections that sit out at room temperature, like truffles and chocolate-covered nuts. With tempered chocolate, your treats will now be as good to look at as they are to eat.

Another use for chocolate is to make modeling chocolate. This is a mixture of heated corn syrup and melted chocolate kneaded into a mass and left to set. It is then used like fondant for showpieces and cake decorating, from shaping flowers to forming figures (however, do not use it to cover a cake) (Craftsy 1).


I made both of these in lab. The tempered chocolate was used in knackerlis (chocolate discs with nuts):

IMG_0655 (1)

And modeling chocolate for my first showpiece, an owl:


IMG_0654 (1)

For some more examples of modeling chocolate uses, check out these links:


I hope, dear readers, that you have enjoyed reading this and, hopefully, see the potential in chocolate.

Thank you all for sticking with me! See you again soon!




All cited information:

Corriher, S. (n.d.). Food Science: Why Temper Chocolate? Retrieved February 08, 2016, from

– Comes from the 31st Issue of Fine Cooking


M. (2013, October 11). Sculpting Jungle Animals Out of Modeling Chocolate | Sweet Dreams Cake App – IPhone, IPad, IPod Cake Decorating App. Retrieved February 08, 2016, from

Modelling Chocolate Roses. (n.d.). Retrieved February 08, 2016, from

-cluracon created this post

Tempering Chocolate. (2012). Retrieved February 08, 2016, from   

W. (2014, March 05). Conquer Cake Decorating Fears: How to Use Modeling Chocolate. Retrieved February 08, 2016, from


About the Author


I’m Lisa Beretta, a sophomore studying Culinary Management at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). While I am still learning about the big wide world of the baking and pastry arts (and some culinary arts as well), this originally home-based adventure became an educational dream come true. In my last two years of high school, I attended a culinary and baking program at Manchester School of Technology and am so happy that I am able to further my passion through college.

Along with baking cakes and making candies, the scientific side of baking and culinary arts is also one of my interests (Harold McGee is one of my favorite authors). I enjoy cooking at home and being creative with any recipe that has been given to me, whether it’s tweaking a recipe for caramel candies and adding my own personal touch to it, or creating a whole new recipe from scratch.

While I love to bake and cook, a few other joys of mine include video games, playing Scrabble, and visiting Barnes and Noble. I love animals, especially cats. We have a Siberian cat named Vanya, and he is gorgeous!

Well, I hope that you will join me as I learn all the new things about what makes a true pastry chef and, more importantly, that you have fun with this experience.

Cook, bake, create, eat!

Sincerely, Lisa