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.

Sincerely,

Lisa

Resources:

  • 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.
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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 (http://www.whotelaustin.com/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 (http://www.traceaustin.com/meettheteam/). in the W Austin hotel (http://www.traceaustin.com/location/). 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 (http://www.traceaustin.com/meettheteam/), who also creates the wedding cakes coming from TRACE (http://www.whotelaustin.com/wedding-cakes).

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!

Sincerely,

              Lisa

References:

Location. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2016, from http://www.traceaustin.com/location/

Meet Our Team. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11 – 13, 2016, from http://www.traceaustin.com/meettheteam/

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

Wedding Cakes. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2016, from http://www.whotelaustin.com/wedding-cakes