Saturday, 3 December 2011
I'd say I'm roughly 50% calm and 50% nervous.
My hands are calm as they carefully tuck yet another batch of pastry into a tart tin or as they guide a piping bag around now-familiar lines. My brain is calm as I write and re-write quantities and methods, stashing them in my memory.
My eye is nervous, flickering from lack of sleep. My stomach is nervous, intermittently releasing a butterfly.
This week marks my first set of exams at Le Cordon Bleu.
On Tuesday I have my practical exam. There are three exam dishes - I will have to pick an unseen token when I enter the room, which will tell me which dish I make. The possibilities are: the tarte aux citron, the coffee eclairs, the raspberry genoise. Now I tend to think about them in terms of my fears: the shrinking tart case, the fondant topping, underfolding my genoise and finding flour pockets.
On Friday I have my technical exam. I haven't really started learning for it as it's only 10% of my overall mark (compared to 45% on the practical exam - the other 45% has been the continual assessment in my practicals). By Wednesday morning I'll be squirreling away sugar temperatures, fat contents and more recipes.
Whatever happens in my exams, I've learnt a lot this term. I hadn't realised how much I've changed until I went home last weekend and made a few things for mum. I've picked up a lot of good habits, tips and techniques. I've also got far too used to having a kitchen porter to do my washing up...
In the past few weeks we've made a few bavarian creams to fill charlottes and so on. I thought I would try out a slightly modernized version I found in Tartine. My presentation wouldn't work at school but I fancied a casual look.
It's a subtle, light dessert and would be perfect for after a heavy meal. It's creamy but not rich. There's only a touch of sweetness so it feels almost refreshing - the best word I can think of to describe it is pure.
Passionfruit Fromage Blanc Bavarian
(adapted from Tartine by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson)
50g pistachios, finely chopped
60ml cold water
50g granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
2 1/2 tsp powdered gelatine
30ml hot water
300g fromage blanc
375ml double cream
10ml lemon juice*
1 tbsp icing sugar (approx)
Line the sides of a 6" loose-bottomed tin with cling film (you could also use a wider tin, such as 7 or 8", and I would have used acetate to line if I had any so that it was totally smooth). Spread the pistachios in the bottom of the tin in an even layer.
Place 60ml of the water and the sugar into a small pan and heat until the sugar dissolves and you have a syrup. Pour into a round-bottomed bowl and leave to cool. Set a pan on the heat with a few inches of water that the bowl with the syrup will fit into without touching the water. Sprinkle the gelatine over 30ml of hot (not boiling) water to soften.
Add the egg yolks to the syrup and combine. Place over the pan and whisk until thick and foamy (the ribbon stage - if you take the whisk out, the drips should stay on the surface before merging again) - this takes about 5-10 minutes. Once ready, whisk in the dissolved gelatine. Set the bowl into an ice bath (or sink of cold water) to cool, whisking every now and again (you need to be fairly quick with the next two tasks and keep an eye on it).
In another bowl, combine the fromage blanc and 75ml of the cream, whisking until smooth. Whisk the remaining 300ml of cream up to soft peaks.
Once the yolk mixture is starting to set, combine 1/3 of the yolks into the smooth fromage blanc mixture to lighten it. Fold the rest of the yolks in carefully. Fold in the lemon. Finally gently fold the cream into the mixture in two goes. Transfer to the prepared tin. Smooth the top and cover with cling film. Place into the fridge. Chill for at least 4 hours - overnight is best.
When you're ready to serve, scoop the passionfruit seeds out into a small saucepan. Add the icing sugar and warm slightly to dissolve the sugar. Test to see if you need more sugar.
Take the bavarian out of the fridge and unwrap the cling film. Ease it out of the tin (or snap open the springform) and peel away the plastic. Slide off the bottom onto a serving plate. Top with the passionfruit glaze.
*If you would like a stronger citrus flavour, add the zest of half a lemon or 1/4 of an orange - I wanted mine simple.