A lot of people don't really know what I do every day when I say that I'm studying to be a pastry chef. Well, it's a lot of practicing. We have tests, exams, and assessments just like other students, but a lot of our tests, exams, and assessments are practical ones, where not only the final product is evaluated, but our planning, working methods, hygiene, safety and even our logic is taken into account as well.
We do also have to take theory classes, and in the level that I'm currently in we've had to take food safety and hygiene, hospitality supervision, financial control systems, and food classification and purchasing (and probably a few that I can't think of at the mo as well!)
Back to the practical assessments though...
The unit that we're working on right now (that I'm still finishing because I'm behind!!) is desserts. So hot and cold desserts, either portioned and plated for service, or whole (as in gateaux, tortes, or cakes.) There's a project or assessment at the end of every unit and for the dessert unit we've got a practical assessment to do. Well, two, actually... We have to create four portions of a hot dessert in three hours, including garnishes, sauces, and all that jazz. And then we'll have another three hours to do the same but with a cold dessert. Three hours sounds like a lot of time -but it's never enough!
Since I came over to the UK I've fully embraced tea-drinking. In fact, I can't function without that cup first thing in the morning! I usually drink regular tea, but I was introduced to Chai tea a couple of years back, and ever since I've thought that the spicey flavour of the tea would work well with the sweetness of white chocolate. Chai, if you've never had it, is black tea, flavoured with cloves, ginger, sometimes black pepper, and all sorts of gingerbread-y flavours. When I first started drinking it I was told that you were meant to add condensed milk to it, and heaps of sugar, so I knew that it could handle the sweetness of the white chocolate and balance it.
I had my concept, but that was only two ingredients!
I spotted silicone demi-sphere moulds in the kitchen a few weeks ago, and I've had my eye on them ever since. They would be perfect to use seeing as they're pretty much foolproof (no worries about whether or not the dessert will come out of the mould, or if there are air pockets, as you can manipulate the outside of the mould) and the demi-sphere would give the dessert a nice clean, and modern shape, something which was stressed to us when we got the assessment brief. Ice cream was the first thing that came to mind when I thought of the mould, but three hours to make a custard, chill it, and then churn it? Even with an ice cream machine I didn't think that would be enough time to chill the ice cream enough to hold the shape of the mould for any length of time. Next up was a mousse... Perfect.
I still had to make four gateau's for the dessert unit, so I decided to try out my concept for the assessment as a gateau.
I used a chocolate genoise as a base. I wasn't planning on using a chocolate genoise specifically, but I had some extra layers kicking about, and I tend to be pretty lazy at times... I cut one sponge in half and soaked the first half with a chai infused syrup. Syrups help keep sponge moist, because there is such a thing as mousse on top of a very dry sponge, and it's not nice... I spread a dark chocolate ganache over the top of the sponge to isolate the sponge from the mousse so that I would still have the two distinct textures. The dark chocolate had another purpose as well -the bitterness of the dark chocolate would contrast the sweetness of the white chocolate and keep the gateau/dessert from becoming overly sweet. I centred the ganache-covered sponge inside of a ring mould (like a tall band of stainless steel) and poured half of my chai-infused white chocolate mousse on top. The mousse was a basic custard, or crème anglaise, mixed with melted chocolate, cooled and then folded into whipped cream. To make the mousse chai-flavoured though, I infused the milk from the custard, and instead of adding vanilla or another flavouring, I added a very intense chai-infused syrup. I put the second half of the genoise on top of the mousse, which was already beginning to set. I brushed chai syrup onto the sponge, and then coated it with another thin layer of dark chocolate ganache. I had kept the ganache relatively cool so that it wouldn't run, and I was able to pour the rest of my chai-white chocolate mousse on top. I put the whole thing in the freezer to set before coating. I either took the gateau out too soon, or the mousse was too delicate and the second layer of sponge too heavy though, because as the gateau sat out I could see the sides start to curve out. I coated the gateau in a white chocolate ganache made with chai-infused cream and put it back in the fridge to set before slicing into. And you can see I was impatient there as well, because the ganache has been pulled along where I've sliced instead of cutting neatly!
The taste of the gateau was very good overall, and the textures worked well together. For my personal taste, I'm considering adding a thin layer of orange jelly between the ganache and the mousse, or between the mousse and the top layer of sponge -just something to break up the chocolate-y-ness of it. I also might add orange in the form of a compote though, or another element on the plate, because I'll need to think of garnishes, and a sauce to go with the dessert.
So far, I'd say this looks promising!