Sunday, 14 February 2010

Week 5 & 6 at Tante Marie

Apologies for the lateness of this post but I was kept busy with preparing for my first practical exam at Tante Marie, which kept me from updating you on the last two weeks events.

Week 5 started with icing the dreaded Celebration Cake with cold fondant, a task that didn't go entirely smoothly but resulted in something which I am happy with knowing my skill level (-10) at these sorts of things.

Celebration Cake - covered in cold fondant

We also made up some Royal Icing and did a little piping practice, something which my perma-shaking hands are never going to cope with too well. Next step for the cake is to start decorating it... and that is where the real “fun” begins allegedly.

 My humble/feeble attempts at piping... this cake is not going to be pretty!

As if that wasn't enough piping, week 5 saw us make a Gâteau au chocolat... which... wait for it... had a delicate design of stars, shells and straight lines piped over and over again across the top :-(   Other dishes included Cabbage gratin, Filets de sole cubat, Warm honey and goats cheese salad, Poulet provençal, Turban d'Agen and a couple of others. The week also contained a couple of demos, a theory class, “The Meat Lecture and “The Herb Lecture”. I intend to post about the about the final two lectures mentioned in the easter break, so tune in then to see what these pics are all about....

A whole Lamb... minus innards.. head, fur... etc...

1/4 of a beef!  Hung for 5-6 weeks... get a load of that colouration!

Week 6 was a 4 day week what with half-term on Friday... yeah I said HALF-TERM mofos, Whoop Whooop! The week kicked off with a demo on Monday morning followed swiftly by some of our classes first practical test... the so called “Intermediate Exam” whereby one must cook a three course meal chosen by Tante Marie along with 8 bread rolls shaped into various...erm.... shapes!?!?! The exam is split over two days, a two hour session in the afternoon followed by a 9:30am start the following day, serving starters at 12:00, mains at 12:15 and deserts at 12:30.

On Monday and Tuesday I had to potwash for some of my fellow students doing their exam, before starting mine on Wednesday afternoon. My dishes comprised of Bread rolls, Kitchen garden soup, Garlic and herb crusted rack of lamb, Rosemary potatoes, Cabbage gratin, Carrots vichy and yes you guess it........ a god damn Gâteau au chocolat with all that damn piping!!!!

Anyway, all went OK... not brilliant by far. I was devastated with home my bread rolls came out, they had hardly proved even after nearly an hour over some hot water and when baked were covered in stretch marks and were pasty pale even though I had baked them for longer than required in a desperate attempt to get some colour on them... bloody old school gas ovens!

 From clockwise - Shite, Shite, Shite, Shite, Shite, Shite, Shite and finally...Shite

Of course the piping was not as bad as my first attempt in class the previous week, and although I was quite happy with it, I am fully aware that it would fall short of Mrs A's stringent criteria. The only other problem with the Gâteau was the fact it did not come out of the tine cleanly... again! Despite doing exactly as instructed and taking a solid 5mins to slowly and gently run a palette knife delicately around the edge of the sponge (as it again hadn't shrunk away from the sides as it is allegedly supposed to do, not that anyone else could achieve this... even when it was demo'ed to us!) a good chink was left welded to the oiled cake tin... very very annoyed!

Sooo... Lines not straight and gaps between shells and stars.. on the right side of the third line from the bottom you can see where my shakes really kicked in!!!

Saving graces were how well my lamb was cooked (in my humble opinion), the jus was under reduced as I was faced with the conundrum of serving well rested and hot meat with a under-reduced jus bang on time, or a great jus with cold and dry meat 5mins late. I went with the former option.
The veg dishes were good-ish... the potatoes stuck a little to the pan but were a massive improvement on the “mash with crispy bits” I served up in class when we first cooked them after they welded themselves to the pan. The Cabbage gratin was a revelation as I decided to actually weigh the cabbage I had shredded to ensure I had exactly what was required, beautiful.

The soup came out well... again a lot better than we had made in class mainly due to the fact we followed the recipe and only put 1litre of our carefully crafted veg stock into it... rather than what we did in class and just put ALL the stock... watering the final flavour down by a factor of a million. 
Over all I was happy ish, far from faultless and far from what I could achieve. I put myself under the kosh on the second day by remaking my bread rolls.... which I shouldn't have done as they came out even worse... I couldn't believe it! Here's a pic of what I thought was just an OK batch I made at home....

From bottom to top - Not bad, Not bad, Not bad, Not bad, Not bad, Shite, Shite and finally... Shite!

Compared to the two abominations I made in the exam this bread was amazing, despite the cottage loaf blowing its top, and the twist untwisting a little! If I had stayed with my original bread I would have had a nice 30mins to rectify some of the things that weren't great... alas coulda woulda shoulda dont get you very far.

You see, I don't see tests like this as an opportunity to show the teachers what I can do, but as a way of challenging myself to see what I can do. I know a lot of people wont either understand or agree with this, but that's the way it is for me. Yes I would like to get a great final mark for my time spent at Tante Marie, but I feel its more important for me to leave here with a greater idea of what I am, and what I am not capable of doing. I have a feeling that in the real world people are not going to be so interested in whether I got a Pass, Merit or Distinction on this course... but whether I can indeed knock out 500 canapés in the 4hrs before they are needed.

If from time to time you don't push yourself beyond your limits then how can you know where that limit is? And this is what I was thinking when I remade my bread. I didn't go down in flames, yet I didn't shower myself in glory. I guess we will just have to wait a few weeks for the budget lunch exam and see how far beyond my limits I go.....



  1. Soy un experto de pan del moutains español de Chrissywaddleetette. Pienso su último pan que hace el esfuerzo fue una gran mejora en la primera tentativa. Sería un honor de cortar pan como eso. Sigue así mi amigo.

  2. An expert of Chrissywaddleetette bread hey! You dont find many experts in that field nowadays mainly because the oven has to be so scortchio to get it right!


  3. The pic of the lamb takes me back to my young days on a sheep farm in Australia. We killed our own sheep for meat so I have plenty of experience of butchering sheep. Could never kill them though, that was my brother's job. But many people never get to see the lamb as a whole like this, brilliant that the course combines theory and practical.


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