I just completed the dreaded sugar lessons that all former Superior students complain about…it’s hot, exhausting and, as I will attest to later, very dangerous! These lessons also mark the end of my career as a student. It’s hard to believe it’s over…I only feel as though we just got here and now I have to grow up (again) and start thinking about what the next steps will be. Luckily, I have a stage in Paris to buy more time! Nothing like working my butt off for free just to avoid the job hunt…
I digress. Our sugar lessons were much like chocolate. We start simple and end with an elaborate structure featuring many techniques. While chocolate only lasted 3 lessons, we spent many hours in the kitchen focusing on poured, pulled and blown sugar. Since it’s such a time-consuming task, we had many ‘ateliers’, which were back-to-back practicals in the kitchen (amounting to 5 hours dedicated to the hot stuff).
Lesson #15 – poured sugar:
Simple and basic – we just created shapes, heated the sugar to a mere 155 degress Celcius and poured it into molds. Once set, we created our first showpiece. My colours were red and orange. Big mistake, it all just looked the same!
Lesson #16 – Pulled sugar (part 1):
This was our first atelier – we created our poured pieces first, then created the pulled sugar* and had our first attempt at making flowers and leaves.
*Pulled sugar is boiled to 165 degrees Celsius, then allowed to cool slightly before slowly folding the mass in on itself and eventually pulling it to incorporate air and created a satin look. If not pulled enough, the pieces will still be transparent – see above! Mistake #1.
Lesson #17 – Blown sugar and Pulled sugar (part 2):
Mistake #2 – if your sugar is too hot, it just won’t pull properly. Leaves and petals are too thick and sticky. Oops. It was a short lesson, hence the lack of showpiece. And I never did get any pieces blown myself…the sole sphere was created by the chef.
Lesson #18 – More practice:
Now that we had been shown all the techniques, we had another atelier to work on our final project showpiece. I was lucky enough to complete poured, blown and pulled (including the difficult ribbon) during the lengthly session. Chef had few comments (which is usually a good thing) but he didn’t like the colours – nor did I. One of the many tricky things was you had very little idea on what your final colour would be. You just add colouring during the cooking process and PRAY that it comes out alright. Sometimes it works, most times it doesn’t. Mistake #3: Chef does not like pink. Remember that one for the final!
Lesson 19 – Even more practice:
This was our last atelier before our final exam. It was the final chance to try colours and shapes before the most important showpiece. I wasn’t thrilled with my colours but chef thought they worked…and let’s face it, I wasn’t about to do what I really liked.
Mistake #4: Blow torches are hot, really hot. We use them to assemble the showpieces by quickly passing the flower or leaf in front of it just to slightly melt the end or tip to stick to the base. I tried this with my hand and not for just a fraction of a second but probably a few seconds when I smelled the burning rubber of my gloves. Luckily I had already assembled the majority of my piece and was fixing an item that didn’t really end up where it belonged.
Mistake #5: Chef doesn’t like a random rectangle in front of the flowers. Lesson learned – and would have never happened had I not tried to burn my gloves off.
Lesson #20 – The final exam:
All in all, I was happy with the final product. I wasn’t what I had in mind when we started sugar but as we went along, I realized what I was capable of doing in a 5 hour timeframe. I had hoped to create something striking and modern – that just wasn’t in the cards. Instead, I put together a showpiece that was clean and incorporated all techniques, even if I didn’t love the colours and layout. Oh well…it’s done!
And that’s if for Le Cordon Bleu. I start my stage in a few weeks…location to be announced soon. In the meantime, graduation is next week, we will have visitors join us, AK starts ‘school’ as she calls it and we are off to Copenhagen. It will be so nice to go on a little vacation before the gruelling work at the patisserie begins…