It’s been two fascinating weeks, but unscheduled activities sort of pulled my attention away. No harm though. I had a brilliant champagne tasting, followed by a fabulous champagne and food pairing. That’s all scheduled to be posted for later though [ulterior motives].
The Nestle Professionals challenge was to take place, and thank heavens that I received Nestles coconut milk powder as my ingredient. The latter was to use Indian gravy mixes that weren’t totally up my sleeve. I wanted to cook something fascinating, coconut milk was suitable to proceed. One week, and I got the bakery to myself. Quite wonderful as life would have me kept away from the bakery at all costs. So a week I spent testing whether a coconut fondant would be possible. I have to pay credit to the awfully good Frenchman, Chef Raymond Blanc. His TV shows, ‘Kitchen Mysteries’ and ‘The Very Hungry Frenchman’ are amongst my favourites. Couldn’t shut up about him in my first year, and very well ended up doing a presentation on him. Tweaked his recipe for a chocolate fondant quite a bit and voila! It was marvellous. [Baked another for the T-rex who missed it as he was needed elsewhere]
Well I tested various delights that were just flaky thoughts at one point, and I learnt quite fondly that nothing is really too complex. Well except for macarons, which I happen to be doing another project on. Utter disaster they turned out to be. Though I did make them half heartedly, thinking about the various other delights I’d be able to cook up for the challenge on Saturday. People still ate them, and recommended them, complete bonkers! The thought I had on serving the fondant inside a chocolate cup wasn’t really thought out as well, common sense evaded me. The cup melted with the hot fondant, but what’s there to not like about chocolate. Got a few friends to function as garbage disposals. What? They didn’t mind it, they hardly knew it was a dish gone bad.
I did lecture quite a few people, especially one person, for the lack of competition they were giving me. He made tarts, one product in the 8-9 hours we spent in the bakery. I’d have loved it if the tarts blew me away, but I’d prefer the lemon curd tarts that are sold in the tuck shop which I usually pass over the option of eating. As silly as I know some of my compulsions to be, I’d rather have a challenge than none at all. I always aim to win, but easy wins aren’t as fun as a challenging win. Well as far as new year went by, I gave up on people on a whole. I just had to remind myself to stop expecting anything from anyone.
Silicon moulds are fantastic. I decided to temper some chocolate and make some chocolate cups by coating some silicon cup cake moulds. Obviously some edges didn’t come out smooth, but common sense told me in a sweet adorable voice to just use a hot plate just as Raymond Blanc does. The bakery wasn’t equipped with a hot plate, improvisation called for heating the base of a bowl. Placed the chocolate cups upside down and kept turning them gently till the rim was all levelled and smooth. They looked so dainty. Decided to fill them with a bit of (chilled, obviously) coconut custard, with a few bits of tarty fruits in there. It was a best-seller, and a few bubbles of joy erupted in my head as I saw people widen their eyes and smile. It’s ecstatic to create an experience with food.
I have to thank the pastry chef who taught me in my first year, and well is also currently teaching me as he reminded me to not load the plate with blueberry compote. Well he pointed it out quite bluntly as to whether the blueberry compote was the main component of the dish, to which I just blamed the huge ladle that was provided in an evasive manner. Chocolate, Coconut and blueberry go quite wonderfully together.
With all guns ready, the day arrived. I was sitting outside the bakery way too early, going over how I’d plate the dessert. A few friends did come by and one wrote an adorable ‘Good Luck’ note which I am going to preserve quite well for years to come. As the timer started, I flustered about as the key component to the coconut fondant, ‘The ring mould’ was missing. Thoughts went through my head as to whether this was someone’s way to sabotage me, it was a competition after all. However I also remembered a time where I lost my phone only a few months after getting it and I really had thoughts that implied that someone stole it. I still searched trying to look for some hope in people to not steal phones, and well I found it. Decided to just improvise and use a deep cup mould. It worked quite well except that the top seemed to stick and upon de-moulding, had a mound of gooey caramel ooze out the broken top. Decided to use some butter paper at the base and it worked quite well. I found a hemisphere mould used for chocolates to make globes by joining two hemispheres, decided to cook some sweetened mango pulp with the coconut cream and gelatin amongst other ingredients and set it in the mould. A few seconds in some warm water and the gel glided out of the mould beautifully. Tasted a bit, surprised myself. Took a testing needle, dipped it in some food colouring and swiped it across the top of the gel to give a contrast in colours. Visualized my plate to have a bit of purple, shades of yellow and brown, along with the white base.
The final plate consisted of a brush of blueberry compote, which sounds quite pompous but a brush stroke did carry a lot of flavour. Placed my coconut fondant, which I topped with some coconut meringue. Blow torched the meringue. Placed the hemisphere of mango coconut gel right next to the fondant, a reason being that I sort of smudged the meringue a bit. The gel covered it quite nicely, no harm to those who didn’t know right? Placed my three custard cups, one with strawberries, one with mint leaves and one with pineapple topped with lime zest. The plate looked better than expected. Did see it catch a few glances before I stepped into the room before the judges table. Decided to go first since I was the only person prepared. Didn’t mind going first as I usually kick start most events. Even if I do pick number 2, no one tends to pick up number 1.
The plate worked it’s wonders, absolute eye candy. A bit taken aback when I was asked to serve a bit to every judge, couldn’t stop my hands from shaking, though I passed it off as excitement. Sold the dish which I named ‘Cocobear’. Thought of naming it ‘Coco’ like you’d have ‘Coco Chanel’, which I scrapped off immediately as most people would confuse it with ‘Cocoa’ and coconut was to be the star ingredient. It was a silly process which also involved a dear pal of mine who was just as perplexed for naming his dish which consisted of four Indian desserts made with coconut milk. I passed off the name as the result of working on that darn assignment on ‘Alaska’ and the dish resembling the ‘Baked Alaska’ even though it had no ice-cream, and when I thought of Alaska, I’d think Bears. It still makes no utter sense but it suited the dish. So I guess it was the dish calling out to me. Too loony?
Gave off the back up fondants to those few friends still about, disposals I tell you. I did want to save one for the T-Rex, his view is confoundedly quite important to me as his view on most topics. Though he missed it, I shall bake one in the future for him. Compulsions are quite the nuisance when you don’t understand them. So there I was waiting with my roomies till it was time for the award ceremony. Short speeches and acknowledgements proceeded and then it finally came down to giving off the awards. I was quite glad for the few that won bronze, silver and consolidation awards. I didn’t want my name called for any of them, though it was a bit risky as the only award left was the gold. I like being sure and certain of things, and everything and everyone in the auditorium seemed to tell me that I was going to get gold.
After all that champagne, which I consider my Felix Felicis, the previous week, I guess the effects didn’t wear out. I got gold, first place. I did have glassy eyes, and was trembling like someone put an ice cube on my neck. I appreciated the weight of the trophy, reminding myself that it is real. Bumped fists with everyone and we all posed for pics as would after any ceremony. I was happy that almost everyone put out really good dishes and some a few exciting ones. One guy put forward a dessert made from a curry mix. Quite fascinating, though was quite irritated with the few that critiqued it harshly, especially after not even having tasted it. He happened to have won gold for his curry mix as well. The limelight is quite bothersome having to thank everyone who congratulates me. Guys keep saying it’s the perfect time to ask someone out, I’m not. A wait till I start earning, unnecessary issues. However yet to meet someone who’s virtually ‘melt in your shoes haw’. That’s a tale for another day.
I was happy with what I put out, it’s what I expect from myself, simple brilliance. Now to sort out the unnecessary hurdles that come along the way. Goodnight.
Things on my wishlist: Silicon cupcake moulds and Ring moulds which are easy to work with for de-moulding, especially for mousse’s and other set desserts.