Friday, July 30, 2010

French pastries day 2: Guimauves and madeleines

Day two of my French pastries course at the Bonnie Gordon school started quietly enough. We were to finish decorating the macarons we made the day before, and we were to bake the canel├ęs batter sitting in the fridge.

But in the middle of our demo on guimauves, I realized what I dismissed as a mere headache was quickly becoming a migraine, an ailment I had avoided since becoming pregnant and having my baby.

At lunchtime, I swallowed a couple of pills thanks to a classmate, had a decent meal, drank some strong espresso and pretty soon the edge of my migraine had worn off. Thank goodness.

Because making passion fruit, raspberry, and strawberry guimauves (French for marshmallows) is no laughing matter. You have to be vigilant every step of the process. But really, it's not has hard as you may think. Once again, I will not supply the recipe for reasons explained in the previous post, but will provide some insight so that you can make these at home (and you can, and you will, and you should). These are fluffy, light, aromatic, and reminded me more of a fruity Turkish delight than your Smores-variety marshmallow and bring you crashing down from your artificial sugar high.

Here are my top tips for making guimauves:
  • You may need to adjust your recipe based on the weather. It was so humid in our kitchen we used 125 grams of fruit puree rather than the 175 grams stipulated in the recipe printed out for us. Winter is the best time to make guimauves.
  • Your ingredients must be as natural, and clean, as possible. This extends even to the water, which should be filtered.
  • If making strawberry or cherry puree, sometimes the resulting colour is muted. Depending on your result, consider adding a drop of food colouring to bring out the natural colour.
  • Use potato starch with an equal amount of powdered sugar for the finished product. Corn starch will be too squeaky. You can find potato starch at health food stores.
We also made madeleines during Day 2. You may remember I have blogged about them before. But where mine were coconut and lemon-scented madeleines, we made the classic madeleines recipe.

What made this recipe special for me was that rather than use plain-old unsalted butter, we made beurre noisette so that we browned the butter to add flavour. Some pastry chefs may recommend you strain out the teeny brown bits, but our chef and teacher Charmaine Baan suggested leaving them in to add as much flavour as possible.

Indeed, these madeleines were delicious. Slightly crispy on the outside and light as air inside. I have to admit, though, that these were best eaten right out of the oven. By the next day, they were no better than the mass-produced ones you'll find at Starbucks counters.

We also made honey cashew caramels and spent the rest of the day decorating our macarons, with lustre dust, and packaging up all our goodies.

This was a tremendous experience and I'm glad I took the time to pursue one of my passions and add to my skill set. If I have one complaint, though, it is that we had to wash all our dishes.

While I understand that professional chefs may need to carry out mundane tasks such as these, after spending close to $600 on tuition, tools, parking, etc., I'd rather not be washing dishes because that's what I do at home all day long and this is somewhat of an escape from the daily humdrum duties. Particularly when my partner did all she could to avoid wetting her hands. Just sayin'.

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