DEMO: Intro to Pastillage
Posted 19 June 2005 - 08:16 PM
Wendy asked me to do a demo on pastillage - so I thought I might as well get started since it has been a couple of weeks. I plan to do this in several installments - so please be patient.
I would not really consider myself a great expert on pastillage --when Steve and I competed nationally he usually did the pastillage ahead of time and I concentrated on the pulled and blown sugar--but these days I do use it quite often and usually have some dough on hand in the freezer - it is a great go-to tool in pastry decor as long as you have a day or two for it to dry. Anyway, as a way to give a little back to the forum I'll share some of my experiences with pastillage over the next few days and talk about what pastillage is, how to design and prepare for a pastillage piece, how to make, use and assemble with pastillage, and then pack in order to move pastillage from place to place. There's real skill in deciding what you can do ahead, what has to be done on-site, and how to get it there safely.
I welcome questions and will have some pastillage handy, so if you have any burning questions about pastillage - please ask.
So, let's get started - shall we?
What is pastillage?
I thought I would start out by explaining exactly what pastillage is – and after checking around on the web – it appears that there is more diversity in what people think of as pastillage than I had realized. Here are a couple of definitions of pastillage that I found on the web:
“A paste mixture used for making molded decorations. Works especially well on flowers and leaves used to decorate wedding cakes.”
(I believe that this is actually referring to what I think of as gumpaste – which is more elastic, used in very very thin sheets, and makes excellent flowers)
From Baking 911: “Pastillage is rolled Fondant without any of the softening ingredients (glycerin corn starch or shortening). It is used mainly for decorative ribbons, three dimensional shapes and appliqués because it dries bone-dry and crusts more quickly than Fondant.”
From chefsimon (original in french – my translation here): “It is a paste for decorations composed primarily of confectionary sugar. There are many recipes depending on the smoothness desired and these are closely guarded secrets! Of course there exists for less exacting among us simple receipes but which prohibit a real work of smoothness or precision.”
I tend to agree with chefsimon, all except for the closely guarded secrets bit. Pastillage can be made different ways and of course can be used for pretty much anything you can think of, but generally it is sort of a decorative and structural pastry workhorse. Because it is stable, dries hard, is relatively strong and durable it generally provides bases, supports, ‘skeletons’ of decorative efforts upon which more delicate items are displayed. Pastillage is often used in conjunction with gumpaste and other sugar work like pulled and blown sugar. It has been used to build petits fours stands, cake stands, containers, long lasting cake toppers, etc--it's also been used to build churches, replicas of airplanes, it can even be sanded, carved and sculpted. While it is often left perfectly white, it can also be colored or painted.
Pastillage, while made 100% of edible ingredients, is what might be termed "technically edible." First of all – pastillage is hard and crisp – essentially like Necco wafers. Depending on the recipe used it could be unpleasant to eat. For instance all the recipes I use involve vinegar. Personally, I have never been tempted to eat any pastillage. I feel that while it might amuse children it's not something you would want to include on your menu for any purposes other than decorative.
Fondant, gum paste, sugar paste, and pastillage are all related but have critical differences. Fondant (and there are several kinds) remains soft for quite a while and makes a great cake covering – you can use it to make decorations but they lack the finesse and delicacy of décor created from gumpaste or pastillage. Fondant will harden up given time, but essentially remains soft.
Gumpaste recipes also vary extensively but typically involve gum tragacanth. The dough is very elastic and soft – more so than pastillage. Gumpaste can be rolled out thinner than pastillage, as thin as parchment, and it makes lovely flowers and petals. It can be worked longer than pastillage--meaning it is a little more forgiving, you can take longer to do what you want to do with gumpaste before it crusts than you can with pastillage. With pastillage, you have to work very quickly, make your cuts and shape it as quickly as possible. Both will hold up fairly well in humidity, but gumpaste will take on moisture more readily from the environment and other sources (such as buttercream). It is never as sturdy as pastillage.
Check this site to see pictures and information on some very cool historic pastillage creations--and realize pastillage has been used as a decorative medium for hundreds of years. Note the intricate molds. This makes one think about the close association of various artisans in the households of the aristocracy and how the changing social and economic conditions of the world have influenced pastry.
On this site, you can see a really nice pastillage Taj Majal:
Uses for pastillage
How you use pastillage depends on what you do. For a wedding cake artist, we've already mentioned that pastillage would be used for cake toppers, décor, possibly a cake stand. For a pastry chef in a hotel or restaurant, pastillage might provide the structure for a centerpiece for a buffet table or the stands for petits fours or other mini-dessert items. Unlike chocolate, which could melt, and sugar, which could absorb humidity, pastillage is relatively indestructible. (Pastry chefs often save pastillage for a long time and recycle pieces again and again...)
Pastillage remains somewhat obscure, if not completely foreign, in daily life in America, but you can still see it in competition work. Here are a couple items I have made with pastillage over time - some also employ gumpaste. Multi-media sugar art is a good thing. It gives you variety and depth that is hard to achieve in a single sugar medium.
This is some very early work of mine from a competition in NYC. It is an example of pastillage as a petits fours stand--the petits fours were the "requirement"--I hoped making all the stands edible would help make a better impression on the judges, and it did:
Here is even older work, my very first pastillage & sugar showpiece. A funky violin concept which admittedly, in retrospect, could have been improved upon with better planning - but I did it under pressure (it was one of 5 different showpieces I had to assemble and display that day at the same time) and considering the way I was shaking when I put it together I feel fortunate that it didn't end up a pile of rubble. This is an example of larger pieces that are curved in two dimensions--drying and assembling curved pieces is much more difficult than flat. In case it is not obvious - it is a sort of deconstructed violin with blown sugar birds (who are presumably enjoying the melodious tunes). The challenge in this was my interest in having pieces pierce through one another and undulate. My mock up in cardboard worked out great - but it is really important to keep inmind that dry pastillage has no flexibility whatsoever.
Here is an example of a quick ad-hoc pastillage construction used as cake decor--note the tree trunks are rolled while the "snowflake" foliage were stamped out with a cutter:
Another cake decor implementation, this time a bridal shower cake for my sister. Here the pastillage is painted using petal dusts with water. Originally I had a completely different plan - but due to some problems on the road from DC to Boston that resulted in breakage I had to improvise. I was pretty happy with the result:
Here is another, more traditional, cake decoration piece--for a 50th birthday cake for a Harvard grad--where I used pastillage to provide stability and combined it with gumpaste pieces that were lighter and more delicate:
And here is a fun Baby shower cake - (the mother to be provided Cowboy Cody pictures of the zillion items that would be employed in the baby's room - I tried to follow suit.) The wagon itself is pastillage but the wagon top is gumpaste. Otherwise all the other decor--campfire, cactus, stones, etc--is pastillage:
Next installment: Design and preparation
Posted 19 June 2005 - 08:55 PM
Yay!!! I'm delighted to be reading this--what a treasure! If you really go looking you can compile the wildest recipes and definitions of almost all the sugar dough substances, y'know??? And they will sweetly conflict with the other recipes and definitions, even amongst the experts. Pastillage has frankly remained a mystery to me until now.
I have my elbows planted on the desk top & my chin in my hands waiting patiently for your next instalment. Yes!
We are getting some recipes/formulas aren't we????
Thank You, Chefette!!!
Not to mention, I love Necco wafers!!!!!!!!!
Posted 19 June 2005 - 10:32 PM
I hope everyone enjoys this special demo.............and I do sincerely hope everyone will appreciate all the hard work Chefette has put into this. I think it's safe to say Thank-You from all of us! I/We anxiously await more..........
If anyone would like to make a demo thread, please contact me thru our pm system. We are always excited and happy to be able to feature our talented members.
I had no idea chefs/people were doing such detailed pastillage so long ago. Makes me think about some of the molds I have in my collection. Can you use any type of material as a mold? Can I use plastic candy molds to form items?
Posted 20 June 2005 - 04:07 AM
Yes K8memphis- I will be providing some recipes that I use and a few that I found doing research.
Yes Wendy - you can use those plastic candy molds - or those detailed cookie or chocolate molds that they sell, bowls, vases, lots of stuff. That is one of the things I will be dealing with in the next installment--but that's how I made those cactus shapes on the above cake: pastillage pressed into a cheap plastic mold, then turned out, dried, sanded and painted. Nice visual payoff, limited investment of time, perfect for a cake on a budget where you're not trying to pull out all the stops.
Posted 20 June 2005 - 08:50 AM
Your examples are incredible! Beautiful too! I love that wagon
Posted 20 June 2005 - 11:01 AM
Posted 20 June 2005 - 01:42 PM
I only wish I could see the work in person.
Posted 20 June 2005 - 01:59 PM
Thankyou for doing this demo. I am looking forward to future installments.
Posted 20 June 2005 - 05:13 PM
I have always been amazed at what can be accomplished with pastillage. Thank you so much for doing this demo and I can't wait to see more.
Posted 20 June 2005 - 08:30 PM
Here is installment number two:
Deciding on a design
Before you get started with your pastillage, it is important to decide what you will do – make a plan, a design, even an architecture to figure out how to create your vision, what pieces need to be, how they need to be cut, shaped, dried, how it will stand up, balance, support…
If you are doing a design for a client – then you usually have that guidance and just have to make the decisions about how you will execute it – make it a reality. Interpretive or realistic? Sturdy or airy? All sorts of decisions.
This winter I was invited to contribute a sugar showpiece to an exhibit at the San Diego Airport – I immediately leapt to visions of airplanes – but then aviation is sort of a family history thing and I had been toying with an idea for a while and this was a chance to make it a reality. Here is a photo of the type of biplane that I wanted to do.
Here is how I made it a reality:
I drew out the basic plane. In this case I had some size restrictions that I had to observe. I needed the plane to be fairly small since I was going to be sharing a 24” square case with two other pieces. But I wanted the plane to be large enough that I could have some fun with the details and it would show up. So I started with the wingspan and worked from there. Normally – I would probably need a lot more detailed input to a design – but I pretty much grew up with several of these planes and used to sketch them all the time so I have the design internalized.
Finding or creating the facilitators to execute your design
Once you have your design and templates and everything is sized out you might want to create a test piece in cardboard to get a sense of how it will actually go together. This will also prove your logic if you are doing something 3D that is tricky and involved.
Manila filing folders are perfect for templates and mock ups.
I cut my pieces and crated a mock up in manila folder paper, then took it all apart and made the cutting templates.
Since I needed the shaped cockpit I also created a shaping form to make it curved. I cut it to the exact size of the cockpit template so that I would not mistake its exact location and get pieces that would not fit together.
I also knew that I would need three or four and that I had a very short time frame to do my work – plus high humidity in So. Cal at that time meant slow drying. So I made 4 shaping template forms.
If you are not doing something as specific as that – more form and motion you can use objects around the kitchen or house to shape your pastillage – if you don’t want to keep it all flat.
Achieving the shapes and forms you want can be tricky. You can employ many items to assist you:
Cups, bottles, bowls
Modeling clay, plaster…
Just make sure that it will not adhere to the pastillage or release color or unwanted texture. And dust with cornstarch before laying your pastillage on anything.
You often have to make your own forms. In creating a form you should be very patient and precise. A good way to create a larger form that will be used to shape a large piece of pastillage or to shape many smaller pieces in the same way is to build a form using foam core and poster paper. You can use corrugated cardboard – but foam core really holds up well and is easier to work with all around.
Get white posterboard and I usually keep the shiny side up – the pastillage will rest on that. You also need an Xacto knife – and it’s a good idea to work with a nice new blade. I don’t have anything in mind – so I am just creating a generic form to show how one would go about it. I cut a piece of foam core as the base and then cut pieces (all the same size) that will be the ‘ribs’.
You can see that I drew guidelines so that the ribs would line up. I also attached each rib with a toothpick then taped the joints.
I attached the poster board to the ribs at one side using scotch tape so that I know it will be even on the side and left it as a flap. Then I attached strips of heavy duty double sided tape along the top of each rib. You could do all this with your trusty glue gun too – but then taking it all apart later to store is more difficult. Then I just flipped over the poster board and attached it to the ribs and taped down the other side. Voila – a form.
You can see on this form that I would have problems if I required something really exact and if I was planning to use most of the area right out to the edges. More ribs, use of a side piece, or extending the posterboard down lower would all address this. But you always need to create or find the template or form that is appropriate to what you are doing. If your piece needs to be perfectly exact then you need to make your form perfectly exact. Also - I would probably build a guide or create some sort of border so that each piece I formed on this would be as close as possible to the exact same specs in its curvature.
This still only curves your pasillage in one dimension. Really interesting, challenging pieces curve out of the second plane into a third plane (dimension - not airplane) I am starting to feel like Walt Disney with all this if you can dream it you can do it stuff - but...the reality is most of the pastillage you will do will not be this complicated--you'll cut and dry flat pieces or very simply curved pieces.
Tomorrow I will make pastillage.
Posted 21 June 2005 - 05:37 AM
I personally don't have any questions at this moment because I'm absorbing what your teaching. I'm already feeling more confident that I can use this media and dreaming about what to make in my job using this.
And I'm thinking all this applies to making showpieces out of other materials too........
Posted 21 June 2005 - 06:01 AM
In the 8th, 9th & 10th pictures, the royal blue color stuff is blue foamcore, right??
In the same set of pictures, the white board that is being used--the cut out pieces that are secured with toothpicks and tape look thick like foamcore. So the blue and the white there is foamcore right???
How long did it take to make the bi-plane model & shaping forms--even though you had a heads up because it was something very familiar.
Posted 21 June 2005 - 06:21 AM
Posted 21 June 2005 - 12:35 PM
Both the royal blue and the white pieces are foam core. It was blue on one side and white on the other and I thought that the color contrast would make it easier to see online. Sorry for the confusion.
In the picture with the manila folder forms - the white substance is pastillage. To make this go faster I am combining some step by step pictures I took in January with new ones. I actually thought that the forms I created for my Bi-plane fuselage was a brilliant solution. I was so happy with how it worked out that I think that for smaller pieces it is completely the way to go. I will take some pictures and post them this afternoon so you can see how that worked.
Posted 21 June 2005 - 12:49 PM
Making the model, templates, and forms probably took me a solid 4 hours. I could say I just threw it together in 15 minutes but I get so frustrated when people toss out things like that, that I know for a fact take concentration and time, then when it takes you all day you feel like you must be a lightweight. So, for a fairly complex form like the plane that I had to test out I would set aside some time when you have peace and quiet and can think. Plus you make a mess of manila bits and scraps of tape and staples. But that work really pays dividends in the end.
At the first US Pastry Team Championships in Beaver Creek, we all flew in a week ahead of time, and I remember Ewald Notter spending two days early in the week just building forms and rolling out pastillage. He of course had brought fully-dried and finished pastillage pieces, but he had the time, so he just kept making more. You can never have enough back up. (He won that year.) Fortunately all of my husband's pastillage (eG's own Steve Klc) and backups arrived safely--including his 3 foot long curvy pieces--so we didn't have to make more.
Posted 21 June 2005 - 01:14 PM
As you can see - I created a heavier card that was longer and wider than the fuselage.
I took rectangles of mailla folder and fitted them over the cardboard fuselage at six points that I marked.
I folded up the base of each of these ribs so they could stand on their own.
I cut slots in the base card that the ribs could just fit through then taped the flaps on the bottom
Afterwards - I curled a fuselage shaped piece to fit inside the ribs. It fit really snugly so I did not actually have to tape that. It worked out really well since it was very compact, I could pack it flat and put it together in California. Obviously it has suffered in the return trip and storage since I did not bother taking it apart to come home. Just flattened it and stuffed it in an envelope. Now I have disassembled all my taping so I could show you the components.
You can do things over an inverted shape but the down side is that the pastillage does not want to remain in contact with anything outside its flop scope - doesn't stick so just hangs there - so if you want sides that come in after the curve you have to figure out a way to accomplish that. A parchment sleeve that can be taped to the form is a good solution since this will hold your pastillage where you want it while it sets up.
Posted 21 June 2005 - 03:08 PM
This is the pastillage recipe that I like most right now. It is from Ewald Notter. I will make a second batch with Light corn syrup instead of glucose and powdered gelatin just to see if that makes any difference.
15g white vinegar
for the second batch
2 envelopes powdered gelatin dissolved in 125 g cold water (too much – try 60g)
30g light corn syrup
15 g white vinegar
- Place the glucose (or corn syrup) and white vinegar in a small pan
- Bloom the gelatin in cold water. Start this while you are prepping your sugar and starch so it has plenty of time to soak up water – you want it well hydrated. (For the second recipe with powdered gelatin I used 125g water and I felt that was too much – so I would cut back to maybe 60-80g)
- Weigh and sift your powdered sugar and corn starch together so they are well combined
- Place the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and warm your wet ingredients with the bloomed gelatin and let that melt – but not get too hot
- Gradually pour the melted gelatin mix into the dry ingredients while stirring with the paddle on the slowest speed
- Let that stir until it all comes together then turn it out onto a very clean surface dusted with 10X and knead until smooth
The batch with the powdered gelatin is too soft and sticky to use today because there is too much water - but I think that overnight the starch and sugar will absorb the extra moisture and it will probably be fine. There does not seem to be any difference otherwise - so, we'll see how it behaves after 12 hours. The other pastillage can be used right away.
- If it seems too dry and crumbly moisten your hands and continue kneading – repeat until the consistency is smooth and cleans up the surface
The pastillage dough is something like bread dough but not as soft or sticky.
I typically cut it in half and wrap the halves seperately, then put them in a ziplock bag with a damp towel.
Posted 21 June 2005 - 03:12 PM
Some recipes really need to rest overnight to allow even absorbtion of the moisture, but others work quite well immediately.
If you don’t use all the pastillage – you may freeze it for future use. Upon thawing, the pastillage will be very stiff, sort of crumbly, but some kneading and warming (from your hands but 5 or 6 seconds in the microwave can aid you) will bring it back to a nice workable consistency.
Tomorrow I will demo techniques to roll, cut, and form the pastillage.
Posted 21 June 2005 - 04:43 PM
How many years have you been working with pastillage and baking? It looks like an art or construction background is helpful, have you studied either?
Thanks so much for including the time it takes you to do some of this. It is one thing to see the end product or even the sugar competitions, but to get an idea of what it really takes to develop the idea, construct the molds and then actually build the project is a fantastic view for the amature or beginner.
Thanks again for all your time in sharing this with us!
Posted 22 June 2005 - 12:37 AM
thanks so much for the inspiration. I am in the middle of a gradiose move from Paris, France to Moscow, Russia. Don't know how long it will take me to find a job - the news is quite discouraging, since only 10-15% of customers even order dessert in Moscow... Grrr! But times are changing slowly, and this is my chance to help the process along by introducing my countrymen to beautiful, tasty, light and innovative desserts.
But back to pastillage: My husband, in order to make me feel more at ease, promised to buy me a new KitchenAid ASAP. :) So if I am stuck at home with nothing to do, I will practice my pastillage skills, as blowing sugar is not nearly so practical in a home setting. Haven't done any really intricate pastillage work since finished school several years ago.
Thanks again, everyone. eGullet is a wonderful opportunity to continue learning from the best in the business and remember old tricks. These workshop series are amazing! Keep them coming! I am so happy to be able to keep in touch with so many fellow professionals, while I embark on my new adventure.
Posted 22 June 2005 - 06:31 AM
There are really so few things in the entire world that should make you say "I could never"... And pastillage is so far far away from being something "that I could never".
Now, it does help to have an artistic bent or a mechanical aptitude. Good sources of inspiration are books on paper sculpture. Sure, pastillage is much different in character than paper - but paper engineering and sculpture can give you many ideas how to create something interesting and 3-D using flat elements. Admittedly most paper sculpture work is sort of 2-D in the sense that it is usually put together into a sort of picture, but look at things like pop-up books, doll furniture kits, fun lamps. Some things are harder than others - but you don't have to be all realistic - tha is the beauty here - you can do interpretive things or suggestive things.
You can work completely flat in cutouts and paint, you can build up many flat layers, you can add seperators to bring in extra elements of dimension. I don't know how to explain how to look at things and deconstruct them so you look at a car or a tree or a TV set and think, how could I make one in pastillage? How will I interpret this object?
Make it 3-D?, make it 2-D?
Make it realistic or stylized?
what size will be appropriate and convenient?
what can I use to form it?
will it be freestanding or supported?
Is it a foreground element or a supporting element?
Colored or white?
rustic or finessed?
If someone wanted a kitchen in pastillage on their cake - what approach would you take? what pops into your head right away? I see a Jetsons kitchen with pastel appliances - 3D free standing, pieces would pretty much be curvey and narrower at the bottom, wider at the top. I think that pieces that are sort of rounded would be great - but maybe it is easier to make them more angular so I don't have to deal with connecting curves. Bring some fun to it - you have royal icing and gumpaste available to you to do smaller, more complex, delicate elements that lift the piece to a more exciting level.
Posted 22 June 2005 - 06:39 AM
Wow - sounds like a big move. I hope it goes well.
Doing pulled and blown sugar at home is actually great! You hardly need any equipment at all for one thing - you can get by with a microwave and a sugar lamp - or just a sugar lamp. You don't need a sugar box - in a pinch you can set up barriers to keep your work environment warm using cardboard folders.
I like doing sugar at home because I can have dedicated space, its calm and quiet and I don't have to worry about anyone else knocking things around.
You do need your basic sugar equipment: Heat lamp, silpats, I like working with a cool blower, alcohol lamp, sugar pump, silicone leaf presses. I usually have plastic boxes with containers of dessicant to put completed items in so they stay nice. I also like the flexipan large rounds- maybe 6-7" and about 1/2-3/4 inches deep that I keep my sugar in while working. This also makes it easy to shuttle it to the microwave for a quick zap if it gets a bit too cold.
Posted 22 June 2005 - 06:42 AM
I'm basically from the "I could never" school -- but I'm gonna. (Well I'm gonna try!)
Thanks. This is an amazing thread to read.
Posted 22 June 2005 - 06:48 AM
Don't dig out the flour bin.
10X is Confectionary Sugar, Powdered sugar, or Icing Sugar
the 10X refers to the fineness
Soory about the shorthand.
Edited by chefette, 22 June 2005 - 07:11 AM.
Posted 22 June 2005 - 07:11 AM
I was just thinking that "I don't want to" is the best reason not to. As you may be starting to see - there is some prep involved. Now, there certainly doesn't have to be this much involved in planning and as you know - a lot of this pre-decision stuff just sort of automatically goes clicking around in your head anyway.
What I am trying to show is some of the facilitators and planning that can really make pastillage work for you. In my baby shower cake with the covered wagon you can see how that single element totally 'made' the cake and really it hardly took any time at all. I did take the time to cut out pieces of cardboard to test the size and ensure fit, but it was pretty simple cutting the pieces. I used a wood grain roller to texturize the pastillage. Painting and assembling went pretty easily, too. I did make 3 complete wagons just to make sure that some delivery disaster didn't leave me without my most important decor. Afterward, I stored that stupid spare wagon for months because it was so darn cute but it isn't exactly your run of the mill decoration in high demand so I recently threw it out.
One of the great things about pastillage is its simple durability. As long as you don't break it and keep it clean it is always there for you. All those spare extra pieces or rejects can be used later. I always cut out rounds, and demi-circles, cut out circles with holes in the center and keep them on hand. Nickel and dime size flat circles or even thicker aspirin-sized circes are the best. You can almost always use them. Mold off a couple of solid demispheres and keep those handy, too, as legs.
I have swirly tendrils, demi spheres, circles, plans, ribbon loops, curved planks, flat planks, butterfly wings, random shapes, chunks that I have microwaved so they look sort of like coral. Another good item to just keep around are placques - flat rectangular pieces. I prefer gumpaste because it is lighter and nicer, but pastillage is good too - if you need a quick special cake you just grab a bag of royal and pipe a message - embellish with some piping or add a flower and voila!
Just keep your spares and unused pieces safe in a box someplace.
Posted 22 June 2005 - 05:32 PM
Almost forgot the tools
French rolling pin or a clean length of PVC pipe for large pieces. I like a small roller for small pieces.
Xacto knife with a fresh blade
A scalpel is nice if you can get one
Sharp paring knife
Depending on what you are doing – you might want other tools and texturizers (limitless really)
Everything you use should be very clean
glass of cold water - to clean knives and to add to pastillage if needed
It is also handy to have a dusting pouch. I made a little bag out of cheesecloth that I fill with cornstarch to dust with while working.
You need to give yourself lead time when working with pastillage since the drying takes about 12 hours – sometimes more depending on humidity, thickness of the dough, and moisture content (the more water you introduce in making it – the more has to dry away).
Don’t roll out too much pastillage since it will form a skin and start surface drying immediately – this will result in wrinkling when you cut it and especially if you are planning to form it, so start off with the least you can possibly get away with and don’t plan on doing too many pieces at once until you get comfortable and know how much time you can have. This is actually a really nice recipe and will last qite a while without suffering from cutting wrinkles but will still wrinkle when curved. I tried getting a picture - but its just very hard to capture.
I cut off a chunk and knead it up (yes – every time) then roll out. If you are working with the pastillage the second day or after thawing frozen pastillage it will take several minutes for it to respond to the kneading and soften up.
It is important to roll the pastillage out consistently/evenly (minimize hills and valleys – and try to roll out all pieces to the same thickness/thinness. I have to admit – I really never go to any particular lengths to ensure this – just go by feel – and run my hand over the surface to test for smooth evenness. When it matters though - you can use guides.
You can use a sheeter to roll out the pastillage – but it needs to be cleaned really well of any loitering flour. This is especially handy for very large pieces. Most sheeters have a textured surface on the pads that will be transferred to the pastillage. Using a large white sheet of posterboard slide under the rolled pastillage then slide the pastillage off onto your work surface. A quick roll with the French pin should smooth it right out.
For large or intricate pieces that require detailed cutting you may encounter problems with skin forming. If you have a large freezer with some space you can slip the sheet of rolled pastillage into the freezer for a few minutes. If you are working in a professioal kitchen with a proof box that is also a good place to pop the pastillage for a moment or two to moisten. Here you are trying to encourage condensation for once. This will allow you to extend your working time. I prefer to use a clothes steamer.
Make your cuts smooth and clean. As with cutting puff pastry – the knife blade should be straight up and down so that the vertical edge of the cut is straight and not angled. You will thank me later when you are trying to attach pieces. If you use cutters, try to find ones that have nice tight seams or are seamless. These usually cost more but they are worth it.
Following cutting it is time to place the pieces for shaping or drying flat. You may need to go back into the freeze or puff with a bit of steam. Keep in mind that the bottom surface is also drying the entire time you are working. You also want to avoid creating a wet slimy surface – you are looking for fresh dewiness – not rainstorm slick. If you have spent a while cutting you may want to hit the pastillage with a little steam before shaping.
When forming, especially forms that are deep (like a nose on a face mold) or like an egg – you can loosely form the pastillage piece over the exterior of the mold first to obtain the basic shape
Then place it in the cornstarch-DUSTED interior
Gently, gently work it in to fit using a ball of pastillage, a ball tool, or whatever makes the most sense. This will usually make the pastillage a bit larger so you will need to trim the excess.
Leave the formed pastillage in the mold for about 15 minutes or more – depending on the depth and thinness of the pastillage – you might want to let the pastillage sit for much longer in the mold. Another reason to give yourself multiple formers.
Here are my cut bi-plane pieces
Flat pastillage should be very flat – as perfectly flat as possible – which requires that it dry on a perfectly flat surface and dry as evenly as possible. I like styrofoam panels for drying. Even on the Styrofoam you need to flip your pieces periodically or they will tend to warp. When flipping – especially large pieces be very careful and employ a piece of poster board if necessary or even a second panel laid over the first then invert. During the drying process the pastillage is very delicate and vulnerable to breakage. Resist the temptation to pick up and test out how a piece will look because more often than not the piece will bend or most likely break. You will see how the moisture retreats from the edges toward the center. When you flip it you will typically see the moisture.
Next - sanding and assembly. If you have a question about making or shaping something - please ask. I have a lot of pastillage on hand...
Posted 22 June 2005 - 07:14 PM
I have a question on somthing basic... on the first recipe for pastillage, where it calls for 10 grams (I think it was) of gelatin, I assume this means gelatin sheets? And how do you "bloom" the sheets? Do you just soak them well and drain off the excess water? Where do you find gelatin sheets... does a typical grocery store carry them?
You mentioned that you microwaved pastillage to make coral-type pieces. If you're not too tired of pastillage by the end of your demo, would you mind posting a picture of that, as well as a short explanation of your method (initial shapes, microwave time and the like)? I am doing a seashell wedding cake in August and would love to see what pastillage coral looks like.
Thanks in advance
edited to say... I just noticed chiantiglace showed how to handle gelatin sheets in his stabilized whipped cream demo. So my question is revised to, how long do you soak your sheets for pastillage?
Edited by JacqueOH, 22 June 2005 - 07:36 PM.
Posted 22 June 2005 - 08:12 PM
Yes - I do mean 10g of gelatin sheets - typically 5 sheets. Fill a container - large bowl or plastic box with cold water. Drop in the gelatin sheets - I prefer to add them one at a time since they tend to clump together and do not hydrate as well if you put them in all together. For the pastillage - I recommend that you put the gelatin in to soak when you start measuring the other ingredients so that it has planty of time to soak up water.
For many recipes you want to remove excess water - and this would be accomplished by squeezing the gelatin or placing it in a sieve. In this case I recommend that you just pick up the gelatine carefully out of the water - not scooping extra water - but not squeezing either. It may seem a bit sloppy but that little bit of water with it will be nice in the final pastillage.
You can purchase a box of gelatin sheets from a pastry supplier - such as Albert Uster Imports - who will ship to anyone in the country. It is 500 sheets and they may last you a lifetime depending on what you do - but once you have them they last forever and you will find yourself using them more than you might expect, they're much more precise and more efficient for general pastry work than trying to use powdered gelatin. They also make nice windows for gingerbread houses.
Cake decorating stores frequently carry small packets of sheets that you can purchase. But if you cannot locate the sheets - the powdered gelatin also worked just fine. The batch I made yesterday was too wet at the time - because I was uncertain how much water I should include with the gelatine to equal my hydrated sheets. I did knead in a bit if extra powdered sugar (10X) but after sitting overnight it is a very nice consistency. I'll try to microwave some pastillage for you as well.
In the meantime - here is an undersea-themed wedding cake Steve and I did last summer for a pair of scuba-diving lovebirds getting married. All of the decor is pastillage, except for the goldfish which were in gum paste:
and a simple, quick pastillage seashell-blown sugar pearl combination from a recent cake:
Posted 22 June 2005 - 08:30 PM
10X is Confectionary Sugar, Powdered sugar, or Icing Sugar
the 10X refers to the fineness...
I was real glad to see the '10x' because that's how I always write it.
... I did make 3 wagons just to make sure that some delivery disaster didn't leave me without my most important decor. I stored that stupid spare wagon for months because it was so darn cute but it isn't exactly your run of the mill decoration in high demand so I recently threw it out.
Sure fire way to get a request for a chuck wagon!!
Pretty pretty pretty 'under the sea' cake!!!