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Norman Love at the French Pastry School


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Norman Love taught a guest chef class at the French Pastry School in Chicago entitled “Chocolate Decorations, Petit Gateau and Entremets”. This was his return to teaching after a long absence and it proved to be a very interesting class.

While demanding your full attention and best effort, Chef Norman stated his philosophy that the class should be fun and not fear driven. He was more than willing to help out anyone having trouble and spent time patrolling the groups to make sure everything was running smoothly. Norman also brought his right hand man Allen to assist him in demonstrations and he proved invaluable in keeping things running smoothly. As in my last class, the staff and student help at the school provided backup support so we didn’t loose a minute of class. Chef wanted to pack as much into the three days as he could to give us our money’s worth and he kept his word on it. Class officially ran from 6am to 1pm, but we ran up to 2pm a couple times. That made for a very intense but enjoyable time.

Norman stated his flavor philosophy as being aimed at the American palate. He would rather make a peanut butter and jelly flavor truffle than one with esoteric infusions whose flavors had to be guessed at. While the flavors might be simple he wants them to be clear and identifiable, utilizing the best possible ingredients. The recognizable flavors then form the basis for the consumer to venture into more adventurous deserts. They might find comfortable flavors on the menu and decide or order a fancy desert based on it where they wouldn’t attempt the same construction if it were based on something unfamiliar.

The pieces he selected all have a vertical construction, such that a single fork slice provides a variety of flavors and textures in each mouthful.

I went into the class with a strong background in chocolate and not quite so strong in pastry work. That had me a bit concerned upon learning that a large portion of the class was made up with professional pastry chefs, but there were also FPS students with only eight weeks in the program. My stated goal was to gain the knowledge and experience required to feel comfortable tackling recipes from the “Grande Finale” plated desert books.

Day One

Upon reaching our stations the first morning we found a box of Norman’s chocolate, an FPS apron and hat, and the course book. The ingredients for our assigned recipes were already scaled out and shelved under our stations.

There was an ambitious agenda of nine pieces:

Coconut Mousse with Tropical Fruit Cream

Hazelnut Sable with Caramel Bananas and Chocolate Cream

Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Crème Brulee

Banana Mousse with Milk Chocolate Cream and Peanut Nougatine

Cream Cheese Mousse with Apple Cram and Walnut Streusel

Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnut Cream

Coffee Mousse with Bittersweet Cream

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Mousse and Vanilla Crème Brulee

Praline Bavarian with Lavender Cream

And each of these pieces had six components…quite a bit of work ahead of us…

Norman created every one of them while our teams tackled two each.

The first morning started with four hours of watching Norman and Allen demonstrate the baked goods for each of the nine pieces. That’s when I noticed the course book didn’t contain the recipes – just a list of ingredients for each part of the piece and even that wasn’t always in the order of use. That necessitated taking copious notes as he worked which cut into the attention I could give to each step. A couple times both Norman and Allen were demonstrating simultaneously to compress time and that’s when I had the most trouble. In reviewing my notes now I realize that I still have a few gaps. I’ve looked at Bo Friberg’s APPC and found similar recipes in a couple cases so I can probably fill them in myself. If not I can ask my fellow classmates since we exchanged contact information.

Norman started with the “Coconut Mousse with Tropical Fruit Cream” which required a Coconut Financier disk and a wrap of decorated Joconde.

The Coconut Financier was straight forward, but the Joconde is prepared differently than I was used to when it is a basic part of a piece rather than decoration. Normally you would go for volume, but for this use you want a dense product so it presents a smooth surface unmarked by air holes. That means aggressive mixing of the meringue to eliminate as much volume as possible. Norman also gave us a tip to pre-mix some of the meringue into the butter to prevent it from falling to the bottom of the bowl where it can get lost.

He split the Pate Décor (aka Tuile Paste) into three batches, coloring one bright yellow, another bright orange, and another brown with cocoa powder. The colors will fade in the oven so they need to start brighter. Here Norman emphasized the need to just mix the pate décor and joconde dough to prevent the incorporation of air that will show up as holes in the finished product. This is meant to be both thin and dense. Dense so it is very smooth and thin so it doesn’t intrude on the rest of the piece. He made enough for the teams replicating this piece so we didn’t get a chance to try it ourselves. (This was also used to wrap the “Praline Bavarian with Lavender Cream”) It’s one thing to be told to spread it thin and another to see him spread it paper thin…

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Here Norman marbles yellow and orange Pate Décor on a silpat

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Note how thin the Pate Décor is spread, you can easily see the silpat beneath.

I thought I took pictures of the spreading of the joconde dough with a raplette, but I can’t find them so you will have to make do with this image of chocolate being spread over a transfer sheet:

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The raplette makes short work of spreading a thin uniform layer. While the commercial units are expensive you could probably build one yourself from Plexiglas or even cardboard much cheaper. You just pour some of the material to be spread between the sides and draw the device along your silpat. Of course you can just use an offset spatula if your technique is good.

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The finished Joconde with the cocoa colored Pate Décor that will decorate the lavender cream.

That covered the first recipe so he moved on to the Hazelnut Sable, Feuillentine Discs (stopping to demonstrate Praline Paste from scratch), Chocolate Moelleux, Almond Nougatine, Macaroons, Chocolate Biscuit, Peanut Nougatine, Caramelized Bananas, Caramel Marmalade, Cinnamon Financier, Walnut Streusel, Hazelnut Daquoise, Brownie Biscuit, Flourless Chocolate Sponge, Shortbread pastry, and Pain de Genes.

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One tip given was to cover the Daquoise with powdered sugar to crust and seal moisture inside. That gets baked at 400F for 8-10 minutes. Flexipan molds are great!

We got a short stretch break as well as an actual food break during this time, but it was still a long sit on a hard stool. Unlike my last visit to the FPS, this time we had an official break with a spread of coffee, juice, and baked good of the day to tide us over.

After the demo it was time to prepare the baked goods for our two pieces. That meant the Cinnamon Financier, Walnut Streusel, Apple Jelly, Poached Apples, Hazelnut Dacquoise, Chocolate Biscuit, and Feuillentine Disc for my team. With a list like that it helped that all the ingredients were already scaled. Additionally there were a team of dish washers which allowed us to drop off dirty bowls and utensils and pick up clean. I wish I had that service at home! The power was out at our station so we had to either steal power from a neighbor or use Chef’s equipment, both of which we did over the course of the class. When done with each piece we slipped the pan into a rack and Allen baked it in the oven or popped it into the blast freezer depending on the requirement. That kept everything moving smoothly and minimized the number of times the freezer door was opened.

Everyone finished early enough that Norman could demonstrate some chocolate work.

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The table is moistened slightly so the acetate sticks rather than sliding when the chocolate is spread.

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The chocolate is poured, spread thin, and a pastry comb run through

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The strips are lifted from the table

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It is then curled and placed in a half circle mold – a bread mold or half pvc pipe will do.

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This two hand hold for an offset spatula yields much greater control

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The proper position for cutting fans. The finger stop will produce the bunching and you can make a straight push rather than a curved one.

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Here are the spirals freed from the acetate and sample fans showing results from proper and improper setting.

Day Two

The second morning was devoted to watching Chef make all the creams and Mousses. I half panicked as he started describing what we were to be doing in far more French than I knew. However once he started working I realized what Anglaise was and that I’ve made gallons of the stuff for ice cream base and crème brulee. Likewise Pate a Bombe is just a term for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated and used as a base for many mousse and buttercream recipes. I haven’t done that exactly, but it’s not a difficult concept to grasp. After I picked up some French the demonstrations settled down into a pattern and the pace relaxed a bit. Chef made a repeated point to pre-mix ingredients to identical consistencies before folding them together to ensure proper integration with the least amount of mixing. In the coconut Mousse that meant folding one half of the whipped cream into to the meringue and half of that into the puree to get all three to the same consistency before a final folding of all three at once.

Then it was time to start assembly. Here is the Coconut Mousse with Tropical Fruit Cream:

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Strips of joconde were cut and rings lined with acetate.

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The joconde lines the outside and the coconut financier fits snugly inside.

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The coconut mouse is piped in…

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The exotic fruit cream centers (previously frozen in small dome flexipans) are placed in next.

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Followed by the chocolate disc…

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Topped with more mousse…

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And cleaned up before being placed in the blast freezer to set.

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Once out of the freezer the acetate is peeled off with quick blasts of a propane torch to warm it slightly and the top is covered in a marbled mix of yellow and orange mirror gel mixed with the same colors as the pate décor.

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The finished product awaiting chocolate decorations. The gel adds not only color, but also works like a nice glue to hold the decorations in place.

The assembly of the other pieces followed and we went to our stations to make our creams and mousse and assemble our pieces.

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Note the Plexiglas disc in front of the mixer. This home made tool is used to press the larger cakes evenly into the mousse without breaking them. The circular plate has a few holes drilled to release the vacuum when lifted (necessary if mousse forms a seal around the sides) and sports a handle. Chef emphasized the importance of stacking every part perfectly as it will be judged when the cake is sliced.

Back at our station I drew the cream cheese mousse. The sugar is boiled to 121C and whipped into the yolks slowly, then faster to cool. The gelatin is bloomed with the lemon juice. The lemon zest, cream cheese, and sour cream are mixed and the whipping cream brought to soft peak. Finally everything is folded together at once to minimize mixing. I was happy to have Chef pronounce it a success. My partner produced the Praline cream and Chocolate mousse.

We were able to assemble the Cream Cheese Mousse with Apple Cram and Walnut Strussel, but sadly Chef informed us that we were out of the larger rings and that prevented us from assembling the Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnut Cream.

Day Three

First the tarts were finished so they would be fresh out of the oven for the tasting, but the third day was really all about chocolate. Norman discussed tempering, though I’m not sure it was enough instruction for a chocolate novice to replicate. Allen tempered a batch using the tabling method which is the first time I’ve seen it in person. The real emphasis was on what to do with the chocolate once it was tempered.

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A full supply of chocolate petals produced by dipping a pallet tool into chocolate, pressing it on acetate, then dropping the acetate strip with several petals into a curved mold. Pressing the tool on the bias produces a compound curve for a different effect.

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Chef dips the base of each petal in tempered chocolate, presses it to the circular base, and uses a blast of compressed air to quickly set the “glue”.

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The flower after two rows of petals. Note the effect of the compound curves on the petals.

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A simple truffle shell fills the center.

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Norman uses the same cheap Badger sprayer for cocoa butter as the rest of us.

For a more complete description of the chocolate flower check out the new pastry magazine “Pastry & Baking North America” at their website www.PastryNA.com. Chef wrote an article on the flower for the first issue. I was able to look at the first issue and it was interesting enough that I subscribed once I got home.

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Chef using a propane torch to warm the airbrush tip.

Norman gave us a chocolate glaze recipe that has it all, ease of use, great deep shine, and nice flavor.

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Allen glazing the cakes. The glaze needs to be at 35C and the cakes frozen.

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Once again, the two handed grip supplies the needed control for a single swipe and perfect covering.

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A glazed cake with colored chocolate plaque skirting, spirals, ball and teardrops.

The sphere is constructed from two half spheres by heating the marble with a torch and then pressing each onto the marble to melt the edges before placing them together. That’s a quick way to make spheres if you don’t have two piece molds.

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A chocolate flower made from “splash” petals on top of the lavender cake, along with three curled chocolate triangle and a cigarette.

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The Hazelnut Sable with Caramel Bananas and Chocolate cream. A pool of glaze, dots of whipped cream, and chocolate triangles decorate the top.

The Banana Mousee with Milk Chocolate Cream, and Peanut Nuogatine is decorated with a marbled chocolate sphere with a cigarette through holes melted with a heated pastry tip, and chocolate spiral. The wavy lines were achieved by assembling it upside down on acetate combed with pate décor.

The Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Crème Brulee is decorated with macaroons, dusted raspberries, and chocolate squares. The squares required three different sized square cutters to produce and two people to get a sheet properly cut before it sets up too far.

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The finished Coconut Mousse with Tropical Fruit Cream. The hoops were formed by placing the combed acetate inside a 3” pastry ring and piping a line of chocolate up the seam to keep them linked together. Multi-colored cigarettes and a coconut truffle complete the décor.

Behind, the Cream Cheese Mousse with Apple Cram and Walnut Streusel is wrapped in a bright green marbled chocolate via a wave cut piece of acetate. A hand sprayed sphere glued to a circular base and a curled chocolate triangle and glaze dots are anchored by a clear mirror glaze. The glaze adds visual appeal via the shine, but also keeps it from drying out.

And now, three color cigarettes!

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Lay tape down on the marble. Don’t press them down hard because you want to remove them soon.

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Spread your white chocolate and comb, then your second color when it is partially set.

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The cross piece of tape helps you locate the ends of the strips

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Then lift the tape strips and spread your third color, dark chocolate in this case.

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The trick is to really scrape down the third color so it is at the same level as the second. You don’t want to let it increase the thickness or you won’t achieve these beautifully tight cigarettes. Note how you can easily see the green because the dark doesn’t cover it.

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The finished cigarettes

And then it was tasting time…

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This cake had its top layer break which was a problem, though its taste was not affected in the least…

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The lavender cake

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The Banana Mousee with Milk Chocolate Cream, and Peanut Nougatine. You can clearly see all the layers.

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The Milk Chocoalte Raspberry Mousse and Vanilla Creme Brulee was beautiful.

Sampling all nine deserts was a bit much, even though none of them were over sweet. After the deserts we were treated to a meat, cheese, and wine tasting.

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And finally proof that I was there.

Conclusion:

Despite my initial fears it turned out that I was up to the task. In fact I consider this class to have come at the perfect time for me. I wasn’t so experienced that I had already mastered everything and not so green that I couldn’t follow along and absorb the points. On the chocolate side I was a bit more experienced and would have liked it if he could have spent more time on advanced decorations but there were only three days and a lot of pastry to make.

It would have helped to have at least pan sizes and temperature/times along with the ingredients, but I found the tips and techniques were more important than the specific recipes. Watching each desert being assembled was very educational and took the mystery out of a complex cake. I now have the confidence to tackle the Grande Finale books or the many recipes available on the net. In fact I just received my first copy of “Pastry & Baking North America” and was familiar with all the steps for two of the featured entremets.

I can see where this class will be costly for me. I’ve been browsing the pastry sections of Chef Rubber, JB Prince, and Flexipan catalogs. So many new toys to choose from…

I would heartily recommend Chef Norman as an instructor and this class in particular if it is ever presented again.

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Wow! Thanks for the report. Beautiful pix - I know how much work that is to get those images up there! :biggrin:

And some truly beautiful work! Bravo!

Edited by John DePaula (log)

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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This looked like a FANTASTIC class!

Perhaps sometimes people forget how influential Love has been in the past and certainly continues to be now.

I used to anticipate his appearances on Great Chefs when he was the Ritz Carltons

Corporate Pastry Chef.

Great stuff!!!

Thanks!

2317/5000

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Obviously I have been asleep at the wheel. How could I have missed this fantastic report! Thank you so much for sharing. I always say that desserts really don't interest me but it's hard to maintain that stance when I see a topic like this.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Thank you so much for such a wonderful report! Now I regret not registering for that class earlier... bummer!!

For the chocolate glaze, did he use cocoa powder or couverture? The chocolate glaze that I use right now has gelatin in it and it holds its sheen pretty well, and it uses cocoa powder. I was just wondering if using couverture might give it a better taste and texture.

Do you know where we can find the plexiglass circle? I use cardboard circle as leveler right now, the plexiglass circle looks like a good tool to have.

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Thank you so much for such a wonderful report! Now I regret not registering for that class earlier... bummer!!

For the chocolate glaze, did he use cocoa powder or couverture? The chocolate glaze that I use right now has gelatin in it and it holds its sheen pretty well, and it uses cocoa powder. I was just wondering if using couverture might give it a better taste and texture.

Do you know where we can find the plexiglass circle? I use cardboard circle as leveler right now, the plexiglass circle looks like a good tool to have.

The milk chocolate glaze has coveture, but the dark chocolate glaze uses cocao powder as yours does.

Chef said that he has a plexiglass guy who makes all his stuff for him. Plexiglass cuts and glues easily so you could make one for yourself fairly easily. The plastic comes covered in paper which you only peel off when your are done working it. You just draw a circle on the paper and cut it out with a saw. You can touch it up with sandpaper if you want, and even polish it if you wanted to go that far. Just Google "working Plexiglass" for lots of links.

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David, what is your level of training? Are you a professional or an avid homebaker? Just wondering who this type of class would be available to. I've never heard of a class like this happening in Vancouver but if it did I'd be there if at all possible.

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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David, what is your level of training? Are you a professional or an avid homebaker? Just wondering who this type of class would be available to. I've never heard of a class like this happening in Vancouver but if it did I'd be there if at all possible.

I don't know how to describe my level precisely. I'm definately not professional and I wouldn't have even called myself an avid baker before the class. The class was marked "Professional" and I was conderned enough that I wrote the school describing my experience. They wrote back and assured me I would be fine. Even so I was a bit worried, especially when Chef started throwing around all that French!

While I don't bake frequently I've read quite a bit and apparently mastered enough techniques that I was easily able to follow what Chef was doing. I've made sponge cake for buche de noel, pie doughs, basic cakes from scratch, various cookies, yeast doughs for sticky buns, marshmallow, praline paste, pounds of ganache for truffles and bon-bons, and gallons of Creme Anglase for ice cream and creme brulee.

On the other hand I hadn't made a mousse before I tackled the Cream Cheese mousse in class and pastry cream was likewise an unknown. Fortunately the basic techniques for each were known or simple enough to master. I've been working in chocolate for two years now so I wasn't worried about that angle. As it turned out the chocolate work was all demo so I didn't have to have any experience.

I wouldn't suggest a box-cake baker take the class, but if you have mastery of basic pastry skills you should have no problem. You should also be able to coordinate you work with others and keep your station clean as you go.

I think the professionals were able to finish their work more quickly, but even with the handicap of having to work around the lack of power at our station my team didn't lag far behind. I'm not sure how much a professional would have brought away from the class if they already knew most of the contents. I suppose the chocolate work would be new to them.

I found the greatest benefit came from watching how the pieces went together to construct the whole. Sort of like learning the secret to a magic trick, it took the mystery out of it and with it the fear of attempting it myself.

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Hi David

A few questions (probably will have more later)

1. Are the techniques Chef showed for chocolate decorations similar to the ones in Wybauw's book? That is, are there any differences in technique or philosophy?

2. On the chocolate fans, does Chef warm up the countertop first? What is the waiting time between pouring chocolate and doing the fans?

3. Chef's praline, is it just hazelnuts + caramelized sugar in a 50/50 ratio or something different?

4. When Chef steeps the middle cake layers, how wet is it? How wet does he make the bottom layers?

5. In a couple of the photos, there is a 'bowing' of the middle cake layer. Is this what to expect or is this an artifact of the cutting?

6. A few pictures look like they are spray painted with cocoa butter and chocolate? Or is this just cocoa butter? All done with the tiny badger instead of a bigger airbrush? Looking to see how chef does the "velvet" look.

7. I am poor at glazing. What is the technique here, pouring then spatula around the sides or something different? I have read about using lazy susans, seen pictures of holding the cake by hand, so wondering what was done here.

Thanks again for all the pictures and the report!!!

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1. Are the techniques Chef showed for chocolate decorations similar to the ones in Wybauw's book? That is, are there any differences in technique or philosophy?

There wasn't much overlap. JPW starts out pouring chocolate over frozen items and skipped the basic decorations that Norman Love taught.

2. On the chocolate fans, does Chef warm up the countertop first? What is the waiting time between pouring chocolate and doing the fans?

That's a tough one. He didn't warm it up on purpose, but he had torched it to clean up after the previous demo. Someone asked about that and he stated it was still quite cool even after a slight torching.

My memory is suspect, but I recall it taking 3-4 minutes for the chocolate to set properly for the fans. He readily admited impatiance and his first tries were too early as evidenced by the "example" of bad fans. He visually examined the chocolate and patted it with his hand to check it.

If it starts to cool too far Chef stated you can warm it up with your hand to prolong the sweet spot.

3. Chef's praline, is it just hazelnuts + caramelized sugar in a 50/50 ratio or something different?

It was just your basic hazelnut + sugar recipie. The one interesting point was he used half blanched/half skin on for flavor. Chef stated that home made praline would never be as smooth as commercial, but he actually prefered some texture in his paste.

4. When Chef steeps the middle cake layers, how wet is it? How wet does he make the bottom layers?

None of the layers were soaked, so I can't answer that.

5. In a couple of the photos, there is a 'bowing' of the middle cake layer. Is this what to expect or is this an artifact of the cutting?

You are probably refering to this:

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In this case I would put it down to improper construction. This cake was built upside down, so the top layer actually went in first. The biscut would have been flexible at room temperature and the middle layers frozen together. My take is that the frozen plug pushed into the biscut and deformed it right at the get go. That would happen if you had piped too much mousse in to start and had to force the center in to get everything to fit. That looks like what happened here.

6. A few pictures look like they are spray painted with cocoa butter and chocolate? Or is this just cocoa butter? All done with the tiny badger instead of a bigger airbrush? Looking to see how chef does the "velvet" look.

All chocolate spraying was done with a huge compressor and large air gun in a spray booth on deeply frozen cakes. The Badger was used only for colored cocoa butter.

7. I am poor at glazing. What is the technique here, pouring then spatula around the sides or something different? I have read about using lazy susans, seen pictures of holding the cake by hand, so wondering what was done here.

Allen made glazing look much easier than it is. He elevates the cakes on smaller diameter baking rings and pours the glaze on in a spiral patter starting from the inside and moving out, sometimes actually pushing the glaze with the bottom of the ladle. There was just enough glaze that it dripped down the sides, but it wouldn't matter if there were more. He used the two hand hold on the spatula and used the "feel" to know how hard to push so as to not strip too much off. After that he picked them up and cleaned the bottom edges with the spatula. A trowel is then used to recover the excess glaze from the table top.

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A few more thoughts on that list of questions -- the cakes were being layered with mousses and creams, so they picked up a lot of moisture from their surroundings. Soaking the layers really would have been unnecessary, and possibly overkill in a bad way.

Watching Alan glaze those cakes really was poetry in motion. I love the technique of raising the cake on a cake ring, rather than the traditional recommendation of using a cooling rack to support the cake. Less mess along the bottom edge of the cake.

Chef Love spoke of finding the "sweet spot" when doing one (and ONLY one) swipe across the top of the cake with your offset spatula -- you discover through repetition that you instinctively know how much pressure to apply to the spat. (Chef also commented at one point how critical it is to be using your own, familiar tool -- I believe he and Alan brought their own spatulas to the class.)

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A question on the 'splash' petals for the flower, how are they made? I've never seen anything like it before.

That's actually quite simple.

Start by piping a dab of chocolate at the bottom of the acetate ribbon, then use the rounded tip of a tool such as a paint brush to draw a fan of lines from the bottom up. Chef used a quick flicking motion. The entire process took seconds.

Pipe another dab next to it and repeat.

Drop the ribbon in a curved mold and let it set.

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David asked me to fill in some photos of the raplette in action. This is how Chef Love finished off his joconde sheets before baking -- a nifty tool that spread the batter in a neat, even layer over the Silpats. Pictures speak louder than words.

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A pause to reload the raplette mid-way through:

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Placing the Silpats on the sheet pans. Nice to have extra hands helping.

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