The Pastry School Diaries: Get in Shape!
Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City's Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences!
Our final unit (eeek!) of classes is all about the finer side to pastry arts: sugar molding, chocolate work and cake decorating. While I definitely consider my baking style to be on the rustic (read: imperfect) side, I've very much enjoyed learning about these techniques so far.
We started out learning how to make sugar showpieces. You know, those things you see on cooking competitions, that when the chefs move them from their table to the judging station your heart pounds in anxiety that they're going to drop the whole thing.
Despite their name, these "sugar" showpieces are actually made out of isomalt, an almost-as-sweet sugar substitute that is resistant to humidity and crystallization, two very important factors when it comes to making one of these. We simply melted the isomalt on the stove, added edible paint and poured it into large silicone molds. Once the shapes were hard enough to pop out of the molds, you can use a small amount of melted isomalt to fasten the pieces together, or a blow torch works, as well. We had creative liberty in how we colored and assembled our pieces, and as stressful as the process seems, it was really quite fun.
Next, we learned the process behind making chocolates from bean to bar. Creative Director Michael Laisksonis has become our school's master chocolatier, importing beans from all over the world and scratch-making his very own chocolate. The process is a long one and a labor of love, but the final product is completely worth it.
A brief, visual representation of the bean-to-bar process
Now that I've gained an appreciation for the art of chocolate making, find out what happens when I try my hand at rolling and filling truffles next week!