Final countdown

‘Final Countdown’ was first published on,  February 22, 2015

Last week at ENSP we had our ‘mock exam’ in preparation for our final exam in March. It was a very intense seven and a half hours. I don’t know I managed to finish everything with five minutes to spare and I can’t believe that I have to repeat it again in a few weeks!

It’s hard to believe that the time has gone by so quickly, but in three weeks I will be finishing the school part of my pâtisserie training and going back home to Lyon to start my internship. I think it’s fair to say that I cannot wait. The last several months have been…interesting. Somewhat of a social experiment which is now coming to an end. I’ve learnt a lot about myself and other people, but most importantly, pâtisserie.

Since I last updated properly we’ve covered so many things in class! Too many things to remember…I’m drowning in information over-load! We’ve covered:

  • Modern Entremets—layers of glaze, mousse, crunch and biscuit.
  • Bread Basics—There was a lot of bread…a lot…and many croissants.
  • Wedding Cake Basics—hideous sculpture, but lots of practice with making roses.
  • Plated Desserts—deliciousness on plates and the first try at pulling sugar.
  • Chocolate Bonbons and Chocolate Montage—started badly with a melt down over melted chocolate, but ended with a masterpiece.
  • Mixed Skills with different tarts and pastries—Tarte Tartin yay!
  • Sugar week with modern Croquembouche and pulled sugar—epic burns from falling balls of choux covered in boiling caramel.
  • Culinary Design—we worked on our own project. For me I took a famous Aussie cake and French-ified it!
  • Individual cakes and tarts—three groups, 15 cakes, plus seven cakes of our own designs.
  • More mixed skills—Paris-Montaigne, like the Paris-Brest, looks like hills instead of a wheel…
  • MOCK EXAM—stressful, hand-shaking, bad chocolate writing, good éclairs, ‘lost’ entremets in the freezer, chocolate tempered first go…actually finished on time.


All of this has been happening with a back-drop of freezing temperatures and snow. Being from an extremely dry part of Australia, snow is still a bit of a novelty, but I think I’ve had enough now! Luckily for the rest of the course we have evening classes, so no more 5:30am trudging through the snow to school….Oh, the stories I will have to tell the grand-kids!

Modern Entremets

Bread Basics

Wedding Cake Basics

Plated Desserts

Chocolate Bonbons and Montage


Culinary Design

Individual Cakes and Tarts



Sugar, sugar, sugar

‘Sugar sugar sugar’ was first published on, January 30, 2015

I haven’t felt like updating lately, for a few reasons, mostly because I’m exhausted—the whole waking up at 04:20 thing is taking it’s toll! However, lots has been happening including chocolate montages and sugar sculpting. For now, please check out all the latest pictures on the instagram page. You don’t need to be a member to have a look. I’ll write again soon!




Opsie…it’s been a while

‘Opsie…it’s been a while’ was originally published on, December 8, 2014

So it’s been a while since I last updated. I knew this would happen. I’m not one of these blog writers who can just pump out a few lines and be done with it. Once I start, it just all has to come out and keeps going…then I have to edit, then I don’t like the editing, then other people start editing and…well, you get the gist. However, I will do my best to update on the last month.

Now where did I leave off…oh wow, week four… Ok. So after week four came Week Five (of course)—Petite Fours. This included ridiculously large range of tiny tasty things like:

  • multiple macarons, with a multitude of flavours like lime and basil, salted caramel and raspberry and poppy. (None of the macarons failed even though everyone acts like they’re the killer bees of the patisserie world)
  • Tiny little tasty orange cakes and passion fruit cakes
  • Something called a ‘brownie’ that was nothing like any brownie I’ve met before. Some kind of chocolatey-nutty goodness wedged together with caramel goodness
  • Choux filled with delicious flavours
  • Financiers
  • Biscuit/cakes with mousse toppings
  • Sablé Breton biscuits topped with more flavours
  • Smiley biscuits joined with home-made ‘Nutella’
  • etc

Then came Week 6—Confectionery Week

This included:

  • Tempering chocolate (which nearly broke me) for bon bons with various fillings and toppings
  • Truffles
  • Pâte de fruits with real fruits. Sweet, but tasty
  • Praline Roses (yay! Go Lyon!)
  • Nougat (it literally broke my tooth and sent me to the village dentist)
  • Pâte de guimauve with aromas and with fruit purée (i.e. marshmallow which, in my opinion should not be piped)

Week 6 also included a trip out of the asylum, I mean school. We ventured down south to the HQ of Valrohna Chocolate, a famous chocolate brand here in France. There we visited the chocolate museum and learnt all about where chocolate comes from and the process from the growers to the consumer. We also took part in a chocolate tasting session and learnt all the lingo for describing the flavours. Think wine tasting, only with chocolate instead… Speaking of wine, after lunch at a quirky local restaurant, we ventured out into the pouring rain for a visit to the winery of M.Chapoutier, Tain-l’Hermitage. Unfortunately, due to the disastrous weather, we could only do the wine tasting session and browse the boutique before heading back to school—no visit to the vineyard. Although I’m not much of a drinker, the winery was lovely, the tasting interesting and I found out that they have several vineyards in Australia!

 Ice cream! My favourite thing!

So, next was Week 7 and ice cream. What we made:

  • Sorbets: citron (lemon), ananas (pineapple), fraise (strawberry), myrtilles (blueberry) and framboise (raspberry)
  • Glaces (ice cream): vanille, chocolat and noisette (hazelnut)
  • various cake and meringue inserts and more macarons (which also all worked)

What we did with them:

  • scooped out fruit and piped in sorbets for an interesting presentation
  • made Vacherin fraise-vanille (a strawberry and vanilla ice cream cake with meringue inserts and sides
  • made Velaya — with cassis (black currant) sorbet and a Verveine du Velay liqueur mousse for a local touch
  • then made Omelette norvégienne (aka Baked Alaska)
  • and Nougat glacé moderne. Nougat ice cream and raspberry sorbet with a cakey base and decorative pink macarons.

It just so happened that Nick was visiting at the end of the week, so of course, I cleaned out the freezer back at the apartment and fitted in as many ice cream cakes as I could!

Will catch up on more later—we had our mid-term exam today and it’s well past my sleeping time.


One month down

‘One month down’ was first published on, October 27, 2014

Week Four has come and gone and this means that I’ve already been here for one month! It’s actually quite hard to believe that it’s gone so quickly.

The theme for Week Four was Classic Entremets at ENSP and we had three extra people join us for the duration. This proved to be interesting as space in the lab was tight, dish washing was slower and we had to deal with new personalities. A larger-than-life character, who thought she knew everything, accompanied us for the week. Her constant belief that she knew it all proved a beneficial ‘team building’ exercise for us as we left class gossiping about her appalling behaviour and feeling bad for the Chef who had to deal with her. We’re all here to learn; what’s the point in coming if you think you already know everything?!

For those not in the know, an entremet was traditionally a dish served between the principal courses of a meal or it was a dessert. Now, in relation to modern pâtisserie, it refers to cakes, luxurious in nature, with multiple layers of mousse and sponge offering different textures and flavours. They attempt to delight the eye as much as the palate with glazes, embellishments and curls of chocolate.

On the menu for Week Four were:
Moka, Succès, Charlotte aux poires, Opéra, Framboisier and La Forêt Noire.

The Moka is a classic French cake of light sponge soaked in coffee syrup and layered with a type of coffee butter cream and it almost broke me. I could not for the life of me get the lines straight for the decoration on the top! I made attempt after attempt and just couldn’t get it right at the edges. After all the stress it dawned on me that it was for nothing as we had to cover the edges with piping anyway. Don’t get me started with the piping failures, either. Then, later in the week as we took them out from the fridge to take home, I found that someone had mashed one side of the piping on my cake that had taken me so long to get right! Not happy Jan.

The Succès was more of a success! This is another chocolaty cake, more like a tart, that’s layered with a type of almond sponge and ganache. In the end we poured a thick chocolate glaze over the top which you only get a few seconds to even out before it starts to set. This, I’m excited to say, I almost got perfect! I just stopped a wee bit too early when spreading the glaze, but otherwise I was so happy with the result. We then piped the name of the cake onto the cake and made little ionic style scrolls as decorations. I added my little bee, much to Chef’s disapproval—it’s not very beautiful!

Charlotte aux poires was next on the list and one of my favourites from the week due to it being fruity. We piped a lines of sponge fingers to wrap the cake in, and then layered it with syrup soaked sponge and crème with pears. Topped it with several pear halves et voilà: instant deliciousness!

Actually, the next three were also delicious. The Opéra, with its multiple layers of chocolate and creamy goodness, was going so well that I was getting excited about the results until I attempted to remove it from the baking paper and the entire bottom layer of sponge didn’t move along with the rest of the cake…I was the only person in the class that this happened to and Chef said he’d never seen it happen before. Oh, yay, I was the first. Cue ‘there, there’ arm patting from Chef as I stormed off to the blast freezer to see if I could save the rest of the cake by freezing it off the baking paper. Oh well, there were lots of tasty off-cuts to be had!

Speaking of tasty off-cuts, the Framboisier provided many of these. This was exciting to make, one because it’s with raspberries, which I love, and two because it’s very visually engaging. We made a two-toned patterned sponge—a bright pink and creamy coloured sponge in a ‘chevron’ stripe for me. This sponge is then wrapped around the cake which is filled and layered with sponge, crème and raspberries. Decorated with raspberries and white chocolate, the effect is visually captivating. Mine turned out fairly well, aside from my uselessness at cutting things straight, and for once mine wasn’t the one that entered disaster cake levels. The aforementioned class know-it-all dropped her tray of sponge on top of another person’s tray, mashing the design and then failed to apologise or even acknowledge what she’d done! As we discussed later on, encountering people like this in the course will only help us when we have to face work in the real world.

Last on the list was La Forêt Noire, i.e. Black Forest Cake. A hot favourite when I was growing up in Australia, I was excited to make this retro cake with its mix of chocolate mousse and tart cherries. We layered the chocolate sponge with the mousse, lots of fruit and then enveloped it in cream. During the demonstration, Chef couldn’t find his cake to show us how to pipe the cream so as a joke I said ‘Oh look! Here’s one that looks good” (indicating my cake) and he decorated it for the demo…I think he felt sorry for me after the Opéra debacle! Afterwards, his cake was found and I got to decorate a smoother version of the cake! It didn’t help—I still need to improve my piping!

One month down, four to go.



Who needs a gym?

‘Who needs a gym?’ was first published on, October 23, 2014.

The leaves are falling. Spinning as they drop, scattering in the wind that picked up today. Autumn is here, and winter is close behind. It was about 9°c today, which has been a shock, as up until now we’ve been basking in mid-20s sunshine. The staff at school have been warning us that winter can be quite drastic with temperatures being known to drop to as low as -30°c on occasion, but regularly falling to -10°c. Luckily I invested in a jacket from The Northface a couple of years ago, so I’m all set for trudging to school through the snow at 05:30.

It’s been awhile since I updated, mostly because I’ve been ridiculously tired. Those who know me well know I’m not a morning person and, therefore, have been taking the early mornings hard. I usually arrive home after a day at school and don’t move off the couch! Many days we have seven hours of lab starting at 06:00 and then a three hour theory class in the afternoon. So afterwards I’m physically and mentally exhausted and all I can do is try to cook some dinner, attach myself to the couch and attempt to get to bed by 21:00 at the latest!

Sous chef

Here’s an update of things since last I wrote. For Week Two I was made Sous Chef, which in the real world means you’re second in command, but in school terms means you have to do the chef’s bidding—weigh out ingredients for him for demonstrations as well as your own, fetch necessary tools like assisting a surgeon during an operation:

Chef: spatula
Me: spatula (hands him the spatula)
Chef: bowl scraper
Me: bowl scraper (hands him the bowl scraper)
Chef: piping tip, No. 10…quickly! The crème is setting: we’re losing the patient!

Fortunately after working with him for the week he must have decided that I’m better than he thought because he graded 1.6 marks up for the week and said he liked working with me! Yay, he didn’t fail me even though I managed to make lumpy pâte a choux for a demonstration!

We made quite a few things in Week Two: a couple of my favourites and I’ve added a new one to the list. We made Le Religieuse au chocolat—this is basically a small ball of choux pastry balanced on a large ball of choux, like a snowman. Both are filled with chocolate crème pâtissière, covered in chocolate fondant and decorated with butter cream. It was so tasty although not the most attractive thing; there was a lot of discussion in the class from certain members about how to make it ‘pretty’…

We also made Tarte Bourdaloue which is a pear and almond tart. Salambos, which are similar to éclairs, but filled with rum-infused crème pâtissière and topped with crunchy toffee and almond flakes. Then came Tarte au chocolat ganache, but these ganache things don’t really grab me—too rich. The last two, though = yummy! My favourite in the Tarte au citron meringue, (i.e. Lemon Meringue Pie) covered with Italian meringue and unfortunately quickly baked in the oven. I say ‘unfortunately’ because I’d been looking forward to getting my hands on the blow torch. Last, but not least, Paris-Brest. Sliced choux pastry circles baked with almonds and joined a mouthwatering crème praliné…If you haven’t tasted it before, I suggest you stop reading and find the closest pâtisserie to try it. with No wait! Keep reading because Week Three gets better!

Le semaine de pâte feuilletée

Week Three was le semaine de pâte feuilletée: the week of puff pastry. By the end of the week I felt like I was coated in flour, my pores blocked and my skin caked, thick with powder. It was worth it, though, because we made Mille-feuille! Yay with a capital Yay! Actually, we made two versions: Mille-feuille à la Chantilly and Mille-feuille Classique. The first is pastry layered with our own raspberry jam and whipped cream. The second is layers of pastry with crème pâtissière, the sides rolled in chopped nuts and the top covered with vanilla fondant, decorated with chocolate lines. This was great to do, but resulted in me having a freak out because as I was piping the lines, some chocolate dropped from the bag and left an unsightly squiggle right in the middle of the cake. It just wasn’t ‘beautiful’.

We rolled and rolled and rolled pastry all week. Folded and rolled to achieve the multiple layers required for puff pastry. We turned the blocks of pastry, threw flour, double folded, forgot how many times we’d rolled and prayed we hadn’t broken layers. In the end we made many things with the pastry like the Galette des Rois, with its tiny fève inside, usually eaten around the time of the Epiphany in the Christian calendar. Pithivier, a similar galette that’s eaten the rest of the year. Chausson aux pommes et la crème pâtissière, folded puff pastry filled with apples or crème patissiere or if you’re me, a mix of the two. We also managed a tasty apricot tart decorated with crushed pistachos.

After Week Three, I’ve developed some serious muscles! Who needs a gym when you can work out by rolling pastry?