Chronicles of A Pastry School Student

Around the World in One Semester

World Map Apple. Photo courtesy of Kevin Van Aelst & Cutestfood.com.

Well, not literally… This semester, every weekday morning I mentally coerce myself into waking up and getting out of my bed at about 5:30 am. I glance over my emails, make coffee and smoke a cigarette, (I’m trying hard to kick the smoking habit and if I successfully do that, I will share how it all happens). It’s still dark outside when I’m moving around, so I have a little quiet time to think.  I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to pursue my dreams. I remind myself that I am lucky and blessed to be awake and on my way to school to learn about making cakes, tarts and candies. I have no reason to ditch school. I want to go. I want to learn. I pray for patience and understanding; I pray to acquire the characteristics held by “nice” people (it can be easy to lose one’s temper when working in the close quarters of my college’s diminutive classroom—trust me), like kindness, integrity, fairness and tact. I then have a shower, a healthy breakfast and speed off to class.

This block of classes includes International Patisserie, Confiserie (Candy & Chocolate making), and a Digital Photography class that allows students to focus on whatever subjects they choose—I of course chose food. A short term, 8-week Nutrition class is also included in my schedule and begins in March.

The Commonwealth

British Commonwealth Map via Library and Archives Canada.

British Commonwealth Map via Library and Archives Canada.

So far in the International Patisserie course, we’ve just completed our time in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organization of 54 independent member states under British/former British rule. Many of the members of the Commonwealth were territories which have historically come under British rule at various times by settlement, conquest or cession.[1]

Member countries include Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, New Zealand, Pakistan, Samoa, Singapore, S. Africa, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia, to name a few. The member states cooperate within a framework of common values and goals, as outlined in the Singapore Declaration. These include the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism and world peace. The Commonwealth is not a political union, but an intergovernmental organization in which countries with diverse social, political and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status.[2]

Accordingly, many of these countries—though far away from one another, share in culinary traditions and we have explored and prepared a wide variety of Commonwealth pastries. Our projects have included:

Flapjack

Australian Oat Crunchie

Scottish Shortbread

Wholemeal Digestives (Biscuits/Cookies)

Lemon Curd

English Trifle

Pastry Cream

Bread Pudding

Cornish Pasties

Jamaican Fruit Cake

Australian Lamingtons

My Favorite Things

Australian Lamingtons.

Australian Lamingtons.                                 Photo Credit: The French Culinary Terms.

Of all of the recipes, my favorites were the Australian Lamingtons, Cornish Pasties, Lemon Curd and the Bread Pudding.  Of those recipes, the Australian Lamington and Cornish Pasty piqued my interest because of their interesting histories.

The Australian Lamington

The Lamington came to be by way of Lord Lamington, the governor of Queensland in 1901. His Chef was called upon to make something to entertain unexpected guests with short notice. The Chef dipped cubes of a moist, buttermilk vanilla cake in chocolate and then rolled them in finely grated coconut. Lamingtons became popular in Australia and today can also be found in New Zealand and South Africa. American aspirants include the Hostess Raspberry Zinger, a yellow cake dipped in Raspberry flavored syrup and coated in shaved coconut and the original Hostess Sno Ball, chocolate snack cakes dipped in marshmallow and coated in shaved coconut. Cream centers and tinted pink coconut were added to the Sno Ball recipe in the 1950s.


The Cornish Pasty

Cornish Pasty via The Cornish Pasty Association.

Cornish Pasty via The Cornish Pasty Association.

The Cornish Pasty is a meat pie which was traditionally carried down to the mines of Cornwall by miners for lunch. Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom.[3] Pasties can be prepared in a variety of shapes, but a traditional Cornish Pasty is shaped like the capital letter ‘D’. Cornish Pasties are made with shortcrust pastry and include diced or minced beef, onion, potato and swede (Swede is sometimes called turnip in Cornwall but the recipe requires use of actual swede, not turnip. Swede is known as a rutabaga in America.), in rough chunks along with some “light peppery” seasoning. The cut of beef used is generally skirt steak.  Pasty ingredients are typically seasoned with salt and pepper, depending on individual taste.The use of carrot in a traditional Cornish pasty is frowned upon, though it does appear regularly in recipes.

The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that pasty was identified in print around 1300. In the 1860s records show that children employed in mines also took pasties with them as part of their crib or croust (local dialect for snack or lunch).

Cornish Pasty Preparation. Photo via the Cornish Pasty Association.

Cornish Pasty Preparation. Photo via the Cornish Pasty Association.

Cornish Pasty Prepped and Baked.

Cornish Pasty Prepped and Baked. Photo via the Cornish Pasty Association.

By the end of the 18th century it was the staple diet of working men across Cornwall. Miners and farm workers took this portable and easy to eat convenience food with them to work because it was so well suited to the purpose. Its size and shape made it easy to carry; its pastry case insulated the contents and was durable enough to survive, while its wholesome ingredients provided enough sustenance to see the workers through their long and arduous working days.

By the early 20th century the Cornish Pasty was produced on a large scale throughout the county as a basic food for farm workers and miners.[4] The Cornish Pasty is the national dish of Cornwall.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea. Photo via the UK Tea Council.

Afternoon Tea. Photo via the UK Tea Council.

We closed our tour of the Commonwealth with a proper Afternoon Tea. Afternoon Tea is a tea-related ritual, introduced in Britain in the early 1840s. Traditionally, it is a light meal composed of sandwiches (usually cut delicately into ‘fingers’), scones with clotted cream and jam, sweet pastries and cakes. Interestingly, scones were not a common feature of early Afternoon Tea and were only introduced in the twentieth century. The Free British Afternoon Tea Guide of the UK reports that tea consumption increased dramatically during the early nineteenth century and it is around this time that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford is said to have complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon. At the time it was usual for people to take only two main meals a day, breakfast, and dinner at around 8 o’clock in the evening. The solution for the Duchess was a pot a tea and a light snack, taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon.

Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford. Photo via Wikipedia.org

Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford. Photo via Wikipedia.org

Later friends were invited to join her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey and this summer practice proved so popular that the Duchess continued with zeal–sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for “tea and a walking the fields.” Other social hostesses quickly picked up on the idea and the practice became respectable enough to move it into the drawing room. Before long all of fashionable society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon.[5]

As earlier mentioned, Afternoon Tea menus typically include tea with cream and sugar, sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream and various pastries. Food items are elegantly presented on tiered serving platters for guests, beginning with savory foods at the top tier, then scones with jam and clotted cream; and pastries at the bottom. Today, many Afternoon Tea tiered platters feature savory foods at the bottom, scones in the center and petite pastries at the top. Regardless of the presentation, foods are eaten in the same order: savory first, then scones and finally dessert.

The classic selection of sandwiches served with Afternoon Tea include:

  • cucumber;
  • egg mayonnaise with cress (aka Egg Salad);
  • smoked salmon with cream cheese;
  • Coronation chicken;
  • Ham and mustard.

The Afternoon Tea in our classroom was buffet style and included Egg Salad Sandwiches, Ham Sandwiches with Sweet Cream Butter, Currant Scones with Clotted Cream and Raspberry Jam, and Rosemary Cheddar Scones. Cheese and tomatoes were served along side the savory selections. Desserts served included a Victoria Sponge Cake with fresh Chantilly Cream and Strawberries, Chocolate Éclairs and Chocolate dipped Digestive Biscuits.

The range of teas on offer can vary from half a dozen to over a hundred, including some very rare and obscure ones. Some of the common teas on offer will include the following:

Assam: A strong full-bodied tea from India, which has a distinctive, ‘malty’ flavor.

Darjeeling: Aromatic and astringent tea from India, with hints of almond and wildflowers.

Earl Grey: A blend of black teas scented with oil of bergamot named after Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, who was Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834.

Lapsang Souchong: A Chinese tea fired over smoking pine needles, which produces a striking smoky odor and flavor.

Rules of the Game

A Cup of Tea via Wikipedia.org

A Proper Afternoon Tea Cup and Saucer via Wikipedia.org

A quick internet search led to an article about Afternoon Tea etiquette written by Ellen Easton. Below she shares the do’s and don’ts of attending the formal affair. After reading, I realized wearing soiled chef’s whites, sitting on buckets instead of chairs and roars of laughter were not included—and probably not appropriate for a real Afternoon Tea. Oh well… at least we got the food and tea part.

Afternoon Tea Etiquette

Holding a Tea Cup:

In order for one not to spill the hot liquid onto oneself, the proper way to hold the vessel of a cup with no handle is to place one’s thumb at the six o’clock position and one’s index and middle fingers at the twelve o’clock position, while gently raising one’s pinkie up for balance.

Tea cups with a handle are held by placing one’s fingers to the front and back of the handle with one’s pinkie up again allows balance.

Never wave or hold your tea cup in the air. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer.

If you are at a buffet tea, hold the tea saucer in your lap with your left hand and hold the tea cup in your right hand. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer and hold in your lap. The only time a saucer is raised together with the teacup is when one is at a standing reception.

Pinkies Up:

Originally, all porcelain teacups were made in China, starting around 620 A.D.  These small cups had no handles. In order for one not to spill the hot liquid onto oneself, the proper way to hold the vessel was to place one’s thumb at the six o’clock position and one’s index and middle fingers at the twelve o’clock position, while gently raising one’s pinkie up for balance.

Pinkie up does mean straight up in the air, but slightly tilted. It is not an affectation, but a graceful way to avoid spills. Never loop your fingers through the handle, nor grasp the vessel bowl with the palm of your hand.
Using Teaspoons:

Do not stir your tea, with your teaspoon, in sweeping circular motions.

Place your tea spoon at the six o’clock position and softly fold the liquid towards the twelve o’clock position two or three times.

Either place the iced teaspoon on the side of another plate or ask the server or hostess to remove the spoon from the table. Never leave the spoon in the glass especially when actually drinking your tea.
Serving Tea:

Milk is served with tea, not cream. Cream is too heavy and masks the taste of the tea. Although some pour their milk in the cup first, it is probably better to pour the milk in the tea after it is in the cup in order to get the correct amount.

Remove the tea bag from the cup and place it on a side saucer or in a slop bowl. Do not use the string to wrap around or squeeze the tea bag.

When serving lemon with tea, lemon slices are preferable, not wedges. Either provide a small fork or lemon fork for your guests, or have the tea server can neatly place a slice in the tea cup after the tea has been poured. Be sure never to add lemon with milk since the lemon’s citric acid will cause the proteins in the milk to curdle.

Drinking Tea:

Do not use your tea to wash down food. Sip, don’t slurp, your tea and swallow before eating.

Additional International Patisserie & Confiserie Class Photos

 


[1] International Patisserie Reader. Spring 2013.  Anonymous San Francisco Bay Area College.

[2] The Commonwealth. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Last modified on 13 February 2013 at 22:10.

[3] Cornwall. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Last modified on 12 February 2013 at 06:34.

[4] A History of the Cornish Pasty. The Cornish Pasty Association. ©2007

[5] The History of Afternoon Tea. The Afternoon Tea Menu. Free British Afternoon Tea Guide of the UK.

Featured Image: World Map Apple. Courtesy of Kevin Van Aelst. Provided by CutestFood.com

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