In real life, I do discuss food exactly like how I write in my food review articles. As always my food reviews are scored only on what I've tried and the service expected of that type of establishment.
Published May 4th 2015
French glass desserts
Picture tiny glasses of delicious desserts that are often found in the dessert section of all-you-can-eat buffets. A selection of colourful mousses, creams and jellies that are always in a small candle holder sized containers. The tops garnished with artful chocolate shapes, colour complimenting nuts or a golden leaf. Verrines, finally a name to the dessert or so I thought.
Armed with these delightful memories and the enthusiasm that I'd be able to make those desserts, I seized the opportunity to take a verrine making class. Bright and early I set out on my dessert making journey to Jewell station. The ever astonishing directions from Google Maps led my companion and I on a 15 minute unexpected journey, where we dodged a hipster Tour de Brunswick. If the directions had merely read 'Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School is directly opposite the platform with trains bound for the city', where would be the fun in it?
From top down: Chocolate Jaffa verrine, Citrus Ginger verrine and the Sunset verrine
A verrine is the dessert equivalent to a shop window. I believe it takes its name from the French word for glass. Being completely see through, clean and showing the best it has on offer are its principles. It's complex, multi-layered hardwork or culinary artistry that's deceptively easy. No number of failed attempts at recreating the milky (mousse?) layer of multi-layered jelly cups ever prepared me for the amount of work involved.
By the end of the introduction, I suspected two things: 1. a verrine is in a whole other dessert league of epic proportions. 2. this class was going to be of Masterchef calibre. If the fellow participants dressed as chefs or owning their own cafe/private cake business didn't confirm it, the commercial kitchen did. There is something wonderful about walking into a bustling kitchen. It shows you the constraints, houses the tools and ingredients that make the magic happen. Times that by twenty fold when you go into a commercial one.
Each verrine requires 5 recipes. One for each layer. The class gives you the chance to use a plethora of utensils and cooking appliances for each layer. Forget frustratingly spooning sauces or cupcake filling into cups, you need a depositor. One click and the delightful funnel mechanism pours it in and you can control the portion. Your regular blender doesn't break everything into fine enough pieces, they give you lumps! Lumpy marzipan will not do so you need a handheld blender. Don't forget to whip out the science experiment style cooking thermometer, as you worry about over crystalisation of sugar crystals. To top it all off, for all these years we've been making jelly like cavemen. You never have to wait hours for jelly to set again with a chill blaster!
Craftily assembling the verrine is very much a skill in progress. While the garnishing is the easiest way to start experimenting. The garnishing process can be spontaneous as you use chocolate shapes, frozen fruit that crumbles in your hands and all the edible metallic powder you like. After a day of effort under the guidance of the knowledgeable head chef and assistance of apprentices/kitchen fairies, you get to take home a dozen of the verrines of your labour. Proudly show these off as everyone you know is amazed by them and associate you with the talent needed to make them. They also have the ability to turn your workplace into a verrines tasting party.
We made three verrines. The 2015 updated recipes included:
The indulgent Chocolate Jaffa verrine had layers of chocolate mousse made from converture chocolate, sponge and vanilla bavarian cream on a orange jelly base. The cream layers and the chocolate layers worked beautifully together. The sponge and crunch layers gave a nice textural contrast to the softness of the mousse. The bitterness of the jelly alleviated the danger of the overall dessert being too sweet. Converture chocolate to chocolate is as single origin beans is to coffee. It takes the dessert to higher level, it's simply more than anything that's merely milk, white or dark chocolate.
The art of using four shades of chocolate discs and gold metallic popping candy
The high contrast Citrus Ginger verrine had a lot of buzz. The strawberry jelly accidentally became more sour than it meant to be, however this did help the first few layers with their citrusy tang. The middle was dominated by the soft lime sponge. Hints of ginger, lemon and other acidic zests capture the tastebuds one by one until you are relaxed by the comfort of the jelly base.
Garnishing with dried frozen fruit and chocolate shapes
The ultra fruity Sunset verrine employed coconut and pineapple layers with pate sablé throughout it. The pate sablé is a crumb-like mixture that is stopped before it becomes dough. It featured heavily in multiple layers, giving the verrine a mix of fruit and crumb textures with cream. The unexpected gooey jelly compote at the end yields a complete change in textual landscape.
Garnishing with yellow milk chocolate straws, pineapple and coconut crunch
A day's effort finished in 5 minutes. Having a verrine is like having 5 desserts at once. The production process requires a lot of effort and dedication. For chefs and good/skilled bakers, the class is perfect. If you are a dessert beginner, then this class is about introducing yourself to dessert culinary art and goal setting for each dessert area that is featured in the verrine layers. Even if it's just to try tempering chocolate because everyone should at least try that once.
Those desserts look exquisite, and the class must have been very enjoyable. The one thing I find about classes like this though - is that it really is just for the fun of it, because what you learn still cannot be replicated at home.