Sunday, October 7, 2007

Days 80 and 81: Flowers. Chocolate.

It sounds like Valentine’s Day, I realize, but this little foray had little in store when it came to romance. We revisited chocolate plastique, which you may recall from Days 68 and 69 (adorning the cake I gave to the stranger on the subway).

The first time we worked with it, all we had to do with chocolate plastique was wrap a cake in it, and then fold little rectangles of it into abstract crinkles. Now, however, as we continue to learn about those greatest of all pastry displays, wedding cakes, the focus is on pretty little things like bows and flowers. We begin to appreciate, difficult though it seemed at the time, how easy it is to make abstract things. The process for bows is pretty straightforward: once you’ve rolled the chocolate plastique nice and thin, cut it and fold it into bow shapes. Not exactly a thrill ride, but don’t worry; the lack of excitement there was made up for once we got to roses. As with marzipan, small petal shapes are cut from thinly rolled chocolate plastique, and placed between two sheets of parchment paper. These small cutouts are then placed between two sheets of parchment or acetate, and the second skill (the first being rolling) is applied. With the back of a spoon, you press gently on each petal, moving in a circular motion. By paying extra attention to the edges in this step, you can give each petal-to-be an irregular ruffle along its edge, as real rose petals often have. This is by far the hardest part to learn. While you work to master the motion, figuring out how to achieve the proper shape as you go, you constantly have to pay attention to thickness. If they’re too thick, they’ll look cartoonish, and if they’re too thin... well, they can’t be too thin. Thin and delicate is really what you’re going for, but obviously this results in special challenges in handling. Once you’ve managed to press out at least fifteen (plus about thirty extra in case two or fourteen of them break), you can begin constructing the rose. This third skill was perhaps the easiest. All that’s really left to do is attach the petals to a small cone of chocolate plastique, first a layer of three, followed by a layer of five, followed by a layer of seven, gluing each on with a little egg white as you go. I would recommend cheating like I did: refrigerating the pressed-out petals enables you to actually use them; a benefit in my mind. Once I’d figured out that extra step, it became a very gratifying exercise, and one which I can see using in the future should I need a bit of elegant décor on one cake or another.

This repose from icing was almost a sort of mini-vacation. After the buttercream, chocolate plastique seems to melt at an incredibly slow pace, so this was a chance for us to spend a little more time in search of perfection.

Which eluded us nonetheless.