Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Saturday Morning at Caprice... Kitchen

I was super excited (and felt privileged) to have the opportunity to spend some time with Chef Marike van Beurden - the pastry chef at Caprice - inside the kitchen of Four Seasons Hong Kong a few weeks back on a Saturday morning to learn about chocolates. We were given a crash course on chocolate making, then some tastings of different kinds of chocolates, and at the end, created a dessert using chocolates under the guidance of Chef Marike.

That morning we had a chance to taste and compare different kinds of chocolates produced by Cacao Barry, a 170-year-old French premium chocolatier. They source cocoa beans from well-selected farms around the world, and supplies its products to many top restaurants, including Caprice. Many of Chef Marike's fancy dessert creations which were on Caprice's menu were now made with Cacao Barry products.

Starting with some Four Seasons pastry

A showcase of Cacao Barry Products
Well, true I occasionally baked and made desserts at home, but I must confess chocolate is not an ingredient I worked with most often nor too familiar with, so this was a very good learning experience. To me, the most impressive part was when we did the chocolate tasting - only when I was able to taste different chocolates side by side did I realize they did vary quite a bit in taste even they looked similar and containing roughly the same portion of cocoa. They even came with a line called "Plantation Chocolate" - using organic cocoa beans from specific plantation with the harvest year indicated. Talk about terroir in cocoa planting! They also pioneered a new fermentation method called Q-Fermentation in which natural ferments from the plant leaves and soil were added to the cocoa bean pulp to enhance the flavors.

One of my favorites was one called "Mexique" using beans from Tabasco region of Mexico with 66% cocoa - with berries and dark cherry note, and even a slight hint of chili. Another one I thought would be ideal in dessert was the one from Tanzania (75% cocoa), which was intense, yet smooth and balanced. I reckon the more neutral flavor would work well with other ingredients.

This is normally the banquet kitchen of the hotel - but they set this up with all the pastry kitchen equipment just for us. Really appreciate the effort by the team!
 
Wow I even got my own personalized apron!! With my name embroidered! OMG!
After we have a fair taste of chocolates (and wonderful pastries to go with), it's time to get our hands dirty with chocolates too. We were going to learn how to make a dessert which used to be in the restaurant menu, a South American inspired dessert of Dulce de Leche, Peruvian Coffee and Chocolate, Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ice Cream. Sometimes when we looked at a dessert as it was presented at the table, we may exclaim how beautiful it is, with so many textures and flavors etc, but only when we looked more carefully at how it's made did we realize how much effort chef has to put in just to make everything and assembled them together!

A chocolate tempering machine - can I have that for my birthday?

Molded and glazed chocolate mousse - now just needed to put back into the freezer to set
Half rounds of cafe latte truffles
Microwaved cake - one of my favorite things to make at home!!

Honeycomb - almost finished

Love the texture of the honeycomb - just crumbled it and put them on the plate, or put that into icecream
Just the recipe of each individual components took up a few pages. Well given how little time we had we didn't get to make them all ourselves, but at least we were shown how most of them were made and for a few, we were actually able to try making. Three of the new things I learned that I found most useful were the glazed chocolate mousse, the honeycomb and the truffles. Those will come very handy next time I am making dessert at home as the techniques involved were very versatile for many different dishes. We also got the chance to plate our own dish after Chef Marike showed us how to do it. It sure looked much easier than it really was - that made me appreciate so much more the consistency and skills required at a professional kitchen.

It's going to take a while to take in all the things I have learned that morning, but what a memorable experience! Thanks so much Four Seasons PR Team for the arrangement and Chef Marike for the time spent setting up, explaining everything to us, and being patient with us even when we made such a mess in your kitchen. (and all the leftover ingredients that we managed to take home with - haha!) This is one truly epic Saturday morning, and you know I wasn't just being courteous when I said this.

Similar post from last year: Day at the Four Seasons (Part 1) - Playing in the Pastry Kitchen

This is the partially plated dish by Chef Marike (only missing the icecrem and the sugar tuile)

Embarrassingly, this is what I made. I swear I did try to follow the instructions.

Even wines (a Champagne and a Banyuls) to go with the dessert we made ourselves! What a wonderful morning! Trust me this is the best table in the "restaurant"


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