Breakfast at the Richemont School was an extravagant affair. Never have I seen such a variety of bread products. Our translator Sigisfried Bienz met us after breakfast and introduced us to our main tutor, Fredy Eggenschwiler, the chief confectioner. While in the main reception, Mr Bienz pointed out a wall of recognition, where all the sponsors of the college are acknowledged with a plaque.
Our class was large, with an incredible mix of cultures and dialects. Mr Eggenschwiler proved to be an impressive tutor, and the demonstrations were flawlessly choreographed to his commentary. Almost as impressive were the high-tech classrooms, projector lights and blinds, all at the touch of a button. I still found the lectures a little strange, being the first that I have attended.
In our first tutorial, we were introduced to some recipes for sponges, torten and fancies. Although some of the recipes and equipment seemed familiar to me, some of the ingredients and techniques were quite surprising.
I would not have thought it possible, for example, to mix gelatine with fresh cream. Another idea new to me was the creative use of sweet chestnut, an ingredient often overlooked in this country. I left the classroom, feeling inspired.
We arrived for breakfast, greeted by excellent staff from the restaurant and, at 8am, Siggy arrived to have a chat before we entered our classroom. More people started to arrive for the course. None of them were English, but they still made us feel very welcome. I even tried to speak some German, but I didn’t manage much more than: Thank you, Please and Do you speak English?
Siggy then introduced me to Fredy Eggenschwiler, the chief confectioner and our course tutor. It was an honour.
Everyone began to enter the classroom and find a seat. I was sitting next to a young man from Austria called Elvin, whose father and uncle have their own bakery. Fredy handed out the coursework, which Siggy had given us the day before and, while he spoke in German, Siggy translated it for us. To begin with, the teachers demonstrated how to fold and sheet puff pastry (the German version with slab butter) and explained that faults occur during sheeting due to unproportional pastry and over-stretching. They also explained how important the resting time of the product is before each turn. Diagrams were then shown on how the product looks when it has been baked and giving details on fat content, dough, steam pressure, temperature and how to check the bottom of the product when it’s baked.
Fredy then went on to talk about Torten and how important it is to get the product correct: taste; no more than three colours; appearance - the top layer colour should show what the cake is like, for example either orange or chocolate; seasons - the use of fruits relating to the time of year; and themes - for example, Christmas, Easter or Halloween.
Fredy also stressed the importance of a cake size and how it should be the same every time; this will help give you the same product time and time again, which they base on 10 pieces per cake weighing 100g. While Fredy was taking the lecture, two other teachers prepared a sponge, ready to put into baking rings. This is done by covering the first ring with greaseproof paper and then sealing the base with the second ring, filling the circle with the batter and baking in the oven on 205?C for 30 minutes. They were then turned out on to a baking tray and baked for a further 15 minutes.
After time to cool, they were cut out, a note made of the date of production, then wrapped and sealed in plastic bags before being stored in a cool room.
Swiss Rolls were next on the agenda. Every ingredient was weighed and mixed to the exact amount. After mixing, three sheets of silicone were placed over the table. One had a chocolate pattern, on which Fredy had designed by hand. The batter was placed into a metal guide, which was then pulled across the silicone, spreading the batter evenly. One of the sheets was combed for decoration and they also piped a full circle. These were then baked and the one with Fredy’s design, which was really simple, looked so effective.
For the final recipe of the day, a Choux Paste, they piped circles, similar to ring doughnuts, then did the circles again, but on a slightly larger scale. When baked, the smaller ones were finished by turning one upside down and piping a circle of cream then adding a lid. Toppings included coffee, chocolate and white fondant. The larger of the choux rings was then cut in half and filled with either chestnut or hazelnut butter cream, piped into the middle. The lid was finished with a glaze, a sprinkle of almonds and a dusting of icing sugar.
Before the day drew to a close Fredy invited all the group to taste one of the Swiss Rolls, which were finished with raspberries and cream and it was delicious! n