Rolling out chocolate pastry
"See, it's really easy."
Emily Keshav, head baker at Floriditas Bakery, is rolling out chocolate pastry with the casual confidence of a kid with play-doh.
"The trick is to make sure you always work with it when its cold," she says, folding over her perfect circle onto the rolling pin and transferring it to the waiting fluted tin.
We cluster around the stainless steel work bench, watching in silent awe, sweet-toothed participants on the Baking Flair at Floriditas Bakery tour held during the Wellington on a Plate food festival.
White sugar drum - on its own wheelie base!
Originally starting off as Comtessa Bakery, this artisan bakery supplies sweet treats to Wellington food specialist Moore Wilson and cafes throughout the area. Its newly expanded kitchen behind sister cafe and restaurant, Floriditas, prompted the name change. "It just made sense to call it Floriditas," explains owner Julia Clark.
Macadamia and white chocolate biscuits
There was a point when the company contemplated moving into factory-style production. However following some test runs with various lines on automated dough makers and cutters, they realised that the heat from the machines was partially cooking the biscuits before baking had even begun, resulting in a significantly poorer taste and texture.
"We decided to become an artisan bakery instead," says Julie, and in the kitchen today there are no artificial ingredients or pre-bagged egg whites or egg yolks. "We crack every egg by hand."
Portioning the date and nut cupcakes by hand
Head baker Emily started off as a qualified chef before realising the pastry section was where her real passion lay. Upon qualifying as a pastry chef, she spent four years in the kitchens at Logan Brown, recently named as Supreme Winner in the Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year awards for 2009.
Date and nut cupcakes
She quickly whips up a huge batch of date and nut cupcakes, enough to make between 48-60 cupcakes.
"What's the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?" someone pipes up.
Emily says muffins are more of a batter with a shorter shelf life but more forgiving in terms of ingredient ratios and substitutions. Cupcakes always require creaming and the measuring of ingredients needs to be precise. Many people don't cream their butter and sugar for long enough, she says, the sugar grains still visible in the mixture. The sugar needs to fully dissolve into the butter, and the mixture beaten so well it should be almost white in colour.
A generous dollop of pink icing is plopped on top of a tamarillo and vanilla tea cake. The pink comes from the leftover liquids of the poached tamarillos, adding a subtle blush of colour and a hint of flavour.
It's always best to put the icing on the centre of the cake and then slowly smooth the top and work it down around the sides, and Emily demonstrates this with rapid expertise.
Smoothing down the sides of the cake
A halved poached tamarillo provides a simple decorative flourish.
The completed tamarillo and vanilla tea cake
Pouring on the chocolate icing
A molten river of glossy chocolate icing cascades its way over cooled Valrhona cakes. It's important that the cakes are completely cool so the icing doesn't melt, and the trick to glossy icing is the addition of liquid glucose.
Smoothing out the chocolate Valhrona cake
Emily uses a palette knife to smooth out the icing, recommending a feather-light touch or else the icing will drag against the cake and pick up crumbs. Presuming no crumbs have been disturbed, the icing dregs beneath the tray should be able to be re-used for the next cake.
The icing will take a few hours to set at room temperature, and although this process can be sped up in the fridge, the icing will lose some of its glossy sheen.
Chocolate buttons, squares, chips and Valrhona pearls
We try a few different types of chocolates used at Floriditas. The Valrhona chocolate pearls are amazing - petite polished spheres of smooth chocolate that melt on the tongue in an instant.
Caramel brownie, triple chocolate brownie and millionaire's shortbread
Samples of the brownies and millionaire's shortbread prove to be winners. You can tell these are handmade with their soft moistness and none of that peculiar dry aftertaste you get from many commercially-made cakes.
I ask Julie what makes it a millionaire's shortbread. "It's basically just a caramel slice," she says, "but it's all about the ratio of shortbread, caramel and chocolate topping."
Rum and raisin chocolate ice creams
An ice cream machine churns out dessert for the Floridita Restaurant and we're treated to rum and raisin chocolate ice creams. The raisins are soaked in a sugar syrup, then brandy is added, the raisins left to soak until they're plump, juicy and a little boozy.
We learn an assortment of interesting tidbits throughout the tour - that cake flour gives a softer texture to baked goods, and that baking is usually done in the morning so the cakes can cool during lunch. The afternoon is dedicated to icing - "the fun part", Emily says with a laugh.
Julie also mentions an interesting phenomenon they've noticed. Every year in the two weeks after daylight saving, cakes drop significantly in sales in what they call "diet week", a period they guess is people panicking about the approach of summer. After two weeks, the cake sales go back to normal.
Presumably that's when sanity returns.
Earl Grey tea fruit cake
Chocolate pearl cupcakes
Wellington on a Plate runs from 17-30 August 2009. Next year's festival dates have already been confirmed as 14-29 August 2010.
Grab Your Fork joined the Baking Flair at Floriditas Bakery tour as a guest of Positively Wellington Tourism for Wellington on a Plate. For more information on Wellington, check out http://www.wellingtonnz.com.
Cake stands at Floriditas Cafe
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Floriditas Cafe & Restaurant
161 Cuba Street, Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (04) 381 2212
Monday to Sunday 7am - 10pm
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8/27/2009 01:32:00 a.m.