September 30, 2012


In my culinary program, everyone has to do an 240-hour internship in their last (typically 4th) semester. I decided to do my internship in a hotel pastry department, since I've never had experience in a hotel environment.

So far it's been quite different from working at local or even chain bakeries. Although I've been making doughs, batters, shaping/piping product, occasionally I get to help out with sculptural pieces that a small bakery would simply not have the resources to do.

One piece I've been working on requires a lot of pastillage, which is similar to gum paste and fondant. Made out of sugar, gelatin, water and vinegar, it hardens as it dries, making it very useful for sculptural pieces.

pastillage dough

Before the dough can be used it has to be kneaded until smooth (on a cornstarch-covered surface) and then rolled out flat to the approximate size of the surface it is meant to cover. In this case, it's castle gates made of foam-core board that I had a great time cutting because it utilized some long-lost drafting skills.

pastillage kneaded & rolled

Once the pastillage has covered the piece and is trimmed to the exact dimensions, designs can be etched on it. In this case I used the triangle tool to indent parallel lines for bricks.

pastillage brick lines

Then I took this handy plastic tool and indented individual bricks. A very hands-on process. I think there are brick stencils/rollers made for this exact purpose, but Chef likes the inexactness of this.

pastillage bricks

To actually adhere the pastillage to the foam-core board, I used royal icing (meringue + powdered sugar). It's literally like edible glue.

royal icing "glue"

Then there's some more trimming and detail cut-outs like the crenellations and windows.

pastillage & foam board

After that Chef demonstrated using the airbrush machine to spray food-grade airbrush coloring onto the pieces.

airbrushing pieces

Here are all the pieces I cut, airbrushed with color.

airbrushing finished

Once the spray color has dried, we dabbed a side towel with water and wiped the surfaces, blending the colors together.

blending airbrush colors

I hope that these things I learned will one day come in handy, like the drafting skills I had from the one architecture studio class I took in college. I guess you just never know.

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