The next day, I popped over to the competition site, of which the 2nd day of Semi finals. I went there to see see how things are, so that I'll give myself a mental prep. The main purpose of dropping by is to collect my pistachios, promised to me by the organizer. I thought I'll get skinless ones, but noooooooo, I got regular pistachios that comes with lots of skin. I left soon after that and went to collect my ingredients at a designated baking supplies shop.
I got back to my relative's place and started working on my pistachios. Blanching, peeling and finally toasting them. Because they were toasted right after blanching, there were lots of moisture in the nut. Took me more than 1 hour to get them nicely toasted. In out of oven, airing and toasting again. Then I had to grind them... when everything's done, it was 11pm. I was dead tired!
I'm baking Flourless Pistachio Torte with Strawberries (Montebello) today.
We were given 3 hours.. I knew, I will have enough time.
First, I made my torte. Had to beat the meringue and this mixer was not the same as KA, much more powerful and I overbeat my egg whites! They were too dry. Luckily for this contest, there's no such thing as limited utensil or limited ingredients. Any errors, just start all over again and they will provide you with the neccesary things, and for this, more eggs :) The organizers are very accomodating. I beat my meringue again and this time I stay slow and steady. Phew, meringue was just nice and my torte came out just as how I wanted it. But stupid me... forgot to cover them while cooling.
When I finally had to compose the cake, I found my torte base a bit dry on the surface. I brushed them with a lot of syrup, LOL. Worried to be commented the torte was dry.
Since I still had 45 minutes, I casually frosted all 4 tortes. Ran a trial with 1 torte before completing the assembly for the one I am going to present. When I am almost done, the emcee came over and asked me whether I am ready. I went huh? Times up? Oh no! I didn't even chill my cake! The gelatin glaze is all runny!
Oh no oh no!
I stood before the judges. All 3 said it looked beautiful. Judge Bernard said my cake was tooo sweet. Said all that he could taste was sweetness. The 2 other judges differed and said it was just nice. The reason, they ate with the strawberries and he didn't. I was bashed when said my cake was soggy and sweet, and that I shouldn't tell people how to eat the cake, when I tried to explain, the cake is meant to be eaten with the strawberries, and the strawberry is not a garnish but part of the cake, based on the combination of Montebello created by Pierre Herme.
Oh well... Oh well....
But, the part of the cake being soggy, I can only have myself to blame. The so called 'syrup' the judge ate was actually the gelatine glaze that never set. So, if for this I lost the semi finals, I could only blame myself for working so slow and never looking at the clock. Being too confident thinking that I could make it on time. Who's to blame that the judge found it syrupy? ME!
After the judging was over, the public could come and taste our bakes. The feedback I got were all positive. Sweetness just right and they told me it's delish! To me, that's enough.
It's then time to announce the winner of the day. I thought my neighbouring contestant, Fan will win, because she didn't have much negative remarks. I was rather surprised to hear that instead I won it. Okok... I'm glad. I knew it was the outlook of the cake that saved my butt, because I managed to peep into the male judge's marks for me. 13.5/20 for taste and 14.5/15 for outlook. Hehehe, My eyes are still quite sharp.
I went back, relieved that I will proceed to the finals. I'm just glad that my initial effort to plan for finals aren't wasted, LOL.
For finals, we were given 4 hours. That quite a lot of time!
I did a stupid mistake, yes more mistakes.
For the semi final's Montebello, I adjusted the recipe based on the size of egg. Because the original recipe used Grade C eggs and jumping to a AA egg, I definitely need to recalulate it. But today, I didn't! When I did the sponge biscuit at home, I used A eggs, so I thought, A and AA, the difference is quite minor, so I didn't bother. But nooooooooooo. My meringue didn't turn out as stiff as I wished and my batter was not as 'solid'. The baked sponge biscuit turned out rather flat and in the end, was commented a bit chewy by one of the judges. My wrong, my bad!
Some of you who were there could see the speed that I was working........ slow and steady.
After I got the mousse into the sponge biscuit ring, I basically had to wait only and I have more than 2.5 hours to kill. I slowly balled my watermelon. One by one they came off my melon baller. I made a huge bowl of melon balls. Wrapped them up and kept them chilled.
Then I proceeded to make chocolate decoration, as advised by a pastry chef G during a consultation the day before. I was having some problems with some organic compound chocolate that I was given to use. Luckily Shenny came to my rescue and gave me some chocolate chips that her shop is using. Those worked like a charm and stayed pipeable until the end. But..... chef judge NS walked pass. Saw my chocolate deco, asked me, your cake will look so neat, please don't clutter it.
When it's almost time, I took out my cake and wrapped a ribbon around it, just like how charlottes usually have. Then I found out, the shop in SS2 near Poh Kong sold me a piece of joined ribbon, without notifying me whether it's ok or not. Lucikily it didn't snap and stayed put throughout judging.
I was anxious this time, hoping my lime mousse isn't too sour for the 6 judges. And when they asked me to slice the cake for them, the knife came out clean! Phew, I was so happy the cake set! If it didn't, I'm gone case! The feedback was almost all postive, flavours well balanced, beautiful, delicious,and everybody ate with a smile on their face. One judge even told me it felt like eating a mock tail cake and the flavour combination of lime, watermelon, basil and mint was very special. The only negative was that my sponge was a bit chewy, like I said earlier. I passed some to the pastry coach said, and he said it felt like eating mojito cake, except for the lack of vodka. He liked it too.
When I was asked about why I chose these fruits to work with, my silly mouth spoke not what was in my head. LOL. I said a lot of tropical fruits were not in season now, so I used those that are easily found! It was partially true, but bananas are also found everyday everywhere right. LOL. The main reason was that I was thinking, some of the judges had been eating a lot of of the bakes these few days. I wanted something refreshing that will make them want to eat amidst all the butter and sugar concoctions that got them satiated. If not I would've just gone with the BanaMisu, right!
When I was announced as the winner, this time I was happy and glad, simply because I made a cake that everybody loved and most important of all, this cake is a cake that I believe is good. This cake won my heart.
Friends also came by to give me support, fellow bloggers like Lena, Esther, Sharon, Abbygail, Yvonne, Shannon, my good friend Wai Wai and her friend and not forgetting my chocolate saviour Shenny who came on both days. Thank you all! Words can't express how much it means to me. But I am indeed blessed to have you all as my friends.
My baking mentors, Alan and Swee San, Annie and Hody who has been helping me to see my trials and kena kacau for questions in helping me make decisions. Not forgetting Quay Po whose ears are always available to hear me rant. Not forgetting the ever caring Lena again. Thank you thank you!
I know a lot of you are supporting me mentally, it's a working day. I understand.
Thank you for all the well wishes on Facebook (92 well wishes and 120 Likes), and more congratulatory wishes after I won. I know I've been bad by not announcing it earlier, but I was feeling shy, haha, yeah, shy, serious! And also, I am also worried about everybody putting high hopes on me. I am already heavily betted by my fellow buddies! Haha, Pressure not from the competition, but from the care and love showered upon me. But in the end, I felt bad, knowing that being as my readers, you all have the right to know of my participation in this competition.
As for the organizers, thank you for replying to my every email, every query, clearing every doubt. I know you did your very best to accomodate our every need. I was so happy that I wasn't restricted to using whatever at our counter only and we could ask for utensils, get the bowls and spoons washed as many times as needed. I never had to worry about using dirty utensils (I wonder if Veron worried I'll give her diarrheoa, LOL). Budget for materials were generous (I can't finish mine), the coaches, mentors, judges were all nice people.
I am glad I joined this competition... It's been a great self challenge, a great time with friends, and a great time getting to know more professional bakers. Thank you all!
To all on FB who thought my tummy cramps pre Finals were caused by stress, no la! I was really having mild food poisoning. LOL. Diarrheoa can't be a product of stress.
Oh Yes.... the cross section of the cake?
Here it is, have a slice of it now, virtually, I'll give you the recipe tomorrow :)
Make it at home, so that you can have a slice of it, literally
Love ya all!