Award-winning Team Pastry Australia captain and Le Cordon Bleu Sydney head culinary teacher André Sandison reveals the secrets of silicone moulds.
Silicone is increasingly being used in the food industry, both commercially and non-commercially. For mould work, its greatest benefit is that it allows pastry chefs to customise and quickly recreate their own creations. It is generally non-reactive and stable in a range of temperature environments, making it suitable cooked sugar, chocolate and other food media. Although expensive, a well-designed silicone mould will last a long time and make the cost per piece inexpensive to reproduce over time.
At Le Cordon Bleu Sydney, NSI Ryde College of TAFE, we teach silicon mould making as part of our Certificate IV in Patisserie. This learning complements the students’ capacity to design and produce unique showpieces from chocolate and sugar. Also, through the generous support of the industry sponsors and specialists, its application is important for Team Pastry Australia competing in the World Pastry Cup in Lyon in 2013. This article covers some of the basics on silicone production and characteristics.
Silicone comes in a range of formulations influencing hardness, curing times and suitability with food. Consult your supplier when buying silicone for its appropriate use. Silicone can be readily purchased in Australia through Barnes Products.
Working with silicone is not much different from preparing a recipe. The two-component silicone rubber is weighed, mixed together and poured into the mould or frame desired. The key is to correctly estimate the amount required for the piece you create. Silicone recreates detailed impressions and releases from most surfaces it is poured into. Once cured, the silicone is released and ready to use. Silicone moulds should be stored flat or straight. If stored bent or twisted, some silicone will retain a memory of the storage shape.
When casting cooked sugar into silicone, it tends to bubble on the surface where it is in contact with silicone. This is avoided with vinyl strips placed between the silicone or the bubbles are removed by heating the surface with a torch and melting the fine bubbles.
When casting chocolate into silicone, several factors are important to consider. If the mould made has fine detail in it, the chocolate may need to be pre-brushed into the mould to reduce air pockets emerging when demoulding. Also, as the heat in the chocolate cannot readily escape, the possibility of the chocolate going out of temper is also a risk. Chilling the mould once filled or seeding
the tempered chocolate with callets to help absorb heat are possible solutions.The following ingredient list and steps are for a simple sugar showpiece made using silicone to cast the cooked Isomalt.
SHOWPIECE WITH SILICONE
WHAT YOU NEED
Water – 10 to 20 per cent of weight of Isomalt
WHAT TO DO
Pour water into pan. Pour Isomalt on top.
Cook slowly until Isomalt starts to dissolve, increase heat and cook untill 165˚C for pulling and blowing and up to 170˚C for casting.
Once silicone is casted and has cured, any excess silicone needs to be trimmed to ensure that the mould will produce a neat finish. The key to successful mould making is to be willing to experiment both with moulds and the food media you use. Even an imperfect mould can still produce an attractive piece.
The cooking temperature for sugar work, whether Isomalt or normal sugar, is very The cooking temperature for sugar work, whether Isomalt or normal sugar, is very important. This is one factor that will affect the texture of the sugar when casting, pulling or blowing. A temperature of around 165˚C is typically suitable for pulling and blowing, and 170˚C for casting.
Once Isomalt is cooked to 170 ̊C, it is left to cool in the pot to about 150 ̊C and then poured into the mould. Bubbles will typically appear on the surface of the casted sugar. The easiest way to remove them is to use a torch and heat the surface of the sugar to remove the bubbles. This will enhance the clarity of the casted piece.
Pulling and blowing sugar is increasingly being used as a possible garnish feature in dessert work and a requirement for competitive sugar work. It creates volume without weight and can act as a focal point for your work. The flowers have been pulled from sugar using a corrugated silicone mould for the petals with an airbrushed centre. The ribbon was created using primary colours (red, yellow and blue) folded into the Isomalt and then the three colours folded together repeatedly and pulled to create a ribbon. These pieces can be made in advanced and stored in airtight containers with silica gel to help absorb moisture.
Using cooled Isomalt cast in a silicone mould produces an attractive main structure quickly and allows the chef time to finish the piece with pulled and/or blown elements. Heating the casted pieces with a torch will allow the pieces to be quickly stuck together.
Once the main structure is up, the garnishes can be applied to the piece. Less is more is often the best motto for presentation. Any piece from sugar or Isomalt work will need to be presented soon after completion or stored in an airtight container for long-term presentation.