Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blind Baking a Blueberry Pie...

This week in Baking & Pastry we are working on non-yeasted doughs, which use only natural leveners such as eggs and butter...LOTS of eggs and butter! There are 3 categories of non-yeasted doughs: Pate Brisee, (Pie Dough), Pate Sucree, (Short Dough), and Pate a Choux, which translates as Cabbage Dough. Not sure how it got the name but it definitely does not contain cabbage! 

And yes, you guessed it, on the menu this week is PIE! We had two options for a fruit filling for our pies, blueberry or apple, and of course I chose blueberry. And yes, we did actually "blind bake" the pies....ok well not really as you might think. Blind Baking is a baking term that actually means that you par bake the dough before you add the filling, then add the filling and finish it in the oven. And I could not have been happier with how my blueberry pie came out, it is gorgeous, and I think it was the best tasting blueberry pie I have eaten!

Also on the menu this week was Quiche au Fromage and a Lemon Curd Tart with Swiss Meringue, both using the Pate Sucree. At first I was not too excited about the quiche, as quiche was never something I have really enjoyed. But I realize now that I had just never had a well made quiche, because my quiche is absolutely delicious! And it was so very simple to make. We made the Pate Sucree last Friday and it spent the weekend in the walk-in, so tonight we just had to mise, put it all together and bake it until it is a golden brown and jiggles like jello. I am definitely looking forward to this for breakfast tomorrow!

After baking off our quiche tonight, we fully baked the second portion of our Pate Sucree for the Lemon Curd Tarts. We got our mise together, and blanchired the eggs and sugar, added some lemon juice and zest, finished with butter, and put the lemon curd into the freezer to set. At this point we decided we needed to leave the Swiss Meringue for tomorrow as we did not have enough time, so we have that to look forward to for my next posting. Also tomorrow we will be making the Pate a Choux, I am curious to see what exactly it is and what we will do with it....

Friday, August 26, 2011

Show Me The Dough!

I can't believe it's Friday, and that means that we are about to complete our second week of Baking & Pastry. And even more so, I can not believe that after we finish this class (in just 4 more weeks), we only have one more class left, then we do our externships, and then we graduate! Wow.....time sure flies when you're having fun!

So this week of B&P is pretty well represented in the photos here. The week started out nice and tasty with the baking off of our Brioche breads. Chef Richard showed us how to make various types of brioche breads, we made Atete's, a Nantere, a 3 Braided loaf and a 4 Braided loaf. Mmmmmm.....I can't wait to make some brioche french toast with these babies.
And then the week got sweeter with Sweet Doughs! We made some pretty ridiculous Cinnamon Rolls, they were almost as big as my head, or as my friend said, looked like a horse's foot!
And then we went insane with butter and made Croissants. I never knew how croissants were made, and never really thought about it. But when the time came to make our croissants, I felt a bit nervous, because I could only assume that they are not easy. And it turns out that they are not so difficult, it just take some finesse and patience. It took us two nights to complete our croissants, but we did also make pretzels on the first night. The process of making croissants was eye opening. To see how much butter, and how the butter gets worked into the dough...well all I could say was "wow". We also made some Pain au Chocolats, croissant dough filled with chocolate. Yummy. But I preferred the cheese filled ones....
 Oh, and let's not forget about the Pretzels! We were all pretty much mad at Chef Richard for allowing us to make these, because they were so good, that we all ate about 2-3 of them after class that night! 
And last night was the first half of our first practical exam, which we finish tonight. We will be tested on Biscuits, Cookies, and French Bread Baguettes. Last night we had two hours in which I gathered all the mise for all 3, made the french bread dough and let it rest, then put that in the walk-in to bake off tonight, made the cookie dough and put that in the walk-in to bake off tonight, and made a partial biscuit batter to finish and bake off tonight. We will have another hour and half tonight to finish tonight. Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Oh For The Love Of Baking!

Well our first week of B&P is fully baked. It's been an interesting week, but not so much to really write about. The pace of baking is so much slower, less intense, there's fewer ingredients, and lots of waiting time. Each night this week we basically gathered our ingredients, measured everything out, maybe got a demo from Chef Richard and some brief discussion, then we mix our ingredients together and then we typically wait. Well, we aren't actually just standing around waiting and watching the ovens. We clean, or we usually have a few things to bake each night, thanks to Chef Richard. He usually adds an item or two for us to make so that we aren't standing around watching dough proof. So we have actually made a LOT in just our first week. 

We did have a little bit of drama and laughter during the week...let's see....Chef Richard showed us how to roll out a baguette using "Spirit Hands", also known as "Jazz Hands". Lol! And then we had some drama when he had to leave class to tend to his daughter that was in an accident, so we were kept company by Chef John and Head Chef Michael Weller (Thanks Chef's!). And we were all relieved to hear that Chef Richard's daughter was ok.

 And last night a really funny thing happened when another chef instructor, who seems to have an affinity for my food, came into the kitchen. You see, a few classes back I had made some cupcakes for two people that were having a special event in their lives, and before they were able to enjoy my cupcakes, she swooped in and ate them both! So last night she comes into the kitchen and my partner and I have our bagels beautifully baked and resting on one sheet pan together. And I start seeing this go down as if in slow motion....she approaches our sheet pan of bagels, and starts touching them as if trying to decide which one to take. I politely suggest for her to take one of the cinnamon ones (because those were Sean's!), and she says "No, that would be sweet", (she is a candy or pastry chef so she didn't want more sweet), and I see her hand going for one of my beautiful sesame seed bagels, and she says "I'll take THIS one"! But I guess I can't blame her, I know my food always looks the best!! And she did come back to show that she ate it all :)

All in all this week we first made Biscuits, then Cookies, Brownies, Blueberry Muffins, Focaccia Bread, French Bread Baguettes and Batards and a Round Loaf, and last night we made Bagels and the dough for Brioche that we will bake on Monday. (YUM!!!!)
And everything for me has come together very quick and simple like, and they have all turned our pretty nice, with perfect scores for far. So even though there isn't a whole lot to say about it all, I think the pictures are worth a thousand words.....and it's just too bad you can't taste them!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Culinary 13

One of our former chef instructors once said that the average weight gain of culinary students during their schooling is 13 pounds. Yikes! Well, in just my third day of Baking & Pastry, I can definitely see how that might happen. 

Last night we made cookies and brownies, and tonight we made blueberry muffins, and made dough for French bread (which will be baked tomorrow).  I came home with three bags full of sweets. Luckily I get to see some friends this weekend so I can unload most of that!

Baking is a very different beast from savory cooking. It still has all the perks of cooking - creativity, working with your hands and simple raw ingredients, all with fabulous end results. But the pace of baking is much slower, and you really need to measure everything. One of the things I enjoy most about savory cooking is the ability to add an ingredient here and an ingredient there, or a little more of this and that. I like the looseness of it. Of course not everything in savory cooking works that way, but really none of that works in baking. I think I just need a few more days to settle in to this new class, as I have with each new class so far. But this certainly feels like we are winding down, especially since our last class was so energized, creative, and fun. 

I am already learning a lot in this new class, certainly a lot more than I really expected about the whole science behind baking. Tonight Chef Richard talked to us about yeasted doughs, gluten formation, fermentation, yeast temperatures, and more mixing methods. I am excited about my French bread dough that is currently fermenting in the walk-in at school, and the Focaccia bread that we will also make tomorrow. Till then....let's all think happy thoughts to my little French dough ball in that cold and dark walk-in....

Monday, August 15, 2011

Baking and Pastry Beginnings

Tonight was our first night of B&P, Baking and Pastry. We have a new chef instructor, Chef Richard Sanchez, a new student, and are in a new kitchen. The kitchen is beautiful, perfectly set up for baking, with 3 very large and long wooden block working tables, a 4 deck oven, many mixers, and a wide variety of flours, sugars, and a few cases of butter. 

I am afraid, very afraid! You see, I love breads and pastries. It's always been my weak spot. I feel my time spent at the gym is going to have to be doubled going forward during this class. Ugh!! I asked chef if we could taste the biscuits that we made at the end of class tonight, and his response was "yes, you HAVE to". So I think I have cause to worry, especially since I already ate 3 biscuits tonight. Yikes! And it gets worse, chef says that tomorrow we have a much busier day, as we will be making cookies, brownies, and muffins. Ohhh Lord! 

So tonight we got an overview of the class, a tour of the kitchen and equipment, and a short lecture on Quick Breads. There seems to be a whole science behind baking, so it was all fascinating to me, and slightly intimidating. Chef was using terms like mixing methods, creaming and sheeting, and hygroscopic. Apparently sugar is "hygroscopic", meaning that it absorbs moisture. Hmpf. And chef told us that the same rule about using fat applies to baking as it does in cooking. That "fat is fat, and to go for flavors". Meaning to chose the type of fat that will provide you the flavor profile you are looking for. Cool!

After the brief lecture on quick breads and mixing methods, fat temperatures, and the rules around using baking powder versus baking soda, we got a quick demo on how to make biscuits. Very simple enough. Then we got our own mise together for our own biscuits, and got to baking biscuits! I decided to add cheese and jalapeno to mine, they came together very quickly, and I was first to get mine in the oven. Within 20 minutes they were done and a beautiful golden brown. And, well, I guess they are good, cause I really can't stop eating them!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Our Last Supper, The Remix!!

I thought the title of this post would be more about appropriate about it being our "Last Supper", as last night was our actual last night of Culinary Foundations III. And we feasted, after we tested. We took two written finals, about 100 questions on all of the meat cuts, meat classifications, market types, vocabulary, etc. And then we got to cook for fun. It was seafood madness! Chef brought a ton of seafood for us, there was lobster, mussels, oysters, clams, scallops, salmon, and probably some other things I didn't recognize. We got one last Chef Dan demo, in which he showed us how to open oysters, clams, and how to, um, kill, a lobster. And with all this seafood, we made Cioppino! What is Cioppino you ask?? I had to ask Chef Dan too, it's basically a fish stew, that originated in San Francisco. Seems very appropriate, as we also had some sourdough baguette bread, which is fantastic soaked in the juices of the Cioppino. Last nights demo was a little more interactive as we were just cooking for the fun of it. So there was a moment when we needed to put the lobster  legs into the boiling water, and I just happened to be closest to both the lobster legs and the stoves. I went to grab the lobster, but had a quick thought of "ew, I don't want to touch it", but I'm not really that much of a girl!! So, kind of as a joke, I reached for the tongs and acted like I was going to try to pick them up with the tongs, and everyone in class laughed at me! I was only kidding guys!! Well, sort of. Lol! Isn't it funny how sometimes we can still be so squeamish about touching things. 

So as a class, we made this gorgeous dish of Cioppino. And, as it was our amazing Chef Dan's last day at the school, we wanted to do something special to celebrate the day. One of my classmates made a Philipino dish of fried bananas, yummy! And earlier in the day I made some raspberry champagne cupcakes. And as usual, I had real trouble making the butter cream frosting. I don't know why I even attempted it. I made two batches because the first one was crap. The second looked beautiful, but it was just so sugary. So I'm really hoping that we learn about frostings in our next class.....I will keep you posted!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Our Last Supper

Tonight was the night that we all have been working towards for the past 5 was the night we cooked our final dishes. I have mixed feelings about it, I feel good about how I did, but I also feel like if I were on Chopped, I would have, well, been Chopped. I made some really dumb mistakes, or not so much mistakes, but I did not think to fix a few issues. And what is worse, is that I had plenty of time to make adjustments. But I know that I did the best that I could, and I had fun doing it, and I did turn out some pretty nice dishes, so I guess I am a happy girl. 

Last night we had our ACF test in butchering a whole chicken. It is a timed test in which you get 15 minutes to butcher a chicken, and turn out 10 nice cuts. I started off slowly, trying to get the wishbone out, when after a few minutes I realized that I had the chicken upside down. Duh! As soon as I got that right, it was pretty smooth cutting, but time was running out. Chef called out we had 5 minutes left, and a wave of panic suddenly came over me, then it quickly left. I knew I could finish in time. So I keep working, and Chef calls one minute, I count my cuts and realize I only have 8 cuts done. Luckily, I quickly realize that all I had forgotten was to take the tenderloin off of the breasts. I rip those off with my hand, and done! Chef rings the bell (he loves that bell!!). Whew! I made it. 

One of tonight's final dishes was to use part of our chicken from last night. Chef gave us culinary freedom to chose our own chicken dish, so long as it has the 5 components: Protein, Vegetable, Starch, Sauce, Garnish. Knowing that we only had 45 minutes to complete that dish, I decided to do a Chicken Piccata, Mashed Potatoes, Beurre Blanc Sauce, Asparagus, and a fried tomato skin for garnish (thanks to Chef Dan for that beautiful idea!). 

Our second final dish was given by drawing numbers out of a hat, er, bowl. Originally I wanted the Veal Cordon Bleu, because mine came out really nicely last time, but I drew the Salmon Paupiettes, which is actually a really great dish. 

So it all came down to tonight, Chef rang the bell (I think he rang the bell?!), and we were off. I got a lot of things started right away, for both of my dishes. I didn't want to be stuck later. And things were going great, I was having fun and enjoying all of the aspects of my dishes. By the time Chef called out that we had five minutes left, I had almost everything ready for my first dish, and a few things done or prepped for my second dish, but I did not have my Beurre Blanc Sauce made. Shoot!! I quickly get that going, and crank up the heat. The wine reduces and I start adding the butter, it is coming together nicely! Yay. Chef calls one minute, shoot, I need to start plating. I grab the now incredibly hot plate from the oven, throw the asparagus and red pepper down, next the chicken cutlets, throw some sauce on it, and pipe out my lovely mashed potatoes, omg, and don't forget the pretty little fried tomato skin. Voila! Chef was happy with my dish and had some wonderful things to say about it :) 

Ok now on to finishing my second dish, although, I thought we had way too much time. An hour and 15 minutes to finish the second dish. And since I had already done a number of things for this dish, I was a bit lax about it, which I think fared worse for me. My quinoa was done, and I put my salmon on, I did some cleaning, I poached some little Mousseline quenelles (another of Chef Dan's great ideas!), and things are coming together quickly. I start to reduce the poaching sauce and of course, wouldn't ya know, it gets too thick. I had to add water to it at first, and it was beautiful for a minute, seasoned perfectly. But it kept thickening back up. I decide to just go for it and start plating. I put the sauce on the plate first, and it''s thick. Too thick. Poop! I keep plating, and serve it. Looking back, I definitely could have fixed it, as there was at least 10 minutes left on the clock. Ah well. And I lost points for not having a second colored veggie on the plate, I knew better, and what kills me is that I had more red pepper sitting in the pan and simply did not put it on the plate. Geesh. At least I got one perfect dish in tonight's finals, and I had a really fun night of cooking. Now I am going to go snuggle up with a nice glass of Shiraz and forget about my lost points. Till next time....

Plate 1 - Chicken Piccata, Chive Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus and Red Pepper, Beurre Blanc Sauce with Capers, Fried Tomato Skin. Plate 2 - Salmon Paupiettes with Bronzini Mousseline, Fish Fumet Sauce, Quinoa Pilaf, Asparagus, and Mousseline Quenelles.

Friday, August 5, 2011

East Meets Middle with Stir Fry and Kebabs

Tonight was bittersweet in that it was our last night of production in the Culinary Foundations III class, and the last night of a Chef Dan demo (which we have all enjoyed so much these past few weeks!). We have all shared a lot of laughs, and learned so much. I am certainly going to miss a lot about this class...the cooking nights, the class discussions, the stories, jokes, and dance moves of Chef Dan. It's been such a wonderful experience in so many ways. As we move into Baking and Pastry for our next class, I do not think we will be cooking in the manner as we have been. Though I do love baking, and I am really excited to learn about breads and muffins and chocolate, I feel I might miss the cooking of savories, and yummy sides....but there will be breads and muffins and chocolate so I think I will manage ok!

And tonight we had some really yummy sides, although I was a little too focused on one of them. We had couscous on the menu, and I love me some couscous! I decided to make an Israeli Couscous, since we had some in the kitchen, and I had never made that kind before. So I really wanted to cook it right, and wanted it to be really yummy. But I was having a hard time deciding how to season it. So I spent a little too much time babying my couscous, that I got a bit of a late start for my second dish. But that was a stir fry so I figured it would come together quickly. I plated both dishes on time, but I did miss on a few marks. Chef was happy with my pet couscous, and the ratatouille was pretty delicious, the lamb kebab was cooked well, (although slightly over spiced from my dry rub, ooops!), but I just needed to add a pinch of salt to the cucumber raita.... always the salt!

Our second dish was a stir fry with fried calamari and shrimp, an asian sauce with soy sauce, ginger, sriracha and other yummies, and some very unfortunate white rice. I did get my rice on a little late in the game, and it just wasn't done by the time I had to plate. Ah well! I was still just really happy that my couscous came out pretty :)

Plate 1 - Grilled Lamb Kebab, Israeli Couscous, Ratatouille, Cucumber Raita. Plate 2 - Fried Calamari and Shrimp, Vegetable Stir Fry with Tempura Sauce and White Rice. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Something's Fishy In The Kitchen...

We had lots of seafood in the kitchen tonight, and we all turned out some pretty nice dishes. Last night we did the butchery of a cod fish, which I was not excited to see, because that meant we had to clean it. But I did get help from Chef Dan, (Thanks Chef!), so it wasn't so terrible. He has a great way of making things simple, easy, and fun. 

And tonight we cooked it all. We had salmon, cod, shrimp, and scallops. I was most excited to make my attempt at a seared scallop. The scallops were beautiful to begin with, and they look so beautiful on the plate. I got a great sear on mine, but I did just overcook them unfortunately. But pretty good for my first time, I think! And our salmon mousselines were pretty gorgeous as well.

Everything else on the menu tonight went smooth and fun. We made quinoa, (one of my favorites), and what I thought was going to be a yucky fish fumet sauce, turned out to be really delicious.We had asparagus, and got to make some gorgeous little saffron potato Parisiennes, (another one of Chef Dan's brilliant ideas!). 

And I am sad to say that this is our last week of production in the Culinary Foundations III kitchen. Next week is finals week, and then we are off to begin a new course... pastry!! I am kinda excited about that, but our next chef has some big shoes to fill. And I love the fact that this class was the one class I thought was going to be terrifying, and it has turned out to be my favorite class so far. It's been a ton of fun and I feel that I have really learned a lot and overcome some hurdles. Now if I can just get through finals week with flying colors, I will be a happy girl!

Plate 1- Salmon Escallops stuffed with Cod Mousseline, Quinoa Pilaf, Braised Asparagus, Fish Fumet Sauce. Plate 2 - Seared Scallops, Butterflied Shrimp, Cod, Provencal Sauce, Saffron Braised Potato Parisiennes,Garlic Aioli and Crostini. Enjoy!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ding! Ding! Not Breakfast Sausage is ready!

So let's go back in time to last Friday night, when it was Sausage Madness night in class. And "madness" it certainly was....I think we drove Chef Dan mad because we clearly had no idea what we were all doing! I heard a number of times "You guys are driving me crazy!!" We made fresh sausage though! However, we were supposed to make two kinds of sausage, an Italian Sausage and also a Breakfast Sausage. Unfortunately the breakfast sausage didn't make it.
Chef Dan gave us a demo on how sausage is made, and the whole process is quite interesting, it's also pretty interesting to watch. For anyone not ever seen sausage being made, (don't worry it's not gross), but it's very sexual, with the casing and how the meat gets fed into the casing. You get the idea. Chef did give us a warning in that there is usually some drama around the whole thing, especially when you notice that the machine that feeds the meat into the casing is actually by a company called Dick. Go figure. And who would have guessed it, but the guys in class suddenly turned into 10 year old boys and couldn't stop giggling the entire time. Yes, go figure!!

So we had a ton of Italian sausage to make with our two dishes tonight. And all the other menu items were all fairly simple, except for one thing....eggs. I thought I could cook eggs just fine, until I got into culinary school. I think my, (and most of the rest of my class), worst night in school so far has been the night we made eggs. I think I went through about 30 eggs. We made fried eggs, over easy eggs, French omelettes, and poached eggs. The hardest one for me was the....well, all of them except the poached egg. And tonight we were to make our choice of either 2 eggs over easy, or a 2 egg French omelette. I chose the omelette for tonight. Other than that, everything went really well and fine, and my scary French omelette came out pretty darned nice! And any night that we get to make hashed brown potatoes is a great night in my book!

Plate 1 - Mild Italian Sausage, Tomato Sauce, Cheesy Polenta, Sauteed Peppers, and Grilled Corn. Plate 2 - What Would Have Been Breakfast Sausage, French Omelette, Mushroom Supreme Sauce, Roesti Potato, and Fresh Fruit. Enjoy!