Friday, October 29, 2010

That's a print!

Been a bit busy so forgive me for not posting for a couple of days.

I left off with the sauces we made and the promise of making Chocolate Souffles.  Well, I did it.  Made a souffle that rose about 5 inches.  Quickly put some powdered sugar on top and put 2 oz of Creme Anglaise in a small mize cup and quickly took it up to the Chef.  It came out great. My sauce was creamy and the souffle was cooked perfect.  Then I went to take a picture of the other souffle I had made at the same time and it had collapsed onto itself and looked so bad, I didn't take the picture.  Those suckers deflate quicker than a tire blowout at 70 MPH.

I also plated my Cheese cake for the Chef it also came out very good.  I used the Raspberry and Chocolate sauce for that plating and forgot to get a picture.  There seems to be a running theme here.  Me, food and pictures, not so good.  I did get picture of a Sacher-Torte:

Not mine, but this is what I made and it looked just like this.  This is Chef's.  His hand work was much cleaner than mine.  But, I had 12 servings with Sacher spelled in Chocolate on each slice.  So I thought I would show you what a real life Sacher-Torte looked like.

Today we made Focaccia bread, Pita bread and Hummus.  Not really worth taking pictures of these.  You can see them at Trader Joe's or any grocery store near you.

With Halloween this weekend, we get to study for our final exam and do our prep sheets for the last Practical Exam to be presented on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Presenting a Souffle, with Creme Anglaise, a Chocolate tart, not Torte, in a crumb crust and a Celebration Cake with Buttercream Frosting. With any luck, I'll get some pictures.

Scary thought!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Excitement is in the eye of the beholder

We made dessert sauces yesterday.  A raspberry sauce, a chocolate sauce and finally a creme anglaise.  Not an overly exciting day, except for the fact I unknowingly had splashed some raspberry sauce on my uniform.  One dot ended up on my toupe, right between my eyes.  Yes, I was made fun of for looking like I was a middle easterner or whatever.  Like I said not very exciting.

Today we get to put the sauces to work.  We'll be plating and saucing ice cream, which we made yesterday as well, cheese cakes and probably the best dessert I have ever had the pleasure to eat, a Souffle.  We made a savory souffle last semester, but this is going to be a Chocolate Souffle with Creme Anglaise.  Fluffy, sweet and oh so warm.

Now that's exciting.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The last Yoke is almost upon us!

I start this week as the last full week in pastry.  Next week I only go through Wednesday as it will be a three day practical test and final written exam.  But, before that we get to make Creme Brulee, Cheesecake, Ice Cream with assorted sauces, Almond Tuiles, a real flat cooking.  I also get to make a Chocolate Souffle and finally a Fruit Cobbler.

As it stands right now, our Practical Final will include making the following:
Said Chocolate Souffle, Creme Anglaise, a Pate Surcree or short dough, Yellow Butter Cake or Celebration Cake and a Meringue Buttercream (with a lot less Emulsified Shortening) topping the cake.

My neighbors are going to miss Pastry much more than I am.  They really thought it was great, me coming home with all those sweet goodies.  Me, I look forward to starting International Cuisine and no more scaling sugar, no more wiping chocolate off my chef's coat and no more separating whites from yokes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

'Choc - late'. The planet awaits it's fate.

If you say it like the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz says, "Pop-pies", chocolate seems to take on a complely different connotation.  'Choc - late'.
Yesterday and today we made chocolate cakes.  A Chocolate Chiffon cake with Chocolate Mousse in the middle and covered in Chocolate Glacage.  It's a light chocolate cake with a light chocolate mousse filling.   Quite a bit of 'choc - late'.

We also made a Sacher-Torte.  Pronounced 'soc-kor' it was the invention of an apprentice chef, Fritz Sacher, in Austria in 1832.  This is the very dense chocolate cake made with French Meringue, egg yokes, sugar, cake flour, almond flour and dark chocolate.  Then it's cut in half, simple syrup with brandy is brushed onto the two halves  and then it has a thin layer of apricot jam spread in the middle.  Just to be sure there is enough chocolate, a layer of Chocolate Ganache is poured over the top of the tart and then it has shaved chocolate spread around the bottom of the torte.  This dessert has a  copy write and if you order it directly from the Sacher Hotel in Austria, which you can, it comes in a wooden box and the word Sacher is spelled out on the twelve portions per torte.  That's Sacher spelled twelve times.  In 'choc - late'!

My sister, Toni, use to have a moniker on her email:
"Save this planet, it's the only one with chocolate!"

After making, baking, licking, wearing and eating 'choc - late' for two days, I'm thinking that maybe we should just let this planet go.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is "ick" a word?

Today we made a buttercream frosting for our Yellow Butter Cake.  Buttercream is an interesting mix of butter (duh) and a Swiss Meringue.  There is one ingredient that we used in our recipe called Emulsified Shortening.  We have all had buttercream frosting.  If you have ever attended a wedding or some sort of celebratory event, chances are the cake you ate had buttercream frosting.  You first go, Yum.  Sugar, butter and eggs are all good.  A few minutes after eating the cake you notice a greasy film like substance that coats your mouth.  You then go, ick!
That's Emulsified Shortening.

Trying not to eat the buttercream while frosting the cake is nearly impossible. Chefs really frown on this. "No eating while at your station!" they bark at us.  But you see students sneaking licks, and fingers picking up drops of spilled buttercream.  After about 30 minutes of this, you see students looking for something to cut that grease.  There isn't anything in class, so you have to wait.  Hot coffee, acid, tooth paste, anything to get rid of that greasy coating.

I will say that cake decorating is truly an art form.  Our friend Darlene is a fabulous cake maker and decorator.  She made Chris and my 25th Anniversary Cake.  It was really good.  No ick in that cake.  I need to seek her out and see how she did that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Taking the Starch Out!

Our two day practical exam was completed today.  We were given 30 minutes to complete  the written exam.  I finished it in twelve, but had to wait until 10:30 to begin finishing the pastry practical.  Longest 18 minutes I can ever remember.  As noted earlier, my concern was completing all the things I had to do in time to have my pie and eclairs evaluated.  After talking to another student, I changed the priority of what I was going to complete first.  Since I had my eclair shells made, I realized I could at least finish one pastry item.  Then I went after making and baking the pie shell. Pie shell done! While that was baking,  I made the vanilla cream for the eclair.  Then I did the lemon curd for the lemon pie.  Then I made the chocolate glacage.  I filled the eclairs with the vanilla cream, dipped them in chocolate and put them in the walk-in to set up.  The lemon curd had chilled, so I filled the pie crust with the lemon and let that set.  I made the Italian Meringue,  whipped that up and placed it on a still not quite set up lemon pie.  I looked up at the clock and would you believe, I had 25 minutes to spare.  So I put the pie in the walk-in as well and cleaned up my station.  Big part of a practical is how your station looks.  I waited until 12:50 to get everything out and ready to present.  I torched the meringue, and went up to get my evaluation.  Would you believe I almost dropped the pie on the floor on my way up to the Chef's station?  I didn't, but it was very close to going bye, bye.

Out of a possible 100 points, I received 93.  I checked my written exam score and got 98%. I missed one product ID.  Cornstarch looks a lot like cake flour.  I should have gotten that one.

Monday, October 18, 2010

If Jenny Craig only Knew!

Monday was the start of our two day practical testing.  It was an all production day.  I was allowed to make as much as I could in the time allowed.  I had to present my Blueberry Muffins today.  Which I did and got high marks for.  That's the good news.

I also wanted to make my Pate au Choux, the Flaky Pie Crust and at least one or two of the fillings.  After the muffins were in the oven, I started on the pate au choux.  My mixture for some reason came out very runny and I had to start over from the beginning.  So I made it the second time and all was good. Baked and ready to be filled.  I made my pie dough, but you have to let it rest before you can form it into a pie shell.  I didn't have time and as I was down to 20 minutes and didn't get any of the fillings done.

So tomorrow, my three and one half hour schedule looks something like this.
Take and hopefully pass a written quiz. (30 minutes)
Make the pie shell, blind bake it. While that's baking, make the lemon curd, chill it. Remove the pie shell and allow that to cool.  I then have to scale, (mize en place in pastry is called scaling) the vanilla cream, make that and allow to chill.  Refresh the pate au choux in a hot oven, scale and make the chocolate glacage.  Allow the pate au choux to cool and then fill with the vanilla cream and dip in the chocolate glacage.  Put them in the walk-in to set.

After the pie shell is cooled, fill that with lemon curd and allow that to set.
Scale and make the Italian Meringue - place it on the Lemon Meringue pie.  Torch it for color and present it all to the Chef.  All the while, keeping my station clean, tools clean and bowls clean.  In two and one half hours!

Then clean up the mess 20 students make in one half hour.

No wonder I haven't been gaining weight in pastry class.

Testing for Sweetness!

It is our week for Practical Testing #2.  We'll be testing today and tomorrow for Pot au Choux for Eclairs, Flaky Pie Dough for Lemon Meringue Pie and Blueberry Muffins.  We also have to make Vanilla Pastry Cream and Chocolate Glacage for the Eclairs. As well as Lemon Curd and Italian Meringue for the pie.

If I have to take a test, taking a pastry test can't be all bad.  Even if I fail, I get to eat my failures and drown them in chocolate.

Ya, this is tough!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Meringue Heaven, Italian Style

Yesterday we completed our pie and tart making.  I made an all berry pie.  All berry includes raspberry, blackberry and blue berry.

Ta Dah!

I also made the lemon curd for a lemon curd tart with topped with an Italian Meringue.  What, you may be asking, is Italian Meringue?  Well, there are three types of meringue:

Common meringue, where you whip the egg whites and add sugar to form stiff "but moist" peaks.

Swiss meringue is where you beat the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler.

Italian is the most troublesome.  I had to melt sugar in a bit of water, add corn syrup and just before it turns to caramel, then you slowly drizzle it in the partially whipped egg whites to make it a very stiff peak.

What's good about Italian meringue is you can eat it without having to cook it afterwards.  You know, raw eggs and salmonella.

The neighbors loved it.  Family loved it.  Even I loved it.
Sorry you couldn't enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Check out the photo!

I added a photo to my profile.  Men in funny hats!

Quiche and Real Men

I made a quiche today.  We used what is termed as Mealy Dough for the crust.  It is a pie dough that is cut longer so the consistency is more like corn meal instead of larger flakey dough used in pies.  My dough was again over worked.  Chef A, who is tiny, says people who are not vertically challenged tend to do this.  "You must work the dough gently" she says.  So instead of the normal tart tin used for quiches, I had to use a pie pan.  So I guess I can technically say I made a cheesy pie and not a quiche.  Whew!  My masculinity is safe.  It was filled with eggs, milk, heavy cream, Gruyere cheese, bacon and caramelized onions.
Call it what you want, I brought it home and fed myself, two neighbors and Chris.

Eight thumbs up!

Not pretty, but oh so good.

I also made a berry pie.  We froze it and will cook it tomorrow.  I have a picture but will save it for then.

Pate a Shoe

So I'm taking my pate a choux (pot a shoo) to the oven to dry it out.  I swing the half sheet pan up and hit the open door of the oven.  I then have pate a choux all over the place. No eclairs, no cream puffs.  I was able to save a few (2) but was so pissed at myself, I failed to take a picture.  Sorry.

I worked another One Time Event for Wolfgang Puck.  I did the usual plating and slicing.  But then I got a chance to cook.  Sauteed a bunch of scallops.  Real fire, real heat, real cooking.  Very cool!

Yesterday we made pie dough.   We'll be making a Quiche Au Fromage (cheese tart) today and a Blueberry pie tomorrow.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Falling for Pate a Choux

We made this dough on Friday.  It isn't very hard or as labor intensive as puff pastry.  But, the cooking of pate a choux is tricky.  Cooking at a high temperature (425 to 475) to start allows the steam that is created to make it rise.  Then you have to reduce the heat (375 to 425) to let the dough dry out and for the egg webbing to retract back so as the inside can be filled.

Removing too soon or cooled too quickly, they collapse.  Or, the egg webbing inside does not retract and you are unable to completely fill them.  I saw quite a bit of pate a choux that had fallen and was very heavy.  Properly cooked, it is very light weight and has a golden brown color.

Mine came out good.  Monday we get to fill them with vanilla cream and cover with chocolate ganache.  Mmmmmm!

I'll take pictures.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Three Words for You

I finished our first baking practical today.  Making baguettes, chocolate chip cookies and cheesy biscuits.  How did I do? My baguettes were shaped and browned perfectly.  The dough was a little "tight" as I was told, usually due to over working the dough.  The cookies tasted great.  Just a bit over done.  The biscuits were perfect.  Flaky, good color and shape.  Plus they tasted fantastic.

Even better, tomorrow we get to make pate a choux (pot a shoo).  Something I always wanted to know how to make, even though I didn't know that's what they were called.  If you know what pate a choux is, good for you!  If you are like me and didn't or don't have a clue, then I have three words to say to you;

Cream Puffs & Eclairs!

You Learn, I learn!

We had our first quiz in Baking and Pastry class yesterday.  Name the 12 steps in baking? 
If you said:
Scaling Incredients
Scaling Portions
Cooling win the prize.
Our practical includes making Baguettes, Cheese Biscuits and Chocolate Chip Cookies.  The 12 steps are used in making bread.  We use the Cut-in method for the biscuits and the Creaming method for the cookies.

I write this out simply to help me pass the damn practical. And, to teach you what I am doing.

Win, win!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Petite Boulangerie

I made French pastries today.  Croissants and pastries actually.  I took my laminated dough and made the Bear Claws, figure eights and pin wheels with fruit, lemon, chocolate and cream cheese fillings I just love to eat.   As a class, we had enough to open a boulangerie shop for a day.  As a class, we all went around and oohh and aahhed at everyone else's pastry.

Then we got to take it home to eat it or give it away, it didn't matter because they only last a day.

We made French pastries today and it was cool.

Getting Laminated

  We made our laminated dough yesterday.  A yeast type dough made with flour, milk, sugar and salt.  Then you cream 1 # of butter and layer it on the dough and fold it in thirds. Again, and again, and again, and again.  Each time rolling it out to a 1/4" thickness.  It took two hours to make it.

Next time I buy Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry, I won't mind paying six bucks for two sheets of laminated dough and butter.

Baking term of the day:
Oven Spring: It's the rapid initial rise of a yeast dough when it is placed in a hot oven.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Baking the Grade

Friday we made sourdough bread and a Brioche.  Making bread in the classic French style takes time, patience and expertise.  Our chefs know what the dough needs to look like, how it should react to the touch and that certain conditions will affect the bread.  Me, as beginner, I just don't know.  Using live yeast is also something you must learn to work with in bread making.  I say this because I made what looked like great sourdough bread. (on the right) It was horrible tasting and way under cooked.  The Brioche came out much better, but since I haven't had a lot of Brioche I'm not sure if it came out as good as I think it did.  We were short a chef yesterday, and mine really didn't get a good critique.  Plus, it was about 100 degrees in the baking lab.  Not a good condition for making anything.

The first week in Baking and Pastry has been completed.  I don't believe I could do 7 months of this.  However, next week we will be making croissants and pastries.  I still might learn to like baking.

French baking term of the day:
Epi (ep pee)> French word for wheat, referring to a bread shape that resembles a sheaf of wheat.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Keepin' it Cool

I just wanted to share with you how hot it was last Monday.  Monday is the day that LA's downtown thermometer broke at 113.  Our air wasn't working and it was probably about 120 inside the baking lab.  I'm not kidding.

We took refuge inside the walk in.  I'm the guy way in the back.

At a cool 34 degrees.

Google this!

I mentioned yesterday the 12 Step Program for making bread and also referenced how difficult it would be to recover from alcohol.  I checked the blog this morning and on one of the ads that Google placed for me was a link to AA, along with other rehabilitation sites.  Man, Google is on top of these ads.