Saturday, December 19, 2009

Brief Hiatus

The quarter came to an end this week and so there isn't going to be a whole lot to post until classes resume mid January. I'll be baking at home of course but it's mostly the same old stuff, bread, some quickbreads for breakfast, I doubt much else. Nothing very interesting or worth writing about. I may do some more posts about work but I'm not sure. I may find something interesting to post but if not, I'll begin again when classes resume.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Well I've been putting off posting about my work but I figured I should at least talk a bit about it, seeing as I'm baking... a lot. I chock it up to laziness and the fact that work itself has made my life very busy. But I don't mind it. I may like reading and video games but it gets boring fast doing that all day.

The place that I work is called Bundles of Cookies in Bethesda Maryland. They mainly do decorated cookies to order and display them in various ways, such as in boxes, tins, or even as cookie bouquets. I was really amazed the first time I went in there. The storefront is really beautiful.

My job is a baker. It's fairly simple-pretty much the same tasks day in and out but it's not really repetitive. I am responsible for preparing the dough for the decorated cookies-an almond dough that I've never heard of prior to working here, it's pretty unique to them as well as the icing. In addition, the store also sells what they call "gourmets" which are cookies of varying flavors. They are all drop cookies, while the decorated ones are cut out. At the moment there are nine varieties-Snickerdoodle, Molasses, Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut, and Oatmeal Pecan Chip. I am in charge of preparing those doughs as well as baking those cookies. I bake them every other day or as needed to sell from the store as well as fulfilling any orders for the gourmets. We have also begun doing a gingerbread cookie which I am in charge of as well.

For the moment that sums up my job. It may seem simple but it is really a lot of work. I need to keep adequate quantities of all gourmet doughs for my own tasks as well as plenty of icing and almond dough for the decorators. When a batch of dough can take 30 minutes to an hour to prepare, it can get time consuming. Especially when there are lots of orders for gourmets. For instance, last week I baked about 1200 gourmets on Monday and Tuesday alone in addition to my regular tasks for a couple very large orders, all from the same company. There were a few other orders throughout the week but none matching that. The same will of course be happening for the next week and maybe the following because of Christmas.

After Christmas it will be slowing down, but from what I gather I won't have to lose many hours as I will be getting additional tasks. Right now the main decorator bakes all of the almond cookies for the orders but after Christmas I'll be taking care of that so that she can focus only on decorating. I am already baking iced rounds, which are just plain round almond cookies that get iced, I guess to wean me into the more important job.

It is certainly a lot of work. It doesn't seem like it would be all that physically demanding but it really is. I was surprised how tired I got after the first week or two of working there. I'd like to hope that my body is getting more acclimated to a physical lifestyle. Even if it is a lot of work and I don't have much free time anymore, I am enjoying it and I'm glad that I can finally work in a place where I am getting real baking experience for my future.

12/12 - Class - More Random Stuff

Another class of various different things, it went pretty well today.

The first item that we made were hot Lemon Souffles. They were pretty simple and turned out very well. They collapsed a little since they sat a while but still tasted fine. Very strong lemon flavor.

We also finally got to finishing our sorbet from a while ago. We were going to make mango sorbet but there wasn't enough puree for our batch so we tried lime. It turns out the puree we used was ridiculously bitter. We had to melt the churned sorbet back down and add a whole lot of sugar syrup to make it even palatable. When we churned it again, it was following a group who made raspberry sorbet so it took on the raspberry color and a little bit of the flavor but it was an interesting combo. Still really sour but at least edible now.

Another item that we made was an Apple Strudel. It was a fairly simple mix of apples, raisins and cranberries mixed with sugar, cinnamon, and some other stuff. It was then mixed with phyllo dough and baked. It turned out really nice, I can't wait to try it for breakfast. We also made a Calvados Sabayon to go with it (the "theme" of this week was plated desserts but we didn't really bother, some of the components just aren't worth the effort). I didn't taste it not take any, I want to enjoy the fruit as it is, not tasting like brandy.

We also took our the Bavarians that we made yesterday. They froze completely in the ring so we torched the ring a bit to expand it and it slid right out. They came our really nice. My only concern though is that they have to be constantly chilled or they melt really fast - I don't think I used enough gelatin in the recipe.

In addition we made pate a choux (I made it so it turned out right) though my piping sucks so they didn't cook very evenly. At least I can do the recipe right though so another member of my group can pipe them for the exam. However the pastry cream was made wrong since it was left in the hands of our third group member who seems to screw up every recipe - hate to be rude but I'm not gonna let someone screw up my grades cuz they can't follow a recipe. I also practiced some piping. Even though we just learned it I think I'm doing very well. I just need to practice that and my knife cuts a little for next week's exam.

Friday, December 11, 2009

12/10-11/09 - Class - Random Stuff

Not many posts lately. Class was canceled last Saturday cuz people didn't wanna go out in a little bit of snow, totally lame. I haven't had the time or the need to bake anything at home. I was too tired to post Thursday's class so I'm just condensing it with Friday.

On Thursday we did only a couple random things. The only actual production that we made was Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce. I had never had bread pudding before. I am quite surprised how great it really tastes. Looking at the nutrition facts, it is surprisingly unhealthy but something I would gladly make again for others, if I had the ingredients. It was quite easy to make. I guess (though I don't know since I haven't had it before) that it can be either baked to a thin, runny consistency, or thick. Ours was pretty thick and I liked it that way. To the right is our bourbon sauce. It matched pretty well but I think we should have cooked a little bit more alcohol off, it was a tad overpowering.

We also attempted eclairs but they didn't come out, which sucks cuz we're being tested on them in a week.

We also practiced our piping which we'll also be tested on next week. Kinda cheesy that part of our exam is something we're learning a week before it. We need to do four different kinds of borders. The picture is the chef's example. Mine of course don't compare but I was getting the hang of it pretty quickly I think. I'm very dexterous so it's a thing I'm good at I think.

On Thursday we churned our ice cream base that was left over from last Friday-which we couldn't churn cuz Saturday's class was canceled. So we churned that on Thursday and let it freeze overnight. We divvied it up on Friday. It looks really good, it's raspberry vanilla and it looks really creamy so I guess we did it well. I'm very tempted to have it myself but I'll probably defer it-everyone already knows that ice cream is unhealthy but when you make stuff yourself you get to know exactly how unhealthy it is.

Aside from the ice cream, most of Friday's class we spent watching videos. They were of a master pastry artist doing both chocolate and sugar work. They were very interesting videos, but I wish we could have watched them at our leisure and not waste our expensive class time on it.

The only real thing we did on Friday was our Bavarian. We still had our spongecake and ladyfingers from last week. The ladyfingers are generally used to encircle the Bavarian, making a border. Our ladyfingers kinda sucked so we chose to forgo the border. The assembly itself is pretty easy but it has a lot of parts you need ready ahead of time. We had our spongecakes which we cut in half and glazed with raspberry jam. We then had to make the Bavarian Creme. It was pretty simple, all we did was make Creme Anglaise, add gelatin, and once it gets cool, incorporate it into whipped cream. We then poured it into a cake round with the sponge inside, then put the second layer of sponge on the Creme, then filled it with the rest of the Creme. We then garnished it with a few raspberries. It is freezing overnight so I'll get a picture tomorrow. Hopefully it comes out alright. If it does it'll be really pretty.

Friday, December 4, 2009

12/04/09 - Class - Tortes, Frozen Desserts, and Chocolate

Today we did a number of items and have more pictures to show than yesterday. One of the first things we did was make a base for sorbet that we'll finish tomorrow. It's pretty much simple syrup with corn syrup-we don't add flavoring till we churn it-so nothing to see. Moving on.

First off, we did a vanilla spongecake again. I was in charge of it so it turned out right. Good times.

Yesterday we had made chocolate spongecake for today's Black Forest Cake. However, the chef recommended another cake recipe which he said was very good. So we decided to go with that recipe and make those chocolate cakes. They turned out very nice.

We used those to make our Black Forest Cake. It bears a lot of resemblance to a torte in the amount that goes into it. First we had the chocolate cakes. We then had to make plain whipped cream for the inside, and Kirsch flavored whipped cream for the outside (I'm getting good at whipping cream by hand at least). We also thickened sour cherries and flavored them with Kirsch for the inside. We had some extra so we did a little design on top, though it of course fell off when we cut it. We finished it off with some crushed cookie crumbs. All in all it is very nice. The whipped cream got a tad overwhipped when we piped it-we should have underwhipped it before piping. I didn't see it as a problem though, it wasn't very overwhipped and the item at a whole came out great. I bet it is pretty strong though. I didn't try the whipped cream but the Kirsch flavor in the cherries was very powerful.

Our next item was a chocolate mousse. Rather simple. When we finished, we didn't really want to make little servings of it so we decided to put it to use. We had the two chocolate spongecakes left over since we made the new cake for the Black Forest, and so we put them to good use. We layered the two cakes with the mousse in between and on top and then finished the side with some simple buttercream that we flavored with Kirsch. It is probably gonna be super rich between the mousse and the buttercream.

The next thing we made were chocolate souffles. They were pretty interesting to make, and pretty easy too. They came out nicely. They were a tad underdone-a little soft inside, but I don't think it was a problem, the consistency was still good.

Finally, we shaped the truffle ganache we made yesterday. First we piped it into little dots, chilled it, then shaped and coated it. It's actually pretty tricky to work with. It melts very fast and the heat from your hands and the friction of rolling them only expedites the process. We had to stop and chill them again once when we were shaping because they were already melting too much, and that was only after being out for a few minutes. They came out alright though. We finished them with a variety of items-powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chopped walnuts and toasted coconut.

Surprising, didn't seem like we had a whole lot of items during class, it's only in retrospect that we did a whole lot today.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

12/03/09 - Class - Tortes, Frozen Desserts, and Chocolate

Back to class after a bit of a break. Today we did tortes, or mostly, their components.

First though we began frozen desserts, namely ice cream. We made a base for a cherry ice cream. It's chilling overnight, then tomorrow we churn it, then chill it again. A soup of ice cream base isn't very impressive, so no picture.

We also began work on truffles. Like the ice cream, it is is just a soup of ganache right now, so nothing worth seeing. Tomorrow we'll shape it and it'll be prettier.

Back to tortes. Tortes are kinda like intricate cakes. They're layered cakes, with some kinda filling, topped with an icing, usually some garnishes and other stuff on top as well, often even writing/piping and stuff. They're supposed to be pretty luxurious I guess. They have a lot of steps and a lot of components.

Today we put together a Sacher Torte. We used the chocolate genoise which we saved from a couple weeks back. Between the two rounds we filled it with apricot jam, then constructed it. We sealed the cakes with apricot glaze and chilled it, then topped it with chocolate ganache. It came out okay. Nothing that pretty, and we didn't do any piping, but it's passable.

The rest of the time was spent doing components for our later tortes. We made a chocolate spongecake for a torte tomorrow. We also made ladyfingers again since we need those for Saturday's torte. They came out better than our first try a couple weeks ago, but still weren't all that great. They were probably overwhipped again. We also made a vanilla spongecake for Saturday's torte. Unfortunately, it was a failure and had to be tossed. Too much sugar was in it, which ruined the texture. We also were going to make pate choux for practice for the exam and that screwed up too. This is why I hate working in groups. I have to give up control and rely on others. And I know which group member caused the problems for all three of these, because she was doing each failed part-mixing the pate choux, mixing the ladyfingers, and doing ingredients for the spongecake. I wish I could just do everything on my one sometimes. My other teammate is great, but I am a loner and that's how I like to work.

Monday, November 30, 2009

11/28/09 - At Home - Bread

I haven't posted lately cuz not much as been up. No class this week cuz of the holiday. I finally did a bit of baking at home, some more bread. Just making bread every week or 2 doesn't seem too interesting but I learn more with every go, so it is beneficial. I am continuing to make my sourdough recipe. I like using the starter since yeast can get costly. It is a lot of work however, but split into a few sessions it isn't that bad. I made a larger batch today, making two large loaves. No wash of any kind this time, the milk didn't seem to help and the only other kind of wash that can soften a crust is milk/egg yolk, and I don't wanna waste eggs on that. The result's kinda pale but I'm just eating it myself so I don't particularly care about it's aesthetics.

Today I did try something slightly different in baking, however. A couple months ago when I was buying supplies for my baking class, I for some reason decided to buy a silicone bread pan. I had never used it, resigning it to the back of one of my cabinets. Not really sure why I never thought of using it before, but I decided to give it a go today. One of my issues with my bread has come from the fact that I'm making it using half whole-wheat flour. With that, it does not attain the rise or structure that comes from using bread flour so I generally end up with flatter loaves. Using a form, I can obviously control the shape better. It worked out pretty well. As you can see it did bulge, seeing as the silicone is very malleable. I think I just put too much dough in. The results of the bread was a step up today, and I'm not 100% why. I did achieve a somewhat softer bread than previous. I think perhaps it was the baking time, I baked it slightly shorter than I had previously, but I'm not sure if 5 minutes would make that big a difference in the crust. Another change was how I applied moisture. During my proofing, in addition to my mock-up proof box with steaming water, I sprayed the loaves a few times with water from a spray bottle, and I also did so prior to baking. Normally, moistening the dough would create a crisper dough, but perhaps since it was moister going into baking, it did not crisp up as much. I'm not sure, I guess I'll see in future attempts.

I also used my Kitchenaid for the first non-bread application, making cornbread. It's much easier than a hand mixer, that's all I really gotta say.

Also I know I haven't posted anything about my job, that's just cuz I'm lazy. I'll get to it eventually.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

11/21/09 - Class - Cakes

Well today went a bit better then yesterday, though it wasn't perfect. We had one failure, and I burned myself a few times. You'd think after all the burns I get and exposure to high heat, my hands would get a little more resistant.

Our first order of business was to get the carrot cake done right. This time we used three shorter rounds as opposed to two tall,and baked them in the conventional oven. They came out perfectly this time. Since we got them done early they were cool enough to slap some cream cheese icing on. Time was running short so we weren't able to do the whole icing shebang-layers and whatnot, but it's all good.

Next we went on to a cheesecake. Technically it's a custard, but whatever. The book recipe had us bake it like a custard as well-in a water bath. The chef said it's fine however doing it as is, and he was right. It came out very nice.

Third was an orange chiffon bundt cake. It was a nice egg foam and the chef said that it is a really great recipe. It baked off very well and it came out really nice and airy. I wanted to give it a try but didn't want to mess with it. We topped it with a simple orange glaze to further enhance it while still keeping it light (the recipe called for buttercream which doesn't make much sense-very heavy topping for a very light cake).

After the chiffon we made chocolate genoise. They were very similar to the spongecake of yesterday. The only real difference is the addition of some butter and fewer eggs (and yolks and whites aren't separated). They came out nicely but I didn't take a picture of them. We froze them for a future recipe.

Our last baked items were ladyfingers. I'll keep it simple and say that's our failure. They didn't rise, were brown, and seemed pocked with air holes. I'm not sure the exact cause of the problem. I think that the sugar measurement was wrong, which may account for the collapse and probably accounts for the browning. It's also possible that it overwhipped and the volume was lost there. I guess it's not a total loss-we didn't throw them out but instead broke them up for cake crumbs. We will have to make them sometime in the future however because we were supposed to save them for a future recipe.

The final item of the night was Italian buttercream. It's really just Italian meringue that we add butter to-lots of butter. Seeing as Italian meringue is a bit of a pain to make this was the same. I am just very apprehensive about sugarwork, the exacting temperatures and ease of ruining the batch with minor mistakes make it tough. It came out fine however and we used it to ice yesterday's spongecakes. We had a lot of buttercream so I went through the effort of layering the spongecakes and making a big thing. With all that buttercream it's gonna be rich as hell but that's what you get when you eat cake.

Friday, November 20, 2009

11/20/09 - Class - Cakes

The Chef was ill on Thursday so class had to be canceled. So today is the first day of the week for class and so we're a bit behind. This week we began cakes, and unfortunately I got off to a pretty bad start. At least for one plus we got new groups and I like mine.

The first recipe we made was a carrot cake which was simply failure. What's worse is it was my fault. We prepped it all nice and then panned it. I put it in the deck ovens to bake. We were using tall pans so I was fearful that putting them right on the stone would burn the bottoms before the center cooked-the deck ovens heat from the top left, top right, and bottom. So I put our pan on another sheet pan, which is there so that bottoms won't overcook. Unfortunately, that was my error. Without enough heat from the bottom, the center never set even though the outside cooked. We ended with a gooey collapsing center. If it's any redemption, we got a perfectly cooked outer ring, so we salvaged what we could by cutting out the wet parts and just having pieces of carrot cake. It tasted quite good. I didn't take any pictures of this failure. We're going to try again tomorrow so I'll have pictures then.

Our second cake was a chocolate spongecake. I guess from the standpoint that it's a whipped egg cake, it's pretty simple. It's going to just take time and experience to know the proper mixing time and stuff to get "thick ribbons" for example. Our cakes came out alright. We are chilling them to ice with buttercream tomorrow, so no pictures tonight. I'll have pretty ones tomorrow.

The last thing that we made were eclairs. Yes, we made them in the past. Yes, they have nothing to do with cakes-they're custards. We made them because it's on our final and so it was practice. Looking ahead it seems like we're gonna be making it every week the rest of the quarter. These came out very nicely. They were pretty close to perfect I'd say. Our pastry cream was good too. Unfortunatlely I was stupid and refrigerated it, rather than just cool it, so the consistency suffered a bit, but after piping it came out fine. I have no pictures unfortunately just cuz I forgot, so sorry but tonight it's just a wall of text.

11/20/09 - At Home - Bread

I gave my Kitchenaid a whirl for the first time and I'm quite happy with it thus far, for the little I've done with it. I had read reviews where it is loud and can get shaky so wasn't sure. I was kneading bread so it was on low, but it was fine for me, quiet even compared to the Hobarts at school. It is nice that it has 10 speeds so you can be much more precise and can change the speed more gradually. You can tilt back the mixer which makes getting to the bowl, for scraping it down or for removing the attachment, much easier. The bowl is cool too. You just twist it into place and it stays firm. You had to clip the Hobart bowls into side arms and raise the bowl and it could get difficult and tedious. I guess comparing a home mixer to an industrial mixer doesn't really work, but those are my only bases for comparison.

Well today I made some bread. I made another sourdough, since I got a new starter going from some I got from school. This time I tried a levain that uses the starter as the only rise, no additional yeast is added. I will have to see what I think of this recipe, but that's definitly a plus. Flour's a lot cheaper than yeast. The bread was quite simple, though it definitly takes planning because it is a long process. I began the recipe last night when I mixed some starter and a portion of flour for a couple minutes and then let it sit at room temp overnight to activate the yeast and rise a bit. This morning I finished the recipe, adding more flour, water, and salt (very simple) and mixing that. It fermented another two hours, then I shaped and proofed it another hour. This time for proofing I tried something new to try and similate a proof box. I put the bread in the cool oven and then filled a couple cups with boiling water and placed those in there, with the hopes that they'd steam, raise the temp a bit, and sorta simulate a proof box. It didn't have nearly the heat or moisture of a real proof box but they didn't dry out so I guess it was okay. After 45 minutes of proofing I finally baked. I will have to think about whether or not I do this proofing method again. It simulated the proof box sorta but then I had to have the bread sit another 10 min for the oven to get to temperature, and I don't think that works very well.

Here's the final product. I did half whole-wheat flour again. I didn't get much rise again. This dough was too moist also, it was difficult working and kinda flattened when I formed it. That's my fault though, I just didn't compensate enough with flour. The only way that I can think of to get better rise is using less whole wheat flour, but if anything I'd want to increase it, so I just don't know. The fact that I don't exactly have facilities for good fermentation or proofing probably affects it too.

Last time that I made bread I raised the consideration of a milk wash to make a softer crust. That's what I tried with one of these. Unfortunately it had no effect on the crust, it was just as hard as the unwashed loaf. I tasted a tiny bit of it and it actually tasted rather chewy, but that was just the heel and pretty much all crust. I'll have to see if it's okay when I have a real slice of it. Despite having no effect on the crust, it did make it brown more and gave it an interesting speckled appeareance. Too bad it also ruined my baking sheet from the residual milk that ran off the bread. I guess it's good foresight that I had ordered a new baking sheet just this week. So my breadmaking is still a work in progress. I still want to achieve better rise and softer crust, but I'm not sure if I'm gonna get either of those with the recipes I use, the rise due to whole-wheat flour, and the crust, due to them being sourdoughs. Well, perhaps the crust is a problem because sourdoughs bake at a high temp. If I just bake lower and longer it might be better. I'll think about that next time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

11/18/09 - Equipped

I've wanted to get a stand mixer for quite a while now. After using them in class, it simply makes a world of difference compared to a hand mixer, or kneading bread by hand (I don't mind it but I'm sure I'd get better product from the machine). However, I couldn't reasonably justify a purchase of that magnitude with no income. I couldn't even afford groceries and I made no nonessential purchases. However, I promised myself that whenever I finally get a job, I will purchase one. I happily remedied that situation this week (more on that once I actually begin working) and so I went ahead and made the purchase. It is kinda tough putting a big piece of equipment in my already pathetically puny kitchen, but with some rearrangement I managed. It's really not as big or heavy as I thought, though I'm used to those hulking Hobart stand mixers at school. So it's found its nice little niche in the corner of my kitchen. I look forward to giving it a maiden run on some bread later this week.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Class 11/14/09 - Just Cookies

We ended the week on a pretty good note. We just did a variety of cookies today and it went quite smoothly. I've been baking some of these cookies since I was a little kid, so I guess it's kinda the roots of my trade. What I can't get is how like every group did at least one thing wrong with the recipes tonight. I think cookies are the easiest thing we've done all quarter. Whatever, everything we did turned out well.

The first thing that we did was get our German chocolate layered bars from yesterday baking. Those took about an hour to bake and then we chilled them. They broke a bit when we tried to divvy them up because they're supposed to chill overnight, but it's all good. I tossed them in the freezer at home so that'll solidify them pretty well.

Next up were gingerbread cookies. There isn't really much to say about them, they're one of the first cookies, if not the first I had ever made. A different recipe but not much has changed.

Next were sugar cookies. Same boat as the gingerbread. One of the oldies. Easy stuff, came out just as one would expect.

Next were cinnamon sugar biscotti. You may recall that a month ago maybe I had experimented making them at home, and they were overly hard. Today's outcome was better than that at home. I'm not really sure what changed, but perhaps I just had something wrong in the recipe. When I rolled out the dough it was much softer and stickier (but it shouldn't have really been sticky, either the dough was too wet or the environment was just too warm). It spread more when it baked, and wasn't as crisp after the first baking. They came out well. I'd surmise that from the time at home, either 1) I measured something wrong (unlikely), 2) they baked too long (possibly), 3) I baked them too hot (also possibly). Maybe I'll try making them again sometime, who knows.

Finally we did cinnamon butter cookies. They weren't anything special, just kinda sugar cookies with cinnamon, and then cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. I don't know if they're exactly the same but they seem to be like Snickerdoodles, though I'm not sure if that's a really commonly known name. I never heard of it until I worked at Firehook.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Class 11/13/09 - Tarts and Cookies

Some more cookies today and even more tarts. Before I worked in a bakery, I don't think I had ever noticed tarts for sale and we've been making them for like three weeks now. Today was the last night of tarts I believe, however.

First is the Linzer tart which we started yesterday. Today we just shaped the dough and filled it with raspberry jam, then gave it a lattice top. If I ate sweet things, I think that I'd really like it. The dough smells really good, it kinda reminds me of gingerbread, most likely from the cloves. It turned out quite nice.

For our second tart, we made tartlets. These were fresh berry tarts. Rather simple, we just pre-baked tartlet shells, made some pastry cream and filled them in the shells, topped with fresh berries, and glazed. I'm kinda tempted to having them, since my diet is woefully devoid of fruits, despite them being my favorite foods, but the tarts are still pretty unhealthy and they're glazed. I'll think about it.

Our final tart was a raspberry mascarpone tart. Mascarpone cheese, honey, and a few other things were mixed up and then heavy cream that was whipped to soft peaks was folded in. That was put in a pre-baked tart shell, topped with raspberries, and glaze. It is pictured above with the fruit tartlets.

Next we did some cookies. They're easy stuff. First was peanut butter sandies, just peanut butter cookies with some sugar on top. I'm not crazy about the extra sugar but that's the recipe.

Our last completed item today was traditional shortbread cookies. It was just a shortbread recipe and we rolled them, froze them, then applied egg wash and sugar, then sliced and baked them.

We also began work on German chocolate brownies. They take a long time to bake and then need to chill before they can be cut so we just prepped them and put them in the fridge to bake first thing tomorrow. It was a two-part recipe. First we had to make the chocolate/nut brownie, and then a topping that was primarily coconut. We'll bake those tomorrow and I'll get a picture then.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Class 11/12/09 - Puff Pastry, Tarts, and Cookies

When the class began it seemed like we were doing one or two subjects a week and moving on. It's proved to be not quite true, as this is I think the third week now we're working with laminated doughs and pies/tarts. We're also beginning cookies.

First up was some work with puff pastry. We used pre-made puff pastry instead of making our own. Since we've already made danish and croissant doughs, the chef thought it'd be unnecssary since it's pretty much the same thing. Plus in any professional kitchen you buy pre-made puff pastry. They have perfected machine manufacture of it and making it by hand is time consuming and will probably yield an inferior product. So with the puff pastries, we made a Cream Napoleon. We baked off the puff pastry, but we didn't want the puff but rather a crisp dough, so we docked it and kept it flat with sheet pans. We also prepared pastry cream to go with it. To put together the Napoleon we layered three pieces of puff pastry with two layers of pastry cream. We then topped it with some fondant and made a spiderweb design with some more fondant that we added chocolate to. The chef gave a demo of putting it together including tips on putting on the pastry cream and fondant to not break the pastry as well as for cutting and squaring it off for good presentation. The left picture is from the chef's demo and the right one was my group's product.

We began some work with cookies. Today we made "Chocolate Jumble Cookies" which is flavored with coffee liqueur and chocolate, and has chocolate chips and chopped walnuts in it. Our batter was wetter and runnier than the others-we added too much liqueur and melted too much chocolate-but the final cookies still came out fine.

We also did more tart dough preparation for tomorrow. We made both the regular tart dough and Linzer tart dough. More on those when we use them in production tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

At Home - 11/08-10

A little bit of baking at this week.

On Sunday I made tortillas again. This time I increased the recipe slightly so that I could make larger tortillas. They came out to be a good size this time. I also doubled the recipe and froze half of them for next time. The only problem is I cooked them a little too long and they began to get crisp. I think that I may have cooked them a little to hot actually. I used the second six and they broke when I tried to roll them. However the first size I froze and they felt softer before I froze them. I turned up the heat partway through to make them cook faster so maybe that's the issue. (BTW forgive the picture, for some reason it uploads rotated and I can't figure out why).

On Tuesday I made some cornbread. A couple weeks ago a classmate of mine graciously gave me a whole lotta buttermilk after some cooking and the expiration date is rapidly approaching so I want to use it as soon as I can. It can go beyond the sell-by date by a good deal since it's already cultured, but it's sourness was already quite defined so I don't want to let it sit too long. As opposed to the corn muffins I've made in the past, I decided to make "Southern Cornbread" which omitted the sugar and was baked in a pan. I'm fine with the pan concept-I just made a double batch and did it in a 9x"13" pan. I just break it up and eat it like cereal anyway (great for portion control) so being a muffin didn't matter to me. I was okay with the idea of omitting the sugar, if I can make it healthier I'm cool with that, but the lack of sweetness was very noticeable and it really detracted from it. Next time I might try at least part of the sugar or perhaps honey for some sweetness.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Class 11/07/09 - Tarts

Today wasn't difficult, but it was kinda bleh for me. I wasn't in the best of moods and my group just made it worse. I made the best of it though.

The first tart I made was a lemon curd with Italian meringue. I'm not that happy with the outcome. When I was making the lemon curd, I thought it came out very well. It had a nice color and good consistency and was very smooth. However it never set very well when I chilled it. I'm not sure if I didn't cook it quite enough or what. I was unhappy with the Italian meringue also. Again, when I made it, it turned out quite nice. However since we had to chill the lemon curd, we had to let the meringue sit and so we chilled that as well. When we finally put it together, the meringue had lost it's volume and consistency and became what is seen in the picture. It's not that bad, it still has the taste, just not the volume.

The next tart was an orange milk chocolate tart with creme chantilly. First the chef gave us a quick demo on how to "supreme" a citrus fruit-in this case, a grapefruit. All it really means is sectioning the grapefruit by skinning it and then cutting down the membrane so you have just the flesh and none of the membrane. Of course he made it look easy. Mine weren't terrible, but not great. I blame the fact that my knife wasn't as sharp as it should have been.

In addition I made creme chantilly for the topping. It's just whipped cream that's sweetened. I just figured that it's worth noting since I did it by hand for the first time. It was helpful in learning how to get the feel for the consistency. It takes it time to get going but once it starts setting it can go from soft peaks to stiff peaks to overwhipped very fast. I got a perfect consistency for piping.

And then finally was actually making the tart. It was quite simple. All it took was boiling heavy cream and milk and then blending in butter, corn syrup, and a few drops of orange oil. We then poured it over chocolate which melted from the heat and after whipping it together, it thickened and became a ganache. It was then put in a tart shell, chilled, and once it was set, the grapefruits were placed on top and the creme was piped in. At least this one came out nicely.

Unfortunately I never got any pictures of the rye sourdough bread production. The chef took care of the breads himself, and even though we ran extremely late, the last of us leaving at like 11:45, the bread was still baking so I didn't get any pictures, or free bread.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Class 11/06/09 - Tarts and Bread Production

This evening we had a fairly light workload. We had the beginnings of a lecture in chocolate. I don't think we do that really until the end of the class but we are using it in a recipe tomorrow so I guess it's a good intro.

Today we made a walnut tart. We baked off the tart dough that we made yesterday. The two tarts that we're making tomorrow require fully baked shells so we baked those off. They were cracking a little, one broke completely, but that's cuz it stuck to the tin. I'll have to diagnose why it was cracking, not sure if it was overworked perhaps or something in the prep (I didn't prep the dough and I don't trust my group members). The walnut tart turned out nicely. We blind baked a tart shell and then filled it and finished baking. It ended up being kinda like a custard. We did begin cooking it on the stove before putting it into the shell, though we didn't thicken it at all-that may have just been to have it hot for baking. It looks like it came out alright.

That was our only actual recipe tonight. Some other groups made some more croissants or danishes but we weren't interested. Instead we focused on continuing the work we started yesterday with the big batch of bread. We combined the poolish from yesterday with more water and flour as well as salt and let it ferment some more before working on it. You can see in the first picture just how much we had after the ferment, and that had already started being portioned. We then made a bunch of baguettes, some rolls, and a couple loaves. The rolls were cool because we used a machine-I forgot what it was called-but you put a big portion of dough in it and it portioned it into even size pieces, I think 36 total. We shaped and proof it all and then baked it off. The baking took a long time and so we were there until past 11:30. We'll need to learn to better time it all. There just wasn't enough space in the deck ovens so we were staying late for just a couple more sheets. It was fun though, and we of course made a lot. The final picture is just a portion of what we had, not even half probably-some was already taken and a lot was in the process of baking. I didn't mind staying late or anything, I thought it was fun. Making four servings of an item isn't really practical experience, this gives you a little feel for the reality.

I also helped myself to a bit of the sourdough starter that we had in class, to replace the one I killed. I figured it couldn't hurt to have some. I don't think I really need to throw out so much starter every time I refresh it like books say, as long as I drain off the alcohol. Plus this starter has a few months on the one I had, so it's purer.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Class 11/05/09 - Midterm

Twas a good day in class. We had our midterm and it went quite swimmingly. I'm glad I put in the bit of practice this week. As stated previously, we had three recipes to make - country biscuits which was done individually, and then blueberry muffins and soft yeast dinner rolls as a group. I ended the night with a perfect score on the practical so I must say I'm content.

Everything looked really nice. You can't tell from the picture, but the muffins turned out better than I've ever made them before (they got a bit damaged in transport, I should have just taken the picture in class).

We did some more stuff in class as well. We made up some sweet tart dough which we refrigerated for Friday and Saturday. It's basically pie dough only it's full of sugar (hence sweet) and fully incorporated rather than being flaky or mealy like pie dough is. Nothing to really see, hence no pictures. Wait for the finished tarts.

We're also going to be doing some bread production in class tomorrow, so that calls for a lot of dough. We made two starters for tomorrow. One other group did a sourdough, a very dense dough that I didn't take a picture of-I'll try to get one tomorrow before it's portioned. My group made a poolish for levain baguettes. A poolish is half the flour, the water, and the yeast mixed and let to sit and rise and develop flavor. The rest is added tomorrow. It was quite a recipe, 11.25 pounds flour, 10 pounds (1.25 gallons) water and 3.5 ounces of yeast. And more is going into it tomorrow. It's gonna really grow tonight though. When we first mixed it together it was about 2/3 full in the round container. By the end of class, about an hours time, the container was already full and it had to be split into a second. Sounds like tomorrow is going to be fun, and I'm gonna get a lot of free bread. I already made off with a lot of free food tonight so I'm happy (though my diet is like 90% carbs right now, I'll need some variation when I run through all this stuff).