Saturday, October 31, 2009

At Home - 10/31/09 - Bread Experimentation

I finally ran out of my stores of bread from the first couple weeks of class so I baked some more today. I also did a good deal of experimentation. It's not terribly wise to use several unknowns at once, but whatever.

Unknown 1: I used my sourdough starter for the first time to make some sourdough bread. It seems to have worked just fine. I took it out of the fridge yesterday and reactivated it by feeding it last night and it was good to go. I could definitely taste the sourness in the bread.

Unknown 2: I substituted half whole-wheat flour for bread flour, because I like whole-wheat bread. In some white bread recipes you can do that so I wanted to give it a shot. I think it worked out okay, though I'm not really sure. The loaf rose decently, but it didn't rise a ton, which may be due to the whole-wheat flour. It contains more gluten so makes a denser bread. I would prefer using a full whole-wheat recipe so I might keep experimenting because I like doing the sourdough also.

Unknown 3: The sourdough recipe called for steam injection. In real bread baking settings, some breads have steam injected into the oven at the start. This gives it a crisp crust. In a situation like mine, you can imitate the steam injection by putting a pan of water in the oven about 5 minutes before you put the bread in, and then taking it out about 5 minutes after starting the baking. It seemed to work well. The pan was steaming when I took it out. The bread came out with a very crisp crust as well. Though I didn't really care for the crisp crust. I don't think I'll do it in the future, I'd rather have it soft. That may have also inhibited the rise some during baking.

So the baking part wasn't too bad. But since I'm a total idiot and something always has to go wrong, well, something went wrong. I was keeping my starter on top of my oven since that is kinda warm, due to some radiant heat from my hotplate. However, I left it on there when I baked the bread. It is surprising how ridiculously hot my entire oven, outside included, gets when it is on. To put it simply, I pretty much killed my starter. By the time I realized, almost the entire thing was a baked brick. I discarded everything hardened and was left only a tiny bit of liquid starter left, and even that was pretty hot, like 115F. So I may have completely killed off my starter. It even melted a hole in my tupperware and now I like don't have any storage containers anymore. I fed the starter before class and there was a little bubbling when I got home, so there may be promise. I'll have to see tomorrow.

If it's any solace, at least today showed that I was able to make a successful starter that did it's job. If my attempts at saving mine fails, I know that I'll be able to make a new one if I desire. If that is the case, I'll have to consider my options. While flour isn't expensive, I'm not exactly swimming in cash, so I'll have to consider if i little flavor to my bread is worth it. However, I'll have to look at recipes and see if it really is costing me anything to maintain it-if using the starter cuts down on the required flour in the recipe enough to even it out. Plus if I ever get more serious about bread baking in the future, it'd be cool to have a starter that's been maintained for a few years. Another consideration is making a whole-wheat starter. As I said, I prefer whole wheat bread, so if I'm successful in making a fully whole-wheat sourdough, that would be nice to have a whole-wheat starter as well. If I am able to salvage the starter I have, I may consider converting it to a whole wheat one too. I guess I'll see.

Class 10/30/09 - Pies and Laminated Dough

Today was a rough day. We had to finish our work with the Danish pastry dough, start the croissant dough, bake more pie shells, make a cream pie, and we stuck a practice run of dinner rolls in there as well. We ran rather long and didn't finish everything, and I didn't stop the entire class.

Laminated dough, to say the least, is a heck of a lot of work. I already spoke yesterday on the effort involved in the prep. We did the lock-in and two turns yesterday. Today we did one more turn and then let it chill some more. Then finally we were able to begin work with it. The chef gave a demo on a bunch of different shaping methods, there's a heck of a lot of ways and you can pretty much do whatever you want. We also had a lot of different fillings. Yesterday a couple groups prepared almond paste and cream cheese filling and there was extra blueberry and cherry filling from yesterday's pies. In addition we made a cinnamon sugar mix. So after filling and rolling about 2/3 of our 5 pounds or so of pastry dough, we egg washed them, proofed them, egg washed them again, then could finally bake them. They took quite a while to bake because they needed a very deep brown color. In the meantime, we still had even more work to do for the Danishes. I had to prepare apricot glaze, which is a bulk item, sorta like thick jelly, that I heated up and thinned out with water. Meanwhile we also heated up fondant till it was soft, then diluted that and let it cool. When the danishes were done baking, we glazed them and drizzled the fondant and finally had some finished product. They turned out beautifully, to say the least. I didn't taste any, not my kinda thing, but the chef said they were excellent, perfect. So I'm satisfied. Hell of a lotta work though for a few pastries. But we did end up with four half-sheet pans of them and still 1/3 of the dough in the fridge. I understand why the chef said we should make that full recipe, they're quite popular.

We also baked off two pie crusts that we prepared yesterday. These are for cream filling pies so they had to be fully baked as opposed to par-baked. I was surprised how long they took to bake. I didn't really think an empty pie crust was photo-worthy.

One of those pie crusts though we used for a cream pie. Like the danish pastries, this had a decent amount of work and parts. We had to bake the first pie dough. In the meantime we had to prepare the custard filling. It's pretty simple. Milk and some sugar and heavy cream's brought to a boil, then tempered with a mix of more sugar and egg yolks and cornstarch. It's brought back to a boil then removed from heat and butter's stirred in. Once the pie dough finished baking, the custard went right in and we chilled it. To top the pie we needed to make a meringue. I, as an idiot, did the wrong recipe and first made a common (French) meringue. So I had to scrap that because we needed Swiss meringue, which involves some cooking over heat then whipping. When that finished, I piped it onto the pie and we torched it. It looked pretty nice but we were already past the end of class so we just tossed it in the fridge. I'll get a picture tomorrow.

We made a batch of dinner rolls for practice for the midterm. I didn't get a picture but they turned out much better than last time.

We unfortunately didn't even get to do the lock-in for our croissants. I guess we'll do the lock-in and all the folds tomorrow and then freeze them for next week. As I said, this stuff takes too much effort.

Tomorrow should be easier. We don't have as many recipes but we're also going to be practicing for next week's midterm. No problems though, I can do all the items easy. Biscuits, blueberry muffins, dinner rolls. No problem.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Class 10/29/09

Today in class we continued with pies and began work with laminated doughs.

The pies were easy. We made both cherry and blueberry pies, a cooked fruit and cooked juice pie, respectively. Cooked fruit means that you cook both the fruit and the juice on the stove top with seasonings and a thickener (cornstarch or tapioca) for the filling while cooked juice means you just cook the juice with seasonings and a thickener then add the fruit back for service cuz it's too delicate to cook. They both came out fine. Unfortunately I wasn't thinking and didn't take pictures =/

We also began work on Danish pastries today. Laminated doughs are quite a lot of work. The amount of butter in them is pretty gross. We made about a 4-5 pound batch and 3 pounds of that was butter. The preparation method is kinda tough and time consuming but rather interesting. After preparing the dough you ferment it in the refrigerator. After it has risen and is sufficiently cold, we rolled it out into a half-sheet pan to make it pretty much a rectangle. After it chilled some more, we rolled it out into a larger rectangle. We also rolled out the butter, cold, into a slightly smaller rectangle, put the butter on the dough, and folded it in. After more refrigeration we rotate and fold it again, and that repeats for a few times before it's ready. We will finish it on Friday after a few more folds for a total of 135 layers. I'll get a picture of that too before we prepare the danishes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

At Home and About - 10/25-26/09

Sunday the 25th was a fun day and something rather out of the ordinary for me. I went to Marta's house to prepare chili for the following day's Chili Cook-off at the school. I had never really made chili myself so it was an interesting and fun experience. We made a vegan chili which was cool, as I won't eat meat. The prep of all those vegetables took quite a long time but it was really beautiful, containing green and red peppers, carrots, celery, corn, onions, garlic, three types of beans, and a lot of seasoning. One seasoning I found quite interesting was cocoa powder, making giving it a mole flavor. It wasn't predominant but it mellowed it out nicely. And of course tasted great.

In addition to the chili we made cornbread to go with it, jalapeno cheddar mini corn muffins to be precise. I think they were excellent. They had the jalapenos giving it a little kick but nothing strong. I never really tasted the cheddar but I'm sure it was a good complement to everything else. One thing we did, like the corn muffins we made in class a couple weeks ago, was use whole frozen corn in it. I am still unsure whether or not I like it. It gives it some texture but I can't say whether or not it's my thing. I like it more in this than I did the ones made in class so I don't mind it, but I'm not sure if I'd prefer it without. Either way, they're great. We made some at Marta's yesterday which we at with dinner and I made a fresh batch today (the 26th) for the contest.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Class 10/24/09

An easy class this evening. Not much on our plate. We delved further into creams and custards by making pate a choux (and subsequently eclairs) and two kinds of pastry cream.

First, this is the flan (left) and creme brulee (right) from yesterday. I was quite surprised at the outcome. When I made them yesterday I feared that I undercooked the brulee and overcooked the flan but I think they both turned out perfectly. I did err a bit slightly in the flan though. I was unaware that the caramelized sugar we put first in the ramekin should be only a tiny bit-I put a fair amount in and so it didn't really come out when I plated them, but rather was all hardened in the ramekin. Though that may have alternatively been another error in prep yesterday. I prepared the syrup before doing the flan and so it sat and hardened in the ramekins before I added the flan-I thought it would remelt during baking but I guess not. Now I know.

We also made some pie, apple cranberry to be precise. We had made pie dough yesterday so used that. The filling was really nice, apples, cranberries, brown sugar, lotsa cinnamon (Chef said too much, there can never be too much cinnamon), and other stuff. After par-baking the crust we filled it and then topped with some streusel topping from a couple weeks ago. I only had a bite and it tasted good; it certainly looks pretty. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving, hopefully I can bake all this stuff then. We also made more pie dough for next week, that's just chilling in the fridge.

Our final item was eclairs. We first made two custards, creme patissiere (pastry cream) which is vanilla-y, and then creme anglaise, chocolate flavoured. We then made some pate a choux for the eclairs. They unfortunately didn't turn out the greatest. The eclairs were taken out before they were fully baked and put back in and so some collapsed a bit and didn't have great cavities. The creme patissiere was also a little runny. Unfortunately I don't have pictures of the eclair shells or the finished product; I forgot to in class and gave them away on my way home so don't have any with me now. Though we'll be making more throughout the quarter (they're part of the final) so hopefully then I'll have more presentable items.

At Home - 10/24/09

I'm not sure if it's technically baking, but it's close enough. Today I tried my hand at making some homemade whole wheat tortillas. I normally buy a frozen 6-pack at Whole Foods for about $1.50 which isn't bad. But tortillas are just flour, water, some oil, baking powder, and salt, costing, I dunno, probably less than $.25 for 6? Probably not even. They turned out nicely, though I need to increase the recipe slightly to make them a little larger. I'll have to consider it for the future, while it is cheap, it still does take time and the flour makes a bit of a mess. Maybe I'll just make a ton at once, like a few dozen, and freeze them all (I like enchiladas)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Class 10/23/09 - Even More Enriched Yeast Dough

Today was slightly easier, not as many things done. We did some more enriched yeast doughs and began working with custards and pies.

First we had our brioche. We got portions of that hug tub from yesterday and baked them up. I tried only a bite. It tasted okay, like a croissant. How anyone could eat a lot of that I don't know though, it's so rich, so full of butter and eggs. My chef suggested that slices of it makes about the best French Toast ever though.

Next we used the sweet bun dough that we prepared yesterday to make cinnamon buns. We rolled out the dough, covered it with cinnamon and brown sugar (optional nuts and/or raisins, and we opted to omit them), rolled the sheet up, and proofed. They then baked and were topped with a sugar glaze. They look pretty, but again, just swimming in sugar.

One thing that I spent a good part of the class working on were two custards-a toffee caramel flan and baked creme brulee. It was of course something I had never done before. To be honest it's not really my thing I think, it's really more of a restaurant kinda dessert while I like doing bakery kinda things. I don't have any pictures cuz they're presently chilling in the classroom's fridge, so I'll have them tomorrow. I think the flan was a little overdone and the creme brulee might be a little underdone. I'll have to see.

We also made pie dough, that's easy stuff though, nothing special. We also made a filling, I think it was like cranberry apple or something, but we couldn't find cranberries so it's really just gonna be an apple pie. Those are chilling also so it'll be baked tomorrow.

Class 10/22/09 - More Enriched Yeast Dough

Back to class, and we're continuing with enriched yeast doughs.

One recipe this week was brioche. When you think enriched yeast, it doesn't get much more enriched than this. It uses a ton of butter and eggs. I don't know how someone can eat something that rich. It also takes 20 minutes+ to knead which can put a strain on the tabletop mixers so the chef had the entire class pool their parts and we did it in one of the big stand mixers. I'm not crazy about the method, if one group screwed up it may have ruined the entire batch. I prefer working alone and even in my 3 person group I tend to recheck my other group members and stuff, so counting on the rest of the class to have done it right isn't my style. It ferments overnight so I'll have more on it tomorrow but the big batch of dough is kinda cool.

Another recipe we made was doughnuts. For the most part it's just like any other dough, mixing, kneading, fermenting, shaping, and proofing. The cooking method however is obviously deep frying which I found kinda interesting, it's nothing I've ever done before. They looked like they turned out alright. I didn't try them so can't say for sure.

The third recipe of the night was hot cross buns. Nothing too special. A lot of ingredients and a lot of steps so kinda a pain. They look nice though. Nothing much to say about em.

In addition we also made pizza dough. Nothing special. I've been doing it at home for a while now so it was easy. I guess we're gonna use it in class the next two days, though I dunno how people can be eating at 10pm, I'd rather just take the dough home and make something myself. We also made sweet bun dough that also will be used tomorrow. More on that then.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

At Home - 10/21/09

I finally got around to making the sour cream muffins at home. Those were the ones we made the first day of baking but they all broke apart cuz they didn't have enough time to cool. They turned out quite nicely at home. I didn't make a streusel topping like we had at class, but that's pretty much sugar and butter, which I can do without. They taste really nice. It's kinda hard to describe them, they don't have a very predominant flavor. They kinda taste like sour cream, but not really. They have a very smooth texture though which I like and I think their best part is their aroma. I'm having them like I had the previous ones, like cereal. Top it with some cinnamon and it's good stuff.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

10/17/09 - Yeast Breads Take 3

This evening was our final day in the study of yeast breads. We also did a little bit of enriched yeast breads. They're enriched because they have more sugar, more fat, and/or more eggs, giving them a more tender crumb.

Our first item that we worked on was a country sourdough loaf. We used white sourdough starter from organic grapes. I kinda wanted to try the rye starter just because I was curious about it's taste, but the rest of my group sucks. It came out really pretty though. But it was a little bland, it needed some more salt.

Next was challah bread. This was the only enriched dough recipe we did. This turned out really nicely. Looks great and tastes good too. I think I added too much yeast but I guess it didn't adversely affect it. There was some cracking on top during baking. As I've said, the time constraint in class is very tough and so it could have proofed longer and it wouldn't have teared.

Third was a normal french baguette. For this recipe we used the old dough that we began on Thursday, seen on the left. As the name implies, it's old dough, incorporated into the recipe to impart the flavor it gains from a longer fermentation. The baguettes turned out adequately, but we did have some problems with it. When we put them to ferment, the dough was too sticky so we had to incorporate flour by hand after the fact and overall the dough became a little tough. We had further issues because of time constraints and it could have benefited from longer fermenting, proofing, and bench resting. It didn't form all that well when we were shaping it since it could have bench rested longer. Still, they looked alright. I hope they taste okay.

Although I keep complaining about lack of time, there is downtime. My complaints are in the fact that to make all this product and make it well, it is tough in a 4 hour timeframe. But The production itself isn't very time consuming. You can prep a dough in 10 minutes if you do it right. Same with shaping and things like that. The time consuming parts is when the dough is just sitting their, either fermenting, proofing, bench resting, or baking. So midway through when everything was fermenting, we had time to do another recipe and so we made pita bread. They turned out adequately. They were really nice and light, but they didn't puff up so there isn't much of a natural pocket to it that's supposed to form. In retrospect we should have done a better recipe with our free time.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Class 10/16/09 - More Yeast Dough

Day 2 of yeast doughs. A difficulty that I'm quickly learning with baking bread is timing. The baking of bread is a very long procedure. Dough has to be prepped, usually 10-15 minutes. Next is fermentation. Depending on the dough it can be 45 minutes to 3 hours. And we have a 4.5 hour class. For long doughs we just prepare them and then do them the next day I think. If you leave dough to ferment in a refrigerator, the fermentation process will be slow, but that extended time enhances the flavor of the bread. But then after fermenting, you punch it down, and then need to let it rest another 5-10 min to relax the gluten. Then you portion and shape the dough. Then you gotta proof the dough, let it rise again, so that takes from 15-45 min. Then you can finally bake it. Small things like rolls can take 10 minutes, but big loaves can take an hour. Then finally it's done and it has to cool a while. It's difficult to time everything well when you're making several recipes in a short time frame. Though I'm gonna blame it on the fact that these past two days we've been short a team member so it's only been two of us. Anyways, onwards.

First bread we made today was focaccia. I remember buying mix for it back when I lived in Connecticut (and back when I was fat) and I loved it. I think our product turned out pretty well. At least it certainly looks good. I haven't tried it yet but I haven't heard good things. I guess the recipe that we used was pretty bad-it has you incorporated finely diced onion into the dough. On top, maybe. But in the dough, I don't think it worked very well. The chef said we may make it again without it. I'll still have it though, I don't waste food if there's nothing really wrong with it. Mine is the left half, with lotsa herbs. I plan to make a pizza out of it, just top it with some sauce, a little cheese, and vegetables.

Digression: One thing that really bummed me out when I moved here was that there are no pizza places nearby. I'd need a car or would have to walk like 15 minutes, which I don't mind, but it isn't really practical to carry a pizza that far-I wouldn't eat out since I eat so little, I make several meals of one pizza. A month ago or so my desire for pizza almost made me cave in and try Domino's, which there is one close to my apartment. Luckily I resisted and tried making my own. I got a recipe for pizza dough back in Skills. I don't have a pizza pan or a stone, so I tried to make it in a rectangular baking pan. I had kinda too much dough for the size of the pan but didn't wanna waste it so I just made it really thick. And I was extremely surprised with the outcome. It wasn't excellent, but it was very good. I scaled back the recipe and made it a second time recently and was quite nice. I hope that the focaccia will be similar (but much better). End digression.

Next was soft yeast dinner rolls. It was a rather simple and straightforward recipe. I think our dough was a little overmixed however. Plus with time constraints they didn't rise all that great. To top it off, they were cooked a tad too long. You can see how brown they are. However after tasting, I was rather content with them. Despite being so dark, they aren't burnt. The inside is fine. They have a crust to them so they aren't the soft dinner rolls that they should have been, but they're still decent.

Finally was our light rye bread. This was made with the sponge I talked about yesterday. Here's a pic since I forgot it before. Look at all that fermenty goodness. In preparation, we added a little too much flour to the sponge, however. It got a little too tough. Thus it didn't rise as well as it should have. Still, the final product turned out pretty well. It's a rye so it should be dense, just maybe not quite that dense. I haven't tasted it but I hope it's okay.

I also learned that you don't put plastic proofing forms in an oven. Ya know, cuz they're plastic. The loaf goes in a metal pan after proofing.

i r smrt.

10/16/09 - Demo - Zuger Kirschtorte

This morning, my pastry instructor, Chef Fleckenstein was taping a demonstration, something necessary to become a CCE, certified culinary educator. Only five of us came to watch, but I don't turn down opportunities to learn something I really care about. Not only does it help the chef, but gives me some instruction both in skills and the concept of performing a demo.

Chef began with knife cuts, nothing I really need to go into. I think one of the things that I did quite well in my Skills class was my knife cuts. I'm good with my hands (and good with a knife) and my work experience has given me a surprisingly accurate eye for measurements. But it still showed me how it's really done, very nice quality especially since he was being taped while doing it.

Then onto his bigger performance. Chef prepared a Zuger Kirschtorte for his demonstration. Really impressive stuff. While being filmed, in front of us, he prepared and explained the preparation of the Kirschtorte, and it's not all that simple. He showed us how to make a sponge dough. He then made a merengue which is then baked to make a crisp disc. He finished by making a buttercream for the product. All while explaining it on camera. He obviously couldn't bake it, he had pre-baked sponge and merengue, but the buttercream was made fresh. He then assembled the kirschtorte, made it all nice and pretty and all that. It was very impressive. And tasted really good too.

Class 10/15/09 - Yeast Breads

Back to class on Thursday 10/15/09. And I'm caught up now so I can almost speak in the present, huzzah.

This week we do a little more quick bread work, then yeast breads. We'll finish up with enriched yeast doughs but that's for later.

First our quick breads. More country biscuits. I guess we'll be making these a lot since we'll be tested on it in our midterm practical. Pretty similar to last week. I think they turned out well. Flavorwise, I think they were a tad bland, could have used an extra bit of sugar maybe. This time I separated the subsequent cuts from the initial cut so that the difference can be seen after the extra kneading. It's apparent in the picture-the biscuits on the cooling rack on the right are from the initial cut while those on the sheet pan on the left are the subsequent ones. You can really tell the difference. The first cuts are perfectly shaped, perfectly browned. The next ones, not as much. They're still perfectly good. I'd smack someone if they'd refuse to eat them. But it still shows the truth in what we're taught.

Next quick bread, more muffins. Corn muffins this time. They weren't bad. To be honest, I really miss corn muffins and cornbread, I can't really think of when I've had it last. I'm thinking of making a batch of cornbread at home. Just kinda difficult since I seem to always have my breakfast and lunch for the week now cuz of class. Plus Safeway doesn't have buttermilk that I've seen and Whole Food's is expensive, so it'll be whenever I'm at Trader Joe's. We made our corn muffins with frozen corn mixed in. Personally, I wasn't crazy about it. I didn't really like the texture it imparted. They could have risen a little better, but still pretty good stuff. They had a nice crisp top which I liked.

Onto our breads. The only completed bread we made today was whole-wheat bread. It was a pretty simple straight-dough method. It didn't rise very much when we let it ferment. Our kitchen isn't very conducive to fermentation-it's pretty cool and there's drafts from the fans. I hadn't tasted the bread but it looks like it turned out well, it's pretty at least so that's a good sign.

That wasn't all we did with breads. We also made the sponge for a light rye. Sponge is just the yeast, water, sugar, and a portion of the flour mixed up. It's then left to ferment a while then the rest of the flour and other ingredients are added. We screwed up the first go by adding all of our flour but our second try seemed to turn out fine.

We also prepared a batch of old dough. It's what the name implies. A bit of straight-dough starter that's left to ferment slowly refrigerated over time. It's then used in other bread doughs to impart the flavor that it obtains from a slower fermentation process. Ours didn't quite achieve a perfect windowpane consistency but it looked good and so I hope it is good for the breads we are preparing with it.

I forgot to take pictures of the sponge or the old dough, I'll try to remember them tomorrow prior to their use.

At Home - 10/13-14/09

Long gaps in between my Pastry class, not until next Thursday. Eventually I finally finish all the items I bring home, so I get to bake at home. Even with my tiny little kitchenette and crappy oven, I still really enjoy it.

Strawberry muffins, take 2. Much better this time. I foolishly photographed them in a bird's eye view so you can't see their nice rise. The insides were very well formed, only minimal tunneling. Edges were golden brown, and best of all they were fully cooked. Had issues with the strawberries again though. After last time I had cut them up and refroze them. However, when they refroze, instead of being frozen whole strawberries like the first time, it was a frozen brick of strawberry pieces. So I had to thaw it out again, though this time I was able to do so only enough to be able to chip off pieces. It made a better product, but the strawberry pieces still didn't hold up very well during baking. I guess I need whole fruits-any kind of smaller berry. Trader Joe's is the only place with cheap frozen blueberries, don't ask me why, couldn't tell you why their frozen blueberries are half as much as everywhere else. But next time I plan on making berry muffins I'll just get blueberries. Regardless, I'm happy with my result.

Next week in class we are beginning yeast doughs. Again, I like to do things on my own first, so I took a stab at some whole wheat sammich bread. I was kinda apprehensive since my only guidance had been my book reading. I went back and forth between whether or not I wanted to try it, but finally gave in. And I'm really happy I did. To put it simply, I was amazed at the outcome of my product. I never expected it to turn out so well. Of course like everything in my life there were some problems. I hadn't baked anything yet on my sheet pan and so I discovered... that it doesn't fit in my crappy oven. It almost fits, but just not quite. The door doesn't close all the way. It's not noticeably ajar, but it isn't sealed. Regardless, the dough seemed to have baked perfectly. I just gotta get a smaller sheet pan now. If only I could get a bigger kitchen. But still... look at those slices. Beauty.

Class 10/11/09 - Quick Breads II and more

The next day, more baking. Saturday, 10/11/09.

Before we get into class though, some fun at home. The previous night at the end of class, the chef showed us two sourdough starters that he had made at the end of the previous quarter. One was a normal organic sourdough starter (more on that in a sec) and the other was pretty interesting. It was made from the left over yeast used to brew beer from a class called "Exploring Wines in Culinary Arts" which he fed with half AP flour and half rye flour, as opposed to all AP. Interesting because I thought I read that beer yeast won't give rise /shrug. I'm sure he knows a lot better than me.

Sourdough starters can be made from a number of various ways, so long as there's yeast, moisture, and food for the yeast. You can start it with some active dry yeast, with orange or apple peels, a bit of grape juice, or even exposing flour and water to open air, allowing yeast particles in the air to land in it. The method taught to us by the chef was using organic grapes. Grapes get a little white powder on their skin, which is yeast, and if they're organic, that means there's no pesticides or herbicides. So I gots me some organic grapes and made my own starter. Yummy.

Now onto class. More quick breads.

Morning Glory muffins. I had never even heard of these until I worked at Firehook. Apparently most people never have. Like mini carrot cakes. There's carrot, apple, nuts, coconut, and more. Sounds like it'd taste really bad but they're surprisingly good, and ours came out well. Could have risen a little better though.

Next up were cream scones, with raisins and sultanas. Although we sold scones at Starbucks, I had never tasted one till I worked at Firehook. I liked them. Pretty much like biscuits, only with some kinda mix-in, a little sweeter. We cut ours a little too small I think, they were a bit dry, but overall pretty decent.

We made one more item, sour cream muffins with streusel topping. Unfortunately we were pressed for time at the end and we didn't have enough time to let them cool properly and they pretty much fell apart when we took them out of the pan. And since I didn't consider taking a picture of them in the pan, I didn't really have a product to photograph. However, I think I enjoyed them more this way than I would have whole. The chef gave a recommendation of eating it like cereal, ya know, broken up with milk. And I must say it was delicious. I verily may replace my normal cereal with that, it was awesome. I haven't baked them at home yet but when I do I may forgo the streusel topping-it's pretty much butter and granulated and brown sugar and cinnamon. Tastes really good but I'm a health nut so I don't think that'll fly with me. I'll try making them with just a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar and see how it compares.

Class 10/10/09 - Quick Breads

A couple days after my initial foray at home, class actually started. 10/10/09 was our first day baking, the previous day being just administrative work. This week we made quickbreads. On Friday the 10th, we made 3 recipes: Country Biscuits and Blueberry Muffins. First day baking, easy stuff.

Our Country biscuits. Compared to the rest of the class, I think ours turned out pretty good. We kept the butter in pretty big chunks when we baked them so they were pretty flaky. It is interesting however that you can see the difference between batches. After you cut your first biscuits, you gotta re-roll the dough, knead a little, and stuff. It is apparent how even that little bit more work on the dough affects it. Subsequent cuts yielded poorer quality biscuits, some of which were kinda falling apart, compared to the first cuts which were nice and formed.

And our blueberry muffins. The real deal compared to my poor attempt at home. These turned out pretty good, but we still weren't without our share of problems. Like at home, the main problem was with the ovens. This was our first day baking in a brand new kitchen with brand new equipment... and the ovens weren't calibrated. Not even close. This is why I'm glad that the chef recommended we get hanging thermometers, and that I did. Despite hassles with the temperatures, they did come out pretty good. Tunneling was minimal. I think they were overdone just a bit, like a minute, they had a bit of a harder "crust" forming, where I think they should be moister. Also a nifty trick with muffins. Let the pan cool completely. If you sprayed the pan well, you can just bang the pan's side down on the table and the muffins will all fall out. The more you know.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The First Step

So this quarter of school, and my start in Intro to Baking and Pastry began about a week ago, and what I'll be talking about happened a few days before that, but let's pretend like it's new and interesting, mmkay?

So even though I haven't had any classes in my Baking and Pastry course yet, I had the syllabus. That told me what recipes we'd be preparing in class. I also had already read up through the first week in my book, so I learned the methods. The first week was quick breads by the way, stuff that doesn't require fermentation, and so is, ya know, quick. So I knew what we'd be baking, and I already learned how to do it, so I wanted to give it a go on my own first, cuz that's my style.

The recipe in question was blueberry muffins. Simple stuff. For some reason in the places I looked, frozen blueberries was pretty expensive, but frozen strawberries weren't so bad, so I decided to sub those in for the blueberries.

I don't have any pictures of the end product, but it wasn't so hot. They tasted okay, but had a lot of problems. However, it's not bad cuz it was a learning experience. Lame as that sounds, it's true. From my reading, I was able to diagnose problems with the product and so I knew how to fix it for the future.

For instance, there were large holes in the finished product, a thing called Tunneling. This is a result of overmixing the dough. Also, it didn't rise enough. Another result from overmixing as well as problems with the baking powder. I had my attention drawn by other things in the middle of baking so I had to let the batter sit a little bit, so reactions began when the powder met the moisture. My powder is double acting so it still got most of the rise from the heat, but it still lost a little. The next issue was in the strawberries. They were frozen whole, much too large for the little muffins. So I had to defrost them and cut them up. Unfrozen, they led to some issues. The juices bled out into the batter, imparting the color and probably messing with the moisture levels somewhat. Also the strawberry pieces kinda fell apart when baking. My last, worst, and stupidest mistake was in the actual baking. Quite simply, they weren't fully baked. I followed the recipe by the recommended time, took them out and that was it. The insides weren't done on several of them. I have since learned that the best indicator of doneness is color-golden brown and delicious. The culprit lies in my crappy oven, which is a good 25 degrees or so lower than what it says. I've since bought a hanging thermometer, both for home use and for the ovens in class (we'll get to that later). So yea, I really did learn a lot from my poor product.

It begins...

So here begins my "blog", Rise of the Dough. I put blog in quotations because I don't really consider this a blog. I don't really expect anyone to read this, nor do I think it will be terribly interesting. Rather, I am writing this as a personal journal of sorts. A catalogue of things I make as I progress through my education and hone my skills in baking and pastry. Perhaps it will grow into a nice portfolio. Nonetheless, I want to remember everything I learn and do as I bake. Memories are fleeting and are quickly pushed aside by fresher memories. However, a photo and a little description can draw out even the deepest of memories from the recesses of your mind.

I had planned on making this journal for a while now. I originally intended to begin this when I entered culinary school, but I quickly found that I didn't particularly care for the stuff I made in skills. I love to cook for myself, at home. The professional setting... not so much. I'm proud of most of the dishes that I created in that class, but it wasn't my thing. Baking, however is my passion. I can't say why I love it so much, but I do and so I want to remember all of my work.

So if you find yourself reading this, hope it's at least a little interesting, but I can't make any promises.