Thursday, March 25, 2010

03/25/10 - Class - Viennese Table

Between last week and this week, each student had to make three petit fours to go with their wedding cake and to create sort of a mini-Viennese Table. I decided to complement my Mario themed wedding cake with pastries dedicated to Glorious Nippon. It's nice having free reign and access to ingredients you can't cheaply/easily get on your own.

The petit fours went okay. I made four types: Green Tea Petit Fours Glace, Matcha and Azuki Cake Rolls, Azuki Butter Cookies, and Melon Bread. The green tea petit fours were a little too big so they didn't present as well as I had hoped. The azuki paste was a bit of a pain. First, they didn't have azuki paste, so I had to make my own. Second, they didn't have azuki beans so I had to use red kidney beans. Third, I was given dry beans so I had to do it all at home ahead of time. I didn't have the patience to cook it to a full paste so it was kinda chunky, which hurt the presentation a bit I feel.

Overall I think they turned out pretty well. However it was kinda ruined when I found out that we weren't allowed to keep our cakes. That pretty much killed my ambition at the end of the class. At least I didn't find out until I had already made and presented everything.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

03/22/10 - Class - Sugar Showpiece

This week we finished our Chocolate and Confectionery class with a final sugar showpiece. It went pretty well. The work was a lot more cohesive than last week's and it came together fairly easily. I think I liked last week's showpiece more however. I made the solid pieces-the two colored rectangles for the base as well as the clear/colored shapes making up the majority of the piece. The center of the flower was blown with pulled petals and the ribbon was pulled as well.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

03/20/10 - At Home - The Perfect Loaf

As is obvious, I don't post about the baking I do at home anymore. Not that I don't bake, far from it. However most of the stuff I bake is old news, recipes I've been doing for a while. Most have been covered at some point or another, either in my "at home" posts or from class, so there is no point in mentioning that I made cornbread for the 20th time.

However one thing that has been evolving has been my bread baking. I have found that I really love baking bread, perhaps more than any other thing. It it's core, bread is three (four) simple ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and usually salt. That such simplicity can create such delicious offerings in countless varieties is astounding, perhaps one of the reasons why I like baking bread so much.

Since I learned to bake bread back at the beginning of my Intro to Baking class, I have always baked my own. And since I have a sandwich for lunch every day, that's a decent amount. My bread baking has evolved over time. I began with book recipes for regular yeast white bread. I soon made my sourdough starter and went to the sourdough recipes. Those eventually evolved into whole-wheat recipes, subbing half the bread flour for whole-wheat. Finally, I began making "100%" whole-wheat bread (not really 100%, my starter uses AP). However, this evolution brought some problems. Whole-wheat bread is denser, chewier, and doesn't rise like white bread does. Seeing as how I use my bread for sandwiches, that led to a bit of a problem. My 100% whole-wheat bread had great flavor, but was dense, and squat. Baking in a bread pan didn't even help that much and being so dense it could be even hard to eat if your throat was dry.

After a good amount of research I found a number of potential variables to improve my bread. I know that technically and professionally speaking, one should only change one variable at a time so as to observe the changes before going onto another variable, but I'm impatient and only bake bread about every 2 weeks so in my last batch I made a lot of changes to my recipe.

I'm still going 100% whole-wheat flour. However this time I added three new ingredients. First is dry milk powder. I've used this in the past, but not always. It doesn't have a big effect on the rise but it has some, as well as some flavor. Next is a bit of olive oil. I am not crazy about the idea of adding fat to my bread, since that's making it an enriched dough, but it is supposed to help rise a little and make it softer. Finally, I began using vital wheat gluten. I have been apprehensive to use it since it's kinda expensive, but I decided to finally give it a go. The results are a pretty fine loaf.

It may not be as light and airy as Wonder Bread, but I can't really call that bread anyway but rather a blob of chemicals. For whole-wheat bread however I think it got pretty good rise. It is still a little squat but I think it'll make a good sandwich.

I'm still gonna tinker with it a little bit. I'm going to see if taking out the olive oil will make any significant changes-it's not an ingredient I want in there, so if I can drop it and maintain good results I will. I also might add a touch more vital wheat gluten, but I don't want to overdo it or it could make it too rubbery, both in taste and texture, so it'll only be a little if at all. I am however satisfied and feel that I've made some good progress-not just in the bread, but in the fact that I am able to tinker with recipes to produce better results by knowing the effects of ingredients, their quantities, and stuff like that.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

03/18-19/10 - Class - Wedding Cake

This week we completed our decorated wedding cakes. I don't think any further words are necessary.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

03/15-16/10 - Class - Sugar Showpiece

This week we began our final medium in showpieces: sugar. Like the others, I wasn't really looking forward to it, but it wasn't as bad as I had thought. Though I did burn myself a lot.

On Monday we basically just practiced various mediums of sugarwork. Then on Tuesday we made a small sugar showpiece of an ocean scene. I think it turned out pretty nicely. The parts I personally made were the vertical green piece, kinda like coral, the reddish rock thingies that are also kinda like coral, the various seaweed and other things sticking out, and the angelfish.

Next week we're making a bigger sugar showpiece then we're finally done.

Friday, March 12, 2010

03/11-12/10 - Class - Wedding Cake Continued

This week we continued work on our themed wedding cakes. It isn't quite finished but will be next Thursday when I'll have pictures. I'm surprised that I'm enjoying it a lot; I first thought it would just be a big pain. I am also surprised how well it is turning out, much above my earlier expectations.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

03/08-09/10 - Class - Pastillage Showpiece

This week our showpiece is out of pastillage and it didn't go a whole lot better. I had thought that working with pastillage would be pretty easy, it is kinda similar to chocolate only you don't need to deal with tempering or anything. Unfortunately, it wasn't. Working with it is like working with fondant or gum paste. However it dries extremely fast so it gets very difficult to work. It is also very brittle and delicate and very prone to breaking. We didn't really have proper time to allow it to fully dry so when working with it it was still soft and prone to breakage, and a lot did just that.

In the end however, it managed to come together. Every other group colored theirs but we opted to keep it pure white, at least for me because I didn't want to deal with the hassle. It is pretty rough-we were supposed to have sandpaper to clean it up but the Chef didn't get any. It is passable however, I suppose.

Unfortunately my dragonfly didn't make the final cut.

Week of 03/01/10 - Class - Chocolate Showpiece and Wedding Cake

As this quarter is nearing its end, we arrived at the point in our chocolate class that I have dreaded: the showpieces. I think that the concepts and artistry is amazing, for those who can do it. I know that I can't. I'm not artistic, I'm not creative. Regardless, not really my choice. Our first showpiece was done with chocolate.

To put it simply, it was a mess. Unfortunately it was mostly all my fault too. I didn't properly temper the batch of chocolate we used to make the "C's" so they didn't contract and then snapped when we tried to unmold them. I made the leaves too thin so they were very difficult to work with and most broke (there should be a third flower that didn't make it). It was redeemed a little when all put together but still I think it sucked. As a note, the pictures were taken a week after the fact and it was during that time that the base broke and it got fairly disheveled. It was marginally better at the time of completion. The only solace is that we're done with chocolate and if I'm lucky I'll never have to work with it again.

In our cake class we began work on our next assignment, a three tiered wedding cake that we are attempting to copy from a previously found design. We just covered it and then began the decorations so nothing to see. Details and pictures will follow when completed the following week.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

02/25-26/10 - Class - More Decorations

This week we continued decorations, this time working in gum paste. This was a sorta difficult medium to work with because it dries relatively quickly and it is harder to assemble pieces together. So far my favorite is marzipan, maybe fondant.

On Thursday we made free-handed flowers, specifically roses and hydrangea petals. The rose was constructed the same as with modeling chocolate so it was pretty easy.

On Friday we made cut flowers, which uses a cutter to form petals or leaves, which are then modified a bit (stretched, flattened, etc) and assembled. I made a black lotus, since I'm a nerd in everything I do.