Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From Sweet to Savory

Phase 4, Week 6, Day 28

It's Friday and the last day of Baking and Pastry. No more brownies and cake for breakfast, back to lamb and polenta for that 8 am snack. Today all we did was take our written test, clean the kitchen, and watch a movie. I got a 92 on the test, cleaned all the drop down power bars in the classroom, this required me to walk on all of the tables which was fun, ate an ice cream sundae and watched 1/2 of the movie Up. For the first time since F1 I knew I had a strong A and wasn't concerned about my grade which was a relief. Which was kind of funny since actually B&P is the downfall of a lot of savory students. I guess they have difficulty making the adjustment from "a little of this" to "3/4 of an ounce of this". Baking is not very forgiving and if you mess up one little thing, whether it be an ingredient or a procedure, you are toast. I guess we'll see if we loose anyone in class to this little anomaly. Good bye sugar and hello bacon, see you on Monday.....

B&P Final

Phase 4, Week 6, Days 26 & 27

I'm going to throw these two days into one post. For our final for Baking and Pastry we had to produce a cheese cake with a graham cracker crust, creme anglaise, and a chiffon cake with swiss meringue butter cream icing inscribed with "happy birthday" in chocolate.

For the first time during a practical I was completely relaxed and calm. Even Jeremy commented on my demeanor. I didn't freak out, get the deer in headlights look, or even get panicked. I just cooked, or baked as the case may be. Maybe I'm finally getting it and starting to feel comfortable in the kitchen. I guess it has been six months since this whole thing started.

Day one I made the cheesecake and the chiffon cake. I hadn't made the chiffon cake before, so that was a bit of a wing it as you go thing and it turned out ok. It rose appropriately in the oven and didn't fall, which was key! Some other kids had their cakes fall and it was not pretty considering they had to get three layers out of the cake and  in the end their layers were only 1/4-1/2 of an inch thick. Sadness.

Day two, I submitted the cheesecake right off the bat. Made the creme anglais and put it in the cooler to chill. All I had left to do was make icing and put together the cake. Easy. The process was very smooth. Cutting and icing the cake was good. Now it was time to make rosettes and inscribe. The rosettes were ok, not great, but ok. Inscribing on the other hand was a bit more difficult. The temperature of the chocolate was off and my practice trials were horrible. I just had to do it and stop fussing. I got a new parchment cone and more chocolate and held my breath.

CRAP! I messed up bad!!! Now what!?

Well, I paused and remembered that the chocolate would harden and I could remove it. I had plenty of time to dork around with it. I chilled the cake and  then picked off the words. Re smoothed the top and tried again, with ok results.

Cheesecake- 10/10!
Inscription- 5/6 (spacing of letters could be better)
Cake- 8.5/10 (rosettes needed to be more consistent, needed more simple syrup on the cake layers)
Anglais- 9/10 (a bit too liquidy to hold a line on the plate)

Totally satisfied with the results. Yeah!

10 out of 10 with wonderful texture!

A pretty good cake.

Meeting a Master

Phase 4, Week 6, Day 25

Today was super easy. We didn't do much actually. We got ready for our two day practical this week by practicing some plating techniques, inscribing with chocolate, and piping icing. We didn't want to use actual icing, so we whipped shortening  until it was the correct consistency and practiced with that and that was it. Kind of weird really.

The more interesting part of the day was when a special visitor came to campus for a lecture and demo in the afternoon. Master Certified Chef Edward Leonard  gave an interesting lecture on making classical food modern. Chef Leonard is a past President of the American Culinary Federation and recently came on board with LCB as a vice president and corporate chef. He has an amazing resume and was a fabulous speaker.  Some key concepts I took from the lecture:

-Good cooks must understand the science of cookery
-The quality of components in your dish reflects the end result
-You must understand the classics in order to make good modern food
-Chefs have a responsibility to their customers to give them the freshest and most local ingredients
-Just cook!

I enjoyed Chef Leonard's lecture and his many anecdotes. He was very knowledgeable, must be if he is one of only 74 CMC in the country, and funny. He discussed his teaching kitchen he had in place at the Westchester Country Club in NY, and how the kitchen was set up for employees to learn and better their craft no matter what stage they were in. He often referred to his experiences he gained through ACF competitions, also something that our instructors talk about often. This struck me as interesting, because I have been wondering if joining the ACF and entering some competitions would help me hone my skills, especially since I will not be working under a certified Chef in Springfield. But how would I do that with out any guidance or help?

I decided to stay after the lecture and ask Chef Leonard his thoughts on what young cooks can gain from the ACF. Chef Leonard gave me a similar answer as I have heard other Chefs give, but with a different outcome. He said he spent countless hours training for competitions and practicing his craft to reach the level he had achieved. His job had taken him around the world and given him countless life experiences, however, it was all at a price. He has been married three times and has children he feels he should know better, but in the end he wouldn't change a thing.

I'm not sure I would want to go that far with it, but I feel I could gain some positive experiences from challenging myself. We'll see where this road leads me....

BTW- Chef Pierre is also a master chef but not quite as approachable as this stranger, weird.

Chef Leonard signing a book for a student

Both modern and classic salad nicosie

Friday, February 11, 2011

End of the Willy Wonka Tour

Phase 4, Week 6, Day 24

Last week in Baking and Pastry. This phase has been lots of fun, fattening, and educational. But I'm ready to move back into the savory world. The world that moves a bit faster, yields quicker results, and is more forgiving.

In the night class today, no lecture. We made caramel sauce and cheesecakes. No issues with the production. Glad we are actually making this today as this is also on our final test this week and it sucks to make something for the first time ever and be graded on it. I already am doing that with the chiffon cake so I'm happy only having to go in blind with one product.

The cheesecake we made is actually wonderful, a ton of ingredients, by very good!!!! Here is the recipe:

20oz Cream cheese
7oz sugar
.4oz corn starch
1t lemon zest
3/4t vanilla
3/4t salt
4oz eggs (2 medium)
1.5oz yolk
2oz Heavy Cream
1oz milk
.25oz lemon juice
Graham cracker crust

A yummy cheesecake

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Snow day Saturday

Phase 4, Week 5, Day ???

We "get" to go to school on a Saturday to make up for the two days we missed last week. Yea! Class will run from 6 am -12 pm and then I "get" to go to work at the club until 11 pm and then drive to Springfield! It's a fun filled weekend for all!!!!

We did make some fun stuff. Creme Brulee, my favorite dessert, Vanilla souffle, and marshmallows. I was really hoping we'd get to make marshmallows! I love hot chocolate and would love to make handcrafted mallows to go with it.

Creme Brulee was super easy and fun to make. The souffles weren't to bad either. The key is your egg whites and making sure everything is really clean so as not to contaminate them. Otherwise, pretty easy... Would you believe it, the marshmallows were the hardest. Not having worked a lot with sugar hitting the exact temperature of 242 (the soft ball stage) was difficult to do with out a thermometer. We are encouraged to not use thermometers and to learn various cooking temperatures by how the food reacts to heat. It took me two tries due to the carry over cooking of the sugar as you add it to the other ingredients and in the end they were more like circus peanuts than marshmallows. Looks like more experimentation with sugar is in my future....

Vanilla Souffle

S'mores with handcrafted marshmallows & chocolate bars

Me with power tools

Cream Brulee

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Is this legible?

Phase 4, Week 5, Day 23

No lecture today. We made creme Anglaise as well as honed some our skills for our practical next week. One of the things we have to do is inscribe a cake. Apparently, inscribing "Happy Birthday" on a cake or plate is the most common request you might receive in a kitchen. I have been known historically for having VERY poor handwritting, so this task should be a treat!!!!

The best way to inscribe is using a parchment shaped cone filled with tempered chocolate. You snip the tip of the cone and off you go!!! The more flowing your letters the better. Here are the results from today's practice session.

I hope I get better with parctice

Custards and Creams

Phase 4, Week 5, Day 22

Following the two snow days we are a little off track. We lectured on Custards and Creams today, but produced a glacage (glaze) for our chocolate mousse cake and iced our butter cream chiffon cake.

Concerning custards, there are basically baked custards and stirred custards. Baked custards like, cheese cake or creme brulee, are a mixture of whole egg, milk, sugar, and flavoring and baked until set. A stirred custard, like pastry cream or cream Anglaise, is cooked over a burner or a double broiler. Stirred custards never get as thick as a baked custard.  Custards can be a bit tricky because of the egg proteins and you must be careful to watch for coagulation, which is both important and can be detrimental if heated to too high of a temperature or too quickly.

Fun Fact: Cream Anglaise, or vanilla custard sauce, is made from milk, egg yolks and sugar. It is also basic ice cream base.

For more info. about custards, check out this web site: Baking 911

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Chocolate Glacage
Mousse Cake all fancied up

A nice little burn I got from the flat top at work