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

Friday, February 4, 2011

Even Chefs get snow days!

Phase 4, Week 5, Day 19, 20, & 21 (01/31-02/02/11)

I was on my way to class Monday afternoon in pouring rain and sleet when I received a text from my instructor that classes for Monday evening were canceled due to inclimate weather. Which means I missed out on another Monday. That evening the snowpocalypse of 2011 hit and we were actually out of school for two additional days. Which was good for blogging and getting caught up on sleep, not good for our school schedule. In order to keep pace with the other 12 LCB campuses we now have to have school on Saturday and Sunday. Sadness. I'm going to hit the Saturday class since I have to work at the club Friday night and Saturday night, but I'm planning on skipping Sunday.

Let them eat cake!

Phase 4, Week 4, Day 18

It is hard to get used to this class, some of the projects take several days to complete due to our class length. Today we began a layered chocolate butter cake with japonaise meringue filled with chocolate mousse. We completed the cake it's self and the japonaise meringue. A Japonaise meringue is a meringue with nuts or nut flour that has been baked or dried, typically shaped into a disk or daquois. We will use a disk for the base of the cake.

With cakes I've discovered the most important thing about them is volume or the loss there of.  Several steps during the preparation of making a cake should be taken to better ensure your cake has successful rise. During the mixing steps (depending on your mixing method) egg whites or foams should be folded in carefully. In the preparation of your pans, you should work with speed so as not to let your batter sit. Prepare your pans before mixing and grease or line the bottom of the pan only if your cake batter is made from a high fat formula. When filling, only fill the pan 1/2 to 2/3 full to allow for expansion and an increase in volume. During the baking process, be sure your oven temp is not too low of the cake will not rise and be very careful with opening and shutting the oven door, a slam will drop your cake for sure. Finally, be sure to let the cake cool the proper amount of time and remove it from the pan.  Hopefully, these little tips will help keep your cakes light and airy.

That's it for today....

Looks like little turds....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

B&P Practical 2

Phase 4, Week 4, Days 16 & 17

Again a two day practical. We needed to produce 6 eclairs, pastry cream (for the filling), and a blueberry pie with a lattice top, and take a written test. The strategy was to make the pie doughs, pastry cream and pate a choux, and bake off the choux on day one and take the test, fill the elcairs, top them, and make the blueberry pie on day two.

Day 1- Had a few issues on day one. My milk got too hot for my pastry cream because I walked away to ask Chef a question as the milk was heating. When I returned it was boiling. I didn't think it was too big of a deal at first, until it began to thicken very rapidly. I knew it was not right, but I continued figuring the taste was ok and I didn't want to loose an entire point for starting over. My second major issue was that my pie dough was a bit dry. Not knowing I could simply add more water to it (remember I missed that day), I was afraid to alter the recipe after what just happened to my creme. So I left it like it was.

No issues with making the elcairs.

Day 2- Took the written test and got an 88%. Day two was a bit rocky as well. Got started on the pie first. The dough was a bit too dry and there was not much I could do but mess with it. My lattice was ok, but kind of on the short side. It was not long enough to wrap around the edges of the crust. But it was kind of falling apart at this point, so I went with it.

When I got the pastry cream out it was like silly putty not like pudding. Crap! I whipped it a bit to get air into it and just went with it too. I filled the eclairs until pastry cream was seeping out of the sides to be sure to get enough in them. When the choux bakes off it creates large air pockets inside (see below), that's why they are perfect to fill. The eclairs looked beautiful. The ganache was applied perfectly, no dribbles or lines down the side.

Pie- Nice flavor, tart. Crust was tough, result of overworking because it was dry. Lattice needed to be a larger. Score: 9.0
Eclairs- A bit small in girth, which leads to not enough expansion and a hollow inside, which lends to difficulty filling with cream ( which was the issue with 2 or 6 of my eclairs. She of course graded me on one of those). Slightly over baked. Pastry cream was too thick. Score: 8.5

Not my best, maybe Baking and Pastry is not my best?

Not the prettiest, but good
My eclairs, split so you can see the inside cavity.
Jeremy eating leftover cream over the trash can, classy.

A little white pepper with your quiche?

Phase 4, Week 4, Day 15

Today we finished our lemon meringue pie and made quiche from dough the class made on Monday. A few interesting notes about Pate Sucree Tart shells from today. The Pate Sucree shell is much like a cookie dough and has a few interesting techniques associated with it for it's preparation. Since often they are filled with cream fillings the shell is par baked. The dough is not rolled out, but worked into the tart pan with your hands. You can trim the top off with you rolling pin. Parchment paper is then dropped on top of the shell and the pan is filled with beans or rice (yup, you read right). The baking beans  help to bake the shell until the edges turn golden and then the beans are removed and the shell finishes on its own. Cool, uh?

Quiche is quiche. Jeremy and I scrounged around the other classes for ingredients for our quiche, to no avail. We did score some garlic and roma tomatoes. But that was it. It appears as if the new curriculum at school (the curriculum changed after our class enrolled) has better product but far less of it. Anyway we whipped up a tomato and basil quiche. But we did not account for the extra moisture in the tomatoes so the quiche did not quite set up right, and I also added too much white pepper. I wasn't paying attention to the amount I added as I was yapping away with Jarod. I added the entire amount in the portion cup Jeremy had gotten. What I didn't realize was it was only supposed to get a "pinch", I have no idea how much actually went in to it, but it was still tasty.

Lemon Meringue

Slightly peppery, but good

Pie Dough

Phase 4, Week 4, Day 14

I attended the Monday evening class again this week. And as usual, they are not up to speed with the morning class. I sat through part 1 of the pie lecture again. We were supposed to produce blueberry pies and their dough was not prepared on Friday, so I completely missed making and the blueberry pie with lattice top which is going to be on our practical at the end of the week. It shouldn't be hard, but as always, the instructors are looking for specific things that the home baker might not do. So again, I'd be winging it.

We did, however, make 2 other types of crusts today. A key lime pie with a crumb crust and a tart shell (Pate Sucre or Short Dough) for a lemon meringue pie we will finish tomorrow.

Although I haven't made a Pate Brisee, or pie dough (yet), here are a couple of tips for avoiding soggy bottoms in your pie...

  • Fully bake the pie dough, it shouldn't look doughy
  • Use a mealy* dough for the bottom crust, it will absorb moisture
  • Do not add a hot filling to an unbaked crust
  • When parbaking, dock the bottom and brush with an egg wash before baking
  • Fully baked tart dough cam be painted w/ chocolate to waterproof the crust
*There are two types of dough for pies, mealy and flakey. The difference being how the fat is blended with the flour and the amount of water necessary in the dough due to how the fat is incorporated.

Key lime is not easily cut...



Phase 4, Week 3, Day 13

Snow Day yesterday (1/21/11), 6 inches in St. Louis, luckily we had one day built in on the last Friday of the Phase so we are still are still able to keep on track.

Back at school on today. We had part one of a lecture on pies, made two types of pie dough, and made eclairs.

To many people the eclair is the quintessential French pastry. The food history encyclopedias (including the Larousse Gastronomique) and reference books all describe eclairs, but they provide little if any details regarding their origin. This indicates the eclair is most likely a product of food evolution. There is some conjecture, however, that perhaps Antonin Careme (1784-1833), a famous pastry chef for French royalty might have created something akin to eclairs. In French eclair means "flash of lightening" but there is not really a viable correlation between the pastry and it's meaning.

Eclairs start with a dough called pate a choux. Pate a choux actually translates to cabbage paste. The dough gets its name form its most typical application, the making of small round buns (as used for profiteroles) known in French as choux, literally cabbages. Choux is steam leavened and piped into various shapes for products, including cream puffs, eclairs, profiteroles, crullers, and gougeres. The trick to it is it must be firm enough to hold it's shape when piped, yet soft enough to be piped.

Eclairs are piped out to about 4 inches long and are typically 1-1.5 inches wide. They are baked and once cooled filled with pastry cream from holes cut out of the bottom. They are then topped with ganache. Ganache is a thickened chocolate sauce that can be heated to be used as a coating or used at room temperature to be used as a truffle mixture.

We did a pretty good job on these. You'll see them again as they will be on our practical next week.

Eclairs and cream puffs

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Phase 4, Week 3, Day 12

Today we made pastry cream and put together our Napoleons. Napoleon pastry is known as mille-feuilles in France.  It consists of layers of puff pastry interspersed with pastry cream or whipped cream and iced with fondant and chocolate or with confectioner's sugar. It is believed to have been developed in France during the latter part of the 19th century. The Danish people have been told for generations that a Danish royal pastry chef invented the dessert way back in the 1800s on the occasion of a state visit between the Emperor Napoleon and the King of Denmark, in Copenhagen. Some sources believe that the chocolate lines on the pastry appear to form the letter 'N' for Napoleon. A second story or tale of its origin is that the dessert was really a French invention after all, and that it was Napoleon's favorite pastry. It is said that he ate so many of them on the the eve of Waterloo that he lost the battle. 

We also made Pastry Cream for the filling of the Napoleon. It is an example of a stirred custard that is most often used as a pie or cake filling. There are a few key tips to making pastry cream that are very important to follow. All your ingredients should be cold, your equipment should be clean and sanitized, it should be cooled quickly and kept cold. Pastry Cream easily can be contaminated with bacteria so sanitation is very important, no fingers in the pudding!!! 

We also played around and made some puff pastry fruit tarts with some left over cream and dough. Mmmm..

My favorite so far

Sweet and Savory

Phase 4, Week 3, Day 11

Today we finished up our croissants by making both sweet and savory versions. The dough is rolled out to 1/8" and square it off with a knife. We cut 4" triangle bases and rolled our pastries. Some with chocolate, some with ham and cheese, and some plain. They were then proofed, egg washed, and baked off.

We also baked off our blitz puff pastry for our Napoleon preparation tomorrow. We cut them into 2 3inch strips approx 9 inches long. We placed a baking sheets on top and popped then in the oven too.

Work Update: I asked guy who is in charge of the casual restaurant, The Back Door, at the Club if I could come in and "stage" for him a few days a week during lunch to get some line experience. He said, sure. It's been great so far and I'm learning how to manage the tickets as they come in, plate, grill, and fry. I'm so glad I decided to do this, it has been a great introduction to this process. The lunch rush is only 45 min to 1 hour and typically includes about 25 covers, so it's perfect to get a handle on what's going on and not get too far in the weeds.

Our assortment of croissants

Laminated Dough

Phase 4, Week 2, Day 10

Have you ever wondered how they make croissants and puff pastry dough? I have, I was curious how they got all of the flakey layers. Well, over the next few days we learned how to make it. I'm glad I understand the process, but again, not sure if it's worth all the labor. I guess it'd depend on how much you'd sell your product for. Products you might make are Napoleons, Cream Horns, Vol au Vent and Turnovers and of course Croissants.

A laminated dough is layered with fat. The fat acts as the leavening agent. It's kind of an easy process to preform, but it's lengthy. Croissants and Blitz Puff Pastry have slightly different methods of make up.

Blitz differs from regular puff pastry because it adds the butter into the flour instead of adding it during the folding process. Basically, flour, salt and softened butter are combined and the butter is cut in, the water is added and then the dough is wrapped and rested in the cooler. The detrompe (dough), is rolled out to a rectangle and folded by bringing the top and bottom to the center and then folding over, rest for (30 min). Repeat 3 times.

In contrast, croissant dough is made by beating cold butter into a block or beurrage and set aside. Then combining other ingredients until it gathers and then wrap and rest. Seeing a pattern here? Dough is rolled to 3x the length of the beurrage. The beurrage is then placed on the dough and folded in. Cool. Repeat a letter three fold three more times, resting in between.

This process too forever!! We'll finish up our products tomorrow.

B&P Practical 1, Day 2

Phase 4, Week 2, Day 9

Yesterday was agonizing, it seems like we waited around for over half the class time for, proofing, benching or baking. What a change of pace from our last phase. Today we moved a bit more. I completed 12 peanut butter cookies, 12 cheese biscuits, and the written test.

Written test was ok- 86%

Peanut Butter Cookies- I had to start over because I forgot to cream the butter and sugar before adding my other dry ingredients. Just got a little a head of myself. Otherwise fine in production. Chef asked if I had any issues with the method during my grading, and I had to tell her I started over (full point deduction). I also had two that were not exactly the same size as the others, worth .25 points. They did, however, have great taste and good texture. Grade 8.75.

Cheddar Biscuts- For some reason I noticed during baking my dang biscuits looked miniature compared to everyone else's. I used the exact same cutter as Jeremy, and yet mine looked smaller in scale. I couldn't figure it out. But I had to roll with it because I couldn't start over at that point. During grading Chef said they needed to be "tighter in appearance" and could have baked longer for more color. Otherwise very flakey. Score 9.25.

PB Cookies

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

B&P Practical 1

Phase 4, Week 2, Day 8

Baking and Pastry is so weird. The whole thing is like hurry up and wait. After F3 last phase where the clock started and all you did was move as fast as you could for two hours, this phase is slow as molasses in January during an ice storm. It will take us two class periods to produce 2 loaves of French bread, 12 Peanut Butter Cookies, and 12 Biscuits, and some where in there we will take a written test too.

Our row (Jeremy, Jarod, Rachel, myself and two others) decided to do the bread on day one to completion and the other products and test on day two. The remaining members of the class did the opposite. It should work fine that way keep us out of the fray of the majority.

Now, remember, I didn't get to finish my French bread on Monday so I was flying a bit blind. Being a test of course, we are required to work individually and can't ask any questions of our classmates or instructors at this point.  I just kind of went with the flow of the group. We all needed to go into the oven  together because we had to activate the steam function for the crust. However, no one was sure how long we were supposed to leave the steam in the oven before we opened the flue to let the moisture escape. In a panic we released the flue after only 30 seconds. WRONG! Apparently the bread needs the moisture from the steam to make a crispy crust. We should have left the steam in until the crust began to turn brown (10-15 minutes). Oops! So we spent the remainder of the cooking time worrying about how our bread would turn out. Would it be hard as a rock? Too dry? Not the right color?

Result: Not too shabby! I had nice edges and shape, good color. I could have scored a bit deeper and needed more holes in the bread. A 9 out of 10 over all.

Chapeau et Tabature

Phase 4, Week 2, Day 7

No lecture today. We are just concentrating on making types of lean bread products. Today we have our choice to make 2 of 4 sourdough products; Chapeau (hat), Boule (ball), Tabature (satchel), and Fougasse. We used a sourdough starter using the pre-frement method.

During the demo. I kept laughing when we talked about the Chapeau. Does anyone remember Pinwheel, the show from the 80's? They had a French claymation short called Chapi Chapo. I sang the dang theme song all morning and the kids thought I was nuts.

Jeremy and I decided to make the Chapeau and the Tabature. A girl needs accessories you know. Jeremy worked on the Chapeau and I took on the Tabature. Not too bad, I didn't think.

Our fashion accessories
A closer look at my clutch

12 Steps of Baking

Phase 4, Week 2, Day 6

At first, baking seemed fun, and then we reached the 12 steps of baking. Basically, if you mess up on one of the 12 steps you are screwed. What fun is in that!? And the whole proof box thing (see below)- if you don't have one at home your options are limited, again what fun is that? The bread machine, although making an inferior product is sounding better and better to me....

Step 1- Scaling
Accurately scale ingredients and bring to room temperature (80-85 degrees)

Step 2- Mixing
3 main goals to achieve. 1) evenly distribute yeast. 2) properly develop gluten. 3) create a smooth and uniform dough.

Step 3- Fermentation (Bulk Proof)
Yeast + sugar + starch = carbondioxide and alcohol. To occur dough should be held at 80% humidity and between 85-95 degrees. Typically in a proof box, or small warm enclosed area with a pan of water; ie., water heater closet or bathroom after a shower (ew!). Proofing is accomplished when dough is doubled in size or holds and indent.

Step 4- Folding
Press down the dough, folding sides to the center to squeeze the air bubbles out.

Step 5- Portioning
Determine desired finished shape and knife and scale.

Step 6- Pre Shaping and rounding
This seals cut ends and seams and stretches the gluten to create a smooth skin.

Step 7- Benching
Let rest covered for 10-15 minutes. This also relaxes the gluten.

Step 8- Makeup, Shaping, Panning

Step 9- Proofing (Final Fermentation)
Proof until doubles in size, dough will be softer and slightly sticky. Don't move your product around at this point.

Step 10- Baking
Before putting in the oven determine if you will need to wash or score your product. Also upon putting in the oven you will also need to use steam for your lean doughs during the first part of the baking process, this makes a nice crust.

Lean doughs go in at 400-450 and rich doughs at 350-400. During the baking process ovenspring occurs where you will see a rapid expansion of trapped gas. Gelatinazation of starches, coagulation of proteins, melting of fat, and carmelization of sugars also happens.

Bake based on color not on time.

Step 11-Cooling
Cool at room temperature for up to 8 hours

Step 12- Storing
After 8 hours wrap and store in freezer.

Step 13- Eat!!!

Know you know what I mean, pain in the arse, but worth it if you have the right equipment and don't have t use your shower.

Today I attended the night class again and we got called out early due to weather. So we only made our French Bread dough. We didn't have a chance to proof it and  bake it off (Steps 3-10), too bad because it's on our practical later this week. Sabatougie!

Who, me?

Phase 4, Week 1, Day 5

On the first Thursday of each new phase all of the classes gather and the staff distributes President's List (4.0 GPA) and Attendance awards. They also, on occasion, hand out Student Spotlight awards. A Spotlighted student can be selected for various reasons, depending on the Chef who is recognizing the student. It can be for being an awesome cook, a good mentor, a leader, "taking it to the next level", or just simply "getting it." Our class had not had a member be recognized as a Spotlight yet, so when Chef Bruce began to describe a student from his class we all got excited. Most instructors try to describe the student first before announcing the name so everyone can try and guess who it is.

He began by referring to the student as a "she" so that narrowed it down quite a bit. The student was well known on campus, a leader and an Ambassador. Now it was down to two of us. He mentioned how this student was organized & a very good student with a 4.0. Narrowing it down again, to me? I thought it couldn't be me. Jeremy was standing next to me and was nudging me. No way, it couldn't be me. I never get recognized for anything, ever. Chef Bruce then went on to talk about how this individual helped other students, and then I knew, it couldn't be me. I'm the last one to help out. I'll help someone if they ask, but I don't go out of my way. And I definitely don't do other people's jobs for them. I'm kind of conflicted by this fact, but it totally bothers me when classmates don't pull their weight. I understand we are a team, but man we've got some slackers who always have to go to the bathroom during cleanup time, but I digress...back to the description. Chef Bruce announce my name and I was still floored. I am definitely honored by this recognition and now I receive an endless amount of crap for it from Jared. Awesome.

Back in class we used our biroche dough to make three types of products. Nanterre, a tete (picture  and how to shape video), and couronne. Unfortunately, I can't find my pictures anywhere. So these links will have to suffice. Enjoy.


Monday, January 31, 2011

I think I might hurl!!!

Phase 4, Week 1, Day 4

Lecture: Bread
Demo./Production: Peanut Butter Cookies and Brioche

Today we covered a lot about dough for bread making. There are 2 basic types, lean and rich dough. Lean doughs are made for breads like French and Italian loaves, pizza dough, and whole wheat breads. They are typically low in fat and sugar, have strong gluten development, and are hard crusted. In comparison, rich doughs contain higher levels of fat and sugar, need less gluten, and are soft crusted. Examples of rich doughs might be challah, brioche, or sweet rolls.

There are also a few different methods to mixing your doughs. The straight dough method is essentially the dump and run method, where the yeast and water are added together to dissolve the yeast and then the flour and salt are added and mix. The modified method for rich doughs is a combination of the creaming method and the straight method. Finally, the sponge method  uses a preferment or starter. A starter is added on top of the yeast and a slurry of the other liquids is added. A preferment gives you a head start to the final bread fermentation stage. Pate Ferments, Biga, and Poolish are all types of doughs made from this "old bread." If you are familiar with Amish bread, this is the same concept. But what I didn't realize is that it is a common practice for most bakeries to save a piece of dough from the day before's bread and use it for the next days batch. Cool!

Today we made peanut butter cookies a type of molded cookie, cut our brownies from yesterday, and we also made brioche dough, a rich French dough.

When all was said and done, I had consumed 2.5 brownies and 2 cookies. I felt so sick and had a HUGE sugar rush and felt crappy all day. So much for not gaining any weight back....

These brownies were frigging awesome!!!

A decent PB cookie

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cookies, biscuits, and brownies oh my!

Phase 4, Week 1, Day 3

Lecture: Cookies
Demo./Production: Cheese Biscuits and Brownies

Did you know there are seven types of cookies? AND that brownies are a type of cookie? Weird! Today we discussed the various types including:
Dropped- chocolate chip
Bagged- spritz
Rolled- sugar
Molded- peanut butter
Sheet- brownies

For you home bakers out there here are some tips for your cookies.
1) Crispier- You want low moisture and high sugar and fat. A longer baking time and a small and thin shape.

2) Softer- More liquid, less sugar and fat. Add an invert sugar like molasses or honey, under bake, and have larger or thicker shapes.

3) Chewier- Higher in sugar and liquid, lower in fat. High proportion of eggs and strong gluten development.

Our production today consisted of Cheese Biscuits using the Cut In or Biscuit method with cold fat and Brownies. Jeremy and I added peanut butter to ours. Yummo!!! The biscuits were fabulous! The brownies will need to chill for a few hours, we'll get to eat them tomorrow.

Chef Karen performing the biscuit method 
Flaky Cheese Biscuits

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What the heck is a gluten ball?

Phase 4, Week 1, Day 2

Lecture: Quick Breads
Demo: Muffins and gluten ball.

Today we discussed gluten development in breads and it's importance in most and pastry products. In most cases over mixing batters, quick breads and muffins can produce a though and irregular shaped end result. To demonstrate this we made gluten balls. Basically a dough made from flour and water. Once the dough is formed we worked and squeezed the dough  in buckets (lexons) of water. The water became very cloudy, which was the result of the starch being squeezed from the dough. We changed the water and repeated the steps, until the water became clear. The dough was then cooked off and the result was a hard, tough, rock like bread with huge long holes running through it. These holes are called tunneling. Cool.

Following the gluten balls we learned about various mixing methods; Cut in or biscuit, creaming, and muffin. I'll run down with the muffin method since we made blueberry muffins. The easiest method, the muffin method is used for pancakes, waffles, quick breads, coffee cakes and muffins. This method uses liquid fats and basically adds the liquid ingredients and dry ingredients together and mixes until moist. The batter should be lumpy. You then pan and bake and you're done!

Finally, some breakfast food for breakfast! Unfortunately, the muffins weren't so great. Sadness. At least they looked good.

So, so blueberry muffins

Baking and Pastry

Phase 4, Week 1, Day 1

Finally, I've caught up on posts- sort of, well at least I'm now in the same class I'm blogging about. LOL. I am very excited about this class and I hope to learn a lot. I'm glad we are given the opportunity to learn a bit about baking and pastry in the industry because it is so important, although it seems as if the pastry Chefs are not always given the same respect at savory Chefs and they defiantly have a different personality type. Besides often being female, they are more precise and detailed orientated. It must be because their craft is less forgiving than savory cooking. I am looking forward to finding out more about it.

In this phase we will learn about the fundamentals of the baking ans pastry arts including terminology, technology, equipment, measurement, and formula conversions.We will be producing a variety of rich and lean doughs, laminated doughs, cakes, icings, cookies, tarts, quick breads, custards, frozen desserts, chocolates, and plated desserts. Man, I hope I don't gain back the weight I've lost so far....

Today we went over the precursory syllabus, expectations, and projects for the phase. We then jumped right in to a lecture about the functions of flour in baked goods. We also discovered the importance of scaling and weight versus volume. All measurement is not created equal. Fun fact for the day. The only ingredients in baking that can be measured out in volume are milk, water, whole eggs, and egg whites. All other ingredients should be scaled. Who knew?

Strap on your seat belts for a ride through Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory......

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

DONE!!!! FINALLY!!!!!!!

Phase 3, Week 6, Days 27 & 28

Ok- Let's say I'm pretty much done with this phase. Christmas break starts this week and I'm off of work at the club after my shift on Friday night. Needless to say I'm tired and done with having a practical every day. Our last two days, although we've done our final already, we still have regular practicals to do.

Day 27
Plate 1- Seared Bass with Sauce Charon and Quinoa Salad
Plate 2- Bass Pauppiets with Sauce Vin Blanc

Day 28
Plate 3- Lobster- choice of preparation
Plate 4- Oysters- choice of preparation

Both days were conducted the same way with a demo the first half of class and production the second half. The days ran very smoothly, without incidence or anything amazing happening.

Seared Bass- Good. 98%
Pauppiets-  Good, nice presentation. 100%
Lobster Risoto- Risotto a bit under done. 100% (just for showing up....)
Oyster- On the half shell with lobster and white wine sauce. Should have poached the oyster in the sauce prior to service. Who knew? 100% (again, just for showing up)

Overall, I got a 91% in the class. I barley overcame the deficit I received from the two days I missed the first week. Crazy! I can't believe some kids miss a day each week or more and still pass. Amazing.

Seared Bass, not my favorite....

Bass Paupiette

George, the lobster, and Jeremy

George and Risotto

Monday, January 24, 2011

Adapt to Change

Phase 3, Week 6, Day 26

So, basically whenever anything unexpected happens at school the instructors always say, "You have to be able to adapt to change in the industry." This is a true statement, but also a cop out for when the purchasing guy messes up. Usually, it's no big deal. Today, it was a bit of a deal. Apparently, our bass that we needed for today's practical would not arrive until after 7 am. So Chef Bruce decided we'd just preform our final today and do the bass tomorrow. Our final, 15% of our grade, for this class is a mock American Culinary Federation certification test. We take the practical test that the ACF administers for a Certified Culinarian. It consists of breaking down a chicken into specified parts, starting chicken stock, various knife cuts and the completion of a dish with chicken entrée, a starch, veg., and sauce all with in the two hour time limit. It's all based on a Pass/Fail scale. In general this would be no big deal. Except, the entree part. With no warning we had not time to scout ingredients.  We are also at the end of a phase before the school closes for two weeks. Therefore pickings were slim in the walk-in and in the pantry. Argh!

The timer begins, and I begin to break down the chicken. Done. Pass. Do my knife cuts. Done. Pass, although the Julianne carrots we a bit inconsistent. Stock started. Done. Pass. I still have no idea what I'm cooking!!!!!

I head back into the walk-in..... I find a small container of capers left over from the tartar sauce from a few days ago and a lemon...the bulb goes off! A few weeks a go I threw together chicken scalipini with a lemon caper sauce for my Aunt, one of her favorite dishes. Chef Tim was able to scrounge some parmesan cheese from CAC and I grabbed the last 4 stalks of asparagus. I'll make baked chicken with a lemon caper sauce, parmesan rossito, and grilled asparagus. 

We have a plan!!!

I set to work. I had no major issues in the process and voila!, I finished with 25 minutes to spare.

"A classic dish." Rossoto, was good. I needed to slice the chicken. In banquets (where I generally work), you serve the breast whole. I fine dining, you'd slice it. Sauce was good. Bonus, Chef Bruce like capers (thanks Aunt Terrie). 98%

I love it when a plan comes together!

A classic dish

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Phase 3, Week 6, Day 25

We took our written final today (80%- ouch!) and prepared two more dishes and neither of them French. Which is interesting for a French cooking school. We do a lot of non European cooking in our last class, CAC, but you'd think being a Foundations class we'd stick to basic French Cuisine. Not today, we are doing an Asian dish and a primarily Middle Eastern dish.

#1- Calamari, tartar sauce, and vegetable tempura.
#2- Lamb Kabab, cucumber raita, and grilled portobello.

Again, both fairly simple to prepare. I have to admit I was a bit squimish preparing the calamari. We were given small octopi and requited to skin them, remove the quill, beaks and eyes. Popping the eyes out was pretty gross, even worse than processing the rabbit. Otherwise easy peasy.

Chef Bruce called me "Country Club" when I presented my first plate today. Not sure if that was a compliment or not.

Plate 1: Chef Tim liked the presentation, one suggestion was not to place a fried food on to a sauce. The sauce will immediately begin to make the food soggy. Tempora batter was a bit too runny, as the extra moisture in the veggies made it difficult to get a good coating  on the sticks. Otherwise good. 96%
Plate 2: Kabab was a bit rare, but very flavorful. He liked the way I chose to  separate the vegetables on the skewers. Both the kabab and portobello had nice grill marks and the sauce was good. 96%

Just 3 days left!!! I'm getting tired of having to present dishes all the time. But I guess that's what being in the industry is about. People judging your food on a daily basis....

Lamb Kabobs and Grilled Portobello

Calamari and Tempera vegetables 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Last one, fast one

Phase 3, Week 6, Day 24

Last one, fast one was a saying an old swimming team mate of used to say at the end of a hard set. I always remember that when I'm trying to get to the end something. This is the last week of class before two weeks off on break and also serves as the half way part of the program.

Today was all about lecture and demo and our final test review. So, nothing big.

So, I thought I'd take a moment to talk a bit about the Club and my experience there over the last two weeks. I am still somewhat intimated when I go into work, there are a lot of amazing things coming out of the kitchen and I am still such a novice. I am trying to learn as much as I can and do the best job I can. Each day I go, I become more confident, but I still have so much to learn. Some days I get into a groove and do very well other days I can't seem to do anything right. It's nerve wracking.

I've gotten to do a lot of prep work of course, especially with all the holiday parties. Peeling 7 cases of asparagus, capping 6 cases of mushrooms, making 200 pot stickers, making 300 mini crab cakes, among the regular prep work of preparing banquet veggies. I am actually getting to cook things now too. It seems like I've earned their trust this week, or the guys just don't have time to to everything themselves, whichever the case may be, I'm getting more experience. I am learning lots of little industry tricks, which are so helpful. I'm actually also getting to work on the floor a lot as well. I've worked a lot of pasta and carving stations at all kinds of holiday parties. The best one I have to admit was an "open house" for an ex-ambassador who lives in St. Louis. The party was for 400 and we served some pretty awesome foods. Including wild boar pate, chicken Suzette, dover sole, and a bunch of other stuff I didn't get a chance to check out. Chef even called in several special chefs to help work stations out on the floor. It was a pretty cool event. My work schedule will taper off after the holidays so we will see how things shake out in the new year in that respect.

After several months at the club I still get kind of scared when Chef comes around to check out things or do projects. There are somethings that only he or his sous chefs are allow to cook. I try to keep my head down and do a good job. I had to do an assignment where I observed a working kitchen for class and I did my observation at the club. I also interview Chef and asked him about how he got to St. Louis. I found it interesting that very few people in the kitchen knew anything personal about him. So I just asked. This is what I found out.....

The St. Louis Club is a private dining club that was established by local business leaders in 1964. These men saw the need for a luncheon and dinner club in the ever westward expanding city. Today, the club offers a fine dining restaurant, The St. Louis Room, a more casual restaurant, The Backdoor, and three floors of meeting and banquet space.
The St. Louis Club is well known for it’s fine cuisine which often conveys the city‘s French heritage.  

Chef  Pierre Chambrin has been the club Executive Chef for 16 years. His curriculum vitae is quite impressive, including a stint as the Executive Chef at the White House. I was curious to know how Chef Chambrin got from France to a club in St. Louis.  In the beginning, Chef Chimbrin was not inspired to cook by anyone in particular, in fact, his mother was a terrible cook; he said with a smile. He simply had always loved cooking. He began cooking at home when he was 12 years old and made the move to a professional kitchen when he was 15 while attending culinary school. Chef Chambrin rose up through the ranks in kitchens through out France during his years as an apprentice. He made the leap across the pond in 1969 when he was hired by an American restaurateur  to help set up a small operation in Massachusetts called, Picot‘s Place. After two years of developing a strong foundation for Picot’s, the Chef spent the next 20 years at various restaurants up and down the East coast. 

In 1990, following a failed attempt at owning his own restaurant in Arlington, VA., Chef Chambrin was asked to become the Executive Chef at the White House during the George H.W. Bush administration. He stayed at the White House until a few months after the new Clinton administration took over. Disparagingly, he departed the position . At that point in his life, Chef Chambrin had teenaged children and did not want to stay in Washington or return to New York. The St. Louis Club contacted him and he has been in the mid-west ever since.

Chef Chambrin is a bit of an enigma. He is very direct and to the point. He does not waste time beating around the bush. His temper can flair at the drop of a hat. I am scared of him, and yet, at the same time I like him. Most of the kitchen staff do not know anything about him personally. I thought that was interesting. When I sat down to talk with him he was eating dinner in his office, always the multi-tasker. I wanted to use this time to learn more about him, so I covered the basic questions required by the assignment, then I used the remainder of the time to investigate a bit more. Here is what I found:

Me: How do you start your day?
Chambrin: I believe that the dinner service is the most important event of the day. So, many times, unless there is a banquet in the morning, I come in later in the day and stay until the restaurant and banquet areas close.

Me: What are your daily duties you perform?
Chambrin: I do all the scheduling myself. I review the six menus we use each day. The menus are submitted by the Department Manager and I approve them. I also do some ordering. The ordering is split by myself, and the AM and PM Sous Chefs.

Me: What makes a good chef?
Chambrin: That is a tough question. A chef must not only cook well, but first and foremost be a good organizer.

Me: Being a classical French chef, what is your opinion on modern culinary trends?
Chambrin: I let my Sous Chefs worry about that when the are designing the dishes. Food must first be good, then attractive. It should keep balance between modern and classic and not be too extreme.

Me: What do you look for in an employee?
Chambrin: That is not answered easily. I have found that although an applicant has good technical knowledge/skills on his resume, he still may not be a good fit. I look for a good attitude. I generally just have a feeling about someone. 

Me: Do you still cook?
Chambrin: I have found I can not cook at work anymore. I would continually get pulled away to do other things, but I still cook at home.

Me: Do you miss it?
Chambrin: Yes, a bit

Butternut Squash soup w/ fois grais
Dessert Sampler
Appetizer tray 
Scallops w/ veg of the day

Sausage Madness II

Phase 3, Week 5, Day 23

Ok, sorry for the crude post yesterday. In all seriousness, Sausage making and the preserving of meats is actually an art form called Charcuterie. Derived from Char meaning flesh and cuit meaning cooked, charcuterie is the process of salting, smoking, or curing meat. The ancient Romans actually regulated the trade of charcuterie and in 15th century France local guilds regulated tradesmen in the food production industry. The guilds that produced charcuterie were those of the charcutiers. The members of this guild produced a traditional range of cooked or salted and dried meats, which varied, sometimes distinctively, from region to region. The only "raw" meat the charcutiers were allowed to sell was unrendered lard. The charcutier prepared numerous items including pâtésrillettessausagesbacontrotters, and head cheese (brawn).

Charcuterie is a dying art form, in culinary circles you will still find die hard individuals who prefer to make their own sausage and dry their own meats. But these people are few and far between. Chef Bruce is one of these individuals, he had a great passion for explaining the heritage and methods of this art.

For production today we made:

Plate 1: Over easy egg, with hash browns, and sausage patties
Plate 2: Sausage links, Polenta, and Tomato Sauce.

Again today, no issues. It all fell into place and I finished the dishes very quickly. The longest part really being the fact we had to make the tomato sauce from scratch. I did have to remake my baby hash browns because I got distracted dorking with Jarod's egg and I burnt them. Oops!

Plate 1: Upside- "Aw, look at the cute little presentation you made." Downside- totally over salted the the hash browns. Dang it! 92%

Plate 2: Chef Tim said "I have no negative criticism of your dish." 92%. I would have thought with no negative criticism the score would have been higher. Go figure.....

A "little" breakfast

Sausage and polenta w/ sauteed peppers and onions

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sausage Madness

Phase 3, Week 5, Day 21

Today Chef demoed sausage making. Have any of you ever seen sausage made? Have any of you witnessed it being made while surrounded by a bunch of grown men with the maturity of a 13 year old? Well, now I have. There was no getting around all the innuendos from today's lesson. It was impossible. If you take a look at Chef Bruce while he is filling the casing you can get the drift of what I'm talking about. Here are some actual phrases/words that are used in the production of sausage. I mean, really!?

Natural Casing
Synthetic Casing
Among Others.

This is not to even mention the appearance of loading the casing on the shaft and then pressing the forcemeat into the casing while keeping it lubricated. Let's just say the class was on the floor laughing. We even got to Chef Bruce on a few of the comments and he turned red and giggled. Too funny. I figured he would have heard everything by now.

Chef Bruce making Sausage

We produced our own sausage at the end of class and we'll cook with it tomorrow. I'm not sure I will be able to look at a bratwurst the same ever again.


Phase 3, Week 4, Day 19 & 20

Day 19 was a demo day of Veal Cordon Bleu and Rack of Lamb.

Day 20, Practical.

Menu: Dish 1: Veal Cordon Bleu with Bearnaise, Potato Anna and Tourne of Glazed Carrots.
Dish 2: Rack of Lamb, Dauphine Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts Paysanne with a balsamic reduction.

At first glance, the veal was going to be challenging because it was not a very pretty dish. Even Chef served it up truck stop style. It was going to require some creativity. The lamb dish shouldn't pose any real problems.

The day started off pretty well. Started off with the preparing the Anna potatos because they take the longest to prepare, and worked on getting half way descent tournes. They are event harder to get a descent one out of carrots because they are so fibrous. Ended up with 3 ok ones. The actual veal would not take very long to prepare so I moved on to dish 2 by getting the lamb ready and seared off and put to the side. Back to dish 1. In this version of Potatos Anna we were required to flip them so the top would get tosty as well. A maneuver that requires some balance and fast action or potatos and melted butter would go flying. Result; success! Yea!

It was time to finish us Dish 1. My solution to the presentation problem was to stack the potatos, veal, ham and cheese. Kind of making a tower. Prior to searing off the veal, I cut circles out of the filets. I bread them and seared them and then stacked the cutlets with ham and cheese and put them in the oven to warm. The veal shrank a bit more than I would have liked, but I pushed on anyway. I then cut out a circle of potatos and stacked the whole thing on the plate......

Veal Cordon Bleu
Result: 94
Chef liked the presentation, good flavor overall. I forgot my garnish for the dish and herb in the glazed carrots.

Time to finish up dish 2. The lamb would get coated with a ground hazelnut mixture and go back in the oven. Veggies got blanched. And began the Dauphine Potato process. We learned a shorter version of making these potatos yesterday than the one we learned last phase, I hope it works out. This dish was weird from a plating aspect. The rack could be split or left intact, the sprouts are like little marbles, and the potatoes are fried. Talk about a weird combo.

So I though I'd play around with the shapes a bit. Chef demoed a quinell of the Dauphine Potato yesterday, in F2 we had piped them out into little logs. So I thought it'd be fun to make a nest of the potato by piping thin strips of the mixture into the fryer. It kind of worked but kind of not, it actually looked a lot like funnel cake. So my nest didn't quite work out. So I just took a part of the nest and used that.

Rack of Lamb, Sprouts, and Dauphine Potatos
Result: 90
Chef was not amused with my potatos. Apparently the quinell was required. Oops! Lamb was a little rare as well. Not my best showing.

Final note: 
You always have to be on your toes in the kitchen. Not only paying attention to what you are doing but also what everyone else is doing. Today, my partner, Jeremy, got a little heavy handed with his oil while searing his veal. His pan actually caught on fire and POP! I got splattered in the face with hot oil. I received a descent sized burn. I hope it doesn't scar.

My burn the next morning.