Sunday, February 7, 2016

Side Benefit

As part of our requirements for school, we have to complete a minimum of three "events." The career counselor suggested assisting in some of the recreational classes, particularly covering topics we're not covering in class, so we get a wider breadth of experience. Last Wednesday I assisted for a Regional French cooking class, covering the Savoy and Dauphine regions. The students made three different entrées, fondue, a cheese soufflé, two sides, three desserts, and a duck confit that will be used this week (I'm assisting this week as well). One of the entrées was trout Grenobloise. And it was amazing.

Since fish is piscis non grata in our house, sadly, I decided to make it with chicken breasts. First I clarified 12 ounces of butter and set that aside. Then I filleted the chicken so instead of three whole breasts I had six pieces of reasonable thickness. These were seasoned with salt and pepper and set aside. I set up the rest of the mise en place: the pulp of five lemons, chopped up, capers, toasted bread crumbs (they were supposed to be like really small croutons; I had toasted some of the French bread from a previous class to preserve it so I broke that up into little pieces), parsley for garnish. When I was ready, the chicken was dredged in flour and cooked in the clarified butter, about 8 minutes or so per side. They were set onto a warm serving plate and then the rest of the butter was used to cook up the lemon and capers. Right before serving I tossed in the bread crumbs and poured it over the chicken.
Had I known that it was too strong of a lemon flavor for the ten year old, I would have just made it with fish. But that's okay. The rest of us really enjoyed it.

(And, yes. I know. It's a citrus flavored food. But for some reason, this one is okay with me. Go figure.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Day 8: Commercial Baking

The theme of today was baking quickly and in large quantities. To that end, we made a quick puff pastry dough, a pâte à choux recipe, lots of pastry cream, and some cookies. It was quite a production. First we made the puff pastry dough which required lots of rolling and folding to make all the layers. As it rested, we made pastry cream and the pâte à choux, and we used that to pipe little puffs onto some of the puff pastry dough (for the St. Honore and the Venus Arms at least) and baked them. My partner and I made a batch of cookies and another group made another batch. Sadly, the batch I made burnt in the oven (I was washing dishes and didn't catch them in time) and initially Chef wasn't going to have me make them again but gave me another chance, if I could "make them in 5 minutes." I think I made them in 10 minutes which, considering it was a new recipe to me, wasn't too bad. But I did feel badly about burning them!

After the cookie fiasco, we started getting the flavored pastry creams together, added whipped cream to make mousseline creams, and started filling everything. Along the way we also made fondant, hazelnut praline, writing chocolate, and extra little cream puffs because we had extra pâte à choux and creams. Finally it was time to assemble the Napoleons. One whole sheet pan of puff pastry was baked, flipped, sprinkled with sugar, baked some more, and then cooled. It was sliced into three equal pieces and then rum mousseline cream was spread in between the layers. Once it was stacked it went into the freezer to chill; otherwise the fondant for the top wouldn't set and it would be hard to cut. After freezing for a while, Chef topped it with fondant and chocolate and made the patterns in the top and then cut it into (very large) individual pastries.
The other really nice thing about today is that the savory students were making soups and shared their creations with us. We shared ours with them. Everyone was happy.

And, as promised, here's my uniform. The embroidered coats arrived today!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Day 7: Fillings

The theme of today's lesson was fillings: pie fillings and chocolate mousse.

We'd touched on fillings last week when we did the cream fillings for the tarts. Today, however, we went into them in more detail. We learned the difference between a binder and a thickener, and when they are used. We made chocolate mousse, pecan pie filling, apple pie filling, blueberry pie filling, and black currant curd. With those fillings, and with more pâte sucrée and pâte foncer, we made little apple, blueberry and pecan pies, little pies with the curd, and each of us made a Mogadore cake.

The skills involved in the cake included cutting the top and bottom off the cake layer, soaking it in raspberry syrup, fitting it into a ring, piping jam onto it, and then filling the top with the mousse. Then we had to smooth it and chill it. While it was chilling, we made the chocolate decorations for our cakes. After that, we applied the glaze, smoothed that layer, and then decorated the cakes with writing chocolate, raspberries and our chocolate decorations. It is pretty amazing tasting.
I'm quite tired!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Meyer Lemons in Season

Actually, I bought the lemons over a week ago but I haven't had time to make curd until today. (Wonder why. Hah.)

The lemons were particularly juicy so eight lemons yielded 1.25 cups of juice. I scaled the recipe accordingly [10 oz. butter, 5 eggs, 1.85 cups sugar] and made almost five cups of curd. This time, I used a large metal bowl set in a pot of water which fit perfectly rather than struggle with two saucepans that don't stack at all. Four jars were canned and the incomplete jar is in the fridge. Even though I plan to store the jars in the fridge, I usually process them for 15 minutes first.

Here's What I Did With All That Bread

Challah french toast casserole! Yum.
Changes - I used the 6 egg whites leftover from making the Challah and added 2 whole eggs rather than the 6 whole eggs the recipe calls for. And I left out the pecans. Otherwise, it's basically the same.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Closer, Still Not Perfect

Today I made a batch of Challah, three loaves. I used instant yeast, which is what I had on hand, so I adjusted the recipe as I've been taught. That part worked just fine. The dough was mixed, fermented, shaped (rather nicely, I might add) and proofed. Based upon the result, I think I am still underproofing. The braid split apart at the top. However, it's much closer to the proper result than last week's brioche. It's a nice even golden brown and the inside texture is nice. I'll keep practicing.

I took photos as I went along in an effort to be able to recognize when the loaves were fully proofed. I guess that didn't help enough.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Days 5 and 6: Sweet Things

We all made some cygnes, these were mine.
This week we moved away from breads and into pastries. It's quite fun. I'm super tired because between classes and last night's Special Town Meeting I haven't really had much time for sleep!

Yesterday started out with the T being super delayed. Five of the seven of us were stuck at various points along the Red Line for a half an hour or more. The only saving grace is that the chef was stuck, too, so we weren't really late. And then we had our first quiz.

Once that all was taken care of, we started on pâte à choux. This is the flour-water-butter-egg paste that is used to make cream puffs and eclairs. And boy, did we make a lot of cream puffs and eclairs! It took us all day, but we made all sorts of shapes, fondant for dipping, and 6 different flavors of cream filling: coffee, chocolate, rum, kirsch, grand marnier, and praline.
An assortment of cream puffs and eclairs. 
Let's just say that clean up took a very, very long time. We used a crazy amount of bowls and mixers. And piping tips.

This morning was not plagued with commuting woes, which was nice. Today was "Classic Doughs" which meant pie and tart crusts. We learned the difference between pâte brisée, pâte foncer, and pâte sucrée. (Sugar. The main difference is sugar. There are other differences, but that's the biggest.) We made five different kinds of tarts. The large tarts, one per person, were Tart Beausejour - caramelized apples with calvados. These and the pear chiboust tarts used the pâte sucrée and all the others, the chocolate tarts, the "Duo" tarts (peach and cherry), and the apricot-brown butter Tart Catalane, used the pâte foncer. A chiboust is a pastry cream (we made ours with pear purée) with meringue mixed in. That led to the most fun part of my day - using the torch to brulée the chiboust.
I LOVED it.  I think I ended up doing most of them because I was having so much fun.

Oh, and, yes. That's my uniform. Someday I'll get my jacket but for now, that's it. Sorry you can't see the checkered pants.
If cleanup from yesterday was long, today was much, much worse. It was all hands on deck to get that all done. So many dishes!