Friday, August 15, 2008

Introduction to Yeast (Bagels and Briochies and Croissants and Pretzels OH MY!)

Today was a fun day, starting off with a bang with Dirty Kim and I setting up mise for four items: two pre-fermented items and two blanched quick-risen items.

Chef G gave an interesting lecture about the basics of baking bread. Baking is effected by the quality of the flour, water and the environment, specifically temperature and humidity. Below 60 degrees will retard yeast growth, 140 degrees will kill year, and the ideal zone is 75-78 degrees. In a professional mass-produced bakery, the temp of the environment, the flour and the water will be measured precisely and adjusted so when the dry and the wet come together, it'll be at the 75-78 degree spot where the yeast will be maximized.

The pre-fermented items were brioche and croissants. Brioche is kind of like a cross between cake and bread. Pre-fermented means you make a starter (or 'levain' or 'sponge' or 'sour dough', there is a name for it in every culture) in which you get the yeast in liquid and wake it up. For the brioche, yeast was dissolved into warm milk, then flour added. Once fermented for about a half hour, a pate was made in the mixer -- creamed butter, sugar, salt, eggs with extra egg yolks and more flour. Once both were put in, it was beaten with a dough hook for a good 15 minutes. Fat prevents yeast from growing and gluten from developing, hence the pre-ferment and the extra time in the mixer.

Croissants is part of the 'laminated' group, such as danishes and puff pastry -- the dough if folded with butter into creating layers. Unlike puff pastry, croissants have yeast and a single fold, rather than puff's multiple double folds Today, we made the croissant and brioche doughs, and were put on ice by the end of class to take them up again Monday.

Bagels and pretzels are blanched and quick-risen, surprisingly similar and shockingly easy to make. Our bagel recipe called for a dough made of bread flour, salt, a little sugar, warm water with yeast dissolved. Once the dough was made, it was allowed to rest for about 5 minutes, then rolled and shaped into rings. Dropped in boiling water (with a little sugar in it), the dough rings immediately rose to the top, due to the gas let off from the yeast. After about thirty seconds, scooped out, laid out and sprinkled with sesame seeds and salt. Into the oven, about 20 minutes later nicely browned bagels, with a nice crunch on the outside and a satisfying chew in the middle.

Pretzels aren't hell of a lot different. The dough has some butter and no sugar, with a dash of Tabasco. After making the dough, it rested for about 10 minutes, then rolled into about 20 inch tubes, then twisted into the pretzel shape. Dropped into plain boiling water for about 30 seconds, floating from the yeast's gasses, then laid out and sprinkled with salt (and in our case, sesame). Into the oven, puffy and brown.

Next week, we whip out some brioche forms, croissants and pain au chocolat. Midweek....what I've been waiting for...PIZZA!

Bagels are shockingly easy to make. There are so many great bagel joints in NYC (in fact Kossars, one of the best in the word, is on my block) that I guess it seems silly to take the time and effort to make your own, when in the end the price per bagel will be a wash -- still, there is something satisfying about eating such a familiar item....that you made yourself.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, smoothie, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Good milks and yogurt, banana, blueberries, cherries, grapes, flax, salt, ice, YUMMY!

AM TASTINGS: 10:30-11:30, half a sesame pretzel, two small (4oz) sesame bagels with cream cheese, 1.5 bowls, hunger 4/5

PM WATERING: 1pm, 1 quart water

LUNCH: 2:30pm, school made mushroom risotto, .75 bowl, hunger 4/5

PM SNACK: 4:30, part of a school made pretzel, .25 bowl, hunger 4/5

PM SNACK: 5pm, large green salad with olive oil & balsamic, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

PM SNACK: 6pm, piece of white chocolate, .25 bowl, hunger 4/5
White chocolate is puerile- vanilla chocolate, it's like dry water or an atheist God, it just doesn't work or make sense. It was lying around the house from the pizza night with fellow students.

DINNER: 7:15pm, spag & meatball, one small slice of pizza, water, 1 bowl, hunger 3/5
Isabella's Oven's pizza tonight was a little underdone and the sauce a little over tangy, fneh.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Utilizing Puff Pastry (Pastry Puffed)

Today was another simple day in which we worked with and baked the puff pastry dough sheets we made yesterday.

First up was the apple strips. While Dirty Kim rolled out a sheet to about 16" by 14", I peeled, cored, and sliced a number of apples. The sheet was cut into 2 5" wide strips and 4 1" wide strips. The thin strips were bonded to the edges of the large strips with egg wash, then spread in the middle thinly with almond frangipane. On top of that went my sliced apples, then coated with melted butter. Into the oven it went. Once out and cooled, run over with apricot glaze and a few lines of crushed almonds.

For palmiers, the same dough was rolled out, except instead of dusting the table with flour to keep it from tearing, we used granulated sugar. After getting the dough thin and well incorporated with a good deal of sugar, the sheet was rolled into from opposite sides then sliced into about quarter inch pieces. Into the oven the palmiers went.

Thirdly, cheese straws: roll out the puff pastry dough then, cover one half of it with Parmesan cheese, paprika and eggwash, fold to cover, then roll out to original thinness. Cut into even half inch strips, twist and layout on a baking sheet, then into the oven they go.

Tomorrow, and introduction to yeast dough and some twisty time with fresh soft pretzels.

Got my report card for last mod, A- in performance, A in quizzes and exams, and an A- for the practical -- I really should have gotten a D, unless it was to measure what I learned from taking the practical, in which case I could have received an A. My GPA is now 3.78, which is kind of meaningless since I don't have parents around anymore to show them off too -- an anonymous blog-reading public just isn't the same, sorry!

Things are going relatively well with Chef G, but it kinda sucks cooking for 4 hours and only having dessert to show for it. I definitely have no interest in making more than the occasional home dessert, this fanciful stuff is just too....too much work for too little reward.

Delivered another large box of pastrys to B's office, no way I'm taking this stuff home, or it would jump very quickly down my throat.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, good yogurt with raw nuts, honey, vanilla, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5

AM TASTINGS: 9-11:30am, lots of raw apple bits, a few palmieres, a few bits of apple strip, a couple of cheese straws, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
As I peeled, cored and sliced the apples, couldn't help but eat all the butt-ends and bits with a little peel.

LUNCH: 1pm, large spinach salad with carrot dressing, hijiki tofu patty on whole wheat pita, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Lunch at Dojo, good but the spinach wasn't as fresh as usual.

DINNER: 5:30pm, small amount of school made mushroom risotto, vegetable stir fry with shrimp and brown rice noodle, WF nutrient water, 1.5 bowls, hunger 4/5
Made a large-scale stir-fry that wasn't that great. Tried some Whole Foods version of Vitamin Water, 130 cal for 20oz, but tasted kinda chalky and flat.

EVENING SNACK: 7:15pm, mixed nuts with chocolate, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Puff Pastry (Puff the Magic Pastry)

Most of today's class time was dedicated to making puff pastry dough. It is a three step process: make the dough (detrempe), the butter compound (beurrage) and then put it together in a package (paton) to roll and fold.

The dough is a mix of AP and cake flour, a littler salt and sugar, ice water and a small amount of butter. First, the butter must be cut up into small pieces and rubbed into the dry ingredients so there is no bits left, then the water added in a well and folded in -- folded, not kneaded, to avoid gluten formation which will make the final product tough.

Separately, the solid butter is beaten with a bit of flour to soften; with just the right consistency, it can be rolled without too much resistance or breaking. The dough is rolled out into the shape of a big plus sign (+), the squared butter placed in the middle, then the flaps folded over. This package is flipped seam-side down, then rolled out long until thin. Then it's folded (far ends to the middle), then folded in half so that it looks like a book. This is done twice, then put in the fridge to harden, then done twice more. That's 3 original layers times 4 (12) times 4 (48) times 4 (192) times 4 (768 layers!) in the one-half inch thick dough. Crazy.

Tomorrow we cook all sorts of stuff with the pastry, but for the last 30 minutes of the class, Chef G melted some chocolate and we used our cornets (folded pieces of parchment) to write "Happy Birthday" and various things. As Chef G said, if you didn't pay attention in 1st grade to get your script writing together, it's certainly not going to help now. The chocolate itself was 'compound chocolate', which is made with additional vegetable oil so it doesn't need to be tempered properly. It tasted like cheap chocolate, like bad Valentine's Day chocolates or old Hannukah gelt.

Tomorrow, Apple Strips, Palmiers, Paillettes, and other forms of puff pastry


6:30am, good granola, good milk, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Woke up a little hungry.

AM NIBBLES: 10-11:30am, a hunk of french bread, a few small mouthfuls of piping chocolate, .25 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH: 12:30pm, half a pastrami sandwich, pea soup, coleslaw, 2 pickles, water, 2 bowl, hunger 4/5
Comfort food at the 2nd Ave Deli.

PM SNACK: 2:30pm, weird Chinese fruit
On the Circle Line with Y and her parents. They offered me a weird fruit I could not say no to. Kind of like a very large tough-skinned grape that had to be peeled, with a small pit. Very juicy and sweet.

PM WATERING: 6pm, 2 quarts ice water

PM SNACK: 7pm, small cherry icee, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
At the movies. 213 calories; the only other size was double the calories, but only 50 cents more, he he. If it wasn't for that listing, I definitely would have gone for the bigger one.

DINNER: 9:30pm, 2 slices bad streetza, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rolling, Baking and Finishing (You TART you!)

Today we took the doughs we made yesterday and tarted them up. Chef G started with several demos on how to roll dough correctly. With the pate brisée (which has chunks of butter in it for a marbled look), it can only be rolled once to get the correct light and flakiness. With the paté sucrée, it can be messed with and rolled over and over again and it's going to be fine. Chef G showed us the proper way to roll dough -- rhythmically and evenly, constantly turning the dough at 45-degree angles, while occasionally rolling the dough up on to the pin to get some flour on the bottom.

We first rolled out the brisée, cut into small rounds with a cookie cutter, then gently pressed them into small tart pans. Care had to go into this, to get the dough into all the corners. The dough would pull away and shrink a little; so, before trimming, a bit of the overhang was evenly pushed into the pan. The dough was then docked: docking is the practice of poking holes in the bottom to prevent the layered, flaky dough from rising off the pan and making a big mess when it came time to add fillings.

Once the small brisée tarts were refrigerated for about 30 minutes, they were blind-baked: baking beans (beans used solely for their weight) were placed in the little dough tarts, with parchment preventing them from touching the dough. Into the hot oven, out once they looked brown, then remove beans and paper.

Once cooled, a bit of yesterday's pastry cream was inserted on the bottom with a small offset spatula. The cream itself, when it came out of the fridge, looked a bit like ugly pudding, gelatanized and rubbery. It was brought back to life by whisking over a hot water bath, then into a kitchen aide mixer with a paddle attachment for a good creaming. Once the cream was down in the tart, the pan was removed, raw sliced fruit arranged on top (I stuck to strawberry, kiwi, and blueberries), then brushed with an apricot glaze -- simple apricot jelly that was heated up to make liquidy. It was finished with sprinkling some crushed toasted almonds along the edges.

The paté sucré was much easier to work with, its consistency not hardened by chunks of solid butter. They were rolled out to easily cover a 9" tart pan. Once evenly flat all around, it was rolled up on a pin and gently laid across the pan. Slowly, it was pushed into the nooks and crannies, and again a little extra was pushed in along the edges before trimming. Yesterday's walnut frangipane was spread into the shell, filling about half the volume. On top, I dropped and pressed cleaned blueberries. It was baked until the frangipane (due to its high egg content) rose and browned to a nice shade along with the crust.

Due to Dirty Kim, Long Island Lolilta, and I just rolling along well together, we had time to make one more tart, so we rocked out a hazelnut chocolate. I rolled out and panned a cocoa paté sucrée dough, while DK whipped up a delightful filling that was based on semisweet chocolate, eggs, praline paste, some sugar, and a dash of rum. Halfway through baking, we tossed in some crushed hazelnuts. As DK would say, "NUM NUM!!"

Tomorrow, we make nothing, but we prepare puff pastry.

When I boxed up enough fresh tarts to feed about 20 to 30 people, I realized this could NOT go home with me. Fortunately, B works around the corner so I dropped off some early afternoon pastry luv for her coworkers.

Starting to enjoy Chef G, she runs a loose kitchen like Chef K, but engages the students much more, casually going around the room over the last few days and asking each of us what we want out of culinary school, what we want to do after. At first I simply said I wanted to cook better, as my mom passed along a very meager skill set and a lack of food culture. Later in the day, I confessed I really loved pizza and somehow want to be involved in it. (Chef G had told us, on our first day, she's passionate about traditional Italian pizza.) We talked about which places we liked, and we both were in agreement of the greatness of DiFara and the over-ratedness of Una Pizzeria Napoletana. I turned her on to Franny's, which she knows by rep alone, and to Isabella's Oven, the gem on my block.

Went to yoga this afternoon, was just a little bit more into it than usual -- almost did 75% of the poses or at least the run-up efforts to the crazier ones. Felt really good.

BREAKFAST: 6:15am, smoothie, 1 bowl, hunger 3/5
Good milk and yogurt, banana, blueberries, cherries, grapes, flax, a couple of pinches of salt, ice. This smoothie more than any one before was sweet, but not cloying like Jamba Juice. For a second I asked myself if I added honey or something, but the only thing different this time is that I did a double pinch of salt -- wow, either that made the sweetness sing or one of the fruits was really ripe in a good way.

AM SNACK: 8am, small piece of french bread, .25 bowl, hunger 4/5

AM TASTINGS: 11:30am, bite of kiwi-blueberry tart, small piece of banana coffee tart, small piece of chocolate almond berry tart, bite of a random tart, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH: 12:30pm, falafel with yellow rice, salad, a few fries, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Man can not live on pastry alone. Bought some street falafel in front of the school, was not very good or fresh.

PM SNICKLESNACK: 3:45pm, apple fizzy lizzy with 4 glasses of water, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
An after-yoga treat in honor of the HVS.

DINNER: 6:45pm, stirfry with chicken, broccoli, carrots, onion, nori/sesame blend, mirin, veal stock, soy sauce, brown rice with a little seaweed, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Wokked it up at home for B, it wasn't spot-on because I threw in too much mirin, but took the time to adjust seasoning with soy and this cool nori/sesame seed stuff I got at the Japanese food product showcase. Easily heads and tails above the so-called 'stir fry' I've made at home previous to c-school.

EVENING SNACK: 8:45pm, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts & semisweet chocolate pistoles, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Went swimming with B at the local pool, gave me a new appetite.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Introduction to Dough (though Pastry Cream is tastier)

The weird thing about today's class: we prepared three different doughs but put them in the fridge for use tomorrow -- cooking & tasting today was pretty much nil.

The three doughs have three different primary list of ingredients and lengths of mixing to reach a certain final consistency:
  • Paté Brisée: AP & Cake flour, Water, pea-sized bits of butter, broken texture to make a flaky crust.
  • Paté Sucrée: AP flour, eggs, sugar, butter the size of grated cheese, makes a sweet, sturdy and cakey product.
  • Paté Sablée: cake flour, eggs, sugar, creamed butter, sandy texture to make a cookie-like product
The first two were made by every person in the class, the third by group. Our group's Paté Sablée was chocolate-flavored, which involved the additional ingredients of coca powder, milk, and baking soda. The first, Brisée, came out of the mixer in chunks, the Sucrée came out as a thick batter, and the chocolate Paté Sablée was rolled into what looked like a giant tootsie roll.

Long Island Lolita took on mixing a Hazelnut Frangipane, which is a filling for a tarte. Hazelnuts are ground, then mixed with sugar, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, whole eggs, some AP flour, and baking powder.

More interesting was pastry cream, which Dirty Kim headed up. Dissolve cornstarch in a little milk, boil rest of milk with sugar to dissolve, whisk whole eggs into cornstarch slurry, and temper eggs into milk, whisking all the while. Bring mixture to a boil to thicken; whisk, take off flame, finish with whole butter, and if not flavoring, add vanilla.

We through in semi-sweet chocolate pistoles, which is just a fancy name for thin rounds, which have lots of surface area, ideal for quick melting. Once it's evenly distributed, spread on a plastic-coated pan, cover to prevent a skin forming, and chill immediately.

We finished and cleaned up by 11:15, then Chef G showed us how to make cornets: little parchment paper cones from cut triangles.

Tomorrow, we roll, bake, and finish some tartes.

The scale says 224 again. I say bah!!

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, banana, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Need to grocery shop today.

AM TASTINGS: 10-11am, spoonful of chocolate pasty cream, melted chocolate on baguette, handful of semisweet chocolate pistoles and shelled pistachios, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Didn't really make anything, just snacked on a few ingredients.

LUNCH: 12:45pm, school-made fragulla pasta with sausage, 2 ears of boiled corn with butter, 8oz fruitpunch sportsdrink, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

DINNER: 6pm, homemade salad, 2 slices streetza, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

EVENING TASTINGS & SNACKS: 7-9pm, 10 tastes of Burgundy-region wines and a brandy (about 1.5 glasses), 3 different interesting cheeses, 1 roll, several water crackers, water, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5