Saturday, August 23, 2008

Weekend Report (Physical Pheats of Phearless Phrenzy)

On Saturday I did my first unassisted shoulder stand in yoga, on Sunday I road in the North Fork Century, doing my highest average speed over such a long distance. And I wolfed down 2 burgers, a hot dog, an ear of corn and THREE slices of pie in the space of an hour or so.

BREAKFAST: 5:30am, 2 pancakes, 1 school-made madeline, bacon, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

AM SNACK: 10am, 1 tiny chocolate vegan sniggidy snack

LUNCH: 12:15pm, vegan stirfry with brown sticky rice, a few bits of maple candy,3 thimbles of sake, seltzer, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Got a bunch of good looking veg from the farmer's market with D and HVS, came out good, but not great. Needed ginger and stock, less mirin, cooked the mushrooms a little longer, the peppers a little less.

PM SNACK: 3pm, handful of school-made cookies, .25 bowl, hunger 4/5 I gotta get rid of these things. Anyone want cookies?

DINNER: 5pm, wholewheat pasta with garlic & olive oil, fresh tomato, grated parm, a pat of butter, salt and pepper, 2 bowls, hunger 4/5
Eating some extra carbs in anticipation of tomorrow's ride. Didn't sweat the garlic enough.

EVENING SNACK: 6:30pm, a handful of school cookies, 2 school-made chocolate truffles, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
If you think I'M bad, my wife just ate an entire pint of chocolate truffles!

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

AM SNACK: 4:45am, 2 dunkin' donuts donuts, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

AM SNACK: 8:15am, 1 small piece of pound cake, hunger 3/5

AM SNACK: 9:45am, PB&J on graham crackers, small piece of crumb cake, 8 oz of gatorade, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5

AM SNACK: 11:30am, small piece of focaccia, 1 piece wholewheat bread with nutella, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

PM SNACK: 1:30pm, 3 pieces of apple crumble pie, small handful of individually wrapped chocolates, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH: 2:30pm, 1 hamburger, 1 cheeseburger, 1 hotdog, 1 ear of corn, 1/2 a can of sprite, can of diet coke, 2 bowls, hunger 4/5
The water fountain wasn't very cold, and the sodas were on ice.

DINNER: 8:15pm, shrimp in garlic sauce with black beans and yellow rice, water, 2 bowls, hunger 4/5

Friday, August 22, 2008

Introduction to Chocolate (Temper, Temper)

They say chocolate is addictive, I say it simply tempts the glutton in a person. The class started with a silly 5-question quiz (which I scrambled to study for 5 minutes before, as I was absent yesterday), then a lecture about chocolate. The cacao tree, cocoa beans and nibs, which produce cocoa solids (like cocoa powder) and cocoa butter. Chocolate as we know it is mixed with sugar to make anywhere from semisweet (61% cocoa solids and butter) to unsweetened (99%) Mix in milk powder and you got milk chocolate. Being that chocolate has so much fat in it, if you were to add liquid milk, it would never solidify. We tasted everything form baking chocolate to white chocolate, which isn't actually chocolate, but cocoa butter mixed with sugar. It doesn't taste so much like chocolate as it does like fat.

The main activity of the day was making chocolate truffles, so named because they kind of look like the rare fungi of the same name. First step is to make the ganache. Simmer 1 part heavy cream with a shot of light corn syrup. (Weird to cook with this ingredient that I find synonymous with crappy industrial food, but it works to prevent sugar in the chocolate from crystallizing.) Add 2 parts chocolate and melt. Once melted, throw in some solid butter and stir. Keep stirring, occasionally putting over ice till it gets thick but not lumpy.

Put into a plastic pastry bag with a metal tip, squeeze out onto a sheetpan in the shape of small balls. This was a little bit tricky, piping out with the right twist of the wrist to get an orb-shape that doesn't have too much of a nipple.

Those were put on the speed-rack to get solid, and then we prepared chocolate to cover the ganache. To melt chocolate that will resolidify when brought to room temperature, it must be tempered. Over a hot water bath, chocolate is melted and monitored with a chocolate thermometer (a thermometer with every number on it for finer measurement) till it hits 115. It is then poured on a cold marble slab and moved around with bench-scrapers till it measures 85 degrees. Once cooled, it is placed back un the metal bowl and placed over the hot water till it reaches 91. It is now ready to be used to cover the ganaches. As it cools, the chocolate becomes as solid as it was before melting. Chef G said that this is usually done by a machine, rarely by hand -- many variables, room temp, humidity, air movement, can all randomly affect tempering.

We dipped the truffles in assorted nuts and cocoa powder, and I ended up eating enough to get buzzy and nauseous, to the point where I forgot to take pictures of the final product. It didn't help that the ones that Norbert and I made were extremely lumpy and misshapen, due to our chocolate-induced ADD.

All the sugar in the morning made me feel weird, woozy in the stomach. No meat or heavy proteins appealed to me in this state.

BREAKFAST: 5:30am, smoothie, hunger 4/5

AM TASTINGS: 8-12noon, chocolate pieces, chocolate ganache, melted chocolate, madelines, biscotti, chocolate covered madelines, chocolate covered biscotti, 1 bowl of chocolate, hunger 4/5 to 2/5

LUNCH: 2:15pm, braised wheatgluten sandwich, spinach dumplings, stick rice, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 3/5

DINNER: 8:30pm, falafel platter with hummus, baba, couscous, seltzer, 1 bowl, hunger 3/5
Still feeling woozy from this morning's sugar bomb.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sick (Rufus, Get off My Head)

Well, not actually sick, but took action to avoid getting sick. After getting severely delayed by poor New Jersey mass transportation, got home around midnight, needed a few minutes to unwind. When I woke to the alarm at 6am after less than 5 hours of sleep, I made a quick fuzzy judgment that went something like this:
Not enough sleep....gotta freelance gig this afternoon...need to be healthy for century bike ride on Sunday....doing sweets in class today....petit fours, who needs 'em....Dora the Explorer is so annoying....B feels so snuggly....not enough sleep....I'll still have one more absence and still be able to graduate with honors....Rufus, get off my head....
Tomorrow, a day of chocolate. Let's hope I don't end up like this by the end of the day:

BREAKFAST: 11:30am, 2 school made chocolate croissants, water, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH: 2:30pm, 2 samosas, tomato salad, ginger tofu, sesame noodles, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Snicklesnacks with the HVS.

PM SNACK: 5:45pm, half a white chocolate bar, sesame pretzels, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

PM SNACK: 6:30pm, school made pretzel with peanut butter, water, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

DINNER: 8pm, pork loin chop with pan sauce, 2 ears boiled corn, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Added no salt to the pan sauce, still too salty due to the excess seasoning on the chop. Good 2 inches thick, cooked it long and low, came out a bit medium well, but rested so still juicy. Used sake in the pan sauce, really good. Corn was really sweet, perfect summer food.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pizza and Focaccia (-sigh-)

I've been looking forward to 'pizza day' at culinary school for a while, but in the end it wasn't nearly exciting as I thought it would be -- as with anything worthwhile, appreciation has to be acquired with experience. The 'sushi day' at school was ridiculous for the same reason: people have to study and train in the world of sushi for 10-20 years before becoming a full fledged sushi chef, and one day of "creatively" assembling fish on rice doesn't really do it justice. Likewise, one day of "creatively" assembling a line of standardized toppings on dough left me feeling somewhat bereft.

That's not to say I didn't learn anything -- Chef G is clearly not only a master baker, but passionate about pizza and knows more about it than any snooty blogger-culinary student. The dough we made yesterday sat in the refrigerator overnight. The dough was scaled out into 8 ounce balls. The dough had to be rounded by hand on the metal tables. I tried several times and the seams kept on popping up, while Chef G's came out in perfect orbs. She showed me the specific motions, and how important it was not to have the dough too dry -- it needs to catch on the surface a little to round it without kneading it. I never bothered rounding my dough too much at home because in the end, it's going to be shaped into a disk, but this is the professional, traditional way to do it, and is one of many small details that'll help deliver an even, uniform product.

At first, the dough was left to rise at room temperature on the speedracks. Chef G had instructed us to place all the dough into the proofing box, which has a slightly elevated temperature and higher moister. She could judge the speed and volume of the yeast's activity just by looking at the dough, and by placing it in the proofer made it speed up a little. Again, one only learns that kind of judgement from experience.

When the dough was properly risen, Chef G did a demo on how to roll and assemble the pizza. She used cornmeal to keep the dough from sticking to the table, something I'd avoided because I don't like the gritty feeling in my mouth. She said she doesn't like to use flour because it's too easy to use too much, and can potentially dry out the dough (which would alter the whole texture profile in the final product). She artfully spread the cornmeal to minimize its presence -- the exact opposite of, say, Two Boots style, a NYC pizzeria which uses a thick layer of cornmeal on the bottom of the crust as a calling-card (yuck!)...

After pushing the ball of dough down into a disk, she stretched the dough by hand, not bothering with a rolling pin at all. By holding the edge of the disk and gently tugging it while turning it in a circle, the familiar pie shape emerged. She laid the disc on a gently-corn-floured pizza peal (a large wooden paddle with a long handle) and pushed the dough out a bit further to give a slightly raised handle to the crust. The dough was put at the edge of the peel; in this way, when it came time to place it on a heated stone in the oven, it wouldn't have too far to go to be slid off.

Then she topped it. First thing she did was brush a layer of olive oil on the dough. She said this would create a hydrophobic barrier between the toppings and the dough -- any water released from the toppings would be prevented from soaking the dough, creating that most horrible of things, the flibbidy-flobbidy slice. It also encourages browning, which in our vastly inappropriate ovens, would not get anywhere near the 900+ degrees needed to make a properly blistered and charred pie.

She topped hers with some delicate combination of goat cheese and onion, and when it came out after a good 12 minutes, added prosciutto, arugula, and extra virgin olive oil. She said all toppings on a pie go on before baking, EXCEPT for greens (including basil) and delicate cured meats, all of which should be placed on a pie as soon as it comes out of the oven. Thus, the radiant heat of the pie will gently wilt these ingredients, while the full blast of a pizza oven will carbonize them.

Then everyone went and did their pies. I did three: a simple margherita (chopped whole canned San Marzano tomatoes, moz, and finished with torn basil, olive oil, and salt); mushroom (cooked sauce, moz, and sautéed mushrooms); and roasted pepper (cooked sauce with radially-laid out roasted peppers covered generously with parmesan, finished with arugula and oil). The flavor of the crust was pretty good, and indeed treating it with oil helped firm it. But the quality of the ingredients (particularly the flavorless, oily moz) plus the low temp of the ovens prevented any hope of pizza nirvana.

Dirty Kim did bust out a fabulous Mornay-sauced pie, and Natasha mistook some herbs with mint, creating a very odd flavor profile. Dora the Explorer clumsily threw her pie into the oven above mine, and a good portion of her toppings fell onto my margherita. Pizzacrime!

I also brought in my own dough. But, after sitting on the proofing rack for 3 hours, it become a loose, shapeless, liquidy mess. I look forward to experimenting with the ratios of the school dough and the double-0 flour crossed with the recipes I've been using.

Oh yeah, we did breadsticks and focaccia, too. Sicilian pizza is just focaccia treated like pizza, an American invention. Whatevah!

Went out to deep NJ to visit a friend and her kid. Unfortunately, there was some problems with the buses and had to wangle a train, putting me home close to midnight.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, god granola with good milk, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

AM TASTINGS: 11-11:30am, various small tastes of pizzas, a bite of breadstick, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

PM SNACK: 4pm, 1 piece of school made focaccia, 1 breadstick, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

DINNER: 5:30pm, roast beef sandwich, Thai chocolate gelato, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

EVENING SNACK: 11:45pm, big spoonful of peanut butter, water, .25 bowl, hunger 4/5

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bread and Breadsticks (Makin' Pizza Dough)

Bread, staff of life, mortal enemy of carbophobes, kind of boring out of a bag but transcendental when hot out of an oven. Today we made two doughs that had to slow rise in the fridge overnight (bread stick dough and pizza dough) and two that required a rise a and a proof before hitting up the ovens by the end of class (semolina bread and soft rolls)

I paid close attention while Chef G reviewed the recipes, particularly the pizza dough. The book called for bread flour, but Chef called up for Italian 00 flour, the most authentic and high quality flour to make pizza with. Unfortunately, despite listening, I misheard 3 lbs of flour to 3lbs plus 4 to 8 ounces as 3lbs to 4lbs and 8oz. In the dough recipe I use, after you got the yeast, water, oil, salt mixed and adding the flour, you get it so the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. As I'm adding my flour, Chef stops me and says it's too dry and not tacky enough, even though it's wetter than how I get it at home. She says it should be ok, I'll have a little bit more dough than the others. She measured what flour I had left, and I went over by about 6 oz. Into a greased bag and into the fridge for tomorrow.

I also made the semolina dough, which again is not hell of a lot different, just a different set of ratios, mixing AP flour with semolina. Into a greased bowl, into the proofing box, which is heated to the 80s with steam heat.

When taken out of the proofing box, it's rolled into a few strands, breaded, then put into the box to proof a final time. Dirty Kim and Long Island Lolita made a couple of batches of 'soft roll' dough, basically a mild white bread. Most of it is rolled into small balls, some brushed with poppy or sesame, some of it is rolled out and cut into squares and folded around sauteed onions.

Out of the oven, everything tasted pretty good, though the white bread stuff was kinda dull. Tomorrow, pizza and focaccia. Today I took home a quart of 00 flour for some home work, and tomorrow, I'll be bringing in some of my own dough and sauce from the freezer to cook up for Chef, to get her professional opinion. I hope she's brutal!

Scale told me 225 this morning. I told it to shut uuuuup.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, smoothie, 1 bowl, hunger 3/5
So fresh n' delicious.

AM TASTINGS: 10-11am, french bread with a little chocolate, couple of onion pockets,couple of small rolls, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH 1: 12:15am, pasta with pistachio/lemon cream sauce, water, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Not tempted to eat the bread at the restaurant at all.

LUNCH 2: 4pm, seitan, hijiki, quinoa, tahini dressing, water, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Post yoga snicklesnack.

PM SNACK: 6:45pm, watermelon, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Pre-swim snacklesnick.

DINNER: 8pm, large green salad with Italian dressing, 3 sausage brioche roll thingies, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

EVENING SNACK: 8:30pm, 3 chocolate croissants, .75 bowl, hunger 4/5 Still hungry after dinner. Just too healthy all day!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Brioche and Croissant

Having made the dough for brioche (cakey!) and croissant (flaky!), today way worked it into forms and baked it. Because it was made on Friday, we had to freeze it and retard yeast activity to allow it to be worked with today (Monday).

The Long Island Lolita joined Dirty Kim and myself in speeding through the relatively simple steps of shaping, filling and baking everything. For the brioche a tete (brioche heads), one ounce of brioche dough was rolled into a ball and placed in a small buttered, fluted baking pan. One quarter of an ounce of dough was also rolled into a ball, then tapered into a tadpole shape. The bigger ball is thumbed in the middle to make a well, then the tadpole placed in the middle. By hand, the little head is tucked in to help it bake without melding into the body. Egg wash, proofed to rise a bit, then into the oven.

For the other half of the dough, we had the choice of going sweet or savory. The sweet involved frangipane, plumped raisins and candied citrus rind, and the savory sausage, ham and mustard, so the choice was easy. We crumbled the sausage and browned the hell out of, dash of salt, softened diced onions, tossed in some pre-cooked ham. The brioche dough was rolled out into a big rectangle, covered in dijon mustard, then sprinkled with the sausage mixture. Carefully it was rolled up and sliced, brushed with egg wash and laid out, proofed and baked.

The croissant dough was rolled out into big rectangles. One was cut into triangles, rolled from wide base to point for croissant shapes. The other was cut into rectangles, two bittersweet chocolate batons (sticks) laid in the middle, egg wash brushed on the edges, then both sides folded over, then laid out seam-side down. Brushed with egg wash, proofed, and into the oven.

Bread n' whatever tomorrow...Wednesday, PIZZA!

Just signed up for three different pizza rec classes over the next few months. One is basic home-made pizza, one is contemporary modern Italian pizza, and the third is pizza of Rome. Mmmmmm!

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, good yogurt with honey, raw cashews, .25 bowl, hunger 3/5

AM TASTINGS: 9-11am, 1 brioche a tete, a couple of baby croissants, 1 brioche a sauicisson, some ham n' sausage on a piece of french bread, 6 or so semi-sweet chocolate battons, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

PM WATERING: 1pm, quart of water

PM SNACK: 4pm, green salad with tomato, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

DINNER: 5:45pm, bread, hummus, zucchini pancakes, lamb skewer with mint sauce, a small amount of roasted potatoes, a square of cheese cake with dry figs in port reduction, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Fancy dinner out with B before wine class, the food really did not justify the prices. Some of the lamb was dry and overcooked, B's "medium" salmon was undercooked.

EVENING SNORT: 7-9pm, equivalent of 1 glass of wine
Explorations in the Bordeaux region, most just whatever, they all smell of, well, alcohol and a little bit of vomit. Except for the sauternes we tasted, usually hate sweet desert wines but this was delicious.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Weekend Report (Studying at Pepe's)

Got out of the house on Saturday early to get to Brooklyn Bridge at 7am sharp to enjoy the start of the NYC Summer Streets thing, where they closed off a main thoroughfare from the bridge to Central Park. For a while, I thought maybe the entire city forgot this was happening -- tons of cops milling around and from the bridge to Grand Central I saw all of 2 other cyclists, one dog walker, and less than 10 joggers. However, I did set a new personal land-speed record of getting from the bridge to 42nd Street in 12 minutes. On the way back close to home, my legs felt a little rubbery and thinking of an indulgent breakfast, maybe at my local diner I used to frequent weekly until I started watching what I ate. Yummy! Then I remembered, no, no yummy - gummy greasy pancakes and over-salty bacon, acidy diet coke. Comforting, maybe, but not yummy.

Sunday I got out on the bike on a casual pedal-about with E, explored the Williamsburg waterfront, made it down to the Red Hook vendors again for some amazing empinadas, hopped on the Ikea ferry to Wall Street, checked out David Byrne's 'Playing the Building' art installation (peeps were crawling around dancing at us as we wandered around), had a chillaxing beer (as some Canadians would say) and more laid back pedalling. A good mix o' food and riding.

BREAKFAST: 6:15am, school made bagel with butter, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
We scaled out 4oz of dough for every bagel, they came out about half the size of store bagels. Very tasty.

BREAKFAST 2: 8:30am, leftover spaghetti with half a meatball, small amount of WF sport drink, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

AM SNACK: 9:45pm, big chocolate chip cookie, water, .75 bowl, hunger 4/5
Comfort food for the train ride to New Haven to spend time w/B and the father in law.

LUNCH: 1pm, white clam pizza, a few small slices of tomato pie with sausage, pint of beer, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
In New Haven at Pepe's, 30 minute wait in line but well worth it. Crisp and chewy, tasty wood char, fresh clams, big hunks of garlic. As I was eating it, I was studying it: how could I make this at home. Large mince of garlic, olive oil, wine reduction flavor, butter? Maybe not, maybe it would make it better. Ground pepper? Dried basil? Salt?

DINNER: 7:30pm, homemade stir fry veg and noodles, grilled shrimp, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

EVENING SNACK: 8:30pm, small box of Entemann's chocolate chip cookies, half pint of Adirondack chocolate ice cream, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Needed comfort snack. Ice cream was hormone-free and a relatively short list of ingredients, but not as good as my homemade stuff...judging from the order of the ingredients, they use a lot less egg yolks than I do. The cookies were, as usual, disappointingly filler-tasting.

7:30am, half a chocolate babka-thing, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
From Moishe's, the kosher bakery around the corner. Looking forward to making croissants with chocolate tomorrow.

BREAKFAST 2: 9am, school made bagel with butter, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH: 2pm, cheese and meat empinadas, large tamarind sweet drink, traditionally dressed corn on cob on stick, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
At the Red Hook vendors again, the empinadas were absolutely fried perfectly, the soft cheese pillowy and soft tasting. The tamarind drink was a lot less flavorful than what Chef K made in class, it was more like sugar water with a slight tamarind aftertaste.

4pm, 1 beer
In the beer garden of Battery Park

PM SNACK: 5pm, 1 bite of a slice of 2boots Pizza
E was eating, I wasn't hungry. She had a BBQ chicken slice. Really tasted it carefully -- from top to bottom, the 'BBQ chicken' tasted like vinegar and Tabasco, nothing like BBQ. It lent a greasy patina to the excess layer of moz, the sauce was overwhelmed b the toppings, and while the crust had a nice bite, they use so much cornmeal on the bottom of their pies that is supposed to be a trademark, but just tastes too gritty and vaguely burnt to me.

PM SNACK: 5:30pm, half a pint of chocolate ice cream, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5
Just needed to cool down a little.

DINNER: 7:30pm, beef lomein, half an eggroll, one piece of shrimp toast, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
B's dad wanted Chinese! It's not my fault!