Saturday, August 30, 2008

Weekend Report (Philly)


On Saturday, B & I took a day trip to Philadelphia. We took Amtrak out there, and walked up the river and rented bicycles for the day. Sure, we hit up the Rodin and Mutter Museums, gawked at the Liberty Bell and rode up and down the waterfront, took naps in Rittenhouse Square and wandered around Society Hill. But, most important, we ate cheese steaks! And, upon recommendation from a friend, hit up the perfect restaurant to help celebrate our first anniversary as a married couple. Philly is a very bikeable city, and B actually seemed to enjoy spending the day getting everywhere by quick pedal power.

On Monday, did a nice 80 mile ride with D around Staten Island. Ate rather crappily but kept me going with strength.

Monday morning scale said 225, a pound in the right direction.

SATURDAY

BREAKFAST: 5:30am, organic chex with good milk, .75 bowl, hunger 4/5

BREAKFAST 2:
9:30am, plain bagel with cream cheese, water, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH:
12:15pm, one and a half Philly Cheese Steaks, 1 beer, water, 2 bowl, hunger 4/5
Jim's Steaks at 5th and South Street, I got whiz, B got provolone. Even though cheese whiz is a disgusting substance, it just works with the hot greasy meat.

PM SNACK: 1pm, chocolate chip cookie, .25 bowl, hunger 4/5

DINNER: 5pm, spinach gnocchi in a cream sauce, green salad, water, 1.5 bowls, hunger 4/5
Took B to a restaurant named B called "Gnocchi", which is one of her favorite foods.

EVENING SNACK: 8:45pm, 1 slice streetza, hunger 4/5
Got to readjust back to NYC!


SUNDAY
BREAKFAST 1: good yogurt with honey, vanilla, raw cashews, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

BREAKFAST 2:
bagel with cream cheese, lox, tomato, onion, side of bacon and home fries, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

PM SNACK:
2-3:30, raw pate sucree dough, cooked apples, handful of chocolate, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Cooking apple pie for B and her momma. The pate sucree came out very crumbly, hard to work with. Cooked the apples with sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and a little flour in a pan, covered for 15 minutes, smelled good but tasted slightly odd.


DINNER:
5:30pm, 2 pieces bread & olive oil, crostini with ricotta & truffled mushrooms, cold string beans with preserved garlic, cavatelli with sausage and browned butter, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

DESSERT:
7pm, apple pie, creme anglais ice cream, chocolate sauce, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5 After dinner out at Frankies with B and her momma for our anniversary, we came back to Casa de Rufus and ate homemade dessert. The ice cream and sauce was great, and the pie was surprisingly good -- despite the pate sucree crust looking a bit frankensteiny and sloppy, it tasted great and the filling melded nicely.

MONDAY

BREAKFAST:
5:30am, large piece of apple pie, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

BIKE WATERING:
7am-3pm, 150oz of water
I'm amazed I drank this much water during the 80 mile ride but only peed about 3 times.

AM SNACK:
9am, potato chips, boylan's orange creme soda, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Only two hours into the ride, but got surprisingly hungry. Hoboken was near abandoned, except for this Korean grocer on Washington.


AM SNACK:
10:30am, 20oz gatorade, small bag cornchips, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Powersnacking in Bayonne, NJ.

LUNCH: 12:30pm, turkey and Swiss on a kaiser roll, cheesy poofs, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Bad food on the southern tip of Staten Island.

LINNER: 3:30pm, pint of pork fried rice, large piece of apple pie, small portion of vanilla ice cream, 1.5 bowls, hunger 5/5
A rare 5/5! When I got home, could not see straight from hunger and exhaustion. Showered, then wolfed down a pint of rice I picked up on the way home. Homemade dessert definitely hit the sweet spot.

DINNER: 8:30pm, wholewheat pasta with homemade pasta sauce, apple pie, water, 2 bowl, hunger 4/5

Friday, August 29, 2008

Introduction to Sorbet (Limey)


Further romance with the $5G ice cream machine today. Every team of two did a sorbet and a cookie.The cookies today were tuiles and tulipes, which are loose egg-white based batters who cook up fast, thin, and crisp. When they are hot out of the oven, they can be bent around forms before they firm up. They're usually used as garnish on a custardy dessert.

Norbert was absent today, so I got to rock out the lime sorbet myself. It consists of three components mixed up then thrown into the machine: simple syrup, meringue and lime juice. First things first, a squeezed one full pint of lime juice and strained it. Simple syrup was, ummm, simple to make, tossed quart of water with 22oz of sugar and 1/4 ounce of unflavored gelatin and 6oz of light corn syrup. Boil it up, then chill in an ice bath. (To kick it up a notch, I peeled some lime zest and tied it in a sachet, let it steep in the syrup for about 30 minutes.) The meringue was about 4 egg whites and 8oz of sugar, whipped over a hot water bath until the sugar dissolved, then whisked in the stand mixer until it looked exactly like marshmallow fluff.

When the three components were mixed together, the meringue kind of dissolved unevenly and looked like a thrown-up mess. When ran through the ice cream machine, the sorbet took on a wonderfully pale sheen and was as smooth and creamy as any ice cream you've ever had. It's milk-free, but sure looks like it's full of cream.

Chocolate tuilipes weren't a big deal. Butter beaten to soft in the mixer, added sifted confectioner's sugar, add vanilla, then two parts of egg whites and two parts of flour and cocoa. Finish with a shot of heavy cream. Put a template down on a silpat (silicone-covered fiberglass mat, nothing sticks to it nohow) and spread over with a spatula. Decorate with a contrasting batter, remove template, bake for a few minutes till crisp but not burnt.

On Tuesday, we should have some more interesting pictures, as we venture into something suited for food porn: plating desserts.

On a side note, there were various templates to make the tuiles and tulipes. There was one that no one could figure out what they were supposed to be:

Any ideas?

ADDENDA:

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, smoothie, 1 bowl, hunger 3/5
Good milk & yogurt, banana, blueberry, cherry, ground flax, pinch of salt.

AM TASTINGS: 9-11am, tulipe batter, various burnt and broken tulipes, small tastes of assorted sorbets including lime, lemon, passion fruit, orange, grapefruit and strawberry, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5
LUNCH: 1:30pm, mock chicken parm hero, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Lunch at Red Bamboo with Y. Was nice to be hungry for lunch at lunch time.

PM WATERING: 6:45pm, quart of water

DINNER: 8:30pm, half a lombardi's pepperoni pizza, water, 2 bowls, hunger 4/5

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Introduction to Ice Cream (Hi, this is Ice Cream, and his friend Cream Puff!)

Though according to the notes, this class was an "Introduction to Ice Cream", the main focus was on making cream puffs and its oblong sibling, the eclair. Sure, we ran our ice cream custards through a $5,000 ice cream machine and assembled profiteroles (cream puffs minus cream plus ice cream), but the main focus was baking the cream puff shells, whipping up mousse, and making a chocolate sauce.

The pastry shell that is the main part of a cream puff, the definer of eclairs, and the clam shell of the profiterole is called paté à choux. It's made with melting butter in water and a pinch of salt, mixing in flour until it looks like roux (think mashed potatoes), then adding eggs until it has the stretchy consistency. There is no sugar in pate a choux, and more importantly there is no leavening agent -- steam from the eggs puff up the dough to create a hollow interior, perfect for filling with sweet goodness.

The dough is put into a pastry bag and piped like truffles, into short globes. They are run over with a wet fork to tamp down the pulled points and make everything a little bit more uniform. For an eclair, globular line. Into the convection oven and when they are brown and crisp, out they come to cool off to room temp.

Pastry cream involves dissolving cornstarch in milk, adding sugar then boiling. Whisk in some eggs and extra egg yolks and whisk like crazy over an ice bath. Add some butter and vanilla, and whisk some more. The cornstarch gives an interesting texture and flavor, and it stays thick and upright at room temperature.

Mousse is kind of like ice cream that requires no ice cream machine; all the air in it is from whipping. Norbert and I made a Grand Marnier mousse -- one part is simply whipped cream with a large shot of orange liquor, the other is meringue (eggs, yolks, sugar, and orange zest whisked over a hot water bath to thick, then whisked in a mixer until cooled). The two are folded in together, then put into molds and into the deep freeze.

Chocolate sauce: relatively easy to make, and tasted better than any jarred sauce from the supermarket. Heavy cream, sugar, and some light corn syrup brought to a boil, then bittersweet chocolate is added and steeped to melt, and all's then whisked to smooth. Throw in some salt and vanilla, and you're ready to rumble.

Assembling the puffs n' stuff was like doing arts and crafts, not much trickery to it. I must say, with the profiteroles, the cold silky ice cream, the dry crisp pastry, the warm chocolaty smooth sauce on top, it's a party in yo mouth.

Tomorrow, we kick the cream out of the ice and make some fruity sorbets.

On a side note, we get our eggs in a big box, and on the side of the box, a cartoon about 'Eggman'. It freaks me out every time. What designer/committee thought, "Yes, a cartoon about 'Eggman' will teach people how to handle eggs properly!"

ADDENDA:
A bit queasy when I got home, though today, I chose to combat it by hopping on the bike and doing a quick loop out to Coney Island. Felt a lot better, the weather could not be more perfect, and worked up a strong appetite by the time I got home.

There is a new kid in the class, he was in a different class but broke his ankle, so had to take some time off and start again with us, let's call him Limpy. I can't quite put my finger on what it is about him that seems a bit strange, but I did see him do something that could explain things. After spending 4 hours working with and eating ice cream, chocolate sauce, pastry cream and mousse, he cracked open a Red Bull and downed it. This kid must sprinkle meth on his cornflakes!

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

AM TASTINGS:
9-11am, tastes of various ice creams including vanilla, ginger, strawberry, rum, coconut, sangria, caramel and almond, many cream puffs in various stages of completion, quart of water, 1.5 bowls, hunger 4/5
Went and drank a quart of water at the start of class to hopefully cut down on the sugar jumping down my throat. Once the cream puffs started coming, I was done for.

PM WATERING: 1-4pm, 64 oz water

LUNCH:
4pm, sauteed pork medallions, baked potatoes, baby carrots with ranch dressing, 2 bowls, hunger 4/5
Such an American meal! Left over supplies from last night, B at up all the salad.

DINNER: 8pm, shrimp pad thai, vegetable summer rolls, water, 2 bowl, hunger 4/5
My first order through seamless web, pretty amazing, 30 minutes from hitting 'enter' to a knock on the door.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Introduction to Custard (1 Second Between Custard and Curdled)

On the face of it, all that custard is is cooking eggs and liquid together, so instead of curdling, the eggs thicken. Sweeten it, you got a creamy sauce. Freeze it while whipping in air, you've got ice cream. Bake it in a water bath and burn the top of it with a little extra sugar, crème brulée. Throw in bread and mix-ins: voilà, bread pudding.

Today, we made crème brulée, crème anglais, ice cream custard, and bread pudding. Each custard bases was basically the same, except for slightly different ratios of the basic ingredients.

Bring milk and/or cream to a boil with the sugar to dissolve the sweetener. (I was making vanilla ice cream, so I scraped the innards of a few beans in at this point -- if I were making a different flavor, I would mix in flavors when the contents went into an ice bath). Separately, whisk eggs/egg yolks to smooth, not frothy. Temper 1/3 of the boiling liquid into the eggs, then put the egg mixture into the dairy. Slowly cook and don't stop stirring, paying attention to thickness. At first it will be liquidy, but the heat will start making the eggs thicken the liquid. At one point, it'll be nice and thick and napé; wait too long and it curdles and becomes grainy and overcooked.

For bread pudding, raisins were plumped in boiling water and soaked in rum, then placed on the bottom of a gratin dish. French bread was cubed, tossed with butter and sugar, toasted to golden brown, and placed on top of the raisins with some chocolate pieces. The custard was mixed with a little rum and poured over the whole thing. It sat to absorb the custard for about 30 minutes; then it was put in the oven to sit on a sheet with water (to prevent the bottom for curdling and burning), for about an hour.

Making crème brulée requires similar methods but for the use of heavy cream and egg yolks. Once thickened on the stove, put into small containers and baked on water. When cooled off, sugar is sprinkled on top then a torch is used to caramelize the tops. (This can also be done under a broiler, but must be watched closely.)

I've made ice cream plenty of times at home, and felt a bit cocky making the the ice cream. I showed Chef my first batch and she basically said, "Thanks! I now have an example of how not to make ice cream to show the class!" I had overcooked it -- seems I've been overcooking my ice cream since I started. When looked at closely, there was indeed graininess to mixture, since I had brought it up to a simmer. The next time around, I tried using a lower heat, and cooked it slowly. I was able to get it to the right thickness without simmering and looked a lot better. Damn! I didn't even know I was doing things wrong. My final product was really good, but now it's going to be even better.

The crème anglaise preparation is very similar to vanilla ice cream, with a slightly different ratio. It's usually used as a condiment for pastry and baked items, and since we had none, I packed it up to try tonight.

Tomorrow, an introduction to ice cream.

ADDENDA:

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, organic cornflakes with good milk, .75 bowl, hunger 3/5

AM TASTINGS: 9-11am, tastes of different stages of custard, a small creme brulee, a small portion of chocolate bread pudding, a small piece of french bread, a handful of chocolate, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Tried not to eat too much, still felt queasy after.

PM WATERING: 12:30, 1 quart of water
All the sweets in class make me feel unthirsty, but then it hits me.

PM SNACK: 3pm, school made soft pretzel, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5 Still feel queasy, but hunger emerging.

DINNER: 7:30pm, raw milk talegio with crackers, tarte flambe, sauteed pork loin with veal pan sauce, sauted string beans, pommes maxim, creme anglais ice cream, creme brulee, 1 quarter of a peach donut, 3 glasses wine, seltzer, 2 bowls, hunger 4/5
Cooked dinner for E, her gentleman caller, and B. Tarte flambe (sauteed bacon, carmelized onion and a smooth blend of cottage cheese and creme fraiche over a pizza base) came out great, much better than the 1st time I made it at home. The pork was sauteed well, though the pan sauce was off -- the month-old veal glace in the freezer tasted a little like it's plastic container, so I masked it with a little sugar and a dash of unreduced wine. The string beans came out well, though I messed up the pomme maxim AGAIN with too much butter and too high an oven temp. The ice cream made from the creme anglais was absolutely wonderful, but trying to caramelize the tops of the creme brulee under the broiler wasn't effective -- the top got a little dark and crunchy, but the whole thing got hot and liquidy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cake Finishing (How to Eat a Whole Lotta Cake)


What I thought would be a rote, mechanical day turned out to be a lot of fun -- the right balance of arts & crafts and practicing technique. Chef G reviewed a few basic terms in a short lecture (a thin layer of filling is a 'stripe', frosting is officially 'icing') and then we chose which cakes we were to spend the day making.

I chose Milk Chocolate. This cake involves milk chocolate ganache for icing, milk chocolate whipped cream for filling, and chocolate shavings for the sides. First step was to make the milk chocolate ganache, which is a rich ganache (ordinary ganache is 1 to 1 ratio of chocolate to cream, which is a bit loose. Rich ganache is 1.5 to 1 ratio of chocolate to cream, which when set is a bit firmer) made by simmering one pint of cream with lemon zest, then steeping for a while. Trash the zest, add 2oz butter, bring to a boil, pour oer 20 oz of milk chocolate and 4 oz of bittersweet. Let the hot, lemony cream soften the chocolate, then whisk to smooth. Let cool to room temp, to spreadable consistency.

While that was going on, the whipped cream was prepared. Yesterday, a pint of heavy cream had been boiled with 2oz sugar, then poured over 8oz of chopped milk chocolate, whisked to smooth, then a pint of cold cream was added. It was refrigerated overnight; today, I just plopped it in the stand mixer with a whisk attachment to get it to, well, whipped-cream consistency.
The cake itself had to be evened out -- with a long serrated bread knife, the blade is lightly sawed across the top to make the slightly rounded top completely flat, and to make the two layers the same thickness. (This resulted in lots of perfectly edible cake scrap, which eaten throughout class, ended up being rather filling.) With a small, off-set spatula, a layer of milk chocolate whipped cream was spread on top of one round, then the second round was placed on top. Again with the bread knife, the sides were trimmed to make them match perfectly.

By now the ganache has set pretty thick, helped along with whisking it on top of an ice bath. First ganache is spread on top to the edge, the the cake is lifted with the left hand and large plops of ganache is spackled on the sides, using a bit extra so that when it is smoothed, there is a bit of a lip on top going higher than the top. Once smoothed, it's put down and with an offset spatula the lip is pushed to the center to create a smooth, seamless edge. Writing this, it sounds easy, but it was surprisingly tricky to make it look good.

Chocolate shavings were lightly pushed into the sides with my palm, done over a piece of parchment paper to collect the and reuse all the chocolate that did not adhere. Once covered, a piping bag was filled with chocolate whipped cream and a line of 'shells' were drawn in a circle around the edge of the cake. With another bag filled with extra ganache, another circle of starts were piped on. It was tempting to go further and make a busier cake, but sometimes you just gotta know when to say when.

After just so much sugar and chocolate, I got so giddy at my creation I just had to take a video. Once I realized that the cake wasn't actually going to do anything interesting other than sit there and look chocolatey, I quickly stopped it:

video

Tomorrow, we continue on our sweet kick with custards -- crème brulée, bread pudding and the first step to making ice cream.

ADDENDA:
As I was in yoga, I started feeling a bit weak and shaky and unfocused -- it occured to me that not only had I mostly eaten cake and chocolate all day, but drank no water either. I quickly went to the rest room, slurped from the faucet, then felt a whole lot better. Even got into shoulder stand again, albeit briefly.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, smoothie, 1 bowl, hunger 3/5

AM TASTINGS: 9am-11:30am, chocolate pistoles, chocolate whipped cream, chocolate ganache, lemony white cake, bites of 5 or so different flavored cakes, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
Squarehead made caramel chocolate cake, involving butter ganache and caramel whipped cream on the rich chocolate cake we made yesterday, easily the most decadent, tasty, over-the-top cake of the day.

LUNCH: 3:45pm, Japanese pork fried rice, pork gyoza, a little soup, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

DINNER: 8pm, large green salad with oil & vinegar, 3 small school-made croissants, 1.5 bowls, hunger 4/5

Monday, August 25, 2008

Introduction to Cake (Let them Eat Cake...Tomorrow)


Class began with collecting the mise for lemon white cake, then a bit of lecture about the theory of cake. There are 9 mixing methods, three of which we explored. One creams the butter into the sugar, one creates a meringue by foaming whites and yolks separately with sugar, and the third is the Betty Crocker 'dump method' of combining the dry and the wet. Each method will result in a different kind of cake in crumb and texture.

Norbert and I mixed and baked the white cake (white, because it uses only egg whites -- if we used the whole egg, it would of been yellow cake) using the creaming method. Leavened by baking powdered, flavored with grated zest of lemon and a little lemon extract (cheap lemon vodka, really), and certain ratios of the usual suspects: cake flour, butter, salt, egg whites, whole milk. Into some round cake pans and into the oven. Slightly golden and cooked through, onto a speed rack.

The second cake we mised and made was a Pan di Spagna, a European style cake that has no leavener; it is made cakey strictly by the air whipped into the merange. Egg yolks, vanilla and sugar are whipped to soft peaks in one bowl, egg whites and sugar are heated over a hot water bath then whipped to peaks, then cold butter is put in and whipped to smooth. The two foams are folded to mix, but without beating out the air. Flour and cornstarch (both double sifted) are folded in until it's gone, then into pans to bake. No fat is used on the sides of the pan because this style of cake needs some grip when it rises and falls.

Different people were assigned different bits to help with tomorrow's class, cake decorating. I made a milk chocolate cream. A quart of heavy cream and 4 oz of sugar are brought to a boil, then poured over a pound of chopped up milk chocolate. After a couple of minutes, blended to smooth with a balloon whip in the mixer. Another quart of cold heavy cream is added and blended, then into the fridge -- tomorrow, it will be whipped.

ADDENDA:
The scale said 226 this morning, another pound upwards. Drinking a lot of water in bed last night, had a lot of dry mouth. This morning my muscles felt pretty good, no back ache, felt strong, but my stomach was in a knot and while riding to school felt a little nauseous.

I like Chef G, she's a little punchy and scrappy, but when we bake sweets, I feel very uninspired.

AM SNACKING: 9-11am, a couple of pieces of french bread, a couple handfuls of chocolate, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5
Felt queasy when waking, skipped breakfast.

LUNCH: 1:30pm, stirfried shrimp and broccoli with brown rice noodle, 1 quart water, hunger 4/5
Feel like I may be getting a little better at assembling a proper stir fry -- using fish stock (Saturday's had to be vegan) made a big difference.

PM DRUGGING: 2:30pm, 2 tylenol
Got sharp shooting migraine pains in the back of my head, almost blinding. Took these then another quart of water, went away literally a minute after the water.

DINNER: 5:30pm, masala dosai, pakora, water, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5
Kosher vegan Indian food, yum. Tastes remind me of my year in England.

EVENING SNORT: 7-9pm, about 1 glass of wine, assorted cheese n' crackers, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5
Wine class, all about Italy. Except for Barolo, they all kinda tasted samey.