Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sweets for Thanksgiving

Today's class was dedicated to preparing for (and storage of) next week's Thanksgiving meal. The meal is for the school -- about 150 mouths to feed; the logistics are a bit different than for serving 5 or 15. Desserts, whose high fat content makes them very freezable, were knocked off, as well as a special butter for yams and the corn bread for stuffing, which does not need to be fresh to be absolutely delicious.

There were a lot of recipes to get through, and only 6 students. I wanted to be out of there in a reasonable amount of time, I knocked off the easiest recipe off before the students came, a compound butter:


Yield: 2 pounds
Butter 2 lbs
Powdered sugar ½ cup
Cinnamon 3 tbsp
Salt 1 tbsp
1. Cut butter into uniform chunks.
2. Beat butter in mixer with paddle until soft. Scrape down sides with spatula. Add sugar, cinnamon and salt.
3. Continue beating until fully incorporated. Remove from mixer bowl onto center of large parchment paper square.
4. Roll into tight log, wrap in plastic, refrigerate minimum 2 hours.

This is probably the first (and will probably be the last) recipe that I simply made up. In conversations with the students last week about what was good and bad about last year's Thanksgiving meal, they described some sort of yam dish that involved marshmallows, which personally made my stomach tighten and twitch in a bad way. Next week, we will simply bake yams and serve them with this butter -- a candied, sweet element. At the end of class, we had an extra box of graham crackers and I served a little bit of the butter on them -- everyone really dug it.

The first recipe I had the students work on was the cheese cake. It can be complicated to make -- a batter of cream cheese and flavorings, slowly firmed by eggs.


Yield: 16 small servings x 5
X1 x5
Butter, melted 12 tbsp 2 lb
Graham cracker crumbs 2.5 cup 12.5 cup
White cane sugar 2 ¾ cup 14 cup
Cream cheese, room temperature 2 lb 10 lb
Sour cream ¼ cup 1 ¼ cup
Pumpkin puree 1 15oz can 5 15oz cans
Eggs, room temp, lightly beaten 6 each 30 each
Vanilla extract 1 tbsp 5 tbsp
Salt 1 tsp 5 tsp
Cinnamon 2 ½ tsp 3 tbsp & 1 tsp
Ground ginger 1 tsp 1 tbsp & 2 tsp
Ground cloves ¼ tsp 1 ¼ tsp
1. Preheat oven to 325˚. Brush 5 (five) 10-inch springform pans with some of the butter. Stir the remaining butter with the crumbs, 2.5/12.5 cups of the sugar and a large pinch/2 tsp of salt in a bowl.
2. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the 5 pans, packing tightly and evenly.
3. Bake under golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Cool, wrap the outside of the five pans with foil, place in hotel pans.
4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese in mixer until smooth. (Do 2 cakes in one machine if necessary, by doubling the ingredients of the “X1”column.) Add remaining sugar and beat until just light, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beaters as needed.
5. Beat in the sour cream, then add the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, salt and spices and beat until just combined.
6. Pour into cooled crust.
7. Gently place the hotel pans with the springform pans in them into the oven and pour boiling water into the hotel pan until in comes about halfway up the side of the springform pan.
8. Bake until the outside of the cheesecake sets but the center is still loose, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the door briefly to let out some heat.
9. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 more hour, then carefully remove from the hotel pans and cool. Refrigerate at least 8 hours.
10. Bring cheesecake to room temp 30 minutes before serving. Remove from springform pan.

First thing were to press buttery graham cracker crumbs into pans and blind bake them for 15-20 minutes, until they were nice n' toasty. I made the students really look at the recipe and make batches of the mix-ins (everything that went in together, the pumpkin, the eggs, the spices) while another started whipping the cream cheese and the sugar. The crusts came out and went into the freezer to cool fast while the batter waited for its home.

While the students got on with the other recipes I put the batter into the shells, got the pies into water baths, then the water baths into the oven for a long bake time; then set to cool.


Brownies, revisited. I let one student, who was so proud of his brownies last year, go with it. I was a bit disappointed; he didn't set up his mise, and got slowed down by having to crack eggs after he mixed sugar into his melted chocolate and butter...

Yield: 120 small servings

Butter 5 cup
Unsweetened chocolate 20 oz
White cane sugar 10 cup
Eggs 20 each
Vanilla extract* 5 tsp
Salt 2.5 tsp
1. Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease a hotel pan
2. In a large pot, melt butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly until fully melted and incorporated.
3. Remove for heat, stir in sugar. Allow to cool slightly.
4. Beat in the eggs three at a time, mixing well after each.
5. Add vanilla and salt, stir well.
6. Fold in flour, mix minimally. Spread batter into pan.
7. Bake 30-35 minutes. Brownies are done when toothpick is inserted into center and comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.

*Can be replaced by scrapings of 3 vanilla beans


Apple crisp: A recipe I've been making for years at home, revising it slowly. Things I learned: Tart green baking apples work best. Butter has to be cold going in to yield proper crumble and crisp. And even when the dish comes out over-baked, it's still kinda good.

I found that we were running out of hotel pans, so we divided this up into 6 10" cake rounds.


Yield: 100 servings

Sugar 3 cup
Lemon juice 1/4 cup
Water 1 1/2 cup
Cinnamon 2 tbsp
Apples, peeled, cored and sliced 36 each

Flour 4.5 cups
Sugar 3 cup
Salt 1 tbsp
Butter, small cubes, cold 2 ¼ cup
1. Preheat oven to 375˚. Combine 3 cups sugar, lemon juice and water in a hotel pan. Toss in apples, coat well.
2. In mixer beat flour, 3 cups sugar, salt and butter until crumbly.
3. Spread flour mixture over apple mixture, pat smooth.
4. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until apples are tender and crust is browned. Serve warm.


Cornbread stuffing (with sausage), a fundamentally simple method that depends very much on the quality of ingredients more so than skill. The last time I made cornbread at home, it was a flop because I used stale cornmeal that was in my cupboard for years. No such problem this time. This bread came out moist, delicious and got raves when we sampled it at the end of class.


Yield: 70 servings

Butter 2 lb
Sugar 5 ¼ cup
Eggs 16 each
Buttermilk 2 quart
Baking soda 1 tbsp & 1 tsp
Cornmeal 8 cups
AP flour 8 cups
Salt 1 oz
1. Preheat oven to 375˚. Grease a hotel pan.
2. Melt butter in a large pot. Remove from heat and stir in sugar.
3. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended.
4. Add buttermilk and baking soda and stir into mixture.
5. Stir in cornmeal, flour and salt until only a few lumps remain. DO NOT OVER MIX.
6. Pour batter into prepared pan.
7. Bake in over 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.


The class went well, only 45 minutes late after making a selection of desserts for 150. Next week will definitely be a challenge, on every level from organizing the sourcing of ingredients to the serving...