Archive for July 2009
Since we learned how to make different doughs in class I’ve been inspired and decided I should try and practice at home. The ingredients for the doughs are fairly straightforward, the only issue has been the fact that it’s been rather warm and humid. Last weekend I made a cherry pie using this method and I was successful. I decided to try again with some lovely pears I found in my local market. I made the dough and placed it in my refrigerator to rest. I then peeled, cored and chopped my pears. I added cornstarch, sugar and some seasonings. I then thought it might be nice to add something in there for some crunch, so I reached into my cabinet for some sliced almonds. I added them to the bowl with the fruit and I soon saw little, teeny things crawling. Without realizing it, some bugs have made a home out of that almond bag!! I had to throw the whole thing out and start all over. This time though, I didn’t have as many pears, so I used some leftover cherries I had from the cherry pie. The result was a nice pie with a flaky crust, just the right amount of filling and a nice contrast of textures between the pears and the cherries. Who knew you could make a good pie just out of different fruits around the house?
Here’s how I made my pie dough.
1 recipe of pate brisee:
1 pound of AP flour
1/2 pound cake flour
1 pound butter, cold
1 tsp salt
6 oz cold water
1. Mix the flour, salt, cake flour in a bowl and combine.
2. Cut the butter into cubes.
3. Place the butter in with the dry ingredients and break it up with your hands until you have cranberry sized pieces.
4. Once the butter is incorporated, add the water and mix until the dough comes together. It should be very shaggy and it may seem like it needs more water but it won’t.
5. Once it has come together somewhat, turn it out onto your work surface and use a bench scraper to help combine the dough even more. Once it is all one mass, shape it into a disc, wrap and store in your refrigerator to rest. You should still see pieces of butter in your dough. If your butter feels like it’s melting, stop working with it and put it in the refrigerator for the butter to harden again.
4 pears, peeled, cored and chopped
approximately 12 cherries, stems and pits removed
1/2 cup sugar
2 T cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt (pinch)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 egg beaten with 1 T water
raw sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
To make pie:
1. Peel, core, and half pears into a bowl.
2. Remove the pits from the cherries and halve them.
3. Add sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, salt and vanilla extract. Mix to combine and reserve. Pre-heat your oven to 450F.
4. Once your dough has rested 30 minutes, take it out of the refrigerator and divide it in half. Roll half the dough into a disk shape large enough to cover a 9″ pie dish and place it in the pie dish. If it’s warm in your kitchen you may want to keep your dough you are not working with in the refrigerator.
5. Place your filling into the pie dough, leaving the juices in the bowl.
6. Roll out the rest of the dough into another disk shape.
7. Top the pie with the remaining piece of dough and crip the edges.
8. Cut a vent in the top of the pie and brush with the beaten egg. If you like, sprinkle some raw sugar on top. I like to use Demarara sugar.
Here’s some shots of my lovely pie!
Remember pizza parties in school? We had them a lot growing up. They were usually a reward for some kind of inter-class competition. Or they were a substitute for the cake & ice cream in a birthday party. (Who knew that even as kids we’d have preferences for savory vs. sweet?) Today is pizza day in class and I’m excited! We get to make the pizza party for ourselves!
I have made home made pizzas before. Well, kind of. I’ve used the pizza dough you can buy at the store. (I like Trader Joe’s since they’re fairly cheap at $1.99 per crust and made of pretty good ingredients.) I’ve also made my own dough from scratch. Yup, I put flour, yeast, water and some olive oil together all by myself, pre-culinary/pastry training and my results weren’t bad. They weren’t the results you’d get from a pizzeria, but then again, I wasn’t going for that. I was usually going for something that I could say was not too bready, not too thin, yet still sturdy enough to hold a variety of toppings.
Now, how to best top a pizza is an important topic as it can make or break the pizza. I know most people love the pepperoni or the sausage on their pizzas but I can honestly say I’m not a fan. I think the meat weighs down the light dough and since the toppings are baked onto the pie, the result is too greasy for me. I like to go for vegetarian toppings. I love a nice olive pizza, mushroom pizza or what I like to call my “Greek pizza”.
When I’m at home and just making one or two pies for my family or some friends I usually will make one of their liking, even with meat, and I’ll make a veggie version. I love a good “Greek pizza”. Why do I call it Greek? Because it has all the components of a classic Greek salad! I top my pizza dough with a generous layer of spinach leaves, thinly sliced red onions, chopped tomatoes and feta cheese. I then drizzle some olive oil over it and sprinkle some oregano over the entire pie. I don’t include the cucumbers since I don’t think they would cook up well. I seem to be the biggest fan of this pizza and that’s ok. It’s light, airy and still delicious.
Anyway, we had a great variety of toppings to use in class for both pizza and calzones. We had mozzarella, ricotta, goat’s cheese, mushrooms, olives, anchovies, sausage, prosciutto, bacon, zucchini, spinach, onions and peppers. We also made focaccia bread and bread sticks. I came home with a LOT of pizza, calzones and bread so my freezer is being put to good use!
Unfortunately, we did have a few problems. Since we didn’t have class yesterday because there was no water, our dough remained in the refrigerator slowly fermenting for an extra day. This dough was REALLY hard to work with. It broke really easily and it was difficult to get the appropriate texture. Some of the batches were also stickier than others. And others were puffier. It also tasted very yeasty which is what makes me think it over fermented. I managed to take some shots of my dough while I was letting it rest. I figured that might make things easier, but I think it only made for a good time for a photo.
Despite my holey and difficult dough, my partner & I managed to turn out several good pizzas. This was a carbonara pizza pre-baking.
And fresh out of the oven…
We then made a puttanesca pizza and a pizza margherita.
And of course we had to have some mushroom and meat lover’s pizza. The meat lover’s features sausage and prosciutto.
And the day wouldn’t be complete without sausage & peppers calzones, focaccia and poppy seed breadsticks.
I also made two mini-pizzas, one with sun-dried tomatoes and pesto and another with zucchini and goat cheese. These small pies are currently taking up residence in my frezer. As for the rest of tonight’s creations, I think they would make for a great lunch tomorrow!
This week in pastry we’ve been focusing on yeast breads so we made semolina bread, soft rolls, breadsticks and pizza dough. Today is pizza day in class so I’m eager for class. But after class last night, I came home with a little over a dozen little semolina rolls. I didn’t know what to do with them all so I thought about it and decided to make sausage sliders! I grilled some broccoli-garlic sausage, spinach, comte cheese and my fresh rolls. I also made a quick barbecue sauce. This was a great lunch and a delicious way to use up all that I baked last night. I knew it was a good idea to learn culinary techniques! If you’d like to try this also here’s my recipe.
- 1 T canola oil
- 1 shallot minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup whiskey/bourbon
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1tsp Tabasco
- In a heated pan, heat 1 T of oil.
- Add shallot and cook until translucent.
- Add garlic.
- De-glaze with bourbon or whiskey. Cook until reduced by half.
- Add ketchup, tomato puree, cider vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and cayenne.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened.
Sliders (Yield: approximately 13 sliders)
- 2lb Sausage
- 1 shallot, minced
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Garlic powder, 2 T
- 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup-3/4 cup Comte cheese, shredded
- 12 semolina rolls
- Barbecue sauce, homemade or your preferred brand
- Remove the sausage from the casings.
- Add the shallot, salt, pepper and garlic powder and mix into the sausage.
- Form approximately 2 ounce sausage patties.
- Heat and oil a grill pan.
- Cook the sausage patties until grill marks appear and the meat is cooked through.
- Move patties to a rack to rest.
- To assemble sliders, halve each semolina roll and place a patty on the bottom half. Top each patty with a few spinach leaves and mound with shredded cheese. If you like, melt the cheese under the broiler for a few minutes. Top with the other half of the semolina roll. Serve sauce on the slider or on the side.
Here’s some shots of my yummy creation!
So far, cutting fruit, kneading dough, proofing it and baking it have not been a problem. However, I have encountered two BIG challenges in the pastry course: making cornets and writing in chocolate. So far the best instructions I’ve found are here, courtesy of Dyann Bakes. Basically, a cornet is a cone made out of parchment paper which is used to write in chocolate or icing. If you are skillful, you can achieve stunning results that look very clean and realistic. For our exam, we only have to create a standard border around a “cake” and write “Happy Birthday Name”. We’ve been given couverture chocolate to practice with at home as well as cake cardboards.
Just making cornets is challenging enough! I’ve managed to mangle more pieces of parchment paper than I care to count. I’ve managed to fold 1000 origami cranes but creating a lovely cornet is ridiculous. I also almost always cut too big a hole in my cornet, so I end up with chocolate dripping in places where I do not want it, essentially littering my “cake”. Chef advises more practice. She also says it’s actually easier to work faster and higher up from the “cake”. I’ve been trying and the following are the best attempts I’ve got so far. If anyone out there has any words of advice or knows of any resources that can help, I’d appreciate it! In the meantime, here are some shots at my attempts. I hope these survive the train ride to class so I can at least get credit for doing my homework.
Anybody who knows me knows that I love food, but I especially love baking & pastry! As we finished mod 3, I grew more and more excited to start a course all about my favorite topic. I often came home after class and would spend my nights baking different treats. I figured since it was some time until I learned about it, I might as well try to self-educate. Many of the results of my self education are posted.
Now that I am in the baking & pastry mod, I have begun to re-think some things. Do I wish I had enrolled in the pastry course in stead of culinary? No–I learned a LOT in the culinary segments. And should I stick with this industry, I do think it’s important to know how the savory side of the kitchen works. I also think it’s important to consider the full picture of a meal from the production standpoint as well as from the consumer’s standpoint. What dessert would someone want? Someone that just ate a steak may not want something very rich and sweet. Maybe just some sorbet or a light panna cotta? Knowing how to end a meal on a high note means you also have to know the other notes in that meal’s symphony. I do however wish I had the opportunity to also enroll in the pastry course. The expense right now is just too much and while I’m sure I would enjoy every minute of it, I’m not entirely convinced I absolutely need the course to succeed in the pastry kitchen. That being said, I do think I need to ensure I constantly educate myself about different aspects of the sweet kitchen and that I try as many things as possible on my own.
In class we are learning classic French techniques of pastry. Of course, this results in rich, delicious, butter-filled goodness every time! The progression of this course is good in the sense that we seem to mimic the pastry program, but in a 6 week period. Even though chef says this course is going at a very fast pace, I’m really loving it and I’m not finding myself needing to come up for air anytime soon!
We started with poaching, candying and cutting fruits. This is harder than it sounds. Many people, myself included, in class were not aware of how to best peel an apple nor how to best slice it for a pie or tart. Then we moved on to doughs. Doughs have always been scary to me. I’ve only tried to make simple pizza doughs never a pie or tart dough. I just never quite knew how to handle them. But we did learn all about pate brisee, pate sucree, and pate sablee (cookie dough). My classmates and I successfully made several different tarts using the pate brisee and pate sucree. I also used the same technique I learned in class to make a cherry pie at home! More practice doesn’t hurt right?
Week 2 of pastry took us to the land of puff pastry and yeasted doughs. I never made any of these items before so I was super excited and I really loved it! We made puff pastry and then proceeded to make napoleons, cheese sticks, apple crisp, pithiviers and palmiers. These were all flaky, sweet and delicious! Then we learned how to make fresh croissants, brioche, bagels and pretzels. I never knew how delicious croissants were when they were made so fresh! I also never knew how easy it was to make fresh bagels & t! I’ll definitely be trying those recipes again!
I’m looking forward to learning about pizza doughs and petite fours. Pizza day is gonna be delicious! I’ll leave you with some shots of the sweet productions made in my class.
I know I haven’t been posting much lately. I’ve had some family drama and I briefly started an externship. I say briefly because as events were unfolding with my family, I decided my day would be better spent with them instead of getting a head start on my externship. The chefs at the restaurant understood and I do still have that door open to me should I decide to continue externing there. It is a great environment to start my new food career and I do hope there will still be a place for me.
Aside from that, I was mired with the different concepts of international cooking. Our Mod 3 course was all about regional and international cuisine. I did enjoy learning a lot of the dishes. The one thing I wish we had more of was Asian/Indian cuisine. We only did a few days on different Indian and Thai curries and about two days on Chinese cooking. This was really the most challenging for me since I was very unfamiliar with many of the ingredients and how to use them. Meanwhile, the rest of the mod was dedicated to traditional French and Italian cuisine. I understand these two regions are very important to the development of cuisine but there really is only so much pasta, cream, butter, etc, even I could take!
Here’s some shots of some of our most delicious Mod 3 cuisines.
As usual, this mod ended with a written and a practical exam. I neglected the written. Unfortunately, I paid for that with 4 questions wrong–all stupid mistakes! But, I aced the practical! For me, this was the most stressful practical. We had to prepare a supreme of chicken breast which is basically the entire breast with the first wing bone still attached and the bone is “Frenched”. (Meaning all the skin and flesh is scraped from the bone.) We also had to prepare a pan sauce, potato side dish (anything but potato puree) and a vegetable. In other words, we had to come up with our own dish for this exam! Figuring out the pan sauce was simple for me. I wanted to do something that would ensure the chicken would remain moist and that would be light and still have good texture, so I made a lemon-cream-tarragon sauce. (If you’re interested in my recipes for this test, I’ve included them at the end of the post.) I tried potatoes and vegetables different ways over the weekend before the test, but during the test I went for a simple potato pancake and asparagus with lardons. Chef said my chicken was perfectly cooked and my sauce was still light and flavorful. My potatoes were tasty but greasy. And I should have blanched my asparagus to ensure they would be a nice green instead of slightly grey. I managed to ace this exam and I finished with half the time we had allotted to us remaining!
Since we were all stressed out about this exam, I decided to bring something to cheer us all up. I brought in some rainbow cookies since they are easy to transport and they’re nice, small bite-sized treats. I also didn’t want to spend the day of the test agonizing over it. I had 4 tupperware containers full of cookies and I asked chef if I could put them by his table so people could just help themselves. I ended up only leaving one container there. A few minutes later, chef brought it back empty!! While sitting there he ate all the cookies!! As it turns out, rainbow cookies are one of his favorites and he has a real weakness for them! I was shocked to see such a tough guy have such an intense sweet tooth! I was also pleased that he enjoyed them so much! Since the next mod was all about pastry I felt encouraged that I would do well in the land of desserts!
Chicken with Lemon-Cream Tarragon Sauce
1 whole chicken with breasts cut into supremes
1 shallot, minced
butter (as needed)
1 cup (approx) chicken stock (if not using homemade, try to get one with the lowest sodium possible)
juice of half a lemon
about 1 cup heavy cream
2-3 stalks of tarragon
Step 1: Cut the chicken breasts into supreme. (this means cutting the entire breast off the chicken including the skin and the first wing bone)
(I KNOW there will be a temptation to use pre-cut chicken breasts, but trust me, including the bone and skin will ensure a moist chicken breast, even if you don’t eat the skin later).
Pre-heat your oven to 400F.
(Note: You know your oven best, so if it runs hotter than normal, I would use a lower temp.)
Step 2: Pre-heat a large saute pan and melt some butter in the pan.
Step 3: Season your chicken with salt & pepper. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down.
Step 4: After the chicken has achieved a nice, golden color, turn to the other side.
Step 5: Once the second side has also become browned, place the pan into the oven to finish the cooking. After 3-4 minutes in the oven, turn the chicken and continue another 3-4 minutes.
Note: This step of course depends on how hot or cool your oven may run, so just keep an eye on it.
Step 6: Remove your chicken from the oven and place on a cooing rack. Now you’re ready to make your sauce!
To make sauce
Step 1: De-grease the pan you used to make the chicken, removing only excess grease–NOT everything.
Step 2: Heat you pan and add minced shallots. Cook until translucent.
Step 3: Add chicken stock and scrape the pan to remove all the bits stuck to it. (This is known as the “fond” and will add TREMENDOUS flavor to your sauce, as long as it’s not burnt!)
Step 4: Simmer until reduced by 3/4.
Step 5: Add lemon juice.
Step 6: Reduce heat to low and add cream. (Be careful with the cream because adding too much heat to dairy can cause it to curdle. Take care to make sure it doesn’t boil! Also the acid from the lemon can cause it to curdle so it should be well-incorporated)
Step 7: Check your sauce for seasoning and add salt & pepper as necessary. Add tarragon, stir and remove from heat. Top your chicken breast with the sauce.
2 potatoes, shredded on the box grater
4 oz clarified butter
salt & pepper to taste
1. Shred your potatoes on the box grater using the medium holes.
2. Heat a saute pan with some clarified butter.
3. Squeeze out all the moisture from your potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Remember, potatoes are bland so you may feel like you’re adding a lot more than you’d need, but you do probably need it!)
4. In the heated pan, mound your potatoes and flatten them with a spoon to create a pancake. Cook until golden brown.
5. To cook the other side, either flip your pancake. Or, you can finish in the oven until golden brown.
6. Place on a rack to cool and slice.
Asparagus with Lardons.
half a bunch of asparagus (about 6-10 good spears), with the tough ends trimmed
1 shallot, minced
2 oz white wine
garlic, 1 clove, sliced
1 oz olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1. Place a large pot of boiling, salted water to boil and set up an ice bath. This will be to blanch your asparagus to ensure they retain their lovely green color. Once your water is ready, blanch your asparagus for 30 -60 seconds.
2. Place the lardons in a heated saute pan. Cook until they become crisp and the fat has rendered.
3. Add the shallots and cook until translucent
4. Add the olive oil and slices of garlic.
5. Once the garlic has started to infuse the oil, add your blanched asparagus.
6. De-glaze the pan with white wine.
7. Cook until the wine has reduced and the asparagus is tender. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.