Savoriesnsweets’ Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Baking

This week I had 3 cakes to do!  THREE.  This was the most cake I’ve ever had to produce for anything so needless to say I was busy non-stop this week. With each cake, I focused on different techniques to decorate them and to make them customized for the recipient and the event.  I have to say I learned a LOT and am slowly thinking I’ve found something I’m not bad at!  It’s so great to be able to make such delectable creations for friends and family while I’m still learning new techniques.

The first cake was a cake for my Wilton Fondant and Gumpaste course. This is a chocolate stout cake with french vanilla buttercream.  I covered it in white fondant and made pink gumpaste carnations to top it.  I also made a fondant border and piped a bead border and Cornelli lace.  I took the cake to work and everyone loved it!

Fondant and gumpaste course cake

Here’s a shot of the inside of the cake.

The next cake was kind of a wedding cake.  Some friends of mine recently got married, but they only had family there.  I was told the day was lovely and of course completely hectic.  It was so hectic in fact, that the bride informed me that there was a cake there, but she didn’t remember what kind it was or even much about it as she wasn’t in charge of getting it.  So I offered to make the newly wedded couple a yummy cake for them to enjoy at their leisure and share with whomever they liked.  This actually was a good idea since I managed to get the cake to them upon their one month wedding anniversary and there was plenty to go around.

I made them a two tier square cake decorated with gumpaste cherry blossom flowers and gumpaste origami cranes.  Unfortunately, the cake got a little jostled while I was driving it over there and the fondant got a few nicks in it, but my friends didn’t mind at all.  The top layer was a moist yellow cake with mocha amaretto buttercream.  The top layer was a lemon cake with lemon curd and french vanilla buttercream.  My friends loved it and they shared the cake with friends and family over the next couple of days. I was also really happy to give them a wedding gift that they’d enjoy and remember!

Origami and cherry blossom cake

The third cake was for a friend’s birthday party.  It was a milestone birthday for him and so I decided to make him a really fun and yummy cake!  Since one of his favorite hobbies is painting, I decided to paint the entire cake in different colors.  I also knew he loved chocolate so I made the chocolate stout cake with french vanilla buttercream and mini chocolate chips.  I thought a chocolate stout cake was fitting since his birthday was going to be celebrated in a bar.  The cake was a real hit!  He thought it was a delicious work of art!!

Even though it was such a hectic week, it was a lot of fun making all these cakes!  Since my cake decorating classes are soon ending, I’m hoping I’ll be able to keep my skills sharp by making cakes for family and friends for all their different events.

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.

Baked Apples

Baked Apples

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Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp

Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie

A while ago a friend of mine sent me this link to a very simple bread baking recipe.  This recipe for No Knead Bread seemed almost too easy.  The basic idea is to let the yeast do all the work of building up the glutens in the bread, so you don’t have to really knead it.  I also watched the video while trying this.  Here’s a link to the video.  As far as my bread, it was delicious!!  Crusty outside, warm and soft inside with lots of air bubbles.  It was a long wait but totally worth it!  If you try to make this, I recommend baking a few loaves because one loaf won’t last very long!

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Today was another cold, grey,  wintery day and so I decided to try making olive bread again.  The last time I made it, a few weeks ago, was my very first attempt at making olive bread.  This time I used a different recipe from the Cooking Bread website.  So far, I actually do NOT like this recipe.   I am a novice at bread baking so I need very explicit, step-by-step directions.  While making the bread, I was not sure when to add certain things to the recipe.  For example, it calls for adding 1/4 cup of water with sugar and yeast.  This is to activate the yeast.  Then it says to add the yeast mixture to the bowl with the flour and then to add 1/2 cup of water.  But the recipe calls for 2 cups of water and never specifies when to add the rest of the water to the dough.  I ended up slowly adding the water after I had turned out the dough to begin kneading.  I also was not sure when to add the salt. And, adding the olives last made it hard to incorporate the olives into the dough.

Here were the ingredients I started with.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Here’s my yeast.  I put it in a bowl with warm water and some sugar to ensure it was active.  This is tricky since I had to be sure to use water that wasn’t too hot so I didn’t kill the yeast!

Yeast

Yeast

Here’s my yeast bubbling away….

Yeast Bubbling

Yeast Bubbling

Here’s my flour as I mix the yeast mixture into it.

Mixing Dough

Mixing Dough

This is the dough when I turned it out.  It really did not have much moisture, so I slowly added more water as I kneaded it.

Turned Out Dough

Turned Out Dough

After I kneaded, I then added the olives and then kneaded some more to incorporate them into the dough. I then set the dough in an oiled dish so that it can rise.

Olive Dough Before Rising

Olive Dough Before Rising

Here is the dough after rising.  I placed it on a floured pan so that it can rise again. Then, I put it in the oven.

After Rising

After Rising

Here is the finished bread.

Fresh Olive Bread

Fresh Olive Bread

I loved the golden crust.  It was very crunchy and had a great texture.

A Slice of Bread

A Slice of Bread

Here’s a slice of fresh bread.  It had lots of olives, but it didn’t have great texture.  It wasn’t light or airy, but very heavy and even a bit mushy.  The flavors were also not evenly distributed.  I think if I had mixed the olives earlier it may have resulted in a better tasting bread.  I did eat it with my dinner that night but I do still think I can do better.  Next time, I’ll try using bread flour and mixing my olives in earlier.

Every so often, I’ll have a burst of energy and a strong desire for something sweet.  I’ll start searching my cookbooks or combing the internet for a new recipe to try.  Tonight I tried two new recipes:  almond biscotti and brown sugar shortbread cookies.

Biscotti are really great, crunchy cookies that are baked twice to get their unique texture.  These cookies were very flavorful and crunchy.  I’m sure they will be even better tomorrow with my morning coffee!  I used a recipe from The Joy of Baking and it was easy to follow and helped me create these cookies in a relatively short time.  I think a sprinkle of powdered sugar would be a nice way to turn up the biscotti’s sweetness.  Or maybe dipping them in dark chocolate.  Here are some shots of the finished products!

Almond Biscotti

More Almond Biscotti!

As if 2 dozen biscotti weren’t enough, I decided to try my hand at shortbread.  That was not so good.  The recipe that I used from Recipe Matcher was simple to follow and very straightforward.  I had my oven set to 300 degrees F and it was preheated.  I put the cookies in for 20 minutes and nothing, they were still dough.  So I left then in for 5 more minutes.  Again, nada.  Another 5 minutes….nada.  So, this time I turned up the heat to 350 degrees and waited another 10 minutes.  The cookies were golden brown, but they weren’t very tasty.  Unfortunately, they were just very dry and crumbly and not even very sweet.

I’ve never made shortbread before, so I don’t know what I did wrong or if I should have left them in longer.  I do know that I had issues with my brown sugar.  I have yet to find a way to effectively store my brown sugar so that it doesn’t turn into a huge, dry block of sugar.  So, while I did start my recipe by beating room temperature butter, I had crumbly, dry brown sugar that I actually had to pound out to pulverize.  It wasn’t a pretty or fun task.  Maybe my dried out brown sugar was the problem?  I dont know.  I may try shortbread again another day, but for now, these cookies would probably only be good for crumbling over ice cream. Here’s some shots.

Shortbread Cookies

Short Bread 2I noticed right away the flecks of the brown sugar that were not properly mixed because they were too big.  I also noticed they had an odd consistency.  Some of the lessons I’ve learned from this is that I NEED to learn how to store brown sugar properly and I need to find a different recipe for shortbread cookies.

As I’m in between jobs right now, I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen trying new things.  Today, I noticed we had some overly ripe bananas so I decided to make some banana bread.  I used this recipe from Simply Recipes.  The bread was yummy and delicious.  It was very full of banana flavor, moist inside and had a nice crust on the outside.  It was also sweet, but not overly sweet.    I do think I have to adjust the cooking time for my oven as it was a little burnt around the edges.  I know this isn’t ideal, but I actually happen to like the crust that formed and that bit of crunch.  Here’s some pictures of my day’s project.

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Sliced Banana Bread

Sliced Banana Bread

Please pardon the not-so-great photos.  I’m using my blackberry for the time being, since my digital camera broke! 😦

Usually most people go out for Valentine’s Day either for dinner or a show or movie or both. This year, my significant other decided to cook a delicious meal for me! He made a chicken francaise and a pastry stuffed with spinach on the side. It was delicious! But best of all, he made it all on his own from start to finish! This occasion also marked my birthday, since it was earlier this week. This was truly the best gift! He also gave me some lovely flowers that almost looked hand-painted.

On Saturday, I decided to do some baking of my own and try my hand at baking bread. I didn’t have my cookbooks, so I just looked up basic recipes online. I also didn’t have a mixer so I did all the mixing and kneading by hand. The first loaf was a plain white loaf. This one was dense and crusty. It was a heavy bread but it was still savory. The next was a nice olive loaf. The bread was lighter and softer. It was also MUCH tastier with the addition of chopped olives and some dried thyme. I think I’m definitely going to make the olive loaf again! Have a look at the baking I did over the weekend.

Valentine's Day Flowers

Valentine's Day Flowers

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Olive Loaf

Plain Loaf

Plain Loaf