Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Break

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Day 9 and 10 of BPT – It’s all a blur now…

We’ve done so much baking I’m having troubles keeping it all straight. Ok let’s see..

On the first day of baking the Chef assigned to us… no no cannot do that again. I’ve got to stay focused.

Ok day 9 we had a big pizza fest. Three groups, 6 pizza’s each – 3 thin and 3 Chicago style. That’s a lot of pizza folks! I’m not sure what everyone else did but our group did the following

Thin # 1 – Pesto with Prosciutto and Mozzarella

Thin # 2 – Tomato base with cherry tomatoes roasted in EVO and balsamic vinegar and garlic slices, fresh basil and Mozzarella.

Thin # 3 – Base was carmalized onions, roasted garlic and Gorgonzola cheese.

Chicago # 1 – Cheese, tomato base, green peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni and onions.

Chicago # 2 – Cheese – Mozzarella and Parmesan and pepperoni’s.

Chicago # 3 – A margarita style pizza, fresh tomatoes, cheese and basil

One of the other teams made a buffalo chicken pizza that oh my lord made my mouth water (and burn) even after I had eaten several pieces of our pizza. I ended up eating 6.5 pieces of pizza that night.

And if that wasn’t enough we also baked off our Ciabatta (Italian for ‘slipper’) bread. We each made a large loaf of this bread and I ended up bringing 2 loaves to my office to share. I have so much bread at home!

On day 10 we switched gears a bit and while still baking went over to the sweet side once more. It was a day of Croissants, fruit-filled Danishes, cake doughnuts and blueberry muffins. Since there were 4 in our group we each took and item and went to work. Well sort of. The dough for the Danishes and Croissants had to thaw a bit. So I worked on the blueberry muffins. Not a big fan of muffins and no fan at all of fruit. I must say they came out very good. ‘J’ worked on the doughnuts. We coated some in chocolate, some in cinnamon sugar. Chef made a point of saying ‘do not over-work the dough or they will be tough’. Ours were a little tough, but hey it was his first time making this dough. At least they weren’t as tough as one of the other groups chef said. Next up Danish time. What fun!! We made pinwheel shapes, fold overs, window panes, inverted pinwheels and a lot more. They were do tasty. Ok so I don’t like fruit, but the jam wasn’t too bad. The dough far outshone the jam and even chef said “These are the best I’ve had in 2 terms.” Woo Hoo’s to Carey she was in charge of the Danish dough. It’s Croissant time. Our dough is ready and let’s roll these bad boys out up and over. They get baked off and while a beautiful color the chef said they were slightly under cooked. I’m trying to think of how we could have cooked them longer without them getting too dark. I shall have to ponder this or ask Chef about it tomorrow.

Tomorrow is cookie night and ice-cream night along with prepping for our Plated Desert Presentation set for Friday. That’s when we’ll use the Truffles we made way early on in the program.

Until Then!!....

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Day 8 of BPT – Finishing up the Breads

Well tonight was fun. We made Rosemary Foccacia bread, dinner rolls, poolish starter, and pizza dough. This was definitely one of those days to hurry up and wait. We, our group (well not the group as assigned by Chef but the 4 of us who regularly hang together Lynndy, Eddie, Carey and myself), took an hour break in the library because we had everything done and had to wait on the dinner roll dough to double in size. So we read up on recipes, did some vacation planning for Lynndy (snickers) and talked about muffins and the best type of butter to use. (I wish you could see how hard I’m laughing but there is just no way to explain inside jokes. And you probably wonder then why post them, well it’s my blog and it’s for my memories and it makes me laugh.)

So it’s time for the dinner rolls to be punched down, formed up and allow to rise yet again. Forming them was neat because you can get pretty creative. We did the standard round ones, but then we did knots, braids, I did rounds with slashes to create different affects. I saw on a poster where an egg dough was used to make the shape of a grape cluster. I asked Chef if that would work with the dough we used and he said it should. So since it’s on the finals I’m going to attempt it.

Tonight was the first night, in BPT, I feel as if I touched my ‘inner baker’. I have found that while I don’t enjoy making cakes, I do like the tarts and breads. Tomorrow we’re doing croissant dough and sweet tart dough. Maybe it’s because the things we’re making that I enjoy are things you really have a hands on approach with. You’re forming things, arranging things etc. Whereas a cake you mix it up, pour it into a pan and let it bake. We get to decorate our butter cakes we made when we return from Christmas break so that part will be hands on.

The Foccacia was so delicious. I could have eaten more but was worried about over stuffing. Carey made a wonderful dipping sauce to go with ours (we did this item in teams of 2) with balsamic, red pepper flakes, olive oil and garlic. You just can’t get any better than that. Of course I had to eat more. I’d never be able to survive on the Atkins diet. Bring me my Carbs!

I can’t wait for tomorrow – Pizza!! We’re in teams of 2 and we’re making 3 pizza’s. Carey and I have decided on – Pesto Pizza with Prosciutto and Mozzarella, Red Onions with cherry tomatoes sautéed in balsamic vinegar and basil, and the third not too sure yet will wait to see what strikes us. She and I have both been to Rome and know how the traditional Rome style pizza should be. No more than 4 toppings and that includes the cheese. Crust should be thin…well check out the very first post on this blog. I believe the recipe is there and trust me, it is a winner!

Not much else for tonight so will update tomorrow after the pizza party!

Until Tomorrow!...

Day in the Life

Well today was the day I helped out at the school. Our Chefs for today were Chef Knight and Chef Deshay. As you might recall Chef Knight was my first instructor in PCA I. Chef Deshay teaches the class I’m in now but in the afternoons.

On the tasting menu for the potential newibes –

Black Olive Tapanade on toasted baguette
Green Olive Tapanade on fried polenta
Stuffed Dates wrapped in bacon
Peppermint Cream stuffed profiteroles

We had 3 students helping out, myself, Tiny and Olivia. Tiny is in APCA (4th term) and Olivia is in the same session I am in but in the afternoon class.

I was in charge of the black olive Tapanade, Tiny the green and Olivia did the stuff dates. Everything was pretty much made for them. They just had to assemble them. I think it would have been more fun if they had to make the Tapanade but since over 35 showed up that might have been tough. Not to mention the fact they haven’t had any of the safety lectures on how to use the equipment.

There was one issue in which the polenta just wouldn’t cooperate. Chef Knight asked me “Red to remember how to make Polenta?!” I told her of course and she said get on it and make me 2 batches fast! Ok…no pressure here…off I got to PCA II to make polenta. Oh thank heavens it came out perfectly! I would have hated to let the chef down.

The surreal part was as I was walking around checking in on the newbies to see how they were doing or if they had questions a couple of times I would hear “Chef can you look at this?” …”Chef is this right?”…and I kept walking on by until one of them touched my arm and goes “Chef?” I laughed and apologized for not answering sooner, but see those folks up there wearing the black? Those are the ‘Chefs’, I’m a student but I do appreciate the honorific. The cute part was when one woman asked me “So do they always have a sous chef to help prep and do the dishes?”, when I was taking her dirty dishes to the sink. I’m going to hell for this but looked at her and “Yes..yes they do.” I knew if I told her the horror stories of what we went thru she’d run screaming into the night never to be seen again except on those rare nights when the moon is full we’ll hear her cackling “wash em…wash em..”

After they all assembled their appetizers they took their platters to the main dining hall to enjoy them. This also affords the recruiters an opportunity to get them signed up and committed. Unfortunately for us it means it’s time to clean the kitchen. And that means just the 3 of us get to clean the lab that 30+ people just dirtied. Oh the joy! And true to form there’s always someone who doesn’t pull their weight and that was Olivia. Tiny ended up doing all the dishes, I wiped and scrubbed the lab and she was no where to be seen. At least this wasn’t a shock to me hahaha!

It was a fun day and it was enjoyable to talk with the potential new students. I know of one gentleman who is already signed up and due to start in January. They all had a lot of questions and that excited energy I remember so well before I started. I hope to see their faces in January.

On Monday in class we’re making our pizza dough, dinner rolls, the poolish starter for Ciabiatta bread and Rosemary Foccacia bread. What a good day that will be :)

Until Then!...

Day 7 of BPT – All those in favor of Bread say ‘Aye!’ AYE!

Tonight marked another night of bread and you’ll no complaints from me. We made our Italian Batards (2 loaves), Brioche loaf, Brioche a Tete and Stickybuns.

Stickybuns…think Homer Simpson…now say it…AaaaahHhhhh Stickybuns (with a bit of drool on the corner of your mouth.) That’s the affect these things have. Your mouth starts drooling long before you make the caramel or the brown sugar cinnamon butter. Even now I’m very close to shorting out my keyboard. I know that when I tell folks of stickybuns they instantly think of the place in the mall that sells those big fluffy cinnamon buns with the cream cheese icing. These are not the same. These are very, well, sticky and have a caramel topping. We did some with pecans and others with no nuts.

My Brioche loaf came out very good but my a Tete had a slight mishap. An a Tete is baked in what looks to be a large fluted muffin pan. It holds about one pound of dough. You then make a small mound on the top like a knob with about 2 ounces of the dough. Well mine was going great and rising just fine, then it went into the oven…ah the smell was fantastic; time to pull it out and check it. Um… Houston we have a situation. My knob has risen and cooked up and in between 2 of the bars on the rack above it. Sadly enough it must be sacrificed.

The Italian Batards were very different. You start with ‘biga’ (pronounced bee-ga)which is a starter for your dough and it’s made the day before. In the traditional way the bread for the new day was started with a bit of the unsalted starter taken from yesterday’s bread making. No new dry or cake yeast is added, just a cup or so of the biga. So you take this starter and add it to flour, water and butter and get it well incorporated and let it to the rise thing. It’s a very rustic bread and I think the perfect match to a beef stew. Well at least today it is since that’s what I’m having with it for lunch.

Baking bread is just a fun experience. As I’ve said before you really must give it a try!

Tomorrow I’m working at the school for the “Day in a Life” session. This is where potential new students get to come for the day and experience a cooking session. I’m looking forward to it. I remember mine very well.

Until Tomorrow!...

Friday, December 15, 2006

Day 6 of BPT – Bread, Fire and Drama

Where to begin? Sometimes it best to start in the middle, go the end and back the beginning.

Let’s do that –

The Middle - Yes we had a small fire in our kitchen last night. Nothing major, Chef acted in swift fashion and had everything under control in no time. What happened was we had the flat ovens on (pizza ovens) for our French Baguettes which were currently rising in the proofer. In the mean time we all made a batch of Rye bread which also had to rise but there wasn’t enough room in the proofers so Chef said we could put them on top of the flat ovens on a rack. Which we all did. And so did the class before us. I mention this because I feel this is where the mishap started. The afternoon class had pushed the wooden pizza peels back to make room for bowls of bread. Then comes our class and we push them back farther. Since these ovens are rather tall no one noticed the vents way in the back where the very hot air is escaping. Next thing you know there’s flames and about 10 pizza peels are totally ruined. Chef never got flustered and took command of the situation. We didn’t even have to use the fire extinguisher. (See side note at the bottom on this) We were back in production in no time. I’m just glad we’re not making pizza tomorrow because we low on peels now. I was disappointed in one student who made the comment “It’s ok Chef we’ll make sure they know it’s your fault haha”. That to me was uncalled for. Chef True was in NO way at fault. This was due to a compilation of a lot of errors throughout the day and was just an accident. But to throw your instructor under a bus like that was downright rude. At first I wasn’t going to blog this event because I didn’t want to bring more light to it. However, after that comment and knowing how the buzz will get around the school I figured at least there’d be a public statement here.

Side Note – As I mentioned about the fire it was funny and surreal to me because the day before the Chef left the lab to go make some copies. Every time a chef leaves the kitchen (at least in PCA I and II) the chefs will say “I’ll be right back, don’t burn the down the kitchen while I’m gone.” Kind of like telling an actor moments before going up on stage “Break a leg!” That got me to thinking...gee if we had a big fire the overhead system would go off, but if we did have a spot fire where is the fire extinguisher? I did a quick look around and didn’t see one. Oh come on the kitchen HAS to have one. It does but it’s not visible to the students from their stations. It’s on a pillar on the side that faces the chef instructor. So when the chef asked if someone would get the extinguisher just in case, no one knew where it was. But I did! I’m glad we didn’t need it.

The End - The drama started with two students, both of which are ‘moody’ but in different conflicting ways. E is lack-a-dazy and A is a brooder. In the mean time I should mention I was the sous chef for the evening, which translated to ‘Mom’. These two were both coming to me a different intervals E – “A is so overly moody tonight. I can’t stand his attitude!” A – “E is lazy and not doing her share. I’m sick of it!” and so on throughout the night. I had had enough. Then one of the gals was putting plates away and lost control and ending up dropping a couple that shattered in her hands and on the ground. Next thing I hear is 3 of the guys going “OoOoOoOoOo!!!” and that’s when I went into Mom mode. “Close it! We’re not in 3rd grade and this isn’t a play ground! More importantly how about asking if Janette is ok?” Right after that, within a minute, I hear E yelling at A “I have had enough of you!! Knock it off! Get out of my face and stop talking to me or about me behind my back you ass!” That’s when I had to separate them “Both of you quit it now!” and if that wasn’t enough a couple of our other fellow students thought it was funny “OoOoOOo you guys are in trouble now…” so I decided to remind them they had jobs to do and got out the list of chores. These same folks were still in the processing of getting all their stuff finished up and true to form the main 4 were doing all the cleaning again. So I told chef that since Carey and Eddie had done their chores I was not going to let them continue cleaning because they were done and had nothing else to do, and, that others could just do theirs when they were done and I would stay and make sure they got done. Chef agreed. I really wish he’d let me be the sous chef each night only because I have no problem ensuring things are done and if he needs someone to be ‘the bad guy’ I’ll do it. At least this way I could help ensure things are fair with regards to cleaning and chores. Sheesh. This was, by far, the oddest night we’ve had.

The Beginning – The bread was so much fun. I love making bread. Everything about it to me is enjoyable. The smell of the yeast and flour while you mix/knead it. Waiting for it to rise and peeking at it and seeing it getting bigger. (which makes one very happy because you know your yeast is working) Forming it and of course baking it off.

We made French Baguettes, Russian Rye and made biga for Italian Batard and Brioche. The Brioche we will make a loaf of Brioche bread and use the remainder for Sticky Buns tomorrow.

The baguettes were just delish and my daughter has already eaten a half a loaf of the rye. I can see me making a few more of these and giving these away as gifts in food baskets. Oh to have spare time to do such wonderful tasks. Lol! The really nice thing about bread is you don’t have to sit and watch it, well except for the baking part. You can do many other things while waiting for it to rise. People always use the excuse not to make bread “because it takes so long and uses up most of my day.” Well yeah..but if you’re at home plan that day to be laundry day. Make some dough, let it rise, do a load of towels, then fold, punch down dough let it rise, get a load of colors in, hang them up all the while with the TV on and catching up on your favorite TiVo’d shows. There’s always a way. I can’t tell you when the last time was I used my bread machine. The last 2 loaves bread I made I did from scratch. I used to use my bread machine a lot. But all your bread ends up a big square. Bread is a great form of expression and a good way to get a work out.

If you’ve never made bread before at least try it. Find a simple recipe and go for it. It is well worth it. You cannot compare fresh baked bread with anything else. It stands on its own merit of warm, delicious goodness!

I’m looking forward to tomorrow because I’ve never made sticky buns from scratch before.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Day 3 and 4 of BPT – Tarts, Custards and Pies – Oh My!

I’m really starting to dig on this baking thing. On Day 3 we made tarts and a lot of them. Well for me it was a lot, it was only 4. Lemon Curd, Chocolate Ganache, Fruit with Vanilla Cream and a Jam with Crumb topping.

The lemon curd took a while for it to cook up and as it did the smell just kept intensifying. I wanted to just put a spoon in it and eat it right there. Now we didn’t assemble this tart today as the curd has to be to completely cold thru. The fruit tart was a lot of fun. I have always seen these in the bakery windows and on display and marveled at how colorful and tasty they looked but had never eaten one. I so wish my digital camera worked better because it was beautiful! The crumb tart everyone used raspberry jam so I went in other direction and used apricot. I love it on my toast and/or bagel so it’s gotta be good in a tart. The ganache tart was a chocolate piece of heaven. I’m really looking forward to assembling the lemon curd one because we will be making Italian Meringue to go on the top and then we torch it.

We also assembled and put the ganache topping on our Boston Cream Pies and let them set up. We’ll present those tomorrow. This was interesting. Apparently the Genoise cakes are so dry and unappetizing that after you cut them in the half and put the cream on you brush them with sugar water (simple syrup). I’m thinking why not use a cake that is more tasty then? Now of course hindsight for me is 20/20. I cut my cake in half, and I was one of the lucky few whose cake didn’t fall as it was baking. It was a very nice and uniform height. I coat the top half and set it aside and now the bottom half goes onto the cake stand, for easy rotation and I begin dipping the brush into the syrup and coat the bottom half of my cake. Next the cream is gently spread on top. Time to coat the top half of my cake and create a ‘sandwich’ of cream. Rut Oh. Seems I was not paying attention and every time I dipped my brush into the syrup and lifted it, it dripped all over the top part of my cake. Well can’t hurt if the cake is as a dry as they say right? Next is the crumb coat. This is a trick I wish I had known years ago!! Would have saved me a lot of frustration. You take a small amount of your frosting, glaze etc and smear it all over the top and sides. You’ll still see the cake through the crumb, it’s just to seal the crumbs to keep them from flaking off while you’re frosting. You let this set in fridge and then when you frost or coat it, it goes a lot smoother. After that chills thoroughly the top coat goes on and it looks so smooth and creamy. That goes back in the walk in until tomorrow so it has time to set up.

I like these tarts so much, particularly the fruit tart that I plan to make these for neighbors. The hardest part will be finding the freshest of fruits.

Side Bar – Learned the coolest way to peel a kiwi! I’ve always cut the top and bottom off and used a paring knife. This gives your then sliced kiwi an octagon or hexagon shape. Well no more! Take a spoon that cups the side nicely. Cut off the 2 ends and slide the spoon between the skin and flesh and slowly turn it around the kiwi. This will remove the skin and keep the kiwi with a nice round shape. How cool is that?!

Day four has us doing apples galore! I must say the smell in that lab was heavenly. All that sugar, browned butter, cinnamon and apples. Our agenda included presenting our Boston cream pies, lemon curd tarts, making an apple pie, 2 apple tarts, 2 baked apples, and a batch of apple sauce.

We got our lemon curd tarts out and placed them into the oven for about 5 minutes to get the curd to set up an bit. These went back into the walkin to allow to fully chill. Next was our dough(s) for our pies and tarts since this too has to chill for a while. While that’s happening we get started on our baked apples and apple sauce. I do like baked apples but I had never done them in the oven (cringe). I cheated and did them in the microwave…ok ok don’t stone me! That was before I started really cooking. These were done in a cast iron skillet with brown sugar and browned butter. I would have added raisins but we didn’t have any. Once done they were tender and very flavorful. Browning the butter before putting it on the apples adds a whole new layer of flavor.

I also presented my Boston cream pie. Yeah…remember that simple syrup that drizzled all over the top of my cake. Well turns out you can put too much on. Haha!

Time for Apple Pie. We used Granny Smith apples and the pies were the small 5” pie tins. In a normal pie I would have mixed apple types to give it texture as some will get really soft and others with be tender but still have some resistance to them. I like the mixture of flavors as well, sweet, sour etc. They are then brushed with an egg wash mixture and we had the option of leaving it as is, putting cinnamon/sugar on them. I chose to use raw sugar. I like the way it bakes up on the top. Our tarts were kind of the same way. We used Fiji apples for these and they were open ‘free form’ tarts. You took your dough and rolled it out about 1/8” thick in a 6-7” circle. Place the apple mixture, which was diced apples and spices and then roll the outer edges of the dough and crimp along the sides. The apples will still be visible in the middle. (This picture is not of my tart but an example only obtained from google)
But my favorite thing for the evening was the lemon tart. First we made our meringue. We take our egg whites and put them into the mixer with a bit of cream of tartar to act as a binder. Next on the cooktop we took 1 cup of sugar and about 1 ounce of water (enough to make it look like wet sand) and allowed that to come to a boil and reach a temperature of 240°. Next this is very slowly drizzled into the mixer down the side trying not to let it hit the whip attachment. All this does is fling cooked sugar all over the side of your mixing bowl and create a mess. (side note – this happen, the mess part, to me when making our dough for our tarts. My flour came out of the parchment paper in big KaBoom and I had flour everywhere) Keeping your mixer on high let this whip up till the bowl is cool to the touch. They will not form stiff peaks like most probably expect when you whip egg whites stiff and then rain in granulated sugar and whip again. This is much more creamy. It is then put on top of the cooled tart and you can use your spoon to dollop it and form peaks or you can use a pastry bag. This is the option I chose and made a lovely pattern with ridges and peaks and then torched it to turn the edges a nice toast color. I really didn’t want to cut in to it for presentation. I even made a small one for a fellow student in another class. These are fun and whenever I can I like to use the pastry bags. You can get so creative with these things.

My mother in law loved to make apple pies and cakes and so when she passed I inherited her cake decorating items. I’ll need to get new bags but my gosh this woman had so many different tips. I’m going to have to play with them and see what all they can do.

I don't think Chef True is 100%. He didn't look to well last night and seems to be very sluggish. I'm hoping he's not coming down with something. It'd best for him to stay at home and now and get some rest rather than wear himself down further run down and then really be out sick.

But you know how men are.."I'm fine! No really I'll be ok. I'm taking my vitamin C *slight cough* don't worry about it. I can handle it.." And then BAM they're laid up for 4 days whimpering and snotting and "I don't feel good..this sucks..." Not to mention the fact that if you're sick stay away from others and keep your cooties to yourself thank you very much. You might be just fine and that's all well and good, but when I get something like this it's never minor. So for all those reading this...if you're feeling sick or ill STAY HOME!!

Ok well that was a fun soap box :)

Tomorrow we’re doing custards. So Until Then!... Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 11, 2006

Day 2 of BPT – Let them Eat Cake!

Well tonight we made 4 cakes. From scratch!! No I’m serious…stop laughing. No they weren’t my usual cakes of add 2 eggs, ¼ cup of oil, ½ water and mix well. Or my favorite standby – ¼ cup of water and microwave it for a couple of minutes Hahaha!!

So our cake festival began with a Butter cake. This was then cooled and frozen and will be decorated later on in the course. (that should be a fun experience) We also made an ‘angel’ food cake that will go towards our Boston Cream pie we’ll be doing on Monday. Next up was an Almond Financier. This is a buttery almond tort and stop the taste bud overload but it’s good. We also did a flourless chocolate cake. Considering how much chocolate goes into this thing it’s not overly sweet. My daughter loved it! Hubby is devouring the tort and I’m already sugared out.

Flourless Chocolate Cake –

10 oz dark chocolate (chopped)
10 oz butter cubed
10 eggs separated
6 oz sugar
Powdered sugar for dusting

Coat the bottom of a 10” cake pan with cooking spray. Place parchment paper in the bottom and coat again with cooking spray. (Be sure the paper only lines the inner circle and does not come up on the sides or it will bake into your cake). Set aside

Combine the chocolate and butter in bowl. Place over a saucepan with simmering water and gently melt them together. The bowl should not touch the water in the pan. Also the water should be simmering NOT boiling.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 3 oz of sugar together until well combined. Whisk in the chocolate mixture and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites till foamy and soft peaks form. Add in the remaining 3 oz of sugar and mix until all the sugar is incorporated and the whites form soft glossy peaks.

Gently fold in the whites into the chocolate mixture. Pour into pan and bake at 325° for 40 minutes to 1 hour. When ready the cake should start to crack on top, but still wobble in the center. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool loosen the sides of the cake with a sharp paring knife or an offset spatula before un-molding onto a cardboard round or a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar just prior to serving.

Almond Financier –

3 oz toasted almonds
6 oz butter
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
5 oz egg whites
6 oz powdered sugar
¾ C. Pastry flour sifted

Coat the bottom of an 8” cake pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper and spray again with cooking spray.

Combine butter and vanilla bean in a 1 quart stock pot and cook until butter is brown. Do this over a low heat to ensure the vanilla has enough time to release its flavor.

In a food processor combine the nuts and powdered sugar and grind till fine. In a large bowl whisk in the nut mixture and egg whites. Once incorporated gradually whisk in the flour. Once flour is incorporated gradually add in the vanilla butter. Let the batter rest for about 20 minutes. Pour into cake pan and bake at 325° for about 30 minutes. A cake tester inserted into the middle should come out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

This is great served with a favorite coffee or tea.

Our group consisted of Carey, Lynndy, Eddie and myself. Me being the weak link in this group because of lack of experience. But interestingly enough our group had all of our cakes in the oven, baked and out cooling while the other group had only just put two cakes in the oven and still had 2 to start. So we went over to APCA and had dinner oxtail pie which was very good.

This is one part of the course however that we cannot rush. I don’t care how efficient we work you cannot make something rise or bake faster. The key here will be “what takes more time and which item do I start now?” It might be better to take the longer item and save it for the end because of all the components that have to be done. Whereas some would rush to get that done but then can’t multitask out other items. I’m worried about one of our students as he seems to get more despondent with each class. He doesn’t know how to slow himself down or appreciate the finer details of cooking and plating. I’m hoping he can pull it together soon.

Well that’s about it for today. Monday we’re making Tarts.

Until Then…

Friday, December 08, 2006

Day 1 of BPT – We’re Making “Brownies” (wink wink)

Oh… I guess we really are making brownies. Tonight was our first night of baking. Let me just say this kitchen lab we’re in is going to smell really really good for the next few weeks.

First up was tasting a lot of different chocolates and learning how it’s produced, various by-products and amount of butter and cocoa contained therein. There were the nibs which are the purest essence of chocolate. They are the cocoa bean without it’s shell. They are not sweet and they are very crunchy. I’m thinking salad topping but not sure what kind of salad. There were several types of bitter chocolate and bitter sweet chocolate which were good. One had a very tangy taste at the end. Another was very earthy flavored.

It is safe to say that chocolates can be like wines. Many varieties, some rare and all an acquired taste.

Side Note – I don’t like chocolate as much as I used to. They say our tastes change about every 7 years but I didn’t think I’d lose my taste for chocolate. I can eat a few bites and I’m good for a long while. I don’t even eat candy much anymore. I looked in my desk drawer and sure enough there was a bag of candy from last Christmas still in there. A few years ago that would haven’t lasted a day let alone a year!

Tonight we made 3 dishes as a team and 1 dish individual. The 3 team dishes were brownies, white chocolate ganache and dark chocolate ganache. The individual dish was vanilla cream. The brownies came out very good. But I must be honest in that I do prefer the box mix you get from the store. I have tasted these brownies when I was in PCA I and II and BPT brought some over to share and I tasted ours. To me the sugar never quite dissolves and they’re grainy to me. I may have to experiment with this recipe later.

Hahaha I just re-read the sentence. Listen to me…all gun shy about baking and already I want to experiment with a baking recipe. I love this class!

Now for the ganache. Ok ganache is chocolate, be it white, milk or dark that is melted with cream and other flavorings like liqueurs etc. This is then chilled and you use about ½ teaspoon of it and roll it into a ball. Then you coat it with something. The heat from you hands as you roll it (briefly) will allow the toppings to stick. For the dark chocolate we used dark cocoa powder. But for the white we got a little creative. Our group chose toasted macadamia nuts and toasted almonds. But for our third (everyone else did 2) we took some coconut and mixed it with Grand Marnier (distilled essence of oranges) and orange zest. Then we toasted it. Oh my but this was so good!! No I don’t think you get the gist of what I’m saying..this was really, really good. I’m very proud of this. Eddie had the idea for a flavored coconut instead of just plain. That triggered my brain into the additives. The rest is ganache history (smile). I don’t have pictures to post because we haven’t presented yet. We’re making them and holding them over till day 13 when we do a big presentation. I’ll be sure to get pictures then.

The vanilla cream was a new experience for me. My idea of vanilla cream is the cook and serve vanilla pudding. Ha! This class is going to cause me to go out and spend a lot of money I can tell. I want to go out and buy a lot of equipment as well as quality ingredients.

We got our grades back from the week prior as well as our finals.

I was stunned. Shocked actually, at my end results. Chef looks at me and says “I must congratulate you..” and proceeds to shake my hand “You got the highest grade in the class. As a matter of fact you’re my highest grade student yet.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. My final written was 106%, that combined with my practical’s and product ID made my overall grade a 98.86%. I think I drove home with a grin on my face the entire way. My goal now is to maintain the momentum which will prove to be a real challenge but I look forward to it.

Tomorrow we’re making a flourless chocolate cake, butter cake which will be frozen till cake decorating day and I believe our Boston cream pie.

Until Tomorrow!...

Day 15 of CCT – The Last Supper…

Well tonight marked our last night of finals. We presented the Terrine, Pork Rillet, Goat Cheese Moussculini, all the tarts and canapés including our mystery one which was the South Western Chicken in phyllo dough.

What ride!! I really wish this course was longer. I had a lot of fun doing these dishes, even the salads and sandwiches because we expanded on presentation. We all just throw our salads in a bowl at home or on a plate never giving a thought to how they look. But if you took the time you’d be amazed at how you make a salad appear. Even taking the time to put a sandwich on a plate a certain way or the angles at which you cut it. All of these simple details can take an ordinary dish and make it look wonderful.

We should get our grades back regarding our finals. The written, product ID, practical’s as well as the weeks before work. I’m never confident going into these things. I always feel like there are tons I’m forgetting. I will never work as fast as some, nor as slow as others. I usually feel like I’m in a race against myself which is the wrong approach. I need to get that race connotation out of my head. This is food, you can’t rush good food. Well you can and that’s what fast food is and that is not a place I want to be. I am always so glad of the Chef’s critiques. It gives me perspective.

Tomorrow we start our baking course! I will officially be in BPT – Baking, Pastry Technique. I’m very excited to be starting this part of the curriculum because it is SO out of my element. My idea of baking cookies is to get that yellow tube of cookie dough from the store. Even then I’ve gotten so lazy at it now I get the pre-formed/cut dough. Each time we start a new session I get so nervous about what will be expected and how will I do. This time is even more so because of the baking portion. Not to mention on the second day of baking, ‘cake day’, our Chef will be gone and we’ll have a substitute Chef. So not only are we baking but my comfort zone has been breached. Chef True is going on a mini vacation. I actually hope he has a fantastic time.

That about wraps up CCT. I did go and get a book on Hors d’oeuvres and Canapés. I’m looking forward to trying some of these out. I am hoping to get pictures of our final presentation but I did not have my camera and I’m waiting to see if one of my classmates is actually going to send them.

Until Tomorrow!...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Day 14 of CCT – Day Two of Finals – The Good, The Bad, The What the Hell?

Ok so we’re all waiting in the main dining hall for Chef who will issue our written exam. I’d rather have a root canal. *breathe*

And we’re off…Ok so far the questions seem pretty straight forward. There were a couple I drew a total blank on and of course remembered them AFTER I had turned in my test. A few were extra credit questions. Like what does FIFO mean? I immediately think “Fee Fi Fo Fum…” and you know the minute something like that gets in your head you’re doomed. You’ll never think of the answer then. But I tried…hhmm FIFO… Federal Insurance…no no…get your mind way from’s cooking related you dolt. The Jeopardy music is playing in the back on my mind. Sorry Alex no clue. The correct response should have been “What is First In, First Out” DOH!

See why I hate tests? Oh but there is so much more…off to the class room for yet another test. Here’s your sheet, now go identify those 20 random objects, herbs, cheeses and liquids. Feel free to feel, sniff and taste. (Yeah taste…riiight - already I start having flash backs to the cheese incident.) Some are easy, and yet others very tricky. I must make a note to review the proper names of things. I can see me now doing my externship asking someone to pass me “Hole-ly spoon thing” rather than perforated spoon. There were, I recall, 4 items we could taste – Marscapone cheese, kirsch (which I thought was the crappy vodka we use to cook with. I mean seriously folks, how I am to sample what I am cooking with when it’s a lower grade than lighter fluid?! And what about the saying ‘If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it?), dextrose (which I thought was powdered sugar) and duck fat. (I wonder how many people did the taste test on that one haha. No I didn’t, I smelled it and knew what it was)

So it’s time for the Good – One of my partners is Eddie. YEAH!! Ok the panic feeling is ebbing away. I now that secure feeling of having a teammate I can rely on.

The Bad – There’s only 3 in our team, the other two teams have 4. So we have extra effort we have to put into getting things done. However I look at this as a challenge.

The What the Hell? – We found out that last night when we did the two salads and sandwiches and got out at 9:30?... well turns out the rest of the class didn’t leave till 11pm. So we’re like WTH? It was 2 salads and a sandwich and a cheese platter. Also it wasn’t like they had to do a lot of clean up. We cleaned that entire kitchen before we left. The sinks, the walk-ins (hell we even re-wrapped everything), the counters (not in use), the cages. So all they would have had to do was clean their section and their dishes. We’re still doing the math. If all dishes must be turned in by 10pm no later (as is the way with finals) that gives you 1 hour to clean up. And it’s not like they had to clean the kitchen or do any of their nightly duties as we did them.

Karma comes a knockin! You know what they say, you put out bad vibes you get them back. Case in point, tonight it was us that didn’t leave till 11pm. Because we were one down we didn’t get our terrine as early as I would have liked. And you can’t rush something in the oven. It’ll reach that 165° when it’s damn good and ready. 10:45 DING! It’s ready. Luckily we had everything clean and ready so we just had to put the finishing touches on it – a brick. (yes a brick to weigh it down and make it flat) In the walk-in and we’re on our way.

Tomorrow we do our presentation. Oh I forgot to mention one of the items – Mystery Canapé. Chef we can use any ingredients. (Never give me that much leeway – evil smirk) The only thing that keeps me in check is this a team production and while as joke I’d take a few ding points to make something totally outlandish I won’t jeopardize my teammates.

I’m going to go look for decorations for our presentation. And remember, if anyone here in my office presses charges for me pilfering things off their desk I ‘was with you’ the entire time!

Until Tomorrow!...

Day 13 of CCT – First Day of Finals

I wasn’t too concerned about today. I had fun making all the food the first time around so the second time was just as entertaining.

I still have a huge problem when the Chef says ‘NO TALKING’ and even writes it out on the white board. I sense he did that just for me. I don’t talk to fellow students during the testing, wouldn’t want to get them into trouble. But I always talk to myself..outloud…where others can hear. Bad habit. Oh lord my lips are moving as I type this. I need help.

So tonight we made Composed Cobb Salad with Roquefort dressing, Caesar Salad, Croque Monsieur with Frisee Salad, Cheese Platter and an Oyster Presentation. Pretty light night. The longest thing to actually prepare is the Cobb salad as you have to boil your eggs, cook your bacon and chicken. You think… hey whip out 3 pans and knock it out. Not so easy, we have 1 burner. It’s like a French cook top. So you can only cook one item at a time. We probably could have pulled out more cook tops, but space is limited. All in all it worked out fine.

It never ceases to amaze me how much I enjoy doing all this. Yes the drive is tedious and with traffic or construction it’s down right brutal, but I still love it. I wish I could load up video of our class and our instructor(s). It would make a better reality TV show than Hell’s Kitchen.

All is presented and we started to clean up. By we I meant the 4 of us who finished. Yes the usual 4. Carey, Eddie, Lynndy and myself. So we kept cleaning until Chef said we could stop and those of us whose stations were clean and all dishes complete could leave. It’s 9:30!! HHmm should I point that out? NO! We gather our things and leave….it’s 9:30!!! I will actually get home in time to see my family before they all head off to bed. What a treat.

Tomorrow we have our written test and start our prep work for our team presentations. I have double trepidation. 1 – I hate taking tests, and 2 – Don’t know who my team is yet.

Let’s us all think good Mojo!

Until Tomorrow!!

Day 12 of CCT – Pass the Cheese!

Well tonight marked our last night of CCT. Next up is 3 days of finals. (oh joy) We tasted so many different types of cheese. Some were just delicious and others made you want to hurl on the spot. There was one cheese and for the life of me I cannot remember the name, but if I do I will be sure to append this blog and give the warning to all, that, the Chef’s comment was ‘If you can get past the smell …’ however he did not say “you’ll love the flavor” he just waited and watched. As he waited and watched he had this inner smirk that was just bubbling to come out. But lo! We have our first victim and by then everyone had put the sample into their mouth and never in your life have you seen 11 grown adults try and spit into a trash can as fast as they did. It tasted as bad, if not worse, than the smell. Very ammonia-y. If there truly are those that enjoy this cheese, they probably need to have to their tongues scraped because they are not tasting this like we do.

Then we had to make a cheese plate as if we were making it for a party of 2. Easy enough. He wanted variety of soft cheese, medium and hard along with some of the traditional accompaniments. So I got out a plate and grabbed some cheese, dates, figs, pears etc and just arranged them. But then I got out the wooden board to make my formal presentation. I was amazed at how many presented their cheese platter on the actual dinner plate.

After that we didn’t do much else. We did get to go over to APCA for their dinner presentation. I got to enjoy a nice bowl of Lobster Bisque. They also served sweetmeats, which I will admit I was hesitant, but ended up really enjoying them. Rabbit was also on the menu but I didn’t see any of it ready by the time we headed back to class.

The rest of the evening was spent reviewing notes. We have finals starting Monday, with individual courses being the first day. Day 2 and 3 of testing is Team Prep and Team Presentation, respectively.

Little concerned about what the teams will be like. Because when your grade is on the line you want things done right. If I do get some of the slackers in my group I’ll have no hesitation about taking the reins and dictating who will do what.

Until then!....

Friday, December 01, 2006

Day 10 and 11 of CCT – Canapés, Oysters and Caviar

So day 10 was the day we presented all of our canapés. (Picture below) This was such fun! The puff pastry for the smoke duck mousse came out beautifully! I’m going to try and use my puff pastry on Saturday for a desert type snack for a party I’m having. I hope it rises as nice as “E’s” dough did. Everyone one of our dishes came out so tasty. The ceviche in the cucumber cups was so good. I had never had it in the cucumber cups before, just the individual serving spoons. The cucumber added such a nice flavor. I enjoyed this class so much I went and bought the same book the Chef had for us to look at for examples and inspiration. Yes they’re time consuming and sometimes tedious, but they are so worth it. Sure beats cheese whiz on a ritz cracker Hahaha.

Day 11 opens with us having to shuck oysters. This was a totally new experience for me and how folks enter contests and shuck over 2 dozen in just a few minutes is beyond me. Either that or I had bionic oysters. Those sucker are hard. They say if you have to fight for your food you appreciate it more, and that could not be more true for oysters. You truly earn you meal then. I’m not a big fan of them but I always try everything we make. So I slurped one down raw. Basically it tasted like you swallowed a bit of salt water. I wasn’t sure if you’re suppose to chew them so I opted for the let’s not chew and find out what’s inside method. So then a couple of folks fried some off. One was fried with a seasoned cornmeal batter. I tried one, that, I did not like, at all. Ok next round was Carey’s she added Tabasco to her batter. Now we’re making a bit of progress. I love Tabasco! Let’s sample shall we…ok well that didn’t help like I thought it would. “Red you need cocktail sauce on it..” Hey if it’ll help I’ll try it. Lord it’s worse…as I look for a place to relieve my mouth of the offending morsel inside. But Carey is determined I try yet another one this time with just lemon juice. I know I had that look on my face of “Why do you hate me suddenly?” but she just started squeezing lemon and shoving it in my hand. Ok here go…hhmm…hey this isn’t so bad but it needs a little something…of course! Salt! So a lot of salt and lemon and I can enjoy fried oysters. Oh and the batter has to be spicy.

So the other thing we presented was caviar. No not beluga (at like $125 an ounce) but California’s finest ($12.95 a pound). Kidding on that part of course. So we had to make bilini’s to serve our caviar on along with the traditional condiments. Ours included hard boiled egg (white and yolks separated) that were passed thru a sieve. Minced sweet onions, lemon wedges and fines herbs. The mixed up for our group was communication. One person started the batter, another went got the ingredients to do the same. So got that straighten out. “A” said he’d make the batter, “G” got on the sauce for something, I got the eggs boiled and pushed through the sieve. The batter is where we got WAY behind. First step was to mix the flour and yeast (activated) and put it in the proofer for 30 minutes, pull it out, mix in the next set of ingredients and back in the proofer for an hour. So stage one (30 min) goes by and 30 minutes after that I see our batter hasn’t been touched. He totally forgot about it. So it’s now been in the proofer for an hour. It still has to have the second set of ingredients put in and back in for another hour. It’s now 8:40! Needless to say I was very agitated over that and let him know. So I ended up finishing our dough and cooking it off.
The bilini’s are done, and it’s time to assemble. We piped on a bit of crème fraiche, then a topped it with a bit of caviar and garnished with a thin slice of green onion. So everyone had to try one. They all hated it. Even made them I’m going to throw up face. But I’m telling you true they were NOT that bad. As a matter of fact I finished off the plate. I loved them!! Who knew! Cheap caviar makes me happy. I thought they had a great flavor because everything blends so well. I only put a touch of onion and a small squeeze of lemon on them and scarfed them down. I was disappointed that the 2 other teams finished up first and took theirs over to the other classes because I would have eaten theirs too.

Tomorrow we learn more about catering and we’re doing a cheese presentation. I’m not big on cheese. I’m more of a glass of wine, a bit of brie and I’m happy. But who knows, didn’t think I’d like the caviar either.

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