Sunday, February 21, 2010

Breads Class and a Sweet Failure

Well, week one of Breads class flew by! I have to say that breadmaking continues to be a mystery to me. Oh, I understand about feeding the yeast and allowing gluten strands to develop and such. BUT - I still don't have a feel for when the dough is kneaded sufficiently, when the loaf is ready to come out of the proof box, or even when I should pull the bread from the oven. It doesn't help that the chef for the class is a man of few words. He seems to enjoy a quiet environment (makes sense, since bread bakers typically work early in the morning, when everyone else is sleeping) and singing, humming, and whistling are forbidden. Hmmph.

Above is a pic of the polenta bread we made this week. It is made with a sponge that contains cooked corn mush and rosemary. It's a very soft bread with a crunchy outer crust. The pic below shows Jewish Rye (without carraway seeds because they are gross), fougasse with sun-dried tomato and black olives, and a couple loaves of ciabatta. The fougasse and the ciabatta are very sticky doughs to work with.
Finally, below is a pic of my macaroon failure from earlier today. I don't know exactly why the same recipe worked when made in class and failed miserably at home. I have some theories though - either the oven temp was wrong, the almond meal was different, or making the cookies bigger messes them up. Anyway, I flavored these with orange extract (and tried to color them orange but you can hardly tell) and sandwiched nutella between them. They were delicious, even if the tops are cracked instead of smooth, there is no "foot", and they were a little dry in texture instead of chewy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Milk bread dough and sourdough starters

Today we made a batch of rolls from a basic milk bread dough. We learned a few different shapes - the double knot (the one with seeds), Parker House (the ones shaped like lips) and cloverleaf (the one with three bumps).
Below is a pic of all the starters that I made today. Some of these will only ferment a day or two and some we'll need to feed for several days before using them. From left to right: apple, grape, plain sour, Jewish rye, yogurt, and potato. Each is covered in cheesecloth so that the wild yeasts in the air can get in and do their work.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine Breakfast

I don't have a Valentine this year but didn't let that stop me from making a special meal. I really hate to see a holiday (aka reason to cook special foods/decorate/make things) go to waste. Here's a pic of the V-Day breakfast I made for my sister and me: Egg in a Hole (heart-shaped, of course) and apple-cinnamon baked oatmeal (sprinkled with sugar on the top and put under the broiler, similar to our friend creme brulee).

Below is a picture of fruit spring rolls with cranberry coulis and strawberry yogurt dipping sauces. This was an experiment and the texture of the spring roll wrappers was off-putting. I guess I'm not a huge spring roll fan.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Milestone (now with New Baguette Taste!)

Well, I made it through the first six week term at Le Cordon Bleu. This week we made baguettes to get a taste of breadmaking. I have to say, it's physically a little more demanding than I expected. It makes me wish that I had taken my physical therapy (for my left wrist) a little more seriously last year :)

The past six weeks have been a whirlwind. I'm glad that I only have my P&B class next term and no general education requirements. Hopefully that means more time to do baking and art projects outside of class!

Next week starts six weeks of breadmaking. I'm feeling some trepidation, but it will probably be fine. I'll definitely learn a lot since I'm starting with pretty close to no knowledge.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Choux Pastry Swans and Eclairs

We did choux pastry (pate a choux) earlier this week in class. Turns out it isn't that hard but there are a few tricky things:

  • You have to cook the dough on the stovetop before piping the shapes out.
  • Piping the shapes with a pastry bag and star tip (for the bodies/eclairs) or regular round tip for the swan heads (make a shape like the #2 for your swan heads)
  • The pastries go in a very hot oven for about 10-15 minutes (until puffed up and just a little brown on the edges) and then are transferred to a lower heat to finish baking (until golden brown)

Here is a pic below of what the eclair forms look like before filling and dipping in chocolate ganache. We filled ours with sweetened whipped cream (creme chantilly to the frenchies) but you could use pastry cream or bavarian cream instead.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Playing with Fire (aka Creme Brulee)!

We made creme brulee the other day - which means I got to play with the blowtorch! Yay! It definitely takes some practice in order to torch it just enough and not burn the sugar.