Week 4- Baking and Skills

Thursday, April 29, 2010

This week in baking we were working with yeast. We made potato herb rolls and breadsticks. While those were rising, we made blueberry muffins with a cinnamon struesel topping and prepped some items to eat with a beer cheese fondue we made at the very end of class.

I've made yeast breads since I was very young. I remember when I was 7 or 8 years old checking a Boxcar Children Cookbook out of the library and making Baker's Bread in a Bag from the book. I made this recipe frequently, and my family liked it so much, that my dad started taking this bread to work and selling the loaves there for me to his coworkers. I still have that recipe, written in my childish handwriting.

I have a mixer that has dough hooks, but I have always preferred to mix dough by hand. Marc even bought me a breadmaker once, which I thought I would love! It turns out that I was far from impressed with the loaves which the breadmaker produced. The crust was far too thick, the loaves were shaped very oddly, and I didn't like the divet that the mixer left in the bottom of the loaf when it baked. We did use the dough hooks in class this week, but once it reached the right, or near the right, consistency, we turned it out onto the table to finish it off by hand. I LOVE the texture of well made dough. I LOVE shaping it into a ball and giving it that final, firm, satisfied pat after you thump it into the greased bowl, perfectly smooth on top. I love the fresh, yeasty smell the dough gives off while you are working with it, and the smell that wafts from the oven while you wait impatiently for the bread to come out. Making bread, if you can't tell, is very therapeutic for me. I don't do it often at home anymore as I don't have much counter space, so this was heaven for me.

It's been interesting to read so much about yeast and why it works the way it works. I've always done the correct things: warm water with the yeast, kneading it to the right consistency, letting it rise in a warm place, punching it down, shaping it, letting it rise a second time, and then cooking it. It's enriching to finally realize WHY I do these things, though.

I also learned how to portion the dough and properly round rolls. This, again, was fun for me. We practiced this on the potato herb rolls.

The blueberry muffins were as simple as they could possibly be. Again, I am well versed in this process.

Then we cooked up some sausages and made a beer cheese fondue with gruyere *quickly becoming a favorite cheese of mine* and cheddar. We got to enjoy a feast before cleaning up the kitchen. I thoroughly enjoyed class this week, even if my tablemate, Chris, wasn't there. I was a little concerned when I was told by a class mate that he would not be there since the other partner I am with is a little more on the inexperienced/unmotivated side. Everything turned out alright, though. I managed to avoid a disaster when he gathered ingredients for the breadsticks, looking half at my recipe which had been doubled per instruction, and half at the books recipe which was, obviously, not doubled. I realized the error as I went to put the flour into the dough. It told me to put 1 lb of the flour in and when I did this, I was only left with 2 oz. That didn't seem right so I double checked the recipe. Sure enough, we were supposed to have 2 lb 4 oz. I was able to figure out which ingredients he had doubled, and which he had not and everything turned out fine. With some of the extra dough, I made teddy bears for Harmony and Layla.

In Skills this week, we worked on breakfast foods. We were shown how to properly poach an egg *the key is vinegar in the water*, how to make an egg over easy and over medium, as well as two ways to make an omelet. After the demonstrations, we were released to go make eggs benedict. For those of you who do not know what this is, it is an english muffin, toasted, with a slice of canadian bacon on top, then a poached egg on top of that, and finally smothered in hollandaise sauce. I must say that the hollandaise sauce is DEFINITELY much better ON a dish than by itself. I plated mine and then made it into a face, since that's the kind of thing I do.

We also made crepes. I LOVE crepes! They are one of my all time favorite breakfast foods...or dinner foods...or lunch foods. I can pretty much eat crepes whenever they are around. I made a yummy blueberry, mango, papaya coulis to go with it and, after almost getting into a brawl with Chef for touching my plate and crepes, plated them like butterflies. He seemed skeptical of the idea at first, but seemed pleased with the end product.

I was grinning on the way home today. I am halfway through my second quarter, and I am just as thrilled to be in school now as I was when I first began. I am living my dream and I am loving it. I am loving being challenged mentally and learning new things about something I love to do so much. I love proving to myself again and again that I AM smart, that I can do this, that I can excel. I take such pride in doing well, which is interesting because although I did well in high school *I got B's for the most part with an occasional A or C thrown in there*, I definitely did NOT apply myself like I am doing now. I definitely could have been a straight A student, but I just didn't put the effort in. That is not the case now. Maybe it is that I am doing what I love. Maybe it is that I have wanted to do this for SO long and now am getting the chance. Maybe it is because I had to work SO hard to get here and Marc is sacrificing so much to let me be here. Or maybe it is that I want to set an example for Harmony and Layla. Whatever the reason, I find myself grinning whenever my classmates tease me about my study habits, the extra work I put in, or being a "teacher's pet." I don't mind. It just lets me know that other people are seeing how hard I am working, too.

Week 3- Skills

Saturday, April 24, 2010

This week went MUCH better in skills class. We started out making a consomme which is a clarified stock that is used as a base for many other soups- such as chicken noodle soup. To prepare a consomme, you start with a cold stock and add clearmeat. Since we made chicken consomme, I will use this as the example. You take chicken breasts that have been cleaned of all fat and add it to a robot coupe *food processor*. After it has been pureed, you add egg whites to it and puree until the egg whites have foamed a bit with the chicken. You then puree the mirepoix *onions, carrots, and celery* and add it with the chicken. You also add tomato, herbs, and an onion brulee which is a charred onion half. Once everything has been pureed, you add it to the stockpot with the cold stock and bring it to a low simmer, stirring occasionally to keep the clearmeat from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Eventually, a raft will start to form. This is when the egg whites begin to coagulate and float to the top. As all this happens, it is collecting all the impurities from the stock. Once the raft has fully formed, you lower the heat and cut a "chimney" into the middle of the raft very carefully using a ladle so you do not make the gunk fall back down into the clear broth. After the consomme has simmered for a couple of hours, you carefully strain the consomme through a china cap *special strainer* lined with cheesecloth. If there is any fat on the top, you use a paper towel to blot these spots off. Ours had none.

We also made a French onion soup, which is my favorite but I don't get to eat often because Marc won't kiss me afterwards for about a day. It's my choice to not eat it, because...well, I want Marc to kiss me. It turned out fabulous!

Friday, we made a New England clam chowder and a cream of mushroom. It's very interesting to see how all these soups are actually put together. They aren't terribly difficult to make, it's all just about learning how to adjust the consistency and seasonings for me. I am also learning different little things about each soup. With New England clam chowder, for instance, you have to kind of babysit your pot because the clams like to stick to the bottom. With the cream of mushroom, you can walk away when it's on a low simmer and do some other things and just come back to stir and check the consistency once in awhile. The first photo is the clam chowder and the second is the mushroom soup.

We also made a potato leek soup, also known as vichyssoise, on Friday. I had never worked with leeks, so this was a fun experience for me. I had never tasted this kind of soup before, either. It was a very good soup! I definitely think I will make this at home at some point. We sweat the leeks in butter, which means that you cook them until they turn translucent but not brown, and then add minced garlic. Then you add the potatoes that you have diced or julienned. You then add chicken stock and a bouquet garni *parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns tied into cheesecloth*, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. Once everything is cooked, you puree it all with heavy cream and season it with salt and pepper. This can be served as a hot or cold soup.

As I said, this week went MUCH better and I am feeling more confident. Next week is going to be breakfast foods.

Here is a picture showing that I made the President's list last quarter!! This means that I got a 4.0gpa.

Week 3- Baking

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I wanted to hug Chef CJ yesterday at the beginning of class. We are all standing around the board and she is telling us what we need to do for the day, and under several of the items, she had written, "add a little love..." By this she meant to add whatever we wanted to the recipe to make it our own and make it taste yummy; seasonings, vegetables, chocolate, nuts, etc. Then she told us to plate things up pretty and to get creative. Muwah!!!!!! I wanted to run up and hug her!!!!

As you have read, I have been frustrated in Skills class. I understand that you have to learn the building blocks of cooking before you can cook wonderful, complex dishes. I understand this. Things are just kind of plugging along, though, and there are NO creative aspects to Skills, as of yet. So to be TOLD to be creative, was such a relief and I just felt it spread through me and I wanted to clap my hands and do a little jig. I am so thankful I have Baking as well as Skills this quarter. At least I still have an outlet!

With all that being said, we made quite a bit of products yesterday. We started off making shortcakes. This was made using the biscuit method and was pretty, pun half intended, cut and dry. Chris plated this up in a martini glass with some strawberries and whipped cream and I, of course, had to add a chocolate covered strawberry. I made a couple more to just eat, too. I love this class!

We also made a Dutch Baby Pancake. I don't know why this is called a "baby" pancake because it literally feeds 5 or 6 people. It's cooked in a 10" skillet in the oven. It puffs up and forms kind of a bowl and then you fill it with sweet or savory items. I sliced some granny smith apples thinly and sauteed them with a little butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar. After they were cooked, I added some pecans to coat the in the syrup that had been created by the butter, apple juice, and cinnamon and sugar. Then I poured it all into the pancake and sprinkled it with powdered sugar. I enjoyed tasting this and a table in the American Regional class next door enjoyed eating the rest of the pancake for me.

We also made cornmeal pancakes, too. We added some hot pepper to our mix and they turned out really well. The recipe said to serve with sour cream and caviar, so Chris made a sour cream mix with some chives in it and we decided to try to pipe the caviar out in a line on the top of the pancakes. It ended up just squeezing out the juice, which looked kind of gross. We would definitely do that differently next time. If we had some tweezers, we would have placed them prettily on top. I need to add that to my kit. We also would have put more peppers in the mix, since it still didn't have the spice we were looking for. These would be a great addition to a meal of Mexican food.

The favorite dish of the day, for me, was the pecan pancakes we made. Oh. My. Goodness!!!! These pancakes were heavenly. The pancakes themselves contained pecans and then we cooked some pecans in melted butter for just a few minutes and then tossed them with cinnamon and brown sugar. To plate the pancakes, we mixed maple syrup with some heavy cream which gave it a nice rich flavor. After drizzling the pancakes with syrup, we spilled some of the pecan topping over the edge of the pancakes and topped it with whipped cream and powdered sugar. We all should have been embarrassed by the noises we were making while eating these pancakes, but none of us could help it. They were THAT good. I am definitely making some of these this weekend for Marc.

We also made popovers. Twice. I, personally, feel like it's rediculous that we had to make them twice because the recipe is SO straight forward that they should have turned out perfectly the first time. I am fairly certain, however, that the reason our popovers didn't "pop" the first time, was because the butter was mismeasured and weighed down all the other ingredients, not allowing it to rise as it should have. This recipe contains five ingredients. You put them all in a mixer and mix for 30 seconds. Then you pour them into the pan and bake. Yes. It's that simple. The second time turned out great, though, and they had very nice rise. On top of that, I got to use my batter dispenser which is always great fun and everyone is always jealous of it.

All in all, it was a great week in Baking. Next week is yeast breads!

Week 2- Skills

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Thursday we made sauces out of the stocks we prepared the week before. Thursday we made a bechamel sauce and a veloute sauce each and as a group we made an espagnole sauce. I got a little frustrated when my onion kept falling apart as I was trying to roast it, but kept plugging along. My sauces all turned out fine and my bechamel was even picked to go to "the table" where people would go to taste good sauces and compare.

Our veloute ended up being made out of fish stock instead of chicken stock. Someone had mislabeled the containers and we quickly realized this as soon as we put it on the stove to cook and a strong fish odor began to waft at us. Chef Harris went and asked to make sure that someone had, indeed, made a fish stock and we weren't just using rancid chicken stock *yuck!*. All turned out well, even after Chef took a spoon of my veloute sauce while it was cooking and before any seasonings were added and literally looked like he almost vomited. Then he pronounces with a thumbs up, "Good!" even as he is grimacing. I had to comment that it was hard to believe someone's "good" comment as they are almost vomiting on me. He said that it was just fishy but it tasted like what it was supposed to taste like at that stage of the sauce. After all the seasonings were added, it tasted fine.
The espagnole sauce turned out ok, too. I know I'm using all these non-committal words like "good" and "ok" and "fine" but that's really how I felt this week. I really think that I just have not HAD these sauces, so I am getting used to the taste. I can't say they were awesome because I have nothing to compare them to. Also, we are tasting these sauces alone and not with food. How many of you open a jar of mayonaise and just eat it with a spoon? Exactly.
I was sous chef again on Thursday. At one point I kind of flipped out on everyone for leaving their dirty dishes on the end of the sink and not cleaning as they went. Then I had to yell again when people CLEANED their dishes, but then left them either in the sanitizing liquid or on the other end of the sink and didn't put them away. I was surprised, again, at how authoritative and LOUD I was able to be. It shocked me as the sound was leaving my body, but it came at a time I was extremely frustrated and it actually was a great release. At the end of class, Chef reiterated that yes, you should be cleaning as you go and no, you shouldn't leave pans at the sink. My pastry classmates jumped in and reinforced the idea, as well. Clean as you go. It makes the end cleaning so much quicker, it keeps the kitchen looking nice, and we get to go home faster. By Friday they got it and did a really great job. At the end of class, they were even commenting on how easy it was to do, and how it DID make cleaning at the end so much quicker.
Friday we worked on emulsified sauces: hollandaise and mayonaise. Then as a group, we made a classic tomato sauce. The tomato sauce turned out great! However, the hollandaise and mayonaise were disgusting. Apparently they were RIGHT, but they were disgusting. Another chef brought his sauce for me to taste and, not thinking or knowing, I took a spoonful of the hollandaise and literally heaved. I had to spit it out in a cup and scramble for a piece of carrot to try and unsuccessfully get the taste out of my mouth. I eventually had to go get coffee to "chase" my tastes with. The mayonaise had a tangy taste due to white wine vinegar and lemon juice. I'm a Hellmann's girl and I HATE the tangy zip of Miracle Whip so that may have been my problem with the mayonaise. Again, it apparently tasted correct, but my palate apparently isn't sophisticated enough yet to enjoy it.
(top clockwise: tomato, mayonaise, hollandaise)

For those of you who are not aware what hollandaise or mayonaise contain, let me give you the short version. Hollandaise is a ratio of 2 egg yolks emulsified with 6-8 oz of butter and seasonings such as tabasco, white wine, lemon juice, and salt. It tasted SO oily. The first time I made it, I wasn't thinking in the chef mindset and was thinking more in the pastry chef mindset and followed the recipe (which called for 8 oz butter) to the letter. This means I used the entire 8 oz of butter. My hollandaise got really thick and kept swirly around the bowl in one mass. No matter how much water I added, it would NOT thin out. Once Chef talked to Chef Ridsdale, Ridsdale informed him that I am a baker. With baking, you have to follow the recipe exactly or your food won't turn out. The ratios are very important. Harris, once he realized what the problem was, came to me and reminded me that cooking is less of an exact science. You add butter until the sauce looks and tastes right, not until you use all the recipe calls for. This helped. I redid my hollandaise and it turned out fine the next time. I got the mayonaise right the first time, but it still didn't taste the way I thought it should taste.
Thankfully my tablemates are understanding of my quirkiness and also accepting of the fact that they may need to help me out more this time around. In pastry, I was the go to girl for questions. Now, they are giving me tips. At least we can kind of lean on each other. We keep joking that we are going to all open a restaurant and they will do the real food, and I will do the desserts.
I did get a note in Chef Harris' notebook, though, on my recipe cards. I printed them out on 4x6 cards on the computer and then used clear contact paper to laminate them. Then I punched 2 holes in them and put them on rings and I clip them into my notebook. There had been a glitch in the system and the recipes weren't loaded on ecompanion this week. I emailed Chef and he emailed me the recipes. Apparently only a couple of us did that. At least they can tell that I am trying, even if I am not as confident in my actual skills as I was in pastry. I'm hoping once we get into real food, and not just condiments that I will feel a little more in my element.
In the meantime, it is kind of difficult to balance school and home life right now. I feel like I don't see the kids very much and I don't get much done around the house. Marc has definitely taken over in the cleaning and upkeep of the house, which I am so thankful for. When I'm not in school, I feel like I need to be spending as much time with the kids as possible. I miss them. Then, when they go to bed, it's time to study and do homework on the nights Marc works *Saturday-Wednesday nights.* This leaves little time for doing anything else around the house, much less relaxing or working on the project that Marc and I are working on. He is antsy for us to finish. Or, rather, he is antsy for ME to finish. His part is done. He is very willing to watch the kids while I work on the project, but I see the kids so little compared to what I USED to see them, that I feel guilty not spending every minute I can with them. Then try to fit in exercise. It's a balancing act that sometimes feels like one little hiccup or one more thing to add to the tower and it's all going to come crashing down. I think once summer break rolls around, it will be a long enough break to recharge our family batteries and Marc and I can hopefully get some time alone together as well as individually. That's what I'm counting on, anyways.
Next quarter, I am going to TRY to get my classes earlier in the week. I am not loving this early Thursday and Friday schedule. Early in the week I am charged and ready to go, but by the end of the week, I am dragging and not wanting to get up so early. Also, Marc has only Thursday and Friday off, and those days I go to school. This doesn't leave either of us with much leniency to do much of anything relaxing. At least the quarters are only 11 weeks long. 2 weeks out of the way, 9 more to go. At least baking is keeping my spirits up.

Week 2- Baking

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This week, we read the quick breads chapter. There are three methods to quick breads- the muffin method, the biscuit method, and the creaming method. The scones and biscuits we made last week were both made with the biscuit method- cutting cold fat *butter* into the sifted dry ingredients and then stirring the combined wet ingredients into the previously mentioned mixture. Then you dump it out on a floured surface and knead it just until it is smooth and workable.

I made banana bread on my own this week and I tried the book's recipe instead of my usual recipe. This one called for using the creaming method- first you mix the softened butter and sugar together on a medium speed until light and fluffy *creaming*, then gradually add the eggs one at a time until incorporated. In separate bowls, you sift the dry ingredients together and mix the wet ingredients together. Then you add the dry and wet ingredients in several alternating additions to the butter, sugar, egg mixture. This keeps everything emulsified and makes a light and fluffy end product. It turned out fantastic. The kids loved the dinosaur sprinkles I put on their half.

We made zucchini bread in class using the muffin method. This is probably the simplest method. You simply sift the dry ingredients together and then stir in the combined wet ingredients just until they are incorporated. The batter is supposed to be lumpy. Ours looked a little dry, but we double checked the measurements and the recipe conversions and it was correct. We determined that we had grated the zucchini more coarsely than other teams and it had released less liquid. It turned out fine, though, as the moisture was released while baking. The girls LOVED the bread I brought home and had it for dinner last night. Harmony even felt it made me deserved a hug and a "You're the BEST Mommy EVER! I'm so glad you are my Mommy!!" I'm going to remind her of that when she's a teenager and wants the newest, rediculously priced technological toy and says she hates me because I won't get it for her. "I'm sorry, sweetie. I won't get you that toy, but look!! I made you zucchini bread! Aren't I the best Mommy ever? No? It worked when you were 4."

This week, we also worked with puff pastry quite a bit. First we made some almond cream to use on a fruit strip tart. Then we cut a sheet of puff pastry down to about 6 inches by the length of the sheet, brushed it with egg wash, cut the remaining dough in half and placed it on the sides, piped almond cream down the middle, layered thinly peeled, cored, and sliced apples down the center, sprinkled it with cinnamon sugar and baked it. They turned out well. Chris, my table mate, cut his sides smaller and used the extra strips to make a lattice top. I wish I had thought of it. It turned out much prettier than everyone else's. We didn't have time to plate these, so forgive the not so pretty picture. I was going to plate it when I got home, but ended up giving it away to my neighbor (as I had planned) before I had the opportunity.

We also made pastry bowls. These can be filled with sweet or savory items. I filled mine with diced, sauteed ham and green peppers. Then I topped it with an egg yolk. On top of that I placed a sauteed whole mushroom, and placed flowers of cheddar and gruyere cheese on top of that. It was SO delicious. It's nice to know that I don't have to buy lunch on Tuesdays because we always make plenty that we get to eat in Baking.

We also made turnovers. I filled mine with the almond cream and apples and added pecans, as well. I cut flower patterns into the tops. I really wanted to plate these with caramel sauce but didn't have time to whip some up. I would have loved to had a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side and drizzled it all with the caramel. Pretend that is in the picture, as well.

We also made palmiers. Basically it's just a puff pastry sheet brushed with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and then the sides are folded into the center. This is repeated as many times as desired and then it's folded in half, chilled, and cut into slices to be baked. They kind of look like butterflies. We didn't have time to bake these off, so pictures will have to wait until next week for this one.

It was a good class today. I was a little frustrated *as was Chef CJ* with the cleaning effort this week. Everyone seemed to be doing everything to a minimum standard and that is frustrating. One table is fairly messy and always lags behind in the tidying of their station. I always have to remind them to pick their stuff up off the floor and they wait and wait and wait which delays the sweeping and mopping of the kitchen. Another guy who got put on our table this week also was difficult as he just kept standing around. I told him several times that Chef would take points off if he just kept standing there, and that even if he was waiting on something to be done, he needed to find something else to do to keep him busy while he waited. He didn't. Oh well, I'm sure his grade will reflect that attitude.

I also had Cost Control in the afternoon. The math is frustrating in the combination of the simplicity and the time that is being taken with it. I got a flashback to statistics class and how I fell asleep so much because they would take FOOOOREEEVER on a simple concept. I understand why they do it. They have to make sure that the majority of people understand, but when you are asking us to do simple division problems (with a calculator no less!!!!) for the better part of an hour, I think the people that don't understand how to divide 30 by 3 or multiply 1.50 by 3 (examples taken directly from my notebook) need to take a math class before continuing with this class. We are in college. Division is something you should have learned in grade school.

After an hour of that, however, we moved on to more conceptual things like not having the attitude of needing to CUT costs but to CONTROL costs and that a budget is a plan where an income statement is what is actually happening. Again, we are starting out slow, but I understand the reasoning behind it. I am SURE it will get more difficult *read stimulating* as the quarter continues. At least, I hope so.

Lastly, I had the first meeting of competition club. Basically, they just got our information today and are going to contact us when they are a little more organized. New leadership has taken over and they don't really have all their duckies in a row yet. Understandable, I just hope everything gets worked out soon. Competition club is an "extra" and I would love to gain experience, but if it isn't well organized, it isn't going to be worth missing out on family time for it.

More updates on Thursday or Friday after Skills. We are making sauces this week!

Journal Entry for my Skills Notebook, day 2

Friday, April 9, 2010

Today I learned: How to make the classical cut called the tourne. It is a cut that is shaped with seven evenly spaced sections surrounding the vegetable, a TournĂ©e cut is curved and extends from end to end, resulting in a shape similar to a blunt-ended football. It is usually around 2 inches long and ¾” around at the thickest part. I need to get a bird’s beak/tourne knife.

I also asked to make sure that the ratio is 5 lbs of bones to 1 lb of mirepoix. That is a correct ratio.

We also dropped stock. We learned how to skim the scum off the top and how to strain the stock through a china cap lined with cheesecloth. We cooled the stock in smaller quantities in an ice bath and also used ice wands to speed the process up.

Personal observations: The tourne cut was difficult for me. I finally got a good one at the end, but I definitely am going to need to practice this one more. I am going to try to get a bird’s beak knife soon, as that apparently makes it easier. Curtis, Natane, and I were sous chefs again this week. It comes with a lot of responsibility. It gave me a little more confidence, though. I never really see myself as a leader, but when it comes down to it, I really am. I need to change my way of thinking when it comes to that. A lot of it is about your attitude and confidence level, I think. I stress myself out about things before hand, but in the moment I end up being able to step up to the plate and complete whatever it was 99% of the time. I look forward to seeing that side of me grow.

I am also trying to work out a way to join the competition club. It seems like an excellent opportunity and something I would really enjoy. Marc *my husband* is supportive, but it’s more of a time issue. He goes on call at 5pm, has to be at his first call at 6pm on Tuesdays and the club is from 4-5. It is AT 5pm the first meeting. So we are going to try to shuffle some things around, but it’s really all up to his boss.

Journal Entry for my Skills Notebook

Thursday, April 8, 2010

This is a sample of the journal entries I will be doing daily for my skills notebook. The personal comments are down at the bottom if you want to skip the technical stuff.

Skills Lab – Chef Harris
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Objective: policies and procedures, intro to the course, knife skills, how to prepare white and brown stock
Brown Stock: Roasted beef bones covered in tomato paste
Mirepoix- 50% onion, 25% carrots, 25% celery- all also covered in tomato paste and roasted in the oven
Boquet garni- parsley, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns tied in cheesecloth
Utensils used: Chef’s knife, fish spatula for scraping pans

Today I learned: that when using knives, you cut from the front of the knife to the back of the knife. You should hone your knives between every task. You should sharpen your knives frequently. A dull knife will cut you more often than a sharp knife. If a knife is falling, do not attempt to catch it. I went out and bought a knife sharpener this evening and sharpened all my knives at home as well as in my kit.

Do not waste any product EVER.

I learned that beef stock takes 10-24 hours to cook and is better to be on the 24 hour side. This differed from what was taught by Chef Frost in concepts and theories. He taught 8-12 hours.
I learned how to make the different classical cuts. These included
Large Dice – 3/4” square
Medium Dice – 1/2” square
Small Dice – 1/4″ square
Brunoise – 1/8” square
Batonnet 1/4” x 1/4” x 2-2 1/2”
Julienne – 1/8” x 1/8” x 2-2 1/2”

These things were review for me today, which is always helpful:
When you are getting your station set up, first two things to do are to place a bucket of sanitizing solution under your table, and place a wet towel under your cutting board so it does not slide or slip.

When cutting things, your hand should be in a “C” shape.

The dice of mirepoix is different when making different stocks. A veal stock should be made with vegetables prepared with a large dice. A chicken stock should be made with vegetables prepared with a medium dice. A fish fumet should be made with vegetables prepared with a small dice or brunoise.

Personal observations: I almost had a panic attack today. I am such a perfectionist that I was attempting to make all my large dice carrots exactly ¾” square. When approached and told that I needed to do them faster, I quietly became upset. I held back tears because I didn’t want to be THAT person. I could just envision myself on Hell’s Kitchen or something and being yelled at and being the one to break down and get yelled at worse. So I bit back the tears, took some deep breaths, and went faster. I also went and bought some potatoes to practice cuts on at home at a leisurely pace so I can take my time learning to pick up speed. I want to be able to do things quickly, but as ocd as I am, things being done correctly are more important to me that doing things quickly. I don’t want to put my name on something that is done incorrectly or that is not top quality. This is definitely going to be a different lab for me than pastry. I have to keep reminding myself that if I knew everything, I wouldn’t need to be here and that mistakes need to be made to learn. That doesn’t mean that I do not get frustrated with myself or the process sometimes, though. I am sure I will feel better in a couple of weeks.

Second quarter

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Today was my first day back for quarter number two. I started off with Baking at 7am. I have the same teacher I had for Pastry, which I am very excited about. I walked in and saw a guy that I have seen here and there throughout last quarter. He worked in the store room and I had seen him chatting with CJ so I figured he a.) has to have been here for awhile and b.) if he WORKS at the school, too, he has to be at least semi serious about his work. I was correct! I decided to go be at his table which happened to be the same table I was at last quarter. It ended up being just the two of us which suited me just fine. Chef CJ thought it was funny and a good thing that we were at the same table because we are both anal about things being done right and keeping things clean and are both "A" students. She was right. We also both have kids and have wanted to do this for a very long time so we had things to chat about while we worked. I think we will happily stick to this table together.

We made biscuits and scones today. The biscuits turned out great. The scones, not so much. I know why it happened, though, and made a successful batch at home tonight. The recipe gives weights and also measurements when it gets down to tiny numbers. It said a rediculously small number of oz OR 1 1/2 tsp. I chose to do 1 1/2 tsp since the scale was being used. Our measuring spoons are basically flat so they really don't measure accurately. I know that this is why my scones came out with the texture of pancakes. I didn't even give it a second thought, though, since I knew right away what happened. I didn't have time to remake them at school but whipped up a quick batch tonight that turned out perfect.
(Top photo: Cream almond scones at school with a garnish of devonshire cream and almonds slices
Middle photo: biscuits at school topped with cheese, a sausage patty, an egg over easy, and served with a side of sauteed mushrooms
Bottom photo: Cream chocolate chip scones served with coffee)

I also had purchasing and cost control this afternoon. I think the class will be fine. The teacher is thorough and people who have had him before says that as long as you pay attention in class you will do fine. I hope this is accurate information. There is math involved, but I feel confident in my skills in this area as it is applied to cooking and managing. This should be a great quarter! I'm looking forward to Skills on Thursday!

Oh yes! I passed my Servsafe test with a 90%! I am so happy and relieved!

Layla's birthday

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Yesterday was Layla's 2nd birthday party. I had brought some cakes home from Pastry to keep in the freezer so I wouldn't actually need to bake the cakes, I could just decorate them. I planned to use fondant to cover the cake and then pipe Olivia the pig onto the top of the cake and do some cute cute out circles in varying shades of pink on the top tier and stripes on the bottom tier.

Or not.

The day started fine when I made my simple syrup to brush in between the cake layers to give it more flavor. I sliced a few strawberries and quartered an orange to simmer with the syrup to infuse it with those flavors. That part was extremely yummy and easily handled.

I then made a strawberry coulis to spread in between the layers for even more flavor. Again, easily handled.

Then I made a vanilla pastry cream which I folded into simple buttercream icing. I did this in class one day with a chocolate buttercream and it was heavenly. This was very light and delectable, as well, but it should have just been used in between layers, and not on the outside of the cake as it began to break down a little and didn't have the smooth appearance I wanted.

I ended up not having enough fondant left to cover the cakes, so I decided to just frost it. As I said above, the icing began to break down a bit, and I was getting frustrated. After a quick run to Publix in which I picked up red sugar and strawberry gushers, I was able to save the cake and my sanity. I sprinkled to red sugar on the bottom tier and then used the piping gel I had picked up at an earlier date and tinted the colors I needed to pipe Olivia on the top as planned.

I was satisfied with how the cake turned out. It tasted pretty good, but I'm not a huge white cake fan. Next time, I will be making my own cake to use, as well.

I start school again on Tuesday! It's been a wonderful break and I got to reconnect with and spend some quality time with the kids and Marc, but I am excited to be going back, too.

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