Classical- Week 7

Monday, February 28, 2011

This week we were in Switzerland. I prepared the Souffle Rothschild and the Chillbed Soup.

The Chillbed Soup recipe didn’t look very appealing to me. I was reading along and everything looked great until I read that I was supposed to beat some eggs and add it to the boiling liquid. That did not sound delicious to me, it looked kind of gross. Perhaps a poached egg would be more appetizing, but that’s not what the recipe said. To prepare this dish, you begin with stock and add a chicken and your basic mirepoix. Once it is simmered for almost an hour, you strain out the chicken and vegetables, cut the chicken up and add it to a bowl over steamed leeks. Then you bring the new stock back to a boil and add the beaten eggs and pour it over the chicken and leeks in the bowl. I chose to strain the stock again after the eggs were added and place a spoonful in the dish once the broth was added to the chicken and leeks and then chives were sprinkled on top for garnish. It made it a little more arranged looking and not quite so…messy. I enjoyed the flavor of the dish, but would definitely poach the eggs if I were making it at home.

The Souffle Rothschild was prepared in a different way than I was used to. A pate choux like dough was created and then whipped egg whites were folded in, along with macerated fruit. I baked a test batch to make sure it would rise as it was supposed to and to get a taste of the flavor before I created sauces to go with it. I decided to make an Almond Cream Sauce and a Macerated Cherry and Apricot Bavarian. I enjoyed the flavor combination and am going to make these for my husband for sure! I didn’t get a picture immediately out of the oven, although I made sure Chef Ridsdale saw it before it deflated.

I have really been enjoying the flavors that we have been exploring in this class. I am definitely going to be sad when it is over.

Bag Cake- Finished!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

This week we completed our bag cakes. Tuesday I went in during my break between classes and piped royal icing onto my wand and tiara so it would have a chance to harden overnight.

I also formed the upper part of the shoes and created the isomalt jewels and broken “glass” to use for decorations on the tray. I also couldn’t help myself and made a ring for an additional item.

I think my cake turned out very well. There are always things that I would change for the “next time”, but overall I am very satisfied with my product, especially given the time constraints. I absolutely LOVE how the flower came out, though! I had fun with the colors on this cake. I used straight luster dust, as well as luster dust mixed with food coloring and, in some instances, coconut extract (which made it smell amazing, by the way) to layer the colors to get the affect I wanted. I ordered several sizes of "pearls" for the center of the flower from Sugarcraft. Then I shook them with the luster dust to give them the various colors I wanted. As a reminder, here is the bag from DavieandChiyo on Etsy that I was using for inspiration.

When shaping the heels of the shoes from rice crispies, I forgot to take into account that the fondant was going to make them even fatter. Next time I would make them a little smaller from the get go and carve them into a more feminine heel. I would also paint the underside of the overlay or use colored fondant instead of white.

I would also make more of the tiny pink sugar jewels and use them for additional garnish all the way around the base of the tiara and on the handle of the wand.
I hadn’t worked with sugar like that before and I found it really fun. I found myself wanting to keep playing with it, but I didn’t have that kind of time. I tried to fashion the upper part of the shoes from sugar, but it was difficult to keep it at the exact right temperature when it came to cutting and molding them. I also needed something to shape it OVER because it was too warm to use with the playdoh (I covered it in plastic wrap, of course.) Again, I think clay may have worked best for that.

I love the creative process when it comes to figuring out what to do for a cake. My mind goes around and around and around and all of a sudden I get inspired and the whole plan just flows out onto paper. I think that my presentation came out how I wanted it. I really wanted to make a larger, round, clear sugar “platform” to set the crown on, but I didn’t end up with that kind of time.

I think we had plenty of time to work with, but when it comes to this kind of thing, one can ALWAYS use more time to continue to improve the cake and add more details. The details are what gives these kinds of cakes their “wow” factor. The only thing that is mildly frustrating is having to wait a WHOLE WEEK to finish a cake. I would rather just work straight through and get it done than have to think about it for a whole other week!

Next week we begin our Pastillage Sculptures!

Asian- Week 6

This week we were in Thailand. As my husband was helping me write out my recipes by reading the ingredients to me, he commented, “None of this stuff sounds good.” Wow. He was SO wrong!! This week went amazingly smoothly and the food tasted and looked fantastic. I think part of the calmness of the week was that so many people were absent. This isn’t good for them, but it definitely gave the class a different feel this week.

I made the Sticky Mango Rice. This was such a warm, comforting dish. I could imagine eating a huge bowlful of this when it is pouring snow outside and being all snuggled up in a huge sweatshirt and fuzzy socks. On my first seasoning of the dish, I made it not quite sweet enough, according to Chef. If I made it again for myself, I would keep it that way. I enjoyed the mild sweetness and the subtle coconut flavor, as well as the creamy texture. I adore coconut- the flavor and the smell- so this dish was a hit with me. I think my girls would like this, too, although I’m really not sure that the “health benefits” are worth me sharing it with them at this point.

I made Fried Sweet Potatoes with Peanut Sauce. I used a mandolin to slice to potatoes into even slices and thinned out the batter a little from the original recipe. I dipped them in flour and then in the batter before frying them and draining them on paper towels and sprinkling them with a little salt. I had never made peanut sauce before but everyone commented that it was delicious. I really am enjoying the development of my palette and the ability to really discern the layers of flavors in things now.

I also fried up the rice cakes. I wasn’t a huge fan of these. Basically, it is just Jasmine rice that is cooked and baked on a sheet pan and then fried in chunks. SOOO unhealthy and not that tasty.

Thai Bubble Tea was also prepared. This is a very strong tea that is then lightened with plenty of cream and sweetened with lots of sugar. Then tapioca pearls are put in the bottom and it is served over ice with a fat straw so the tapioca pearls can get sucked up the straw. The tea was fantastic and tasted kind of like Chai tea, but the tapioca pearls were not. They had a fun texture, but I did not enjoy the after taste.

Last but not least, I made a fresh fruit plate. I love it when we do this because I get a healthy lunch! I ate the whole thing except for the grapes for lunch that day. Yum!

I enjoyed the flavors of the Thai dishes. I had never eaten Thai cuisine before so this was a treat. I think my favorite actual DISH was the Ma Hor (Galloping Horses.) I enjoyed the flavors and it reminded me of tacos, in a sense, that used lettuce leaves instead of tortillas. I think it was the tangerines that gave it the extra flavor that was so appealing.

Apparently, Vietnam food is even more delicious than Thai food. We will see next week!

Classical- Week 6

This week we were Southern Italy. I took dessert back over and got to make the Chocolate Almond Torte. This dish is made with finely ground almonds (almond flour) instead of all purpose flour. Egg whites are folded into the mixture of melted chocolate, egg yolks, and sugar, and is then baked in a round cake pan. Once the edges are set but the middle is still “chocolate-y”, you remove it and let it set. After unmolding the torte, you sprinkle cocoa powder over it and you are done. Well, that’s what the recipe says, anyways. I can never just stop there, so I made a chocolate ganache to coat the entire cake with, as well as chocolate ganache hearts to put in the center. I had printed out an awesome design to cut out and use when I sprinkled the cocoa powder. You could kind of see the design, but it didn’t come out with the WOW factor I wanted. I think if I had sprinkled powdered sugar in the parts of the design that weren’t covered in cocoa powder, it would have looked closer to what I was going for. The texture came out perfectly, though, and literally the ENTIRE cake was devoured. Quickly.

I also made the Focaccia Bread. This was frustrating to me because focaccia bread is supposed to be made with a sponge that has set for 24 hours ahead of time. I MEANT to make the sponge the day before, but was rushing to get things done for my bag cake, and forgot. Somehow I managed to make the bread in 2 ½ hours instead of the day and a half that it is supposed to take. The texture turned out alright, but I know it definitely would have had a better flavor if it had had time to mature. We served the bread with the Caponata, and the mellow flavor of the bread really balanced out the spice and tang of the Caponata.

Ian’s mirror looked fabulous, and his Tuna tasted amazing. The only thing that I would have to say is that some of the veg wasn’t dressed.

My favorite moment of the week, though, was when Natane and Chef got into a battle of “Yes.” “No.” It was like a ping pong match. It started with her Stuffed Pork Bundle platter. They were made correctly and tasted like they should, but when plating them, she laid them in a line and spooned the sauce over them.

Chef tells her she should have cut them in half so you can see the pretty spiral in the center. Natane simply shakes her head and says, “No.” Chef looks at her and chuckles slightly and says, “Yes.” Back and forth it goes…no additional words being spoken, no reasons being given either way to persuade the other. Finally one of them cuts into a bundle, Natane sees how pretty it is and concedes, “Ok. Yes. I guess maaaaaaaaaaaaaybe you know a little about what you are talking about.” Highly entertaining to watch.

Bag Cake Week 1

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This week we began making our Bag Cakes. I wasn’t thrilled with the bag cake assignment at first. Any of you who know me, know that I am not a big “girly girl” and handbags are not really my thing. I had picked a bag, though, that I found on Etsy and thought was pretty.

Along with the cake, we have to make 5 items that go along with the cake. I chose some princess items from the girls dress up box. Wednesday morning before class, I got inspired. Pinkalicious!! Pinkalicious is a book, for those of you without children, that is about a girl who loves pink so much that she eats too many pink cupcakes and turns pink herself.

My amazingly artistic niece, Delaney, did a school project on Pinkalicious awhile ago, and this cake is dedicated to her.

So I started out by laying out all the items I was going to make on the table in front of me. As I created each item, I moved it back into my bag so I made sure I didn’t miss anything. I colored my fondant light pink. I used gum paste to create the crown and wand and I made impressions into the gum paste with the actual pieces as a guide. I will pipe royal icing onto the impressions and paint it.

I made the heels for the shoes from rice crispy treats and then used gum paste to form the sole of the shoe. I made a box from rice crispy treats to cover in fondant and paint into a Princess by Vera Wang perfume box. I made the flower to go on the cake. I layered and shaped my cake and crumb coated it.

Next week I will cover everything in fondant and make jewels and “glass” from isomalt. I actually have a HUGE comprehensive list of what I need to do but I will not bore you with all of that. Next week you will get to see the finished product!!!

Classical Week 5

In Classical this week, we were still cooking food from Italy. Matt really wanted to make the Tiramisu which was fine with me because I had never had Tiramisu that I liked. So instead of dessert this week, I made Tagliatelle al Peperoncino (Red Pepper Pasta) and Melanzane Involtino (Eggplant Roll) with Fresh Tomato Sauce.

I started out getting the eggplant roll ingredients ready. I needed 8 thin slices of the eggplant, ham, and mozzarella cheese. I started out trying to cut them on the mandolin, but the eggplant kept sticking to it and not sliding like it needed to. Then, when I would get it cutting, the very last part of the slice would rip off instead of cutting off. Frustrating! Natane suggested before I even got out the mandolin that I should use the deli slicer but I really, for whatever reason, didn’t want to go get it, lug it over, cut 3 things, then have to take it all apart and clean it. I forgot that everyone else would want to use it, too. So in the end I went and got the deli slicer, used it, and then got pounced on because everyone else needed it, too.

Let me take a moment here to say that I did my recipe cards. I always do my recipe cards. This week, though, I forgot to PRINT THEM. We have a laptop now so I save them and then print them later. Except I thought I printed them later and didn’t. This made me all discombobulated all class long. Marc emailed them to me so I had them on my phone and Natane let me use hers, too. It still had thrown me for a loop, though, and I felt off my game all day.

So I tried to slice ricotta solata cheese on the slicer because I misread the recipe and I only needed crumbled ricotta, not sliced. In any case, I got the eggplant soaking in salted water and moved on to making the pasta sauce. This Fresh Tomato Sauce recipe was so simple but really is delicious. Next time I would probably add a few more herbs to it, but that is really the point of the dishes we have been making. They focus on minimal ingredients with development of flavors.

Once that was done, I moved on to making my pasta. I have made pasta only once before and that was in Asian. I ended up overworking my dough and the noodles were a little tough. Next time I would handle the dough less, wrapping it once the ingredients JUST came together into a loose dough. When it sits and chills, the dough will absorb the water, kind of like a pie dough. I would also roll it to a thinner setting and try to use less flour in the rolling process. I was happy, though, that I was able to hold it and rewarm it without overcooking it. Phew. That is what I know I need the most work on, or what I am least confident in- holding food until service. I am really working on that, but it is definitely a challenge with certain foods.

While all this was going on, Natane and Matt were in “standing around” phases of their foods. So Matt was doing our group’s dishes and Natane put the eggplant rolls together for me and popped them into the oven. We plated, presented, and chowed down on some delicious Italian food!

I adored Ian’s mystery amuse bouche sautéed polenta with endive and swordfish creation.

I didn’t care much for the roulade, as it wasn’t very tender. Again, time limitations in class sometimes have drawbacks. The eggplant roll was actually delightful with the tomato sauce. The tiramisu, unfortunately, was a fail but Matt knows this. One bite was literally like taking a shot of liquor and none of it set up, really. Overall it was a good week, though.

South China- Week 5

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This week our class was split into two parts; south and west China. My group was South China. We had two groups of 4 in South China and both groups had to make the full Southern menu. I scooped up the fortune cookie recipe right off the bat since I had been wanting to make those for several weeks. I also ended up with tea infused eggs. At first I was a little iffy about my dishes because they both seemed relatively short but the fortune cookies are surprisingly time consuming.

First I got my tea infused eggs going. Basically this dish is hard boiled eggs whose shells are cracked and then boiled again in a green tea mixture that contains star anise, soy sauce, and rock sugar. The eggs are then cooled and peeled. It leaves a very pretty pattern on the eggs but doesn't change the flavor much. The Chinese are big on garnishes and presentation so I turned mine into a caterpillar.

The fortune cookies were difficult. People had troubles with them last week, too. My first batch cracked a ton because I left them in too long. They were JUST starting to brown on the edges. I learned that I needed to pull them out when they were JUST set. I found my StoryPeople fortunes that I had made previously and was able to make use of them. Basically, fortune cookies are made from a loose batter like dough. You spread this into rounds with an offset spatula and then bake them. You fold them in half and then drape them over a dowel or side of a pot to make the curvy shape. Because you have to work so quickly when they come out of the oven, you can only make 2-3 cookies at a time. I also found it easiest to cut circles out of a piece of parchment paper and use the sheet part that wasn't cut to spread the batter over and then lift the paper and I had perfect circles left. So much easier than trying to shape perfect circles by hand. Once you make a few, you pop them into the oven to brown up again. I left mine a couple minutes too long. They tasted wonderful, though! Next time I would add a little more butter and possible use pastry flour instead of all purpose flour.

Jimmy made a stir fried squid dish that was absolutely amazing!!! I actually got a plate and that was my lunch. The sauce was the perfect mixture of sweetness and saltiness. The fried squid pieces gave it a crunch and the larger pieces were chewy. There was fermented bean paste in it, too, which came through in just the right way. That dish was perfection...but the photo sucks.

Advanced Pastry- Hamburger Cake

Saturday, February 5, 2011

This week we assembled our hamburger cakes. My plan was to take a kids lunch tray and make a “school lunch” with the hamburger being the main item. I wanted to do more than just a cake and I knew that this would be different than everyone else’s.

Last week I made many of the base items for assembly. I colored all my fondant, made my tots out of rice crispy treats, made the base of my milk container and hamburger patty out of rice crispy treats, made and orange gelee and poured it into a half sphere shape to set up with two plastic play food orange slices on top to give it the real orange look, and shaped my hamburger buns.

Before I came to class this week, I made a list of everything I needed to get done and the order I wanted to do it in. I began by placing the completed items on the tray. I had made small chocolate chip cookies to use as the “dessert” portion of the tray and my tots were also complete. From there I cut and covered my “milk carton” with a single layer of white fondant to give it a smoother look. I put it in the fridge to set up a bit and moved on to covering my hamburger buns. I covered them both with a tan fondant and then brushed a little brown dust on them to give them some shading. I love how it turned out. I think it looked just like a whole wheat bun! I even gave it some little grooves in the top like buns usually have. Then I created my “toppings” for the hamburger- American cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. I shaped and painted these and smeared some “mayo” on the top bun and it was ready!

I quickly made some “ketchup” from corn syrup, powdered sugar, and red food coloring. I would like to experiment with that a little more because it needed to be a little thicker and as it sat, it started to get some little bubbles on the top.

I then moved back to working on my milk carton. Next time I would shape the carton to have a peak in it instead of just square because the top sunk a little and wasn’t as rigid as I would have liked. This class is all about learning, though, right? Once I had it satisfactorily covered, I painted on it with a mixture of shimmer dust and food coloring. I was able to do this fairly quickly and neatly due to my many years of pottery painting experience.

The milk carton was definitely the hardest part. Once it was done, all I had left to do was cover my “orange” with a peel. I put a little icing on the orange and covered it in orange fondant. I then used a tool to make little divets in the orange skin to make it look more realistic, and painted a white line into the middle of the gelee for the core of the orange. By that evening, the fondant had begun to fall off the orange, so I would probably need to let the gelee come to room temperature and THEN cover it so the condensation wouldn’t turn the fondant to goo.

My friend thought I looked like I was at school eating my lunch while I was sitting and painting so we just had to take a picture when it was finished of me pretending to do just that.

Overall, I was EXTREMELY happy with how it turned out. This class is so much fun!! I love not only creating cakes, but seeing all the other creative ideas my classmates have. It’s amazing to have so much creativity in one room. I think it’s the quietest lab I have ever worked in because we all get pretty involved in our own work.

Asian- week 4

Today in Asian we were still in China. I was tasked with Fried Rice and a Tofu dish. Both were made in the wok. I prepped all my mise en place and asked Chef to come hang out while I prepared the stir fried rice. I told her about my fears and she helped talk me through them. It was going well until I went to add the rice in at the end. There had been one bag of rice sitting out that was not labeled in English, so I just, erroneously, assumed that THAT was the rice I was supposed to use. Nope. I THOUGHT it was a little sticky, but thought maybe it would change in the wok. As soon as Chef saw it, she knew it was the wrong rice. She had me go rinse it under cold water to help break the mass apart. Another table did the same thing so I didn’t feel TOO bad. The end result tasted ok, but the texture was definitely off. I think I would have been fine if I had used the right rice. I did get complimented on having all my mise gathered and organized, though, and being prepared with my dump pot, strainer, and landing plate.

The tofu dish was extremely simple. I cut my tofu in too small of dice, but it still tasted amazing. I was shocked! I did NOT think I would care for a tofu dish so much, but this was absolutely delicious. It was so simple, too. There were a couple liquid ingredients that made the sauce, and then it was just tofu, green onions, and oil. Really. SO SIMPLE.

Hopefully next week my anxiety level will be reduced due to experience instead of xanax.

Classical- weeks 3 and 4

Escoffier Menu, Week 3

This week I was tasked with rice and beignets. I have a hard time with rice, only when it needs to be held. Because of this, I purposely wanted to make it ahead so I could practice holding it. I pulled it off the heat while it was still al dente and thought it would carryover cook the rest of the way. Then I put it back on high heat just at service. I should have retasted it. I don’t know what I was thinking. I think that’s been one of the hardest things for me to overcome is learning to taste and taste and taste all the way through the process. Being in the pastry world, we can’t really taste things as we go most of the time. We don’t know if it worked until the end, when it comes out of the oven or off the stove. I’m much better than when I first started, but I had a slip up and for whatever reason, didn’t retaste the rice. I knew it needed salt, but thought the people plating would add the salt. Again, don’t know what I was thinking.

I had never made beignets before. To be honest, I’ve never EATEN a beignet before. They looked relatively simple. Basically it’s a choux paste with apricots mixed in and deep fried. They worked out alright, but I should have made them smaller. There wasn’t a smaller scoop in the pastry cage, so I used the smallest they had. I should have just used a spoon or something. In any case, next time I will know better. When I fried them, they didn’t cook all the way through but the outside was getting very brown. So I pulled them out and popped them in a 250 degree oven for about an hour and they finished drying out. Again, next time they would be smaller. I thought the flavors were excellent, though. I made a chocolate ganache dipping sauce and a drinking chocolate to go on the side. They all were eaten by the end so other people must have agreed that the flavors were good.

I absolutely loved Ian’s quenelles. As I say that, I need to inform you that I have never before even LIKED quenelles, so this is a huge step. I could have eaten many, many more of those.

My pictures came out kind of “eh” this week. I got decent ones of the beignets, but not really of anything else.

Week 4- Italy

This week we were a three person team in Classical because Ian was out sick. I made the Saffron Risotto and the Panna Cotta. I also helped Natane make the gnocchi.

The osso buco needed more time in the oven to be more tender, but when you are in a short class, you only have so much time to let things braise. The risotto ended up being a little too al dente according to Chef. I am still working on making and holding rice. I received a tip for next time to cook it al dente and then when I reheat it, add a little chicken stock to finish the cooking. Aaaah. That makes SENSE. Why I didn’t think of that myself, I couldn’t tell you. Next time hopefully my rice will be perfect.

My panna cotta came out gorgeous, but a little too gelatinous, which is funny because I put in exactly how much the recipe called for and was a little concerned when I ended up straining about a quarter of it out because it didn’t dissolve. I was afraid it wouldn’t set up, but somehow the opposite happened. I poured the panna cotta in lightly buttered coffee cups instead of ramekins because I wanted a different shape. Then I made a blackberry gelee and poured a thin layer of that on top of the panna cotta to set up in the mugs, as well. When they were inverted and garnished with a simple spearmint leaf and fresh blackberry, it was gorgeous. The flavor was really nice, especially when I took a bite with the spearmint leaf that was on the top as garnish. I’ve always been a little afraid to try spearmint because I was afraid it would be overpowering. It actually had a really nice mellow flavor that complimented the vanilla in the panna cotta and the blackberry in the gelee. Next time I will alter the recipe and put in a little less gelatin. It’s one of those things that you don’t know how it came out until it literally comes out of the mold. You can’t fix it at that point. I just need to play with the recipe until I get the right amount of gelatin.

The gnocchi came out fine originally when it was boiled, but the sauce was too thick and ended up making the gnocchi kind of fall apart. I think it needs handled WAY less and the sauce, obviously, needed to be thinner.

Our zuppa came out the best of anyone’s, but the presentation could be played with to make it better. Matt put it under the broiler so the top of the egg was actually cooked slightly instead of runny whites like everyone else had.

His bruschetta came out AMAZING. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it. I embarrassingly ate 3 pieces. Delicious.

Overall, I think we did pretty well this week! Apparently Chef thought so too because we “won” out of everyone in the class. We managed to do it with only three people, too!

Now This Is Life... Copyright © 2009 Designed by Ipietoon Blogger Template for Bie Blogger Template Vector by DaPino