Meredith circa 1982

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We used LARD!

I'm sure you are wondering about that title - and I'll get to that in a little bit. But first, let's talk about Brioche! So Brioche is a classic French bread that is very rich and buttery! A lot of restaurants use Brioche to make French Toast because the bread has a nice flavor and absorbs the custard for French Toast really well.

My partner and I were a little tired of making plain loaves of bread and rolls, so we decided to use our Brioche dough to make Pains Aux Raisins instead! Before we could make these delicious little breakfast treats - we needed to make a few components. First, our brioche dough which had to ferment and proof like all of our other doughs and then we made Frangipane.

Frangipane is a nut filling and is traditionally made with Almonds. Other variations include Walnut, Pistacio and Hazelnut. We decided to make Almond which is very versatile and has a lot of applications in pastry.

Once we had all of our components ready to go, we rolled our Brioche dough out and spread Frangipane over the surface. We then sprinkled on currants (we opted to use currants instead of raisins - so I guess technically these are Pains Aux Currant) and then cinnamon. We rolled this up similar to rolling up a cinnamon roll and then allowed it to chill for a bit so that we could make cleaner cuts in the dough to form our individual rolls.

After we baked the Pains Aux Raisin, we brushed it with Nappage (an apricot glaze) and drizzled Fondant on the top.

These were really fantastic and a welcome change from rolls & plain bread!

In a similar fashion, we made Saucisson En Brioche with the other half of our dough. This version was savory and we brushed our dough with whole grain mustard and sprinkled on crumbled, cooked sausage.

These would be great as a breakfast item or an appetizer! The mustard gave it a really nice tang!

After concluding our Brioche lesson, we moved into some classic Italian pastries - Sfogliatelle Napoletane and Cannoli. We prepped our doughs and then worked with them at various stages throughout the weekend.

And this is where we used Lard! Oh my goodness - did we ever use Lard! If you are a fan of Sfogliatelle (sometimes called Lobster Tales) you might want to skip these details because it may ruin your liking for them!

Ok. I warned you. So, Sfogliatelle is a layered dough that is somewhat like Phyllo or Puff Pastry. We used a pasta sheeter to make really, really thin, long sheets of the dough. Next, we brushed on butter and lard - on every inch of that dough - and stretched it to about 7 inches wide. Next we rolled the dough up into as small of a log as we could and repeated the process with our next piece of dough.

Once the second sheet of dough was good and greasy, we put our first log at the end of the second sheet and rolled the first log up inside of the second. We repeated this process 4 times giving us layers upon layers of really thin dough and fat.

You may be wondering why in the world you would need to have that added fat in between the dough?! Well, the reason is that when the finished product goes into the oven, the fat melts in between the dough and helps to lift and separate the layers as it bakes giving you a really flaky final product that is crispy as well. So it wasn't purely glutenous -

Ok, after the dough rested in the refrigerator for a while, we sliced it into thin rounds and then had to use - you guessed it - more lard to work the dough and separate all of those tiny little layers. We were basically trying to make something that looked like a clam shell that we could pipe our ricotta cheese filling into.

It's hard to describe what these looked like - and my hands were too greasy to consider getting the camera out to take a picture - but it will make sense when you look at the baked Sfogliatelle. So we piped the filling in and then folded the dough over the filling and put it in the oven.

BUT - before we put them in the oven, we had to brush them with more of the lard / butter mixture so that they basically fried in the oven. One final application of the fat was put on half way through the baking time.

Here is a close up of one of these guys - see all the layers and how they were fanned out?

For the first time since I started school, I didn't taste something I baked. I just couldn't do it - I don't mind butter, but I guess knowing how much lard and butter was in these things ruined it for me. Anyway, a few classmates tried them and said they were really good. I'll just take their word for it on this one! : )

Our second Italian treat were Cannoli's! They were a similar concept to the Sfogliatelle but the pastry part was not quite as involved. We used the pasta machine again to make our dough really thin and then cut them into rounds.

Cannoli's are deep fried so we put our rounds of dough onto a metal cannoli mold that goes into the oil with the shell on it to help it keep its shape. The interesting thing about Cannoli's is that the dough contains vinegar, cocoa powder and Marsala wine which I never knew. You can't really taste any of these individual ingredients after they are fried.

We fried our shells and let them cool off before we piped in our Cannoli cream - made of ricotta impastata, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and chopped semisweet chocolate. I could have eaten this by itself - it was so good!!! Ricotta Impastata has a smoother consistency than regular ricotta which is why it works well in this type of pastry.

Here are the filled cannoli - I dusted them with powdered sugar as well before I shared them with some friends but didn't get a picture of them. Some other decorative options were dipping part of the shell in melted chocolate before filling or putting chopped pistachio's on the ends of the filling. I liked mine a bit "plane jane" and thought they tasted fantastic!

Our next major category of Pastry is Tarts and Pie doughs. The first dough we made was Pate Brisse which is a dough that contains no sugar so it can be used for savory items or sweet. This dough was tough to work with because it is meant to be very flaky and tender so it doesn't have much structure to it and can be very crumbly.

Rolling this dough out for our Fruit tarts was a challenge and required much patience! The taste of this product made it worth the struggle, but from what Chef tells us - there are other doughs that are just as delicious and more user friendly!

Anyhoo, we used our Pate Brisse to make fruit tarts - we made an 8 inch tart that we filled with Vanilla Pastry cream before topping with fruit and then we made individual tarts that we filled with Orange Curd and topped with fruit. Other groups made Lemon or Lime curd but I made orange.

I filled three of my tartlettes with pastry cream and the other three with the orange curd. This is before I glazed them with nappage.

Here is my 8 inch tart - pre glaze.

Ta-daaaa!!! See what a difference brushin a little apricot glaze does for this!

And the little guys too!

These were a nice treat too and something I think I will make in the future - even if it means a struggle with Mr. Pate Brisse!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Challah and Bagels and Doughnuts, Oh My!

Oh yeah - and Pizza!!! Can you think of a more carb-o-licious weekend?! I think that our class was the most excited about this past weekends lessons! We've been counting down until Doughnut weekend since we started this adventure on January 9th! But we didn't realize that we would also get to make Bagels and Pizza on the same weekend!

So we started out by making our pizza dough and while that fermented, we got to cook all of the toppings that we wanted to use on our pizza. Another chance to feel like we were culinary students - the school provided every kind of meat and vegetable and cheese you could imagine so we went wild!

While our toppings cooled to room temperature, Chef showed us how to shape our dough into a pizza round. We didn't throw it above our heads like the pro's do, but we used our knuckles and turned really fast circles with the dough to make our crust nice and thin. After that, we topped it with sauce and our toppings.

My first pizza had Italian Sausage, Sauteed onions, peppers and mushrooms and grated mozzarella. Making the pizza was only half of this lesson - the other half was getting the pizza off of the peel (long handled, wooden paddle that you use to slide the pizza into the deck oven) successfully and not tossing it into the back of the oven or getting it into the oven - but upside down! A variety of things could cause this type of messy disaster - if your pizza was too heavy with toppings, if your pizza dough got stuck to the peel, if there was a little speck of sauce on the peel, etc. Luckily, our class did not have any incidents of pizza flippings and everyone was able to get their pizza into and out of the oven successfully!

My second pizza was a White Pizza - no sauce, just cheeses. I used sliced mozzarella, riccotta, peccorino romano, bel paese, and parmesean cheese. Then I sprinkled fresh arugala on top and a little fresh cracked black pepper. I loved this pizza!!!!

After pizza, we made Challah bread and Challah rolls. Challah is one of Roger's favorite breads so I was happy to make this to bring home for him to try. The dough gets it's color from the egg yolks that are in this dough. After the dough went through fermentation and proofing, we learned to braid the dough.

Here is my tray of Challah rolls - we learned severl knots / braids to use and then coated them with egg wash and sprinkled on poppy seeds, kosher salt, white sesame seeds and black sesame seeds. This is before they went into the oven.

Challah fresh out of the oven...

And the rolls...

We also made Foccacia - the thick, flat, italian bread. My partner and I decided to top ours with olive oil and kosher salt and put sun dried tomatoes on half of it.

An "in between bread" on Saturday was this Oatmeal Bread. Another yeast bread - and this one had oatmeal and a little brown sugar in it.

I'm so disappointed that I forgot to take pictures of my Bagels! I don't know how it happened - but I didn't realize it until I sat down to upload my pictures and write this post. Making bagels is a lot of fun - we made the dough, learned how to shape it into the circle shape and then we poached them before putting them into the oven to bake. Poaching gives the bagel the nice chewy texture and baking in the oven completes the cooking process and gives the bagel it's brown color.

Finally, it was Time To Make The Doughnuts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We made two types of dough - One for Filled Doughnuts and one for Raised Doughnuts. Here is the dough for the Filled Doughnuts - cut out circles with no holes in them. We didn't want to waste a bit of that dough, so we used a smaller cutter to make some "munchkins".

We didn't have large fryers to use, so we heated oil to 350 degrees in saucepans on our induction units and fried our doughnuts there. Here are three of the filled munchkins in the hot tub.

Now you may be wondering what we filled these little yummies with? Well, we made more vanilla pastry cream (like our filling for the Eclairs and Choux Puffs) and we used that to fill the majority of our doughnuts. We had a plethora of jellies to choose from too - but who wants that when you can have vanilla pastry cream?
We dipped our doughnuts into chocolate glaze or fondant and then decorated them with sprinkles.

Next we cut out our raised doughnuts and got those into the fryer pronto!

For this recipe, we coated the warm doughnuts with cinnamon and sugar

Or chocolate glaze...

While these weren't quite as good as Krispy Kreme, they were still a nice treat and a lot of fun to make!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


That's my first loaf of real yeast bread - the first bread we started off with this past weekend was Semolina Bread. This was our introduction to the various stages of working with yeast products and making bread by hand. We learned about straight dough and indirect dough methods and mixed these first breads by hand.

Bread is a lot of fun, but we discovered there is a lot of patience required and bread baking is a very lengthy process! Chef Jeff tried to limit the amount of down time we had by staggering our recipes so that while one dough was fermenting or proofing, we were working on another bread that was at another stage in the process.

Once we were familiar with the process, we moved on to make Nicois Olive Bread and learned how to shape our dough into oblong loafs as well as rounding dough like we did on our Semolina bread.

Next we made Fougasse Provencale which has BACON in it and herbs de provence. You wouldn't believe how excited Pastry students are to get to cook and use Bacon!!!! It was strange to have that smell in our kitchen since we have never really worked with savory flavors before. This bread was really great - nice flavor and how can you go wrong with Bacon inside your bread!

Fougasse is a ladder shaped bread so we formed our dough into rectangles and then cut openings in the bread before it proofed for the last time and was put in the oven.

Saturday afternoon we made a Poolish which is the French name for a wet starter made of equal weight proportions of flour and water and a very small percentage of yeast. We left our Poolish to work overnight and came back to triple the amount we left on Saturday evening.

We used this particular Poolish to make Baguettes. Baguettes take even more time to make than the other breads we made and are very difficult to work with. True French baguettes only contain yeast, flour, water, and salt and only have a shelf life of 6 hours. In a strict French bakery, they would deem baguettes older than 6 hours not-saleable and would pull them from their shelves at the 6 hour mark.

The hardest part about making Baguettes is shaping them into those long rods. It is a tough technique and Chef warned us ahead of time it was difficult and could be frustrating so we knew we were in for an experience! We each had to make 4 baguettes and you can see that they kinda have the correct shape, but not quite!

The one on the very bottom is the first one I rolled - doesn't it look like a snake! : )

Despite their appearance, these baguettes were delicious! Roger and I had French Bread pizzas for dinner Sunday night (because we were overwhelmed with Bread products!) and it was really, really good!

One of the breads we made during our baguette downtime was called Anadama bread and was a strange mixture of flour, cornmeal, salt and molasses (and a few other ingredients) - I wasn't really a fan of this bread but we made this recipe because it only had to proof one time and was made in loaf pans which we had not used before.

It was a very dense bread that had a slight corn flavor too it - but also had a yeast element. The story behind the recipe is that a long time ago, a man came home from working and his wife had not prepared dinner the way she normally did and was not at home. Her name was Ana and supposedly he exclaimed "Ana Damn" and then looked in the cupboards to see what he could scrounge together to eat. He mixed these ingredients together, threw it into the oven and Anadama bread was created.

This next bread was by far my favorite! Chocolate Hazelnut Bread!!!! It had both milk & semisweet chocolate in it and was fantastic!!!! I could see myself making this one again - it was that good.

Here is a picture of all the breads we baked on Sunday.

And last but not least are Bread sticks - we made a Rosemary bread stick that was very tasty. These were relatively quick to make and had a crunchy texture to them - not a big, doughy bread stick like you would have at an Italian restaurant.

And that was weekend 1 of Bread!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Back on Track!

Back in the swing of things! Sorry I’m a little behind with putting up a new post – my school schedule was a little strange the last three weeks but I wanted to get you up to speed before we start our Bread and Yeast Doughs Module this weekend!

After having President’s Day weekend off, we jumped right back into things finishing up our Frozen Dessert work making Bombes. Bombes are like an ice cream dessert, but instead of the custard mixture being churned, you add air to it by incorporating whipped cream or whipped egg whites. We had the choice to make a wide variety of flavors, so my partner and I chose to make Banana, Pineapple Coconut and Raspberry! We were trying to feel tropical on that cold February Saturday morning!

Bombes are layered into flexible molds and then unmolded before presentation. We had fun layering in our three flavors and the combination turned out to be a hit!

I forgot to take pictures of our bombes, but they were cute. I found this picture online - ours were similar but were a pale yellow color.

When we left the ICE building to commute home, we all made sure to not mention we had made Bombes that day – that could get you in a whole bunch a trouble in NYC!

The more exciting part of that weekend was that we began our journey into pastry related production – Pate a Choux!!! Pate a Choux is used to make Eclairs and choux puffs (Crème puffs) and Paris Brest.

The translation of Pate a Choux is “cabbage paste” and it got this name way back when because when the dough would bake in the oven, it often looked like little cabbages when it puffed up. The neat thing about Pate a Choux is that when it bakes, it puffs up and leaves a hollow center that you can fill with all kinds of yummy stuff!

We made Pastry Cream (vanilla & chocolate) and Whipped Cream to fill our Pate a Choux and we also made a Chocolate Glaze and Fondant to coat our pastries. Here I am piping vanilla pastry cream into an Eclair.

We used different pastry tips and techniques to form the same dough into various shapes. This tray has éclairs and choux puffs on it and I’m using a knife to poke a hole in the bottom of each one so that we could pipe our pastry cream inside.

The dessert below is called a Paris Brest - and it is a classic French dessert. The story behind the name is that prior to the Tour de France, there was a bicycle race from Paris to Brest and back to Paris and this dessert was created in honor of that event. The pastry is round and some say represents the circle the actual bicycle route made while others say it represents the bicycle wheel.

Either way, the circle of Pate a Choux is brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with slivered almonds before baking and after it cools, is cut open and filled with pastry cream and whipped cream then dusted with powdered sugar.

These are two Choux a la Creme that I filled with chocolate & vanilla pastry cream, sliced strawberries and dusted with powdered sugar. Nice two-bite treats!

Here is a tray with some of our completed Eclairs and Choux Puffs - we filled them and then decorated them using our Chocolate Glaze or Fondant (not to be confused with rolled fondant used on cakes) and then made them fancy using our cornet skills to decorate with a contrasting color.

You may be wondering where the rest of those choux puffs I was putting holes into ended up since they aren't on this tray? Well, we used the rest of our choux puffs to make mini - Croquembouche!

These were a bit more involved and really fun to make! Martha Stewart has made these mainstream by making large Croquembouche for Wedding Cakes.

Please note - I did NOT make the above picture! I would still be in class working on it if I had because these things take forever!!!

To my fellow Dunkin Donuts fans, these may look like munchkins - but they are actually the little choux puffs, dipped in caramel, filled with pastry cream, and then "glued" together with more hot caramel to form a cone shape.

And that was the last thing we made in Module 1. Our written and practical exams were last weekend and I'm happy to say that I made 50/50 points on our practical! We each had to make Creme Anglaise and Chocolate Souffle and were graded by Chef Jeff on our technique, procedures and final product and had to complete our products at a specific time. It was a bit nerve racking, but now I know what to expect for future practical exams and am happy that I did well.

Tomorrow morning we will start Breads and I'm very excited about it!