Sunday, March 30, 2014

So Long, March!

It feels like it's been a really long time since I made a post, but I guess that makes sense since the last one was two weeks ago... :)

The puff pastry exam went super well. I was finished before lunch, which is awesome! And everything turned out perfectly, but of course I forgot to take a picture. *sigh* But take my word for it... The turnovers didn't overflow, the vol-au-vents were the right size and had good height, the palmiers were uniform, and everything had the perfect golden colour. I was very pleased.

Friday was our theory exam for the raw materials module. I was one of the first ones to finish that exam as well, and did very well. I'd like to say I got 100%, but they can't actually tell us our marks - just pass or fail. But I'm pretty confident that I aced it.

Now, for the goodies we produced in the last two weeks...

To start, we rolled out a thin 8" disc of puff pastry and par-baked it in a cake mold. Then we spread a layer of almond cream and a layer of pastry cream on top. And then we made little brioches (brioche dough rolled out, spread with pastry cream, sprinkled with raisins, rolled up and sliced) and placed them on top of the pastry cream in the cake mold. We let the brioches rise for 30-40 minutes and then baked, sealed with apricot glaze, and decorated with melted fondant.


I was so, so, so excited to make croissants! And they were so delicious! So of course I had to try them at home! But that will be another post. There isn't really much to say about how they're made. We started with a sort of bread dough (basic dough with yeast), but rolled it out with butter as we do with puff pastry. We had to let them proof for quite a while to let the yeast work (we have special machines for this at school called étuves - don't know what it's called in English!).

Before baking...

After baking!

Perfection :)
 We also made chocolatines, which are croissants with chocolate sticks inside. They were good, but I actually liked the plain old croissants better. :)

Chocolatine, and the last vol-au-vents and palmiers that we made.

Opéra and Mousse aux fruits
These were practices for the exam coming up pretty soon.


Mousse aux fruits des champs

So this dessert was a bit different because we made it in a dome mold - fun! Because it was in a dome, we had to build it upside-down, so we started off by filling the bottom of the mold with chocolate mousse, then a round of chocolate-raspberry cake soaked with raspberry syrup, followed by more mousse. We sprinkled whole raspberries into the mousse before adding another layer of cake, and then repeating one more time. We let chill in the freezer. Once firm, we removed the dessert from the mold and filled in any imperfections left in the mousse by the plastic wrap lining the mold. Then we used the airbrush to coat the whole dome with chocolate. Then we wrapped a decorated cookie strip around the bottom, tucked chocolate triangles around the top of the cookie, topped it off with a raspberry and finished with a ribbon. :)


To make this dessert, we started with an almond cookie layer, followed by a chocolate feuilletine layer. Next was a chocolate mousse layer, which we also used to fill in the mold around the first two layers, then a chocolate cake disc went in, and then we filled in the rest of the mold with chocolate mousse. Once completely set, we removed the mold and covered with a chocolate glaze. To finish off, we made little "Breton" crackers which we placed around the outside. I also used them to decorate the top of mine.


Unnamed dessert
So remember before March Break I mentioned that we would be given the opportunity to design and put together our own desserts? Well, we finally did that on Tuesday! I don't have a name for mine. I started with a very moist chocolate cake layer, followed by a chocolate nougat made with malted milk powder, aka Ovaltine (which my teacher was fascinated by because he had never heard of it before), followed by a chocolate-praline-peanut butter feuilletine layer for crunchiness. Now my plan for the next part was to have a creamy caramel layer inside chocolate mousse. But I miscalculated my ingredients, so I had to make another batch of mousse. And the caramel didn't turn out the way I was expecting it to be, plus I was too hasty about putting it and the next layer of mousse in, so it ended up going right out to the edges. And the caramel didn't freeze, so when I unmolded the cake, the caramel layer oozed out all over the place while the rest of the dessert was frozen solid. My decoration worked out surprisingly well for a first attempt, tho. I found some videos on YouTube for how to make chocolate lace and doilies to decorate cakes and plates, and decided that would be a really interesting element for my dessert. It was pretty good. I put a little bit too much salt in the nougat, but it actually balanced out the sweetness in everything else. Everyone didn't try it, but the ones who did said it was really good. We actually made 2 desserts each, one for tasting and one to buy or put in the store. I decided to bring mine home, so we'll see what kind of reviews it gets from my biggest critics. ;)

Chocolate doily (I thought to take a picture before placing it on the cake, just in case it shattered into a million little pieces...)

The finished dessert, with caramel sauce oozing out...

(Really messy) inside view.

We are now full swing into the chocolate module, but that really needs it's own blog post. So I will wait until I have some more pictures (and stories?) to share.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Baking At Home

Honestly? I rarely bake at home. You might wonder why, since I'm studying it and all, and it's something I enjoy... There are a lot of reasons - one being that I'm too lazy to bake at home all the time, another one being that no household needs baked goods all the time, and I do bring things home from school fairly often. Also... when you bake less often, people appreciate it more... There's a method here... ;)

Obviously some of the recipes we make at school call for special ingredients making it difficult or impossible to recreate at home. So I chose some of the simpler ones that I enjoyed and thought should be easy enough to do at home. As it turns out, for whatever reason, what works at school doesn't necessarily work at home (or at least not the same way).

I decided to make a lemon and a pecan tart, and thought sugar dough would suit both of them. I doubled the recipe to be safe, but I think I would have had plenty with just one recipe for the two tarts. Because my tart pan is a bit smaller than the ones at school, I ended up having a lot more dough than I needed, so I decided to make tartlet shells (which I made much too thick). I thought there might be extra lemon filling that I could use in them, but the filling recipe turned out to be just right for my pan. I thought it should have thickened up a bit more, so I don't know if I didn't cook it long enough, or if the amounts just need to be adjusted for home-use. Since we have a smaller Kitchen Aid than the ones at school, and because the recipe always makes too much, I halved the meringue recipe. It appeared to work out okay, but seemed a bit runnier than it should have been. But hey, it tasted great! :D For the pecan tart, I halved the filling recipe, which fit my pan perfectly, and it turned out great. I ended up making a chocolate ganache to finish the tartlets. They weren't as great as I had hoped, and I was really the only one who enjoyed them.

Tartlet shells, pecan tart, lemon meringue tart

Chocolate ganache tartlets

I also tried making our caramel custard recipe from school. When I was cooking the caramel, and when I poured it into the ramequins, it looked like it was cooked enough (I'm blaming it on the lighting in our kitchen); but after flipping the custards out of the ramequins, the caramel seemed to have melted and was almost translucent. So, I guess it wasn't really caramel. The custard itself worked, so I just need to work on the caramel. :) I didn't get a picture of the finished product, unfortunately.

Caramel in the bottom

Cooked custards cooling in the fridge

And finally, I made Cream Scones from the newest addition to my cookbook collection (The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays), which were amazing! Soft, sweet, buttery... mmmm! Will definitely be making them again! I originally wanted to make the Maple Bacon glaze for them, also from the cookbook, but they were so good on their own I didn't even bother.

This past week at school was a really short week. Monday was a planning day after March Break, Tuesday we had school, Wednesday and Thursday were snow days, then back at school on Friday. Made for a bizarre week. Tuesday we made a dessert called Café Noir, which was coffee-chocolate-whiskey flavoured. We started off by making a "decorated cookie" to go around the outside (chocolate stripes on white). For the cake layers of the dessert we made a coffee dacquoise cookie with raisins and chocolate chunks, and layered as follows: dacquoise soaked with a choco-coffee-whiskey syrup, then whiskey mousse, another cookie, a dark chocolate coffee cream layer, with more mousse on top. To finish, we piped more mousse onto the top in a random, crazy design, then sprinkled a thick coat of cocoa powder all over the top and finished off with a chocolate... splat. :)

Café Noir
Friday was our (unofficial) last day in the puff pastry module - the exam is on Monday! (We will still have a few more days in the module, just in case anyone fails the exam). So we did one last practice run for the exam, making turnovers, palmiers and vol-au-vents. My turnovers overflowed a little bit, but aside from that everything was great! Hopefully I can do it all again tomorrow. During the exam, we have to prepare a batch of puff pastry dough, as well as the 3 pastries I mentioned. Because puff pastry takes so long to prepare, there isn't really enough time to do all of that in one day, so we prepared the dough we would use during the exam on Friday. I was really not in good form Friday morning and kept making silly mistakes, so hopefully my dough will work the way it's supposed to.

Practice exam
Before the Break, we had prepared a potato puff pastry dough, using pureed potatoes. So Friday we used this dough to make little squares of pastry (galettes de pomme de terre). Mine didn't get out of the oven until almost the end of the day, so I forgot to take a picture, and I'm not sure if there will be any sticking around tomorrow. We also prepared, but I didn't have time to finish, a Copenhagen, which I will hopefully have a picture and explanation of next week!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

"You can say this for ready-mixes..."

"...the next generation isn't going to have any trouble making pies exactly like mother used to make." - Earl Wilson
The last week of school before March Break was a short one, but a good one. Monday I didn't have school because it was a make up day and I didn't have anything to make up. Tuesday we worked on our puff pastry module. Oh, by the way, I never know the proper term to use when translating feuilletage, so I've been interchanging "flaky pastry" and "puff pastry." In my world, they are the same thing, and essentially, they are. I just looked it up and the difference is so minuscule and technical that it's not even worth mentioning, and so I'm going to keep using the two terms interchangeably to describe this delicate pastry! :) Moving along... We made jalousie, which we have made before. I guess it was a good thing we did it again because I completely forgot how long it takes to bake! I took mine out too early and then ended up having to put it back in the oven. :/ We also practiced for the exam - vol-au-vent, palmier or turnovers - but since I have been doing really well so far, I only had to do palmiers. They turned out monstrous. At first I couldn't figure out why, but then I remembered that I had used half of the dough instead of one third, to make the same number of palmiers. So they were huge, but beautiful. Hope they turn out that great for the exam!!



Wednesday (and part of Thursday) we mostly finished off desserts we'd been working on previously. Thursday we had a pizza party! The teacher had mixed up the dough for us before we got in, and a few people had worked earlier in the week to make the sauce. We could bring in our own toppings or use what was provided, and we each made our own pizzas for lunch! Yum! Because it was our last day before the break, we could only make little things that can be frozen. I made two batches of muffins (which all got sold) and then just whipped up a small batch of cookie dough which I bought to bring home (and which turned out to be way yummier than I had expected!!). Here are the desserts I finished up this week...


Citroneige is definitely a dessert I could get on board with. It's primarily lime flavoured, which reminded me of summertime... *sigh*. It was also simple to make - a white génoise for the bottom layer, joconde layers "glued" together with an apricot-lime glaze which went around the outside of the mold, and a delicious lime mousse, with the same apricot-lime glaze on the top. I finished mine with chocolate squares and lime zest. (The weird kind of edge that you see around the top is the acetate that we use inside the molds - the mousse should have been enough to fill to the top of the acetate, but it wasn't so it looks a little messy).

Soleil d'hiver

Soleil d'hiver did not interest me in the least. It starts with a brownie base (made with almond paste), then a praline layer with pieces of bitter chocolate in it, then a mandarin crème brûlée layer, another layer of brownie, and then topped off with a generous layer of white chocolate mousse. We then made a white chocolate glaze marbled with orange to cover the whole cake, and decorated with chocolate squares.


Alliance was interesting, but again not really something I would go out and buy (it`s because of the orange flavours, and all of the nuts...). The coolest part was the decorations! But first... we started with a biscuit calisson (another cake made with almond paste, but this one has the added pleasure of orange zests...). We then made a dark chocolate ganache which we allowed to cool and thicken, before applying to the cake base in a spiral pattern using a piping bag and tip. Next we prepared caramelized hazelnuts, which were sprinkled over the ganache. We then whipped up two mousses: a praline-hazelnut and a mandarin one. We then covered the top with clear gel marbled with orange. To make the decorations we made a gel using agar-agar (derived from algae) that we dripped into cold oil to make little beads, which look kind of like roe, only they can be any colour you like. I also used caramelized hazelnuts (prepared by my friends Jennifer and Imane) to decorate. I didn't get a close up of the gel beads, but you can kind of see them...

This was just leftovers from the Alliance that we put into a cup... one beautiful, artistically photographed cup... which someone then took apart because they needed a bit more mousse...

I decided that I wanted to make muffins on Thursday, so the teacher handed me his file of muffin recipes and basically told me to take whatever I wanted. So I found these two recipes that looked interesting, and we just happened to have both cream cheese and maple syrup in the kitchen, so it worked out really well! :) Before reading the following comments, it should be noted that the recipes were written with imperial measurements, but at school we don't have cups and teaspoons, we do everything metric. So I had to guesstimate some of the amounts, which probably weren't too accurate. So probably following the recipe with cups and spoons would have produced better results... I have now found a conversion chart for future reference, which I will be adding to my school recipe binder.

Actually, I'm going to include these muffin recipes, just to be different, and because I'd like to know if following the instructions to a T does produce better results... ;P Let me know if you try them!

Chocolate cheesecake muffins

Chocolate cheese muffins
This was a simple chocolate muffin batter, you just add a spoonful of the cream cheese & sugar mixture to each cup before topping off with more batter. They were pretty good, but not enough cream cheese filling! I also found them a bit salty. If I were going to do it again, I would put just a pinch of salt or cut it completely, and possibly double the cream cheese filling. This would probably leave me with extra muffin batter, but that's what mini muffin tins are for, right?!

1 3-oz package cream cheese
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
powdered sugar

Beat together the cream cheese and (2 tablespoons) sugar until light and fluffy, set aside. Mix together the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients (well in the center), stirring just until moist. Put approx. two spoonfuls of batter in each cup. Add 1 teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture to the top, and fill with the rest of the batter. Bake 20 minutes at 375*F. Sprinkle with powdered sugar after they have cooled.

Maple syrup muffins

Maple syrup muffins
The recipe called these a treat, and they are sweet, but they were so dense and filling (there's almost a cup of rolled oats in it...) that I'd have to consider it a breakfast muffin. The batter was more like cookie dough, I actually had to add milk to it so it would stick to itself and not be just crumbs. They ended up taking a lot longer than the recipe said to bake through. But with the maple glaze on top (which I also added milk to)... delish! :)

1/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Soften the margarine, cream together with sugar and salt. Add the dry ingredients (will be crumbly) and the oats. Mix together the syrup and milk and add to the dry ingredients, stirring until moist. Bake 20 minutes at 350*F. Once cooled, cover with glaze.