Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"If you have extraordinary bread..."

"...and extraordinary butter, it's hard to beat bread and butter." - Jacques Pepin

Since finishing the chocolate module, we've been working in both the modern desserts and bread modules. I missed the first day back in the bread module because there was some pretty major flooding downtown and I couldn't really figure out how to get to school... The class made baguettes and animal-shaped breads, so that was kind of disappointing. But the next day the teacher showed me how to make a crocodile bread, pictured below. The big one was made by the teacher, the baby one is mine. They're pretty fun, and very tasty! :)

Last week we made a miche de pain, which is a dense, round loaf of bread, but we decorated ours with pâte à décor - simple bread dough used solely for modeling. I made a teddy bear, but he was too big and not stuck together very well, so he fell over during baking, but still managed to look like a bear laying down. I'm not sure why my finished miche had such an unappetizing colour to it... :(

We also made little salad rolls - which are really, really yummy, especially with butter! :) - and hamburger and hot dog buns! The hot dog buns turned out ok, but the hamburger buns that my lab partner and I made were in the oven a bit too long and got a bit dried out.

Because the end of the bread module, and therefore the exam, is coming up fairly soon, we practiced making croissants again. We used half the dough to make our croissants (I made mini ones which I took home to sell at a bake sale my mom and I did on the weekend), and with the other half we made torsades, which are chocolate twists. To make them, we rolled out the croissant dough, spread a very thin layer of pastry cream over half of it, and sprinkled with chocolate chips. Then we folded the dough onto itself, rolled out some more, then cut into strips and twisted before placing on a baking sheet. We let them rise for 30 minutes or so and then baked - mmm!

Today we made whole wheat rolls (pains à serviettes = napkin bread?) and practiced making brioche à tête and navettes again. We reserved part of the brioche dough to make a dessert called tropézienne, which is a large disc of brioche dough sprinkled with coarse sugar before baking. Once baked, it is sliced in half and filled with crème léger (pastry cream mixed with whipped cream), and dusted with icing sugar. Yum! It tastes almost like a doughnut! :)


Teddy fell over and the whole thing looks weird and kind of creepy...
French bread crocodiles

Baby croc :)
Salad rolls


Mini croissants


Hot dog buns before baking (photo courtesy of Kelly)

Hot dog buns! (photo courtesy of Kelly)

Hamburger buns! (photo courtesy of Kelly)

Whole wheat rolls

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Chocolate Chronicles

Finally, the chocolate module...

One of the modules I was looking forward to the most, when I was looking into taking the course...

One of the modules I thought I might possibly excel at, even though I have apparently never properly done chocolate molding before...

I have been terribly disappointed. Chocolate and I have now reached a new level in our love-hate relationship...

On day one, we spent the morning in theory. We watched some videos about where chocolate comes from, how it's made, what the differences are between white, milk, and dark chocolates, the basics of tempering, etc. And we got some handouts to read. We spent the afternoon watching the teacher do demonstrations of two different tempering techniques, show us how to fill molds, how to roll chocolate "cigarettes," etc. It was a lot of information to take in, and I was thoroughly overwhelmed and most definitely terrified.

The next day we jumped right into it. Not literally, of course, although you might have wondered after seeing some of our aprons at the end of the day. :) There are limited resources, and it's a very short module, so we had to be split up into "teams" which rotated in order to allow everyone equal opportunities to use all the resources available.

Tempering chocolate is a process where you bring the chocolate to a high temperature, and then quickly lower the temperature (temperatures specific to the type of chocolate being used). When done right, this makes the chocolate glossy and crackly (it snaps when you break it) and doesn't stick to the molds! The two methods we've been taught for tempering chocolate are 1) tabling, called marbling in French because traditionally a marble slab is used, and 2) "vaccination" (I can't find an English term for this process). Tabling is where, once your chocolate reaches the high temperature, you use a marble (or other solid, cool, smooth, etc.) work surface to cool down approximately two thirds of the melted chocolate, which you then add back into the rest of the chocolate, and it should then be tempered. Vaccination is where, once your chocolate reaches the high temperature, you add in solid chocolate (one third of the weight of your melted chocolate - we use small wafers/chips - and stir vigorously until the solid chocolate is melted. Both methods have their pros and cons, and I haven't personally had much success with either method, but by the end of the module I was finding the tabling method to be marginally easier. You can also temper using the microwave, but you have to be careful to not overheat or burn the chocolate - especially white chocolate, which is very sensitive.

Thursday (April 3) was a particularly rough day. My lab partner was MIA, and we had started a ton of stuff the day before which I needed to finish. I found out it was our turn to work on the marble top in the afternoon, which I was then dreading all day, because until that point I had had zero luck at it. And my group had decided to work with milk chocolate that day, instead of dark chocolate. But do you think we could get that chocolate to temper? The morning went something like this:

8:30am - Everything was properly measured out for the vaccination process, the chocolate was brought up to the appropriate temperature, the warming machine was set to the right temperature, we followed procedure precisely to vaccinate. Result: too hot = not tempered.

9:15am - Second try, new approach. Instead of 1/3 of the weight of the melted chocolate, we set aside 40%. Proceeded as before, reaching proper temperatures, following procedure. Result: too hot = not tempered. Got a bowl of ice to set the chocolate into to try cooling it down. Failed.

9:40am - Teacher intervened, removed a portion of chocolate from the machine, stirred over ice, got talking to another student and didn't pay attention, over chilled the chocolate in the bowl. Added some back into the machine. Result: borderline tempered. I'm not going to lie to you guys, tears were shed that morning.

After that things went fairly well, I finished a few individual chocolates and molded a couple Easter bunnies. Much sooner than I wished, it was afternoon, time to work the marble. But, wonder of all wonders, it worked the first try! I managed to get my chocolate perfectly tempered, and maintain the right temperature. So even though the day had a rough beginning, I managed to get lots of stuff done, and I finally succeeded at tabling! Yay!

The exam (April 15) went well. Because there is a lot to do, limited resources, and only one Michel (thank goodness!), the class was split in two to do the exam. So half did it on Monday and half on Tuesday. Everything went fairly smoothly, all things considered. I was the last one to finish, and I had a really hard time to get my chocolate to temper on the marble. The marble was too warm, the school was hot that day, I was getting frustrated... but eventually it worked, I presented everything and had near perfect results. I won't say it was perfect because obviously there's always room for improvement, and the teachers aren't technically supposed to give us an actual grade, they can only tell us pass or fail, but... it was a very positive response. I was pleased, but exhausted. On the day that we weren't doing the exam, we made Turtles, nougat, and fruit chews.

Below are pictures I took throughout the chocolate module. I thought I had taken more, but sadly this is all I find. Enjoy!

First molded chocolate forms!

Rocher praliné (sort of a Ferrerro Rocher)

Maple filled
Chocolate bunnies

More chocolate bunnies

Mouse! Made by Kelly & Anne-Marie
Orange truffles
Palais au café (coffee-flavoured ganache dipped in chocolate)
Creepy Claudette the Chicken
Easter bunnies for my cousin's little girls

Palais or (chocolate ganache dipped in chocolate, with gold dust on top)
Not a great photo, but these are regular truffles
I put together my own little boxes of assorted chocolates to sell

Assorted chocolates packages up for sale
Colouring a mold (the brown splotches are on the outside)

Finished chocolate bunnies for my nephews

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Good bread..."

"...is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts." - James Beard

For most of the past week we've been swimming in chocolate, but there really is a lot to say about that - more than one post could hold - and the module isn't done yet. So, today's post will only be concerned with Friday.

After a very trying week, we were all glad to be in the bread module with our other teacher on Friday. And because it was Friday; and because we won't be in this module again for another week or so; and because the teacher wasn't feeling well... it was a really relaxed and fun day, just what everyone needed! :)

We started off by making a brioche dough. Brioche dough is one of the strangest things I've ever made. The first time I made it (in the summer before starting Pastry school), I was sure I must have made a mistake, or that the recipe must be wrong. You start by making a simple yeast dough, and when it's all come together in a ball... you throw in a whole lot of butter, it all gets greasy and falls apart, you're sure you've ruined it or that there is way too much butter for the recipe... and then it magically comes back together in a very soft, sticky dough. We popped that in the freezer to make sure it stayed really cold so there was no chance of the yeast starting to activate. After about 30 minutes we cut off 12 lumps of 60g each, which we then rolled into balls using a very specific method that takes a lot of practice for some people and seems to work better if you don't have to wear gloves... Six of these we shaped into brioche à tête, and the other six we formed into little rolls (I didn't write down the name so now I can't remember) which we snipped before baking, and sprinkled with coarse sugar. We also let them rise for 10 or so minutes before brushing with egg wash and baking.

Brioche à tête

Little brioche rolls

With the remaining dough, we made cinnamon brioches - yum! We rolled the dough out into a rectangle. Because there is so much butter in the dough, we just brushed water over the dough to help the brown sugar and cinnamon stick, then rolled up and sliced! We let these rise before egg washing and baking, as well.

Cinnamon brioche

We also made bagels! So exciting! I almost tried to made them last weekend when I was in a baking frenzy... But I had already made bread-y things and decided against it. So it was super exciting to get to try them this week! There is almost nothing to making bagels, it's almost disappointing. Just a firm yeast dough that we rolled into smooth balls. Then we made holes and stretched them, then let rise for about a half hour. Next you (gently) drop the raw bagels in boiling water for approx. 1 minute per side. When you take them out of the water, you can dunk them in whatever coating you like (grated cheese, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc), then egg wash and bake! I was given the ok to skip the water step because my dough was a bit softer than it should have been and time was running out, so I just went ahead to the egg wash and baking, and left mine regular. They baked flatter than expected, but oh man... Are they every good!!!


Then, as if the day wasn't fabulous enough with all that, we made English muffins, too! English muffins are also pretty easy. A fairly firm yeast dough, let rise for 20 minutes. Then we rolled it out to 1cm thickness and cut out 9cm diameter circles which we dipped in corn meal, then let rise and baked until very lightly coloured. Cool! Such a great way to end a crappy long week. :)

English muffins


After making croissants at school and discovering how delicious and do-able they were, I had to try them at home. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they worked out at home! If you're a Facebook friend, you might have seen the pictures I posted of the final product - which were delicious, I might add. ;) But I also took a few pictures of the process as an experiment. I'm not a photographer or a tutorialist, and I missed a couple steps, but I wanted to try something new. Here goes.

First, put all your dry ingredients (except the yeast) in your stand mixer with the hook attachment, gradually adding the water. When it starts to come together you can toss in the yeast. Continue adding a small amounts of water and mixing until it forms a ball  that cleans the sides of the bowl. If you've added a bit too much water and it's sticking to the sides you can throw in a pinch of flour. If your recipe happens to ask for fresh yeast and you want to use dry, divide the amount by 3 (ex: if your recipe asks for 30g of fresh yeast, put 10g of dry).

It's a fairly soft dough, so to make things move along quicker, wrap it in plastic and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes, during which time you can manipulate your butter into a square shape. If you've got lots of time and want your croissants to have a more developed flavour, place your wrapped dough in the fridge for a few hours.

Next (not pictured, really sorry) to make the butter square... your butter should be quite cold and cut into slabs. Place the slabs together between sheets of parchment or waxed paper, and pound with a rolling pin until the pieces start to meld together and become pliable. Cut off and rearrange the pieces to keep a square shape. Refrigerate while you work the dough. Roll the dough out into a diamond shape approximately the same size as the butter, leaving a small hump in the center. Place the butter in the middle of the diamond, folding the dough around the butter like an envelope, and proceed to roll out into a long rectangle - you can kind of see how my dough meets in the center around the butter and I've started rolling it out.

When your dough is long enough, fold it onto itself in a tri-fold, making sure you brush away any extra flour with a dry pastry brush. Repeat this process two more times, always keeping the folded edges on the sides as you roll out your rectangle. You may need to refrigerate between turns if the dough gets too soft.

Once you've done your three turns and let chill, covered, for another 30 minutes in the freezer (again, if you want a more developed flavour and have lots of time you can leave them in the fridge for several hours or overnight) you can roll out the dough for cutting. My recipe is supposed to make approx. 16 croissants. So I rolled my dough out into a rectangle roughly 20cm by 36cm. Cut in half lengthwise so you have two long strips and place one on top of the other (so you only have to measure and cut once). Measure out triangles approx. 5cm wide and 10cm long - you should have 8 marked out. I measured wrong or hadn't rolled my dough long enough, but I used the end pieces to make smaller extras. Make a little slit in the short side of each triangle.

Now you're going to take each triangle by the short side and gently pull down to the tip to elongate. To roll, place the triangles on your work surface with the point facing away from you. Start by folding in the wings at the notch you made in the center, as pictured. Then roll toward the tip from the wings in the center, pushing your hands slightly out to the sides as your roll. You should be able to roll three times before you reach the end. Try to make sure the tip stays on the bottom when you finish rolling.

Bring the tails around to connect at the front. Most likely they will not stay connected during proofing, but should maintain that iconic crescent shape.

Now comes proofing - the part that I wasn't really sure how to do at home, and I didn't end up doing right. You want your oven to be warm, but not warm enough to melt the butter in your croissants (like mine was... see the puddles? Don't do that). Let them rise until significantly bigger (how long will depend on your dough and where you're letting them proof). As you can see, they are much bigger than the previous picture. You'll know they are ready if you can see the layers when you look from the side, and if they jiggle slightly when you shake the pan. But try not to shake them up too much or they might deflate!

After they've risen, remove them from the oven and lightly brush with egg wash. Set your oven to the proper temperature, and once preheated, pop them in and they'll be done in 15-20 minutes! Mmm, mmm, mmm! Enjoy!

Ok, so that is definitely not the best tutorial I've ever seen, and like I said, I missed getting pictures of a few steps, and there are some things you might need to watch in action to understand, but hey! Not bad for being done on a whim, right?!

I also tried making this English Muffin Bread, from the blog Buns In My Oven found via Pinterest. It wasn't really like eating English Muffins, but it was good and I would probably try it again. :)

English Muffin Bread