Every week I have three cooking classes in a span of two days. Baking, Lab, and Retail. The first two are about learning how to prepare and cook different types of foods, while the third uses skills we’ve already gained to mass produce items for sale in our school’s Pantry.
This week I’m going to discuss the baking class. In class we produced baguettes, challah (pronounced Ha-La. I learned that today.) brioche, and souffles. Even though our class had already made bread in the previous semester I always appreciate a refresher, and with our chef being a pastry chef her tips were amazing.
Her best tip for me was how to to roll out a baguette easily while keeping nice tapered ends. Hopefully I can explain this well enough for you to understand.
- Place the portioned dough on the surface. Try not to use flour, if it’s a little sticky that’s alright.
- Shape it into a rectangle, I’d estimate around 8-9 inches long. Then with the outer edge on the left and right, fold it in just slightly.
- Now pull the top down about an inch and using your knuckles, kneed the seem into the dough. Afterwards, bring the dough towards you to roll into a tube.
- From there, see if you can fix your ends with a little adjustment of the dough if it has a hot dog look.
- With the seem of the dough against the table, use your palms to roll it forward until the seem is against your hand, then roll it back until it reaches the other side.
- Keep using this motion to roll while sliding your hands towards the edge to work the dough into your desired length.
Next came the challah, I had previously heard of this bread before but only knew it was Jewish. Once I realized that it wasn’t cha-lah, but ha-la, I reread the recipe and found that one of the differences about this bread to french bread is that it is made with eggs and butter, and our recipe called for a four part braid.
Portioning the dough into even little balls, we created four strips and began to braid. 4 over 2, 1 over 3, 2 over 3. Over and over we went with the strands until the entire thing had become a huge braided dough line. So with a quick egg wash, time in the proofer and another egg wash, we tossed (not literally) them into the oven and waited for them to bake and darken.
Well they came out great, I was completely agreeable with chef that they went a bit crooked, but other than that their coloring was nice and they tasted delicious. Perhaps it is because I know they are made with butter and egg that I taste a difference in the flavour, but if you ever have had the two I’m sure you know what I mean.
Next came the brioche. We mixed two versions; regular and chocolate. Since the dough is currently frozen and to be used later I will talk about it then. Though I have got to say, after adding over a kilo of butter to the cocoa and sugar it smelled mighty yummy.
Last was the souffles. I’ve written only a few minutes worth of material by now but all this took around 4 hours to assemble. Back to the souffle.
Our chef gave yet another few tid bits that I found interesting. The first was, the sugar and butter we smooth onto the edges of the ramekins is not only for flavour, but so the batter can use the sugar as a ladder to climb. The second was on whipping the egg whites. The recipe called for a stiffness that when you lift the whip from the bowl with whites on it, the fluff should be erect, yet what she recommended is that the whites have a bit of a curl like a Dairy Queen cone.
Once baked the souffles looked pretty neat. I didn’t realize she literally meant they would climb out the ramekin but they did and within 30 seconds of being out you could slowly see them begin to deflate. Before they fully collapsed we all got to try one and personally, I don’t like it. They smell too eggy and their texture other than the tops don’t appeal to me.
They were popular with the class though so I imagine they are a popular dessert when offered on a menu. Here’s a tip that will make your trip to a nice restaurant more special. If you order souffle your order becomes the most important thing on the line. The pastry chef cooks it up and within seconds the server absolutely, no if, ands, or buts about it, must have it in their hands and at your table before it begins to deflate.