Honing My Skills

I apologize for how long it has taken me to return, my weeks have been very tiring.

To start, we moved to Mississauga without a hitch. Some thoughts I had on cities have changed, a little for the better and a lot for the worse. To start a tiny rant, I thought their transit system would run more smoothly, but in actuality it is more sporadic. Additionally, people either just push you out their way or say excuse me after half finished pushing you aside alreadt. The good has been the view from my apartment, how quick taxis arrive, and the ability to find a job.

For work, I am now garde manger at the Bier Markt on Queensway. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be offered the job considering I do not have a lot of experience, but they were very understanding of my enthusiasm to improve and took me on anyway. So far I have worked seven in a row and believe I am already improving to some extent. Wimpy’s helped give me the confidence to act without always second guessing myself, yet I do ask for help and advice when I am working on certain things.

The workplace is very free with their compliments to my work, such as plating the salads, but I sometimes worry that I seem to need frequent pats on the head. On the other hand, if my work was sloppy they wouldn’t hesitate to tell me since they want their guests to enjoy their meal, spread the good word, and return for more.

The team of people I work with in FOH and BOH are all very kind that I’ve seen so far. They are quick to introduce themselves and get my name, and say hello whenever we meet up that day. It really makes one feel part of the family. I feel very fortunate to be apart of the team.

Additionally there is more freedom than I expected. Yesterday I got to choose what fruit would be used to make the compote that accompanies the charcuterie board, and found out I could request different types of oysters to serve. To some that might not mean much, but to me I found it amazing.

As for the compote, I chose a peach mango mixture, with Stiegl Raddler reduced in the sauce. It is a fruity lager that helped compliment the sweetness of the fruit, but also give it a tasty kick. When I gave it a try I was actually tempted to grab another spoon for another bite. I hope the guests enjoy it along with their selection of meat and cheeses.

My further goals are to perfect my skills at my station. Today I made some mistakes during my prep by not getting some items done before service and having to quickly attempt to fix it during lunch, which in turn had my chef help and basically do the chore. I felt like an amateur but feel good now that I did not panic during the event and make it worse. I have another morning shift on Friday, so this time I plan to write down everything I need to do to keep up with service and complete it, then continue with the extras.

When I get a grip on my schedule I hope to go back to cake decorating. It’s not a cheap thing so I’ll have to wait until I get a full pay, but when I do I plan to make some pretty edibles.

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Terrines Are Weird

This was a fun week of cooking.

Baking lab was cookie week. Our recipes were biscotti, sugar cookies, and butter cookies. Since they sell our stuff in the pantry and do not want to have hundreds of the same type of item to sell, anything that could have a different variation has set days when to do it. For my Wednesday lab, our biscotti varitation had white chocolate, cranberries, almonds, and lemon zest. As for the other two recipes, they were identical but each pair of students were only required to hand in one box of cookies.

So to begin we mixed the sugar cookie dough, then rolled it out and placed it in the fridge to chill. Next was the butter cookies. This was also quite similar to the sugar cookies and were just a matter of mixing. With those done, my partner filled a pipping bag with the butter cookie dough and I started to assemble the biscotti.

When the biscotti was finished we divided the dough ball into four and rolled logs out the width of the baking sheets and popped them into the oven.

As those began to bake for the needed half hour, I started piping out my butter cookies. We had already done this recipe in my first year, though that time was just rose buds. This semester we were to do rosettes and shells. The rosettes were quite simple, but the shells were actually more difficult than expected.


ButterCookies


As you can see my shell has a bit of a wavy looked to it. Chef said that this was because my hand was shaking just a little which is enough to make that effect. I suppose it will take practice to perfect this technique, and since my family enjoyed these treats I’ll have plenty of opportunities to try. Maybe I can even dip half of it in chocolate!

Once those were done and in the oven we pulled out the biscotti which had a nice creamy colour but was still just a very long baked log. So while we waited for it to cool down we pulled out the chilled sugar dough and began pressing out some interesting shapes. We did four of the traditional gingerbread man shaped cookies, eight butterflies, and my most favourite, eight piggies. Yup, little piggy shaped cookies. I loved them.

By then cookies were piling up everywhere. The biscotti cooling, the butter cookies crowding the corner of our table, and sugar cookies slowly making their way into the ovens. When things were finally a little organized, my partner cleaned up and I began mixing the icing. Again, not difficult. Throw it in the mixer and let it do all the work.

Finally the biscotti was cool and the sugar cookies were finished. Now I learned that day that biscotti actually means twice baked. So to finish them off we began cutting them into wedges that could stand and put them back in the oven to bake out the rest of their moisture.


biscotti


With the biscotti baking we began to separate the icing into little dishes and give them different colours. Our assignment was to make the piggies pink, to colour the butterflies anyway we wanted, and if we had time to decorate the men to look like ourselves. It was difficult but fun. I learned how to roll parchment paper into icing tips and to create a white wall of icing around the cookie so when you’re filling it in with colour it acts as a floodgate.

Mine came out alright. Nothing I would say is sell worthy, but good practice.

So with the sugar cookies drying, the butter cookies packed in boxes, we finally pulled out the biscotti and they looked pretty nice. I’ve never had biscotti before so they were quite different from what I am used to for a cookie, but the flavour was nice and had a nice lemony sweetness to it.

Next was our terrine lab. I must admit, none of us were really looking forward to it.

There was three terrines to be made. I started gathering vegetables for one of the recipes and just ended up making it, while the other two in my group each took on a recipe themselves.

For the vegetable terrine I was required to blanch leek, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, okra, green beans, and shiitake mushrooms. After cutting everything up into their required shapes, like itty-bitty florets for the broccoli and cauliflower, I proceeded with blanching and getting the stock ready. That was really quite easy. I simmered a litre of water with the scraps from the vegetables the three of us had and added herbs. Anyways, once blanching and shocking was over I proceeded to line the terrine mold with leek.

Now it wasn’t just strips of leek. What we were to do is peel them apart and use our parrying knife to scrape out the membrane so the colour would be dulled and the piece wouldn’t be as thick. So after lining the mold I was to decoratively begin filling it with the vegetables we had. Since whole okra has a decorative centre I decided to place these more in the centre of the terrine while lining the bottom green and filling the inner edges with more brighter colours, like the carrots.

After this was done, the stock was mixed with agar agar and gently poured in so everything was coated. I then pressed down on the top to compress everything and placed it in the fridge to begin the gelling process.

Now for my partners, they made the other two terrines that made us a little wary. One was ground rabbit with the centre filled with rabbit tenderloin and the outside wrapped with back fat. The other was ground pork mixed with pink peppercorns, rosemary, and pistachios while wrapped in bacon.

I dunno. None of those actually sounded appealing to my group and the others I chatted with. Perhaps it was the fact one was wrapped in back fat. Anyways, once they came out they all looked well made. The vegetable terrine I prepared looked decorative with the way I had placed the colouring, and the other two looked like cooked meat.

Our chef explained that terrines were actually a dying art. People don’t prepare them as much anymore because of how they are. One third pork fat, one third ground pork, and one third of another type of meat. Perhaps because of how people are looking at food these days they don’t like something that is jam packed with fat.

I wonder if people are modernizing the terrine so they are more appealing to a new age consumer. Perhaps instead of using so much fat they could look at using something else.

Anyways, that was my cooking labs. I’m really looking forward to baking the next few weeks since we’re working more with chocolate and taking on a gingerbread house challenge.

Tasty Mistakes and Meat

This was a great week but I don’t have any pictures to show for it yet, hopefully I will in a few days.

Wednesday’s baking class was all about making custards and sorbet. We had four recipes to make; raspberry sorbet, crème anglaise, bavarian cream, and bread pudding.

We first started with the bread pudding recipe where we used loaves previously made just for this and pear rolls that weren’t selling well in the pantry. As my partner chopped those up I assembled the liquid mixture of cream, eggs and sugar. Once the liquid was in a bowl I added melted dark chocolate to the centre and gently made circles with my spatula until everything was blended together. From there we simply poured the chocolate liquid on the chopped bread chunks and dried cranberries, mixed, and let it sit to absorb.

After that we added the ingredients for the sorbet to the ice cream machine. Quite a simple task. Just poured it in and let it go.

Next came the bavarian and anglaise. After a demo from chef I was a little nervous but actually tackled it really well. Chef wanted the anglaise to be creamy so it was a mixture of milk and cream that I warmed and added to the mixed eggs and sugar. Once everything was blended together I added everything back to the pot to cook until it started to thicken. As it reached the right consistency I poured it through a sieve and went about moving the absorbed bread chunks to pans to cook.

Now here is where my mistake popped up. A friend came over to look at my sorbet and asked why it wasn’t red. Instantly I smiled and said in a I know I’ve screwed up voice, “Because I used passion fruit puree instead of raspberry.” Well I went and told chef and she said it was her fault because she had all of the passion fruit puree stacked out in the open and it would be confusing. As a Canadian I went about saying it wasn’t her fault because it’s not like the substance is even red. So we had a good laugh.

Well during that time and popping the bread pudding in the oven my partner became upset because she over cooked her bavarian and turned it to scrambled eggs. The mistake was easily fixed since we just split the anglaise up and used it for our other needs. For the anglaise we poured it into litre cups and put it in the fridge for later use and the bavarian we folded it into whip cream and poured that into parfait cups.

For the end of class we got to each take home a pan of bread pudding, which turned out really delicious. The chunks of pear rolls gave it a sweet burst with the chocolate. We also got to eat some of the sorbet. Since they didn’t need my flavour we ended up eating it all and everyone said they preferred it over the raspberry!

Thursday was meat day and it was a very tasty day.


Sausages2


 

There were many different types of sausages we could make (breakfast sausage, hot Italian, pepperoni, salami, and English sausages), and since I was the only one early for my group I volunteered us for bratwurst. The whole class was actually really simple. The pork had already been ground up from our pork week so we only needed to grind the fat and mix in the spices.

To make sure it tasted alright we wrapped some of the mixture in cellophane and boiled it till cooked. Once done the chef and our group tasted it and agreed it needed a bit more salt. So after the adjustment we began the fun task of casing the meat. The whole thing can be done by one person, but this was our first time so all three of us worked on it. I turned the handled to feed in the meat, one person adjusted the casing as it came out, and another placed it on a tray and turned it carefully.

We made a double batch so we ended up with around 5-6 full casings that looked pretty decent. Once we tidied up a bit we began rolling the casings to make 6-inch links and started cutting them up and traying them. From the pile we picked the four worst and began the different cooking methods that we were set to do. Cooking in the oven at 275 and 400, grilling, and boiling.

Well once all four were done we had to agree that cooking them at 400 looked tastier than the other methods, but maybe if the sausage had some grill marks it would have been the other way around.

Next we proceeded to cook them all to an internal temp of 165, chill, and package them in bags of eight to be sold in the pantry. Additionally we got to take some home and try everyone else’s. It was like visiting Costco’s and chowing down on samples. By the time we left class I was almost too full to have anything for lunch.

As for our retail class my group made pear and cranberry jam and pulled pork. Not much really happened since the pears and cranberries just needed to be chopped up and boiled, while the pork shoulder we had needed to be rubbed down with spices and the shoulder from the previous day pulled apart and mixed with BBQ sauce. It had to be the most dull assignment ever. Two of us began pulling apart the 16 lb. shoulder enthusiastically. After an hour we were bored and it felt like the shoulder had not grown any smaller. Later we began to recruit others who finished their jobs to help out. It took around 2-2 1/2 hours to rip it apart and it was a relief when we were finally done.


Pulledpork


 

By the end we added our rubbed down shoulder to the smoker, had the pulled pork vacuum packed, and all the jam jarred. As I left class I had half a loaf of farmer’s rye bread, bag of pastrami, 4-inches of pepperoni, and 6 bratwurst sausages. I could have made a meal just from that! It really was a great day though and I felt like I learned quite a bit.

Fevers and Food

Well this week went a little better than the last. I went to the clinic Monday for my sciatica and got some lovely pills that made the pain go away, but while there I suspect I caught something because during my Thursday morning class I was in agony. So after a painful two hour trip home I got into bed and had my high fever taken care of by my husband and mother. I am still feeling pretty bad but my fever has gone down and I wanted to tell you all that I did this week!

So I’ll first begin with yesterday’s class since it is more fresh in my mind. We were required to make carbonnade flamande with venison, rabbit with mustard, and bison short ribs.

The rabbit needed to be deboned, the venison shoulder cut into one-inch chunks, and the bison short ribs cleaned up and cut individually. As I worked on the prep for the carbonnade and mustard, my partner took apart the rabbit and cleaned up the bison ribs. After we finished we ended up switching recipes. I continued on to make the rabbit while she started the ribs.

By then I was feeling pretty ill and didn’t notice she had finished searing the bison quickly and vac packed them for the immersion cooker. It was quite interesting since our chef told us they would be in there for 20 hours and had some from the class on Wednesday for us to try.

After some help from chef I browned the rabbit, added the additional ingredients of herbs, wine, and chicken stock, and began to let it braise as I continued on to the vegetable cooking for the meal.

A few of the things we needed were kale, sunchoke, and carrots. The kale was easy enough and was to be cooked like spinach, while the sunchoke we boiled like a potato and mashed it with butter and cream. I’ve never tried sunchoke before but it was actually pretty good, the flavouring was similar to a potato with a hint of turnip.

After those were ready the rabbit had reduced enough to be moved to take-out containers and all we needed to wait for was the carbonnade. It had only been an hour since we had put it in the oven so we ended up tidying up and taking a small break.

By then I was feeling worse and had to refuse the different recipes we had just made, but everyone said the food was tasty. There was comments that the rabbit tasted like chicken and that the venison was hard to describe.

In the end everything looked great. We sent down a container each of kale, mashed sunchoke and carrots, with carbonnade to be sold in the pantry.


MousseCake


 Wednesday was baking and I actually did really well. Baking has never been my strongest subject so to follow the instructions of a pastry chef has really helped improve my work. This week we made blueberry mousse cake, chocolate mouse cakes, and chocolate roses.

For the blueberry cake our chef wanted to show us a simple egg free version because so many people have egg allergies these days which meant we would be using gelatin as a stabilizer.

To start we cut out a circle that was slightly smaller than the pan we had with the chocolate cake we had made a few weeks prior. And then using a ruler cut out lines from stripped cake to place around the edge as you can see in the picture above. Once everyone at the table was ready we then moved on to making the mousse. It wasn’t too difficult since we used a mixer to whip the cream, melted sugar with puree and gelatin, then folding the mixture into the cream to keep it fluffy. Afterwards we divided it up and filled the cake rings until it reached just below the stripped cake top.

From there we moved everything into the blast freezer and began to cut circles out of the mango gelee they made the week before. As I was not there last week my friend let me use some of hers. By the time we cut circles and tidied up we were able to grab the now frozen cake and move to the next step. With the gelee circle we placed it in the centre of the cake and then added the rest of the mousse and again put it in the blast freezer. I love that thing. Whoosh, frozen.

The next step was to melt what was left of the gelee and begin the next mousse cake. Again we did an egg free mousse but instead of needing gelatin, the chocolate itself would be the firming agents as the mixture would cool. Once we finished folding the chocolate into the cream we divided it up into two piping bags with no tips. Using round silicon moulds we filled most of it with mousse then the centre with caramel. On top we added a small chocolate cake circle and also added it to the blast freezer. From there we grabbed our blueberry mousse cakes and added a layer of the melted gelee to give it a decorative top plus it also helped protect the mousse from drying out.

By now chef was moving us on over to making chocolate roses. If you were finished with your cake she suggested you should started trying to warm up you pieces so they were moldable. I’ve never felt anything like it food wise. The chocolate didn’t feel normal since it was so hard, and when becoming pliable in your hand it didn’t melt. It was also entertaining as chef gave us a demo on how to make the roses and all the students were needing chocolate in their hands as they watched.

The instructions she gave looked simple enough and seemed to just require patience. First we were to make a teardrop from a marble sized piece, and then continue with petals by smoothing the chocolate on the counter until it was petal shape and begin wrapping it around the top.


ChocolateRose


As I worked on mine I was happier and happier with it. I personally think it came out lovely and still have it in my fridge. As for the chocolate mousse cakes, while working on the roses we also needed to take time to come up front and put on a chocolate glaze chef had made. Some of the things she was looking for in marking our products was that the cake came out round and smooth, meaning we had properly piped it into the mould.

Well mine came out beautifully and after I added the glaze they looked quite delicious. I was so happy that we got to keep half of them while the others were going down to the pantry to also be sold.


ChocMousse


(The one on the right isn’t a bite mark, I accidentally booped it as I was trying to put the other one in my take home box. There was three in total plus half the cake I made.)

I must admit I really enjoyed the class. Chef said my cake was beautiful, her only comment was that the top layer of gelee was a little thick, but other than that everything went great. Also I really clicked with the modeling chocolate, it seemed most of the class had a hard time putting together their rose. I wouldn’t mind trying it again with other shapes and maybe trying to perfect the rose making.

By the way, if you’re ever in the Whitby area you should check out our pantry. Parking is free if you’re a customer and tell the cashier from what I understand and the food we offer is pretty cheap for what we’re actually making. The other week we were selling two frenched lamb racks for $14.00 while I found just one for sale at Metro for $23.00.

Surprise Visits, Fabrication, and More Jars.

What started off as a pretty slow week actually took an interesting turn in the end. Our labs consisted of tarts, lamb and pork fabrication, and more preservatives. Usually I like to talk in order of what I have done this week, but since this post will involve the picture of a whole dead lamb I figured I’d leave that discussion till the end for the weak of stomach.

In baking our task was to make meringue-type butter cream, pecan and pumpkin tarts using the sweet dough we had frozen a few classes earlier and prepare the fillings, because of a gross mathematical error it ended with us actually not needing to make the filling and jumping straight into preparing the tarts.

The shapes and amount we were making were one long rectangular pecan tart, a large round pumpkin tart, and 6 of each small tart.

Rolling out the dough was an easy process since we were not needing something thin and it was just a matter of pressing the sides gently to rid the pan of any trapped air bubbles. The tart I found most interesting was the french tart. Instead of being set in a little tin foil cup and having ribbed edges, the mold was a simple circle in which we pressed the dough into so that it would have a flat bottom and sides.


Tarts1


Once finished with the shells we put them in the fridge to cool as we moved on to the butter cream. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to make the Italian style meringue. We needed sugar and water in a pot, then added lemon juice for an acid. We had to attempt it twice because the first time the sugar crystallized and that ruined the whole thing.

When it was finally done correctly we added the mixture slowly to the egg whites we had been whipping in the mixer so it would not cook them, then began adding around 2 kgs. of butter one chunk at a time. As the last chunk went in we then added in the cream cheese while others in the group began filling their tarts.

It was an easy process since the pumpkin was just poured in and for the pecan we layered the bottom with the nuts and filled in the already made mixture. Since both items needed to be cooked at different times our group piled the same items on different trays and popped them into the oven.

While doing so we began to clean, finish up the butter cream and started setting up the boxes we would need to package our items.

In truth it was a very quick class. The tarts came out, looked tasty, packaged them, poured butter cream into buckets for later use and tidied up. I didn’t feel like I came away learning much since shaping the tarts to the tray was very much the same as making a pie. The only thing I learned is don’t let other people near your tray in the oven because if they give it a forceful push back in the beginning of cooking the pumpkin will slosh about and make the tarts messy in appearance.


Tarts


In retail our task was to only make antipasto and it surprisingly took the entire class time to do it. We needed celery, cauliflower, zucchini, cherry red peppers, green beans, carrots and pearl onions. For a few hours we were chopping everything small, making the cauliflower into tiny florets, carrots into obliques, and peppers into spears.

After I personally went through 3 kgs. of cauliflower I was happy to move onto a vegetable that had colour. Before we had time to get near the steamer though we noticed our chef had written on the window ‘No Facebook’ which had me worried.

I started wondering if we weren’t supposed to take pictures of this particular class for some unknown reason, which then had me worried because of this blog. In the end it turned out we weren’t allowed to post about Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, who was coming in case the media caught on and rushed to our school for pictures.

Well when he came we all hurried to the window. Our class is on the second floor but one of the walls is completely glass so you can look down into the lobby and from there a large majority of our class watch him come in with security and entourage. It was actually pretty neat and I imagine the school was very proud. We had noticed that morning that there was fall themed decorations everywhere but assumed it was to make the school look nicer and appeal to our customers, but once we found out who was coming we knew exactly why.

Back to the antipasto. When everything was blanched we began stuffing the sanitized jars and filling it with brine. In the end we had 35 jars processed and a very sticky table.

Now for the animal fabrication.


Fabrication1


That’s the sheep I had staring at me on my table. I thought I was prepared after watching chef take them apart but when it was finally my turn to get the saw in my hands I was a little iffy. We first took off the front legs and then the head. After he wasn’t staring at me it was a little easier to get my hands on it.

The class kind of went by in a blur, a lot of hacking with the saw and trimming the fat. For a bit I worked on getting the shoulder blade out of one half then diced the thicker pieces for our later retail class to make curry. I worked on the side ribs as well while others in my group frenched the main rack.


Fabrication


As you can see our table was a bit of a mess. Once we had everything wrapped and tidied we then moved on to a half pig carcass. With this one I felt a bit more confident and sawed off the legs and helped with the head. I then began removing the jowl for bacon and was definitely put off my tuna sandwich lunch when I saw a gray substance that I assumed to be the tongue.

From there I sawed through the spine then along a scoured line for the ribs. This butchering went by a little quicker. I assume it was either because it was only a half pig or because we felt more bold after finishing the sheep.

After we had everything tidied of fat we did a quick clean up and then watched chef demonstrate how to make different types of bacon and ham. First he demoed prosciutto then moved on to bacon and honey bacon. By the time we got out we were all pretty tired and stunk of raw pork. I don’t think I saw many people that quick lunch period actually eat anything with meat.

I must admit it was very interesting but not something I could do all the time. Well at least not if it had a head.

Quails, Jelly and 48 kgs. of Apples

Thursdays are my longest day of the week. I begin at eight a.m. with a five hour lab, take a one hour break, then continue with another five hour class. At the beginning of the semester it seemed like a long day, but my feet have gotten used to the 10 hours and always more of standing so now I am able to concentrate the entire class.

For the morning lab we were required to make two recipes, stuffed quail and duck tournedo. Now for these classes it is not that the items are prepared for us and we follow step-by-step procedures. For our culinary training we were last week required to debone a duck, and this week to do the same on quail.

I would have taken pictures of the entire procedure but we had limited time and messy hands so I decide against it. To start off, quail are itty bitty. I mean really itty bitty, one fit comfortably in the palm of my hand. Anyways, to get the quail in the shape we needed we were required to cut along the spine then try and work our knife along the rib cage and between the shoulder blades. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to do and have to admit my first attempt looked horrendous. For it to be finished correctly the ribs, wish bone and spine need to be removed, along with the thigh bone. What you need to have left is the skin intact, the wings, just the leg bones of the bird and the meat.

It looked strange when we finally finished up, but the whole thing worked out when we added the ball of wild rice and sweet potato stuffing to the centre and worked the bird into shape, using a cut in the thigh of the bird to cross its legs and tucking the wings underneath. To finish it up we wrapped the little guy in bacon.


StuffedQuail1 StuffedQuail


Then there was the duck. Since last week was the hard part, this week was quite simple. After making the delicious smelling stuffing which included orange zest, scallops and savoury, we laid out the duck breast on strips of bacon, smoothed on stuffing, wrapped it into a tight cylinder with cellophane and tin foil, then vacuum sealed it. When we were sure it was sealed properly we added it to the immersion cooker to cook in the sous vide way. Which basically means it is in water and will constantly cook at the required temperature until done.

Once the duck was done we quickly browned it so the bacon was nice and crispy and served them up be sold in our school store, The Pantry.


AppleCrisp


The second class to my day is basically mass production. It is to help teach us how to make something hundreds of times but have them all come out identical. It takes some work but I think we are all starting to catch on.

For class this day our goal was to produce wine jelly, apple crisp, bread, curry pastry, and soup. My group was assigned wine jelly which also included bottling vinegar that had been made earlier. For our recipe we needed 4 bottles of wine, 10 lbs. of sugar and just a small amount of lemon juice and of course pectin. After combining it all, quickly sanitizing the bottles and warming the lids, we only ended up with 42 small jars. I was a little surprised since we all expected quite a few more.

Next was the vinegar. Again we sanitized, but this time we needed the vinegar to come to a boil and for capping we used a plastic sealing method that had a perforated edge for the customer to know it had not been tampered with. My assigned duty was pouring the vinegar into the bottle and wow did it stink.

The first bottle was fine. I poured it into the funnel until it reached the desired height, then passed it on to the next member who would add the cap. Within seconds after moving the bottle the vinegar smell hit me. It was horrendous. The odour burned my throat and had me choke with surprise. And that’s how most of filling the bottles would go. Pour, move, wiggle nose, repeat.

Our duty has been a very quick one, so once we finished up we headed over to another table who were making apple crisp. We’d helped out occasionally earlier with peeling some of their 48 kgs. of apples, but by now they had moved over to cooking apple slices and reducing the crumble to a powder.

To help out I ended up making a cornstarch slurry and adding it to the pile of cooking apple slices. Afterwards we stirred the mixture until the liquid turned clear and was ready to be pulled out of the cooker so we could begin scaling it in take-out containers. It had to be the most delicious smelling job in the room. Standing next to a bucket of cinnamon scented apples while weighing out the product which then would have crumble added on top. By the end of the job they had enough crisps that everyone in class got to take one home, and they still had 45-50 left to sell.

When class was finished we got to take home what everyone’s groups had made, except ours since the jelly and vinegar was heading straight for selling. As I left class I had bags of bread, pastries, an apple crisp, the containers of quail and duck that I had stuck in the fridge to keep cold and everything else I had brought to complete the lab. So coming into the hall I was more than happy to see my husband waiting for me, or as I happily called him, my extra pair of hands.

Challah’ve A Lot Of Dough

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.

  1. Place the portioned dough on the surface. Try not to use flour, if it’s a little sticky that’s alright.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. From there, see if you can fix your ends with a little adjustment of the dough if it has a hot dog look.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


  Challah                                  Challah3


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.


Souffle1


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.