Cute Little Pies

Well I have finished my employment at Wimpy’s.

I really am going to miss working with such a great group of people. There was days that the shift would fly by as we readied the fridges and cooked the dishes, just because we were chatting so happily. It will be a very fond memory.
Right now though I am free and felt like baking. Gathering a few ingredients with the help of my mother, and by help of my mother I mean she bought everything, I started up a quick project.

First off was mixed berry pie. I always make the dough first when I am making any sort of shell recipe, it’s great to get it prepared then chill in the fridge so the butter isn’t in too soft a state when you begin rolling it out. Next was the filling. We had grabbed mixed berries with cherries, I’ve always wanted to make a straight cherry pie with fresh cherries but they are very expensive even on sale. Anyway, using the frozen blueberry pie filling recipe from the textbook, I converted it down from needing 2000 grams of fruit to just 600. I’ve actually gotten very used to making fillings like this that require boiling the juice and thickening it with cornstarch so this process only took a few minutes to complete.
From there I mixed the thickened syrup in with the berries and popped it into the fridge to cool while I rolled out the pie dough. I had left over 6″ pie tins from Christmas, they’re very dinky, I mean these things make a two person pie. So to start I rolled out four shells with lids and proceeded to fill them with the berries, which was actually a great estimate since it was an exact fit.
My next concern after adding the lids was if I should cook the pies as long as a 9″ pie requires. I put it in the oven for the required 30 minutes and constantly checked through the glass while I rolled out shells for later use. Once the 30 minutes was up I was pleased to see it came out fine, then added a little icing sugar to the lid for decoration.


BerryPie Mixed berry pie complete.


I ended up with four of these little guys, and tried out the completed product once it had cooled down a little, I’ve burned my tongue way too many times. The pastry was flaky and soft, so I knew I hadn’t cooked it past the point that it would become hard and crunchy. Now I cannot say enough about the filling. I’m not a huge pie fan, give me cake any day. I find some fillings for pie are just too sweet, but this one came out beautifully. The berries gave the needed sweetness, but the combination of lemon juice and cherries helped add a tartness that complimented the dessert very well. I was quite pleased how it came out and proceeded to my next project.

By now my mother had come home from work and I proceeded to make cabbage rolls for supper. At Wimpy’s they had decided to make them for the Sunday special a few times just because the roast beef was losing popularity, so I asked my boss if she could show me how to make them next time and being an awesome lady she proceeded to show me the next week. It was actually a very simple recipe; cabbage, ground beef, cooked rice, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and pasta sauce.
What she had shown me and what I did this time, was boil the cabbage until the leaves were pliable to come off. And carefully using tongs take a leaf off at a time, when you come across a leaf that won’t budge, just let it simmer for a while longer until it can.
It ended up being a very quick process, and half a dozen cutely wrapped cabbage rolls later I was playing Euro Truck Simulator while they cooked in the oven for an hour. I myself am not a cabbage fan, but my mother said they tasted good and proceeded to eat three, with coleslaw..
Way too much cabbage.


CabbageRI apologize for the photo, I didn’t realize it was blurry till I uploaded it. Just don’t click for a better view.


Since I had pie shells leftover I went about making a lemon meringue pie. I’ve never done it before, not even the meringue, but felt quite confident I could pull it off.
Using the lemon filling recipe I found online I quickly went about making the pies. By now it was probably 10 p.m, but I was determined to get it done before going to bed.
Like the berry pie filling, it was a matter of boiling and thickening, the longest part was just zesting the two lemons. After the pie shells were done baking I filled them with the lemon which also was only going to make four. My assumption from now on that a recipe for one 9″ pie will make four 4″ pies.
Next came the meringue. I’ve done plenty of recipes that require constant whipping but I was quite surprised at how long it took to get the egg whites to foam to a hard peak. My mother even came over to give me some tips about when she had made meringue from scratch. Once it was finally complete with the added sugar I proceeded to spread the mixture over the pies. At first I was a little worried that the warm lemon mixture might melt the egg, but after completing one I realize it wasn’t going to happen and happily finished up.
So into the oven it went for the required ten minutes, which ended up being longer since the meringue hasn’t firmed. Once they came out I was happy to find they had a nice golden colour to them and came out fine. My mother even had one and said it tasted great.


LemonM2LemonM1


Funny enough I don’t eat any of these things, so yes, my mother is my constant tester. If my husband was here I would be forcing him to eat them too. Ever since school, baking has become more fun for me and I end up with better results. I feel the chefs have given me a better understanding of what I was doing

I imagine this will be the last food experimentation I post until I finally move. The fridge is packed full of pies and my equipment needs to get into a box.

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Icing On The Cake

Cupcake to be exact.

Out of school I went straight to work. For a while it was a blast and really some great experiences, but the thing about school was I always was learning something new. With Wimpy’s the menu never changes, and for what it is that’s good, but you don’t take on any new challenges.

So back in April I decided I wanted to learn some new techniques. I’ve never been the best baker, but with school I’ve improved, additionally my icing ability was terrible! I am one of those people who would ice and end up with crumbs all over the place. At the time I didn’t care, but obviously now I do.

Back to April! I took up a Wilton unit kit, level 1.

Going through the kit I began to study cake decorating so that it may someday be handy for a few positions I am in. To start off, it teaches about the different firmness of icing and what stiffness you need for certain techniques. Currently my kit and supplies are packed away or I would go into more depth of what the items are called.

But I’ve got to say it was a really nifty lesson. If you have both the unit box and booklet (they come separately), you can learn about how to position your hands properly for the design you’re going for. Also in the box comes stencils to practice shapes on, such as leaves, dots, and stars. You simply squeeze onto the clear plastic then wipe away when done. It was extremely useful and fun to take up.

With things getting crazy, and the projects a little expensive, I haven’t been able to get through the whole book yet. Once settled I would like to give it a go once more, and possibly purchase the second unit. Who knows when I’ll need this skill but I’d rather have it in my portfolio than not try at all.

Out of all I did I only ended up with one photo. At the time I wasn’t even thinking about showing anyone but I hope you enjoy my first attempt at getting better.

Cupcake Decorating

The Smell Of Bread

Until I started my program I never enjoyed making bread. I made it once when I was younger and hated the flavour (turned out to be sourdough), and then my husband constantly kept making it with a bread maker we received for a wedding present, but those came out small and dense. Well today I decided I wanted to try making bread from home using what I learned from school, also fresh hot bread tastes the best!

For one, the ingredients are extremely easy for french bread. Yeast, salt, water, and bread flour. Metro doesn’t seem to sell fresh yeast so I ended up with instant yeast. Additionally, we have always had a proofer to activate the yeast so today I went with my mother’s suggestion of what she used to do which was cover the bowl with a moist cloth and put it on the oven with the heat on.

To start with I mixed the dough. Like the cookies from Thursday it was quite simple, just a matter of mixing the yeast with water and then pouring it into the salt and flour to begin kneading. The process didn’t take long since I only did half the recipe in case things didn’t turn out right.

Next I tried chef’s window test with the dough; which is taking a small ball of dough then pulling it apart till it is clear in the centre to check the gluten strands. After confirming there was strands, I think, I proceeded to let the dough rest in the bowl with a damp tea towel over top with the oven set to 400.

I was a little nervous this method may not work and maybe I had just wasted the ingredients, but about 30 minutes later I checked the dough and was surprised to find the dough had in fact grown larger.

Once the dough had doubled I then proceeded to roll out the shapes I wanted. I decided to go for a classic baguette, and then some mini ones that I could add meat to for lunches this coming week. For the baguette I weighed out 350 g, and for the mini ones 120 g. I tried to remember the tips that chef had given us to roll out nice baguettes, like once they were rolled to large rectangles fold in the left and right edge by a couple of centimeters which would help with tapering the ends when they were completely rolled.

Again I let them sit for a bit to expand and popped them into the oven. About 15 minutes later everything was finished baking and I was surprised how well they turned out.


FrenchBread2


As you can see the scouring on the top one didn’t come out wonderfully, but the bottom one looks good. Chef’s tip on folding the edges really did help making the ends look better while I was also glad to see I added the right amount of instant yeast to the mixture.


FrenchBread1


Another thing I learned is to not eat the hot bread that comes right out the oven. Apparently the yeast is still doing stuff and it is going to make your tummy feel sick after a while. Well this is why I called it food experimentation, to learn as I go.

Anyways, the recipe is simple and cheap, and making half a batch each Sunday could also supply me with sandwich supplies for the week. So if you’re feeling a little unsure whether or not to try making bread at home, remember all you need is:

875 g of warm water
45 g of fresh yeast or 17 g of instant dry yeast
1500 g of bread flour
30 g of salt

1. Mix the yeast in with the warm water, then pour it into a bowl with the flour and salt.
2. Using your hand, mixing everything together and once combined plop it onto the counter and continue kneading it for a few minutes. You’re kind of looking for a smooth texture.
3. Place the dough back into the bowl, if desired rub the top with a little oil. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and place it on an oven top on high heat. Let sit for about an hour or until doubled in size.
4. Once done roll into the shapes that you want for bread, like a baguette.
5. Again let sit until it has grown larger.
6. Bake at 400 F for about 10 minutes then continuously check until it has turned slightly golden and no longer has a doughy gray look.

Well I hope that was insightful and that you too will try making your own delicious bread.

Cold Weather Calls For Soup

Chicken noodle soup to be exact. With just about everyone getting sick and the cold weather setting in soup was the perfect thing to make on this chilly Sunday.

I have previously made soup in class so it wasn’t so intimidating to take on this recipe, but my major concern was the chicken flaking up in the stock and becoming little bits instead of nice square chunks.

To begin I decided to take on the vegetable version since just chicken and noodles seemed a bit boring and too much like cheap Campbell’s cans. Also, I didn’t need six litres and reduced the recipe down just to two, which made the grocery shopping a little easier to deal with.

The recipe called for the carrots and celery to be simmered in the stock till tender, so I decided to give it a nice appearance. For the carrots I made thin slices then punched out floral shapes for a little flair. I realize this reduces the yield of a carrot quite a bit, but I suppose if you’re visiting a nice restaurant they may do the same to make their recipe stand out. As for the celery I just small diced, too many odd shapes would make the batch look weird.

So while those simmered I boiled the noodles. Again I changed it a little. The recipes said egg noodle but I like bow ties. Bow ties are cool. Additionally another worry was the noodles being too soggy, so to stop this from happening I only boiled the batch for five minutes, just slightly soft with a noticeable crunch.

As the noodles cooled under cold water and the vegetables simmered, I diced up 100 grams of chicken breast that had been cooked the previous night and chilled in the fridge. I was surprised how nice the pieces looked. A sharp blade and cold meat really does make it easier to get the shapes you want compared to warm meat.

By now the vegetables were softened and the noodles were ready. So into the pot everything went.

While everything returned to a simmer I quickly tidied up and tasted the batch, then made my husband taste it because I wasn’t sure my taste buds were completely back. Well they were and it tasted great. Having the noodles firm when they went in was great because by now they had further softened up but not to a mush, and the chicken remained in tidy pieces.


Chicken Noodle Soup


As you can see in the picture the two different shaped items (carrots and noodles) gave the bowl a nice decorative look while you can barely see the chicken and celery through the stock. Next time I may add a couple of more vegetable types like peas and onions, but the only thing I would definitely change is to have crackers at the ready.

Munching Down On Parmesan

I love going through Professional Cooking For Canadian Chefs. I find so many different interesting recipes that I want to try and reattempt with their version and this time I decided to try chicken breast parmesan. I have previously made a Weight Watcher’s version but never an actual proper recipe, and not that WWs isn’t proper, but it’s low fat. Bleh.

Anyways, to start with I assembled the flour with salt and pepper then a separate bowl for the milk, egg, and parmesan. Afterwards I went between the task of making clarified butter and pounding the chicken flat. Clarifying I’ve already done quite a few times in class, but chicken flattening not so much.

On my cutting board I set up a piece of chicken and covered it with parchment paper thinking it would help protect the chicken from the cheap plastic mallet I purchased from Metro. After about 4-5 hits I noticed the spikes were mutilating the paper and the breast. It looked odd. The breast was massacred at parts even though it was technically flattening. So the next piece I gave up on the paper and used the edge of the mallet so the spikes wouldn’t hurt the meat. Well it worked. Yet later on when I decided maybe there was an easier technique I found this video which actually gave me good tips for next time.

My next move was to begin boiling water while pan frying each side of the chicken until it was a nice golden brown. With the first flip of the pieces I was pleased to find an appealing texture of golden cheese on chicken. I then decided to continue cooking in the oven like a small blurb on the recipe suggested while I tidied up and started the spaghetti and sauce.

After 15 minutes in the oven everything was ready for plating. My family and I found the recipe quite yummy. The mixture of the breading with cheese was delicious, and we found that the chicken was tender and moist.


ChickenParmeseana


It wasn’t exactly a hard recipe to try considering the week before I had cooked an entire turkey dinner (minus the burnt dressing), and before that pies, but it was still good practice for something I had not made before. Next time I would definitely follow the advice from the video I found on flattening the breast, yet continue finishing it off in the oven since it made for spare time for additional items to be prepared.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! Or as I always think of it, the day where I stuff myself with delicious food then feel sick for about an hour.

As you can probably see there are no photos this Monday (sorry I’m a day late). When the food was done we surrounded the bird and what was left was no cook book image.

Saturday morning I woke up and began the turkey which had been defrosting since Tuesday. It was still a little frosty but pliable for movement. This was the first time for me to cook a whole bird so I decided not to stuff it. After removing the giblets and checking the cavity for remnants of more I rubbed the outside down in oil and sprinkled the inside and skin with a combination of salt and pepper. I then popped it into the oven to cook for an hour and a half, checked it and repeated, all the while basting every 30 to 40 minutes.

Around three hours into cooking I added mirepoix to the pan. By now there was a good amount of liquid for the gravy I would be making. I decided not to go for the giblet version though, I was still feeling a little off since Thursday’s class of fabrication. By now the bird was starting to brown nicely and I went into making the dressing.

Carefully I diced up the needed vegetables and crumbled up the bread into nice little squares. Everything came together smelling delicious even before being cooked and yet I made the mistake of putting the tray on the second rack of the oven. By the time the turkey and stuffing came out I was devastated to find out the bread had browned to an almost blackened state; the turkey at least had browned beautifully.

Well into the garbage it went and out came the boxed stuffing. I would not be disheartened! I quickly began to make the gravy by sifting out the mirepoix, deglazing the pan and reducing the juices. After adding a cornstarch slurry and sampling I was pleased about the delicious sauce I made.

By now I had finished steaming the green beans, stirred in the boxed stuffing and was about to tackle carving the turkey.

I had never actually carved a bird before. Usually we just purchased the butterball breast box and just slice that into pieces, so I was a little nervous about cutting up the whole thing. I knew I wasn’t being graded by anyone, but it would make for good practice if I could do it properly. So out came Professional Cooking for Canadian Chefs and I began to follow the step-by-step guide. It’s actually a simple process and the slices of turkey looked great.

I suggest if you’re stuck with carving and a little doubtful you should take a look at the book as well. A sharp carving knife and picture instructions helps make the process simple.

It was a great dinner and next time I’ll try a different process to get the dressing cooked; perhaps I’ll actually stuff the bird so it won’t burn again.

Beet Soup Redo

A few weeks ago we were set the task to come up with our own soup and salad recipes using set ingredients. With the internet and my cook books I came up with a couple of plates that I was proud of, but made mistakes with the soup that needed to be fixed. Not wanting to leave it though I decided this weekend to redo the recipe and fix my errors.

To start, the soup I previously made had to have beets, parsnips and apples in the recipe. There were other additional items I could add to the mixture but those three were set. After a few hours of cooking the vegetables and simmering it all in liquid, I had then pureed the mixture and set it up for presentation. The first thing I noticed is when I added cream to make a spiral it did not enter the liquid, more of sat on top. Quickly I washed out my bowl, tried again using a squeeze bottle to actually make a dug in spiral. When Chef (I have multiple chefs so it is not the same one every time I say chef) checked my soup he said it was too thick, and together we decided it had the consistency of apple sauce.

Well today I decided to fix that mistake.


BPASoup


Once again I roasted up my vegetables. A combination of onion, apple, parsnip and beets. As I let it simmer for the required half hour I began to carefully dice up pieces of apple into small squares which I then soaked in lemon juice so it wouldn’t brown right away. From there I tossed the apple cubes into a hot frying pan, adding pinches of sugar and cinnamon to sweeten it up and make it soft. When done I moved it to the fridge to cool down as I continued on with my soup.

Now one thing I forgot is that we don’t have an immersion blender, or even a blender. So I attempted to use a masher, then a mixer. Afterwards I sifted it through a sieve and ended up with a beautiful bowl of thickened wine coloured soup.

During the cooking process I had added a bit of sugar. I didn’t want it to be sweet like a dessert, but not as bland as how I found my previous attempt. The flavour I believe came out with a distinct beet taste but with a tang of sweetness. Additionally, when spoonfuls of the soup had a piece of apple it had a nice tart combination.

What I find interesting about this soup is the lack of herbs. During the task we only had a few herbs offered and many of the recipes I found called for ones we didn’t have, so the dish actually completely relies on the flavours of the vegetables and sugar.

To plate my soup I simply piled the cinnamon cubed apples in the centre, then spiraled the cream around starting from the outside. It is quite easy, and if I was to have something like this for a future restaurant I would probably have the server spiral the cream around once they served the customer, this way the cream wouldn’t wobble in the bowl and make a mess. While with the apples I would also have them already prepared and with each soup order I would have them just quickly tossed in a frying pan to warm up.

A Time Of Pie

Pies had always been an item that I believed to be extremely complex. At Christmas three of them would appear at my grandmother’s; pumpkin, apple, and pecan. As a kid I didn’t particularly like pie, so I never asked to how to make them but she always made them out to be difficult when she talked about them so I lost further interest.

Well years later I learned how to make pies in my first semester and I have to say they are pretty easy if you’ve got the time. Yeah you can purchase pre-made shells and fill them with what you want, but they aren’t as tasty as a from scratch pie. So this weekend I made decided to make pumpkin and apple pie for my family. It just seemed right, with our weather sometimes acting like fall and other days acting out summer and winter, I thought it would set a nice atmosphere. And it somewhat did.

To start with, I decided to make the flaky pastry with butter. I had read in Professional Cooking For Canadian Chefs that it was not commonly used for mass production because of pricing, but it does create a delicious shell. As for the filling, for the apple pie I used granny smith, and for the pumpkin I used a puree can along with the spices the recipe called for.

One thing I have taken to heart from school is to weigh out my ingredients instead of using volume for everything, so it was a surprise for me once I finished the dough that it was still quite sticky. With advice from my mother I ended up adding at least another 200 g of pastry flour to get it to a wet but unsticky state. Then came what usually is the tricky part for me, but actually turned out quite simple. The dough was good enough that I barely dusted the counter and rolling pin and made some great looking shells which I then put in the fridge over night.

The next morning I started on the filling. Since the apples had to sit for a while with the sugar I began them first and moved onto the pumpkin filling. With this recipe I followed the instructions completely yet was surprised at how watery the mixture looked. I thought it would be a little thicker and ended up searching online on how to thicken it up and what consistency it currently should be. Well I only ended up finding advice for when I tried again, so only using one shell to see how it turned out I filled it nearly to the top and popped it in the oven.

By then the apples were ready to be drained. This is my favourite part about making apple pie, the sugary syrup that you drain out and boil to then add a slurry of cornstarch that makes a caramel looking substance. Well that was done with quickly and in the fridge where I then took a half hour break to play War in the North as the filling cooled and the pumpkin pie baked.

Time passed, orcs were dead and I pulled out an interesting looking pumpkin pie. What I didn’t know is they expand a little. I guess I should’ve known since it had quite a few eggs in it. Luckily it just went up near the brim and didn’t spill over onto the cookie sheet. Now the thing I find weird is the top is a nice orange, yet inside it a lighter colour. Could it be because of the milk? All the pictures I found on Google had a complete colour throughout the pie, as you can see in my slice of pumpkin pie though it does not. And yes, that is freshly made whipped topping. It didn’t last long though since my husband was hovering nearby to eat it.


PumpkinPie


Last was the apple pie. Filling the pie shells carefully by arranging the apples slices, I quickly eggs washed the edges and cut a triangular design into the lid, then sealed it shut using the fork method. Once more using egg wash to paint the lid, I sprinkled on a bit of sugar and began baking them.

As they cooked I never got an apple spice smell, but instead the scent of the buttery pastry. 35 minutes later I pulled them out and found one had browned a little, while the other two had gone just a little golden.


ApplePieSlice