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.

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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.

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.

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