Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Honeymoon

I'm feeling like the honeymoon of my new life and being in culinary school is officially over. I'm not even sure why I'm broadcasting this for all to read, but I guess I'm hoping for some self-therapy by writing. I am not having a good week. Plain and simple.

One of the biggest differences between "typical" school and culinary school is the following. In "typical" school, most of the time, you can kind of hide out for a while. No one around you really needs to know if you haven't got a clue about abstract algebra or deductive logic, because you can sit back, take your notes, nod, nod some more, and act as if you know what's going on. You might take a test and do poorly, but the only other person who would know is your professor. You can hide just about everything about your experience in "typical" school, again, for the most part.

In culinary school, you can't hide. Everything you do is witnessed and the Chef (and your peers really) makes a mental note of it. From the minute you walk in the door when he can inspect your uniform to the minute you pull your final product out of the oven - every step in between in observed, inspected, and evaluated. Some days, it's not really a big deal. Other days, I feel as if I can't do anything right.

Because you know me well, you know a few things: 1. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. 2. I'm extremely hard on myself. 3. Patience is never easy for me.

Put those three in combination with the above and you can just imagine what sometimes happens.

I can't hide my frustration sometimes. I can't relax sometimes. And I start to feel at moments like nothing in my life is ever going to be easy again. I honestly can't remember when I last felt that things were easy, so I know I should be over it by now, but I'm not. But the most stupid part about all this is that we're talking about pastry for crying out loud. I mean, should a cake or a pie really trigger me to have so much frustration and agony that I get overwhelmed with self-doubt and question my ability to be here and function successfully?

Here's an example:

You're probably thinking, "That Crunch Torte looks pretty good to me." And from the outside, yes, it does look OK. But I can easily tell you there are three major things wrong with it.

First, the inside cake layers are not cut to equal sizes. This frustrates me because I have done this well in the past and yesterday it was absolutely terrible and I feel like I took a gigantic step backward. Second, the chantilly icing that is used was a disaster again. For the third week in a row, I have worked with this product, and each week I have done things differently and consciously tried to improve, and yesterday's effort was just as poor as the previous two. So I'm clearly not taking any steps forward in this regard either. And finally, the rosettes on the top are still not good either. Some are better than others, but they're still not where they should be after my third go at this. In summary, no real sign of improvement. And all I have to show for it is total self-doubt and misery.

I know it's a cake, and I know it shouldn't impact me on such a deep level, but this is my life now. This is the life I chose for myself. This is the investment I chose to make for my future. A future where everything I do is inspected and evaluated and the little things matter a great deal. I guess I haven't yet figured out how to work through this because I'm still feeling crappy about yesterday, and on top of that, I'm feeling crappy about parts of today. Like I said, the honeymoon, unfortunately, is officially over.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


In Thursday's afternoon bakeshop, we experimented with a variety of crackers, including dijon mustard, sun-dried tomato, whole wheat, and carta de musica. I didn't take any photos. The dijon mustard crackers had a bit of pepper kick to them so they weren't so great as a stand alone snack - they would probably go well with a salty soft cheese. The sun-dried tomato crackers were the tastiest as a stand alone snack. The whole wheat ones would also be better served with cheese or a dip or in soup. The carta de musica were made with a pasta machine to roll the dough into very thin, paperlike strips, which were oiled and sprinkled with seasonings. I love pasta machines so those were fun to make. Overall, a good learning experience on how to be able to make a cracker variety that can be used in so many different ways.

On a side note, help my blog get to 25 followers! If you're a regular reader, I'd love to know so please join the site so I can feel your love!

On another side note, it's officially fall and I am excited to start experimenting with new fall flavors, like pumpkin and maple syrup. I'll be doing a lot more "at home" baking over the next few weeks for practice. Today, I practiced my cake decorating so I hope to demonstrate some good improvement in Monday's class.

Marble Rye, Focaccia, Tyrolean Cake

"I want that rye, lady! Shut up, ya old bag!" - Jerry Seinfeld, in "The Marble Rye"

In Thursday's Breads class, we learned the magic behind the making of a marble rye. We mixed two separate batches of dough per a light rye recipe, and to one batch, we added caramel color to turn the light rye into a dark rye. We used two different types of caraway seeds as well; the standard seed in the light rye and a darker seed in the dark rye. After the fermentation process, the light rye was divided and the dark rye was divided separately. To incorporate into one roll, we used rolling pins and the jelly roll method to spiral the dough. They were shaped similar to the "batards" we made previously, slashed three times, and baked. The final product was definitely tasty and looks excellent:

In addition to the marble rye, we also made a variety of focaccia during class. I made the one with tomato, basil, feta, garlic, and pepper. Another group made one with carmelized onions, blue cheese, feta cheese, and walnuts:

Here is one other photo of focaccia; again one with carmelized onions, cheese, and walnuts, but the other with yukon gold and sweet potatoes:

And finally, we made Tyrolean Chocolate Cake, which is perhaps one of my new favorite cakes of all time. It has hazelnut flour, crushed hazelnuts, and chocholate chips, which is one of my favorite combinations. Also delish.

Super Size Me

During Wednesday's Nutrition and Sanitation course, we watched Super Size Me, which I had not previously seen but had heard about and read about when it came out a few years ago. Needless to say, the movie further drove home the many reasons why I choose not to eat at fast food establishments as often as possible.

I haven't eaten in a McDonald's in about a year; the last time being a very late night drunken craving and a really poor choice - it wasn't at all satisfying nor did it help my drunken munchies. Before that, I probably only ate there at most once a year anyway. I am pretty confident I can avoid eating at McDonald's for the rest of my life. I haven't eaten at a Taco Bell or Burger King in probably five years, so I don't think I'll have problems keeping those streaks alive. I have recently eaten Wendy's for the salad offerings but I have avoided them in the past few weeks because I really don't think they are "that" healthy. And I can honestly say I will never eat at White Castle, Bojangles, Popeyes, Chick-Fil-A or any other burger or fried chicken offering. I feel sick just thinking about it.

I do, however, stop occassionally at Dunkin Donuts and Subway. For some reason, I don't categorize those two establishments the same way I do the ones listed above. For Dunkin Donuts, as an example, I usually only go for the coffe and an occassional bagel, muffin, or donut. It's clearly for pleasure and "health" has nothing to do with it. I frequent Subway type places when I am traveling, along interstates, because they are cheap, quick meals that I can eat while driving.

I have been conscious about trying to avoid fast food establishments for a few reasons. First, I don't think the food really ever satisfies my tastes. And I think for a few extra dollars, I could feel better supporting an independently owned restaurant for a much tastier meal. Second, I don't really like what those establishments represent, in terms of mass food production, where their supplies come from, how they've completely altered the food industry, the role of staff, and other things like that. I guess in some ways, it's similar to my anti-Walmart campaign.

The truth is, though, it has been pretty easy for me to avoid fast food. For starters, I grew up in a town without fast food, and my parents never fed it to us as kids, so it was never part of my routine. Second, I now live in a city with a thousand restaurants to choose from. There's no need for me to support any chain, with the multitude of independently owned establishments. And I'm grateful for that.

Super Size Me is an informative documentary if you're interested in that sort of stuff.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cream Puffs and Eclairs

In the afternoon Bakeshop, we learned how to make Pate A Choux (or Eclair Dough - literally translated as "paste of cabbage") and Pastry Cream. Pate A Choux has tons of applications, from cream puffs and eclairs to churros and crullers. It's a pretty interesting product to work with, due to its unique mixing style and its texture. So I definitely learned a lot of new skills today, and I'm pretty sure these will be put to good use in the future. Who doesn't love a cream puff?

This recipe is interesting because it is also what we will be graded on during our practical final at the end of the semester. We will have to write the recipes from memory and then create them in superior form. You can bet that I will be practicing this over the course of the semester.

We made cream puffs by measuring the dough with a portion control scoop. The cream puff is sliced in half; pastry cream is piped into the bottom shell and then whipped cream is piped above it, about an inch thick. The top is dusted with powdered sugar and then carefully placed atop the cream so as not to smush the powdered design.

The eclair is shaped by piping with a pastry bag. It is then filled with pastry cream and then the top is dunked into chocolate. The plate above is what I'll be graded on for my final. I look forward to practicing!

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels & Bavarian Pretzels

Today was another super fun day in Breads class, despite the fact that I dropped and dented a $400 mixing bowl. It wasn't my fault. Honestly. The muppets who used the bowl before my group didn't put the bowl back on the stand correctly, so when Corley and I were filling it with ingredients, it dropped, hit the deck, and threw yeast water all over the place. Goooood times.

It was just a minor set back in the scheduling of our day, so it wasn't too dramatic. Just another lovely moment where people try my patience, which I fear is a lifelong battle I will never fully concur. I get annoyed, you know?

So anyways, on to the good stuff. Today we mixed doughs for bagels; Corley and I used dark raisins, golden raisins, and cinnamon. Other groups tried things like chocolate and dried cherries or walnuts and cranberries so it was an interesting day in experimentation. I like making bagels; it's a dough I'm comfortable with and my shaping continues to improve. Here's a snapshot of the bagels:

In addition, we also made Bavarian Pretzels and of course rolled and shaped them by hand. I also really enjoyed working with this dough. Like bagels, Bavarian Pretzels also take a bath before baking; the difference is while bagels take a bath in hot water mixed with sugar or honey, pretzels take a bath in cold water with lye. Do you know what lye is? I didn't, until today. Lye is sodium hydroxide. People most commonly know it as the stuff in Draino. So, you may be thinking, what?!? I was thinking the same thing, until Chef spelled out some rather fascinating history about lye and the plague and how someone figured out that this stuff can be appropriately used for foods and sanitation. Sodium hydroxide is also found in soaps. Anyway, the use of lye is what gives soft pretzels their unique flavor and color. It just needs to be used safely and correctly.

After the lye bath, the pretzels are sprinkled with salt. We also slashed ours. Chef complimented my slashing because I did a little more than the recommended and it made a really cool effect on the pretzel. Here's a picture of my best pretzel up close:

And here's a picture of a bunch of pretzels:

And because I have no shame, here's a picture my friend Courtney took of me and my best pretzel:

At the end of class, we mixed two starters, one to make rye bread and one to make focaccia. Just a little appetizer of breads to come!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Strawberry Whipped Cream Torte

In today's cakes class, we made a Strawberry Whipped Cream Torte. Like the previous torte, this one was again made with a yellow chiffon genoise, but this time in three layers. And similarly, this one also had a whipped cream icing, which I am still struggling with a bit. I know what I need to improve so I'm already looking forward to next week's class.

In between the cake layers are layers of whipped cream and diced strawberries. This cake can be made with other forms of fruit so it is versatile. I need to practice my icing, so I may have to work on that over the weekend so I can keep getting better. All in all though, this is my favorite of the cakes we made so far.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls Part Two

In Thursday's afternoon Bakeshop, we manipulated sweet dough a second time in the form of cinnamon rolls. This time, though, we did two new applications.

First, we made another form of monkey bread, but this time, we included a caramel glaze with pecans:

Second, we took the cinnamon roll and braided it into a twist and glazed it again in a criss-cross pattern:

I really do love this recipe. In one week, I learned how to make five different items from the same dough, which is an excellent practical application. On a personal high note, too, I made some good improvement on the actual forming of my cinnamon rolls the second time around, so that's a really nice bonus and a great end to another excellent week.

Pizza Margherita

In Thursday's Breads class, we had our midterm exam since it is only an eight-week course. Chef rewarded us with learning how to make homemade pizza dough and using the fresh mozzarella we made a few weeks ago to top our pizzas. An excellent day, obviously.

People assume that I am a skilled pizza maker because of my college summers spent working at Cesari's Pizza at Knoebels. The truth is, though, that I never actually made pizza at Cesari's. I would assist with making sauce, making dough, and preparing the toppings, but it was never my job to actually form the pizza - this was left up to the guys. So, this was really one of the first times I made a traditional pizza and it was excellent.

Traditional Pizza Margherita has fresh tomatoes, fresh mozz, and fresh basil so we made a few of those. I also added olives on one of my pizzas. Some pizzas we made from 1 lb doughs and others we made from 8oz doughs. The 8oz doughs make a really perfectly sized personal pizza.

So, four weeks into school, and I made my own mozz and a fresh pizza. Life is seriously good. In the words of my former track coach, "It was a great day to be alive."

What was also excellent about today was that Chef allowed Mom and Dad to drop by class and check things out. I was really glad my parents could meet two of my chefs today as well as actually get to see what it is that I do every day and where the baking magic happens. It was really fun to share this experience with them, and they got to bring home a pizza for lunch, so I think they were happy about that as well!


In Wednesday's Nutrition and Sanitation class, we looked at the different types of fats one can use when baking. Each group baked snickerdoodles with different types of fat. The fats used were butter, margarine, canola oil, olive oil, and another oil of which I am blanking. My group used grape seed oil as well as chick pea flour to see if this extremely healthy approach would be tasty. Call me a traditionalist, but I liked the snickerdoodles with canola oil the best. I anticipated liking the ones with butter but they didn't bake well and thus didn't taste well. My group's use of grade seed oil and chick pea flour was interesting. It wasn't the greatest thing I had ever tasted, but it wasn't that bad either. And it is a healthy alternative. I'm not sure I'd use chick pea flour much in the future, but I would definitely like to experiment more with grape seed oil. All in all, a good experiment and a good learning experience. Sadly, the cookies with more fat did taste much better but that could also be due to a lifetime of conditioning to enjoy these tastes.

Cinnamon Rolls

In Tuesday's afternoon Bakeshop class, we worked with sweet doughs and made cinnamon rolls. Yum. We made cinnamon rolls in three different ways. First, we cut rolls and left them as individual rolls, which were then glazed, which you can see here:

I had some difficulty with my rolls in that some of them came open during proofing and baking. Something to work on in the future.

Second, we made 8 individual rolls, but let them proof together to form an 8-pack. We put glaze on these in a criss-cross pattern using our fingers. You could use a pastry bag, but that's not as much fun. I like this concept because it can hide the imperfection from above.

And finally, we cut 8 rolls into pieces and threw them into a aluminum pan to make a form a monkey bread. This is the picture before the glaze was added:

I enjoyed this class because it is great to see how you can manipulate one recipe into multiple products. I never made cinnamon rolls from scratch and it's honestly a simple thing to do. I might have to add this into the Sunday breakfast rotation.

Super Fruit Bread

In Tuesday's Breads class, we made Chef's recipe for Super Fruit Bread. This bread contains high gluten flour and a sourdough starter. In addition, it also contains brown sugar, dried apricots, golden raisins, dark raisins, currants, dried cranberries, and pecan halves.

I can't really describe to you how delicious this bread is. Seriously, it's a spectacular bread. And it's healthy, so it's good for you.

What I liked most about this was the effect when the bread is actually sliced. Because the pecan halves are left whole (yes, that's an oxymoron) when you slice into one, you can see these great pieces of pecan, rather than just small bits. Same with the fruit. It is seriously excellent.

In Tuesday's class, we also mixed a sourdough multigran, which Chef baked off on Wednesday and we got to sample on Thursday. This bread could be considered a 7-grain bread because it contains whole wheat flour, rye flour, millet, sunflower seeds, bulgar, oats, and seasame seeds. Again, absolutely delicious and healthy. Sadly, though, I forgot to take a photo of this one.

Lemon Mousse Torte

So, much apologies for the delay in posting about my recent baking happenings, but I was enjoying the company of my parents over the past week and was too busy with fun things like sightseeing and eating in new restaurants to settle down with the laptop and work on the blog. I'm sure you can understand. So here's the first of a few updates regarding last week's excellent classes.

In Monday's Cakes class, we made a Lemon Mousse Torte. This picture is courtesy of my friend Gilly. I had planned to take a photo when I got home (because I purchased the cake so Mom and Dad could sample), however, the 30 minute hot and sweaty car ride did not prove favorably to the torte and it was no longer picture worthy.

Anyway, the Lemon Mousse Torte has a few layers. From the bottom up, it is a yellow genoise (the same sponge cake as last week) which is coated with simple syrup. On top is a ring of chantilly cream filled with lemon curd. Next is a japonaise meringue layer which contains almond flour. And then the chantilly cream and lemon curd layer is repeated and capped with another yellow cake layer. The chantilly icing is basially just whipped cream, made of heavy cream and confectioner's sugar.

This was the first time I decorated a cake knowing the proper professional method. In the past, I had just slathered icing on and tried to make it work as best as possible. We used a large bread knife to designate 16 equal slices of cake, which were capped with a rosette made with a piping bag and then decorated with a 1/4 slice of lemon. Needless to say, my professional cake decorating skills need a lot of work, but it wasn't bad for a first effort.

The cake had a really strong lemon flavor because we made the curd from fresh lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon juice. My favorite part of it was actually the japonaise meringue layer, which added crunch in the center part of the cake.

I'll get to practice more of these skills in upcoming weeks so I hope to become a much better cake decorator through this process. Regardless of what it looked like when I finally got the torte home, Mom and Dad seemed to generally enjoy it, so that made the whole experience well worth it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cheddar Cheese Rolls and Whole Wheat Bread

In my afternoon bakeshop class, we first made cheddar cheese rolls.

Here's how we made them. We mixed our dough like we normally would, but left the shredded cheddar cheese out of the mixing bowl until last. After the cheese was incorporated, the dough was left to ferment in the proof box. We later spread the dough out in a large pan to use in a machine called a Dutchess. Basically, the Dutchess is a press that cuts one large piece of dough into similarly sized pieces, so we cut our dough into 36 pieces of equal size. We dusted the flour off each piece and laid them out on sheet pans. We didn't manipulate the dough, but left the pieces in their cut shape, kind of like little pillows. We again did two egg washes on this dough and then added a few more pieces of shredded cheese right before baking.

So here's a neat feature about the fact that we've made three different types of doughs for rolls in different shapes over the last few days: in a real restaurant, I could now prepare an assortment of types of rolls in different shapes to be served with a salad course. I enjoy seeing how the recipes can connect and thinking about these real world applications. I appreciate that Chef addresses this each class.

We also made whole wheat loaves in a few different forms. We rounded 8 ounce pieces of dough and places them in either aluminum tins or basket bannetons for different shapes. Here's a picture of the baked bread that was fermented in the banneton:

I think they kinda look like boobs, but I guess it depends on one's interpretation.

With the left over dough, Chef let us try out different patterns for a loaf. My partner Angela and I decided to layer small rounds of dough into one loaf, while our friends Mandy and Anna (who work at the bench station next to us) did some braided dough. Here's a picture of our final products, which I think look really great:

All in all, another fun afternoon in Bakeshop. On a side note, I feel like I am on an all-carb diet due to all of this bread baking. I love the bread baking, don't get me wrong, but my dietary intake is way off balance and my "learning" is impacting my desire to eat a better, well-rounded diet. So, I'm going to try my hardest not to eat any bread over the next few days. Bring on the protein!

Pita Bread

Today's Breads class was a little more relaxed than usual. As I mentioned, we meet from 7:30am to 2pm. At the community college, once a month there is a Student Activity Period, where for one hour, students are allowed to miss class to attend a meeting of the student organizations they may be involved with. The Culinary Institute has its own student organizations; my Breads instructor is the advisor to the Baking and Pastry Club so our class attended the meeting from 11:30am-12:30pm. The organizations do a lot of community service as well as help out with events (like A Taste of Charleston and the Charleston Food & Wine Festival). Given that the meeting was scheduled in the middle of class, Chef adjusted our schedule accordingly.

We worked with baguettes again today, but this time, we used an overnight dough; this is something Chef has worked with in the past. The overnight dough allows for a product that has a much longer shelf life because it has a much longer fermentation period. So we all got to assist in the making of these baguettes.

While the baguette dough was fermenting, we made dough for pita bread. The actual baking of the pita bread was pretty fun to watch; too bad I didn't think to film it until after. Anyway, basically, the dough is rolled fairly flat in a circle using a rolling pin. When it is placed in the oven, the goal is for the bottom to develop a nice brown and for the dough to rise. As we were watching the dough, we could see air open up the dough almost like a balloon blowing up. After it filled with as much air as it could, it then released some air and sank some, but overall, the final product still maintained an open and full look. It was a really cool baking experience. Here's a picture of some pita breads, a few of which have been turned over to show the color on the bottom:

While both the baguette and pita doughs were fermenting, Chef did a demonstration on a Buttermilk Scone, which we got to sample. I'll be making scones in the second half of the semester, but more on that in late October. Anyway, we got to taste these scones, which also contained currants - they were pretty tasty. Here's a picture with the medallian presentation like the zucchini quick bread we made last week:

We had sandwiches for lunch with our pita bread. All in all, it was a great class.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lean Rolls & Nutrition Update

Yesterday in Bakeshop, we made rolls again, but this time from lean dough. We mixed our dough by hand, and I could tell from the get-go that my dough wasn't as great as I wanted it to be. Dough is funny like that sometimes. Unfortunately, I didn't have the best day manipulating my dough, but it still tasted good. Again we made rolls and tied our dough into knots and double knots - these are still things to work on in the future so I can get better at the shaping.

I got sidetracked and forgot to take photos this time, but basically they looked very similar to last week's rolls, just not as shiny, so you've already seen the product. Overall, I liked last week's recipe just a bit more so I think I will stick with that one in the future.

In Nutrition & Sanitation today, we talked about the basics of sanitation in the work place and reviewed some reading and online homework regarding sanitation. We also did a taste testing of different milk and diary products and compared fat content as an introduction to Nutrition. Next week, we'll be making snickerdoodles to look more at different fats and again do a taste testing.

I am a bit tired today and haven't been extremely motivated this afternoon about school. Yesterday was tiring getting back into a full 12-hour day of class after the extra day off due to the holiday weekend, so I had a harder than anticipated time functioning today and didn't accomplish what I wanted to during the last few hours. I never was much of a nap person, but I really needed one this afternoon, even though it didn't leave me feeling very refreshed. I'm hoping for a good night's sleep to get back on track for tomorrow.

On a side note, I am going out for pizza tonight with a woman named Gilly; she is in two of my classes. She's originally from Wales so I was instantly drawn to her and I love talking to her. Her husband is out of town this week so she was kind to invite me to dinner - she said she wants to help me try new things in Charleston. How great. We're heading to EVO, for wood-fired pizza, based on a recommendation from our Breads instructor. Already excited. If you're curious: http://evopizza.com/

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Whole Wheat Bread

Today was another excellent day in Breads, if not one of the most excellent days of my entire life. More on that later. To begin, we worked today with whole wheat flour, which is something I am really interested in as I try to work on being a more healthy eater.

Our first bread today was a whole wheat roll, which we shaped as a "batard", not to be confused with a "bastard". A batard is similar to the shape of a football, and it has one giant slash through the center, again to open up during the initial period of baking. Like the baguette, the slashed area should develop really dark crust and form an ear. Still need a bit of work in the slashing department. Here are some batards:

We then made rolls that also had whole wheat flour. In this dough, we also grounded up flax seed to be mixed with the flour. (As a side note, flax seed is better for you when ground; it's high in omega 3 like fish so it's a very good supplement to your diet. My brother is a big fan of flax seed - he grinds it into yogurt which is also a common use of it.) After mixing the dough, before fermentation, we layered in walnuts, sunflower seads, and whole flax seeds. Throughout the fermentation process, these would continue to be distributed throughout the dough. I absolutely loved this. It was nutty and very flavorful. Here's a close up of the roll:

So, back to the earlier point I made about today being most excellent and life changing. Well, seriously, in the midst of all of the delicious bread baking, Chef taught us to make, and then we actually made, fresh mozzarella! Can you even imagine my level of excitement, enthusiasm and pure awe? I am still in love with the fact that this experience was part of my day. So freakin amazing. Here's a picture of the fresh mozz, which we wrapped:

So you may be wondering, "Carol, why did you even make fresh mozzarella?" Well, next week, we'll be using the fresh mozz on a margherita pizza that we'll be making in class. Again, how freakin excellent. My instructor rocks. Today was amazing. Cheese and bread - is there even a better combination? (Well, when you add in the wine, it's just a bit better!)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Soft Rolls

In Bakeshop, we're still working on Yeast Breads, so it was another full day of bread production. In the afternoon class, my partner is a girl named Angela - she's also in my Breads class so it's nice to spend a whole day with someone I really get along with. And we work well together, so that helps.

We made soft dinner rolls and learned how to tie bread into knots and double knots. Nothing too special here, but these are extremely versatile dinner rolls, and I think they came out pretty well. I have to work on my knots, but other than that, a very simple and useful bread to know.

The great color is from a double egg wash; the first of which was done before the final proofing, and the second of which was done right before baking. Definitely looks better with the deeper color and the shine.

Thanks again for reading along this week. I couldn't be happier to keep sharing my journey with you. I've had another amazing week and I appreciate your support and encouragement. As a reminder, you can become a follower and post comments or send me emails, and I'd love to hear from you! Wishing you a nice Labor Day weekend!

Ciabatta & Focaccia

I was too tired last night to post, but here's a recap from Artisan Breads.

We started learning this week about preferments, which are used to assist in bread making. A preferment is combination of flour, liquid and yeast that is mixed and allowed to ferment before being utilized in a dough recipe. Preferments help add flavor to dough, help improve shelf life of dough, and help improve the strength of dough. There are four different types of preferments (old dough, biga, poolish, and sponge). On Thursday, half of my class worked with biga while my half of the class worked with poolish.

We had a lot going on during class. We used one dough to make Ciabbata and Focaccia. My partner and I also got to make 15 lbs of baguette dough for practice - this is something Chef does throughout the semester with different groups of students to ensure we get a lot of practice with baguettes. We also made zucchini bread with chocolate chips and bourbon. And, Chef showed us how to use screen printing with dead dough - we'll do a dead dough project later in the semester so more on that in the future. We used the screen printer to made medallians with our school's logo. It was another great day.

This is a photo of my Ciabatta in the oven:

And here's a photo of the finished Ciabattas - check out the great color and texture on the top:

The Focaccia we made was absolutely delicious. I think this is generally my favorite type of bread because of its great flavor and its versatility:

Here's a picture of the zucchini bread. You can also see the medallians we made; Chef showed us this great presentation:

And finally, here's a photo of the baguettes, which also came out great.

On a personal note, my stippling was much improved on this effort - still needs some work, but I am definitely getting better. I have been practicing at home so it was nice to actually see improvement and have it recognized by Chef. Small moral victory!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Food, Inc.

In Nutrition & Sanitation today, was watched Food, Inc. This is the second time I have watched this documentary. It is something I firmly believe everyone should see at least once. It is completely eye-opening, shocking, informative, and engaging. It really gives the viewer a fascinating perspective on how foods are manufactured, how workers are treated, how cattle/chickens/etc. are treated, and how much influence a small number of companies have over our food chain. Seriously, it's fascinating.

In the film, Eric Schlosser speaks - he wrote Fast Food Nation, which I read a few years ago and also found eye-opening. Michael Pollan also speaks often in the film; he does extensive research and has written various books on how we consume food, where food comes from, etc. These are things I never really gave much thought to until the past few years, but I find the research informative and stimulating. If you really want a push to buy local, go organic and follow these recent trends as part of your lifestyle, this film will give you the push you need. If you're looking for a good documentary, definitely give this film a look. You can easily do a google search for its website as well, if you want more info.

So, there's my public service announcement for the month, and it's only September 1. Excellent.

I spent a good part of the last few hours engaged in homework. Yes, I do have required readings, online homework, online quizzes, and general studying for in-class quizzes on a pretty consistent basis. For example, each week in my Bakeshop class, we do costing for the recipes we make; this means that we calculate how much each ounce of product costs and how much our product costs per recipe. We then calculate how much the product could be sold at wholesale or retail. It's really amazing how cheap some products are to make when ingredients are purchased in bulk. Costing can influence what ingredients are made, which influences menus, which influences pricing, etc. It is definitely good practice for the real world.

Homeworking wasn't so bad today because the Phillies had an afternoon game, and thanks to cousin Jen, I've been watching the Phils on the internet. So, all in all, a pretty good day. And, the Comcast tech came to give me a new dvr box so my recordings will function properly when the new tv season starts in two weeks. And finally, I did get to taste the apple torte from Monday - it was pretty good, considering it took a boatload of steps to prepare!