Thursday, March 10, 2011

Recipe Testing

It's a good thing my spring break starts tomorrow, and I'll have a whole week off of school, because the past few days have really pushed me over the edge emotionally. I've spent a great deal of time over the past two weeks testing recipes to use for my practical final in my Jams and Jellies class, and I've majorly failed. From the outside, the tarts look amazing. From the inside, well, that's a whole different ball game.

I've made multiple components for two main recipes - different jellies, different jams, different tart doughs, different fillings, and different garnishes. One recipe majorly failed. The other recipe could work, but I'm just not jazzed about it. It's quite frustrating, not only to feel like I've failed in my mission, but to have spent so much time and money invested in the process. Seriously, the groceries for this experimentation weren't cheap, and I feel like I've wasted a ton of money. Not to mention that today was my last day to nail down my recipe because I have class and work all day on Friday and I am leaving for Florida on Saturday. Progress, where art thou?

The break from all of this will be good. All I can hope is that when I get back, I have a magical afternoon where this all comes together so I can turn in my concept and feel good about it. Time will be of the essence. And that makes me a little anxious.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mousse Torte & Tiramisu

In Tuesday's Advanced Bakeshop class, we worked on three products. First, we finished the fruit mousse torte we froze a few weeks ago. This had raspberry mousse as the main flavor. After glazing the top, we unveiled the final product:

After finishing the mousse torte, we began work on two tiramisu applications. We first made the components for a classical tiramisu. We piped lady fingers in rows and then used the batter to pipe two circular cakes. We next made a traditional cream with mascarpone, coffee, and rum flavorings. To put the tiramisu together, we lined a cake ring with acetate and then lined the sides with the ladyfingers. We placed a circular cake on the bottom then spread the cream on top. We placed another circular cake then capped the rest with another layer of cream. These were placed in the freezer and will be completed during our next class.

We then made a modern application of tiramisu. We piped two lady fingers side by side, made mascarpone ice cream, and used a peeler to make dark chocolate shavings. We created an ice cream sandwich with these components. I devoured mine, rather than take a photo, so you'll just have to believe me that this was one delicious treat - and definitely something I'll be making in the future!

First Day of Marzipan

In Tuesday's Candies & Confectionaries class, we started our work on our marzipan centerpieces. After taking a quiz based on last week's lecture, we had the remainder of class time to get to work. I spent the first part of the morning making various fruits out of white marzipan. I decided I would do a fall fruit centerpiece, because apples and pears are my favorite fruits to eat. I also like that this concept could include pumpkins, so I made those as well. I also made a few figs and bunches of grapes.

I had time to cover the sides and base of my centerpiece with marzipan, and then use the spray gun to color my fruits. But that was all I had time for. During my next class, I'll finish this fruit centerpiece, by decorating the sides of the base, piping a border on the top, and then placing the fruits in the center. I'll also have to work on my animal centerpiece, so I have a lot to accomplish during the next class.


In Monday's James & Jellies class, we continued working with marmalades. My group made a strawberry orange marmalade which also had some lemons. Another group made orange marmalade, as shown here:

The third group made gingered pear apricot conserve, which worked successfully this week as compared to last week. They also made a microwave jelly, which apparently is a fairly common way to make jams, jellies, etc. This was good in terms of seeing different methods.

For our tart application this week, we used mini pans to make an orange and chocolate ganache torte. My group made the chocolate tart dough, which was chilled first then blind baked. After cooling, we spread a layer of orange marmalade (without the rind) on the bottom, then spread in the chocolate ganache which was flavored with the orange marmalade. Finally, we had the chance to garnish the tarts with a mascarpone cream and candied orange peel. Here's a picture of my tarts, which were pretty tasty:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wine + Food

Friday was a crazy day at school during my Petit Fours class. The Charleston Wine + Food Festival was in town from Thursday-Sunday March 3-6. My school, the Culinary Institute of Charleston, was one of the event sponsors so different events were held at the school. This was great because we had a small chance to be involved.

During my Friday class, we were asked to provide some products for Food + Wine attendees. For one event, we were asked to make chocolate chip cookies and chocolate mousse. I didn't have a lot to do with the production of these, but I did help in the plating of the chocolate mousse. Here's what that product looked like:

I had the pleasure of making pizzelles, flavored with tarragon, which were used as a garnish for a Chef's chicken and waffles dish. This may sound random, particularly to those of you who like me view pizzelles as a dessert flavored with anise. Well, tarragon has similar tones to anise and for this application, the use of the herbs made a great deal of sense. None of the other students in my class had previously made pizzelles; some hadn't heard of them. I gladly volunteered for the task.

I spent about two hours using the pizzelle iron to make these, and a classmate helped cut them in half after coming off of the iron. These come off of the iron extremely hot, so again I was experiencing pain to my predominate fingers and my thumbs. It was worth it though, and I'm sure my grandmothers would be proud of my pizzelle making skills.

After a short break, I headed back to campus for another Wine + Food event. Chef Alexander had been asked to create a plated dessert for one of the events, so I was lucky to be involved. A few students and I helped Chef plate 55 desserts as shown here:

On the bottom is a smear of caramel flavored with nutmeg. There's a circle of toasted coconut. The cake is roasted pineapple with polenta. There's a ginger and vanilla bean ice cream and a line of goat cheese filling. The garnishes are diced pineapples, cilantro, and pineapple.

I signed up on Saturday and Sunday as a volunteer through the Food + Wine organization, so I got to help out at a tasting event and in a ticketing booth. All in all, I had a great three days helping out with Wine + Food and experiencing the festival from different points of view. I even had some time after volunteering to be a guest, and got to sample the great foods and wines highlighted in the grand tasting tents. So that's a wrap on another great culinary weekend.

Petit Fours x 2

In Tuesday's Advanced Bakeshop class, we worked on different types of petit fours, utilizing similar recipes and skills to those we've seen in my actual Petit Fours class earlier in the semester. This was a good way to reinforce some skills already learned as well as see some variations on recipes.

On the outermost edge of our platters are chocolate and vanilla rolled tuiles. We made lace tuiles previously, so this was a new application. To make these, we spread a thin layer of vanilla batter on a silpat, and then piped diagonal rows of chocolate. After these baked, we worked quickly to roll them before they hardened - it's crucial to work quickly here, but also challenging because these are smoking hot from the oven - needless to say, my thumbs are fingers were feeling the burn. Once cooled, these were dipped into chocolate.

The next product (from the left) are smores marshmallows. To make these, we made a similar marshmallow recipe as used before. After setting, we used the guitar to cut the marshmallow into squares, then we dipped them in chocolate and graham cracker crumbs,

The product in the middle is a red velvet cake bon bon. The cake was rolled together with cream cheese icing and formed into balls. Once it had a chance to set up in the cooler, we covered it in white chocolate and striped it with dark chocolate.

The final product is pate a fruit which is possibly my least favorite petit four to date, because twice now, I couldn't exactly execute the recipe. This was mango flavored and slightly overcooked, but still had a decent taste. These were also cut with the guitar and rolled in sugar.

All in all, a good working day on petit fours, and our platters were served in the dining room the next day.


In Tuesday's Candies & Confectionaries class, Chef did a full class period of lecture and demonstration on marzipan. He gave a history on marzipan and detail on its production. In general, marzipan is made from almond paste and sugar, and is used in different applications. It can be rolled like tart dough and used as a layer between cakes; it can be rolled and formed into various shapes. It is most often seen rolled into various shapes - commonly fruit and vegetables. It has a delicious almond flavor and a wonderful texture.

Over the next two weeks in class, I will have the task to create two centerpieces out of marzipan - one highlighting fruits and one highlighting animals. Chef spent some time showing us how to decorate the sides and top of a cake using colored marzipan. He then demonstrated some piping with royal icing before demonstrating the different types of fruits we can choose to make. Here is a picture of the fruits after rolling:

He next demonstrated how to color the fruit realistically using a spray gun and food coloring:

He finished this portion of class by putting together his display cake:

He next demonstrated a variety of animals:

Next week, my goal is to complete my fruit display, which includes creating the base and covering it in marzipan. I next have to create and color something like 12-17 fruits to display in order to create my centerpiece. I haven't worked much with marzipan, so this will be experimenting and learning on the go at its finest. I'm looking forward to it, and looking forward to seeing what I can come up with. I'm going to focus on the fruit first, and then move on to the animals; I have some cool ideas for that project so we'll see if I can put my thoughts into action. More on this in the future.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Marmalades, Conserves and Experiments

In Monday's Jams & Jellies class, we focused on marmalades and conserves. By definition, a marmalade is a jam made of citrus fruit puree, sugar, zest, and peel. The zest and peel add color, intensify the citrus flavor, and add texture. It's obviously necessary to cook the peel to the correct consistency or the product won't have great mouth feel. Citrus fruits are high in pectin so most of the products do not require additional pectin. My group made Lemon Ginger Marmalade, another group made Lemon Rosemary Marmalade and the final group made Ruby Red Grapefruit Marmalade.

To make the Lemon Ginger, we cut lemons by removing the inner membranes but keeping the pulp and peel. The pieces were cut into tiny triangles. We put the seeds, membranes, and extra ends in a bag made from cheesecloth in order to extract the necessary pectin. We cooked the cut pieces of lemon with water and sugar and the cheesecloth bag. We finely diced candied ginger. When the lemon mixture was ready to jar, we placed a few pieces of the candied ginger in the jar, then filled it with the lemon mixture. The Lemon Rosemary Group was similar - they placed a sprig of rosemary in the jar and then ladled the lemon jam over it. I liked the taste of the Lemon Rosemary - the herb turned this sweet product into a more savory taste. The Lemon Ginger was good too, but I prefer the Rosemary. The Ruby Reg Grapefruit was also good - sweet but not too sweet.

We also attempted to make Ambrosia Conserves. By definition, a conserve is a jam with the addition of nuts, dried fruits, or spices. The Ambrosia Conserves included dried sour cherries, fresh pineapple, oranges, sugar, coconut and pecans. I say we attempted to make this because we failed to make an edible product. Basically, our product cooked at too high of a temperature, and therefore, the sugar began to caramelize, which is problematic. So we overcooked it, basically, and therefore couldn't use it. The goal was to use it to make an Ambrosia Cake, so I guess that will have to be an experiment I try on my own at some point. It's too bad, because the combination of flavors in this item is definitely enticing to my taste buds.

As we usually do, we revisit products from previous weeks. Last week we made blueberry jelly without the addition of pectin. We noticed that this product didn't actually gel which isn't too surprising. We talked about what to do with the product. Throw it away? Find another use? Because time and money were invested in this, it's a good learning opportunity to see how you can turn this into something use-able. It could be used as a dessert sauce for plating. We also decided it would make a delicious sauce for waffles, pancakes, or french toast. So, Chef was kind enough to rustle up some challah from the breads class, and she made us french toast. I never say no to that, and it was delish. Breakfast at any hour of the day - still one of my favorite things.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pate a Choux

In Friday's Petit Fours class, we did different applications of Pate a Choux, which is the dough used to make cream puffs, eclairs, and other similar items. Pate a Choux is a fairly easy dough to make unless you're whisking the thick batter entirely by hand. Lucky for me, we made a decent sized batch so we could use the mixer. We worked on four different applications with pate a choux and chocolate pate a choux, but only three of them looked presentable for plating.

Using the chocolate pate a choux, my group made mini eclairs and swans. The eclairs were filled with a raspberry cream and garnished with an insanely pink flat icing. Rather than fill these in the traditional manner, we actually sliced them open, filled them, and replaced the top in an angled fashion, for a more contemporary look. The swans were filled with an orange chantilly cream.

We used the regular pate a choux to make paris-brest, which has a round base similar to a donut. Before baking these are egg washed and sliced almonds are sprinkled on top. These are sliced and filled with a praline cream, or cream paris-brest. This was my favorite item of the day in terms of look and taste.

With the exception of the mini eclairs, these items may seem a little larger to you than the size of traditional petit fours, and that is definitely a true observation. In the petit fours world, you can use smaller version of regular pastries, so this was the goal of today's class - to start seeing the larger items in somewhat smaller versions. I like working with pate a choux because of its variety of applications. Unfortunately, we didn't get to do my favorite application - profiteroles - which are basically a small round puff filled with ice cream.


In Advanced Bakeshop on Tuesday, February 22, we tempered chocolate and used it in three different applications. Chef asked me to work with a group of students who had no prior experience in tempering since I had been doing this all semester in my other class. Unfortunately for me, and for most of the class, the tempering process didn't go as smoothly as we're used to. For my group, our milk chocolate wasn't setting properly, and the time lapses were causing delays in our production. But at the end of the day, we were able to present our three items, shown here - dark/milk chocolate cigarettes, chocolate bowls, and a piped chocolate design.