Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Everything but the Oink"

This past Sunday I ate "everything but the oink." Carlyle, one of my fellow culinarians and host of the My Plate brought out what was left of the pig he used throughout his dinner, which was, props to him, only the snout. My Plate happens one Sunday a month at school where one student is granted around $400 to create and execute a meal with wine pairings for 25 students. It's one of my favorite times of the month.

My favorite course, other than the dessert :-), was the "ears, fava beans, arugula, creole jus" dish that accompanied a delicious Sauvignon Blanc from Whitehall Lane. I couldn't believe how tasty the thinly sliced pig ear was and the silkiness of the creole jus.

Despite my 10 or so months of attending culinary school I am still amazed at the work that is put into a dish like this one. Chef Almir, who helped Carlyle with the menu and cooking, put my image of Carlyle throwing sliced pig ear into the fryer to shame when he told me they were fried, braised, rested, fried again and that the jus was made from the braising fond. No wonder they were tender and perfect.

Apparently the cartilage in the ear needs to be softened by braising...appetizing right? When Chef told me this he was wiggling his own ear back and forth highlighting where the cartilage was.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cakes Shmakes

I have pictured two cakes...one of which resulted in one of the most embarrassing meltdown of my culinary life and the other in pure joy.
I love cakes, always have.

The first cake is a Black Forest and is taken sideways because it was one of the worst cake experiences ever. My group had an extra Genoise Chocolate Sponge cake that I decided to use to make a Black Forest Cake since my partner, Karl, had all the ingredients out. It went well for most of the time until I began to frost it. Black Forest Cake uses Chantilley Cream for icing which is very hard to work with and needs to be refrigerated. You're supposed to work it to a medium whipped consistency to be sure it doesn't get over-whipped and mealy while you're frosting the cake. So, I attempted probably three times and failed before I decided to make a HUGE batch of "not-so" whipped cream to ensure it not becoming mealy and to start from scratch. I whipped it, dumped it onto the cake and began bringing the off-set spatula back and forth in the motion Chef carefully explained...all the while the cream was everywhere, dripping off the sides and making an incredible mess.....I felt like a four year old trying to bake. By this time I was ready to throw the cake across the room but instead put my hands on the work surface, turned around to my classmate Denise and said while breathing heavily, "I'm over this, I'm seriously done with this...seriously." As I began my sentence I noticed Chef there with her...who noticed my extreme frustration and mess of whipped cream spilling over my cake and the cake spinner thing. He came over in all his height and said in his loud, bold voice, "listen, first of all, stop leaning on the bench, secondly, it's just a cake....calm down." It sounds like a normal interaction but it was basically like him calming down a little girl in a store having a temper tantrum over a pair of shoes her dad wouldn't buy her. He proceeded to show me and help me whip the cream more and spread it evenly...all the while I was holding back tears of frustration and extreme embarrassment. It took me a good hour to get over the feeling of wanting to not only burst into tears but throw a cake across the room. I hated that cake. I hate Black Forest Cake. It's gross. I never want to make it again, ever. Chef mentioned twice after the fact that there were "meltdowns" associated with the Black Forest Cake. I'm almost certain these "meltdowns" were referring directly to me.

The second cake I made was in honor of my upcoming birthday and to try and attempt making it in a professional atmosphere where it might turn out looking uniform. Also, I wanted to make it possible to cut into it without the entire cake disassembling. I was successful!
I let my teammates do the assignments for the day and I just worked on my cake. Cutting the layers, macerating the strawberries, making bavarian cream and lastly, whipping that darn chantilley cream for the outside. Despite my wretched experience with the chantilley and black forest cake I had a good time working with it here. Probably because I love this cake.
It turned out great and chef showed it to the class at the end of the day and basically gave me a pat on the back.

Gosh, sometimes I feel like adults revert back to being children, needing only the basics of positive reinforcements. I can't count the number of times I've seen the "child" of different classmates of mine come out in the kitchen. Not that it's a bad thing right?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

my love begins to grow...

I want to start by correcting my last post's comments about "busy feet rushing around" over at the bakeshop. It just isn't true. In fact, it's quite the opposite. When I wrote that I actually had my class in mind and the way we behave in the foreign land. We treat it like the hot side...racing around as fast as possible when, in fact, the baking students travel half the speed and are very calm and collected, while still getting product out. It's very very strange, haha.

On to grander things. Yesterday my group and I made lots of fun things with pate a choux (pronounced patashoo), which is a "pre-cooked batter" that can be manipulated into an enormous amount of goodies, both savory and sweet. From the dough we produced cream puffs, swans (like a cream puff but with the addition of custard and berries), gougeres (cream puffs with cheese) and eclairs. I really enjoyed this day and all the assembly that took place. For some reason piping chantilley (sweetened whipped cream) into a little ball of pate a choux was strangely rewarding. It was also a good day because at the end of the night Chef liked my cream puff the best and set it as the example of what everyone else should have done. Maybe it's because I love cream puffs? Extra love perhaps??
As you can see I'm holding my award winning cream puff with a forced smile. For some reason I lost my knack for being photogenic....maybe it will come back some day.

The BEST day so far had to be today. I knew I had a small obsession with homemade angel food cake but I had NO IDEA I was this obsessed with it. I was the only one in the class to make it and I made it as if my life depended on it. I think Chef was a little weirded out. Before class, after requesting my team make it I told Chef I wanted to eat a whole cake for dinner....maybe that's why he thinks I'm strange. At the end of the night when he was reviewing our stuff he picked up a piece and asked if I was pleased and I said, "Chef, I seriously LOVE my angel food cake." I didn't realize how dumb I sounded until Burroughs repeated it to me after class. It was good alright? Don't tell me you're not wishing you had a piece right now...with those berries...and the chantilley cream...I don't know who could pass that up. Here is the glorious, fairly simple recipe:

ANGEL FOOD CAKE (makes one tube cake)

1 lb. egg white
1 t. vanilla
1/2 lb. sugar
1/8 oz. cream of tartar
1/8 oz. salt
1/2 lb. sugar
6.5 oz. cake flour

1. Combine first the sugar, cream of tartar, salt and vanilla. Add gradually to egg whites after they have whipped to a foam and beat until mixture forms a wet peak (soft peak)
2. Sift second sugar and flour together and carefully told into whites.
3. Pour batter into an 8 in. tube pan.
4. Bake at 325 degrees in a convection oven or 350 in a regular oven for 35-40 minutes or until cake bounces back and is brown.
5. Allow cake to cool before removing from pan

____So I'm sorry about the weight measurements...I don't know how to make them into regular ones. I would say, if you have some extra dough laying around to buy a scale. They're seriously really helpful. Kind of pricey...like $40-$50 I think, but worth it.

I do enjoy the class more now that we're out of bread baking. I don't know what my deal is with breads but I'm glad we're past it and I can just enjoy what others make and appreciate their hard work instead of laboring in frustration myself. Cheers to bread bakers!