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Out with the Old… in with the Slightly Different

12.31.2010

So, this wee little project has come to an end. I promised that I was going to blog about being pregnant while in culinary school. Well, I’m done being pregnant and I’m done with culinary school. I feel like this is a good time to close out this blog. (Stick with me for the rest of this post. There’s a surprise at the end. Dude, don’t jump ahead. Just read on…)

What I Learned About Babies and the Process of Making Them

  1. Miscarriage is not a bad word. It is definitely a sad word, but you can talk about it.
  2. Making babies is a lot more fun than birthing babies. I’m sure you knew that already.
  3. Babies are cute and that cuteness can apparently take a baby far. Or, at the very least, keep the parents from committing bodily harm to the screaming (albeit cute) face in the middle of night.
  4. The amount of baby “stuff” that invades a home with a newborn is a force of nature. It does not matter if you board up your windows or put sandbags in front of the door. Small stuff will seep into your home. Little socks, caps and inserts for bottles, small hats, bouncy/shaky/vibrating contraptions, onesies, twosies, threesies… it’s a nightmare.

    Teddy in a chef outfit

    See? Dress up is fun.

  5. It certainly is fun to dress a baby up, especially since they do not have language skills yet. Dressing up babies is a parent’s way of getting back at the screaming, crazy beast child that now encompasses your entire day.
  6. Babies WILL make you buy a minivan. Or, if your baby is less evil, it will make you trade in your really cute Mini Cooper for a Subaru crossover SUV. Mean baby.
  7. Babies CANNOT make you give up heated seats. No matter how hard they cry and whine.
  8. Babies are cry babies.

What I Learned About Becoming a Chef

  1. I don’t want to be a chef.

And, that’s the crux of it. The thing I thought would be the scariest (being someone’s mom) turned out to be pretty simple. Of course, I now live by the following words: If I am wearing a shirt and pair of pants without dried baby vomit, it is a good day.

The thing that I thought would be the easiest way to change careers turned out to be not so career-changing. I went to culinary school to learn that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Somehow, that’s OK with me right now. I am faster in the kitchen, more aware of what foods I like and what foods will kill me, and I have a huge appreciation for chefs that love food and do it well.

What’s Next?

The final take-away (to use a corporate bullshit-ism) of this project is that it reminded me how much I like to write (or blather on, yes… sometimes it’s just silly prattle). I’m continuing to blog about food and the making of it. I’m keeping the restaurant reviews, throwing in a few utensil reviews, and writing about new (and old) recipes.

So, join me on my new site, Kitchenalia, to read my continued misadventures in the kitchen.

Oh, and because I can’t resist taking pictures of my son that he will hate me for later, here’s the happy product of my culinary school adventures.

Lizzie and Teddy wearing matching (yes, matching) chef outfits

That's right, I bought my son a monogrammed chef outfit. I'm just that sort of crazy mother.

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Baking Class Eighteen: Mousses

12.8.2010

Time to assemble the tiramisu and yule log from the previous class. To do the tiramisu, we’re going to need some mascarpone filling. We made half of the recipe below and because we didn’t have enough rings to go around, we assembled it take away angel food cake containers.

Mascarpone Filling Formula

Egg yolks 2 yolks
Sugar 6 oz
Water 4 oz
Corn syrup 2 oz
Mascarpone 1 lb
Heavy cream 1 lb 8 oz

Whip the egg yolks until light. Make a syrup of the sugar, water, and corn syrup by heating it until 248°. Gradually pour the syrup into the egg yolks while whipping constantly. Continue whipping until cool.

In a mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the mascarpone until soft. Then, with the mixer running at slow speed, add the egg yolk mixture a little bit at a time. Wait until each addition is blended before adding more. Whip the cream until soft peaks form and fold into the mascarpone mixture.

Mascarpone filling in a mixing bowl

This is the consistency of my mascarpone filling.

Assemble the Tiramisu

Take the first round and insert into tin flat side up. You might have to trim the round in order to get it to fit.

Use a brush to soak the cake with strong coffee. I also added Grand Marnier and a bit of sugar to my coffee. Put the lady fingers around the outside cake in one long circle so they are standing on edge. Soak them with the coffee mixture as well.

First layer and fingers in the tiramisu

Kind of nasty looking, but it's getting there.

Dollop half of the mascarpone filling in, place the second round on top, and then soak with the coffee mixture again. Fill the top with the rest of the mascarpone filling. Now, we were short on mascarpone filling. So, I made some whipped cream and added the rest of the coffee mixture to it. And, then used to that to make sure the filling came to the top of the lady fingers.

Results

The dark lines on the top are chocolate cigarettes that I placed in the whipped cream. I know, it looks weird in the angel food cake tin, but it tasted lovely.

Tiramisu with chocolate cigarettes

All filled in and lovely

For the yule log, you need a filling. We used chocolate mousse.

Chocolate Mousse Formula

Egg yolks 1.5 oz
Fine granulated sugar 1.33 oz
Water 1 oz
Dark chocolate, melted 6 oz
Heavy cream 11 oz

Whip the egg yolks until pale. Make a syrup with the sugar and water and bring to a boil at 244°. Whip the hot syrup into the yolks and continue whipping until cool.

Melt the chocolate and fold into the egg mixture. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Whip one-third of the cream into the chocolate mixture, and then fold the remaining cream until it’s well incorporated.

Now that you have mousse. Take your sheet cake and lay it on parchment paper. Wet the cake with a simple syrup. Spread the mousse in an even layer over the cake, making sure to bring the mousse to the edges of the long ends (but not quite to the edge of the short ends).

Roll the cake up. If your cake is too thin or too thick, it will probably crack (as mine and a number of my classmates’ cakes did). Use the parchment paper to help keep a tight roll. Once rolled, wrap in plastic and refrigerate.

After allowing the roll to set up a bit, bring it out and frost it. I used buttercream with cocoa powder added to it to form a nice log. As you can see from the picture, my buttercream was a bit chunky and didn’t take the cocoa powder consistently.

Yule log

Why does everything I make in bakery class end up looking like a turd on a plate?

Oh well, we can cover our mistakes with powdered sugar!

Yule log with powdered sugar

A sweet, sweet turd on a plate.

And then, I made these wonderful berries with leaves (on the back of a spatula) and snowflakes (my index finger for reference). Hasn’t my artistry come a long way? OK, these aren’t mine. Chef did them as example. ¡Que c’est joli!

Holly berries made of frosting

So very teeny tiny, but so very detailed.

Snowflakes made from white icing

Nice, right?

So, that about sums up my baking class. I could do a tidy little recap here, but I’ll let the posts speak for themselves. (Psst: I learned a lot and have a new found appreciation for all things confectionary.)

 

Formulas from the fifth edition of “Professional Baking” by Wayne Gisslen.
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Baking Class Seventeen: Biscuits and Ladyfingers

12.7.2010

Our last two lab classes were another two-part series. In this class, we baked the lady fingers for the tiramisu and the sheet cake and Italian buttercream for the yule log. Assembly will be the following day.

Ladyfinger Sponge Formula

Egg yolks 6 oz
Sugar 3 oz
Egg whites 9 oz
Sugar 5 oz
Lemon juice ¼ t
Pastry flour 10 oz

Separate egg sponge method to make this recipe. Take your egg yolks and sugar and put in a stainless steel bowl over a water bath. Whip until warm. Then, put in a mixer with the whip attachment and beat on high speed until light and thick. Now, whip the egg whites, sugar, and lemon juice until you get firm, moist peaks. Fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture, alternating with the flour. So, bit of egg white then bit of flour, bit of egg white… you get the idea.

Now, stick the batter in a pastry bag and pipe with a plain tip. You’ll need two rounds and a number of fingers across the bottom. Pipe them out on to parchment paper (and put a few dollops in each corner so the parchment doesn’t blow up and stick to the top of your fingers whilst in the oven.

Baked ladyfingers and Tiramisu rounds

Yes, the ladyfingers are not elegant. But the rounds came out OK.

Dust with powdered sugar. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes.

Close-up of Round

See, the perfection of my ladyfinger round?

For the yule log, we used the creamed yellow cake recipe from the previous day. Instead of putting it in a round, we used a half sheet pan.

Cake for yule log

Yellow cake in sheet form

 

Formulas from the fifth edition of “Professional Baking” by Wayne Gisslen.
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Brunch Mitten Style

12.4.2010

Paul, the child, and I went to the D for Thanksgiving. And brunch must be had no matter the city. My parents were good enough to oblige us by taking us to The Gathering Place in Northville for happy morning eats.

The restaurant is located in a house (Not one that people live in, but that might be fun. “Nice robe, ma’am. Don’t mind us, we’re just here for brunch.”) Tables are scattered in various rooms with large, open windows. It’s one of those bright and cheery places that make brunch a sunny affair. This is not a hangover-nursing brunch place.

What We Ate

I had the spicy shrimp frittata. Eggs frittatized with shrimp, peppers, potatoes, and a mole sauce. It was spicy, but I still asked for Tabasco. They gave me the dregs of the Tabasco bottle—which was just as well because ooh man, the mole hit me with a bit of a vengeance. Served with toast of choice and homemade jam.

Paul went with a sweet dish, which is a bit unusual for him, especially considering they had a chorizo-based dish on the menu. He said he had plate envy, but his malted waffle looked tasty enough to me. It had apple and apple goo on top. He did cave to his meat tendencies by ordering a side of sausage.

My mom had eggs Benedict. They were perfectly formed, sitting on toast rounds. My dad went with a dish that had “sassy” in its name. It was the aforementioned chorizo dish with spicy potato-based hash. Avocado slices on the side.

What We Drank

Well, the child had a bottle during the meal, but since that’s not on the menu, I’ll stick with the adult beverages. Coffee for Paul and I, tea for the mum, and water for my dad. The tea comes in a cute individual pot.

All around yummy goodness. I highly recommend it to those driving around the mitten looking for eggs, waffles, and other assorted brunch goodies. Oh, they also do lunch and dinner as well.

Location: 505 N. Center Street in Northville, MI (south of Eight Mile Road). They have parking next to the building. Of course, it’s suburban Detroit, so parking is a bit of a given.

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Baking Class Sixteen: Cake Assembly

12.1.2010

After all of the cake baking the day before, we finally got to play at Ace of Cakes and assemble our cakes. The yellow cake got the Italian buttercream treatment while the Genoise was filled with raspberry jam and Italian meringue.

Yellow Cake with Italian Buttercream

Take the cake and slice it in half. It’s a lot less tricky than it sounds. Score the cake all the way around and then just ease your serrated knife in to the cake. This way, you only go halfway through the cake.

Cake halved

A cake divided against itself cannot stand. Well, it can stand, but it needs some frosting help.

Next, whip up the buttercream so it’s not a huge, cold block. You want to get the creamy texture you had it the night before. (Of course, if you whip it up the same day, you won’t have this problem.)

Whipping the Buttercream

Whipping the buttercream so it's no longer hard.

Now, cut side up, frost the top of the first layer. Then, put the cut side up of the other half and press down. Add a crumb coat to the cake. Next, add the rest of the frosting to form the final coat.

Cake frosted with buttercream

This is after the crumb coat of buttercream.

I saved some of my buttercream and added cocoa powder to it. I used this chocolate buttercream to pipe the edges. Pretty good for a first try, right?

Finished buttercream frosted cake

Check out the pipes on this one!

Genoise with Italian Meringue

My Genoise was really thin, but I was still able to slice it in half. We followed the same procedure as above but instead of buttercream, we used the raspberry goo from the bucket for the middle. You want to moisten the cake with syrup first because the Genoise is a pretty dry cake. So, slice, moisten, jam, press, moisten top.

A cake scored in half

Thin, but scored in half...awaiting jam and meringue.

Then, we whipped up some meringue.

Making meringue

Making meringue--Italian style

Italian Meringue Formula

Sugar 1 lb
Water 4 oz
Egg whites 8 oz

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils. Boil until you have the mixture between the soft and hard ball stage. DO NOT let it get brown. While the syrup is cooking, beat the egg whites with a whip until they form soft peaks. With the machine running, slowly whip in the hot syrup. Continue beating until the meringue is cool and forms firm peaks. This should sound familiar as it’s the first step for Italian buttercream.

Once you have your meringue, gently ice the cake just like above.

Genoise with meringue before the blowtorch

Before the blowtorch and crazy piping, this is what an Italian meringue looks like.

Pipe a design into the top and or sides. (I couldn’t think of anything so you’ll see me getting goofy in the picture below. I blame the copious amounts of sugar that have building up in my system over the course of the quarter.)

Then, take a blowtorch to the entire thing and brown the heck out of it. Woo hoo!

Genoise with smiley face on top

I admit, not the most professional of cakes.

 

Formulas from the fifth edition of “Professional Baking” by Wayne Gisslen.
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Baking Class Fifteen: Cakes

11.30.2010

There are no pictures for this day. We just made the cakes and buttercream for tomorrow’s class. (And, up front honesty, I forgot my camera. Ooops). We made a yellow cake, a genoise cake, and Italian buttercream.

Creamed Yellow Cake Formula

Butter 12 oz
Sugar 13 oz
Salt 0.12 oz (⅔ t)
Eggs 7.5 oz
Cake flour 15 oz
Baking powder 0.62 oz (3¾ t)
Milk 15 oz
Vanilla extract 0.25 oz

This is a straight up creaming method: Fat goes in first and gets smoothed by the paddle attachement. Add in the sugar and salt and mix on medium until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs bit by bit making sure they’re well incorporated before adding more. Then comes the sifted flour/baking powder alternating between the milk/vanilla extract. (So, start with a bit o’ the dry, a bit o’ the wet, a bit o’ the dry, etc. End up with dry and you’re good to go.)

Put it in a cake round and bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes.

Genoise Formula

Eggs 1 lb 2 oz
Sugar 12 oz
Cake flour 12 oz
Butter, melted 4 oz
Vanilla extract 0.25 oz

So, we do a plain sponge method for this one (it’s also known as the Genoise method…probably a bit easier to remember). Combine the eggs and sugar in a stainless steel bowl. Set the bowl over a water bath and whip until it warms. (You want it to be warm so you have a greater volume of foam.)

With a whip attachment, beat the eggs at high speed until they are very light and thick. The fold in the flour in small batches (be careful not to deflate any foam). Carefully fold in melted butter and vanilla extract.

Put in a cake round immediately and bake at 375° for 20 minutes.

Italian Buttercream Formula

Sugar 8 oz
Water 2 oz
Egg whites 4 oz
Butter, soft 14 oz
Lemon juice 0.08 oz (½ t)
Vanilla extract 0.12 oz (¾ t)

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils. Boil until you have the mixture between the soft and hard ball stage. DO NOT let it get brown. While the syrup is cooking, beat the egg whites with a whip until they form soft peaks. With the machine running, slowly whip in the hot syrup. Continue beating until the meringue is cool and forms firm peaks.

Then little by little, add the butter. Continue to whip. Only add another piece after the previous one has been completely incorporated.  Then, add the lemon juice and vanilla. Whip until smooth.

We put the buttercream in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight.

Formulas from the fifth edition of “Professional Baking” by Wayne Gisslen.
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Baking Class Fourteen: Tarts

11.24.2010

Today, we made whores. Oh wait, not full-fledged whores, just tarts. We did a fruit-based almond tart and a linzertorte.

I had never heard of a linzertorte before so when Chef first said it aloud, I thought he said Windsor Torte. And, I hate to say it, but my Detroit-born brain thought, “Hmmm. I’ve been to Windsor. This is probably not going to be very good.” And, then my actual thinking brain kicked in and thought, “Oh wait. It’s probably named after the British royal family.” Turns out that I’m an idiot. Linzertorte is named after the city of Linz, Austria, and is the oldest known cake recipe in the world. (Torte is German for cake.)

So, first stop… the mess I made of the fruit tart.

Fruit Tart Formula

10 inch tart shell 1
Frangipane 12 oz
Fruit Enough to fill the tart
Apricot glaze As needed

Frangipane Formula

Almond paste 8 oz
Sugar 8 oz
Butter 4 oz
Pastry or cake flour 2 oz
Eggs 2 oz

So, first make your frangipane by mixing the almond paste and sugar at low speed with a paddle. Once it’s evenly mixed, add the fat and flour and blend until smooth. Then, beat in the eggs bit by bit. Now you have your frangipane.

Put your tart shell in your tart pan. We used dough left over from a previous class. Then, spread the frangipane filling evenly in the tart shell. If you are using poached or canned fruit, you’ll need to drain it. I used frozen blueberries so just added them as they were into the frangipane. I tried to add them in even rows, but I think I added a wee bit too many (as you will see in the results section).

Bake at 375° for about 40 minutes. After it has cooled, brush with apricot glaze. You can make your own apricot glaze by heating apricot jam and a bit of water on the stove, but we used stuff we found in a giant goo bucket in dry storage. (Similar to the raspberry goo used in the next recipe.) The glaze gives the whole tart a nice shiny appearance.

Results

See what I mean? It’s a bit of a mess because of the overabundance of blueberries. Notice the raspberry in the center? I was trying to be artistic. (Yeah, last time that’s going to happen.) Anyway, it might look like a dog’s rear end, but it sure did taste fantastic.

Blueberry Almond Tart

My mess of a blueberry almond tart.

Lizertorte Formula

Linzer Dough 1 lb 8 oz
Raspberry jam 14 oz (1¼ C)

Linzer Dough Formula

Butter 8 oz
Sugar 6 oz
Salt 0.1 oz (½ t)
Cinnamon 0.06 oz (1⅛ t)
Nutmeg 0.01 oz (⅛ t)
Ground almonds 5 oz
Eggs 1.6 oz
Vanilla extract ¼ t
Pastry flour 10 oz

To make the dough, use a paddle attachment and blend the butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg at low speed until smooth. Then, add the almonds and blend in.

Next add the eggs and vanilla. Mix until just absorbed. Add the sifted flour and mix until just blended. Chill for several hours.

Once chilled, roll out the dough and line a tart pan with the dough. Now, Linzertorte is typically round, but you will notice in the picture below that mine is rectangular. This is because we ran out of round tart pans. Also, this dough is extremely fragile and will totally fall apart on you. It’s very frustrating. But, if you kind of smoosh together any breakages, it bakes pretty well.

Spread the jam evenly into the shell. Roll out the remaining dough and cut into strips. Arrange the strips in a lattice pattern. Don’t try to do a traditional lattice weave (like on the apple pie) because the dough is way too fragile. Just make the lattice design by laying the dough strips at an angle. Smoosh the lattice into the border.

Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes.

Results

Pretty darn good—even though we used the raspberry bucket goo which is filled with crazy amounts of chemicals and tastes a bit like melted fruit roll-up I know you shouldn’t eat tart for breakfast, but this is tasty in the morning.

Linzertorte

Rectangular Linzertorte with the raspberry goo.

Additional Notes

  • Pâte Sucrée: Sugar dough which is more fragile than pie dough. It consists of confectioner’s sugar, butter, and eggs.
  • Fluted edges of the tart tin help dough stick to the edge–making it stronger.
Formulas from the fifth edition of “Professional Baking” by Wayne Gisslen.
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