We baked a billion cookies this week. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating (a bit), but it felt like a billion. It was actually only (hah!) 15 different types of cookies, to learn the various methods and types. Drop cookies like Chocolate Chip, Molded cookies like Kipferl, and Icebox cookies like Checkerboard. If I never see another checkerboard cookie it will be too soon. Sadly, I will have to make them at least one more time, twice if they end up on the midterm (*cry*). They’re actually not that bad, just a lot of work and detail. I’m a super detailed person when it comes to my cakes, but the checkerboard cookies weren’t satisfying enough to warrant the work. I can appreciate the effort that goes into making them, but I think I put it best to my girlfriend earlier this week: “Don’t they have machines for this kinda thing?”
This week has been kind of a blur, so I’ll do my best to remember and summarize the days.
This was an orientation day. It started bright and early – I think I was there around 7:30am to check in. I was taken into the pastry kitchen, where my uniform was waiting for me. I had supplied my own tool kit, which I brought with me. I had a bunch of stuff from my cake decorating days, so it didn’t make sense to purchase a whole kit from the school. Some of my tools are likely not as high quality as the school supplied ones (ie. the knives), but I like that mine are clearly different from everyone else’s, so easy to identify. I’m also less likely to cut myself with my less than stellar knives (there were 3 finger casualties this week amongst the pastry students alone).
A shot of the pastry kitchen.
Another angle. My partner and I were at station 4 this week.
My tool drawer. It only stayed this organized on Monday, when I didn’t actually use anything. I should have taken an “after” pic on Friday. I purchased a drawer organizer this weekend to help maintain some order.
After changing into our uniforms, we spent the morning with the culinary students, meeting the instructors and each other, and getting an overview of the school and policies, etc. After that, we broke off into our pastry group and headed to the pastry kitchen. There are 9 students in my class out of a possible 14. Culinary is PACKED this term with 24, I think. With our station partners, we got oriented with the kitchen and where all the supplies are.
Each week we will be paired up with a different person and will work on the recipes together. This was almost a deal breaker for me when looking at the school (ok not really, but I wasn’t happy about it). It really depends on who you’re grouped with, and as I’d seen in my past 3 years as an instructor at VFS, some students just don’t care/don’t put in the effort. Thankfully, my partner this week has a get-stuff-done attitude like me, and I think we worked really well together. I didn’t have to worry about her doing her part, and doing it right. I can already tell this will be a challenge with some of the other students. Oh well, I’ll just have to be more on top of things those weeks!
We also learned our cleaning duties. Each station has a set of daily cleaning duties at the end of the day. The cleanup usually takes 20-30mins. Not gonna lie, cleaning sucks, especially after an exhausting 8 hour day.
For homework we had to read the chapter on cookies and a page on royal icing.
The morning was spent sitting as a group, discussing professionalism and what makes a good student, etc. We also learned about conversions. Almost all of our recipes will be in grams instead of cups/ml like you see in most cookbooks. I actually prefer this, as it’s way more accurate. A scoop of flour can vary depending on how you scoop it — do you dig your measuring into the bag, or do you spoon the flour into the measuring cup? That can be a 20g difference, which could have a significant impact on your cakes and cookies. I also like that I don’t have to use measuring cups and clean between each ingredient – I can just measure right into a bowl. You can actually measure multiple ingredients into one bowl too, so less cleanup. Put the bowl on the scale, zero it out, add flour, zero it out, add baking soda, etc.
The rest of the day was spent making Chocolate Chip Cookies (the original Toll House recipe), and sugar cookies, which we decorated.
The chocolate chip cookies were good, but they’ve got nothing on the recipe I use. Still, can’t really go wrong with chocolate chip!
The sugar cookies were delicious. I love the crispness and sweetness of these. Yum!
We were also taught to make cornettes out of parchment to pipe the icing for the sugar cookies. These things suck to make. I suppose once you have practiced enough it’s no problem, but its a pain in the ass to get that tip at the end perfectly pointed! I remember making these in the Michael’s cake classes years ago. I’ll take a disposable plastic piping bag over this any day! Also, you can refill the plastic ones. These guys are a one time use kinda thing.
I forgot to mention that our Chef instructor always does a demo first of everything we’re going to make, to show us all the steps and how to do them.
There’s a large, angled mirror above the chef’s station so that you can see everything even from the back. It’s a great setup! Our instructors are really great. Our main pastry instructor, Chef Stacy, is super nice and approachable. She’s way more calm and patient than I could ever hope to be (and there was a lot of patience needed this week on her part).
Here’s a shot of everyone’s cookies (ours were the heart ones).
Lots of cookies! I should mention that we don’t get to take all of these home (which is actually a good thing, or I’d be diabetic by the end of the program). We get to take home up to ¼ of what we make and the rest gets donated to the Food Bank.
After the cookie baking we were assigned more reading and some handouts as homework.
Today we started and finished:
Toll House Chocolate Chip cookies
Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing
This was an intense day – we made a LOT of cookies. Some were started and finished, and some needed to chill and would be finished the following day.
Before we start making the cookies, we need to make sure that we’ve measured out all of our ingredients and that we have all our tools in place. This is called “Mise En Place” or Everything In Its Place.
The cookies we finished today were the Gluten-Free Linzer Cookies…
…and the Kipferl.
I really liked the taste and texture of both of these. The raspberry jam in the Lizner cookies was delicious, and you couldn’t tell that they were gluten-free. The Kipferl had the taste and texture of shortbread.
At the end of the day we were assigned more reading and asked to come prepared with our own, new cookie recipe tomorrow. My OWN recipe? What?? I don’t know how to make a recipe, I just bake from ones that are provided to me. How the hell am I even supposed to do that, and what the hell do I make??
This is where things started to go a little bit south for me (understatement). I’m really not good with change. I like my routines and I love my free time. Every once in a while I decide (for some reason) that I need to shake things up a bit. So I shake things up, stress to hell about it, and immediately regret my decision once the change takes place.
I went from a relatively low stress job where I had a pretty easy schedule – some weeks busier than others, but nothing like my previous job. I pretty much knew what to expect every day and (most of) the people I worked with were awesome. I miss them and feel completely out of touch. Now I’m in an environment where I barely have time to pee (seriously!), get 30mins for lunch, and am working on something every single minute. Then I get home and have to read/prep/do homework for the next day. It’s 9 or 10pm before I actually have some time to myself, but by that time I’m so exhausted that I just want to go to bed. So Wednesday was a big WTF did I do?! kinda day. The 45-50minute drive each way doesn’t help either. I imagine this will be around an hour when school gets back in and the rains start…ugh.
It usually takes me a solid month to get through this phase. It’s a long and hard adjustment period, and I don’t handle it well. So I had a mini-meltdown Wednesday. Thankfully I have a wonderfully supportive husband that has talked me off many a ledge. After I made my cookie recipe I felt much better. I didn’t know if it would turn out (it didn’t exactly, read on to day 4 for that), but whatever. It wasn’t going to be graded and it was just a way to experiment and see how things worked. I just didn’t want mine to be a complete flop and everyone else’s perfect.
Started and finished:
Gluten-Free Linzer cookies
We spent the bulk of today on checkerboard cookies. I won’t go into the details or the steps, as it would take forEVER. Here are some pictures of only a couple steps in the process.
Instead I’ll focus on the major stress point of my day: My Own Cookie. The recipe that I created the night before, I had no idea if it would work or what it would taste like. I had sort of adapted my beloved chocolate chip cookie recipe into a chocolate hazelnut cookie. I affectionately referred to these as Chewy Hedgehog Cookies. I made one major mistake in my conversions. I didn’t reduce the egg by enough. Per instruction, the recipe was only to make 12 cookies. The recipe I love makes almost 40 and uses 2 eggs. I used 1 egg for 12 cookies. It was not a pretty sight. I knew as soon as I incorporated the egg that it wasn’t going to work. I added in the flour and the batter was way too thin (for cookie dough). So I compensated by adding in more and more flour until it looked somewhat closer to the consistency I was looking for. As a result, I put in too much flour and they ended up puffy and cakey. I also used too much baking soda which likely also added to the puffiness.
Before and after baking (we actually baked these on Friday).
They still tasted good, but they weren’t the cookies I planned to make.
I actually remade these at home last night with proper quantities, and they turned out perfect and delicious! I also added in chocolate chips (what was I thinking leaving them out in the first place??).
Gooey and delicious.
You can see the difference between the two here:
And here is my recipe (with edits), in case you want to make these yourself!
So, Make Your Own Cookie day didn’t turn out to be quite the disaster I’d imagined. My recipe didn’t work perfectly, but it was still good and I learned a lot from it, which was the whole point of the exercise.
One thing I think I should note is that I was surprised at how many students did not come to class prepared with their recipes. Out of the 9 of us, only 4 of us actually had our crap together. I couldn’t believe it! This was especially annoying since the lack of preparedness on their part put us almost TWO hours behind schedule! We were supposed to be done by 3:30pm this day (which we were looking forward to), but instead we weren’t out the door till closer to 5pm (we made up some time in the afternoon).
Here’s a shot of everyone’s cookies.
We also finished up the Coconut Macaroons…
…and the Rugelach, which I just realized I didn’t take any pictures of! Boo to that. They are crescent shaped cookies filled with raspberry jam, pecans and cinnamon sugar. You can google it to see what they look like.
More reading was assigned, but not too much homework otherwise and I actually had some time to spend with Ryan!
Our Own cookies
Caramel Pecan Biscotti
Brandy Snap batter (our instructor made for all)
We finished a LOT of cookies this day. We had a bunch chilling in the fridge from the day before. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Chocolate hazelnut macarons. Baked on Wednesday, filled on Thursday, set in the fridge overnight to be taken home on Friday.
I may have taken a wee bit more than ¼ of the macarons home. We only had 10 between the two of us!
Caramel Pecan Biscotti baking. Forgot to take a before pic so this is the best I have!
These are GOOD. I’m definitely going to be making these at home.
The infamous checkerboard cookies. Those two trays are just the ones from my partner and I. Thats a lotta cookies.
Brown Butter and Pumpkin Seed Financiers. These were just ok. I wouldn’t make them again. Bit of a cross between a cake and a cookie.
Madeleines. LOVE these. Ours turned out a wee bit gigantic but whatever. Yum.
And finally Tulie and Brandy Snaps. Here’s a picture of the ones our instructor made during the demo. I had a couple of pictures of the ones I made, but they were pretty sad looking. This was end of day Friday and I was literally done. Cookied out. So I admittedly did a half-assed job, but I still learned how to make them! And they taste good too.
Our Own cookies
Caramel Pecan Biscotti
Started and finished:
Brown Butter and Pumpkin Seed Financiers
Finally, one of the perks of working right next to culinary students is that they bring us samples almost each day! Today was a variety of different canapés. I may have had 2 or 3.
That’s Week 1 in a (rather large) nutshell. Those of you who have read my previous blogs know that I tend to write a LOT and ramble a bit. I probably spent more time on this post than my homework this week, but whatever, I love to blog and it’s the highlight of my week!
I wasn’t super excited about they kinds of cookies we made this week. The recipes and methods seemed dated, BUT I understand why we did them. We learned so many different methods of making cookies. I didn’t even know there were so many! So, I appreciate that (and eating them, yum), but am happy to be moving on from cookie week.
Next week has much more variety — muffins, custards, various types of pastries. Omg I just looked through next week’s baking… 25 recipes! Holeeee crap.