I ate a lot of pie this week, not to mention croissants and other goodies. I wrote a lot (as usual), so will save you the preamble and dive right into the days.
Today was the best day ever. I’d been looking forward to making croissants since I started the program. LOVE croissants. We made the dough last week, froze it over the weekend, then rolled and baked today.
We made 4 plain, one chocolate, and one with almond paste. Here’s a blurry pic of rolling a stick of chocolate into the croissant.
In hindsight, it could have used WAY more chocolate, since the croissants puffed so much. Would have been hard to roll any more chocolate into it at this point though.
Egg washed and ready for proofing. The top 4 are plain and therefore have “feet”, the bottom 4 are stuffed with goodness and therefore no “feet”.
The croissants need to proof in a warm space (29°C) for 60-90mins until they expand and jiggle when you shake the tray.
Here they are proofed and ready for the oven. Fatties.
Waiting for these to proof then bake was excruciating. They were finally ready for sampling after lunch and were every bit as good as I’d hoped they’d be.
We get to make croissants one more time this week and again on our mid-term. One task that I am totally ok repeating.
After the croissants, we baked up the palmiers we made last week with the scraps from our puff pastry. You mash up all your scraps together and roll it out in a TON of sugar. Usually you’d roll things out in flour — substitute sugar. It was kinda ridiculous.
I did not have high hopes for these, but holy CRAP they are GOOD. They are sweet and also buttery and delicious. I forgot to take a picture of mine (of course), so here’s a pic of the ones we sent off to culinary.
We also assembled our Napoleon (or Millefeuille). I intentionally didn’t take a picture because mine looked like ass. I mean, maybe thats what it’s supposed to look like, but I dont think so… I should have taken a picture though so you could see it in all of its ugliness. We had them set overnight in the fridge, so hopefully it’s looking better tomorrow. We need to finish glazing it, so I’ll take pics before and after.
We finished up super early today (around 2pm!) which was great since a bunch of us volunteered to stay late to make some bread bowls for the Grand Opening of Terra Nova Farms in Richmond on Saturday.
Chef Stacy and a couple of the students came in on Sunday to make the dough and it was proofed overnight. There was a lot of freakin dough! We needed to make 250 bread bowls, I think we ended up with close to 400. There were 8 of us total (including Chef Stacy and Chef Ian) on bread bowl duty.
Four huge vats of dough getting cut up and weighed to exactly 120g.
And rolled into perfect little balls.
Rolling those balls was a workout… I should have counted how many I rolled. Lots. I am a total pro bread bowl ball roller now.
Oh, first thing today we started sourdough cultures for the breads we’ll be making next week. Today that involved mashing some grapes which I didn’t get a picture of. I’m sure you get the idea. And I just realized we also made the dough for Danish pastries today. In all the croissant hype I completely forgot about it! Danishes tomorrow!
Started and finished:
Diplomat Cream (gelatine set)
Cream Cheese filling
This was a crazy and exhausting day. On Tuesdays we have Chef Warren as our instructor. He’s usually over in Culinary and has a very different style from Chef Stacy. With Chef Stacy, we generally do one thing at a time and maybe work something in here and there. Chef Warren gives us a taste of more of a culinary midset. We had SO much on the go at the same time. Craziness. It all worked, but it was hectic and tiring. Being solo adds a level of stress too — trying to make sure you’re on top of your baking AND cleaning can be a challenge.
As such, some of my desserts today suffered a bit. I’m happy to report that my constant desire for perfectionism got a workout today and my motto for the day ended up being “whatever, good enough.” I don’t expect to be as easy-going when it comes to cakes, but today’s desserts…well sometimes good enough is good enough.
Take the poor Napoleon for instance (aka Millefeuille).
Not only were my layers uneven, there were gaps where there should have been filling. I also can’t seem to cut in a straight line to save my life.
The top suffered some irreparable damage due to a poorly sized opening in a cornette filled with chocolate. Hence the squiggles and gaps on the left. I was running behind everyone so… whatever! Time to get to slicing. First step was to trim all the edges (gently) then cut it in half lengthwise (gently), then in half again the other way and finally into individual sections. I think it ended up being 12 pieces total?
I don’t have any pics of this, as I was knee deep in scraps and trying to cut this into perfect pieces while trying to ensure I didn’t crush the whole thing to bits. Here’s a pic of the platter we made for the culinary students with samples from each group.
I never buy these things, as they are a pain to eat and I never find them that satisfying. These ones were amazing though. I dont think I’d ever go to the trouble of making it again, but it was a really good experience, and at the very least I can say I was able to cut myself some slack and just go with it.
I can’t remember the order of things today. Everything is a blur. At some point we made pie dough – two kinds – Pate Brisee and Pate Sucree, which will be used for our tarts later in the week.
We also made croissants again! This time each person made their own. They are on our midterm so it’s important to get the practice in.
The bulk of the afternoon was spent on Danishes. We’d made the dough the day before so today was cutting and decorating.
Most of the ones I made were filled with a poppyseed filling, some with walnut filling.
Again, Danishes aren’t my favorite and I never buy them, but holy crap. Yum. I didn’t even try one of these until I got home, and it did not disappoint!
Here’s the aftermath of our workspace post-Danish prepping.
As bad as it looks, it actually looked way worse a couple of times throughout the day.
At the end of the day, we measured out the ingredients for checkerboard cookies which we will be making again tomorrow (*cry*).
Oh and finally, we took the next step with our sourdough cultures. This involved straining the grapes and adding some water and flour to the grape juice. It was already starting to bubble.
Started and finished:
Danishes (variety of shapes and fillings)
I was so exhausted last night that I went to bed at 9:30pm (!!). Today proved to be another hectic and challenging day. It’s not easy working on your own, especially when the Chef demos 2 things and says “ok, one partner do X and the other Y”. As a solo, you have to do both and be finished at the same time as everyone else. Whew.
It was during one of those two-things-at once kinda things that I messed something up. I think I generally did pretty well most of the day, but I have a hard time cutting myself some slack when I make a mistake. I should have just slowed down and taken things one at a time. Apparently I’m not as good at multitasking as I thought. Hah.
Also, I’m incredibly clumsy. This is something I am WELL aware of but should probably warn future partners of. I blame it on inner ear problems and bad depth perception (not really, but it sounds better than “I’m an uncoordinated clutz”).
Ok, on to the day. By the time I had a second to think and remember to take pictures, we were well into the day. We made a lot of pies today.
Cooking up caramelized apples for the Tart Tatin.
Two versions of the finished product. First was baked in a small frying pan and second in a ramekin.
My nemesis today, the Clafoutis tart, the one I royally messed up and made in the wrong pie shell (I had two different shells on my table):
This one was supposed to go into the unsweetened Brisee pie shell. I poured it into the sweet Sucree instead, which was also a bigger pan, so my fruit totally disappeared under the custard.
Here’s my sad little tart post baking.
And a much better looking version… Laura and Sophia’s perfect (in the proper pie shell) finished Clafoutis.
At the same time we were making the Clafoutis, we also made a Pecan Pie. I’m actually really happy with how mine turned out!
I made this one before the Clafoutis, you can see the two empty pie shells sitting there, taunting me now. I had even prepped the proper one on a baking pan! Come on Olivia, get it together! Seriously though, look how cute my crimping is on that pecan pie.
We also made a Lemon Sabayon tart which was supposed to go into the sweet pie shell – instead I had to put it into the unsweetened.
I love lemon and am convinced it will still be delicious. The only tart we got to sample today was the Apple Tart Tatin – the rest have to set overnight.
And because the day wasn’t busy enough, we also made croissants again. This time each person made their own, as they will be on the midterm.
In all the busyness of today I forgot to ask Chef Stacy for feedback on mine to see what I could improve.
We ALSO made checkerboard cookies individually. We didn’t finish them – I’d say we got half way. Something to look forward to tomorrow ;).
And if that wasn’t enough, Chef Stacy asked for volunteers to stay behind and help hollow out the bread bowls we made on Monday. I was so defeated at this point, but I stayed. The more people, the faster everyone gets done. Most of the students stayed to help, which was great. In my delirium I didn’t remember to get any pics of this. Boo.
Started and finished:
Apple Tart Tatin
Lemon Sabayon Tart
Flaky Pie Dough
Today was not my day. Ryan said not to dwell on my mistakes, so I’ll keep this one short. We made a gluten-free crust today and some apple tarts to go with it. The crust was very crumbly before and after baking, and difficult to cut. I wouldn’t make this again, but if any of my gluten-free friends want the recipe, let me know!
We also made a Lemon Sabayon Tart, and it was one of the best lemon-flavored things I have ever eaten. This was also going to be my major challenge for the day and I was stressed about it.
We had to make an Italian meringue for the top, which involves egg whites and boiling sugar. I’ve made an Italian meringue a few times before without issues. It’s tricky to do, as you have to start whipping the egg whites once your sugar gets to 111°C, then keep boiling the sugar but only until it reaches 114°C, then you pour the molten sugar into the egg whites (slowly) and whip until cooled.
This is tricky enough to do on your own in a small kitchen where your mixer is right next to your stove. Doing this solo in a pastry kitchen with the mixer at one end of the room and the stove at the other adds a whole other level of complexity. I had a strategy and was prepared and got completely f^@#ed over by my digital thermometer. Seriously, eff that thing.
FIRST, it decided to reset itself to Farenheit instead of Celcius, so when I thought my sugar had reached the right temp, it wasn’t even close (in hindsight, it seemed to reach it faster than expected – I should have sanity checked). So I poured the sugar into my egg whites and realized that it was totally wrong. Had to scrap everything and start again. Meanwhile, everyone else was well on their way. Thankfully a couple of girls helped me re-scale the ingredients while I cleaned out my mixing bowl. Thanks Laura and Sophia!
So then I start again. Trusty thermometer in hand, set to Celcius as it should be. For some reason, the piece of crap keeps turning off!! Like every 5 seconds. Off. Holeee crap. Ok, whatever, I keep pressing the ON button. Then, if you can believe it, almost as it’s to 111°C it gets some sort of error. You can’t make this stuff up. Anyhow, I’ve already talked more about this than I planned. I grabbed the nearest thermometer I could find and used that instead. My meringue turned out perfect in the end but holy crap, I hate boiling sugar. PS- I bought a new digital thermometer.
In the end I was really happy with how the pie looked. There are things I could have done better with the piping of the meringue, but I had never done this technique before and know where I can improve, as it will be on the final. Did I mention this was the best thing I’ve eaten?? Yum.
We also made a rhubarb strawberry pie which I was pretty happy with, although I would have liked more time to decorate the top and really make it pretty. The leaves didn’t stand out as much after baking.
After the pies, we continued our checkerboard cookies. This involved assembling them and wrapping them, then sticking them in the fridge to chill until Monday. I fully admit I did not follow proper assembly procedures here. I wasn’t supposed to touch the dough with my hands, but I totally did. It was faster! I felt rushed and just wanted to get it done. As a result I’m sure their structural integrity and aesthetics have suffered. I promise to do a better job if they are on the midterm.
We also made a small amount of pie filling for our pies for Farm Day tomorrow. At the end of the day, we packed up everything we’d need to take over to the farm to make our pies as well as Strudel.
Started and finished:
Gluten-Free Tarte aux Pommes
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Checkerboard cookies (con’t)
Make Your Own Pie Filling
Lemon Sabayon Tart
We spent the day at Terra Nova Farms in Richmond. I took a ton of pictures so will (try to) keep the writing brief.
We started the day with making the dough for the strudel and rolling out the doughs for each of our mini pies. Then Chef Ian took us on a tour of the farm and park area. He showed us a bunch of different plants, some I had never heard of before, and explained their uses and how to tend to them.
Did you know that a compost gets crazy hot?? Not sure if you can see the steam coming out of it here.
We took in the scenery along the slough…
…and the highest point in Terra Nova that offers pretty views of the ocean. Much better on a sunny day I bet!
Finally, we made our way over to the new million-dollar playground.
We were all super pumped to try out the massive slide… until we saw how you had to get up there…
Climbing through a column of netting… I don’t want to go on it that bad. The zipline was fun, but could have used more of an incline!
I know the park isn’t completely finsihed yet, but there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to it to be honest. The million-dollar price tag seems kinda ridiculous, but what do I know, I’m just a baker!
After the tour we headed back to finish up our pies and strudel. My triple-berry mini-pie ready for the oven:
Group shot of some of the pies.
Stretching out the dough… it’s ridiculous how large it gets!
Linsday and Chef Stacy rolling the strudels.
Lindsay tending to the pies.
The afternoon at the farm was spent on some manual labor in the plots.
We dug up potatoes, replanted swiss chard, weeded, to name a few. I can appreciate the hard work that goes into farming, but I also know it is not for me. The morning was filled with learning, trying new recipes and new methods of baking, but I don’t feel like I got as much out of the afternoon. I can see how this might be valuable to the culinary students, but I didn’t feel like it connected well with the baking world. We have another Farm Day coming up in a week or so, and honestly I might just skip it. The 3 hour round-trip commute just doesn’t seem worth it.
One thing I did find valuable about the manual labor portion was that it was a great team building exercise (though it didn’t need to be 2 hours worth :)). Generally I hate team building. I think it’s lame and a waste of time (this coming from a former project manager – hah). Then again, I’m a mega-introverted person and generally don’t go out of my way to talk to people. I find group exercises really draining, but during all the digging and planting, I did get to chat one on one with a few of the other students which was kinda nice – namely, the two I was concerned with last week. I actually had a decent conversation with the person I thought was rude and uncommunicative. I think they probably come off more brash than they actually are, so that was a pleasant surprise. I am quick to judge people. It’s not one of my better qualities, but it is what it is. Perhaps I was too hasty in my judgement here.
Started and finished:
Austrian Apple Strudel
Make Your Own Pie