I likely won’t win any friends with this post, but this blog is intended to be a diary of my time at school, and I wouldn’t feel right censoring stuff out for fear of who might read it. So here goes…
This was my worst week at school yet, and it’s all due to my partner. She’s lazy and rude and is not a team player. I went into the week with an open mind – knowing what I knew about her, I thought I could still work with her. I was wrong. I basically ended up doing the majority of the work on the “team” since she does almost nothing and anything she does do is wrong. It’s not just me that sees this, everyone does.
Throughout the week my partner and I took turns on each bread… I would mix and knead one, she would do another. While she was kneading, I would clean, or scale, or do dishes, whatever needed to be done. When it’s her turn to scale ingredients or do dishes, she buries her head in her binder or her phone and pretends she’s busy. She rarely cleans or takes initiative on anything. I’ll be busy, kneading or mixing, crap ALL over our station that could get cleaned up or put away, and she just sits there staring at me kneading. She never has anything nice to say and criticizes the stuff I do, even though she wont do anything. So I end up taking over most things and just doing stuff because I know she won’t. About mid-week she apparently decides she is not ok with this, but doesn’t say anything to me. Instead, she just grabs the ingredients and starts doing things by herself… ummm, ok? It was right around this time that I wanted to punch her.
Anyhow, more on this later, onto the days…
We started the day by taking a look at the pumpernickel that was baking all day on Friday.
It had been baking for 7 hours, and could have used another hour (!!) because it was still a bit moist inside. Really good flavor on this bread and I forgot to take some home for Ryan to try :(.
The headliners of the day were the pretzels. Everyone was excited to make (and eat) these. After making and shaping the dough, each one took a quick bath in some lye.
Lye is a mixture of water and sodium hydroxide, and it’s what gives the pretzels a dark crust. It’s actually quite dangerous, so we weren’t able to dip the pretzels in ourselves. Chef Stacy did it for us, equipped with gloves and goggles (well, sunglasses). It’s a wee bit concerning that we were intentionally dipping our food in something like this. But whatever…. pretzels!
Post bath they each got a sprinkling of salt and were sent off to the ovens.
So pretty right??
They were actually a bit disappointing – didn’t have enough of that “pretzel” flavor. Still good though.
Another exciting part of the day (for me) was making English muffins.
To make these, we cut out the dough then stuck them on an upside down cast iron pan covered in cornmeal. The flame was on below the pan, and the heat made them rise and gave them a nice color. According to my partner, I rolled these out too thin. Thanks for the contribution. Not sure, but they look just fine to me!
After that, they were finished off in the oven.
We also made Grissini, which are basically breadsticks, but ours had pesto in them (yum!). I forgot to take pics (again), so here’s Sophia’s pic from before they were baked.
From the same type of dough we also made Lavash, which are thin seasoned crackers. Also really good!
Finally, we took a look at the Seven Grain & Seed bread.
It was still hot at the end of the day, so I didnt get a chance to try any. I did take half a loaf home though! It looked/smelled really good.
And, of course, we made another baguette today. Mine was too dense again – I may have punched the dough down a bit too much. Two more tries at the baguette before the midterm.
Started and finished:
Seven Grain & Seed Bread
Farm Day #2, which I did not attend. I didn’t find this very beneficial last time so I decided to avoid the 3 hour commute to and from Richmond.
Today, we made a variety of unique and delicious breads. Most I’d heard of, but some I had not tried before. The highlight of the day was the sticky buns.
Think cinnamon buns but less cinnamon and more honey.
These were delicious, but I prefer cinnamon buns… specifically my cinnamon buns which I’ll be making again for Christmas Morning.
Post sticky buns, we made a couple of different braided loaves.
First up was the Braided Raisin Bread which uses your typical 3 strand braid (though a slightly different technique).
And then the Challah, which is a traditional Jewish bread using a 4 strand braid.
I’m not crazy about the raisin bread (specifically the raisins), but I think it could be good as toast with some cinnamon butter on a rainy Saturday morning. The Challah had a really light and slightly sweet taste and texture. I love the look of these braided breads!
We ended off the day with making Brioche buns.
The dough for these was super soft and sticky, and hard to work with. They turned out pretty good though!
At the very end of the day we did some prep for our own bread which we are going to make tomorrow. We could either create our own recipe or modify one we had learned. I chose to modify one we’d learned, and prepped what I needed before leaving for the day.
Started and finished:
Braided Raisin Bread
Whole Wheat Focaccia
Baguette – Poolish
Morel Mushroom Bread – Fermented Dough
Potato Bread – Soaker
This was the day that my partner’s rudeness started to come through and my patience started to wear out.
We started the day with whole wheat focaccia. Apparently I wasn’t spacing the grapes properly (according to my partner). Seriously.
The focaccia was a huge disappointment, but only because we burnt it :(. Everyone, the whole class, burnt the focaccia. Something about the oven being too hot and us not monitoring it well enough while we were on lunch.
Oh well. We also made a potato bread that was delicious. Stuffed with caramelized onions, roasted peppers, and sundried tomatos.
Next was Morel Mushroom bread which was baked in an enclosed pan that I didn’t catch the name of. Our mushrooms were not dispersed well throughout the bread because they weren’t kneaded in properly. I knew this was going to be an issue, but my partner was doing the kneading. Every time I tried to communicate with her, she just ignored me and went on doing what she was doing, so I didn’t bother saying anything this time. When we cut into the bread she was wondering where all the mushrooms were…
Finally, we had to make our own bread today. I chose to make a Thanksgiving themed loaf thanks to some ideas from Ryan. Mine had cranberries, walnuts, and rosemary.
It turned out really well and I got some good feeback on it, but I should have added more inclusions, more of everything.
We also made our last baguettes today. Each person made their own, but we were all on the same timer for what needed to be done in terms of kneading, shaping, etc. I notice that my partner had started working her dough when it wasn’t time yet. We still had 20mins or so to let it rest. I let her know this (politely and calmly, I swear!) and she just shrugged me off. I thought she maybe didn’t understand so I told her again. She basically just ignored me and went on her way. Ok, whatever, I don’t care if your baguette is crap.
Started and finished:
Make Your Own Bread
Morel Mushroom Bread
Soft Rolls – review
Gluten Free Rolls
Whole Wheat Focaccia
Friday. The day that put me over the edge. I was so excited about this day too, because we were finally moving on to cakes!
We started the day making our Devil’s Food Cake. This was way more complicated and involved way more steps than I could have imagined. Naturally, we need to get things started, so I go get all the bowls, whisks, spatulas, etc. – everything we need. I set up the mixer and get the bain marie going while my partner is just looking at her binder. Whatever, I’m used to it by now. We start making the cakes, each doing part of what needs to be done. She’s not totally on top of her stuff, so I have to constantly remind her to scrape the mixer bowl while I’m whisking the eggs over the bain marie. Finally it’s all put together and ready to pour into the 3 pans, so I go ahead and do that. Splitting batter isn’t the easiest thing to get perfect, and I usually use a scale, but couldn’t do that here so I did my best. My partner had the very helpful comment of telling me that one didn’t have enough batter, and then she proceeded to walk away.
So cakes are in the oven, time to start brownies. We watch the instructor demo and as usual I go and gather all the equipment plus the tray of ingredients that we need to make them. She suddenly reached around the Kitchenaid mixer, grabbed the tray of ingredients, and started doing everything without saying a word.
Ok fine, I honestly don’t care at this point. Plus it’s brownies, how hard is that to screw up? So I just stood back and watched. Well, she didn’t really know what she was doing and was overmixing the batter because she wasn’t sure if it was mixed enough, even though we’d just seen the demo. She didn’t pay attention when the instructor said we’d be putting two groups of batter into one pan, so she was confused when this happened.
I basically left the brownie all to her, icing, cutting, everything. She was so insistent on doing it that I just let her do it. While she was doing that, I was cleaning, tidying, prepping, etc. – not just staring at her.
Anyhow, here are some pics of the brownie before baking.
And a pic of Laura and Hogan’s finished half-sheet. I didn’t take a pic of ours, maybe I should have.
So now it’s lunch and I’m so pissed off. We have to do the cake in the afternoon and I SO don’t want to do that with her. Cakes and cake decorating are the whole reason I’m in this program. I want to learn as much as possible about it and get better at what I am already doing. I was more than a little relieved when Chef Warren said that we would be splitting the 3 cakes into 6 and decorating our OWN cake. Thank god.
So step one was removing the domes and cutting each cake into two layers. I start on the first one, while she’s just standing there. Finally she grabs one and starts cutting it, and I do the third one. The layers were not perfectly flat because we didn’t cut off the entire dome – just most of it, as instructed. I personally would have levelled the cakes completely, which would have meant cutting off a lot of cake. Not a huge deal though, you can level things out with the frosting.
So now we each have our layers, flattest ones supposed to go in the middle. The way the cakes were cut, there were three perfectly flat bottom portions and three slightly domed tops. We discussed which was supposed to go where, but inevitably one person would have two slightly domed ones. Even though it almost KILLED me to do it. I took two domed ones. I didn’t want to be a total b^%&* and take all the flat ones (which I really wanted) and I knew I could level them out.
So we get to frosting our cakes and I finish crumb coating mine. It wasn’t the easiest thing to get perfect, as the icing was soft and the cake was sliding around. I’m not 100% happy with how mine turned out, but I didn’t have time to make it perfect. I look over at my partner and see that she’s struggling, so I go over and ask her if she needs some help. No joke, she pushed her cake over to me and said “you do it”. Then she proceeds to blame me for the layers being uneven and that’s why she can’t ice it. I start showing her how to fix it and she just keeps repeating that the layers are uneven. Well I’m not going to do her cake for her, and she clearly didn’t want my help so I pushed it back to her and went back to mine. Chef Warren ended up coming by to help her. All she kept saying was that the layers were uneven, even though she had TWO perfectly flat ones. She just stacked them incorrectly. At this point, I literally hate this girl. I have TRIED my best to work with her and help her, but it’s just impossible.
Anyhow, while our cakes were setting we did chocolate runouts for the decorations.
Then finally poured melted ganache over the crumb coated cake and finished it with some rosettes and runouts.
I’m not totally happy with how this turned out. The cake wasn’t smooth enough underneath which made the ganache look lumpy. We should have done a hard ganache icing first, smoothed that out completely and let it set before pouring the melted ganache over it. I made a cake similar to this before where I ran into the same issue. Though this is me we’re talking about, and I’ve obviously got perfectionist problems with these kinds of things!
At the end of the day we portioned up the cake and were able to take the whole thing home. Even after everything today, I asked my partner if she needed help with hers and helped her pack it up. I don’t know why I bothered, but I didn’t want to end the day on a completely crappy note.
Started and finished:
Chocolate Walnut Brownie
Devil’s Food Cake
Just before we were about to leave, Chef Warren told us about our new station partners. I was really looking forward to grouping with someone new, someone I hadn’t grouped with before, someone strong, especially since we were going into cake week. Well as it turns out, I’m paired with someone I already grouped with. Wtf? There are still FOUR great people I have not had a chance to group with. My friend is equally upset, as she is also grouped with someone she’s been with before. Chef Warren says that it’s hard to keep track of who has been with who and not to get so hung up on who we are paired with because we won’t have a choice when we’re in the industry. This is where I lose it (internally). First of all, I don’t plan to work in a pastry kitchen or a restaurant. I understand this isn’t the case for most people, but this is irrelevant to me. Secondly, if I was working with lazy, rude people, I would just quit.
I was worried about the grouping from the start and was assured that it would be ok, and that we would get to group with everyone equally. There are 9 of us total and 15 weeks. That means we should be grouped with each person a maximum of 2 times. I can suck it up for 2 times as long as it’s fair and equal. It’s not really that hard to keep track of who has been grouped with who. To me, it seems like it’s really just grouping the weaker with the strong, and I’m not the only one that sees this. I didn’t quit my job and pay ten grand to be a micromanager or babysitter and do double the work. I am here to learn as much as I can and I am honestly not learning anything from these people. I am just enabling them as I get stuck doing all the work and coaching them through what needs to be done. It shouldn’t be my responsibility to carry them or tell them what to do. This is not what I signed up for and it’s physically and emotionally exhausting. I understand that I would have to do this at some point, but I also expect to be grouped with people who are strong and who I can actually learn something from. I’m not looking for any special treatment here, I’m only asking for what’s fair. My friend and I plan to talk to the instructors tomorrow about this in hopes that it can be resolved. Really, I just need a couple of weeks of solid partners to recover a bit!
On a positive note, despite this weeks challenges I am learning a LOT, which is awesome. The two weeks of breads were intense, but we learned a ton of different recipes and techniques. I never considered myself to be a bread-type baker, but I will definitely be making some of these recipes at home! This week and next we shift the focus to cakes which I am just a little excited about! We start with cheesecakes tomorrow, then move onto european tortes, and then spend a bunch of days on entremets which are layered mousse cakes. It’s sure to be a delicious couple weeks ahead!