Saturday, May 31, 2008


I'm in the Intro to Baking class, and I had some nice pictures, so I figured I would give an update on my schooling.

When it comes to bread, there are lean doughs and rich doughs. Lean dough is low in fat and sugar. The bread is crisp and crusty. The perfect example of this is French Baguettes.

There is a lot to learn when it comes to bread. Baking is an art that has stayed so constant for a very long time. These baguettes have four ingredients: bread flour, water, salt and yeast. What makes them so distinctive is how they are formed.

True baguettes can only be made by hand. You scale the ingredients, mix them by hand, hydrate (hydrating is resting the dough so the water and flour come together), knead, ferment, punch and fold, ferment again, scale and pre-shape, bench, final shape, proof, score, and finish by baking.
Now, I could make this bread at home, doing all the shaping, and I could bake it in a regular oven, but the crust would not be as attractive. What makes French bread so distinctive is that there is steam in the oven when it is baked.
There is nothing better than a perfect baguette; crispy, lean, and flavorful. I believe that French bread has the perfect balance of crust and crumb.

The first week of class I made baguettes four times to practice the method. I think I will probably make them a few more times in the last week of class because for the final exam we have to make baguettes.

We also made pita bread, which was a lot of fun. They are baked for just a few minutes; until they blow up in the oven.

We made some white bread dough, and we had to form hamburger and hot dog buns. The pre-shapes were rounds and squares.

When it comes to baking, shaping is one of the most important parts.

Gluten (the starches in bread) is a very complex thing, and there is a lot left to chance in baking (or the yeast) and it is important to know how these things work.

When I'm baking bread, I really feel like I am doing what medieval bakers of Europe were doing, It's a lot of fun.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Garde Manger

I just finished the Garde Manger class. In the classical brigade kitchen, "Garde Manger" is the cold food storage area. The person in charge of Garde Manger prepares salads, cold appetizers and hors d'oeuvres. This may not seem too exciting, but there are some really valuable things to learn about cold food. We prepared some really great appetizers, salads and hors d'oeuvres. We also learned a lot about plating, and how to create an attractive plate.

Here's some seared ahi tuna, shiitake mushroom salad with wasabi cream and sweet soy sauce.

This is a crab and avocado salad with sour cream.

Here's a green salad I made at home. It's mixed baby greens with a lemon parsley vinaigrette.

Every salad plate and appetizer plate needs four things: a main component, side component, sauce and garnish. Here, the main component is the greens, side component is the crostini, sauce is the vinaigrette and the garnish is the cheese and the tomato wedges.

Soba Noodle salad

Hors d'oeuvres:

Pesto deviled eggs

Prosciutto and melon ball canapes

Blue cheese mousse in Belgian Endive leaves

We made a cold soup as well. This is a chicken consomme. A consomme is a clear soup. To make this, you take regular chicken stock, and clarify it with white chicken meat, julienne of mirepoix, egg whites and simmer until clear. The ingredients will create a raft at the top of the pot. After simmering for 45 minutes, drain the liquid off and chill. You can add gelatin to thicken, and finish by seasoning and garnish. This may not be everyone's favorite dish, but it's really attractive; completely clear.
(Photo credit: Chris Grebner)

For one of the tests in this class, we were given a handful of ingredients and had to make a dish from it. My ingredients were: scallops, fennel, frisse, orange, red bell pepper and asiago cheese. I made pan seared scallops with a fennel and frisse salad, a garnish of orange supremes and a red bell pepper coulis.