February 12, 2010

Pâte à choux

Hi again! I have been busy in school but felt it was about time for another update.

Pâte à choux is an interesting thing to work with. We made all sorts of things with the pâte à choux paste. We made Swedish puffs (creme puffs), eclairs, swans, and Paris Brest. If you get the paste right, then all you have to do is pipe the right shape for everything else. Ha, that isn't as easy as it sounds.

The Swedish puffs are like blobs. You don't want varying pressure when you pipe them or they will be all wonky. The eclairs are just straight, 3 inch long lines. Chef showed us the easiest way to be exact is to draw lines on the parchment and then turn it over. That made it go a little faster.

Swans have multiple parts. First there is the body. That is rounded on one side and then angled at the other. You also need a neck piece. I burned my first batch of necks but got it right on the next ones.

The Paris Brest is donut shaped and has ridges and almonds. You cut 1/3 of it off and pipe in a praline choibust. You dust all but the eclairs with powdered sugar. The eclairs get melted chocolate.

All in all, these were fun but I need more practice piping out the shapes to be more exact.

Next post, cookies!!!

Puff, puff, and away!

Oh man! We are just whipping up all kinds of tasty in my class!

Ok, last time I mentioned we would be working on laminated doughs and boy did we ever. Butter, lots of butter. European style so it has 86% butterfat compared to the US butter (80%). Heehee.

We worked on Danish and croissant dough, puff dough, and blitz puff dough. The blitz is a bit different so I will talk about that in a minute. With the Danish and croissant, once the dough is made, you 'lock in' the butter. You take a pound of butter shape it into a square (similar to your dough but about 1/4 of an inch from the edge of your down and fill it only 2/3 of the way). We pounded so much butter! The croissant was only a 1/2 pound of butter because we each only did a 1/2 batch of croissant dough.

Think about that... 11 pounds (11 students) of butter for one class for just that one recipe. That also means 5 and 1/2 pounds of butter for the croissant dough. WOW!

Anyway, you lock in the butter by placing your butter brick (beurrage) on your dough and folding over the 1/3 of the dough that has not butter and then the first third of dough with butter on top of that. Basically, folding it in a tri-fold. Then comes the rolling out. You have to chill it for about 30 minutes, then roll it to a 1/4 of an inch thick and do a book fold (fold one side to almost the middle, fold the other side to almost the middle, and then fold one side on top of the other). Chill again for 30 minutes. Repeat all of folding again and you have layers! Lots of buttery layers.

We made bear claws, butter horns, and danishes with the Danish dough, and plain and chocolate filled croissants with the croissant dough. It was a lot of work and you have to wait around patiently, you cannot overwork your dough. In the end though, they were really lovely. It was a great learning experience. I will never eat another croissant without truly understanding how much effort went into it.

Next up, puff dough. It is a little bit easier than the croissant/Danish dough but still difficult to get right. It is all about the butter and layers. This time we actually mixed flour into the butter before we made our brick (beurrage). It helps with the moisture. Then we locked the butter in and did 4 folds (the croissant/Danish was only 2 folds). Each time we had to let it chill too. It took a long time to get the dough done.

With the puff, we made bouchée, carré, cream horns, turnovers, and Napoleans. The bouchée and carré are vessels of puff dough. They hold things, savory or sweet, and they look and taste great too. Here is a picture of the bouchée holding some stuff. I like the carré because of the shape, diamond like with twisted ends. Here is a pretty picture of it in use here.

Cream horns are just spirals of puff dough (shaped/baked on molds) filled with flavored/sweetened whip cream. It is so funny because it took me a couple times to make them right and I didn't take a single good picture! I brought them to Seattle and Alan, Aroon, and Aarthi ate them. I didn't even think about it until I started typing this post.

The Napolean I did get a picture of though. This is made with the baked puff pastry, only you bake it with a pan on top of it so it doesn't get tall. The layers stay somewhat smooshed together. Then you cut it into your shape (mine was 3 inches by 3 inches and 3 layers). You have to be careful because it is so many fragile layers and sawing through it with a bread knife is dangerous. You could crack it all up. Then you assemble it by placing a layer of baked puff as the bottom, pipe a layer of pastry cream on top of it, place another layer of baked puff on top of that, pipe another layer of pastry cream on top of that puff and top it with a final layer of baked puff. On the top layer, you glaze it with white fondant icing and decorate it with chocolate fondant icing. It was really fun to make but complicated. You have so many pieces and the fondant has to be mixed with hot water so it will get glossy but not too hot or else it will cloud. I put it together, got it checked by Chef, and then drove 3 hours to Seattle to share it with friends. Even after 3 hours it was still awesome. ;)

Blitz puff dough was next. This is different from the croissant, danish, and puff dough in that you coat your large chunks of really cold butter in your dry ingredients and then just smoosh it into shape and roll it out. It is supposed to be flaky too, just not as many layers as the other doughs. It is called blitz because it is supposed to be faster. It was but it wasn't as flaky. We made a pithivier with a frangipane filling. It is really lovely with the scalloped edges and layers. Here are pictures of it.

We also made a tarte tatin and palmiers. The apples we had in class were a bit water logged/old so most everyone's tarte tatin turned to apple sauce in a shell. It smelled good baking but looked awful when out of the oven. We got in new apples so I might try it again so I can get a good picture. The palmiers are a cookie, a bit crisp, and rolled out in sugar. Yep, rolled out in sugar. It involves lots of folds too. They are really pretty and I actually really like them.

That was last week. It was crazy. On top of all that in class, I had a few things to figure out and do right (cinnamon rolls, brioche, and sponge donuts). Coming in early and staying late, I got to them all. I hope that Aroon and Aarthi enjoy the stuff we put in the freezer!

Next post with be filled with pâte à choux and cookies!

February 1, 2010

Hello again

Last we talked, I was just working on ciabatta and focaccia. That was followed my many things!

Sorry, this might be a long, catch-up post...

Next up in class was sourdough. Not my favorite bread but it was fun to make. We have a good sour starter going at school so it had a very good taste. Unfortunately, I made it on a Friday and not in time to get it checked. I had to freeze it and so Alan didn't get it fresh. I was pretty sad about that.

The next week of class was pretty hectic. Our group is working through some 'issues' and it definitely showed in our work. Some of our items just didn't work out. I will be going in early this week to try some of the items again.

Let's talk about some of the items that did work out. Bürli is a fantastic artisan bread. I has a great flavor and color. It is a small loaf. I don't have much to say about it other than we ate the entire loaf. We cut it into slices and I had mine toasted with 'The Bees Knees' peanut butter. :)

Next in class was more artisan breads. Pugliese, como, and pan au levain. Pan au levain is a bit sour and has a nice crumb. The pugliese has an interesting crumb with holes, kind of like ciabatta. The como was my favorite of the three. We ended up using it to make BLTs. It makes a great sandwich bread. Mmmmmmmm...

The next thing we worked on is a process called autolyse. Autolyse refers to a period of rest after you mix the flour and water. You do this before the addition of yeast and other ingredients. We made two loaves of rye bread, one using the regular method and one using autolyse. We did this as an experiment to see the pros and cons of each method. In the end, it seems that the autolyse might be more time efficient if you have a good process set up, it also made a dough that was much easier to work with, better crumb, and the color was better too.

After all this bread, is where our group started to break down. Bread time was a bit less hectic. We then started working on sweet dough and brioche. Stuff that takes time, patience, and the brains enough to really measure exactly. The dough recipes were used for multiple items so if you mess up the dough, you mess up multiple skill checks. Ugh.

The sticky buns turned out ok, not great, but ok. The cinnamon roles were awful. The brioche turned into hockey pucks. The donuts were overproofed. The dough is extremely sticky and takes time to work with it. The proofing is also very tricky. I will be doing all of these again this week.

On Friday, we worked on a couple of interesting things. Panettone, an Italian bread, generally found in stores around Christmas time. It is a rich bread with pistachios, golden raisins, regular raisins, and candied orange peel. Chef told me it makes great french toast. I will confirm that. It makes GREAT french toast. We used a mini loaf for that and then I gave a loaf to some friends in Eugene.

The other thing we worked on was baba. This dough/batter is richer than the brioche we made and is baked in molds that are thimble shaped. Once baked, you let them get stale and then you soak them in a spiced/flavored simple syrup that has rum or some other spirit. It is supposed to soak up better if stale. We didn't do any of the soaking business. We just baked them and they looked lovely. They got tall and are a good golden color (we got them checked off today!).

This week, we will be working on laminated doughs. That means bricks of butter, croissants and danish pastries.