Monday, April 12, 2010

Week 14: Cakes Exam & the Return to Breads

Last Tuesday was our exam for Cakes I. We knew going into the practical exam that we would need to recreate the first cake we made in the unit - a genoise with pate a bombe buttercream and raspberry jam filling.

The exam went pretty smoothly. My genoise rose really nicely, and my buttercream was smooth (with only slightly visible pieces of butter in it). We also needed to create two roses out of marzipan and write "Happy Birthday" on it. We hadn't made the roses before, only saw a brief demo the class before, so we weren't being graded on them. Despite that, most of us still spent a large amount of time attempting to perfect these roses. I think my handwriting on the cake was nicer than my real handwriting.

Inside my exam cake

After the first half of the cakes unit, we moved back to breads. Our first half of the unit was viennoiserie (enriched breads), and this time we're doing lean breads.

Irish soda bread isn't a lean bread; it's a quick bread. It's made with baking soda, which is where the name comes from. This version had dried currants and caraway seeds in it, giving it an interesting taste. At first, I wasn't sure if I liked it, but by the third bite, it had grown on me. If I made it again, I think I'd go with the more traditional raisins and nix the caraway seeds.

Petit pains were the first real lean breads we made. They're like mini baguettes, or just a traditional dinner roll.

The next day I used one of the petit pains to make my usual turkey sandwich. It made for a nice upgrade from my usual boring wrap. There's definitely a satisfaction in making your own bread.

This bread is pain de Provence, made with olives and herbs de Provence (a mix of lavender, thyme, savory, fennel, basil and other herbs). When we were making this bread, my partner and I went to turn it onto the table to finish kneading, the dough was almost a soup-like consistency. We're still not sure what happened to it, but once we kneaded in some additional flour, it was fine. I'm not a fan of olives, so I mailed the extra loaf to my mom, who loves olive bread.

Saturday we made some baguettes, the traditional French bread. French Culinary Institute has a really amazing bread baking program and when I toured the school, my admissions rep gave me a baguette from the bread kitchen. That loaf of bread was so good, I ate almost all of it on my subway ride home. Very embarrassing when I realized people were staring. Our baguettes were good, but not quite the same. The bread kitchens have special ovens that release steam, and the ovens the pastry students use don't have this. Interestingly, when I read Julia Child's autobiography, it detailed her quest to develop a recipe that replicated French baguettes in American kitchens. The preliminary recipe called for dropping a heated asbestos tile into a pan of water to produce the steam. Once asbestos was discovered to be harmful to you, the recipe replaced it with a quarry tile.

Bagels always seemed like one of those things that must be way too difficult to make. These were relatively easy, and I can't wait to make them again. We made variations of plain - with seeds or cinnamon sugar on top. I was going to make cinnamon raisin bagels (my favorite) Sunday, but woke up completely exhausted and did very little but nap all day. The dough was VERY hard though, kind of like kneading a rock, and I woke up Sunday morning with really sore forearms and heels of my hands. I didn't even know those muscles existed!

While in class Saturday, Chef Cynthia set up a spread of cream cheese, salmon, tomatoes, and various other bagel toppings. I had an awesome plain bagel with cream cheese and tomato. Half way through the bagel, I turned to my partner and was like, "Know when you're eating something and it's so good that you feel sad that at some point it's going to be gone? That's how I feel about this bagel."

We made our danishes, but there was no time to bake them, so they're in the freezer awaiting baking tomorrow. We tried out various shapes including bear claw, pin wheel, and turnover. We used a variety of fillings such as cheese, fruit, pastry cream, and almond cream. I'm excited to bake these, but have a feeling the fruit ones are going to explode all over the other ones in the oven. When we bake these tomorrow, I'm going to be sure to keep those as far away as the others as possible.


Anonymous said...

thank you for the olive bread! It was delicious and a wonderful surprise. I'm so proud of the great job you are doing!! mom

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