Baking retrospective

August 15th, 2008, by Francesca

When I started this blog, I meant to document as much as possible of my experience in culinary school. This term, between the lab module, the math class, putting together a monster notebook – no longer required but what's the point of investing this kind of money and energy if I don't do my best to preserve what I'm learning? – I didn't post much about school. So, here is a six-week retrospective for your viewing pleasure.

Épi bread, baguettes, whole wheat dinner rolls, challah, pain de mie, brioche à tête, brioche Nanterre, pretzels, bagels, pizza, focaccia, whole wheat pita.

My favorite week.

Cinnamon rolls, rye bread, pumpernickel bread, beignets, doughnuts, sourdough bread, Danish turnovers, pinwheels, envelopes, bear claws and frames, croissants, and pains au chocolat.

My other favorite week, if it weren't for the unbearable heat in the lab and the butter oozing out every which way from my laminated doughs. Still, everyone in our household loves croissants, and I stocked the freezer with individually wrapped Danish and croissants for many breakfasts to come.

Crème pâtissière, crème diplomate, puff pastry, vol-au-vents, shrimp à l'Americaine, palmiers, Napoléon, pate à choux, cream puffs, swans, éclairs, caramel, nougatine, croquembouche.

Not a bad week, other than the whole day we dedicated to croquembouche. It was an exercise in frustration and for what? It's not like you can actually eat the damn thing; it's dry, sticky, unwieldy and I can see no purpose to it other than trying to impress someone with your pastry assembly skills. Not worth the effort; give me something I can sink my teeth into. The shrimp dish, on the other hand, was delicious, and the éclairs disappeared quicker than you can say "Pipie!" Choux pastry on its own is on the dry side, but fill it with cream and it's a whole 'nother story.

American pie dough, apple pie, berry pie, pâte brisée, quiche Lorraine, chicken pot pie, pâte sucrée, pound cake (a.k.a. quatres quarts), muffins, scones, biscuits, fresh fruit tart, ganache, raspberry chocolate tart, poached pears, pear frangipane tart, lemon meringue tart.

With the only caveat that all American desserts are way too sweet for an Italian palate, the pound cake, muffins and especially the fresh fruit tart were very satisfying.

Two ways to make sponge cake (cold separated method and warm method), Italian buttercream, Swiss buttercream, French buttercream, American buttercream (a.k.a. decorators' icing), piping roses, leaves and borders, buffet cake, celebration cake, cheese cake, meringue noisette and Marjolaine.

A week of sugar and butter excess and over the top decoration. Oh, and pastel colors don't do it for me either.

Baguettes, focaccia, épi, fougasse, laminated dough, croissants, pains au chocolat, bagels, challah, brioche Modane, fruit brioche (a.k.a. Swiss brioche), sausage in a brioche (no photo), and another kind of brioche I forgot the name of.

The best part of Baking 1 – aside from the first week – was been able to take a few Saturday bread baking workshops. Bread… can you tell I'm really getting into it?

For the most part, each workshop dealt with something we had already baked in our Baking 1 class, but using entirely different recipes, working with different chefs and in a different lab on the main campus, as opposed to our baking facilities in South Pasadena. Lab 5 is the production kitchen for the school café and has some pretty spiffy equipment such as a walk-in rotating oven and a sheeter for laminated dough.

The chefs in the regular courses have no latitude in terms of modifying recipes and the recipes themselves are picked for didactical purposes, how they related to each other in a sequence to build up skills, etc. rather than for their individual virtues. Because of that, we end up using recipes that are not always the best. The workshops, on the other hand, have no such restrictions and every single product that came out of those Saturday afternoons was much better than those baked in class. We also benefited from the chefs preparing preferments ahead of time, and yes, you can make bread without them, but everything tastes better with a preferment. Or maybe they put some recreational drug in the flour, who knows…

By the way, Ben has a theory that pasta from Italy is more popular than pasta made outside of Italy because wheat in Italy grows in fields sprinkled with poppies. We have collected no scientific proof of addiction to Italian pasta so far, but you never know. :)

And now, off to school for my last day of this term. The menu today is deep cleaning and exit interviews.

4 Responses to “Baking retrospective”

  1. Maryjo Says:
    the photos are AMAZING ... as in the amount of recipes that you did! I won't even attempt to think about how many kilos of flour and butter! I have to go back and study each one ... time to "fess up: did they teach you to weigh ingredients for baking? Just wondering what the current "theory" is. Now to go grab some chocolate so at least I can munch on something when I look at all your photos again!! M
  2. Ben Says:
    PS: Yum.
  3. Ben Says:
    PPS: Proud.
  4. carlene Says:
    OMG! I love Baking 1!!!

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