Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pastry Pro I: Week 1: Principles of Baking/Quick Breads

When Chef Kurima started the lecture for Pastry Pro I she told us that pastry is all about "chemistry". Later she said we would be "scaling" which involves math and weighing everything. This information did not thrill me since math and chemistry were not my strongest subjects in high school and college. Although I have been baking since the age of 14 which I took home economics in high school (do they still even teach that?) I have not used recipes that call for 2 pounds of flour, 1/4 ounce cinnamon, 8 ounces brown sugar, 1 1/2 pounds granulated sugar, and 1 1/4 pounds whole butter--and now take this recipe and scale it by making only 1/4 the recipe. Fortunately when table assignments were made I got Jessica who is a math teacher.
She said she always uses a calculator though so maybe that isn't such a plus. My other table mate is Brent, a firefighter who is just starting both Chef Pro I and Pastry Pro I at the same time. You see Pastry Pro I is a beginning class so a person just starting out could be in the class or someone like me who has already taken Chef Pro I and II. Brent is nice but he has not been baking for *&% years like me and has an irritating habit of calling me "ma'am" everytime I talk to him. Maybe I should let one of the hot muffin pans accidentally touch him next time he does it.
I learned about the "baking process" and the importances of gases forming which cause the dough to rise. Steam is created when heat is applied--as the moisture in a dough is heated; yeast and baking powder release additional carbon dioxide when placed in a hot oven. Gases expand and leaven the product. In a nutshell, starches gelatinize, proteins coagulate, fats melt, water evaporates and sugars caramelize. And to think, all these years I have been baking for my family and didn't realize all this technical information. I swear I have produced birthday cakes for my 4 children, numerous baked goods for bake sales, holiday gifts, for friends, and for my family in ignorance. Fortunately I have been a very good baker but I'm sure that will soon end now that I'm doing it for a grade. As I found out in Chef Pro, years of home cooking experience don't always give you a great edge since working in a commercial/production kitchen is far different from cooking at home. Baking in school is very different from baking at home. Although I have used recipes in which I measured ingredients with a scale, those recipes were already "scaled" and I was the only one baking. At school there are 12 people, all trying to get their things in the 2 convection ovens at different times which also means they are checking them and taking them out at different times which translates into HOW MANY TIMES ARE YOU GOING TO OPEN MY OVEN DOOR! We were told we need to start communicating about putting in multiple things at the same time so the door isn't opening at all during the first half of our cooking time. That will not be easy as I've learned that communication with fellow students can be very challenging.
We were given assignments to make the following:
Basic Berry Muffins
Creme Chantilly
Simple Buttercream
Country Biscuits
Sour Cream Muffins
Streusel Topping
Classic spongecake
After getting used to working alone last semester I now had to get back into the groove of working as a group. We started with biscuits and all took turns doing the different steps. I started working on the biscuit dough but Chef Loy noticed I looked like I knew what I was doing and asked if anyone else had ever made biscuits. The others hadn't, so I stepped back and watched Brent make the biscuits. He overworked the dough a bit but they still turned out good.
I did the same for the other recipes--tried to step back and let the others do things they haven't done before. All in all it was quite enjoyable and our products turned out very good (except for the spongecake which we overcooked). Our sour cream muffins were so pretty some of my classmates wanted them so I was happy to give some away. The only negative I can see so far in this Pastry Pro class is sampling the food we've made. Imagine sampling all 12 classmates' 4 or 5 recipes at the end of the night. Here I am trying to take off the few pounds I gained the last 2 semesters so I can fit into my summer military uniform and I'm tempted with the smell of fresh biscuits, muffins, cake. This is going to be very hard! Although the bottom photo is not related to Pastry class I included it. It is from the Big Taste of Ft. Worth, an event in which the culinary school was represented. Lisa and I staffed the booth and had a great time. The event was held at the Hilton Hotel in Ft. Worth and is a fund raiser for Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Many of the best local restaurants were there with tastings of their food. My husband, Steve, and Lisa's husband, Grady, bought tickets and enjoyed the event while we worked. But at the end we did get to make the rounds and sample things. My favorite was the gumbo from Buttons Restaurant.


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