I have to say that with 22 hours of school plus another 10 or so of homework -- not to mention the countless hours of cooking and baking at home -- gives me little time to share the excitement.
Now that things are winding down a bit -- we have no more reading assignments, yay! -- I can spend a few minutes sharing my thoughts. I will start with baking, since it's fresh on my mind.
A small list of what I learned about baking that I didn't know or thought I knew:
- Baking is a science -- measurements should be exact, substitutions should be made carefully
- Baking takes practice -- sometimes you don't get it right the first time and that's ok because that is how you learn
- Using a mixer - the whip attachment should mainly be used for whipping egg whites or whipping cream - it's used to incorporate air. Use the paddle attachment when making cookies, brownies, or cakes.
- Bake until done does not always mean the amount of time on the recipe you are using.
- All flour is not created equal: the amount of protein in flour can have a great impact on the product you are baking. Cake flour has a low protein percentage, where all-purpose has a high protein percentage.
- Regarding biscuits: don't twist the cutters, it inhibits rise; place close together on pan to have taller biscuits.
- Yeast breads are a lot of work, totally fun, and I wish I had my own proof box at home -- although I can always use my laundry room.
- The temperature of the water you use with yeast is more important than I thought; salt kills yeast
- I love puff pastry
- There is a reason you refrigerate cookie dough, so if the recipe calls for it - you probably should do it
- Apricot glaze is what makes a lot of pastries and tarts really shiny
- Eclairs are not donuts; eclairs are yummy; churros are deep fried eclair paste
- Baklava will always be my favorite application of phyllo dough
- Croissants can take several days to make because of the large content of butter that is rolled in; you literally have to refrigerate up to an hour between rolling to keep the butter the same temp as the dough.
- Heat your pans before putting the popover batter into them -- this will help them rise almost 2x the size without heating pans.
- Mise en place is essential -- measure out your ingredients first, be sure you have all the equipment you need handy, preheat your oven, have your fillings prepared beforehand.
And this is only a small part of my experience in baking! When I first started culinary school, I had a small vision of what I wanted to do with my career. Now that I have made it through my first semester, my vision starts to become clearer. I didn't realize how much I would enjoy baking! I must somehow incorporate this into my business plan.....
Tonight we will be taste testing the baklava I made on Monday, making chocolate mousse and chocolate pot de creme! Monday we start our individual practical exams where I will be making the following: French apple tart, danishes (probably apple), pumpkin muffins, and cream scones. It will take us 2 class sessions to complete our recipes and we are going to be graded on quality, presentation, and of course: taste. I can't wait!