Friday, November 13, 2009

Week 12: Hot and Cold Desserts

It's been a long week. The soles of my feet are aching. My brain seems to have taken a holiday without informing me. And Adelaide is burning up with the temperature soaring unmercilessly. Currently it is a scorching 39°C, and although for now I have respite in the corner of the University of Adelaide library computer lab, I am confronted by an overwhelming load of pictures from my amazing week spent doing hot and cold desserts.
Sitting in front of a blank screen with the cursor blinking at me, I am rarely hard pressed to find words. Today, rather this week I have hardly had the time, patience or inclination to drag my butt to the gym and that particular lack of discipline seems to have manifested itself in my approach to this blog post.
So in a nutshell here is what my week looked like... literally snapshot after snapshot. I wish I had scratch-me stickers that would allow you entry to my world. Hell, I wish I could transport my creations to your home/office/ where ever your little terminal may be so that my pictures need not have you drooling all over your keyboard! Till that day and age comes, enjoy ...
Pastry Cases (left) Cinnamon Poached Pears (right)

Open Pear Tart with Cream Patisserie

Folding in egg whites into chocolate mixture (top left), spreading the mixture
out onto silicon paper (bottom left), and finally the baked sponge (right)

Chocolate Swiss Rolls

Sweet Nothings... Garnishes for desserts
Praline before it is crushed (left), brandy snap cigars and baskets (right)
Omelet Norwegian better known as Baked Alaska or an Ice Cream Cake

Miniature Lemon Meringue Pies in the making

Lime and Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse Teardrop with Strawberry & Mint Salad and Chantilly Cream

Melted Dark and Milk Chocolate (left) for filigree designs (right)
Compound chocolate comprising a combination of cocoa, vegetable fat, and sweeteners is widely used for decorations as it is cheaper than couveture chocolate. But because it contains cocoa butter it must be tempered to maintain gloss and coating. In commercial kitchens the chocolate is tempered by cooling the chocolate mass below its setting point, then re-warming the chocolate at around 32°C.
Revealing the secret behind creating chocolate curls

Chocolate Boxes with Detailed Chocolate Butterfly

New York Cheesecake
Contrasting textures is what makes this dessert unique and interesting. A buttery crushed biscuit base is juxtaposed by a voluptuous, heavy cream cheese filling that is then topped with a fresh fruit or a sweet fruit compote and glaze. Typically New York style cheesecakes are made from cream cheese, eggs and egg yolks that give richness and smoothness. Cottage cheese and lemon are often used to impart distinct texture and flavor in addition to the main ingredients.

Black Forest Cherry Torte or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
A classic German favourite that today has world-wide popularity known for the wining combination of layered chocolate cake, whipped cream, maraschino cherries and kirschwasser or cherry liquor.
Bavarios or Bavarian Creams with Raspberry Coulis and Strawberry Chunks
It is rumoured to be a nineteenth century creation by the great French chef Escoffier prepared for an esteemed Bavarian guest. However, Escoffier seemed to think Muscovite would be a more appropriate name as the dessert was then set by means of a "hermetically-sealed" mold that was plunged into salted crushed ice to set — hence the suggestion 'Muscovite'. Similar to cream patisserie it is instead thickened with cornflour, gelatin is added to ensure it sets and whipped cream is folded through giving it its characteristic light feel.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Week 11: Pastry, Bread and Yeastgoods

Viennese Biscuits

A picture is worth a thousand words they say. Well then, how about valuing a single taste – be it a smidgen of hazelnut cream licked off your forefinger as your wipe the nozzle of your piping bag clean, or a single bite from a freshly baked croissant, or the tiniest morsel of sponge cake straight out the oven, peeled from the crumbled, imperfect edges?

Simple, the value of the most powerful sense – taste – in the smallest trace amount is absolutely priceless, especially when you are using nothing but four of the most simple ingredients that are invariably stocked in the most basic of kitchens. Butter, flour, water and eggs combined with specific quantities and unwavering precision can create (notice I use the word CAN instead of will/does, because with baking, be pastry work or yeast goods there is absolutely NO guarantee of a fabulous end result) the most delicate, flaky puff pastry that justifies your whole existence or the most succulent and moist Savarin that gives you a new lease on life!

Savarins and Babas with whipped cream, fresh strawberries, kiwi fruit and mint

White Bread Rolls with Sprinkled Poppy and Sesame Seeds

The beginnings of forming croissants - cutting the dough into measured triangles

Rolling the triangles over into the traditional croissant shape

All, perfectly risen croissants by Chef Bill Caulderbank

And my sad, pathetic attempt. My yeast died on me. The result - deflated pastry and morale.

Russian Buckwheat flour Blinis with Sour Cream, Smoked Salmon, Chives and Kalamata Olives

Cooking out the choux pastry

Piping the choux pastry onto the baking sheet

Choux buns and eclairs straight out the oven

Hazelnut Cream pipped into little rosettes on the Paris Brest rings

Eclairs get a pipping of whipped cream

My choux pastry sitting pretty

A labour of pure dedication, hard-work and perseverance.
Who said love had anything to do with making good Puff Pastry?

Putting the puff pastry to use. Task one, a traditional French pastry: Pithiver.

A Pithiver is Puff Pastry rolled out into a circle, a tiny spoon of Frangapani (almond filling) and another circle placed on top. Then it is designed to look pretty, egg washed and baked.
Sounds simple. It's not. I've skipped about 12 steps or more!

But the final result is undeniably gorgeous!

Step one of making apple strudel. Roll out the dough into a big rectangle.

Generously brush with butter and sprinkle with sponge cake crumbs cooked off in more butter.
Sorry, did I just put you off strudel forever. Not my intention.
It is no fallacy that where there is butter there is undeniably fantastic flavour.

And finally the chunks of apple come to rest atop the cake crumbs with a sprinkle of
cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar for good measure.

Roll the dough into a long snaky-strudel

Manipulate it into a shape that fits onto a bakers tray to ensure even cooking and will not
bend with the intense heat of the oven (in this case a horse shoe).
Glaze with egg wash and pop into the oven, keeping a close watch.
When its crispy and lightly starting to get golden brown - it's ready!

Plate it up prettily and serve with a little Sauce Anglaise! Bellisimo!

Pasrty can be savoury too. There's pizza ofcourse!
Here we have a Snapper and Kalamata Olive Pizza with Tomato and Torn Basil

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Week 10: Butchery

I regret to inform that my meticulous documentation of my time at cooking school, all the learning thru the various modules has been disrupted by an unforeseen, unfortunate circumstance. Last week while I was busy, in the midst of one of my usual action packed day in the Regency kitchens my house all the way over in Glenunga was being robbed. The result of which cost me my trusty pink Dell laptop, USB internet modem and handy-fits-everything red croc Guess bag, needless to say it has left me emotionally and mentally drained, officially unplugged, unhooked, cut off, severed from any, correction ALL ties to the outside world. There has never been such a defining moment as there is now for me at this juncture in my life – where the adage “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone” has resounded with intense impact and truth.

Losing my computer has made me feel naked. Suddenly estranged from the world I am without a portal to the outer universe. Be it email, facebook, sykpe, I am without the tools that I require to express myself – Microsoft office with all its wonderful programs is something I have grown up with and taken for granted, belonging to Gen Y. All evidence of my last 1.5 years in Australia has disintegrated into thin air, my pictures, my thoughts jotted on word docs, my past assignments in all their many glorious versions, my recipes – disappeared forever. Without a backup I am lost and feel cheated. The worst part though is learning how to live without this magic gadget – the laptop – that I have come to take for granted. My pink Dell saw me thru happy times, sad times, times of leisure, times of marathon research findings and of course it saw my thru the completion of my Masters thesis. I never even got to say goodbye to my old friend – so now I take this opportunity to bid him farewell. As for me and my continual state of dispair and disconnect – I continue to work on a long term soluation. Since I relied on it for writing and uploading my pictures and all blog content, it is my blog that is ultimately going to suffer. For now I post from Uni Adelaide. But it is all too cumbersome!

What is most upsetting is that the butchery module is what I had been looking forward to since the start of the course. So when week 10 rolled around and it was time to take out the fillet knife and sharpen it up, learn how to use a saw to hack through brittle, thick beef, pork and lamb bone I had my camera on video mode ready to document the ground-breaking information I was about to witness. After a week of careful documentation of breaking down whole carcasses including a side of lamb, an argentine of beef, a forequarter of pork and a whole rabbit into primary, secondary and restaurant cuts I had the privilege of learning everything from anatomy to where and how to find the most tender cuts, how to utilise and make the most of cheaper, tougher cuts and most importantly to be able to recognise meat in all its glorious forms and decipher butcher scams like disguising the silverside eye fillet as tenderloin fillet for example!

While I have no pictures to entice you with and no proof that I did in fact spend a week butchering animals into respectable restaurant cuts, I can say this – getting in touch with the beast in its entirety is a beautiful thing and is a must for any gourmand that enjoys a good chateaubriand, pork chop or crown of rabbit. Today we are so far removed from where our meat comes from that most people are disgusted, shocked and turned off when they find that mince meat actually comes from a shin of an animal for example. There is a missing understanding and appreciation for meat and the animal by and large today which is really unfortunate.

So what did I ultimately learn? To be a first class butcher – No Way. Chef’s are not butchers and do not pretend to posess those skills. The butchery component is a part of the course because knowing your meat, the cuts, being able to identify and deal with it to the best of your abilities improves innovation, as well as cuts down wastage. This makes it an economical and is why butchery in its basic form must be part of any ‘real’ chef’s repertoire. So while we cut racks of lamb from the ribloin and Frenched them, (and with all that manual sawing they were far, far from anything respectable - far from industry standards) it was not that learning those skill is what is expected by chefs, but rather that chefs are able to know what to look for and what they can demand/ request from butchers. In order for innovation in any field – one must know the produce dealt with inside-out. Without this information you and your work will ultimately suffer. Stay tuned as coming up in the following week is pastries, and this will be in full on vivid colour with glossy pictures.