Archive for the 'pastry' Category

31
Aug
08

Orange Chiffon Cake

I recently had a request to do an orange chiffon cake for a friend who’s Grandmother used to make it all the time, but she hasn’t had it since her grandmother passed away.

I had never made an orange chiffon before, but have a soft spot for the Grandmother-baking connection, so I agreed to give it a go.

It turned out great. The friend said she and her sister finished the 10″ cake in an evening.

I made three individual sized cakes with leftover batter so I could test the finished product before passing the big cake along. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the big one.

Orange Chiffon Cake

2 1/4 Cups cake flour

1 1/2 Cup sugar

1 tbsp. double acting baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 Cup vegetable oil

7 large egg yolks

3/4 Cup fresh orange juice

2 tbsp. orange zest

2 tsp. vanilla

9 large egg whites

1 tsp. cream of tartar

     In a large bowl, sift together flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt. In a bowl whisk together the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, zest and vanilla. Whisk wet mixture into flour mixture until batter is smooth.

     In a stand mixer, whisk egg whites and salt until foamy, then add cream of tartar and beat until whites hold stiff peaks. Add remaining 3/4 cup of sugar a little at a time until glossy peaks form.

     Stir 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining whites thoroughly. Spoon into an ungreased 10″ tube pan, 4″ deep.

     Bake in a 325F oven for 1 hour, until tester comes out clean. Invert pan immediatly on rack and let cool completely in the pan upside down on a rack. Run a long, thin knife around edge to dislodge from pan. Turn out on a rack.

This is basically a variation on an angel food cake, so serve accordingly. Whipped cream and fresh fruit would make an ideal accompaniment. The individual sized cakes I just dusted in icing sugar and garnished with orange segments. I used an orange flavoured sugar syrup to moisten the cake. Grand-marnier would also work well.

31
Aug
08

Three Cakes, One Day

So I worked as a pastry chef for a good chunk of my cooking career, and although I love pastry, I no longer do it professionally.

I currently cook for a major corporation and am attempting to further my education in food science. (I’m refraining from naming my employer because I’m not exactly sure of the legalities and implications that could be involved if I ever write an article about a topic closely related to what we do, and I’ve signed confidentiality agreements with some of our major corporate customers. In other words I wouldn’t want to lose my job or get sued.)

Needless to say, I don’t get the chance to flex my pastry muscles all that often anymore. However, I have been known to take on the occasional pet project for friends and acquaintances.

A few weekends ago a co-worker requested that I do a birthday cake for her niece. I figured little girl’s birthday cake, no problem.

Well, one cake turned into three, and a quick Saturday afternoon of baking became a late Friday night (2:30am) of prepping the cakes followed by an entire Saturday of finishing. Oh, and everything had to be done in rolled fondant. Oh, and only two specific colours per cake. Oh, and they each want a different flavour. Oh, and… you get the idea.

I’m pretty used to that, though. I think that sums up rather nicely the life of a pastry chef. Long hours and little creative input. Fortunately I’m fairly well set up at home to be able to accommodate these requests.

Anyway, here’s the result:

 

The cakes turned out great, but the pictures were taken in a bit of a rush, so I’m not so thrilled about their quality.

The most satisfying part is knowing that three little girls got exactly the cakes they wanted for their birthday.

Well, that and the nice cold beer I had on the deck when I was finished.

31
May
08

The Pieman

Simple Simon met a pieman

Going to the fair;

Says Simple Simon to the pieman,

“Let me taste your ware.”

Says the pieman to Simple Simon,

“Show me first your penny.”

Says Simple Simon to the pieman,

“Indeed I have not any.”

I recently came across a write up in a publication from the mid-1800’s about the sellers of street foods in Victorian London, England.

Apparently the street pie trade had been one of the oldest of the street callings in London. By the mid-nineteenth century the trade had been almost destroyed by “pie shops.” Summer fairs and other large outdoor gatherings seem to have been one of the few places a pie-man could make a go of it.

The piemen would wander the streets with a portable tin oven getting business wherever they could. This often meant stopping in at the local public houses. Apparently business was pretty poor, and street piemen didn’t have the best reputation for quality goods. According to one meat pieman:

“People, when I go into houses…often begin crying ‘mee-yow’, or ‘bow-wow-wow!’ at me, but there’s nothing of that kind, now.”

Piemen bought their meat from the same places as sausage makers. They wouldn’t care about the flavour because they would use pepper to mask the taste of the meat. You could tell the quality of the meat by how little or how much pepper was in the pies.

Often a pieman would drum up business by calling out “Toss or buy! Up and win ’em.” Which basically turned the sale of the pies into a coin toss. You win the toss, you get a free pie. Loose a toss, and you’d better be able to pay for one.

That certainly sheds a new light on the old nursery rhyme.

And this…

 

21
May
08

Chai Crème Brulée

 creme brulee

During the recent move, I uncovered a ridiculous amount of tea scattered throughout my kitchen cupboards. There is everything from orange pekoe to pumpkin spice, in a wide variety of colours, from black to green to white.

This got me thinking, “What’s the deal with all this tea?” I barely even drink tea. Most of it I recieved as a gift.

Then I recalled the specialty tea store that had recently opened in a local mall.

Actually, in the past few years, at least three stores devoted exclusively to tea have opened up in this area. Has the world gone tea crazy?

I’ll assume the baby boomers are partially responsible. The search for eternal youth, or at least a tonic for creaky joints, makes them an obvious demographic.

Then again, Tim Hortons has been running those “steeped” ads a lot lately (at least here in Canada). I know a lot of media susceptible people who just have to have whatever the newest trend is.

Then there’s the first time away from home crowd. You know who I mean. Their the “I’m deep because I study at starbucks and drink tea just like my cool Asian roomate” group of “unique” individuals.

Wow, I just realized how mean spirited my posts sound when I haven’t had my coffee.

Don’t get me wrong. In the right context I love tea. I just have my doubts as to how much of my new found wealth I’ll be able to drink in this lifetime. I guess that means I’ll have to get creative…

Chai Crème Brulée

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp loose chai tea, good quality (10 ml)
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping (35%) cream (375 ml)
  • 1/2 cup homogenized whole milk (125 ml)
  • 1/4-cup sugar (60 ml)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • Sugar, for brulée toppingPreheat oven to 325 degrees F.1) Put the whipping cream, milk, sugar, vanilla bean and the chai tea in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to just to a boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let mixture steep for 15 minutes to develop flavor
    2) In a stainless steel bowl whisk the egg yolks. To make the custard, continue to stir egg yolks as you slowly pour the hot cream mixture over the yolks. Strain custard. Pour or ladle evenly into four 6-ounce ramekins or gratin pans.
    3) Bake in a water bath by placing ramekins into a shallow baking pan. Carefully pour enough boiling water into the baking pan so the water comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
    4) Bake just until custard centers jiggle slightly when pan is moved, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from water bath. Cool custard to room temperature. Refrigerate and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.
    5) Sprinkle 2 tsp. of sugar on top of the custards. Caramelize the sugar with a crème brulée torch or directly under the broiler. Decorate as desired.
04
May
08

Corn Bread

corn bread

This is the result of my first attempt of a basic corn bread recipe I got out of  “Baking at Home With The Culinary Institute of America.” It’s a good book for the rookie home baker as its recipes are fairly basic and easy to follow. I like using it for an almost guaranteed successful first attempt if I haven’t had a lot of experience making something.

Being Canadian, corn bread isn’t exactly in my usual repetoire, but after making these, I may have to reconsider. They turned out perfectly, and I even modified them to make them lactose free.

The only real issue I have with the book is that it’s written using Imperial measurements, which can be frustrating for an experienced baker. Using metric weights guarantees a standard set of results. It can mean the difference between professional quality and a sloppy mess. It’s for this reason that one of my first serious purchases back when I was an apprentice was a good quality digital scale.

01
Mar
08

Chocolate

As should be evident throughout my site, I am a big fan of a number of specific food and drink products. Among my favorites are coffee, wine, and artisanal baking. Having said that, there is only one singular ingredient that, at least for me, has created a type of fanatacism. That ingredient is Chocolate.

Chocolate has several similarities to many of the other food products I’ve already listed. It begins as an agricultural product, requires fermentation, and roasting, and produces a product based off of a very minimal number of ingredients that have an infinite number of unique flavour and creative possibilities. The ultimate outcome is based on the quality of the ingredients and the skill of the craftsman.

Much has been written on the subject of Cacao production (within the industry, cacao refers to the agricultural process and product of that process, the cacao pods. Cocoa refers to the products produced from the pod). Although I feel it is important to have an understanding of this process, the average home-based chocolatier will never be involved in this process. Just know that cocoa powder and cocoa butter are two by-products of the refining process, and chocolate is the combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. I may write more about this in a later post.

Chocolate production for most chocolatiers begins with selection of the chocolate they will use. Again, quality is key, so don’t skimp out. Chocolate (commonly labeled as couverture) contains certain percentages of cocoa solids, sugar, and fat content, usually provided by cocoa butter and/or milk (hence the term milk chocolate). There is a product called chocolate coating, which many small chocolate shops (at least in my area) try to pass off as real chocolate. Coatings can not legally be called Chocolate, and contain products not found in real chocolate, such as vegetable fats, bulking agents, and wax. Coating chocolate is used by some places because it is cheap, requires no tempering, and therefore little skill on the part of the chocolatier. If you are familiar with couverture, and how properly tempered chocolate should look and taste, you can spot coating chocolate right away.

On selecting chocolate, there are several different brands available. You’ll find that some people swear by one company, while other people swear by another. Like wine, I think it should come down to personal taste as much as anything. If you like Valrhona, use it. If you prefer Callebaut, use that instead. 

 http://www.callebaut.com/uken/

http://www.valrhona.com/

http://www.worldwidechocolate.com/

http://www.guittard.com/home/index.html

http://www.dagobachocolate.com/

http://www.chocolateselrey.com/

http://www.chocosphere.com/

http://www.iluvchocolate.com/store/category/af15/Chef_Chocolatier_Store.html

Reading the labal on the side of a box of couverture, you will see something like this: 60/40/38. This means that there is 60% cocoa solids, 40% sugar, and 38% total fat content. This would be a dark chocolate. An average milk chocolate example would be 36/42/38. These numbers are important to understand, because the first tells you roughly how dark the chocolate will be, the second will tell you if it’ll be bitter or sweet, and the third will give you an idea about how viscous it will be to work with. The higher the fat content, the more viscous. Keep in mind that it is possible to add cocoa butter to chocolate to thin it out more while working with it. Cocoa butter has a very low melting point. If you put a flake of it on your hand it will melt right away. 

White chocolate, which I haven’t yet mentioned, should be beige or off-yellow. If you come across white chocolate that is snow-white, it’s coating chocolate. The reason for this is because white chocolate contains no cocoa solids, and is therefore mainly cocoa butter and sugar. It takes on the colour of the cocoa butter.

It’s good to keep all of this in mind while working with chocolate. Dark chocolate tends to be much more forgiving while tempering than white or milk due to the higher percentage of cocoa solids, and lower amount of fat and sugar. Because of this, dark chocolate tends to set harder than the other two. When making a multi-layered mousse, for example, you want to have the darkest mousse at the bottom for structural stability.

Selection of chocolate for eating is, in my opinion, another personal choice. If you prefer milk chocolate, eat it. If you are a die-hard dark chocolate fan, that’s fine two. At one shop I worked at, we had a guy who always wanted the darkest chocolate we had, and even then it wasn’t dark enough. We ended up getting some 90% couverture from Michel Cluizel http://www.chocolatemichelcluizel-na.com/ , which to me tasted like cocoa powder. It was sooo bitter, no sweetness to it at all. The guy loved it.

I have also been fortunate enough to catch one of Jean-Pierre Wybauw’s chocolate workshops http://www.jeanpierrewybauw.com/ . This turned out to be a great event for meeting other chocolate professionals in my area. I have remained in contact with a few of the people I met there, and even had the good fortune of working with one of them for nearly a year. As it turns out, she lives two doors down from the house I grew up in. I haven’t lived in that town since I was 17 (which, I’m sad to report, was quite some time ago.) It’s a small world, I guess.

http://www.chocolat-chocolat.com/ – great site for chocolate molds

26
Feb
08

Leaveners, a baker’s secret weapon

One of the most important and misunderstood concepts of baking is the ability to take a dough (which can be as simple as flour and water), and make it rise. This is done by a process known as leavening. The main purpose of leavening is to build the structure of the baked good. In other words, without a leavener of some sort, your baking will be very limited.

There are three basic categories of leaveners – organic, chemical, and physical.

Organic:

I include all varieties of yeast in this category. Yeast is a tiny living organism that must be alive to do it’s job (hence the reason I use the term organic). It is very important to keep this in mind as you work with yeast. When learning how to work with yeast doughs, my mentor told me “treat it like you would treat a girlfriend, handle it gently, don’t slap it around. Keep it warm and well fed.” Although I’m not sure this is the key to a good relationship, it certainly works for yeast.

Yeast requires moisture, takes in sugars, reproduces, and gives off carbon dioxide. It is this process, when the conditions are just right, that makes breads rise. The ideal temperature for raising yeast is between 60 and 90F. Keeping the yeast cool is a process known as retardation. It won’t harm the yeast, but it will give you time to make your baking schedule a little more flexible. Using this process to your advantage, it’s possible to store dough overnight in a fridge without worring about it growing too rapidly. Yeast is destroyed when baked over at temperatures over 200F.

Chemical:

This category includes baking soda and baking powder. They rapidly rise a baked good when combined with moisture and heat. Baking soda also needs an acid. The chemical reactions that take place in the baked good produce gasses, which in turn make bubbles. Think back to grade school science fairs. There was always at least one baking soda and vinegar “volcano”. That’s exactly what goes on in your baking.

Physical:

This category includes steam and air. Steam is released when moisture in a batter, supplied by butter, eggs, or another liquid gets heated. The steam forms air pockets and allows the baking to rise. Good examples of this are evident in choux pastry (for eclairs and cream puffs), and puff pastry. Air is also used as a leavener through creaming butter or whipping egg whites and carefully folding them into a batter. The air bubles get trapped and dried out as the product bakes in the oven. A good example of this would be a souffle.

http://straightfromthefarm.wordpress.com/2008/02/21/yeast-primer/ has some informative information on yeast.