Posts Tagged ‘chef

20
May
08

Honey, Straight from the Farm

Having been a farm kid, I like to check in on  http://straightfromthefarm.wordpress.com every now and then to remind me of my roots. Today I was pleasantly surprised by this article, and just had to share.

http://straightfromthefarm.wordpress.com/2008/05/16/bee-keeping-intro/#comment-2455

Growing up on the farm, we had bees, and I had my own suit and hive tool.  I loved the smell of the honey extracting in the garage.

We only ever had a few hives, so when my high school guidance counsellor told me I should become an Apiary, I laughed at him and said I couldn’t make a living at that. Maybe I was wrong, or maybe sweet just runs in my blood and that’s why I became a Pastry Chef. C’est la vie.

23
Mar
08

Elements of Cooking: Fire

The chemistry behind cooking and baking happens while following a recipe. Most of the chemical reactions that take place between ingredients happens during the initial mixing and blending together of those ingredients. The biggest difference I found between a pastry kitchen, and a restaurant kitchen is how fire is incorporated and utilised in the process of producing the finished result.

Fire in a pastry kitchen is utilised in two ways. The first, and likely the most obvious, is through baking.

Ingredients are mixed together, allowed to react to each other, shaped, and nearly finished before they are put in the oven to bake. The use of fire in this instance may or may not be direct, depending on the type of heat source being used. People traditionally think of baking as happening in an oven, however there are some instances where dough or batter is baked over direct heat. Many flat-breads are baked on a metal dome over an open fire, and pancakes, crepes, and waffles are poured into a pan or griddle over a heat source.

One of my favorite bread related memories happened on a three week canoe trip on the Buffalo River in Arkansas. We made bannock, a traditional Native American bread. We stuck the raw dough on the end of sticks, and baked it over the open flames of the bonfire. The finished result, when spread with homemade strawberry jam, was phenomenal. A raccoon even tried to get in on the action and scared the daylights out of my friend Jere.

The other type of heat generally employed in the pastry kitchen is direct heat in the form of boiling. Whether this takes the form of boiling sugar for confectionery work, boiling fruit for a puree, or boiling water for a bain marie, doesn’t really matter, since it’s the same general idea. Often boiling and baking can occur together in the same recipe, as in the case of a pie, where the filling is prepared by boiling ingredients together, and the crust is baked. 

Fire in the restaurant kitchen, on the other hand, is the nearly alchemical process by which a cook takes a single ingredient and transforms it into something different.

Roasting, braising, sauteing, poaching, grilling, broiling, sous vide, frying, steaming, all have their own unique purpose in the cook’s repertoire. Where a pastry chef follows an exact recipe to bring about a desired reaction, chefs use an exact cooking technique.

Through the application of fire, a cook is able to extract and reabsorb juices. They are able to reduce a liquid and caramelize an ingredient. Using these techniques allows them to concentrate flavours and reintegrate them back into the food.

How well you are able to heat, concentrate, and reintegrate through the use of fire will determing how good you are at cooking.

24
Feb
08

Practice, practice, practice…

Chocolate bags, originally uploaded by adelphos24.

When I was doing my apprenticeship, the pastry pictured above was the one that gave me the most difficulty.
The inside is a cake called a chocolate marquise. It’s a very rich, dark chocolate mousse with a flowing white chocolate ganache center. The outside is a paper thin shell of chocolate, formed by hand, with split second timing and precision.
I had a lot of frustration trying to get this dessert to work for me. The pastry chef who taught me made it look so simple. He could whip up 50 of these in no time, while I struggled with four.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the most useful skill I learned while struggling with this was patience. I worked at it for quite a while, and then one day it just seemed to click. My skill improved drastically after that.
This pastry was one of the most difficult things I had to learn how to do, but it’s now one of the things I’m most proud of.