Over the break awaiting the next semester I had been working on my craft big time. I was cooking a lot more, working on my knife skills, technique, plating style and overall knowledge. When school started back up I would be enrolled in advanced baking, although I was not much of a baker. The fact that I wasn’t too experienced in baking was a driving force, it meant there was much room for development. If I ever wanted to own a restaurant/catering service/food truck I wanted to have the full know how of both the savory and sweet side of the kitchen.
As with most cooking classes, for the first few weeks you study the book and do lots of homework before actually stepping foot into the kitchen. I remember skimming through literally every chapter of the On Baking book, looking at all of the different categories and components of the pastry kitchen. I was especially fascinated by the different ways that you could use fruits in desserts, you could poach them, turn them into a sauce, syrup, compote, dehydrated garnish, macerate them etc.
I will start with the earliest class date of us going into the kitchen. The kitchen was crystal clean, with stainless steel work tables, blast chillers, giant bread proofing machines, 6 ovens, a pizza oven, gigantic mixers, a soft serve ice cream, and so much more. For our first hands on assignment the class split into about four or five groups of four. My group was assigned to making vanilla bean ice cream, another group made flan, another made bread pudding, another made chiboust cream and the last group made tuiles. This was my first time ever making ice cream and probably my first time ever seeing an ice cream machine this high tech. Most you see in stores are the old fashioned wooden barrels, but the one we had was at least $1,000 dollars.
The procedure for making ice cream is to first combine milk, heavy cream and vanilla bean in a pot and bring it to a boil. In a separate bowl whisk together sugar and a bunch of egg yolks until the mixture looks pale yellow. Then you temper the egg and sugar mixture by slowly adding the cream mixture and whisking. You have to gradually add the hot cream mixture because one of two things will happen if you add too much at a time. The mixture will break or you will end up scrambled eggs. After you have poured one third of the cream mixture into the egg mixture, add it all back into the pot and simmer on low while continuously stirring. It will start to thicken, once the custard reaches 180-185F you have to take it off the heat and put it through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Completely cool this ice cream base over an ice bath. After it is completely cooled you pour it into the ice cream machine and let it churn. While making this in class, my group mates measured out the ingredients and I did the hands on alone. You could say our instructor was intimidating, so my guess is that they didn’t want the blame if it came out wrong. As the ice cream churned I would stroll around the class and ponder on all of the different ways I could infuse flavors besides vanilla into the ice cream. For instance star anise-pistachio ice cream, cinnamon swirl ice cream, hazelnut ice cream and so much more.
When the ice cream finished churning, the instructor came to taste it for flavor and texture and said that we did a very good job on it. By this time the other groups had finished up their desserts too. All things I have never tried but was curious to taste. Bread pudding is believed to have originated in England as a way to make use of stale bread, it was a popular dish among the poor citizens of England. I always had a bad perception of bread pudding because it just looked like soggy, wobbly bread. But after tasting it and looking at the recipe, it was practically the same custard we made for this ice cream used to soak bread and then bake it. So it sucks up that flavorful sauce and when baked properly it has a very soft texture. Served with the ice cream that my group made, it was an amazing dish.
Tuile’s are very thin and light French cookies, that are traditionally shaped like tiles on French homes which is where they get their name. They are usually used as garnishes or shaped into bowls and used to hold ice cream. They tasted very similar to wafers and of course went really well with our ice cream.
Chiboust cream is a component originating in France, it was created by the pastry chef M. Chiboust. Essentially it is a pastry cream that is made lighter through whipping in an Italian meringue. It can be used to fill torte cakes, tarts and the famous Saint Honoré. Saint Honoré looks like such a tasty and elaborate dish, I plan to try making it one of these days and sharing how it turned out.
Flan is a baked custard originating way back in the Roman empire. The Romans were the first to domesticate chickens, so using this resource of eggs and the knowledge gained through other cultures came flan. Interestingly enough, Roman desserts were not sweet, they were actually savory, but when flan was introduced to the Spaniards, they topped flan with a caramel sauce. They then took flan to new horizons by making many variations like chocolate and coffee flan. There are wider variety of flan out there now but caramel flan is the most popular to this day.
This is a glimpse into our Advanced Baking classroom, a reading experience you will get nowhere else. I hope you all enjoyed it and look forward to next week’s recipe.
Have a great day, and be blessed.