Thursday, September 10, 2009

Messes and successes

You know those cheesy yet entertaining columns in some cooking magazines, labeled something like "Messes and Successes?"

They're all like, "My pot roast exploded in the oven just as I was about to serve my new in-laws." Or, "Look at me, I'm so cool, I baked my own six-tier wedding cake while hemming my own gown."

Well, allow me to present some Flour Girl "Messes and Successes" from the past couple days of culinary school:

Let's start with some messes 'cause those are more entertaining, right?

Leading the pack would be our epic baguette failure. Really, I'm not quite sure what happened here. And I would like to apologize to the entire country of France and all of its people. We sullied your National Bread today. And for that I'm sorry. Deeply sorry.

I knew we had some problems when I started looking around the room early this morning. Here are all my classmates trying to work this very sticky, very wet dough into something resembling baguettes. My partner and I? We portioned our dough and could've made super balls out of it. It had the consistency of Silly Putty and I think we could've picked up imprints of the Sunday comics with it.

Resting and proofing didn't help much either. We were still left with these wobbly, blobby dough chunks that we forced into long tube-like shapes. The Chef walked by while we formed them and I tried to throw my body over the sheet pan for cover, but she saw what was up. Baking didn't make them any prettier. (I was helping clean the kitchen when they came out of the oven, missing my photo opportunity. But I'm hoping you've got a good image of the sad, mis-shapen creations in your mind.)

Speaking of cleaning, I got up close and personal with The Pulper today. I'd put this one in the "mess" category. Not familiar with The Pulper? It's like your garbage disposal, on steroids. You can stick cardboard boxes in it, milk cartons, all manner of food waste. Basically everything but plastic and metal. It gets flushed with water and munched up in this pulverizer. And, everyday, somebody gets to put on rubber gloves and clean it out. Today, that somebody was me. Fun.

So, how 'bout some successes?

We started today with our Baking Techniques written mid-term and (bang a wooden spoon on a pot, please ...) I got an "A." The 50-question test asked things like name the three main mix methods for yeast breads, list a type of pre-ferment, describe the physical processes that happen during baking in the oven. My shaky math skills mostly saw me through the questions about conversion factors and equivalent measures (except for one bone-headed mathematical error.)

After the test we got to make Peter Reinhart's sticky buns. And we all know how wonderful those are. Total success there.

And we formed our brioche dough that we made yesterday into little Brioche a Tete (picture a cute little muffin with a small -- but very cute -- tumor growing from the top.) Took a while to get the hang of forming them, but they ended up looking OK. A relief, since my first tries looked like dog poo.

We'll still be making some rolls for the school's restaurants, but next week we'll begin focusing on pastries. First up, puff pastry -- layer upon layer upon layer of butter and dough. It'll be my first time working with a laminated dough and I'm a little nervous.

Here's hoping it's a success. And not, well, you know ...

1 comment:

  1. Fun, fun, fun! It's too bad you couldn't put your sticky hands on a camera to give these breads their glamour shot!


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