Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Week 16: Sure to rise

While I am a pretty good baker overall - and modest(!) with it - bread has never been my strength. It just never seems to do what it should.  Indeed, nearly 40 years ago I became permanently traumatised by the mirth of my sister-in-law-to-be as she scorned my feeble efforts.  Unless I use a breadmaker (which is obviously cheating) my loaves tend to have the appearance of small windowless buildings, so this week I look forward to mastering the mysteries of yeast products.  Following the long weekend, we commence our school week on Tuesday with basic bread rolls, basic sweet buns, doughnuts and cream buns and Hot Cross Buns - more on those later.  We use fresh yeast, which I haven't used before as I just buy the dried stuff from the supermarket.  Fresh yeast is easy to use but doesn't keep long so probably only good if you are going to make yeast products very regularly.

The basic bread dough and bread roll shaping passes without incident.  We scale the dough to ensure the even size and weight of each roll.  Using the basic sweet bun dough we make doughnuts and cream buns.  The hunter gatherer is gutted that we make these early in the week and that they will be given away rather than carried home on Friday - my ex work colleagues are the happy recipients.  To make the doughnuts we mould the dough around a spoonful of  raspberry jam.  Into the deep fryer they go, then - contain yourselves..... we roll them in in cinnamon sugar.  Yum - deep fried dough and sugar.
To make the cream buns we roll them out and shape them, and give them a little sugar wash when they come out of the oven.  When they are cool, we cut a slit in the top and plop in a dollop of raspberry jam and pipe in Chantilly cream (this is just whipped cream with a little icing sugar added).  Just like the ones Billy Bunter eats.  Yum - baked dough, sugar AND fat!
The Hot Cross Buns expose a cultural rift.  This day I am sharing the bench with our lovely overseas student from Kenya, and he makes the dough.  I don't take a lot of notice as I am busy making another mix, but when I look at his dough which he has set aside to prove, it looks rather anaemic. When I ask if he thinks it looks a bit pale for Hot Cross Buns he says he doesn't know what they are, and has never seen one, never mind eaten one! It transpires he hasn't put enough spice in.  We decide to rename ours Kenyan Cross Buns. I couldn't resist taking a photo of him "taste-testing" the cream buns.

Wednesday is no day for weaklings - I thought beating up that gnocchi last week tested my arms!  Today we make Genoese sponge, a double recipe, without mechanical intervention.  This requires hand whisking 8 egg yolks with sugar in a bowl over a warm water bath - the bowl that is, not me - until it is thick and pale reaches "ribbon" stage.  That is when you can lift the whisk and make a figure 8 with the mix and it will hold a little before melting back.  THIS TAKES AGES.  Use a freaking mixer!  However, our tutor is a sadist and wants us to know the "feel" of the mixture.  By the time we have made the sponges and hand mixed Semolina Syrup Cake and Chocolate Cup Cakes I am ready for a full body cast - or at the very least a shoulder massage.

And the next day we get on to yeast baked desserts: Savarin and Rum Babas.  The process here is a bit different as the yeast ferments in the flour.  It will be of interest  - at least to my family who grew up with our Polish grandmother's expression 'stare babka' (old woman or grandmother) - that baba is a diminutive form of the Polish babka. And I have no idea why or where a rum old grandmother may have given the genesis to a rum soaked yeast dessert, so don't ask!
However, the original Baba was introduced into France in the 18th century by Stanislas, the exiled king of Poland. In 1844, the Julien brothers, Parisian p√Ętissiers, invented the "Savarin" which is strongly inspired by the "Baba au Rhum" but uses a circular ring cake mould instead of the cylinder usually used for Rum Baba (thank you wikipedia).

The week's upper body exercise regime is complete when we also make Sauce Anglaise - egg custard but without any custard powder or thickener  - just egg yolks.  This is not as easy as it sounds - first you have to whisk up the eggs and sugar until pale and frothy, and then pour in your hot milk before putting it all back in a clean pan and gradually cooking - stirring all the time - until it thickens slightly i.e. coats the back of a spoon. If it goes too far you get scrambled or curdled eggs.  Not good. But the Anglaise is particularly good with the warmed chocolate cup cakes (which, going against the grain, I do not ice).

Assessment this week is the Fruit Flan (first made a couple of weeks ago, vol au vents - fortunately this time I remember to dock the bases, and Sauce Anglaise. It is a busy session and I don't think one of my finest efforts, but I come out of it with a Merit again - reinforcing my view that Merits are not hard to come by. That said, several fail the assessment.

And back at home we commit vege infanticide to enjoy lunch on a sunny Marlborough spring Saturday: baby broad beans, baby spinach, baby carrots with smoked salmon and  homemade bread rolls. Now that really is yum - and no sugar or fat in sight.

Yes, I know it is upside down but I loaded the image twice and that's the way it wants to stay!

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