Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Viennoiserie is really just a fancy word for bread, or pastry made with yeast-leavened dough. I was really excited about this unit because I've never really worked with yeast before and certainly hadn't ever made bread. At least, not without a bread machine. I attempted Soft Pretzels once before, and while they turned out OK, they weren't perfect. And if there's anything I've learned through school, it's that pastry chefs are perfectionists. I didn't actually think I could make bread without a dough hook for my mixer or a baking stone. 

I was wrong.

We've never used a baking stone in class. The dough hook? Quite helpful, but not essential. 

Spiked Pecan Sticky Buns made with Orange Bread Dough 

So remember the Easy Sticky Buns?

Well these weren't exactly easy, but this is an example of when hard work pays off.

The day we made these was probably the hardest day I've had in the kitchen, but it was also one of the most rewarding. I was working without a partner on possibly the busiest day yet. It was like trying to cook with one arm tied behind my back. There were moments when I feared I would break down into tears for the first time since I started classes. But I'm a big proponent of Kelly Cutrone's favorite saying: "If you have to cry, go outside." I may retreat to the privacy of a bathroom stall and have a small hysterical breakdown, but you can be damn sure that's not going to happen in the kitchen, in front of my peers or professional chefs. Besides, taking a break to have a minor panic attack only would have put me further behind. So I sucked it up and carried on. 

And thank goodness I did because these sticky buns were insanely good. We made an orange scented dough that was used for an Orange Cinnamon Swirl bread (also Delicious, with a capital D), and also for these little gems. The topping was a combination of brown sugar, butter, honey, whiskey, and chopped pecans. The dough is filled with brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. 

I'm not a big fan of nuts, and especially not pecans, but that didn't stop me from eating these almost straight out of the oven. Technically, you should really let yeast doughs cool completely before eating or cutting them so that the internal structure can fully set, but these were too hard to resist. Plus, I like when sticky buns are just a tiny bit gummy inside; it adds to that great stickiness and I just think they're so much better when they're still warm. And since I was working without a partner the day we made these, I got to take the entire thing home. Ah, the silver lining.


The same day we made the Sticky Buns, we also made these beautiful Challah loaves (I told you it was a busy day). Eating challah my whole life, it was something I held on a pedestal, thinking I would never be able to make it successfully.  It's an enriched bread dough filled with things like sugar, egg yolks, honey, and olive oil, all of which add a great sweet flavor and soft texture to the dough. We also learned how to braid the loaves, which is how they're made traditionally.

I froze one of these loaves and brought it home to my mom's a few weeks after we made it, and I think it was even better than the fresh loaf we devoured in a few days. Challah makes great french toast, and this was no exception. I don't like eggs, so french toast isn't usually something I eat, but Dan was the lucky recipient of my mom's version, made with my delicious challah.

Carrying home my loaves of challah on the subway, I had two people ask me where I got them, and one even asked for my card. Most days I see people eyeing my caddy, wondering where I got the delicious-looking items I'm bringing home, but this was really the first day it seemed people were more than just curious. Yet another sweet ending to my sour day.


I had no idea croissants had yeast in them! Butter? Yes. But yeast? Croissant dough is made very similarly to puff pastry. We made a yeast dough with a small amount of butter in it and rolled it into a rectangle. Butter is spread over 2/3 of the dough, and the dough is then folded and rolled again. And again. And again. The dough is finally cut into triangles and rolled into croissants, proofed, and baked. These were, of course, heavenly. And with croissants comes...

Pains au Chocolat
 Chocolate-filled Croissants

The same croissant dough is rolled into small rectangles, filled with chocolate batons, folded over and cut into small packages. They are then proofed and baked. And DEVOURED. These are just so obviously delicious that they really need no further description. If you feel like you're missing something, go out and buy one. But please, make it a good one.


I had never heard of this cake before, but my roommate was pumped when he found out it was in our curriculum. It's a traditional German fruitcake, usually made at Christmastime. It's packed with nuts and dried fruit and coated in melted butter and confectioner's sugar. All of these things means this keeps for a loooooong time. And it's also very rich and dense. There's also a complicated method of turning and folding the dough before baking, that's supposed to make it look like baby Jesus. I thought it looked more like a hot dog.

Savoy Scones

In my opinion, scones are something you either love or hate. They're texturally more like a biscuit, and usually aren't that sweet. My mom loves scones, and I know she would particularly love these. When I was thirteen, my best friend's mom died suddenly. That summer, she and I went to visit her mom's sister in Albany. We stayed in the room her mom grew up in, and she held my hand as I went on a roller coaster for the first time. For our plane ride home, her aunt gave us homemade blueberry scones. Up until now, they were the best scones I had ever had. But these Savoy Scones are an even tie. Bread flour, a flour with a higher percentage of protein, is mixed with baking powder, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Cold butter is cut into the dough until it's the size of small peas. The currants are added. One whole egg, an egg yolk, and some heavy cream are added and mixed just until the dough comes together. It is then rolled and cut into the desired shapes. The unbaked scones are brushed with cream and sprinkled with a coarse sugar for texture. This method yielded a perfectly light, sweet, and tender scone.


Totally adorable, right? Sadly, not so delicious. The base is brioche dough baked into a small column and then covered in Italian meringue. The meringue is then bruleed with a blowtorch and a wee little marzipan bee is added to up the cuteness to near impossible levels. There's also honey dripping down the sides. I know, you can hardly stand it. 

We made a ton of other delicious products in this unit that I sadly neglected to photograph, like muffins, brioche rolls, and danish. But don't worry, there's another bread unit coming up, so stay tuned for more yeasty goodness!

Hmm, yeasty. Not exactly the most appetizing adjective to end with. Sorry about that. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Puff Pastry

Wow, I haven't posted anything in almost a month. Worst. Blogger. Ever.

And since I know you don't want to hear me bitch and complain about how hard my life is (sigh), getting to bake pastry all day (ugh), and meeting people like this:

"Mr. Chocolate," Jacques Torres

I'll just skip to the good stuff: Pate Feuilletee or Puff Pastry.

So you know that delicious buttery, flaky pastry dough you can get in the white box in the freezer section of your grocery store? You can actually make that yourself! It takes some time and effort, but the final product is particularly delicious. Although frankly, there are some really good frozen products out there that are perfectly good for personal use at home.

There are 3 different kinds of puff pastry: Classic, Quick, and Inverse. The method is basically the same for each (Roll dough, fold, rest, repeat.). Classic puff pastry is made by wrapping dough around a big hunk of butter. Inverse is the other way around: butter wrapped around a big hunk of dough. And Quick is made by working little cubes of butter right into the dough itself. I know that all sounds confusing, and it's kind of hard to explain without actually showing you, but instead of that, let's just look at the yummy final products, shall we? 

Tarte Feuilletee
Bar Tart

For this tart, the puff pastry is rolled thinly and baked between two sheet pans to inhibit the rise (a waste of delicious buttery layers of dough if you ask me, but oh well. I do what I'm told). For the final 5 minutes in the oven, corn syrup is brushed on the dough and allowed to crisp as the pastry finishes baking. Once cool, a thin layer of almond cream is spread onto the pastry and topped with sliced fruit. The pastry is baked again and then garnished with chopped nuts. Not my favorite in terms of taste, but pretty to look at.

Mille-Feuilles de Forme Ronde
 Round Napoleon

The puff pastry for this recipe is also baked so it is very thin and crispy. It is baked in one large sheet pan and then cut into three circles so they are perfectly round. The dessert is then made by layering the discs of pastry with layers of lightened pastry cream.

The top is sprinkled heavily with powdered sugar, and the diamond pattern is then made by heating metal skewers until they are red hot and then laying them down on the sugar, caramelizing it. The sides are covered with crumbs of the leftover baked dough.

Tarte Tatin
 Upside-Down Apple Tart

This. was. AMAZING. Perfect. So, so delicious. Here's how you do it. Heat a large saute pan with butter and add halved apples, flat side down. Once the apples are just barely tender, flip them over and continued to cook. Add a generous amount of granulated sugar. Once the sugar is caramelized and the round side of the apples are tender, flambe the apples with some apple brandy. Remove the pan from the heat and cover the apples with a circle of puff pastry, tucking it around the edges of the pan. Place the saute pan in the oven at 350 degrees and bake until the pastry is nicely browned and baked through. Remove the tart from the oven and immediately unmold it onto a parchment lined sheet pan. There will be a lot of yummy juice that escapes, and that's fine. Just wait a few minutes before lapping it up shamelessly. This is best served warm. AND OMG SO GOOD.

 Tarte aux Bananes et Chocolat
 Banana and Chocolate Tartlettes

This tart was made with a base of chocolate puff pastry, made by adding cocoa powder to the dough. It's baked using the same method so it is flat and crispy, and then topped with pastry cream and bananas. The fruit is then sprinkled with sugar and browned with a torch. They are plated with chocolate sauce and sweetened whipped cream. Sadly although I love chocolate, I hate bananas, so this wasn't exactly a favorite of mine. I got to pipe the whipped cream on everyone's plates though! Yeah, it's the little things.

Mille-Feuilles au Chocolate
Chocolate Napoleon

This Napoleon is made with chocolate puff pastry, filled with Creme d'Or, and finished with chocolate glaze and white chocolate. Creme d'Or is made by quickly folding warm, melted chocolate into whipped cream. The consistency is similar to chocolate mousse. The pattern on top is called a Chevron, and is made by piping lines of white chocolate on top of the glaze, and then running a sharp point in different directions before the glaze and chocolate has a chance to set. Easier said than done, but I think it turned out pretty well. As opposed to the traditional round Napoleon which was too heavy with all that thick pastry cream, this one was really tasty. Huh, something made with chocolate dough, filled with chocolate cream, and covered in chocolate glaze, and I love it. Go figure.
Dartois aux Pommes (top) and Mille-Feuilles (bottom)
Apple Dartois and Napoleon Strip

The first pastry, the Apple Dartois, was sort of like a really big apple turnover. Unbaked puff pastry dough is covered with cooked apple compote and then covered with a lattice of more dough. The whole thing is then baked until bubbly, golden, and delicious. If you're feeling whimsical, you can also add some little leaves made out of dough and dust the edges with powdered sugar.

The second pastry is yet another Napoleon. Apparently the French have a bit of a Napoleon complex. This one is essentially the same as the round Napoleon (plain puff pastry filled with lightened pastry cream), but is finished with fondant and melted dark chocolate. We used the Chevron pattern again as that's traditional for this dessert. 

Oh, hey Jacques. What's up? You want me to sample another of your eclairs? Well OK, if you insist!

Recently some of the other people in my class have asked about my blog. At first, I was shocked they had found it and a little embarrassed. I see blogging as pretty self important. As if I think what I have to say is so important that I need to put it in the most public forum possible for everyone to read and comment on it. 

Because I can't bear to self-promote, it's not something I generally talk about or publicize on my own. So when people randomly started telling me they had found it, I was a little taken aback. And self conscious. It was fine when my close friends and family were reading. Or complete strangers. It's not like I'll ever have to meet them and face their judging eyes. But classmates? Our class is small. Like 20 people small. And 19 of those people are women. Catty women. It's like a scene out of Mean Girls except that we have access to sharp knives and fire, so I think you can see my concern. But so far it's only been a few people and they've only said positive things to me. Well, to my face at least. But it is nice to know that I have a few more readers out there. 

Of course, now this means that I can't use this blog to talk shit about any of them. JK LADIES! Like I would ever do that! *Air kisses*
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