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.
Pains au Chocolat
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.
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.