Monday, January 10, 2011

Pastry School, Quarter 2, Week 1 - Action!

Welcome to week 1 of my second quarter of pastry school!

Under the instruction of Chef Paul and Chef Mela this week, I made blueberry muffins, peanut butter cookies (add some chocolate chips in there and you’ve got my favorite cookie!), pear frangipane tart, sweet tart dough, choux paste (this is what cream puffs are made with), and buttery, gooey dinner rolls. Are you salivating? Me too!! It probably wasn’t the smartest choice to decide to cleanse my body from refined sugar and gluten this week. Talk about a good way to test your will power, but also a good way to make friends! I have some pretty thankful neighbors in my building now: I knocked on one of my neighbors’ doors the other night with a tray of a dozen peanut butter cookies and half a dozen blueberry muffins. I told them they could take it all. They looked at me in disbelief, no doubt looking to see if perhaps this was some terrible amateur, Canadian, low budget version of Punked with some blonde chick playing Ashton Kutcher. On second thought, they might have been reluctant to take baked goods from some crazed girl in slippers they had never seen before. Hm…

Anyway, I learned more fun tricks and reasons behind certain baking methods this week. Ever wonder why your muffins just don’t rise properly, or why your cookies spread too thin and don’t hold their shape? You are probably over-mixing your batter! The trick is to cream the butter and sugar together until it forms a smooth paste – this is called the creaming method. Then, add your eggs, one at a time so they are evenly incorporated. Then add your dry ingredients all together, and STOP mixing once they are just barely wet. That’s it – follow that advice and you will have great muffins and cookies every time! 

Here is an example of over-mixed, baked muffins:

And this is what they will look like if the above methods are followed properly:

I have to tell you about Chef Paul, my intro to baking instructor who you will see in the photos below. He is a third generation pastry chef from Marseilles, France. He has won so many chocolate competitions that he’s not allowed to compete anymore!!!  He apprenticed in France starting at the age of 14 and worked 12-17 hours a day, 7 days a week for 4 years making $1 a week!!!!! At 66 years of age, he has been in this business for 52 years! He is absolutely hilarious, and I know I’m going to learn a lot from him (and laugh a lot too)!

Dinner rolls before

And After:

The mise-en-place (getting everything ready to mix):

The Choux paste before baking:

And after baking:

And finally, the pear frangipane tart:

This week: more volunteering with the pastry chef at The Vancouver Club (I will tell you about that next week), more baking bread, and onward to more pastries!!

Have a lovely week!!!


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