Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Flame

One of the items on the dessert list of J and G/POV is an individual size creme fraiche cheesecake. The graham cracker crumbs are tamped down into ring molds and the cheesecake mixture is poured in. After the cakes are baked and cooled, they need to be unmolded, but how? Yea, I witnessed one of the most unsafe practices I have ever seen in a work place as a norm. A protocol even. So, here's the unsafe tip of the day:

A cheesecake can be unmolded by placing it on top on a pressurized aerosol can filled with cooking oil and using a torch heat up the edges of the ring to loosen the cake from the ring (middle of picture). Pull the ring down over the can and boom, you have a cheesecake (left of picture).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's snowing

NO NO NO What do you think you’re doing?! exclaimed Chef Fleck when he saw Matt tapping a mini strainer (the size of a teabag) to dust the ruchula with powdered sugar. He showed us a method using cheesecloth for much more efficient dusting.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Where is everybody?

I started off my first day in pastry with no one there. So, I ended up chopping lettuce for the first half of the day until someone arrived. I made so beautiful chocolate dipped strawberries for a wedding at the hotel. Tip: Do a bouncy thing with the strawberries, so that less chocolate is used and there are no "shoes" (pools of chocolate) under the strawberries.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lights, Camera, ACTION!

Woke up early this morning to attend Chef Fleck’s taping for his CEC certification. He did knife cuts and a European pastry that was a giant sandwich of meragiane and genoise cake. Here are the knife cuts:
Here's the pastry:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What's This Powder for Anyway?

I made shortbread cakes today in class. Yea...forgot to add the baking soda and baking powder mixture. They were dense little hockey pucks. You can see how they did not rise at all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Basil Oil

I made basil oil again today. It has got to be one of the most pain-in-the-butt “ingredient” I have to make. Actually everything is a pain in the butt to make, I now have a much much better understanding as to why everything we serve is so expensive (aside from the famous view)! First I had to pick a ridiculous amount of basil, on which I found a caterpillar happily munching away on a leaf (gross). Then it has to be blanched. Then shocked in an ice bath. Then put in a blender until it cooks and steams. Then shocked again. Then drained in a chinois (a very fine conical sieve) for the rest of eternity. I had the idiotic misfortune of overfilling the chinois and had to start all over again. ARG!! The result? A beautiful, rich and verdant oil.
Okay, tip for anyone that has to blanch multiple (or even one) batch of greens. Grab a large pot of water, salt it and heat it until it boils. Find a basket that will fit into the pot, so that when the greens are added, they are resting in the pot and do not need to be fished out with tongs or a skimmer. Then have an ice bath ready, that is large enough to fit the basket. When you’re done shocking the greens, lift the basket out of the water and squeeze dry. This method saves sooooo much time, because you don’t have to dig around the pot with tongs and don’t have to freeze your hands unnecessarily in the ice bath.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Dish

We 86ed (discoed) our heirloom tomato crab salad and replaced with a crab fritter and pear salad.
Bye bye tomatoes (summer)!
Hello pears and endive (fall)!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cracked Up Cakes

Today was a lesson of pastry, thankfully not at my expense. Looks like an insect burrowed its way around the cake. A new girl made these cakes and there's an investigation pending on what happened.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Juice Man!

We use quite a bit a lime juice in our sauce recipes. And we used to "borrow" bottles of lime juice from the bar to make the sauces. It was nice and convenient. longer as we allow to freely pilfer from the bar. Now, I have to juice the #@%^ing limes myself. What crap! On the plus side, my hands smell wonderful by the time I'm done. Yea, so 1/2 a lime produces 1-2 tablespoons worth of juice. I use a couple quarts of lime juice for some recipes.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Muffin Mania

We baked sour cream and carrot muffins tonight. So tasty. The sour cream were made using a creaming method and I over mixed the dough, which resulted in a tough muffin with tunneling. It looked really pretty:

Tunneling is when there are holes that are created because the gluten strands hold in the air and it cannot escape:

Here's the carrot muffins, which were too wet and did not rise properly:

They were mixed until moistened and you can see that there is no tunneling in the muffin:

Friday, October 09, 2009

Biscuit vs Muffin

Today we baked country biscuits and blueberry muffins, the goal is to create a nice and tender product. In the case of country biscuits, it is also important to have flaky layers. After rolling and cutting muffins one time, it is best to continue with the dough at maximum once more. Otherwise it will result in a tough and chewy biscuit. These were the biscuits we made:
Top left corner - a biscuit that was turned four times compared to the bottom right corner - a biscuit that was cut after the dough was first rolled out. The secret to nice browned tops? An egg wash. Our group was super efficient and had enough time to make a blueberry sauce that all the chefs thought was wonderful.

Blueberry sauce recipe:
1 cup of frozen blue berries
2 lemons, juiced
10 oz sugar
1 T vanilla extract
Corn starch slurry, as needed

Mix it all together. Continually whisk over heat until reduced by half. Add corn starch slurry to help thicken up the sauce as needed.

I thought our muffins looked bad, but then I looked at the group next to ours and their muffins looked a little worse. Here are our muffins:

Here are their muffins:

Turns out they used old baking powder that did not give rise to their product, In addition they over stirred, which resulted in a tunneling (pockets inside the muffins). Finally, their mixture was too wet and all the blueberries settled to the bottom.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Feed the BEAST**!

Chef Fleck taught us how to feed sour dough culture today. He had two cultures going, one from nasty rotten grapes and one from left over beer slop. Yum. He drained off the liquid and added back either 1:1 of water and flour or 1:1 of water and red (rye) flour. Stir until well mixed. Cultures can apparently survive in the refrigerator for a long long time (per Chef Fleck, up to 3 mos.).
*"Feed the Beast" is a reference to Kitchen Confidential

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Spring Time

We serve cherry tomatoes with some of our salads and today I cut the most amazingly awesome tomatoes. They're called Yellow Spring. I love them! Love them. They're yellow on the outside, but you can see a greenish hue underneath. Once they're cut open, the insides are a Slimer green. Topped with a little Kosher salt and mmm! Delish.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Green with Scallions

Another lesson in economy of motion: All this time I was slicing three green onion stalks at a time. Today, I left the rubber band on and look at how much more efficient I've become. :)

Monday, October 05, 2009

Best Ladle Ever!

Occasionally, I will have to pilfer yuzu pickles from downstairs for our burgers and sandwiches for my co-workers. It used to be a pain in the butt because of the amount of pickles that I had to transfer with a ladle. That is until I found the best ladle ever! See below:

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Crazy About Competitions

The RCA has a student competition that is upcoming. It seems really cool and I would love for my team to become part of the finalist team. The competition consists of creating a Texan dish using beef as a main ingredient as a frozen dinner and compare it to a gold standard. The gold standard of a dish is cooked fresh and does not contain all the additives that you would normally include in a processed food because it is consumed immediately and does not have to survive freeze-thaw cycles as well as other things that occur during frozen storage including moisture migration from a dish that has liquids to another one that does not (think ice cream sandwiches). I am SO excited that I get to use my food science knowledge AND my recently found culinary skills.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Place Where the Finger Points to

Golden Boy is some Did I just violate Campbell's trademark? Our tour guide in San Fran recommended the pizza joint where there's a giant finger pointing towards it. Uhh...yea we had no idea how to look that up on Google maps. Crunchy crust, well seasoned sauce, stretchy warm cheese, and yummy veggies on top. The inside looks kind of sketchy, click on the picture to read their funny menu:

Friday, October 02, 2009

MMM Garlicy

For anyone who has ever dined with me, they know that I LOVE garlic. When I lived in CA (many years ago), we would always drive past The Stinking Rose and I would always want to eat there. Well, wouldn’t you have it, as Rick and I were walking away from our disappointing Chinatown experience, we passed The Stinking Rose. We ordered their famous garlic ice cream and tiramisu.
I must admit because of my previous job experience, I have become rather critical of ice cream and the importance of certain textural elements. In a nutshell the ice cream was comprised of huge ice crystals that gathered together into a massive blob. The tiramisu was to die for, the ladyfingers were soaked in a perfectly flavored espresso, alcohol mixture.
Hey! They have a sense of humor:

That’s Why It Tastes So Good!

It's because the food is so fresh. That's a pet store next to a Chinese restaurant.
We stopped in a for a quick snack in Chinatown. Rick had reservations eating at one of the places I was leaning towards because it was near a pet shop and smelled like pets. We settled on ?, which Samantha Brown from the Travel Channel had visited at one point in time. The food was subpar and MSG laden. T-B: wonton noodle soup and black bean pork ribs

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Cupcakes in Ghiradelli Square?

Yum! Rick and I were expecting to eat chocolate sundaes in Ghiradelli Square until I spotted Kara’s Cupcakes. I can not walk past a cupcake bakery without stopping in (they are my crack-cocaine equivalent). We settled on the pumpkin, fleur de sel (one my new obsessions), and double chocolate cupcakes. The pumpkin cake was moist and the pumpkin spices were perfectly balanced and the cream cheese icing was unbelievably smooth, not one hint of graininess. The double chocolate icing intrigued me, it was light and fluffy. I almost suspect that they use a siphon because that’s how aerated the delicious chocolate buttercream icing felt as it collapsed in my mouth, while coating each taste bud with the buttercream flavor.

Belly Flops

Rick and I toured the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, CA. What a fun tour, sometimes I wished I didn’t work in the food manufacturing industry, so that I wouldn’t be so critical of the facilities. A tiny part of me continues to audit any facility I tour and pick out all the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) violations. That aside it was neat to watch their videos of how Jelly Belly’s are made and what they do to ensure that only “perfect” jelly beans get through their process. Imperfect jelly beans are called “Belly Flops” (I know! I thought it was the cutest most clever name ever) and sold in their store.
Here’s a bear made from Jelly Bellys:
A duck sculpture: