Friday, February 29, 2008

Daring Bakers, February: Julia Childs' French Bread


At the beginning of every month, the ever-growing and always welcoming group of Daring Bakers (DBers) are assigned a baking challenge by the month's host, and at the end of that month, en masse, they blog about the baking project, revealing to the world what it is! This month, Breadchick was our host, and our project was Julia Child's French Bread.

I know a lot of my cook friends out there have fabulous Julia stories. I vaguely remember watching her on TV over my mom's shoulder, and I remember that I, who hated to talk, loved her warbly voice.

I've made French bread about a half dozen times--once in French Cuisine class, once in Commercial Baking class, once in Principles of Professional Cooking class, then three times at home. One of those at-home times, I discovered that the oven in my last apartment burned too hot. Another time, I couldn't figure out the shaping directions, and my baguettes looked like rawhide dog bones. The other times, it was decent, well-shaped bread, just like I learned to make in class.

This bread, which I made along with a dozen or so DBers during a Yahoo! conference (thanks for hosting, supporting, instructing, and everything, Breadchick!), took hours to rise--about nine total across three rising stages. That's good, though, because, from what I remember, it adds good flavor to the dough. In a nutshell: the yeasty beasties have more time to multiply and release more byproducts (booze!) that impart more flavor to the bread.

Lift front, fold back, lift all, slap down, repeat
Julia Child's French Bread

Baguettes and blob ... I mean boule ...
Julia Child's French Bread Julia Child's French Bread

Julia Child's French Bread

I'm pretty happy with that crumb and crunchy crust. As usual, I served this month's DB project at my monthly SAS party (savory and sweets, though it started out as salad and sweets, then sandwiches and sweets, then soups and sweets, now stew and sweets ... ). Until this project, SAS had been a lunch party, but anticipating the long rise times, I made it a dinner party. The baguette went with roasted red bell pepper hummus made from tepary beans
Julia Child's French Bread

My first epi (flower of a wheat stalk in French)! I served this with dinner--vegetable stew made with sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, chard, tomatoes, etc. It's also a nod to my friend and fellow wedding cake baker and food guy extraordinaire, Mario
Julia Child's French Bread

I used egg wash to paste mint leaves onto the dessert boule--not as pretty as the breads spotlighted at the kitchn Web site, but I forgot to buy fresh herbs, and hey--dessert bread!
Julia Child's French Bread

I want to crawl into the caverns and take a nap ... but I smeared it with a carrot cake cheesecake cheeseball from the supermarket, instead
Julia Child's French Bread Read more!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Student Diary: Advanced Pastry Arts, Days 5 and 6

Day 5

Sugar-free, gluten-free, fat-free yummies--cranberry mandarin muffins, cranberry walnut cookies, and brown rice peanut butter bars (like krispie treats, but with honey instead of marshmallow)
gluten-free, sugar-free, low-fat

I'm falling behind on diary posts!

Day 5 was all about "spa treats"--stuff you'd bake for people at health spas who need gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, fat-free diets, but who still want baked goods. Easy task, right? Well, it can be! Thanks to the numerous people out there who do the tedious work of finding out what combinations of what flours and whatnots combine to make healthy yumminess, there's a plethora of options out there! Granted, my chef-instructor was still hesitant to admit that these treats could ever replace the full butter/sugar/AP flour stuff (maybe rightly so), but he did manage to pull together some truly ace recipes that his resort serves at its spa. The muffins were as good as muffins can get, and the rice bars taste just about like the real thing ... even better, if you want my honest opinion! The honey it substitutes adds a warm, fruity, golden (no, not color--I mean rich and glowing) flavor. Be warned, though--if you're not into peanut butter, you won't be into these. Luckily, I'm into it. And mmm, luckily, it's also the easiest to make of the three! It's pretty close to this recipe.

We got new teams for this section, and we work together pretty well, taking on whatever tasks needed to be done. It went smoothly, and shhh--we got to go home early!

Day 6

I forgot to photograph my haul from Day 6 because it was just a handful of Kahlua truffles, some coated in chopped almonds, others in chopped walnuts, and I ate them (not all at once, but across a handful of days). We only made a handful before we had to close up shop, and there should be plenty for photographs after tomorrow's class.

We tempered a LOT of chocolate and made the beginnings of our chocolate box project and our Rigi peaks (kinda like fancy Hershey kisses). We worked in the same groups and had an awesome time again. Tempering chocolate isn't nearly as daunting now that I've done it a few times. In fact ... it's pretty stinkin' easy if you follow this method! Just slowly melt it in a double boiler, stirring and taking it off the heat as it's mostly melted. Stir to melt down the few leftover niblets that should be left (110 degrees, if you're a stickler, but not over lest you risk burning and ruining it). Then either let it cool to body temperature, or spread out two-thirds of it and work it over a marble slab or cookie sheet to cool it more quickly before adding it back to the bowl of the remaining chocolate. Once the bowl of chocolate is body temperature, it's tempered. And chocolate has to be tempered if you want it to have that snappy, shiny coating on bon bons or chocolate boxes or whatever you're working on! ;) Read more!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Jon and Jess' wedding cake

The week after I made my first wedding cake, the class project, I made a small white wedding cake for my friends Jon and Jess' wedding. Their colors were cinnamon, chocolate, and copper, and their flowers were daisies. They gave me that info and told me to run with them. I knew that my friend Mario was making the main cake, which was chocolate, and that it would be elegant and proud, so I decided to make mine more whimsical and light hearted. I also knew that Mario would be using real edible flowers to decorate his cake, so I asked him to set a few aside for me to use as a cake topper to tie the two together a little bit.

Base white cake filled and frosted with Italian buttercream
Jess and Jon's cake

Two tiers--the bottom tier was three round layers, and the top was two thick, oval layers
Jess and Jon's cake

Royal icing flowers in the wedding colors; I almost used chocolate to pipe the flowers, but I was afraid it would be too warm, and plus, it's the white cake for a reason--for those who don't like chocolate! I didn't feel like fussing with dying white chocolate, though I had some fun ideas for flowing colors into white chocolate outlines. I also wanted a 3D quality to the flowers, and I got exactly what I wanted with royal icing.
Jess and Jon's cake

Almost done
Jess and Jon's cake

I didn't take any photos myself of the cakes, but the wedding's awesome photographers got a few gorgeous shots. Here are a couple of links to them showing the two wedding cakes and the groom's awesome grand piano chocolate cake, made by the groom's cousin:


the three amazing cakes

There are a couple of things I would do differently:
* making the flowers ahead a little more ahead of time instead of just the night before to make sure they dried all the way; the chocolate color used a significant amount of food coloring, which made the icing slower to dry
* be more careful about prepping a cake board--I used wrapping paper to wrap the boards because I didn't like the gold and silver boards, but then I had to lay down a sheet of parchment paper cut out in a giant daisy so the cake wouldn't grease up the wrapping paper. It worked out, but I could've wrapped over the wrapping paper in parchment or cellophane and made it more decorative and colorful to make the cake pop up from the board Read more!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Queen Creek Olive Oil and creamy tomato soup

In my effort to buy more local ingredients, I decided to pick up a bottle of Queen Creek Extra Virgin Olive Oil when my regular Calavita got down to its last few, feeble drops. It's good stuff! It's fruity and lush without being overbearing. It's not the most versatile olive oil I've worked with, but it is the most quintessential.
local olive oillocal olive oillocal olive oil

I used it in and on the first recipe I was asked to test as part of the new group of ATK recipe testers: creamy tomato soup. Ooooh, yum! It was a nice way to break up the soup's acidity, and to make it simple--tomato and olive flavors are pals, boosting each other up and holding hands.
creamy tomato soup Read more!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cookies for Mario

Mario celebrated his birthday about 6 weeks later than usual because he was moving during his actual birthday. He asked if I'd make cookies to put in his goodie bags. For those of you who know Mario, that was an honor because Mario can cook and bake like ... like awesome! Anyway, he asked for 4-6 cookies for 30 goodie bags, so I aimed to make 15 dozen (180) cookies. I went for two recipes I was sure about--chocolate chip and white chocolate chunk dark chocolate coffee cookies--and a new one that I could roll and cut hearts out of, per Mario's request.

Sablés Nantais--not too sweet, but sweetly sandy, as a good sablée should be. The recipe is from The Colossal Cookie Cookbook, which I Mom handed down to me during my Thanksgiving visit.
Sablés Nantais

For 2 dozen or so cookies, depending on your cutter:
1. Beat until soft: 1 stick of unsalted butter.
2. Sift in and cream: 1 cup of powdered sugar.
3. Beat in, one at a time: two egg yolks and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
4. Sift in a mix to a soft dough: 1 1/2 cups AP flour and 1/4 tsp baking powder.
5. Knead dough on floured surface until smooth.
6. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for 1 hour.
7. Preheat oven to 375.
8. Lightly grease or line with parchment two cookie sheets.
9. Roll out dough on floured surface to 1/4" and stamp out shapes.*
10. Transfer shapes to cookie sheets.
11. Lightly beat 1 egg white and glaze cookies.
12. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
13. Cool on sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to racks.
*If dough is too crumbly, add 1-2 Tbsp milk--this is my fix, not the book's.

180 cookies for Mario's birthday party goodie bags
Mario's cookies Read more!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Public Market, February 2

Yes, this post is way overdue! I went to the market on Feb. 2 and bought produce to last until I knew I'd go back to the Feb. 7 market with Hun. And I haven't been back to the market since!

Radishes from One Windmill Farm
One Windmill Farm's radishesv

Pea shoots from One Windmill Farm
One Windmill Farm's blossoming pea shoots

I wanted to go yesterday, but I was very busy building a wedding cake (coming soon to a post near you) for two of my amazingest friends. Of course I missed going, especially because Cindy, the market's chief, was giving a tour of the building that would soon house the permanent, 7-day-a-week market, adjacent to the market lot. Rats! No matter--I'll make my way into that building eventually! And even awesomer news--the Downtown Phoenix Public Market celebrates it's third anniversary this Saturday! And that I wouldn't miss for the world! Happy Almost Birthday, Public Market!!!

Addendum: Whoops, forgot some photos!

Yummy lentil curry from Saptan's Chill Out Cafe
Sapna's lentil curry, Feb. 2, 2008

Feb. 2 haul: Mexican wedding cookies from Bread Basket Bakery; broccoli, acorn squash, onions, radishes, and pea shoots from One Windmill Farm; extra virgin olive oil from Queen Creek Olive Mill; a cellophane bag of crispy, chocolatey, nutty yummy squares, a caramel tart, and a box of truffles from 602 chocolates; and two truffles from La Belle Fleur (many, many chocolate treats for my Hun's Valentine's Day basket)
Public Market, Feb. 2, 2008

Truffles from Belle Fleur
truffles, La Belle Fleur

Truffles from 602 Chocolates
truffles, 602 Chocolates

truffles, 602 Chocolates

Mexican wedding cookies from Bread Basket Bakery
Mexican wedding cookies, Bread Basket Bakery

Mexican wedding cookies, Bread Basket Bakery Read more!

Student Diary: Advanced Pastry Arts, Day 4

Homework for Day 4 was another piping assignment
Piping assignment 2

And then we spent the rest of the class decorating our wedding cakes

Class sketch: I used my homework sketch--a square wedding cake--and adapted it for my actual cake
class wedding cake sketch

Another homework assignment was three marzipan roses and six leaves
marzipan roses

Cake!: I made more and added them to my cake design because I didn't feel like piping roses, and I love the luck of marzipan and fondant roses
class wedding cake

Side (front) view: The buttercream was melting in my piping back, thanks to my warm hands and the warm kitchen, so my stringwork was pretty darn bloppy; I decided to just run with it (before it ran off the cake). Overall, I'm pretty happy with it! And so was my Hun and co-workers who got to mow into it later--positive reviews all around!
class wedding cake

class wedding cake topper

My classmates rock talent!
Frank's cake
Frank's class cake

Jesse and his cake in the walk-in
Jesse and his cake

Teammate Lori's cake
Lori's class cake

Teammate Rachel's cake (she and I are both Wilton-certified--woot!)
Rachel's class cake

Sonny's (I think) cake
Sonny's (?) class cake

Marcus' amazing cake (we don't call him The Overachiever for nuthin'--he's a total natural in pastry!)
Marcus' class cake Read more!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

3 Dinners

A variation of Heidi's egg salad with Wasa bread
Heidi's egg salad recipe with wassa bread

Braised lamb shank with Julia Child's braised lettuce
lamb shank and braised lettuce!
For the longest time, I'd daydreamed about cooked lettuce. Raw lettuce is nice and all, but it's boring and tiring plain and blehhhhh ... I always thought cooked lettuce would be interesting. Then I saw Julia Child make braised lettuce on The French Chef 2, and a few days later, I was picking up a head of red leaf lettuce and a head of romaine lettuce. They tasted pretty much the same (after being braised with a lamb shank), but they also tasted like awesome! In a nutshell, rinse the whole heads in cold water, blanch for a couple of minutes, halve, season with salt, fold in half horizontally, set into your braising liquid, and braise for 20 hours at 350. In this case, the braising liquid was built on sauteed shallots and garlic, random herbs (thyme, parsley, basil), veggie stock, and salt and pepper ... and lamb shanks! After the shanks and lettuce were done, I removed and tented them under foil and made a pan sauce with some roux. Quick and easy, but because it is braising, it does take 90-120 minutes.

Hot turkey sausage with shrimp and asparagus
turkey sausage, shrimp, asparagus
This was my attempt to use up a bunch of asparagus I bought on sale before they went limp. It's a simple-yet-satisfying dish. Saute sliced hot turkey sausage with some shallots and garlic, then add the asparagus and chopped asparagus at the same time, and toss in some salt and pepper--then cover for about five minutes or so, pulling off the heat when the tails are pink and the shrimp meat is just opalescent. Serve over polenta, including the yummy shrimp/turkey stock, and yum away! Read more!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Breakfast cookies? Woot!

The past week and this coming week have been crazy busy, so in lieu of a new and original post, I give you a reserve post that's at least still original, but that I actually wrote last month. =)


Ever on the search for the perfect-for-me chocolate chip cookie recipe, I was happy when I came across Robyn Lee's Killer Big Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cookies. I love Serious Eats, Robyn Lee's blog, and CCCs, so I ran home to try this one. I liked the results, but next time, I want to try pulling them from the oven a bit so they're not quite as chewy and the top isn't as crispy. These cookies, made with chopped chocolate bars, made me wish I could find Guittard bars more easily.

Robyn Lee's breakfast CCCs

Robyn Lee's breakfast CCCs Read more!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Student Diary: Advanced Pastry Arts, Day 3

Day 3, Advanced Pastry Arts

Something I forgot to write about regarding Day 1. I sat in the back of the room next to a couple of friends from previous classes. As usual, Chef asked each person to introduce themselves and say a little something about themselves. My friend next to me introduced himself and said he had to take the class because “You the man!” he said, pointing at Chef. I looked at my friend and asked the class how I was supposed to top that. “I’m Julie, and I hated cooking and baking until about 5 years ago because it was such a chore to try to prepare three meals a day for seven people that I’d always try to avoid it. But now that I’m learning a few things about it, I’m enjoying it and starting to run with that.”

This week was much less eventful than last week. Chef had been busy at his day job, so he had a friend build his power point presentation. His friend included a character guide, similar to Microsoft’s paperclip character that would pop up with MS Word. This character guide was a snarky, sassy marzipan octopus named Marzie. It was hilarious!

In class, we filled and masked our wedding cakes, practiced some piping skills, then made marzipan and gum paste to practice forming into flowers. Our buttercream, which had been in the fridge for a week, was really stiff despite beating it to death in the Hobart mixer. It took a bit of work to warm it up in our hands to get it even remotely soft enough to pipe. After a few ugly blossoms, I piped a decent rose, then went on to the standard shells, rosettes, and doolie dads … random stuff.

I had fun with the homework that was due that day—piping an assigned border and "Happy Birthday" onto cake boards.

piping practice with toothpaste

It reminded me of working kids’ parties at the Zoo where the other birthday party hosts and I had to pipe "Happy Birthday So and So" onto birthday cakes. I really stunk at it and would always stand back so someone else could do it. For each party, we’d post a whiteboard sign at the party site saying “Happy Birthday So and So” to welcome the incoming party. Sometimes, So and So would be spelled wrong, and a guest or parent would point it out. That’s when we’d know that the receptionist who booked the party had written the kid’s name down wrong. That’s also when we knew that we’d have to run into the kitchen to scrape Sew and Sow off the cake somehow so we could rewrite it correctly.

The other part of our homework was to design a wedding cake and hand in a sketch of it. To practice, I sketched some real cakes out of our textbook.
my sketch of CIA cake my sketch of CIA cake 2

I misunderstood and thought we were supposed to design a square wedding cake, but we were supposed to turn in our designs for cake designs for the cakes we were building (round). The design I turned in was specific for square cakes stacked at an angle. Chef asked if I wanted to use the same design for my round cakes. It won’t quite work because they’re round, and because the borders between each cake layer are only an inch deep, where the square cake layers had a couple of inches where I wanted to plant big fat roses. I’m modifying it in my head, though. The design I turned it looks like architecture plans. Hooray for 5 years of drafting/design studio! Here’s my preliminary sketch.

my wedding cake design

My design concepts were simple, organic, textural, and dynamic. Woot! Join me next week when maybe I'll write about having a completed wedding cake, or maybe a complete disaster! Read more!