We are officially one month in and OMG I have learned so much! This past week was my last week of baking and pastry, and when we come back from winter break we have 2 days of exams and then I move onto a beverage, or mixology, class.
But this week was FULL of breads. I mean, we made baguettes, challah, babka, pretzels, cinnamon rolls, the list goes on.
Before we get into the knitty gritty, let’s chat yeast. I have always avoided yeast at all cost because I could never get it to activate, my temperature was always too hot or too cold and was just too much heart break for me to handle. But thennnn I got to school, and we use fresh yeast! And it’s the easiest thing in the world. Literally all you do is put the yeast straight in with your flour and salt and liquid and BAM it goes to work! No activating it, no more bread heart break. Just make sure you don’t put the salt directly on the yeast and you’ll be a-okay.
There is a ton of tips and tricks in this post so it’s quite a long one- feel free to read it all of scroll to what you want to learn about!
When we get in in the morning, chef has a list of products up on the board in order of how we should make them. It always starts out with some type of bread dough, so that it can have time to ferment and rise for a few hours. We put our breads in a proof box, which is essentially an oven on a super low temperature, to help speed up the fermentation process so that we can make the bread and cook it off in the same day.
This is a babka bread. You can make babka out of any type of dough, but we made it using challah bread. It has nuts and chocolate twisted throughout the bread, and the dough itself is twisted in a spiral and then topped off with a mango flavored glaze.
Quite possibly my favorite sweet treat, CINNAMON BUNS! I was so excited to learn how to make these, and they were surprisingly super easy. You start off by making a sweet dough, letting it rise for a few hours and then finishing it off. You roll the dough out into a rectangle shape and spread a cinnamon sugar mixture inside the whole rectangle. Roll it up into a log and then cut them about 1 inch thick. Let them rise again, bake them and then top with a glaze made of powdered sugar. This is totally something that a novice baker could pull off!
One day we made pie dough and turned it into a traditional apple pie. Fun fact, there are 3 types of pie crusts- one that is specifically for the bottom crust, one for the top, and one that is more all purpose. Their degree of flakiness is the main difference between the 3, and the most flaky is the one for the top. To get that nice golden brown color, brush the crust with an egg wash (1 egg and 1 tbsp water) and you’ll have a beauteous pie crust.
Let’s talk PRETZELS! These were so good. So what you do to make these is make the pretzel dough and let it rise. Then divide the dough into pieces and roll it out to be about 10 inches long. Twist it into the pretzel formation and then freeze the dough. You freeze the dough because the next step is dipping the pretzel into a lye solution, and it is much easier to handle when it is frozen. Lye is an alkaline solution, so you have to be super careful when handling it and wear gloves so it doesn’t harm your hands. Lye is what gives the pretzel that unique “pretzel” taste. So dip it in the lye, sprinkle it with pretzel salt and then bake them off. So good.
Theeeeese puff pastry danishes were real winners. We made a blitz puff pastry, aka a much quicker version of puff pastry, that still tastes super delish. With puff pastry the key is to fold it 5 times to get the layering of a puff pastry. We folded them into these fancy little shapes and then put a dallop of cream cheese icing and a blueberry filling, baked them off and then topped with a mango icing.
We also made cream pies and eclairs, which ended up being a two day process. First we made the pate-a-choux, or the cream pie “dough”. To make this you make a rue of oil and flour over heat, transfer it to a mixer and slowly add eggs. It creates a thick tasteless dough that then becomes the shell. You pipe the dough onto a baking sheet, making them thick enough so that you can fit pastry cream in them later. Bake them and they puff up to look like snails and worms. Thennnn you dip them in chocolate and while they are drying, you make the filling. Which is quite a process. The filling is a mixture of chantilly cream (aka whipped cream) and pastry cream, to create diplomat cream, all of which we made by hand. These little buddies are quite the labor of love, and my appreciation for them and the work that goes into them has been taken to a whole new level after making them myself.
Chocolate cream pie- not my favorite thing we have made, but fairly simple to make. To make the filling you combine cornstarch, sugar and eggs, and then slowly add boiling milk to that mixture, to get the custardy consistency. Stir in some chocolate pieces butter and vanilla, and then pour that into the prepared pie dough and let it sit- no cooking necessary!
Scones- okay I was pretty excited to learn that scones are super easy to make. Essentially what scones are, are a biscuit dough with some dried fruit and sugar on top. A few tips for scones are: make sure your butter and liquid are cold- this will help you get the puff factor. Brush the outside with an egg wash to get the golden color, and don’t over mix your dough, to keep it from getting tough.
And last but not least- baguettes. In France, French bakers practice making baguettes for two years before they are allowed to make them for the public because they are that important to the French cuisines. I learned super quickly that getting a nice baguette is not an easy task. I’d venture to guess that no one is going to go make a baguette at home, but just an interesting tidbit is that to get the traditional baguette look on top, what you do is roll out the dough and then cut 5 lines with a razor into the dough, to get those lighter indents in the baguette. This is one bread that I most def will not be making at home.
Phewf that was a lot of info! Thanks for sticking with me- if you want to try one of these items and want more detailed guidance just let me know and I’d be happy to walk you through what I can!!
Read about what we learned last week here!