If I can summarize baking and pastry week three in a few words, it would be “no more pie crusts!!!” I think all I did for 8 hours this week was make pie crusts. I don’t want to do it again anytime soon. While the crusts themselves were SUPER delicious, making, and more specifically, rolling them out was a pain in the rear and a skill for which I don’t have enough patience to perfect.
First, we made dough for a quiche, the recipe for which I will post at some point. Now, I like a good quiche, but never did I think I’d be the creator of something so de.li.cous. We made a quiche on Wednesday night, I took it home, cut a slice for Terry to taste, took a bite and decided immediately that we’d be keeping this entire dish to ourselves.
Also on the menu this week was a fruit tart made with pastry cream. I really liked the process of making the pastry cream because you have to be pretty concise – you have to constantly mix the ingredients in order to make sure the eggs are cooked enough without curdling. It’s a great upper-body workout for sure. Not to mention the pastry cream tastes like heaven.
Week two of baking and pastry was pretty sweet. (See what I did there?) I’m getting my routine down, getting around the kitchen better and we’re getting into more technically difficult dishes. This week was chocolate chip cookies, banana bread and the best thing so far – French macarons. I was looking so forward to the macarons. I’ve wanted to try them for a while and if I had done it on my own, there’s no way they would have turned out as good as when I had instruction from a professional chef. We also worked on some cookie bars that we’ll get back to this week now that they’ve been frozen and will be easier to cut. I bet they’ll taste good – the filling is pears, cream and currants with an oatmeal crust and struesel on top.
At orientation they said that we’d be totally turned off to desserts while in this class. I’m already there. Aside from taking a bite to taste how things are, I really don’t want to eat any of it. I figure I’ll get past that once I’m done with this class. I definitely have a much deeper appreciation for the work that goes into creating even the simplest of desserts. I definitely do want to try the macarons again on my own. If I can get those nailed down, I’m set for any party I need to bring a dessert to.
I have a feeling that while I’m in school, my weekend cooking will either take a back seat or become substantially more low-key. But maybe not. In any case, this quick and easy meal was just the right thing to make after a busy week. Serves 2.
¼ lb Kalamata olives
½ pint cherry or grape tomatoes
4 oz feta cheese crumbles (I use Athenos brand)
4 tbsp plain hummus
3 oz marinated artichoke hearts
I package Udis flatbread (or comparable item)
Quarter the olives, artichokes and the tomatoes, set aside
Chop the oregano and set aside
Lay out the flatbread and spread 2 tbsp hummus on each
Top each with the artichokes, olives, tomatoes, feta and oregano
Cook according to flatbread package instructions, 7-9 minutes
What a whirlwind in this first week! Twice a week I will head to school where each class starts with a 20-30 minute lecture and the rest of the time is spent in the kitchen. I was very interested in the lecture topics, but I was so tired I found it hard to give it 100% of my attention. I think it will take another week or so before I am totally adjusted.
The program doesn’t normally start with the baking and pastry class. I had a small number of people starting with me so we joined an in-progress cohort. Next quarter, I’ll go back to the basics – stocks, sauces, knife skills, etc.
There are 7 people in my class, and in the kitchen we buddied up to do our mise en place for our recipes for the night. I was the odd man out, so instead of having a partner to help set things up, I had the honor of setting up for myself AND the chef’s demo table. This task, on my very first day, my very first time setting foot in the kitchen. No pressure!
Tonight we’d be making cranberry-orange scones and savory biscuits. I looked at the ingredient list and totally froze. Yep, those things are over on the table there. But how do I get over there and get them? And everything had to be measured in ounces and grams, not tablespoons or cups like I’d been used to and on a scale I’ve never used before, let alone had enough time to put the batteries in. (I only received my knife kit and uniform the night before.) Yeah. Ok, let me just hurry up and get you all set up, Chef. I bumbled my way through it, the chef gave her demo and we all finally moved on to making our own dish.
By the time everyone was done baking and the kitchen was cleaned up, it was almost 11:00 and I had been awake for 17 hours. I got home, peeled off my uniform, took a shot of vodka and went to bed wondering how the hell I was going to do it all over again the next day, let alone for the next year.
It’s been a while since we’ve done a Chopped challenge and with the extra day this weekend, we decided it was time to go for another round. Terry was totally into giving me some hard ingredients and I was ready to accept whatever I was dealt.
She was not fooling around this time. We already decided that whatever I was going to make with her mystery ingredients, I’d just make an appetizer portion. That way, there’s not a ton of weird leftover food. So this time I had to work with lox, chickpeas, dried apples and puppy chow. She definitely threw down with those ingredients. What the hell is anyone supposed to do with this stuff?
This round was different too because normally I get the ingredients earlier in the day and have some time to think about it. This time, when we were hungry, she gave me the ingredients and I went right to work. I didn’t have a time limit, but pretended I did, which is why I think this turned out kind of sloppy.