Oct 02 2010

On the Rise

Published by at 3:49 pm under Cooking Classes

Thank you all so much for your votes for Project Food Blog! Sadly my entry wasn’t chosen to go on to the next round, but in all honesty, I’m not too disappointed. I have enough on my plate now that school’s started, and I was wondering how I’d get everything done. And as my friends and family know, I hardly need an excuse to throw a fancy dinner party, anyway!

Oh, and as you can see from the photo above, I did get to make that French Onion Soup after all. Being in control of the process from the beginning of the beef stock to the final broiling of the cheese was a truly educational treat!

Thursday was another menu day at Tante Marie’s, meaning my classmates and I threw together a multi-course lunch, with each person working on a different dish. I was charged with cooking the entrĂ©e, Steak au Poivre. It’s a classic French dish, a New York steak seared in a frying pan with crushed peppercorns, and it hardly took any time to make. That’s why I also got to make Mexican Wedding Cookies while my steak was sitting out, absorbing the seasonings.

Others may know this already, but as a newbie to Mexican Wedding Cookies, I was surprised to learn they contain no eggs — just flour, sugar, butter, vanilla and chopped pecans or walnuts. I don’t think I’ve ever made cookies sans eggs (well, at least not intentionally; my assistant will remember a certain Coconut Almond Joy Cookie disaster). Then they’re tossed and turned in powdered sugar to form a thin, sweet coating. With a substantial amount of butter but no eggs, these cookies literally dissolve in your mouth. They’re a perfect treat after dinner or a picnic, when you don’t want anything too heavy but just a bite of something sweet. I’m definitely going to try these at home.

Anyway, the rest of Thursday’s menu included mushrooms stuffed with herbs and prosciutto that was actually by another class during their culinary course. Needless to say, I can’t wait to get to that part — apparently we break down a whole pig and use every part. We also enjoyed mashed potatoes piped out of a pastry bag and broiled, along with a dessert of lemon mousse and fresh berries. Lovely.

But the after-lunch demonstration was the best part, because we watched my instructor make French Bread from scratch. I’ve been experimenting with bread baking lately, so I was especially interested to see how the pros do it. And I am sufficiently impressed with her kneading and forming skills — it definitely isn’t as easy as it looks.

The number one tip I’ve learned about making bread is to be patient. If you’re supposed to let it rise for an hour and a half, wait the whole hour and a half before going to the next step. It’ll be worth it when you’re bread comes out of the oven perfectly fluffy. Also, buy bread flour instead of using all-purpose. I’ve done it both ways and after tasting side by side, the bread flour gives you the yeasty taste and the spongy texture that everyone loves about artisanal breads.

In fact, I mixed up some dough yesterday, let it rise, and then baked it this morning the right way. The shape was totally lumpy and unprofessional looking, but I was very pleased with the taste and texture. Must work on forming the dough at the end there.

One response so far

One Response to “On the Rise”

  1. Billyon 06 Oct 2010 at 7:16 am

    Hey Liv! We need to see more photos of YOU! By the way, you look teriffic in your chef’s jacket – very professional. Soon your hands will be scarred with burns and knife wounds!