Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Baker's Philosophy

Good evening :)

Waking up at 7am on a Saturday morning for class is never fun, and it certainly wasn't today (a Saturday morning), but once I was in class, I forgot how early it was and really enjoyed the lesson!

We had a different chef that we had for Lesson 1, and I got a totally different perspective on baking for which I feel so grateful! Don't get me wrong - I still really like the other Chef - but it was just nice to kinda switch things up today and learn some different techniques! Today was a demonstration, so we just watched the Chef cook and took notes. We'll be expected to prepare these dishes in practical on Monday. The dishes the Chef made today were

- Genoise (sponge cake)
- Biscuits a la cuillere (lady fingers)
- Biscuits roule (rolled biscuits)
- Dacquoise (nut cake)

The lesson went really well, but this chef seemed to move a bit more quickly than the other chef. He also had a tendency to be less precise and just kinda "went with it" if you know what I mean lol For instance, in one of the recipes, he forgot to add the vanilla when he was supposed to, but as soon as he realized it, he just shrugged his shoulders and made a "lesson" out of it, saying that sometimes everyone makes mistakes, but the key in cooking is finding a solution. A solution always exists, he said. Sometimes, however, the solution might be that you have to start the recipe over, but other times, he said as he poured the vanilla into the mixture, the solution involves just playing with the order of the steps. A good chef, even a pastry chef, he said, is flexible.

I feel like I really learned a lot today - and not just how to make the four dishes the Chef made, but I learned *how to learn.* I liked that the Chef wasn't "perfect" and didn't profess to be because I believe that no one is perfect! I feel that there have been times in my life that I have wasted too much time trying to be "perfect" and because of that I haven't really learned whatever I was supposed to be learning. I was too caught up in achieving the unattainable goal of PERFECTION.

I really like that we had a different Chef teaching us today because it just served as a reminder that even in the precise "art" of pastry-making, there isn't just one *perfect* way to do something. Each chef has his/her individual spin on things. What I should be learning here is not necessarily how to make the perfect dacquoise, for instance, but what I should be learning is how to critically think (and not just copy what another chef is doing) and learn what method works best for me. I should be learning how to be flexible. I should be learning how to be what the Chef today called "trainable." I shouldn't get too set in my ways, but should be open to new ways of doing things, and I should always be open to (and welcome!) change. The smartest people I know are those who listen to others' opinions and input and can thus see a situation from a multitude of angles. I think that this enables an individual to find the best solution because they can look at an issue from several points of view.

Wow - sorry to get all philosophical, but actually I'm not really that sorry at all lol I feel like I was able to learn about and reflect upon a lot today, and I'm so glad I did :)

A few cooking tips I picked up:

- Remember my cookies from yesterday that were a bit light (instead of brown)? The Chef today explained that the reason we should let baked goods get a bit brown (not burnt, but just golden brown) is that the flavor of the butter gets WAY more developed the longer something cooks and the flavor can come through a lot more when something is golden brown. Hmm...I guess I'll try this out in practical on Monday and see what happens!

- If you add cream of tartar (or another acid, like a squeeze of lemon juice) to egg whites before you beat them into stiff peaks (like for a meringue or something), they are easier to beat.

- If your arm gets tired, it's ok to take a break when hand-whipping egg whites (I was happy to learn this!)

- Dacquoise (nut cake) is *delicious*!!

And here are some pictures:

Chef incorporating some flour into the whipped egg whites for the biscuits a la cuillere (lady fingers)

Piping the biscuits a la cuillere (lady fingers)

Piping the dacquoise (nut cake) - he said we can do any shape we want, but the "traditional" way is to do a spiral

Preparing for the final presentation

Final Presentation! From left to right it's the biscuits a la cuillere (lady fingers), the biscuits roule (rolled biscuits), the Genoise (sponge cake), and the dacquoise (nut cake)

Anyway, it was a really good day of class, and I also had a lot of fun at dinner! A group of about 8 of us went out to a pub-type place. I had fish and chips, and it was wonderful! Just what I needed after what seemed like a long couple of days (long in a good way, but still exhausting!) It was really nice just to go out and relax with everyone and get to know people better. We talked about everything - politics (which at one point involved an intense, yet friendly, debate between a Jewish boy from New Jersey, a Christian girl from Egypt, and a Muslim boy from India), culinary school, our friends and families, how much we love the Food Network, and what we want to do in the future. It was a wonderful evening that ended in a slice of peanut butter pie (I was beyond thrilled to see it on the menu and knew I had to get some! lol) and an amaretto sour :)

I'll say goodnight with another quote from my "Cupcake" book which stood out to me as I flipped though the book just now and which seemed an appropriate quote for my day today: "Food is our common ground, a universal experience" - James Beard. I usually get wary when I hear talk about experiences that are "universal" because sometimes I feel that by simply universalizing an experience, you can risk undermining its significance. However, I don't mind this quote so much because it reminds me of all the times I have bonded with someone with whom I seem to find little else in common (or, more accurately, with whom I can't really find much to talk about) over the topic of food. Conversations about food are usually my "go-to" in awkward (or potentially awkward) situations in which the conversation lags or there are moments of uncomfortable silence (I don't necessarily mind silence, but when it is uncomfortable it can be *very* unpleasant! lol) But everyone always seems to have something to say about food :)

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