Friday, October 28, 2011

Butter makes everything better ;)

Today was pretty much the day I have been waiting for since the start of culinary school. When I got my schedule the first day of classes, I highlighted and circled and starred October 28th.

Today, everyone, was French pastry day.

That means that today we did croissants, pains au chocolat (chocolate filled pastries), brioche (several different varieties), pain aux raisins (raisin bread), and danishes (several different varieties as well). It was a good, good day. (Especially because it gave me motivation to get out of bed at 7am and walk to school in the -4 (yes, *negative four*) degree weather. No snow, but it was *very* cold. As a side note, this cold weather came completely out of the blue! It has been in the 40s and 30s, and this morning it just decided to drop to the negatives. Oh, Ottawa.)

Anyway, on to more important things like delicious French pastries! Here are some interesting food facts I learned:

- The French language has words for a dough with butter inside ("paton") and a dough without butter inside ("detrempe"). I know there's the whole French/American tension thing, but really, how bad can they really be if they have words for that??

- Ever wondered why croissants are shaped in a crescent shape? Well, in 1686, the city of Budapest, Hungary was being attached by the Turks. One night, there was a baker working in an underground bakery (apparently, all bakers worked underground in these days - it was cooler down there!) and he heard some strange rumbling noises. He immediately alerted the city's military leaders, who came and found that the Turks were trying to get into the city by tunneling under the city's walls. There was a battle and the Hungarians were able to eventually destroy the Turks' underground tunnel. The baker became a hero, and he decided to bake a special pastry commemorating the fight. The pastry, the first "croissant," was shaped like a crescent, the symbol on the Turkish flag, and whenever it was consumed by the Hungarians, the joke was that the Hungarians were eating the Turks for lunch!

- Salt deactivates yeast, so yeast should never be in direct contact with salt and allowed to just sit. If you are making a dough that has both salt and yeast in it, you must add the salt to the flour, mix well, *then* add the yeast while constantly mixing to make sure it is all incorporated.

- There is a different technique for kneading each kind of dough! Before today, I honestly just thought there was one way to knead, but I was very wrong!

- And, when you are kneading the dough, do not be afraid to really put energy into it! At first, I was being really gentle because I didn't want to "disturb" the dough, but Chef came and told me to just go for it - think of something that makes you angry and punch it! He joked that "Cuisine" makes him angry lol - there is this rivalry here between pastry chefs and cuisine chefs - so when he pounded out the dough in demonstration, he kept saying "Cuisine...I hate cuisine" each time he punched the dough lol

- Never forget your egg wash when baking something! It makes it look so much prettier when it comes out of the oven - shiny and golden!

- And, most importantly, there is an *absurd* amount of butter in French pastries! We are talking Paula Dean amounts of butter! I can't believe all the butter really fit into the dough! No one was complaining though ;)

I am completely exhausted from all the physical labor today, but I am really happy with the outcome! So is my stomach! ;)

Here are the pictures:

Chef putting the little Brioche Tetes into the tart dishes.

Braided Brioche!

Chef getting everything out of the oven and ready for the final presentation! (Our mouths were watering at this point - the room smelled sooo good!)

Chef's final presentation! The day before he told us all to bring coffee to demonstration this morning because we would be having a "breakfast buffet"! lol

Up close shot of Chef's *delicious* pastries! I was praying mine would look half this good!

Now, time for Practical:

Getting everything out of the oven and onto cooling racks during practical! I was so exhausted by this point, but really happy with my products! My croissants and pains au chocolat are in the far back left (behind the bread loaf thing, which is called a "brioche nanterre"), then my brioche tetes are in front of the loaf and the braided brioche is next. On the right side, the little cinnamon roll looking things are my pains aux raisins.

It looked (and smelled) like a bakery in practical today!

Up close shot of some of my pastries! The loaf/brioche nanterre is in the back, the brioche tetes are on either side, and the braid is in front with some pains aux raisins on top!

My second plate of pastries: the pains au chocolat (chocolate pastries) are in the center, and the croissants and more pains aux raisins are around the circumference.

My final presentation! Now let's eat! ;)


  1. Pains au chocolat is delicious!!! Jealous.

    I like how you say the weather suddenly got cold...when it was 30/40 to begin with lol. Guess you've gotten used to Ithaca weather. It suddenly dropped here too and I went to NJ to visit my parents over the weekend and there was a snow storm! 4-6 inches!!! Our power went out and we had no electricity or heat or internet or microwave (the most important), for 12+ hours. Lots of blankets were used.

    I like the little knowledge tidbits.

    How can your chef hate cuisine chefs?! He can't live on pastries alone...or maybe he can. I wish I could.

    Your pastries look delicious. Keep up the good work.