Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vanilla comes from orchids and chocolate comes from trees

I am exhausted, but I just wanted to share a bit about class tonight before I take a shower and go to bed because class was AMAZING! I feel like I learned so much during those 3 hours! The Chef-Instructor was SO nice and very knowledgeable and very French! The title of the lecture was "Products in Pastry" and we basically went over each of the products one by one, learning about their composition, how they are grown/made, and what they are used for. We covered Dairy (milk, cream, butter, and eggs), Sugars, Flour, Chocolate(!), Nuts, Vanilla, and Gelatin. We got to taste and tough a TON of different ingredients too which really reminded me of the Wines class I took at Cornell my last semester. No computers are allowed, and all notes have to be taken by hand. There was no actual cooking today, just a lot of information about the ingredients, etc.

Some cool things I learned:

- If you are out of Confectioner's sugar (aka powdered sugar), you can make your own by blending a mixture of 90% granulated sugar and 10% cornstarch - I wish I had known this before! It would have prevented a few last-minute trips to Publix in the middle of a recipe!
- Vanilla beans come from Orchid flowers.
- After you scrape the seeds out of a vanilla bean, you can save the bean, dry it, and blend it with some salt to make vanilla salt (good on fish) or with some sugar to make vanilla sugar (good in backed goods)
- Flour is the trickiest ingredient in pastries because there are so many different kinds and even within the same "kind," there can be immense variation because flour comes from wheat which varies season to season
- Butter should NOT be kept in the freezer
- Only egg yolks contain bacteria - the whites don't - so it's ok to ear raw egg whites, just not raw egg yolks

There is a bunch more, but I think that'll have to be it for now - here is a picture of me from today though with my uniform on! :)

Oh, but one thing that I think is going to be a bit difficult for me is working with the metric system and working in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit, but hopefully I'll catch on soon :)

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