Cooking School Week 10

golden gate bridge Is this just the most picturesque view or what?  There’s a “park” called Jack Early park right by my school.  It’s up a very steep hill, then some very steep stairs, and at the top, there’s a terrace with a bench to sit or stand and take in the breathtaking panoramic views of San Francisco.  I’m not sure why it’s called a park, but I just know that I love the view from there. I could stand and look at it all day, but then I would miss class. 🙂 Monday of last week was one of the best days in class EVER.  It was breakfast breads and muffins day, and we tackled enough baked goods for an army.  Even I was tired of baking at the end of the day!  We had enough coffee cake, scones, muffins, cakes, and bars for our very own bake sale. bake sale Do you like this panoramic shot?  There were 14 baked items in all!  At the end of the day, we got to take home whatever we could fit on an 8″ cake round.  Mine was crammed. 🙂  Below are close-ups of my favorites: persimmon date bars Persimmon Date Bars with Browned Butter Frosting.  OH MY, these were so good. colonial pumpkin bars Colonial Pumpkin Bars.  I can never say no to a pumpkin bar with cream cheese frosting. 🙂 cranberry upside down cake Cranberry Upside Down Cake….sweet…tart…dee-licious. coffee cake Streusel Kuchen with apples.  Basically, it’s a German coffee cake, and it had a crumbly topping that you could just dive into. scones Currant Buttermilk Scones.  Buttery, flakey, and just perfect. apricot coffee cake Apricot Coffee Cake with Oatmeal Crumble, which I made.  I loved this, and will definitely get it on my blog some time. 🙂 lemon coconut tea bread Lemon Coconut Tea Bread, which I also made.  It was like a lemony-macaroon cookie!  Behind it are Currant-Carrot Muffins and Persimmon Muffins, which were such great flavors. Tuesday we had lunch guests, and made a really nice menu for them. chicken croquetas Chicken Croquettas — deep fried to perfection and out of this world! grilled tuna with romesco sauce Grilled Albacore Tuna with Romesco Sauce, rice pilaf, and spinach salad with shaved Jerusalem artichokes.  The Romesco sauce was the perfect condiment, and I can honestly say I could eat it straight out of a bowl with a spoon. 😉 praline cream roulade I made this Hazelnut Praline Roulade cake with cream.  It was a genoise cake with hazelnut praline folded into the cream.  It was a lot of work, and it was only ok.  Probably won’t be making this again! Tuesday afternoon an entire half of a pig was delivered to our school, and we witnessed a butcher cut up the entire thing.  I have pictures, but I’m not including them.  I know a lot of you wouldn’t enjoy seeing that!  It was a unique experience. 😉 Since we had every cut of meat from the pig the previous day, Wednesday was devoted to cooking, marinating, and dealing with every part of it.  We made 6 pork dishes that day, and marinated several and/or prepped other cuts for our ham, bacon, etc.  I actually got to make ground pork using the KitchenAid attachment, and it was really fun.  We were 2 people short in class, so it was pretty intense tackling all the dishes.  We buckled down and got ‘er done. 😉 veal scalloppini Veal Scallopine with Wild Mushrooms.  I know veal isn’t pork — we did have some other meat to cook, too. 🙂 risotto milanese and braised artichokes Osso Buco served with braised artichokes and risotto Milanese.  The plate was comfort food at it’s finest, and I’ve never tasted an osso buco so delicious in my life.  The pork was so fresh, and it was cooked nice and slow so that it just melted in your mouth.  The risotto was flavored with saffron, which is my favorite spice since starting school.  It’s so expensive that I’ve never purchased it, but I’m hooked on it and finally broke down and bought some.  I can’t wait to use it! We made so many other dishes:  roast pork with prunes and apricots, medallions of pork with cherry sauce, and spare ribs with white wine.  No photos, but oh so good. Thursday we had lunch guests, so we had another special menu. garlic custard Our first course was garlic custard with wild mushrooms and walnuts.  Rich, yes.  Delicious, YES.  I couldn’t eat all of it as it was too rich, but was it ever good!  It’s not the best photo, but the custard was too liquid to turn out onto the plate, so it was left in the ramekin. millk braised pork loin I was tasked with milk braised pork loin, which sounded bizarre to me.  The meat was slow cooked in milk and the milk caramelized and became very concentrated with the juices from the meat.  I actually really enjoyed it.  Again, not the best photo, especially because the milk looks curdled.  It’s actually supposed to! The pork was served with rice pilaf and and arugula salad with persimmons, pomegranates, and pecans.  It was so good I kept thinking about it.  I made it over the weekend, too, and I can’t wait to post it here soon. 🙂 Dessert was my favorite dessert EVER.  That’s saying a lot.  If you follow me on Instagram, you saw it! mocha baked alaska Mocha Baked Alaska with Brown Sugar Meringue.  Rich, chocolate cake covered with coffee caramel ice cream and that fluffy, soft Italian meringue. Sheer heaven! Friday was a fabulous menu.  Pork, pork, and more pork, with lots of bavarian cream and cold soufflé desserts! cuban sandwich sliders Cuban roast pork sliders….meat marinated by Yours Truly and cooked and assembled by myself and another classmate.  The rolls were made by another classmate. pork sandwiches These sandwiches…oh, these sandwiches!  These are Tante Marie’s 30th Anniversary Sandwiches, and they were so special.  The pork was roasted with a fennel and herb crust, and was served with an Italian parsley salsa verde that was so fresh and vibrant! We also enjoyed the pork sugo, or ground pork pasta sauce that I’d labored over for 3 days.  I made polenta as a side for it.  Are you full just listening to everything we ate?  😉 The afternoon was dedicated to presenting our individual desserts, which were bavarian creams and cold soufflés.  Both of these desserts are set up with gelatin, and refrigerated for 24 hours normally.  We didn’t have 24 hours — it was more like 4!  Somehow they were set up enough for us to enjoy a taste of each: cranberry bavarian cream Cranberry Bavarian Cream. Isn’t that gorgeous? chocolate bavarian Chocolate Bavarian Cream.  Blurry picture, but very rich and decadent. lemon souffle Souffle Milanese, or cold lemon soufflé.  So beautiful!  Think of lemon mousse — that’s exactly what this is.  This dessert will actually keep longer than mousse, however, because of the gelatin. 🙂 pumpkin souffle with chocolate Cold pumpkin souffle, made by me.  I’d lost patience by this point, and my decorating skills (or lack thereof) are proof.  Because I love pumpkin and chocolate, I decorated with grated chocolate shavings. Mmmm. Tips of the week:

  • When using the creaming method to make muffins, quick breads, cakes, etc. cream the butter and sugar together for at least 2 minutes or up to 5 with an electric mixer.  This step dissolves the sugar and adds air.  The lighter and fluffier the butter and sugar, the lighter and fluffier the cake or bread!
  • When using the rub-in method, or rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender for baked goods like scones, try freezing the butter, then grating it before rubbing it in.  This keeps the butter nice and cold, and grating it in small pieces makes it quick and easy to rub in.
  • Baking soda must be used whenever there is an acidic ingredient in baked goods like yogurt, buttermilk, molasses, citrus, and even chocolate.
  • When baking with baking soda, once the acidic liquid is mixed with the baking soda, it must be baked right away or the baking soda won’t work.
  • Grass fed meat is much fresher and flavorful than other meats.  The better the animal is raised and fed, the better the quality of meat.
  • The more marbling, or fat throughout the meat, the better the quality of meat.  Fat = flavor!
  • USDA actually grades meat by how much fat it has.  The more fat, the more expensive it will be.
  • Lard is considered to be the new olive oil.  It’s become more widely used, and is not found to be as bad for us as we once thought.  Hmmm…I’m going to have to do more research on this!  We made biscuits in school with lard from our pig this week, and they were lighter and fluffier in texture.  It was amazing!
  • Mousse can be kept longer if gelatin is added!  Whipped cream is also stabilized with the addition of gelatin.
  • When softening or “sponging” gelatin, 1 envelope needs 1/4 cup water.  Add the gelatin slowly to the water in a small glass dish, adding more as the gelatin sinks.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Place in a bain marie to melt or liquify, and it’s ready to add to your bavarian, soufflé, mousse, or whipped cream!
  • You can use alcohol to soften gelatin as well, which will add nice flavor to your desserts. 🙂
  • Gelatin should be about the same temperature as the base that you’re adding it to.  Make sure it’s not too hot!
  • If you don’t have 24 hours to set your dessert, use 1 1/2 tablespoons of gelatin with about 5 tablespoons of water or alcohol — the extra gelatin will help in set quicker.
  • When piping whipped cream, be careful not to over whip.  The action of piping will thicken the cream up as well.

That concludes Week 10 of cooking school.  Hope you enjoyed it! 🙂