Cooking School Week 16
I’ve been through 16 weeks y’all — count ’em! As you can see, I’m very excited about that. 🙂 No, I’m not trying to rush school along. I am growing weary of the grind, but when I think about how I’m going to feel about things when it’s over, the word bittersweet is definitely the description that comes to mind. I intend to enjoy every minute of the next 6 weeks, because they’re going to go FAST, just like every week since Christmas break has.
Monday we had a field trip, and if you follow me on Instagram, you saw my photo at one of my favorite bread bakeries at the SF Ferry Building, ACME Bread. ACME was our first stop on our field trip, and we got a tour of the bakery. It was so small in that kitchen, and so much was going on. We found out that it’s an all night affair at a bread bakery, which means they’re producing beautiful loaves, baguettes, morning buns, etc. all night to distribute to markets and their other bakeries in the morning. There was a mixer the size of a hot tub to mix the dough, which was then dumped out onto a counter, divided up and weighed in bins. They just happened to be mixing my favorite cranberry walnut dough when we were there. Amazing!
Just look at the size of that mixer!
And I just wanted to dive into that dough. 🙂
After ACME bread, we got our coffee and drove way out to Valley Ford Cheese Company in Petaluma, which is a long drive from SF. We got a tour of the farm, which was extremely dry from lack of rain, and got to see the calves, and taste the delicious cheese in the tasting room.
The calves were adorable, and that cheese is some of the best I’ve tasted.
Our final stop was True Grass Farms, which specializes in grass fed beef and pork. We had a tour and lovely picnic, which included some of the grass fed beef. It was tender and flavorful, and it was seasoned with just salt and pepper. That was all it needed folks, because it was a quality product. We were able to watch the pigs at feeding time, which was a hoot! The pig on the left was fat and happy after feeding, and the two on the right are pregnant.
I had more fun watching those pigs, and I really wanted to take a piglet home. 🙂
Tuesday we were back in the kitchen for menu day, and it was a delicious one at that.
Dandelion greens and Ricotta Ravioli with Morel Sauce. The greens were quite bitter, but was balanced out by the rich ricotta and earthy mushrooms.
Swiss Chard and Mushroom Wrapped Halibut with Cauliflower Puree. In a word, YUM.
Cinnamon Beignets with Mexican Chocolate Soup. My classmate and I worked on this, which was the first time I’d ever made donuts before. It was fun, and were they delicious! They were so scrumptious dunked into the rich, cinnamon-y Mexican chocolate. 🙂
On Wednesday we had a workshop day on Offal dishes, which is pronounced like the word “awful”, which is exactly what I thought of most of this food. Think variety meats here: liver, kidney, tongue, tripe, sweetbreads, and oxtail. I will tell you right now, I got queasy thinking about eating most of this. Oxtail? That wasn’t a problem. The rest? Yeah…the rest was a problem. Anything that smells God awful when you cook it like tripe has to taste awful too. I did try a smidgen of beef heart on a skewer and shredded beef tongue in a taco smothered in so much stuff I barely knew it was there. I still knew it was there, and that was as brave as I got. I only too photos of the dishes I liked, because thankfully all of it wasn’t Offal!
Fattoush or Greek Salad with Homemade Pita Chips and Aram Sandwiches. Now this food was more like it! Homemade lavash wraps, and two servings of this salad, and I forgot all about the other stuff. 😉
Wednesday afternoon we had a Moroccan food demonstration, and the food was outrageously good. It was wonderful, and I wished I had more room left so I could eat more of it.
Zaalouk, which was a spicy eggplant dip with homemade pita chips. This dip…oh, this dip. It was just bursting with the flavors of cumin, tomatoes, garlic, paprika, and it was so well-balanced. The thing about the Moroccan food is that while there’s a lot of spices, it’s not hot and spicy, it’s soulful.
Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives was served over couscous. The tagine was spiced with the Moroccan flavors of cloves, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, cardamom, and saffron to name a few. The lamb was so tender. I need to cook like this at home.
Dessert was a gorgeous citrus salad with mint, dates, and orange blossom water. I found the orange blossom water to be a bit overpowering, but this salad was so bright and citrusy, and I loved it with those chewy, sweet dates.
Thursday was another menu day with more duck. Ugh.
Chanterelle, Butternut Squash, and Gruyere Tart with Fresh Herb Salad. This tart was rich and oh so delicious, and was my favorite part of the meal.
Stuffed Duck Legs with Braised Red Cabbage and Potato Gratin. Since duck legs require long, slow cooking, these weren’t anywhere near tender enough since we barely had an hour to cook them. This dish required a lot of work! I enjoyed the cabbage and gratin, but left most of my duck untouched.
Nougatine with Candied Orange, Pistachios, and Pain d’Amande. This is basically a no-churn ice cream, and while it was very tasty, it was very sweet. I only ate half. The cookie was good, but not my favorite. Let it go down in history that I did not clean my dessert plate. 😉
Friday was Croissant Day! I was both nervous and excited about it. We’d made our doughs on Thursday afternoon and did our 4 rollouts, so Friday, all we had to do was roll them out and cut them, set them aside to rise, and bake them off. Perhaps you’ve seen my post on Chocolate Croissants? I made them at school and was lucky enough to take some home. 🙂 We used half of the dough for regular croissants, and half for chocolate croissants. We got a total of 8 croissants and 5 chocolate croissants out of one batch of dough. Not bad! I actually loved making them, and found it easier than puff pastry for sure.
Here are my croissants!
More croissants on display.
And here is an aerial shot, because I just love how it looks like a bakery!
And now, here are your tips of the week:
- When using dried mushrooms like porcini in a dish, always save the reserve soaking liquid, run it through a fine mesh sieve, and use it soups, stews, sauces, etc. It adds a nice umami flavor!
- Morel mushrooms are a spring mushroom and are grown where the earth has been disturbed, like fires. They’re very dirty, but once you’ve cleaned them, they’re great in dishes with cream sauces and fish, and lend an earthy, smokey flavor.
- When making eggplant dip, try grilling the eggplant slices just until soft, peel them, and they’ll make the dip taste nice and smokey. 🙂
- When making bread dough, the salt is often added after the first bulk rise as salt can kill the yeast. Your bread will turn out fine if you add it earlier, but even better if you do it later!
- The second rise during bread making can be done overnight in the refrigerator, which is actually the best method. The coolness retards the dough, which helps it rise more slowly. The longer the rise takes, the better the flavor from yeast fermentation.
- If you want pastries to have a deep, golden brown color, egg wash once, pop in the fridge for 10 minutes, then egg wash again before placing in the oven. Voila! Golden brown pastries.
- When baking bread, the dough is ready to bake after the 2nd rise when you press it and the dough does not spring back.
Have a fabulous weekend!