Culinary School Here I Come (44) Beginning Baking, Week 1


Once upon a time not so long ago, the only type of flour that a little boy knew of was all-purpose. He had a dream of being in a baking class one night and it quickly turned into a nightmare. His simple world of all purpose flour was shattered when he discovered hard red winter, hard red spring, hard white, soft white, soft red winter, patent flour, clear flour, straight flour, bread flour, high gluten flour, cake flour, pastry flour, whole wheat flour, durum flour, self-rising flour and bran flour. “Oh no” he shouted, “How am I ever going to remember all of this in a test.” He awoke in a sweat and ran to his flour canister to find his old pal, all-purpose. It was only a dream, he thought, until he went to school the next day and read chapter 4 in his textbook. The end!

Well, that ain’t no dream and if and when you decide to take the baking plunge, you will discover a lot of things that never existed in your world before this class…take for example the couche. I would have said something like “Swing that couche around my way.” Well, if I said that in a bake shop I’d get a linen cloth used to proof baguettes thrown at me. “Hey, let’s go to Banneton and pick up something  new.” In that instance I would not be getting a new shirt but I would get a bentwood basket to proof and mold hearth breads. Charlotte molds, savarin molds, peels, sieves and even a roller docker are even more previously unknown tools. Lots to learn here.

Did I mention math is used a lot in the bake shop? Take, for example, the baker’s percentage. This amount is the amount of each ingredient used as a percentage of the total amount of flour used. The total amount of flour used is always 100%. You do need to know that percentages of other ingredients for this to work. Then there is calculating unit costs, as purchased (AP) weight, edible portion (EP) weight and my favorite…..substituting Cocoa for Chocolate and vice-versa. Have you ever wanted to make some brownies and you didn’t have chocolate but you had cocoa powder? Well, with this formula, you can make those brownies. Multiply the weight of the chocolate (6 oz.) by 5/8 = 3.75 oz. This would be the amount of cocoa powder used instead of chocolate. Since chocolate has fat and cocoa power doesn’t, we then have to increase the fat quantity in the recipe by using the following calculation. Subtract the weight of the cocoa from the weight of the chocolate and divide by 2 (6 – 3.75)/2 = 1.1 oz. You would have to increase the amount of fat by 1.1 oz. Converting to chocolate from cocoa power is similar, however, you would multiply the weight of the cocoa (3.75 oz.) by 8/5 = 6 oz. This is the amount of chocolate to use. Since chocolate has fat, you must reduce the amount of fat in the recipe by subtracting the weight of the cocoa from the weight of the chocolate and divide by 2 (6 – 3.5)/2 = 1.1 oz. This is the amount of fat to reduce. Voile! A little pesky at first but it will sink in.

Banana muffin mise en place.

We jumped right into action and within a couple of days we were making batters & doughs. We learned the creaming method, the biscuit method and the muffin method. We were separated into groups and each assigned a task. Angie is my group mate for the course and between us, we have 100+ years of life experience. Anyway, our task was to make banana bread and we were to use the creaming method.

We first creamed the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. We then mashed the bananas with some sour cream and added it to the creamed sugar mixture. The dry ingredients (bread flour, cake flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt) were combined then sifted and divided into 4ths. The banana mixture was divided into 3rds. They were both incorporated alternately, starting with 1/4 flour, then 1/3 banana until the last 1/4 flour was added. Be certain to scrape down the sides frequently to be certain that the batter is mixed properly.

We tested the batter by making some mini muffins. Don’t forget to grease and flour your pans or you won’t be happy.

Yum, golden brown muffins dusted with cinnamon sugar. Oh hell, I’m going to get so fat after this class. The other groups did berry muffins, carrot cake and biscuits.

Moving on, our next task was to make scone dough. We didn’t have enough time to roll them out so we made several sheet pans of “scone balls”, froze them and worked on them the next day.

Nice balls girls! The Scone Girls, Sylvia, Chef Chelsea & Jess. We made these awesome stuffed scones. Blueberry and cream cheese was one, the other was raspberry jam and chocolate chips. But first, the scone balls needed to be beaten down since they had been in the freezer.

Preston, Sage and Sylvia getting the dough ready to roll out.

Once the dough was rolled out, it was filled with goodies in the center. The edges were wrapped over to make a neat package and it was rolled out more to get it to the proper size to portion and store.

I did mention that another group made some biscuits. The biscuit method is another dough mixing method. The fat is cut into the dry ingredients until it resembles the size of peas. The wet ingredients are added and everything gets mixed just until combined. Do not overmix. The dough gets turned out and kneaded slightly then rolled out and cut into your desired shapes.

While the cat was away, the mice played and baked off some biscuits, titscuits, dickscuits and a pretzel. Crass and childish…yes.

Did I mention there is a bunch of shiny equipment in the baking lab?

60,40,30 & 20 quart mixers.

Deck oven

Rack oven

Even a treadmill!

Aw nuts! It was a dough sheeter.

All this baking inspired me to do some baking on my own at home.

Sweet dough pie crust mise en place. I actually have a scale at home. Not digital though. The last pie crust I made from scratch was probably in 1995. Having flour all over my kitchen was never motivation for me to make one from scratch. Oh well, I bit the bullet and it actually turned out okay. I did have to make due with the “all-purpose” flour that I am so comfortable with. I actually went out today and bought me some pastry flour.

I was entertaining so my guests were my guinea pigs. I made little mini peach pies with a sweet dough crust.

I got the dessert down so now it was time to work on the rest of the dinner.

Roasted kabocha squash, purple sweet potato and caramelized onion ravioli in a roasted mushroom cream sauce. I forgot to get parsley so my presentation was a little bland.

Caesar salad and marinated tomatoes with extra crispy Parmesan crisps.

Pork tenderloin with red wine, prune and lavender sauce, roasted garlic polenta and wilted garlic baby spinach.

Mini peach pie with vanilla ice cream and caramelized brown sugar.

The night was a success, I was exhausted from the week of cooking and was looking forward to our Memorial Day break. Up next week…laminated doughs.

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About tinfoilduck

I had this wacky idea to go to culinary school, while maintaining another full time career. I will be blogging about the program and how it affects me as I try to manage my daily life and how I try to keep everything together.
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2 Responses to Culinary School Here I Come (44) Beginning Baking, Week 1

  1. Gracie Viola says:

    Hi Ken,

    This looks great! I didn’t realize all of the math that goes into baking and I sure did not know there were quite that many types of flour haha. Your food at home looks delicious as always.

    • tinfoilduck says:

      Yes Gracie, we are constantly adapting formulas (we don’t call them recipes in baking) based on the yield. In savory cooking, things were a lot more free form. Lots of structure in the bake shop! Thanks for reading the blog.

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