Culinary School Here I Come (49) What to do when on summer vacation? Bake!

I’ve been on vacation for a week now and I’ve been baking pretty much every day.  I’ve also had out of town guests so I’ve been turning out the cooking as well. I’ve also realized that I’ve been in the “dark side” (baking) for so long that I’ve lost my cooking identity. I’ve had a gin and tonic so the alcohol is talking but I have a real problem if I have to decide if I have to decide between savory and baking. Like the overachiever that I am, why not do both! That’s probably not possible in a professional kitchen. Enough of that, let’s move on to the good stuff…..what tfoil has been doing for the past week.

The week began with the annual visit of my dear friends Linda and Jennifer. Linda and the duck were dancers in our past lives and Jennifer is her beautiful daughter. I think making pasta from scratch is the perfect introduction to the kitchen.

Making pasta from scratch is very easy so I decided that would be the way to ease them into their culinary vacation. Ding ding ding ding…..maybe I will start a culinary vacation business. It’s pretty easy, some a/p & semolina flour, 1 egg, a splash of water and olive oil and you are there. The hardest thing is keeping the liquids in the flour mound. Once the pasta balls have been formed, it needs to rest for a while.

omg, I love my pasta roller attachment to my KitchenAid mixer. I also ordered a ravioli press. Very easy to use with amazing results.

I love roasted Kabocha squash. It tastes like butternut squash. I also really, really love roasted purple Okinawa sweet potatoes and who doesn’t like caramelized onions so I combined them all with some seasoning to make my world famous ravioli….all from scratch.

I’ve learned the value of prepping so we made this in preparation of the dinner party we were having over the weekend (I’m no dummy). So these raviolis were used to produce this:

Roasted Kabocha Squash, Purple Sweet Potato & Caramelized Maui Onion Ravioli with a Roasted Mushroom Cream Sauce. Very easy to prepare but always a show stopper.

Duo of salads: Chilled Pahole (fiddle head) Fern, Mushroom & Tomato Salad with a Dijon Vinaigrette, served with a Grilled Romaine Lettuce and Warm Portuguese Sausage Vinaigrette Salad served with Brioche Croutons.

I couldn’t believe how big this loaf of bread was. It’s almost larger than the maker, my dear friend Jackie. Kalamata and Green Olive Brioche.

I’ve rediscovered the magic of cooking “En Papillote.” The flavors of a simple steam sometimes are so much more refreshing than something slathered in a heavy sauce. I used a 4 oz. portion of Ono (white flaky fish that I don’t remember what the ha’ole name for it is) on a bed of vegetables and bean thread noodles. It was simply seasoned with salt, pepper, a splash of fish sauce and a slice of compound miso butter and garnished with a lemon slice and green onions. Very simple yet dramatic. Especially in the presentation.

Having a semester of baking class has definitely bumped up my game. I usually did okay desserts; bananas foster, apricot boulange, etc. but now, as with savory cooking, sauces matter. I’ve also become more comfortable with pie crusts, although this crust was a disaster (if there is baking powder in a pie or tart crust recipe…run). It turned out okay in the end. I present to you a Pear & Custard Tart with Creme Patissiere and Fresh Pears & Creme Chantilly. Doesn’t that all sound so fancy! That’s what a semester of baking will do.

I had a bee in my bonnet for the longest time to make a Chocolate Lava Cake and I couldn’t seamlessly add it to Saturday nights dinner so I just kept it under my bonnet till Sunday.

It was my first attempt at a Chocolate Lava Cake so with trepidation, I selected a recipe online and began. I was surprised to find that there was no flour in this recipe. The only starch was cornstarch that was added to melted butter and dark chocolate, eggs and cream. It seemed to be like a Chocolate Flourless Cake. I also didn’t have the proper equipment (ramekin) so I winged it and baked it in a cupcake cup. It turned out very lava…ey. I served it with a Cocoa Creme Chantilly. Leftovers the next day was like eating fudge.

The meal was preceded by a family favorite, Vinha d’alhos. It is a Portuguese roasted pork dish flavored with vinegar, garlic and a secret Portuguese spice mixture that someday I will share!

My biggest fear in baking was bread making (and pie crusts but that is for a later blog). I took the bull by the horns and tried this Orange Marmalade Bread. It looked great after the final proofing. Hopefully it will look the same after it’s done.

Not bad so far!

Even I was surprised when I cut it open. I would say this was a success.

What better way to entertain guests than to make your own pizza. I’ve had success with my basic pizza dough so next time it’ll be flavored.

Good work Jen! Sorry to see you and your mom leave. Until next year!

With my house guests gone, it was time for some hardcore baking so I decided to make a Red Velvet Cake. The video made it look pretty easy to make so I decided to give it a try.

So far so good. Was 2 Tbsp. of red food coloring really necessary? It looks like a tomato sauce cake.

Next came removing the sugar crust, scoring and cutting the layers and finally the filling. I decided to multi task. I was having a family 4th of July BBQ so I decided to make this a Red, White and Blueberry Velvet Cake. I mixed blueberries into the filling. It wasn’t as dramatic since blueberries are not really blue. Blue food coloring sounded even more gross considering how much red food coloring is in the cake already.

The recipe called for a Cream Cheese and Whipping Cream Icing. Word of advice, don’t use too much whipping cream or else you will have to refrigerate a lot during decorating and DO NOT TRY TO PIPE ANY DECORATIONS! I found that out too late.

A little lop sided but pretty, don’t you think?

Again, to my surprise when I cut into it, it actually looked pretty good. In the background is my Lilikoi Meringue Pie.

Making meringue was a first for me. I didn’t make it in class but it seemed pretty easy. I made a Swiss Meringue where sugar is added to egg whites then heated over boiling water until the sugar is dissolved. Whip, whip, whip!

I think I over-whipped my meringue. It looks a little dry. If you don’t know what a lilikoi is, it’s a passion fruit. I found a real easy recipe for lilikoi curd. Butter, sugar, eggs and lilikoi juice all heated over a double boiler for 12 minutes or until thick. Next project will be a lilikoi cheesecake.

I just notice that my Amazon wish list is ever expanding. 1. candy thermometer, 2. smoker, 3. smoking gun, 4. ramekins, 5. Cook’s Illustrated Baking book, and of course 6. The 2500 page, $600 “Modernist Cuisine” book set. That’s the problem when you start cooking and baking a lot, you need more stuff!

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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