We finally started our last section of Advanced Baking I class; chocolates. As with anything else in baking, it’s pretty technical. The beginning of chocolate starts with the cacao pod. The optimal growing regions are 20 degrees N or S of the equator making areas such as Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia, Madagascar, Brazil, Costa Rica & the Americas prime real estate. It’s similar to wine in that the husked cacao beans get fermented for a few days. The beans are then dried and like coffee, then the beans are roasted. The roasting makes the shells brittle and is winnowed (broken and thrashed around), then ground into liquid form, called cocoa liquor. There is no liquor, it’s only a name. The process goes on further where the liquor gets pressed in to solid cocoa cakes and cocoa butter. That, in a nutshell, is the process from bean to bar. Maybe that is why chocolate goes well with wine and coffee!
The tempering process heats the chocolate up to optimal temperature, it is then worked on marble to bring the temperature back down, then added back to the bowl. The tabling method is one way to temper. Seeding is another.
We are getting closer to our Garde Manger final practical and competition. We will be judged by local celebrity chefs and will be graded based on ACF standards. Kinda scary. So, as practice for that looming day, Tuesday was spent participating in a mystery basket challenge. Our team of 4 was down by 1…and when I say team of 4 I really mean 3…if you get my drift. Anyway, the mystery basked consisted of the following; fresh corn, gorgonzola cheese, kabocha squash, duck breast, fresh figs, pancetta, scallops & shrimp. We could also use anything else that was in the dry store room or walk in refrigerator. Again, when I say I dislike working in groups I mean that groups are democratic in nature where ideas get brought up, tossed around, refined and either used or not. I’m really tired of “selling” my ideas, and finally we all decided on some items. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we were required to prepare 3 hors d’oeuvres, 1 hot appetizer and 1 composed salad in an hour and a half. With that said, gnocchi was suggested, and dinged because lack of time, a gastrique was suggested but there was definitely not enough time for that (all of those were suggested by our irrelevant group member.
Our hors d’oeuvre platter included and Scallop Stuffed Shrimp, Roasted Fig with Gorgonzola & Pancetta and Mini cheese sandwiches. We were told that the dish was a little bland. I agree but with who and what we were working with, it was good enough.
Our composed salad dish was Seared Duck Breast with Spinach & Arugula with a Lemon Vinaigrette garnished with toasted Pecans & Gorgonzola. Now this is where I gotta vent about team members. If you say you know how to cook duck, then don’t tell me that duck has to be served well done. No, that is not true. Unfortunately a few slip through the cracks and shouldn’t be in advanced cooking classes.
Thanksgiving means a pie bake sale.
Thanksgiving was easy this year. I wasn’t hosting so I didn’t roast a turkey. I made some cevice in cucumber cups, a side salad and pumpkin cheesecake. It was so nice having a few days off. Next week is a full week, including that practical and competition but the following week is only a few days, then finals and Christmas!
I just got these mini tart pans which are perfect for hors d’oeurves or petit fours. I tested out a poppy seed barquette dough that I’m considering using for our practical. Oh no, I gotta sell it to the group. My next blog will be all about that fateful competition day!