Home > Cooking school > Knives and Fire XXIII (Week 7)

Knives and Fire XXIII (Week 7)

Custard Day

We began by talking about the week past – the breads we baked (and how a pinch of salt made a difference between very good and truly excellent) and the pastry cream and paté au choux we made, and how a convection oven made problems for the eclairs.

Then we talked about what we were to do on Wednesday – Shabbos cooking. Vegetables can make or break a meal, and we need to make decent veggies for Shabbos, such as sweet and sour cabbage or ratatouille, or the traditional tzimmes. And we need to get out of the rut of making the same meal every week. More than that, we need to know how proper planning and mise en place can make the whole thing work for all the meals one needs to prepare. I am very much looking forward to this class.

Then we partnered up and made chocolate mousse. I partnered with Y. Chocolate mousse is made with chocolate, egg yolks, sugar, egg whites and flavorings. First we made whipped topping in a stand mixer using a whip attachment. Then we cleaned off the bowl and whip and put in about five carefully separated egg whites (you do NOT want any yolk or other fat in the egg whites or they won’t whip up, so you take each egg, and separate it in two bowls and *if* the white is shell and yolk free, put it with the other whites in its own bowl.) We put in a pinch of salt, but also, and this was a mistake, 4 oz of sugar. We should have waited until the eggs were nearly mixed – we got a slightly grainy product. Not bad by any means, but not perfect.

Then we melted chocolate over boiling water, adding a bit to get the melting starting. The recipe called for Sambucco, but we chose to use vanilla extract instead. When it was melted and smooth, we mixed it vigorously with 1/3 of the meringue to lighten it. Then we folded the whipped cream (which we whipped again with a whisk) and the remaining egg whites into the lightened mixture until it was pretty much streak free. And it was done.

Then we made toiles – thin cookies that are shaped when warm. This took egg whites. We creamed margarine and confectioners sugar, added egg whites bit by bit (it looked curdled) and then sifted cake flour all at once. We scooped the toile dough onto parchment paper covered sheet pans, and spread them out, sprinkled sliced almonds on some, and baked them until they were brown on the edges. These were removed with an off-set spatula and placed in cups or over a rolling pin or rolled or…well, we had fun.

After that, we made crème brulé and crème caramel – the same thing, actually, because both of these are the same baked custard. One either puts caramel on the bottom of the ramekin before baking *or* sprinkles sugar on top after baking and puts it under a broiler or a blow torch. I did the mise en place for the custard itself – two recipes made separately. I put two pots of non-dairy creamer to heat, each a quart and a half. Meanwhile, I separated two dozen eggs (one for each recipe) for the yolks, to which I added a whole egg because we were using non-dairy creamer. The extra white makes a difference. I mixed both sets of eggs with 2 oz of sugar with a whisk. I also made sure the salt and the vanilla extract were ready.

Mix the hot creamer with a pinch of salt and some vanilla, and then temper the eggs – adding small amounts of hot creamer until the eggs are warm enough, and then add the egg mixture to the pot of creamer and combine. That’s the custard.

We had a bunch of ramekins. To some, chef put caramelized sugar with some corn syrup to stabilize it on the bottom. These were placed in a baking pan, and we added a cardamon pod, and the pan placed in the oven. There M ladled custard into each ramekin and filled the pan with water until it was halfway up the sides of the ramekins. I did the second roasting pan load, but mine were to be bruléed, so no caramel. I also had a couple of low, oval ramekins in mine, so I had to be careful about the water. These were all closed up.

I made the second batch of custard, and filled the rest of the ramekins (this time we used the pods) and put them in a second oven.

Since chef was melting sugar for the crème caramel, he also spun some. He placed a series of wooden spoons on our cooks table, handles out, weighed down with racks. He’d already mutilated a whisk by cutting off the end, leaving long, stiff wires. He added some orange food coloring to the melted sugar. Then he used the sugar spinner (the mutilated whisk) to, well, spin the sugar over the spoons to make long cobwebby strands that he gathered into an orange nest. Very pretty. He took the last of the orange sugar and made a brittle with sliced almonds, to be used as garnish.

We also baked the cookies we’d made and frozen last week – slicing them on to sheet pans with parchment paper. And two people combined bread trimmed and sliced into triangles with custard, chocolate and flavorings and made a lovely looking chocolate bread pudding. And then chef had fun with mousse, whipped topping, chocolate whipped topping , strawberries and toiles, creating many, many lovely plates.

What did this taste like? I have NO idea. I managed to not taste more than a piece of toile and of a couple other cookies – and I mean a taste. But I’m sure it was delicious.

We talked about how one can serve bread pudding as a budget dessert for a luncheon, or how word choice can make a menu item sell.

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