You probably (hopefully) already read about my orientation and my first day of classes–since I couldn’t wait to get those thoughts out into the world instead of including them in this post.
I am already in love with the fact that every day we are doing new things while sticking to a fairly rigid routine: I take the bus at 9:06, arrive at school at 9:20, change into my kitchen clothes, and am ready for three hours of pastry. In pastry class, we make something or part of something, clean our tables and the dishes, then make something else before we do a deeper clean of the tables, dishes, floors, refrigerators, etc. After changing back into my normal clothes and eating lunch with the other students, I sit in the “green room” (it is literally painted green) and have French for three more hours, with one 10 minute break in the middle. I take the 4:40 bus back to my residence unless I need groceries from the bigger grocery store, and chill for an hour or two at home before I make dinner, study, shower, and go to sleep.
During lunch time we all gossip about our morning sessions, and on the way home we all gossip some more as we munch on whatever those of us in pastry made. Bread week has been amazing, but thank god it is only lasting one week–Evonne and I have been eating bread for breakfast, lunch, dinner and as a snack every day, and while it is delicious, I’m ready for something new on the menu!
In pastry class, Tuesday was for fougasse and the first step in the croissant/puff pastry dough, Wednesday was for the second step in the puff pastry dough and the passion fruit brioche, Thursday was for finishing our croissants and the first step in our small bread and “pain au chocolat” dough, and finally Friday was for making country bread from start to finish, and finishing our small breads and pain au speculoos.
Even after only four days it is hard to imagine how uncertain I was the first day and with the first recipe–now when chef says “frasage” I frasage without consulting my notes. When he lists off ingredients I mostly know where they are and I know what ingredients can go in the same bowls or boxes as the rest.
On Wednesday I became comfortable enough to actually take a few pictures during the class, and to talk more with Tiffany–my baking partner for this week.
We started by working with our croissant dough–rolling it out and flattening a piece of dry butter to fit within our dough rectangle. It isn’t actually hard to make croissant dough, but there are a lot of steps that need to be followed, and because of all of the butter, the dough needs certain periods of being in the refrigerator so that the butter doesn’t get too warm.
After completing our first double fold, the dough was off to the “frigo” to chill while we made our brioche, and then we did a second double fold and let that sit in the frigo overnight.
The brioche we made was nothing short of spectacular.
I have always been a fan of brioche, but let me tell you, this one was out of this world. First of all, chef was making a passion fruit-mango curd during the class, so the entire kitchen smelled like tropical deliciousness. We also used a method of making the brioche where we rolled the dough out, coated it completely with dried coconut, then spread in our passion fruit-mango curd along with some passion fruit, rolled up the dough, cut it, and placed the little rounds of dough into a pastry ring–kind of like a gourmet, tropical cinnamon roll.
Unfortunately after cleaning the kitchen from top to bottom we all had to head to French class (though to be honest, it isn’t really “unfortunate” because I adore my French teacher) and chef was in charge of baking all of our brioches–which were then ready when our next class was finished!
Thursday came and so did the moment-of-truth for our croissants. If you screwed up at all in the last two days, there would be nothing you could do in this moment to fix it.
Not that there was any pressure or anything.
We set out to make two croissants: butter croissants and chocolate croissants. Apparently I’m “too American” and didn’t realize that croissants always have three tiers in the finished product, so I had to re-roll some of my croissants after an inspection by chef.
Since we all had some leftover dough thanks to cutting off strips to make perfectly straight lines, chef taught us how to make a third kind of “croissant” as to not waste any material.
We re-rolled our balls of extra dough and filled our sheets with lemon preserves, lemon zest and pecans. I wasn’t skeptical, but I was pretty sure I would still favor the regular croissants. After all, these were just leftovers right?
Wrong. They were fantastic. The lemon was a perfect accent to the butter in the dough, and the pecans added just the right amount of crunch. And as much as I enjoyed this combination of flavors, my mind is already buzzing with all sorts of potential flavors and textures that could go inside this dough.
I’m sensing more croissants are in my future.
Before we could finish our day we had to make two more types of dough that would be used the next day–small bread dough and “pain au chocolat” dough (which is not a croissant but the originally named bread with chocolate in it). Small bread dough is for little rolls that you might get at a restaurant with or before a meal, and the chocolate dough was fairly similar in execution with the other doughs we had made so far, but chef decided to “make things interesting” and changed up several of the ingredients at the last minute.
Thursday finished off with the best sandwich that has ever been in my mouth.
Chef baked us some baguettes and brought all sorts of ingredients–some of which we chopped up the day before. Chef demonstrated how to properly build the sandwich, and then we all dove in, desperate to try it as well.
I could seriously eat this every day.
Thursday was also the beginning of chef deciding to call me “Mad” because…well actually I have no idea why. Mostly because he thinks its amusing, or maybe because “Maddie” is too long a nickname… who really knows. If I find out, I will let you know. I’m still adjusting to it though. 😛
Friday we had a lot to get done–and because Friday also means a deep clean of the kitchen, it was a race against the clock to get it all done.
We started by making the dough for our country bread, and then moved on to finishing the two breads we started on Thursday.
I don’t know why I am surprised by all of the creativity and possibilities with the breads we are making, since that is one of my favorite parts of working in the kitchen.
Anyway, we ended up making three breads out of the small bread dough, mixing an apricot/curry mixture into one part, lemon zest and thyme into another part, and a seed mixture into another. It was important to remember to shape the breads differently so that we–or potential future customers–wouldn’t be confused or need to open the bread in order to know which bread was which flavor.
We moved on to the “pain au chocolat” that was now “pain au speculoos” because chef wanted to mix things up. Again we used a method and shaping technique that I wouldn’t have considered–but I guess thats why I’m here, right?
After making the nicely shaped speculoos breads, we all hurriedly made our excess dough into little speculoos breads so that we wouldn’t be wasting dough again.
By now we were super racing against the clock, and had to move on to our country bread. Which tastes great, but was probably my least favorite to make–since I suck at shaping breads apparently.
My bread when I rolled it out into a baguette shape had all sorts of creases and folds in it. Positive I had severely messed something up, I called chef over and asked him about it.
He mumbled something about how it was because I was American, but proceeded to handle my dough and perfectly, smoothly, formed the bread. Of course then he balled it back up and told me to try again.
Knowing it could look great, I tried again with more confidence–only to find the same creased and wrinkled results I had in the first place.
I managed to mangle something together, and Tiff and I got each of our loaves onto the prepared tray, and crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t come out of the oven looking like the grandmother of the other breads in the batch. (I’m really sorry I didn’t have clean enough hands to take a picture…it really did not look promising 😛 ).
45 strenuous minutes of cleaning every nook and cranny of the entire kitchen (I’m not kidding, we scrubbed inside the fridges, inside the drain, and every single utensil in the kitchen even if we didn’t use it) later, we were able to examine our bread as we headed out the door to French class.
My country bread wasn’t the best in the class, but chef said it was good–thank god!!
On our way out the door, chef gave us the recipes for next week, along with the foreboding lecture that we had made 7 recipes this week–and next week we would be making 17. Oh dear.
Thus ends my first bread week at Gastronomicom! (Well actually, the weekend of eating bread for every meal and then trying to salvage some of the bread going stale by making a bread pudding was probably the end of bread week 😛 ). Thanks for reading and come back soon for more recipes and adventures!