Monday, 10 October 2011

Brioche, apple band, hurricanes, oh my!

This past week was an adventure. First of all class was dizzy with more trial and error baking, mishaps, successes and proud acheivments, but it was also the week that a hurricane came to town.

Now when I say hurricane I don't actually mean a hurricane, although from the way islanders treat bad weather you wouldn't be able to see the difference between a hurricane and a tropical storm. In Ontario if a hurricane were to blow through, windows would be boarded up, bottled water would fill houses, and people would be preparing for the apocolypse. On the island hurricane preparations consist of cracking open a Rickards or Hieneken, slipping on your warm fuzzies, putting your feet up and watching it blow by.

For three days Charlottetown was attacked by heavy winds, rain, hail and for a good hour, even snow! But would you have noticed? Not at all. Islanders went about their business, shoulders hunched more than usual, protecting themselves from the torrential rain. Coffee shops and liquor stores had slightly more business, soup and stew was a popular dinner item and people lived their in sweats and fuzzy bunny slippers. For me this hurricane experience was exhillerating. I'd never been an Maritime storm before. I woke up to the sound of rain pounding on my window at 4:00am and a shiver of excitement wriggled down my spine. The air was cold and fresh and the added lullaby sound of rain made sleeping glorious. In such aweful weather walking to school was an obvious mode of transportation rather than biking. But it was too to windy to hold an umbrella so I folded the collar of my coat up to my ears, bent my hat down just above my eyes, burried my hands in my pockets and trudged to school in the rain, wind, and hail.

When the hurricane had finally blown itself out, the clouds dissipated and the sun came out in golden glory and smiled on drenched Charlottetown. Finally having a dry enough bike seat and roads, I indulged in an evening bike ride. The air was so crisp and sharp, the smell of autumn swirled around me and the faint aroma of wood burning fire places settled warmly into my lungs. It is true what they say about the calm before and after a storm.

Amidst all this excitement the art of pastries carried on and every new day in the kitchen seemed like a storm of its own. This week I learned how to make puff pastry, brioche, savarin, creme anglaise, and choux paste. Puff pasty is the most versitile of all pastry doughs, not only can you fill tiny brochees with whipped cream and hazelnuts but trade whipped cream for cream cheese and substitute hazelnut for sundried tomato pesto and you got an irresistable appitizer. The most challenging dish I made with puff pastry this week was apple band. (see below photo). In its unbaked state my first one looked deformed, sad and lonely. I looked at and wailed, "It looks aweful! I have no future as a pastry chef!" My classmates encouraged me with their laughter. But when my little apple band was pulled from the oven it was love at first site. It was beautiful, golden and crisp, flakey, and begging to be eaten. The next day a classmate and I teamed up and finished off as much of our puff pastry dough as we could, we were making apple bands left, right, and center and they all looked beautiful! Between the two of us we must have made at least 10, Chef Richard was beaming and commented, "You guys are machines. Oh my goodness. Wow!" We were so proud of eachother and it was a very good day in the kitchen.

Brioche and Savarin are two types of dessert breads that are best served with a drizzle of creme anglaise and coffee after a salmon dinner. Choux paste is the base for cream puffs, eclairs and profiteroles all of which I got to make this week. Looking back it was a very full and adventurous week in the kitchen with only 2 mishaps. First I messed up my savarin ingredients and had to start over, but thankfully I caught it soon enough that there wasn't a huge loss and Chef Richard didn't see. Second an entire bag of milk had gone sour, but we didn't realize until six of us were crammed around the stove top stirring butter and milk when we noticed all of our milk had curdled. I felt so bad, even though it was nothing I did, I still felt bad that we had to through out all that milk and 16 batches of choux paste. I was more upset for Chef than for myself. But he shrugged it off, made a note in the shipping log, and told us to start over. The second batch of choux paste, for all of us, was perfect.  

If there is one lesson I learned this week, one golden peice of advice that would make the world a better place, it would be this: rubber boots are essential. Strapping on a snazzy pair at 5:50am make walking to school a joyous occassion. You don't have to avoid big puddles or tip toe down the street to keep your feet from getting wet. Rubber boots are not only an obvious foot attire choice but empowering. With rubber boots and apple band we can save the world.

                                                                 Apple band

                                     I had to cut up a bajillion apples for the apple band.



                                      Cream puff with butterscotch ice cream and nutella.

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