Saturday, July 17, 2010

Origami and Anger Management

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we covered the subjects I was most looking forward to learning about - croissant and brioche. I've never worked with either dough due to my crippling fear of yeast. After having made croissants and brioche bread, I think my attitude has changed a little; I'll still pray to the wild yeast gods every time I make bread, but at least I know that sometimes yeast can be my friend. The brioche worked out fantastically, the croissants, er, not so much.

The croissant demonstration on Tuesday was really interesting for me because it allowed ample opportunity for illustration. I haven't mentioned this before, but as a visual thinker, I have a thing for making illustrations and diagrams. Fortunately, the croissant demonstration was, well, exceedingly technical.

It's like origami, except with dough.


Pain au Chocolat:

Cherry Pinwheel:

The chef made a dazzling array of croissant dough-based pastries. The best one, though, was the pistachio-cherry rolls made from leftover dough scraps. Cinnamon rolls don't even come close.

Clockwise from top left: pistachio cherry rolls, croissants, pain au chocolat, cherry pinwheels, apricot almond croissants. 

Everything tasted pretty good except for the croissants, actually. Instead of being light and soft on the inside, it was doughy and undercooked.  I think it needed more time in the oven.

For the practical we made croissant and pain au chocolat. The results were pretty disastrous in my opinion. To be fair, the room was warm and our dough didn't get enough time to rise properly in the proofing oven. My croissants were sad and small (see cover photo). On top of that, most of the croissants ended up being fried in the oven because so much butter leaked out of the dough.

I don't know if I'll try croissants again. It'll take a lot of work to perfect the recipe, even though making the dough is fun (I really like making puff pastry because it's somewhat mathematical. By the way, the chef's way of making croissants has 48 layers.).

Now for the anger management part:

What did medieval chefs do to punish their apprentices? They invented brioche. Probably. 

I used to think brioche was easy, you just chuck eggs, yeast, flour, and butter in the stand mixer and let it do its thing. Well, it turns out that without a machine, brioche was the most labor-intensive dough I've ever worked on. Much worse than the hellish Gateau Basque. It involves 10 minutes of kneading once the eggs, yeast, and flour are combined, and another 20 minutes to incorporate all the butter.

Did I explain that "kneading" involves repeatedly scraping up the sticky, wet dough and slapping it on the marble as hard as you could? I really wish I was listening to Norwegian black metal at the time; brioche-making is totally a viable alternative to head banging, except it's more violent.

Next time I get stressed out at work, I'll make brioche : )

p.s. I learned that brioche and ice cream is a match made in heaven. Especially when you have homemade licorice ice cream.

p.p.s. One of these days I'll put up an entry called "All the ridiculous things we managed to cook in my 10 sq meter kitchen". On top of the licorice ice cream, the list includes dumplings from scratch, lots of pasta, and more salads than I can shake a fork at.

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