Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesdays Top Ten- Things To Remember when you are a 1st Year Culinary Student Making Bread

I was being very patient...  
I really wanted Chef Fred to give my team the opportunity to bake some bread.
The way our kitchen lab time works is that there are 16 students, 8 teams, 2 students each.  In the beginning of every class we are given a production sheet that outlines at least two items each group will be working on for that day.  Chef tries to give each group the opportunity to work on different items each lab.  That way we can mark off the different competencies from our skills checklist.  What is nice about each group doing different recipes is the opportunity to see and taste a lot of different products.  It also gives Chef Fred the chance to do different demonstrations too.  If one group is doing a sauce, he call the students over to watch how it should be properly assembled.  If we are learning about how to use a pastry bag to dispense a decorative spritz cookie, Chef will demonstrate this skill and then let each of us come up and try it.  It is a very nice way to get a lot of baking exposure in one class period.

Last week Our lab sheet finally said  "Bread!!"

All of the book knowledge I had practiced for quizzes and our first exam would finally be put to use.  The specific steps I had practiced, studied, imagined myself performing, and also watched other groups carry out- it was finally our turn!

Here are the Top Ten steps we use in class and that you need to know and adhere to, they are the "Production stages".  It is important to follow these to produce a hearty, and most delicious loaf or baguette of bread, yeast bread to be specific. First things First:

1.  "Mise En Place"-  This means make sure you have all your ingredients available and any tools necessary to complete your recipe.  This is very important since you don't want to get halfway through your recipe and find out you are missing an ingredient or be unprepared to scrap the bowl because you didn't get everything you needed before you started.  Time is always of the essence.

Pan Rustique dough- it starts out like pancake batter, but very quickly turns into a beautiful dough

2.  "Scaling the Ingredients"- and you better check them twice too!  Especially in the baking kitchen where we are mixing 9 and 12 lb batters.  It would be a sickening shame to mess it up because of an error in the amounts of ingredients.  

3. "Mixing and Kneading the Dough" - This is important to moisten the ingredients and develop the wheat gluten.  If you don't do enough your dough will simply not turn out right- there is a way to test if your dough is ready for the next stage- it is called the:

4. "The Windowpane Test" - This is a great way to check and see if your dough is ready for the next stage.  Tear a small piece of dough and slowly stretch it between your fingers to make a semi-transparent "window".  The dough is ready if it stretches without breaking and has a smooth appearance.

Windowpane Test

5.  "Fermenting the Dough" -Let it rise, Let it rise!  This is the dough's chance to create flavor and texture.  The temperature of your room is important to the rate of rise, as well as the temp of the dough and the certain ingredients you are using too.

6.  "Punching Down the Dough" - This is your opportunity to give your dough some relief or as we say in class "De-Gas" and let all that CO2 the fermentation process created escape into the atmosphere.

7.  "Portion your Dough"- Depending on how much dough you have made this is the time to cut it into the set amounts.  In class this could be 14 pieces for Baguettes, or 10 pieces for Boules.  At home I find I am usually portioning a recipe into 2 or 3 loaves.

8.  "Rounding and Making up or Shaping the portions"- You spin your dough right round, right round- like a record baby right round, right round :)  Rounding it into a ball- this may be your time to shape it too.

These are our Baguettes after shaping them- we put them in the clothes on baking boards to proof first.

9.  "Proofing"- At school we have a proof box that we can put our shaped doughs into to get ready to be baked.  It has a set humidity and temp of about 70-85 degrees.  The dough is in the proof box until it "feels" ready to go.  We are learning to sense when they are ready by touch.  You want your dough to have a light springiness - not too tough, not too soft.  At least I think that is the case- I am still learning about this one.

This is our classroom deck oven- A most beautiful machine that produces the most beautiful breads

10. "The Grand Finale ~  Baking and Cooling" - This is show time, all the steps have been applied, you followed the rules, you are ready to see the doughs of your labor expand and develop into the most wonderful masterpiece.

We dock the bread by cutting shallow lines into the tops

We transfer the proofed loaves onto trays that will then be used to transfer the bread onto the bare rack of the deck oven

We wait for the bread to bake

And Voila!!!

Bread- Glorious Bread!

The cooling rack

We finally had our chance to make bread
There is nothing I would have rather do instead
I am totally in love with this newly learned process
When I make bread at home, no longer will I have to guess!