Seminar: Food Safety 3

In this lecture we learned about sanitizing, crisis management, and pest control and about the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP, pronounced “hassip”) system, which I think is pretty cool because it’s all about thinking ahead and anticipating problems so you can prevent them.

Pillsbury developed HACCP in the 1960s when NASA contracted with them to make the food that went up with the astronauts. If you’re in a spacecraft and your meal doesn’t agree with you, you have a very serious problem. Traditionally, finished products (in any industry) were randomly inspected for quality control. Pillsbury laid out the procedure for preparing the food from beginning to end and called that flow of food. A critical control point is any step in the flow of food where food can be contaminated, especially where microorganisms can grow to the point of making someone sick. Pillsbury then determined corrective actions for potential problems.

In 1993, an outbreak of E. coli was traced to burgers served at Jack in the Box restaurants in the northwestern United States, most of them in Seattle. The E. coli was traced to the burger supplier (i.e., the burgers hadn’t been contaminated at the restaurant). The federal government decided they should use Pillsbury’s HACCP program as the basis for food-handling regulations and food service inspections. HACCP was made mandatory for fish and seafood products in 1995 and for juice production and packaging in 2001. HACCP is now mandatory for meat and poultry production and voluntary for milk products. Inspections of restaurants are now HACCP based, so HACCP needs to be designed into the food service operation. HACCP in restaurants mandates things like placement and use of hand-washing sinks in the kitchen and those menu notices about consuming raw eggs or meat and about ingredients that are common allergens.

All this food safety stuff can seem excessive, but if you’re not obsessive about it, and people get sick, you can be ruined. If one person gets sick after eating in your restaurant, that’s a problem. If more than one gets sick, that’s officially an outbreak. The health department will shut you down, it’ll be all over the news because anybody who ate there will have to be notified so they can be tested, and your business might never recover. Keeping food-contact surfaces clean and sanitized and checking the temperature of your ingredients and food go a long way to preventing disaster. We had quite a lecture on the five-step dishwashing protocol and procedures for cleaning and sanitizing work surfaces and floors. For example, food-contact surfaces in continuous use (e.g., countertops, ice cream scoops) must be washed, rinsed, and sanitized every 4 hours.

Crisis management, like HACCP, is about thinking ahead and planning for a problem rather than having to figure out what to do when you’re in the middle of an emergency. What do you do if one of your ingredients is recalled? Suppose your power goes out or there’s a flood? If the electricity goes out and you don’t have a backup plan, you’ll have to close the restaurant because your refrigerators and freezers won’t keep food at a safe temperature.

Pest control was the last part of the lecture. Any food service operation should have a contract with a pest control company. And you don’t just give them a key and let them come in while you’re not there; you should be there with them so you can see what the problems are and how they’re being treated. The first thing you do is make sure everything is sealed up; you want tight-fitting doors and no holes anywhere. A mouse can get through an opening the size of a pencil; a rat can get through an opening the size of a quarter. The standard for shelving is 6 inches off the floor, which makes it easier to spot pests and also isn’t cozy enough for them to nest in. Insect pests come in on your shipments of food, either in the containers or on fruit. In fact, you should wash your fruit when you get it home from the store, because that’s the source of your fruit flies. Rodents are bad, but flies are worse because they can go anywhere and can pick up and leave germs on everything.

Fortunately for anyone who eats in any kind of restaurant, inspections are done twice a year routinely, and they can also be made for complaints or other problems. Inspectors can show up any time; an inspection doesn’t let you off the hook for the next 6 months, though; the inspector can show up for a routine inspection any time before that. A good restaurant following all the food safety practices and therefore has nothing to fear from an unannounced inspection.

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5B: Dessert Sauces

Dessert sauces are based on fruit, custard, caramel, chocolate, butter, or wine. A whole class devoted to dessert sauces wouldn’t be much without something to sauce, so in this class, we also made some crêpes and soufflés.

Fruit sauces and coulis are made from pureed fruit. Coulis is fruit that’s pureed and strained. Sauce is pureed fruit, usually strained (and therefore a coulis) that has butter or cream added to it. Depending on the flavor of the fruit, you might need to add a little simple syrup or lemon juice. Any fruit that’s very hard or fibrous (e.g., apples, pears, quinces) has to be cooked first, but many fruits, such as raspberries, can be used fresh and raw.

Crème anglaise is one of the most common dessert sauces. Any monkey can make a crème anglaise, says Chef Sharon, but it takes a pastry chef to make it right, so I’d better practice this one. Crème anglaise is a lot like pastry cream: It’s made with milk, egg yolks, and sugar. You can change the texture by adding cream or egg yolks, and you can change the flavor by adding vanilla or another flavoring. Pastry cream has starch, too, to stabilize it; crème anglaise doesn’t, so you have to be careful not to let it boil. Crème anglaise is done when it coats the back of a spoon; you wipe your finger over the back of the spoon, and if the line stays for 3 seconds, the sauce is done. Because it’s so important to make sure the sauce doesn’t overcook, you have to have an ice bath ready to set the bowl in. The other difference is that with pastry cream, you get your upper-body workout by whisking like mad, but with crème anglaise you must only stir and never whisk because whisking makes the sauce foam, and the foam doesn’t go away (as it does with pastry cream).

Sabayon (or zabaglione) is a light custard. It’s made with sugar, egg yolks, and sweet wine, usually marsala. The wine is very important in sabayon because a well-made sabayon always retains the wine flavor. You want to taste the wine and make sure you like it, and it’s important to use really good wine. Sabayon is good with fresh fruit. You need to make it at the last moment because it deflates quickly, but you can make a sabayon mousse with gelatin added to stabilize it.

Chocolate sauce is a combination of melted chocolate plus cream, milk, egg yolks, and butter (in some combination); it also can be made by adding grated chocolate to crème anglaise. If you want a flowing sauce, you use more liquid than chocolate; if you want a stiff sauce, you use less liquid. To make frosting, you use equal parts cream and chocolate; this is a classic ganache. White chocolate is tricky because it’s mostly fat (white chocolate is cocoa butter with some other things added). To make a sauce (or ganache) with white chocolate, you can’t use cream because all that fat will keep the sauce from holding together; you have to use skim milk or 1%.

Caramel is the last stage of cooked sugar syrup before the sugar carbonizes. The carbonizing stage is one you want to avoid at all costs: It stinks, the smoke damages your lungs, and it irretrievably ruins your saucepan. Caramel is plain cooked sugar, but caramel sauce has butter added and sometimes cream and other things. Suzette sauce (for crêpes Suzette) is caramel with butter, warm citrus juices (usually lemon and orange), and brandy or cognac.

We started with fruit sauce and fruit coulis. Raspberry sauce is one of the most common in a restaurant, and Chef Sharon encouraged us to consider other things. My partner and I chose to make strawberry sauce and strawberry coulis. Raspberry is darker and what you usually see on your plate in a restaurant. The strawberry is pink rather than red; I’m not sure when that would be a better choice for color; maybe with other pastels or as a contrast to something dark.

Strawberry coulis in the bottle and strawberry sauce in the pan

Strawberry coulis in the bottle and strawberry sauce in the pan

The strawberry sauce is a little darker; it’s pretty, but still not dark enough to use just as a decoration (unless you need this particular color). They’re both delicious, though.

Strawberry sauce

Strawberry sauce

We thought of using Riesling in our sabayon, but there wasn’t enough, so we used Cava instead. That might have been a mistake, because our sabayon was extremely light owing to the carbonation in the wine.

Sabayon with fresh berries

Sabayon with fresh berries

For our caramel sauce we thought it would be fun to do Suzette sauce so we could make crêpes Suzette. We were all making crêpes anyway, so this struck us as a golden opportunity. In a very clean saucepan, you put granulated sugar. Then you put that over a flame and watch it change from a pan of sugar:

Sugar cooking

Sugar cooking


to a pan of caramel:
Caramel

Caramel


Your caramel is done when it has the right color and fragrance, and these are up to you; just don’t let it carbonize! We added butter, orange juice, and lemon juice to the caramel and set the sauce aside to await our crêpes.

Suzette sauce (the butter hasn't finished melting)

Suzette sauce (the butter hasn't finished melting)


Crêpes aren’t difficult, but they take a little practice. The batter is very thin, and it has to rest for awhile, so we had already made our batter. We thought cinnamon would go nicely with the citrus Suzette sauce, so that was the flavor we used. The school has proper crêpe pans, but you can use a small skillet, say, 6 or 8 inches in diameter. You brush the hot skillet with melted butter.
Letting the extra butter drip off the buttered crêpe pan

Letting the extra butter drip off the buttered crêpe pan


Then you pour some batter into the pan while you swirl the pan so the batter evenly coats the pan. The pan is hot, so the batter cooks pretty quickly and you have to work fast.
Swirling the crêpe batter in the hot pan

Swirling the crêpe batter in the hot pan


When it’s cooked on the first side, which takes almost no time, you flip it over. It doesn’t take long to cook on the second side, either.
Finished crêpe

Finished crêpe


Then Chef Sharon made the crêpes Suzette, but she used chocolate crêpes instead of the cinnamon ones. I’ll try this at home with cinnamon crêpes. You fold the crêpes into quarters, which apparently is a traditional way of serving crêpes, and cook them in the sauce with orange suprêmes (orange sections removed from their membranes).
Chocolate crêpes in Suzette sauce with orange suprêmes

Chocolate crêpes in Suzette sauce with orange suprêmes


Then she poured on some Grand Marnier and lit the sauce with a blowtorch.
Crêpes Suzettes flambé

Crêpes Suzettes flambé


And here it is on the plate:
Crêpes Suzette

Crêpes Suzette


We plated our cinnamon crêpes with our chocolate sauce:
Cinnamon crêpes with chocolate sauce

Cinnamon crêpes with chocolate sauce


We also made a lime soufflé.
Lime soufflé dusted with powdered sugar

Lime soufflé dusted with powdered sugar


We plated a portion of that with our strawberry sauce and crème anglaise.
Lime soufflé with sauce garnish

Lime soufflé with sauce garnish

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5A: Meringues

When I think of meringue, I think of lemon meringue pie (one of my favorite foods), meringue drop cookies, and French macarons. We’ll be learning macarons at some point; in this class, we learned pretty much everything else, though.

The origins of meringue are mysterious, and what were believed to be original recipes were destroyed in the Allied bombing of Frankfurt in World War II. A Swiss-Italian chef named Gasparini might have invented meringue in the 18th century. Marie Antoinette is said to have liked meringue so much that she made it herself.

There are three kinds of meringue: French, Italian, and Swiss. All contain beaten egg whites and sugar; the difference is in the method of making the meringue. French meringue is what most Americans think of when they think of meringue. That’s French meringue on the top of lemon meringue pie (but Italian meringue would be better; more on that later). You beat egg whites to soft peaks, then add sugar and beat some more. The usual ratio is 2 tablespoons of sugar per egg white. Adding more sugar stabilizes the meringue. French meringue is the most delicate and least stable, so it’s best for toppings. The more sugar you use, the better it browns.

Italian meringue is very stable, can be added to whipped cream to stabilize it, and is good for piping. To make Italian meringue, you beat egg whites to soft peaks. Meanwhile, you cook half the sugar with water; when the whites are at the soft peak stage, you add the hot sugar syrup to the beaten egg whites. Once the syrup is incorporated, you add the rest of the granulated sugar. Italian meringue is the best one to use for frozen desserts, like semifreddo. You can poach it to make floating island. It can be used for frosting or filling, combined with other ingredients to make cake layers, used as the lightener in dessert soufflés—the uses are apparently infinite. This is the meringue to use for topping a meringue pie. With French meringue, the sugar is never really completely incorporated into the beaten egg whites, and as the meringue sits, little beads of liquid sugar weep out of the meringue. By adding hot sugar syrup for Italian meringue, all the sugar gets completely incorporated and won’t weep out. Plus, Italian meringue browns better than French meringue, so it looks nicer. That whole business of cooking the sugar sounds like a lot of trouble, but it isn’t, really, and the result is worth it.

Swiss meringue is the most stable meringue and the one least affected by humidity. The texture is firmer than with other meringues, so it’s the one to use for decorations and as a base for dessert. To make Swiss meringue, you heat the egg whites and sugar over hot water, whisking constantly, until the mixture is heated to 100℉ (and up to 130℉). Then you dump the hot mixture into the stand mixer and whip it to the desired texture.

What we made in this class was a lot of meringue, most of it as dacquoise, round baked layers that can be used as cake layers or that can be used between layers of cake to add an interesting texture. We only got one dessert out of this class, but it was pretty spectacular. Otherwise, the layers were stored in the walk-in freezer for later use.

To begin, we baked some meringue to use for decorating the cake. We made Italian meringue, added coffee extract to it, and piped it in lines on a parchment-lined sheet pan.

Coffee-flavored meringue piped onto a parchment-lined sheet pan

Coffee-flavored meringue piped onto a parchment-lined sheet pan

Then we baked that meringue for several hours. (Later we sliced it into lengths of an inch or so to use for a decoration.) Then we made meringue layers, called dacquoises, for the cake (which is also called a dacquoise). To Italian meringue we added almond flour, and then we piped circles of that onto parchment paper and baked them.

Chef Delphin demonstrates how to pipe meringue layers for dacquoise

Chef Delphin demonstrates how to pipe meringue layers for dacquoise

Then we made pâte décor (“decorating paste”), and Chef showed us how to spread it over a Silpat.

Chef Delphin demonstrates how to spread pâte décor.

Chef Delphin demonstrates how to spread pâte décor.

Then he showed us how to make designs in it.

Chef Delphin demonstrates one way to make designs in pâte décor.

Chef Delphin demonstrates one way to make designs in pâte décor.

The sheets of pâte décor had to go into the freezer to set, and while we were waiting for that we made the joconde batter. This is an almond sponge cake; it’s very pliable. When the pâte décor was set, we spread a thin layer of the joconde batter over it.

Spreading joconde batter over the pâte décor

Spreading joconde batter over the pâte décor

That’s so thin that it doesn’t take long to bake. Then you peel the cakes off of the Silpats

Baked jocondes ready to slice

Baked jocondes ready to slice

and slice them into strips. Then you fit each strip into a cake ring and cut it to fit.

Lining cake rings with strips of joconde

Lining cake rings with strips of joconde

Now it’s time to build the cake. First you fit a dacquoise into the bottom of the lined cake ring.

Fitting a layer of baked meringue into the cake ring

Fitting a layer of baked meringue into the cake ring

Then you add a layer of mousseline (like mousse, but stiffer) flavored with coffee extract and plenty of cognac, another dacquoise, and more mousseline.

Adding mousseline filling

Adding mousseline filling

Then you chill the cake again to set everything. While the cake is chilling, you take the strips of baked meringue and slice them into short lengths, which are called alumettes.

Strips of baked meringue, ready to slice

Strips of baked meringue, ready to slice

Then you retrieve the cake, remove the cake ring, and stick the alumettes into the top layer of mousseline for decoration. But that’s too plain,so you also sift on some powdered sugar and cocoa.

Cognac mousseline dacquoise

Cognac mousseline dacquoise

Chef Delphin likes to work with sugar, and we had a little time left, so he showed us how to make bubble sugar. You cook sugar syrup to the hard crack stage, then you pour it onto a sheet of parchment paper. Chef Delphin dripped some food coloring on this, and then he moved the parchment up and down so the sugar syrup slid back and forth. As the sugar hardened, bubbles formed in it.

Chef Delphin makes bubble sugar.

Chef Delphin makes bubble sugar.

When the sugar cools, it hardens. Chef Delphin cooled it over an uneven surface to make the hard sugar wavy.

Hardened bubble sugar

Hardened bubble sugar

Then we broke off pieces and stuck them in the cake for a garnish.

Cognac mousseline dacquoise, garnished and sliced

Cognac mousseline dacquoise, garnished and sliced

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Seminar: Food Safety 2

This lecture was mostly about safe food handling; safe food handling is mostly about not contaminating food and keeping food in a safe temperature range.

The lecturer for these food-safety seminars is Maureen Lee, who has moved from working in a professional kitchen to consulting on food safety. She teaches these classes that prepare people to take the ServSafe exam, she does kitchen inspections for the health department, and she coaches restaurants whose kitchens have been cited for food safety violations so they can get their licenses back and open for business again.

First she talked about personal hygiene; a lot of this was about keeping our hands from contaminating food. You’re not required to wear gloves when you work in the professional kitchen unless you’re handling ready-to-eat food. (You don’t have to wear gloves if you’re using a utensil, such as tongs to put ice in a drink.) There’s a whole hand-washing procedure, and we got a minilecture about fingernails: no artificial nails, no nail polish, nails no longer than the fingertips. Proper hand washing takes 20 seconds, 15 seconds of which should be rubbing your hands briskly under running water, because it’s the friction that really kills the germs. You dry your hands with a fresh paper towel, never with a cloth towel.

There are also rules about consuming food in the kitchen. If you’re going to taste what you’re cooking, you don’t stick a spoon in the pot; you spoon some onto a dish, taste with a fresh utensil, and then send the dish and utensil to the dishwasher. Massachusetts allows us to have a beverage in the kitchen but only if it’s in a cup with a lid and a straw. Unless you’re tasting what you’re preparing or sipping from your allowed drink, you shouldn’t have anything in your mouth; apparently some kitchen staff like to chew tobacco or gum, which is not allowed. These rules are followed more carefully in some kitchens and less carefully in others; that’s why the health departments inspect these kitchens.

Once your hands are clean, the next thing you need to do is check the temperature of everything. We’re supposed to test our thermometers every day by sticking the thermometer in ice water and making sure the thermometer reads 32℉; if it doesn’t, the thermometer needs a new battery. Maureen recommends the Cooper-Atkins digital thermometer we got in our kits; these cost about $20, depending on where you get it. If you’re looking for ways to dispose of the spare cash you have lying around, the Thermapen is also excellent and runs about $100.

There are all sorts of rules and guidelines that start with receiving ingredients from vendors. Whoever’s accepting the delivery is supposed to check the temperature of everything; you check the temperature of the eggs you’re receiving by poking a clean thermometer (you wipe it with an alcohol wipe) into one of the eggs through the shell, and it had better be 45℉ or colder.

For cooked food, you stick the termometer in and look for the recommended temperature. Meat temperature is measured at the thickest part. To check soup, you stir it first, and you check a casserole by sticking your thermometer in at several different spots. The thermometer mustn’t touch the bottom of the pan because the temperature of the pan is different from the temperature of the food.

Cooling food is another tricky operation. The safe temperature range is hotter than 135℉ or colder than 41℉ (45℉ for eggs in their shells and a few other things, like live seafood). Food within the range of 41℉ to 135℉ can grow enough pathogens in 4 hours to make people sick. The cooling guidelines are to to cool the food from 135℉ to 70℉ within 2 hours, then from 70℉ to 41℉ within 4 hours (for a total of no more than 6 hours. If you’re not down to 70℉ in 2 hours, you can reheat the food and start over; if you’re not down to 41℉ in 4 hours, you have to throw out the food. At home, I think this means you’re okay if you refrigerate your leftovers right away and your refrigerator temperature is 40℉ or lower.

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External Event: Opening Meeting of the Culinary Guild of New England

Elizabeth Hart, who handles job placement, among other things, sends out e-mail notices about external event opportunities. Some of them are for assistants at events put on by the Culinary Guild of New England. Unfortunately, most of these seem to be more appropriate for culinary students.One was specifically for a pastry-related event, but they had their complement of assistants in no time; I’m on the waiting list for that in case someone can’t make it. In the meantime, they were still looking for assistants to help in the kitchen for the opening meeting of the Culinary Guild of New England. I was worried that they wanted someone with culinary training and brilliant knife skills, in which case they did not want me. But Carrie Richards, who was in charge of the event, assured me we would only be heating up prepared hors d’oeuvres and passing them around on platters, so I signed up.

Guida Ponte was in charge of the kitchen for the event and showed us what to do. Chef Guida was corporate chef for Legal Sea Foods for 20 years; now she works for Verrill Farm, where she gets a lot more fresh air and sunshine. Because I’ve never worked in a professional kitchen, I had no idea what we’d be doing. The job was pretty straightforward. We had packages of prepared hors d’oeuvres and several premade pizzas, and we laid them out on baking sheets and heated them in the oven according to the directions that accompanied them. Guida showed us how to prepare the serving trays and how she wanted the appetizers arranged on the trays. Then we took turns getting things heated and taking trays around to the guests.

When it was my turn to hand out food, I made a point of looking at everyone’s name tags; some of the guests were people we would want to meet in the food world. One was Guy Crosby, Ph.D., an organic chemist who is now officially retired. Nonetheless, he teaches at the Harvard School of Public Health and he’s the science editor for Cook’s Illustrated. Guy and Kenji Lopez-Alt are responsible for the famous vodka pie crust formula. Guy made a point of coming back to the kitchen to chat with us, and we exchanged e-mail addresses. I need some cards to hand out at these things.

The guest speaker was Kathy Gunst, resident chef of NPR’s Here and Now and a food writer and cookbook author. She completed the culinary program at the Cordon Bleu in London years ago. At that time, there was the Cordon Bleu in Paris and this one in London, which had been started by a graduate of the Paris school. Kathy worked in New York for a time, and then she moved to Maine, where she still cooks professionally but at a different pace. These days she’s interested in getting kids to eat good food both at home and at school, and she’s starting a program at the school her children attend. She also cooks for a soup kitchen. I was reminded of Babette making delicious food for the village poor. Kathy came back to the kitchen and chatted with us, and she said she’s impressed with the programs at CSCA. I haven’t had any doubts about this program, but it was nice to hear such an endorsement.

I’m so lacking in professional kitchen experience that I was learning at the most basic level what to do in a kitchen. I’m glad I did this one, even though it’s not specifically a pastry event.

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External Event: Assisting at Pies and Tarts Recreational Class

We’re required to participate in three external events each term; we can participate in more if we want. At the beginning of the term we were told it’s a good idea to sign up for things right away because if we wait until December, we’ll be competing with everyone else who waited until the last minute.

One possibility is assisting in a recreational class at the school. There was a class on pies and tarts on a Saturday, and I’ve made plenty of pies and tarts on my own, plus we’ve done the pies and tarts in class, so I figured I’d be competent to assist. On the other hand, I had no experience assisting in a class, and I figured it was reasonable to make that the major learning focus this time.

 

Recreational class: Pies and Tarts

Recreational class: Pies and Tarts

 

Assisting meant we got there an hour early and got the places set up for the students. Eliana Hussein, the instructor, had us make up the dough for all the pie and tart recipes so the students could get their pies together and into the oven. But they also were supposed to learn to make dough, so we got the ingredients measured for them so they could practice making dough while their pies were in the oven. That might seem backwards, but pie dough needs to chill before it’s rolled out; the dough we made was chilled and ready to go. Once the dough is rolled out, it has to be chilled again before the pie is assembled and baked. If they had made their own dough at the beginning, the class would’ve been an hour longer.

Once the students started working on their pies, our job was to get them anything they needed and answer any questions they had. I tend to feel competent with pies and tarts, so I was pretty sure I could answer questions, and in fact, the students did ask me questions and I could answer them. My experience with editing is that people don’t seem to think that education, training, and years of experience count for anything. What I find in the culinary world is radically different: If you’re wearing a chef’s coat, people assume you’re an expert. It was a bit of a thrill to be seen as someone who knows what she’s doing.

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4B: Commercial Baking

Commercial baking is baking for a bakery or other large-scale operation rather than for a restaurant. In this class we made things that can be sold as individual servings, and we finished up our cake and tarts from the last class.

Commercial bakeries use formulas rather than recipes, and they weigh everything because weights are more accurate than volume measurements. (I’m already on that page; at home I’ve been using the scale for everything, including water.) In a small operation, inaccurate measurement might not have a noticeable effect; accuracy is more important in large amounts than in a small home environment or even in a restaurant where you might be making two of something for the dessert menu. If you’re making 500 loaves of bread, a small mistake suddenly becomes a big one. (Now that line from Depeche Mode is stuck in my brain: “Everything counts in large amounts.”)

Chef Sharon told us all about staling. I’ve thought it’s just the bread (or whatever) losing moisture, but that’s only part of it. There are also chemical changes in the starch structure. Products made from high-protein flour (e.g., bread flour) don’t stale as rapidly as products made from low-protein flour (e.g., cake flour). Staling begins as soon as the bread leaves the oven. Freezing stops the staling process, but refrigeration enhances it, so it’s fine to freeze bread but you should never refrigerate it.

We also learned more than most people want to know about shortening. Shortening is oil that’s heated and injected with hydrogen gas (hydrogenated) to make it solid at room temperature. (Hydrogenated shortening is okay; it’s partially hydrogenated shortening that’s bad for you.) The method of hydrogenation determines the properties of the shortening, and there are different types that are used in different applications.

Shortening actually has some good points. It increases moisture retention and keeps the product from staling as quickly. It’s more stable than butter when it’s creamed with sugar. The melting point of shortening is higher than the melting point of butter, so baked goods made with shortening have a softer mouth feel. (This feature backfires in frosting; frosting made with shortening tends to feel like it’s coating your mouth because it doesn’t melt at body temperature.) Strangely enough, puff pastry made with shortening puffs more than puff pastry made with butter because of the higher melting point. Butter, on the other hand, is delicious, but shortening doesn’t have any flavor.

Then we moved into the kitchen, where we did not use any shortening but we used plenty of butter. First we made up a batch of blitz puff pastry (like flaky pie dough, but with bigger chunks of butter), did the folds, and put the dough in the refrigerator. Then we got our Mogador cakes out of the freezer, and Chef Sharon showed us how to spread raspberry glaze on top.

Glazing hte Mogador cake

Glazing the Mogador cake

It’s harder to do than it looks, but I definitely feel that this just takes a little practice. We got them glazed and then they went back in the freezer. Then we filled tartlet shells with blueberry filling and topped them with streusel; we didn’t have time to finish these in the previous class. Those looked very nice when they came out of the oven.

Blueberry tartlets with streusel topping

Blueberry tartlets with streusel topping

We also finished the tourtes (tartlets with fruit custard). Those got a top crust, which needed cutouts so steam could escape. We used aspic cutters to make that pretty.

Pear custard tourtes

Pear custard tourtes

With the last night’s baking out of the way, we got back to commercial baking. A lot of the things we made were large pastries destined to be cut into individual portions. Having done some work on the religieuses (nuns) the previous week, I couldn’t resist choosing to make Jesuites, puff pastry filled with pastry cream and iced with royal icing. I’ve never made royal icing, and there’s more than one kind. The decorations on the little cake-style petits fours and on wedding cakes tend to be done with one kind; the one for the Jesuites is pourable. I started out by brushing it on the pastry, and Chef Sharon came by, took the saucepan out of my hand, and just poured it over, which is much more efficient. The big pastry then had to chill in the fridge for a little while so the icing could develop a crust; then the whole thing got cut into individual portions and baked.

Jesuites out of the oven

Jesuites out of the oven

We also made some coconut cookies. First comes the cookie base, which is pâte sucrée. We cut that into triangles and baked them for a few minutes to set the dough, then we topped them with finely grated coconut mixed with sugar and egg and baked them some more. When they were done, we dipped the corners into melted chocolate.

Coconut triangles

Coconut triangles

They look nice, but the sizes are all different. I think if I did these on my own I might make them different shapes and drizzle the chocolate over them.

One of the students made Napoleons, and Chef Sharon showed us how to decorate them. Chef Sharon makes it look easy, but I could do it with practice. You drizzle chocolate back and forth across the top, then you run the tip of your knife up and down across the drizzles.

Napoleons, decorated and ready to slice

Napoleons, decorated and ready to slice

Finally it was time to decorate the Mogador cakes. I think my design was a little too ambitious; something larger and simpler would have been easier and prettier. Mine ended up looking like mehendi, and amateur mehendi, at that. Chef Sharon recommends making up royal icing and practicing on a dinner plate; you practice awhile, wipe it off, and practice some more. I’ll be doing that.

Unadorned Mogador cake out of the cake ring

Unadorned Mogador cake out of the cake ring

Decorated Mogador cake

Decorated Mogador cake

Mogador cake: the crumb view

Mogador cake: the crumb view

Other students made other things with their blitz puff pastry.

Napoleons, sliced and ready to serve

Napoleons, sliced and ready to serve

Puits d'amour

Puits d'amour

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