Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Getting Baked 101, pt 1

"I don't bake". It's always been my go-to excuse for not offering more than ice cream or the occasional bread pudding for dessert. Part of it is personal taste, I will usually choice savory over sweet. But this semester, I am forced to renig on this one, as Baking & Pastry is a required course, and I'm a bit of an overachiever :)

Baking is completely different from hot foods's chemistry. With cooking, I can usually eye-ball measurements for spices, etc., and you can almost always "fix" it in the end by adjusting flavors. Baking requires precision, it either comes out right, or very, very wrong.

The Bakery at Orange Coast College is brand new (remodeled last year) and it is Beautiful!! No hot gas oven ranges, no smelly fryer oil...just pristine wood work benches, meticulously organized shelves, and 3 amazing commercial ovens. It seems so peaceful, compared to the hot food kitchen. Luckily, the Chef instructor is kind of militant, so that makes me feel more at home. I'm used to kitchens being unapologetically rough & tough.

A huge departure from all my other culinary classes, I get to bring the food we make in class home!! My standing with the hubby/family/friends is bound to increase this semester (*dusts flour off shoulders*)! For me, that's my favorite part of cooking...sharing it with the loves in your life. Well, that, and eating it.

First class, we made cookies, 5 different kinds of cookies (chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter, snickerdoodle, and ginger). Measurements are paramount...most professional recipes use weight rather than volume for dry ingredients...precision! The balance scale was a little intimidating at first (it reminds me of the weight scales they use at the doctors office...I always hated seeing them slide the metal marker over as my weight increased), but we've grown to be friends. The Chef made a big deal over whisking the eggs before adding them to the dough. Who knew?! I always just dumped them in & counted on the kitchen aid to incorporate them! Also a big deal, chilling the dough for at least 30 minutes before baking. This keeps the cookies from spreading out too much during baking. We used an ice cream scoop for portioning the dough...consistent sized cookies!

I'm getting totally spoiled by the quality of the equipment! My tiny kitchen at home dulls in comparison. The ovens are impressive! We have 3...2 are combi ovens (combi meaning convection & steam options) and a rotating oven that has 4 shelves that revolve in a circle during the cooking process (a little dial, much like an elevator, points to the shelf currently visible from the window). Chef Simpson says Mrs. Fields made her millions with a good cookie recipe & a convection oven! The rotating of pans during cooking, even moving them to different shelves in the oven,is encouraged for even browning of cookies. Since most ovens at home heat from the bottom, the bottoms of cookies often get hard...the chef suggests using double stacked sheet pans!

The recipes for this class are tested & adjusted year after year. I am giddy at having these awesome tested recipes for future use. The recipe for ginger cookies was surprising to me, using black pepper to contribute to the spiciness...yummy! I will share it with you here, because as of yet, no one has told me not to do so :)

Ginger Cookies
All Purpose Flour 10 oz.
Baking Soda 2 1/4 tsp.
Salt 1/2 tsp
Ground Ginger 1 T
Ground Allspice 1/2 tsp
Ground Black Pepper 1/2 tsp
*Sift dry ingredients together on parchment sheet*

Brown sugar 3 1/2 oz
Sugar, granulated 3 1/2 oz
*Place in mixing bowl with paddle & blend. Take out hard lumps if not blended*

Butter, unsalted 6 oz.
*Cut if butter & add to bowl. Cream butter & sugar until one blended paste.

Molasses 3 oz
*Add to above mixture & use rubber spatula to clean sides & bottom of bowl*

Egg 1
*Whisk egg then add to above until it all comes together*

*Make a small funnel out of parchment sheet. Turn machine on low & add dry ingredients to wet. Work efficiently & stop mixer when dough looks smooth & even. Scrape sides of bowl if necessary. Scoop cookies, roll evenly between palms and drop down into sugar. Place on parchment lined sheet pans and depress slightly. The cookie should be about 5/8 inches thick. Chill, then bake. *