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Diary: September 29, 2002


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#1 Malawry

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 12:42 PM

Thursday, September 26

I baked my first French bread today. We learned how to make baguettes in a demo on Tuesday, and Chef Somchet said if we wanted to actually make it ourselves we’d have to come in early and do them before class begins. So I made it to school first thing this morning and whipped up a batch of dough. I volunteered to work in the pastry kitchen when we were divided into teams for lunch service, because I wanted to keep an eye on my dough. I baked my three baguettes off right around noon so they were piping hot for lunch service at 12:30.

About three other students came in early to bake baguettes today, so all the bread was baked together. We all tasted one anothers’ breads to compare. We were all working from the same recipe and used the same technique, but the breads looked and tasted quite different. My bread was the prettiest, with perfectly domed tops, uniform color, and attractive opened vents…but it tasted somewhat flat. I didn’t add quite enough salt, so the yeast was able to work harder (salt inhibits yeast) but the end result was just not as tasty. Zoe’s bread had a more rustic look to it and I wanted to eat a whole loaf it was so delicious. She had added more salt than I did.

This exercise showed me clearly why most mass-produced baguettes suck when they look so fetching on the shelf. They’re undersalted so they will look as pretty as my bread did. I’ll try to mess with the salt proportions when I bake baguettes over the coming weeks and see what happens.

Friday, September 27

I have mentally dubbed today “cheese day.” Le menu included a cheese souffle (our first ones in class), a mozzarella roulade, veal milanese with fresh pasta sprinkled with cheese, and for dessert tiramisu. The roulade was especially fun to make (I had to lobby Drew to get to make it, because he wanted to do it too). We used purchased cheese curd, and I followed Chef Somchet’s technique for ladling in hot salted water and carefully stirring the cheese together. I packed my roulade with proscuitto, fresh basil, cracked black pepper, salt, and garlic before rolling it up. The resulting stuffed cheese was fresh and flavorful.

I stayed after school to bake palmiers and make crème patisserie for tomorrow’s event. Several students stopped by to wish me luck with my event, which I feel sure will go quite well.

Saturday, September 28

I had the luxury of good planning on my side today; I was able to sleep in, take my time getting things together, and do some things around the house before departing for L’academie around 1:30pm. Edemuth came with me.

I whipped together a salad and some sandwiches for us while Edemuth worked on cutting holes into all the pate a chou profiterole and éclair shapes. After eating she went to work on cutting Chefette’s brownies (which cut cleanly as anticipated, and looked quite fetching with the ganache stars we added later), and then she cleaned and cut all the fruit for the fresh fruit tarts. I ran about filling disposable pastry bags, cleaning the dishes we were using, and so on. I had intended to fill the eclairs with coffee-flavored crème patisserie, but I couldn’t find the bottle of coffee paste anywhere. I tried flavoring a little bit with some cocoa, but I decided it was too difficult to eliminate lumps and that it wouldn’t hurt anybody to eat eclairs filled with plain crème patisserie. Oh well.

One of the choir members, Meredith, came by around 4:30 with her SUV and packed everything off for us. Edemuth and I finished cleaning up and then drove out to the event site in Northern Virginia. We found the place fairly easily and went in to check out the kitchen.

One of the strange things about catering is that you never know what you will find in terms of facilities when you show up for a job. Fortunately, this place (a clubhouse in an upscale apartment complex) had a stove and a refrigerator plus a microwave. There wasn’t much counter space, but there was enough for two or three people if we each stuck to one small area. By the time we cased out the kitchen and unloaded the supplies I’d left in my car, Meredith showed up and we unloaded the rest of the goodies and got set up.

Edemuth and I went to work on filling the pate a chou and filling the prebaked pate sucree shells with the various goodies. I discovered quickly that using disposable pastry bags may not have been the best move: my brand-new star tips gouged some of them badly, and if I hadn’t brought extras I could have been in serious trouble. Also, the ganache was hard to pipe, and would have fared better in a cloth pastry bag which can take a lot more pressure than the disposable plastic ones.

I also learned that it’s handy to have several sizes of brushes available, even if you’re only brushing one substance. We were using apricot glaze to protect the bottoms of tartlets, plus we were brushing some over the tops of fresh fruit tarts. The tartlet shells were different shapes, and the large brush I had couldn’t reach the corners of the smallest ones too well. It worked okay, but a small brush would have been much better. Oh well.

All the trays went out on time, assisted by my friend Eliza who came out to help me. I was quite surprised to discover that one of the choir members has a mother who is a graduate of L’academie. She had come early to offer help where needed, and once I heard that she had a culinary background I set her up on squirting ganache into tartlet shells for chocolate tartlets. She was quite handy in the kitchen, which was a pleasant surprise.

Everything was set up 20 minutes early, just enough time for Edemuth and I to change into our party clothes. The event went just as planned; I slipped into the kitchen a few times to refresh trays but was able to hang out and schmooze most of the time. Everybody loved the food, especially the lemon curd-filled tartlets which I’d decorated with candied lemon zest and some musically-themed chocolate décor that Chefette had given me. I had some people offer me leads on future catering jobs (which means I may have to decide soon whether or not I want to do this more seriously).

I had tried as best I could to help with selecting wines for the event. I compared prices at a liquor store in the District and made some suggestions, based in part on what people recommended on eGullet. They ended up going with sparkling wines available at a bulk warehouse since they offered the most competitive prices. They served Friexinet brut, Cook’s brut, and a big-label Asti.

I’m grateful that this event is over. I haven’t really had time or energy to mull it over yet, but I really enjoyed both planning this catering job and working so intensively with pastry for the past few weeks. I relied quite heavily on Chefette’s expertise as I planned, baked, and timed things. I felt prepared to handle it on my own when I volunteered to do it but I didn’t realize how much I hadn’t considered until Chefette made suggestions. Thanks, Chefette. I also relied heavily on Edemuth for moral support and for assistance. It’s always a joy to work with her, and I’m fortunate that she made time to come assist me.
:wub:

#2 LaurieA-B

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 02:41 PM

Malawry, I'm so glad the event was successful. It's great to read that "everybody loved the food." I looked back at your initial cooking thread to find the menu, and it was very interesting to go back and read your first post, after reading about the event here.

Desserty link

What fruits did you use in the tarts? Cleaning and cutting the fresh fruit sounded like a huge job; I imagine some were berries served whole. I also wondered what type of pans you used for making the tartlets, as you mentioned in your first post not having tartlet pans yet.

I was glad that you decided to serve small items, rather than larger tarts and cakes, as larger desserts may become unattractive after servings have been removed. Your trays sound beautiful. Did you take photographs?

Many congratulations to you and your assistants.
Hungry Monkey May 2009

#3 Fat Guy

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 05:03 PM

Congratulations on a job well done!

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#4 vogelap

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 06:00 PM

As always, Malawry, I enjoy your posts. One of the things that has is fun (and educational) for me is to look for words/phrases that I don't yet know in your reports, then consult my FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION or other resources to find out what they mean. Quite educational! I'm convinced that I could hold my own, at least for a little while, in a chef conversation!

I am excited that your catering job went so well. And remember: The reward for good work is more work!
-drew
www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

#5 Suzanne F

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 08:14 PM

I was quite surprised to see you say:

One of the strange things about catering is that you never know what you will find in terms of facilities when you show up for a job. Fortunately, this place ... had a stove and a refrigerator plus a microwave. There wasn’t much counter space, but there was enough for two or three people if we each stuck to one small area. By the time we cased out the kitchen and unloaded the supplies I’d left in my car, Meredith showed up and we unloaded the rest of the goodies and got set up.


Sorry, but this is wrong, wrong, WRONG. This must have been your first "professional" catering gig, no? There is a great deal of prep work to catering, not just making the food, but casing the premises and determining what you need to bring in the way of equipment and help. I realize you did this as a favor to a friend, but there are still professional standards to keep up. What if there had been NOTHING there? What if the setup would not have allowed you to refrigerate anything -- would you have been willing to risk food-borne illness for your client? You should have checked before, and known what was or was not available to you.

I'm not trying to be mean or excessively harsh, truly. But catering is not a game for amateurs. If you do it at all, do it right. Know what the site is like, know what you have to bring, know what your staffing will be (you shuold never have to rely on civilians to do much of the work for you) and TAKE CHARGE.

If you are going to play at being a professional, you'd better know the rules.

#6 Malawry

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 08:26 PM

Hey, Suzanne F, I realize now that my post may not have been clear about what I did and didn't know about the facility in advance. I found out all that I could about the facility without visiting before working the event, and while I did not know how much space there would be, I did know that there was refrigeration and a stove. I had the ability to take an electric plate and a cooler if this had not been the case. Nobody got poisoned. I just completed my sanitation course and understand how easily it can happen. I did not visit because frankly it's so far out of the area where I live, work and play, it did not seem worth a trip...I am of course a very busy person. I could and did ask others who HAD visited about the information I regarded as essential. I would probably not make a policy of catering without on-site visits in advance, but for a dessert reception I felt perfectly comfortable with it.

#7 Malawry

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 08:53 PM

Laurie, the fruits on the fresh fruit tartlettes were kiwi, strawberry, and blueberry. Edemuth cut up the kiwis and strawberries that afternoon at L'academie. I had raspberries too but we ended up deciding to make raspberry tartlets: raspberry jam, creme patisserie, and a fresh raspberry on top. They looked pretty. We only made one tray's worth of the fresh fruit tartlets, so I don't think it took Edemuth too long to cut the fruit up. We even had leftovers which we ate for brunch this morning.

Vogelap, I'm sure you could keep up with a chef in conversation with or without my diary. :biggrin: Meanwhile, feel free to ask questions here instead of or in addition to consulting your companion. Sometimes I wonder if I make sense to readers, so questions can help me to know what I should or shouldn't explain as I write.

#8 cugel_the_clever

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 08:57 PM

Sorry, but this is wrong, wrong, WRONG.  This must have been your first "professional" catering gig, no?...I'm not trying to be mean or excessively harsh, truly...If you are going to play at being a professional, you'd better know the rules.

SuzanneF, I'm shocked. I would hate to see you when you are trying! Malawry has been kind enough to share her learning experiences with us all. There is no need to attack her in such a condescending way, especially before you had all of the facts. You should have expressed your concerns much more tactfullly than that.



(edit:sp.error)

#9 Nick

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 10:09 PM

Cugel - I second that.

#10 oraklet

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Posted 30 September 2002 - 12:25 AM

obviously, suzanne knows a lot about catering, and wants to defend her trade's honour (can it be expressed this way in english?). and obviously, malawry has a very busy life, and can't tell us everything in her posts. this seems to be a matter of misinterpretation, and perhaps such matters should be settled in private messages?

anyway, malawry, it's a joy to follow the reports. as for the baguettes, try to take a look at the "bread" thread. robert schonfeld is the local guru of bread, and he can tell you just about everything you would like to know. the salt/yeast balance is only one of many factors. resting time, the amount of water, bakers percentage, bigas, as well as sourdough, it's all there! only, don't expect him to tell you that a good bread can be baked in 2 hours...
christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

#11 KarenS

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Posted 30 September 2002 - 11:08 AM

Hi, about the bread- what you made was not tradional "French" bread. A straight yeasted bread that is proofed will not have much time to develop texture or flavor. A traditional baguette is just flour, water, and salt The starter would be in the form of a "chef"- this is dough from the previous days baking.

A biga is a method of making a quick starter.

A baguette that is "retarded" takes around 24 hours to make (and this is after having a developed starter).

Baking bread is an interesting art!

#12 Kim WB

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Posted 01 October 2002 - 06:02 AM

Sorry, but this is wrong, wrong, WRONG. 

I'm not trying to be mean or excessively harsh, truly. 

If you are going to play at being a professional, you'd better know the rules.

Um...but you were. If that wasn't your intent, then why be mean and harsh?

#13 Suzanne F

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Posted 01 October 2002 - 08:03 AM

Okay, okay. So maybe I was a bit too rough.

BUT:

Catering is the one part of professional cooking that civilians think is so cool and easy, anyone who "loves to cook" could do it. That is so not true. Catering is a BUSINESS, and yes there are rules and regulations to be followed. If Malawry had said she was doing all the prep and cooking at home, then I REALLY would have gone through the roof. In many places, that is illegal; and those who ARE legal (and pay all the fees) rightfully hate those who do not follow standards of professionalism. Which include the research, the meetings with the client, the contract, the staffing and sometimes arranging for the equipment, and, oh yes, the prepping, cooking, packing, storing, transporting, setting-up, serving and clean-up.

No, I am not now a caterer, although yes, I have been. What I always hope to be is PROFESSIONAL.

#14 Miss J

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Posted 01 October 2002 - 09:10 AM

I decided it was too difficult to eliminate lumps and that it wouldn’t hurt anybody to eat eclairs filled with plain crème patisserie.


You can say that again. :laugh:

Congrats on a successful job!

#15 Nick

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Posted 01 October 2002 - 09:10 AM

No, I am not now a caterer, although yes, I have been.  What I always hope to be is PROFESSIONAL.

Are you in the Marines?

#16 Suzanne F

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Posted 01 October 2002 - 09:24 AM

Are you in the Marines?

Worse: I'm a trained cook with an MBA :biggrin:

#17 Nick

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Posted 01 October 2002 - 09:45 AM

Are you in the Marines?

Worse: I'm a trained cook with an MBA :biggrin:

God save us all. :biggrin:

#18 Malawry

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Posted 01 October 2002 - 05:15 PM

Karen S, thanks for the additional info on bread baking. And Oraklet, I will try to check out those threads.

Why is a starter called a "chef"? And what's the difference between the bread you describe and a sourdough? The bread we made contained flour, salt, yeast, and water. We were told that if we bake regularly, we should keep 1oz or so of dough for tomorrow's bread...but that 1oz would be added in addition to yeast, not instead of it.

I know next to nothing about bread baking. I'm interested in the subject, but only as a larger culinary issue...not as a life's passion.

#19 oraklet

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Posted 02 October 2002 - 06:09 AM

"only as a larger culinary issue"

but if you look to the culinary headquarter - france, of course - you will find that there, bread is a substantial part of a good meal. the french gourmet will make quite a detour to find good bread. for myself, i remember dining in a nice french restaurant in copenhagen and especially enjoying the bread. i asked the waiter if they baked it themselves, and you should have witnessed his shame in having to confess that it was from an italian baker...

this weekend i baked my first baguettes. having baked a lot of bread, but never french style, i was surprised it was almost excellent, and very "authentic" (even had all the hairline cracks in the crust, thanx to the water-poured-into-pan trick). it was made from water, salt, "organic" yeast and 00-flour - with an over night biga as starter, and 8 hours of resting. dough was sticky (bakers percentage about 80 - perhaps a little too high).

the difference from a bread made in 2 hours is unbelievable. and the amount of work involved is the same, only you need counter-top space for the dough for a longer time. and we're not even talking hard core bread here, which is robert's department!

it's absolutely worth the little extra effort trying!
christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

#20 Louisa Chu

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Posted 02 October 2002 - 09:57 AM

Hi Rochelle,

We made eclairs, salambos and chouquettes today in pastry practical - and this original post ran through my mind! Some tips from our demo chef today - formerly of Dallayou.

Edemuth worked on cutting holes into all the pate a chou profiterole and éclair shapes

Start with your choux pastries "face up" on a cooling rack. Prop up the corner of the cooling rack on a #6/smallish-sized pastry tip. Use that tip to pierce holes in the bottoms of your choux pastry. Replace face down on the rack. Fill with a #8/slightly larger pastry tip.

I tried flavoring a little bit with some cocoa, but I decided it was too difficult to eliminate lumps

Whisk your pastry cream until smooth and sift a layer of cocoa over. Whisk to smooth. Add cocoa again as needed. Whisk again to smooth.

I discovered quickly that using disposable pastry bags may not have been the best move: my brand-new star tips gouged some of them badly

Carefully guide the star tips down to the bottoms of disposable bags, using your fingers around the points to guard the bag as well as possible.

One last tip for using delicate fresh fruit - like rasberries. Always carefully turn them out of the container onto your work surface or a plate. Don't try to pick them right out of the container with your fingers because if they're nice and ripe the way you want them to be for your pastries you risk bruising or crushing them.

And one of our other chefs - formerly of La Tour d'Argent - told us the reason eclairs are called eclairs is because eclair is also the word for lightning and these pastries are so good that they're eaten as fast as lightening. :biggrin:

#21 Priscilla

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Posted 07 October 2002 - 05:29 PM

Rochelle, it was thrilling reading about your event, from earliest plans to completion. Your cucumber-coolness and organization carried the day. Very exciting to see your culinary skills, (some, but not all, newly acquired), being applied in the real world.

Priscilla

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