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boulak

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About boulak

  1. It's been so long, too long, since I've posted on the site. I can't remember how to address a particular posting. I would like to say that it is a privilege and certainly a pleasure to have Chris visit the class. His insight to education is laser like. I work with students for nine days assessing their performance along the way. He is able to spend a few minutes with a student and can sum up their strengths and weakness with a few rapid fire comments. His comments help me understand the students and understand my responsibilities. It’s easy to get caught up in the production and forget about the teaching. Chefs teach on the job everyday. As an educator, I feel responsibility greater than simply teaching. We are preparing students for life and for a career. With twenty projects going on, it can easily come down to managing oven traffic, cleaning the room, or the other tasks of the day. I have high expectations of student participation. Students come to Johnson & Wales with dreams and high expectations. Why shouldn’t they and their families have the same expectations of my performance? One of the captions is that a good instructor knows when to step in. I would say that the opposite is equally true – that a good instructor knows when not to step in. If my approach to baking bread is nurturing stewardship of the dough and minimal (but loving) intervention, why should my teaching be different? I hesitate to make corrections; true learning in baking can come with risking failure in order to achieve success. Many people under bake bread and pastry due to a fear of over baking. Perhaps I over teach due to a fear of under teaching. Within a finite amount of time, I try to share all my knowledge and experience with determined and dedicated students. Students who arrive one hour after class and work on their journals for hours after the class deserve. Where do I draw the line? It’s not possible to transmit everything I have learned and everything I continue to learn. Indeed, every time I bake, I learn something whether I realize it at the time or not. As my understanding evolves, so does the curriculum. In a nine day (advanced) class, do I let them learn a few lessons on their own? Do I hinder learning by intervening? After all, when the students complete the course, it’s not what they know that is the measure of my teaching, it’s what they understand. To that end, do I open the faucet and let it flow and hope that they get every drop. (Sidebar: why do we say “every last drop?” There is only one last drop) I am fortunate to have Chris visit the class. His suggestions are brilliant and his insight is illuminating. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s visit so I can drink in his wisdom. The students are also looking forward to the visit because of his industry knowledge and connections. He also took the time to schlep Modernist Cuisine across two parking lots and through the maze of our building. I had to order it. After seeing it, I would not consider myself a chef or an educator if I did not own a copy of this amazing compilation. Thanks Chris for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with my class. And for opening our eyes to Modernist Cuisine. See you bright and early. -- Mitch
  2. Providence RI Restaurants

    I went to Pho Horn's the other night with a group of international students. Apparently this is the place that existing students tell the newly arrived international population about. I only tasted vegetarian dishes -- I thought they were delicious. Some of the dishes were off the menu; my favorite was a special of the evening. The others in the group were quite pleased with the other dishes ordered for the table. Here, like other pho restaurants, the vegetarian pho is served in chicken broth. The only truly vegetarian pho I have found is at Pho Paradise on Broad St. The pricing is modest. The dining area is clean and had a flat screen tuned to the playoffs. Pho Horn's -- 50 Ann Mary Street -- Pawtucket, RI 02860 -- in the Shaw's Plaza
  3. Chris, Thanks for the report on Baan bakery. Your photos and narrative of the Baan bakery are inspirational. It's reassuring to find people who devote themselves to the craft. I don't know how I missed his shop when we were there last year. We were a stone's throw from the Chang Mai gate.
  4. We address high hydration in the curriculum by making ciabatta, pain rustique, and a high hydration (78%) baguette based on Jeffrey Hamelman’s article in Modern Baking a little over a year ago. The baguette has a primary fermentation of three hours with three stretch and folds in the first hour to build strength. Stretched loaves (baguettes) can be very good, however; I prefer baguettes that are shaped and can reveal proper scoring technique. That is what I demonstrate in class. Make sure that the blade on your lame is sharp. Some bakers wet the blade when scoring loaves made from wetter dough. A quick, decisive scoring motion will be more effective than a hesitant one, and shallow cuts are advised. Extended fermentation times lead to excessive acidity and the aroma can be quite alcoholic. The leavening would be diminished as well.
  5. Peter Reinhart’s baguette shaping: Peter is a great baker, a great author, and all around great guy. His writing has inspired a generation of bakers. He and many others find it logical and practical to shape baguettes from a rounded pre-shape. I have seen beautiful baguettes made using this method. Others, including myself, prefer to pre-shape baguettes in the form of a cylinder. Think of a smooth, 6” to 8” cylinder with closed/rounded ends. You’re right; it resembles a blunt (not tapered) batard. To be honest, I have seen more bakers do it this way. That does not make one method correct or the other method incorrect; again, it’s a matter of preference. Most bakers do shape boules and batards from the rounded shape. It is baguettes that are open to the option. Perhaps that’s why some bakers prefer the rounded shape for everything – to keep things simple. As mentioned in my earlier posting, it’s critical to examine the intent of each step and the influence it exerts over the next step and ultimately the final product. I hope that this answers your question, as evasive as it might seem. If you begin the baguette shaping with the seam side up (from the pre-shaping), you will be able to work the seam to the interior of the loaf. I'm not sure if that addresses the issue you raised. Bluechefk: Did you notice the deck oven? The good news is that in September 2009, we will be moving into a new, state of the art building being erected behind the Harborside Academic Center.
  6. Rounding the dough for primary fermentation: Marlene is exactly right, this will enable an even, robust fermentation. An ancillary benefit is that when the dough is removed from the container for overnight refrigeration, it will be smooth and square. That will facilitate sheeting the following day. Rather than obtaining an oblong form, it is possible to maintain an even symmetrical shape. The comment in class concerned placing the dough into a container for primary fermentation, not the final shaping of the dough. For the final shaping we demonstrate symmetry, surface tension, and a tight seam. Refrigerating and retarding dough: There are at least two schools of thought on this subject. Each of which is commonly driven by available equipment. One method we are working with involves a reduced percentage of commercial yeast and a short mix. The desired dough temperature is 78˚ F to 80˚ F. The dough is placed in a covered container and refrigerated for 15 to 20 hours. The following day it is divided, pre-shaped, allowed to relax (intermediate proof), and shaped. After a final proof it is baked. Another method we are working with involves an even lower level of yeast and higher hydration. After a short mix, the dough ferments for one hour at room temperature. It is then divided, pre- shaped, relaxed, and shaped. It is retarded overnight at 50˚ F. Both of these methods produce loaves with many of the desirable characteristics of artisanal bread. When we produce naturally leavened bread, we go through a normal primary fermentation which includes a stretch and fold. After dividing, relaxing, and shaping, the dough is placed in proofing baskets or couche. We allow 40 minutes for the final proof and then place the covered loaves in the refrigerator overnight. OR, we skip the 40 minutes of ambient final proofing and place the loaves directly in the retarder. Advantages: Timing, lifestyle, and a flavor preferred by some. Rob’s comment about improved taste is one that I have heard debated ad infinitum. It’s definitely a distinctive taste and one that many people enjoy. “Improved” is a subjective term in this case. Excellent scoring (scarification). Disadvantages: A flavor not as desirable to some. Refrigeration space Thirty hour fermentation: I have not experimented with this yet. It would be impractical in our labs. I would like to study it at some point. We are working with 20 hours. French flour, French equipment, French bakers; they have their ways and we have ours. Razor angle and cut depth: Practice, practice, practice,………… I will express it the way I express it to students who have never seen a lame. This is not they way every baker does it, but it is a way to learn. If one end of the baguette is 12 o’clock and the opposite end is 6 o’clock, approach the baguette at 9 o’clock facing 3 o’clock. Rotate your hips to 1:30 (ish). Hold the lame in your dominate hand as if you were holding a key to a door. Turn the key/door knob slightly until the lame is approximately 45 degrees to the loaf. Place your other hand at the 12 o’clock end of the baguette to align your body. With angled lame in hand, and your arm parallel to the loaf, make the desired number of cuts with the appropriate overlapping. This information is better received with a visual demonstration. The depth of the cut is very slight. You are trying to create more of a flap than an incision. To develop good technique, it is helpful to understand the purpose: other than appearance, it is a predictable place for the steam to escape and it enables full and specific expansion, which in turn creates a more open crumb, has a clean chew, which releases flavor, which………..you get the idea. This has been explained my better bakers in much greater detail in many places. For example: Jeffrey Hamelman’s book is invaluable for methodology, science, and philosophy. The Advanced Bread and Pastry Book by Michel Suas is encyclopedic as well. I tried to answer the questions here as I would in the classroom. There are many accomplished bakers who contribute to egullet and do things slightly or radically differently and achieve excellent results. I let the students know that it is not who is right or who is wrong that matters, but rather it is what works that is most important. That is the wonder and excitement of baking. “Remember, the master archer seeks not the target, but to be the bow.” The students really enjoyed Chris’ presence in the lab. I was amazed at his quick and accurate insights into the students’ personalities. Thank you all for your interest.
  7. Great job Chris. The photos capture a great group of students at work. I will be able to post in more detail after class this afternoon.
  8. Talula in Miami Beach. Chefs Frank Randazzo and Andrea Curto-Randazzo.
  9. This was a great event. Thanks Chris. I think all the posts above capture my feelings about the day. I appreciate all of the sites we visited and I enjoyed making the acquaintances of such a diverse group with similar and disparate tastes. I visited Sonia's today and purchased two large bags of deli items. Gregory was very helpful and provided advice and assistance with my selections. As this is not food post, but an event post, I would like to comment on Chris' open mind and sense of community. Whatever there is to be found in Providence, he has found it and loves to share his knowledge and experience with anyone who expresses an interest. He seems to have explored every square inch of food related emporiums and not just for shopping there, but also for establishing relationships. I am looking forward to another event.
  10. I would like to add that it can be beneficial to a sluggish starter to displace 5% of the bread flour with rye flour for one or two feeding cycles to reinvigorate the activity. In addition, some bakers will start a culture with half rye and half bread flour, and wean the culture of the rye as feedings progress to speed things up. I concur with jackal10, as always, that a culture is best made with flour and water; nothing else is necessary, or desirable for that matter.
  11. Temperatures of 85 to 90 degrees F encourage bacterial activity and the production of lactic acid. However, with a higher yeast activity, fermentation is more difficult to control. This is one reason many bakers refrigerate the dough -- to regain control-- but it is not actually control, it is suppression of fermentation that is truly taking place. Refrigeration's lower temperatures also encourage the production of acetic acid resulting in a more pronounced sour flavor which many people prefer. Temperatures between 75 - 78 degrees F result in a more controled fermentation, proper dough development, and the production of balanced aromas (flavor). In a professional setting, the 75 -78 degree range is preferred when a balanced flavor (between the lactic acid & the acetic acid) is desired. Home bakers might have a different schedule, but the same results can be achieved. If bread is made of flour and water (and it is), then the starter should be made of flour and water. Grapes are not necessary; there are enough carbohydrates in flour to sustain the starter and enough yeast on the grain to promote fermentation.
  12. Japan won 1st prize for the chocolate showpiece (it was their sugar piece that crashed) and France won for the best sugar showpiece. Both pieces were remarkable. France also took first (and a monetary prize) for best degustation, almost a clean sweep.
  13. Clear Flour Bakery in Brookline.
  14. The Best Pho

    Pho Paradise (a great name) at 339 Broad Street in Providence has been open for about six months. Today, we had beef pho, vegetarian pho, shrimp rolls, fresh summer rolls, a coconut shake and a stawberry/banana shake for under $30. The veggie pho was great; I can't really comment on the beef. The fresh spring rolls were good as was the peanut sauce which was slightly thicker than I prefer it. The fruit shakes are good. They are made with fruit, ice, and condensed milk. I am looking forward to a return visit to try more of the vegetarian dishes which really looked good. The owner who was very nice told us that he is close to signing a lease for a spot near Brown University to be named Asian Paradise. Not nearly as good of a name, but the food will be the same. The service was very friendly and efficient.
  15. Morel Foraging?

    From the NY Times 05/07/06 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/07/style/tm...r=1&oref=slogin
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