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What is the most technically challenging thing you've ever made?


Shalmanese
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WIthout question, my first attempts at croissants -- in a small college apartment kitchen with no special equipment (like marble) in July.

I'll be interested to read others' responses, especially to learn what we think "technically difficult" means for each of us.

Chris Amirault

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Sous vide-ing duck confit in my Crock Pot was no picnic, but turned out well. Smoking a pastrami in sub-freezing weather, in the dark, also wasn't easy, but that was a major failure (although, not due to the smoking process). Keeping the temperature where I wanted it was the challenge in both cases. Does the dish have to be successful to qualify?

If so, it took a second stab at macarons for me to achieve success, though not perfection. Croissants were never a problem, for some reason. Must have been the good air conditioning.

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I made cream puff swans when I was 10...even have a picture somewear

t

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

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The most challenging thing I've made has been fondant; I don't have a marble slab, and have always done this on a plate, which is actually more than challenging, it is hellish, and probably really stupid; however, I love making fondant-based sweets, and hate the flavour of corn syrup in it, so have little choice but to make my own, although I can't afford a marble slab where I am right now.

I think most kitchen challenges come from not having the right equipment/instructions/comprehension and willingness to follow the instructions; if you have those, and sweat the details, it's hard to go wrong.

Croissants have been challenging too, but the the texture of both crust and interior have been so good, I persist in trying to get them right (they weren't a 100% success: each time they slumped considerably when I set them to rise in the steamy oven – I've never been able to discover the reason for doing this – and plan on skipping the steam next time I make them, to see what happens).

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
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Ther are a few pastry items that come to mind, Joconde with a stenciled pattern, chocoalte "S" meringues are hard, and have to be made a few times before I can master them.

Th hardest thing cooking was with the ingredients and equipment provided to us in my stint in the Swiss Army. Morale decreed that weo make field rtions more, ah... "enjoyable". There was "Panzerbrot" (literally translated as armoured bread) which were small loaves infused with pure alcohol and vacuum packed. Apparantly the shelf life on that was great. But the main challange was an item nick named "John Wayne", an individualy canned pork stew with beans and vegetables. The sauce was, mildly put, terrible. As we were cooking for about 100 the cans were opened, dumped into a huge collander, sauce hosed off, and a new sauce made, the solid contents then re-heated with this.

Many of kitchens were situated in air raid shelters and wonderfully equipped, other times we had "o" refrigeration and cooked with gasoline fueled two-burner units that needed horrendous amounts of cleaning and maintainence on a daily basis. And then doing all of that and some officer decides to call for a mock gas attack alarm, so we have to stop and do all of the gas alarm procedures. Fun times........

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So what was technically difficult about these things? The croissants, for me, were difficult bc I was hyperconscious about temperature, not overworking the dough, rolling to proper thickness -- and had to repeat this process several times, knowing that one botch would kill them.

Chris Amirault

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Pate a choux. Before I realized that sometimes the batter needs 4 eggs and sometimes it needs five eggs, I always put the maximum number of eggs for which the recipe called. And interestingly, instead of little cabbage shaped puffs, mine came out more UFO shaped. And, then, of course, I didn't find out that once out of the oven, you needed to prick them in order to let the steam escape so that they hold their lovely shape.

Too many rules. :biggrin:

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So what was technically difficult about these things? . . . .

The fondant is always rough because you need to work it from a very thick syrup to a creamy mass, and the viscosity is such that you really do want something very heavy/firmly anchored to do this on (rather than held down with your weaker hand, since your stronger one is wielding the paddle), otherwise it's possible to simply run out of strength and be unable to complete the processing; this happened the second time I tried making it.

When I make croissants, the dough seems to be remarkably forgiving of what strike me as critical slips (keeping the butter from breaking through the layers of dough has been my biggest problem), but the slumping that inevitably takes place during rising is depressing, and I haven't managed to prevent that. Even though the end results have been texturally correct, I'd love them to not look as though they'd been sat on.

Edited by Mjx (log)

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
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So what was technically difficult about these things? The croissants, for me, were difficult bc I was hyperconscious about temperature, not overworking the dough, rolling to proper thickness -- and had to repeat this process several times, knowing that one botch would kill them.

For the macarons, you can't over-mix, you can't under-mix, the humidity can't be too high, the oven may or may not need to be cracked open, you may or may not need to turn the tray half way through, and, for unknown reasons, they just freakin' fail at times.

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Ravioli

First, I had to teach myself how to make fresh pasta dough, which took a relatively large number of attempts. I did not have a good feel for what the dough was supposed to be like, and how thin it needed to be rolled, so my first 1/2 dozen attempts resulted in thick, rubber-band like pasta (not good!). Also storing the rolled dough so it did not completely stick onto itself was a problem. Using a manual machine was a challenge at first (controlling both the input and output, so the dough would feed properly into the machine and come out without making a mess - all without an assistant).

Filling the ravioli was not too difficult but very time-consuming. Then finding a proper way to store the ravioli frozen without damage so I could cook them later.

But after persisting, I finally managed to pull it off. Now I have developed a technique so it is much more straightforward. I make fresh pasta about once a week now, ravioli not very often because it is a little too labor-intensive.

Foie gras au torchon

I was nervous mostly because of the deveining step, although it was rather straightforward in the end. Also poaching in duck fat, and not being sure what the result would be like. Properly filling my glass containers to avoid gaps/air pockets, and finding a way to get it out of these containers intact to serve as slices.

Overall, this was all fairly easy even though the whole process was quite intimidating at first. This is not an ingredient that you would want to waste because of poor technique. The result was great in the end, so I was glad that I tried! I would definitely make this again.

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I'm a lightweight ! I make homemade pierogies on a fairly regular basis, so I guess that ranks up with the fresh pasta/ravioli. But I've been doing them so long, they don't seem challenging to me any longer.

The last thing I was really intimidated by was brioche. And it turned out great, I was very proud of myself. Macarons are on the agenda....I'm worried :huh:

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So

Puff pastry just seemed a lot of effort for something that can be bought of a good quality it worked but why bother??? focaccia to locatelli's "easy method" again seemed like a lot of effort but the results were excellent. Not sure if either conform to the technically challenging question hmmm.

So for me getting the timing right as part of a menu can be the most technically challenging thing its about the getting the choices of individual dishes correct so a menu works and thats where the challenges arise.

I am confident and experienced enough to make a number of dishes and put together a workable menu, but should I throw in new untested recipes or techniques then issues can arise, or if I choose to make a risotto and the guests are late, or put game birds in too early.

Regardless of all that I've just realised the answer is actually a chocolate fondant but thats down to timing again.

edited as I cant spelll

Edited by codheadred (log)
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I'm not sure it's one individual thing but rather the combination of a number of technically challenging processes that always gives me the most grief. Working in a home kitchen and making the things that are marked "don't try this at home" is always an indicator of challenge.

The first dish I made out of Greg Doyle's Pier cookbook was a Blanquette of John Dory and Ginger with Crab Ravioli.

The process involved making fish stock, a vegetable nage, a frothed ginger veloute, home made pasta for the crab ravioli, and then combining the lot into the final dish. Great if you've got a kitchen brigade; more difficult if you're doing it all yourself on a tight time frame.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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My white whale was strudel dough--I haven't tried puff since I don't think my results could come close, but strudel dough was my first laminated dough and it took me FOREVER to finish it. Especially since my first attempt I didn't clearly read the directions about letting the dough rest after each three-fold. That said, eating real Danish made it all worthwhile...

Keep on the choux--you'll develop a feel for what's right and once you get your panade texture/moisture down, everything else falls into place.

For the macarons--I've had better luck when I've ground my own almonds mixed with some of the sugar in the processor...I've never bothered with a cooked/syrup meringue and they usually turn out well.

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Perhaps not as labor intensive as some of the pastry dishes that others have referenced, but dry cured sausages are probably the most technically challenging thing that I have ever made. Between the temperature when making, the bacterial culture, the different casing options, humidity and temperature while curing and how long to cure there is a lot to keep track of.

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My white whale was strudel dough--I haven't tried puff since I don't think my results could come close, but strudel dough was my first laminated dough and it took me FOREVER to finish it. Especially since my first attempt I didn't clearly read the directions about letting the dough rest after each three-fold. That said, eating real Danish made it all worthwhile...

Keep on the choux--you'll develop a feel for what's right and once you get your panade texture/moisture down, everything else falls into place.

For the macarons--I've had better luck when I've ground my own almonds mixed with some of the sugar in the processor...I've never bothered with a cooked/syrup meringue and they usually turn out well.

I have to agree that the most difficult and frustrating thing I ever made was strudel dough for Polish poppy seed strudel _ I think I mentioned this in an earlier thread.

Stretching the dough to the exact thinness without tearing it was murder and by the time we finished I was dripping with perspiration. The result was okay but I was not really satisfied but never wanted to repeat it.

I had even less success with trying to prepare phyllo dough. Now I just buy it but twenty years ago it was not available everywhere and I thought it would be a cinch. My mistake.

Croissants are easy for me but I went to baking school when I was still a teen and working in my mom's bakery I learned all the "standard" stuff. Working with much smaller batches of dough took a bit of experimentation but I've had 50+ years to perfect it.

I had even less

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