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Friday, November 21, 2014

Culinary School - Session 41: Croissants, Irish Soda Bread, Pain Viennois and Brioche

Culinary School: Session 41 (11.19.14)

Croissants, Irish Soda Bread, Pain Viennois and Brioche 

There's busy... and then there's BUSY...

This week has been BUSY. Yes, the bold, italic, underlined version. 

Starting Level II in Culinary School was just the beginning. Let's just say that this colorful tray of cookies for an upcoming L'Occitane showpiece is a nice figurative representation of my mental state... although far more delicious.

... the cookies that is... not my mental state.

Session 41 officially marked the beginning of our second unit on Breads... but that was just a small part of this week's activity.

L'Occitane Showpiece Cookies

It's just another Manic Monday... I wish it were a Sundae... 

Monday: A successful practical exam, bringing an end to Level I. 

The Test: a triple layer Genoise Cake with a Rum Spiced Soak, Jam Filling, Vanilla Swiss Buttercream and a Marzipan Rose. 

The Review: "This is a Beautiful Cake."

The Caveat: That piping!

... well, obviously. Unless there's a market for cakes that look like a serial killer wrote the "Happy Birthday," I should probably stick to the other aspects of production and design.

Exam Cake

If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium...

Well, France, actually.

An overdue lunch date, a student discount and continued curiosity regarding the offerings at The International Culinary Center's restaurant, L'Ecole, brought a late afternoon lunch: Escargot & Onion Tart, Squash Soup, a not-pictured-below Burger (sometimes you just need to eat the food when it arrives), and a Chocolate Mousse & Sponge Cake Dessert.

Expectations exceeded.

L'Ecole Lunch Escargot and Onion Tart

L'Ecole Lunch Squash Soup

L'Ecole Lunch Chocolate Mousse Sponge Cake Dessert

L'Ecole Lunch Chocolate Petits Fours Plate

Make it work, Chefs! Pack your knives and auf wiedersehen!

Fashion meets food? It would appear so. 

The L'Occitane Holiday Window Showpiece: several afternoons making Royal Icing Decorated Cookies, Poured Sugar and Pastillage. It will all come together next week in the Flatiron Store Front. 

L'Occitane Showpiece Dress Base

L'Occitane Showpiece Cookies

L'Occitane Showpiece Cookies

L'Occitane Showpiece Cookies

- Ingredients Running Tally -

If it's Bread, it breaks...if it's Cake, it cakes...

Two bowls of dusty, white powder sat at the center of our table. They were obviously flour, but they were unfortunately unlabeled. 

A debate ensued. 

"I thought this was the bread flour... isn't that what you just used to scale out the croissant recipe?"
"No... I thought I used the other bowl. You have the cake flour."

Our Chef instructor overheard the confusion. Reaching out and grabbing two fistfuls of flour, he offered, "If it's Bread, it breaks... if it's Cake, it cakes." Relaxing his hands and outstretching both palms, he revealed two very different results. In his right hand, the flour had firmly "caked" into a ball. In his left hand, the flour fell into a dusty pile. "This one is the bread flour," he said, wiping the flour from his left hand.

What an extremely useful test! The higher protein content of bread flour prevents the product from clumping under the pressure of a clenched fist. But cake flour, with a lower protein content and finer texture, bunches up into a solid ball, holding it's shape. 

Ingredients used to date (11.19.14):
  • Flour: 17,180g
  • Eggs: 9,900g (198x)
  • Sugar: 10,310g
  • Butter: 11,575g
  • Milk/Cream: 9,885g

- The Recipes -



They're back! Originally covered in Session 29, the benefits of reviewing the technical considerations involved in making Croissants, specifically in working with biological leavening in a laminated dough, certainly warrant review and further practice.  

This session was focused on making and laminating the dough. Forming and baking (and eating) those delicious crescents will come next class.

Focus Techniques:
- Minimizing gluten development in the initial mixing of the Detrempe. The Tourage process, when the laminated dough is formed though a series of folds and rolls, will develop more gluten. If too much gluten is developed early on, the dough will be tough and difficult to form. However, if the gluten development is insufficient at the time of the final shaping and proofing, the Croissant will not be able to rise. The dough structure will be too weak to contain the gas produced by the yeast.
- Practicing dough lamination with Croissants. A traditional Croissant has 25 layers formed through one double turn (Book Fold) and one single turn (Letter Fold).
- Keeping the dough well chilled through the Tourage process. If the dough warms, it will begin to proof and become difficult to form. 

Fresh Yeast

Croissant Dough Lamination

Croissant Dough Lamination

Croissant Dough Book Fold


Irish Soda Bread

This chemically leavened bread is like an uber-scone. If you like one, you'll probably like the other. However, the larger format of the Irish Soda Bread appears to trap more moisture.

Focus Techniques:
- Using the cut-in-butter method to incorporate fat into the dough. Small pieces of fat trapped within the mixed dough allow for mechanical leavening. The result is a crumbly, flaky, biscuit-like texture.
- Using baking soda as a chemical leavener. The baking soda reacts to the acid in the buttermilk that is used to bind the dough. Baking soda also helps to brown the bread.

Irish Soda Bread Mise En Place

Caraway Seeds

Unbaked Irish Soda Bread

Unbaked Irish Soda Bread


Pain Viennois

If the hot dog bun had a taller, more attractive sister... it would be Pain Viennois. 

Focus Techniques:
- Following a "Straight Mix" method. This simply means mixing a dough that does not include a preferment (e.g. Poolish, Biga, etc.) Many people assume "Straight Mix" means that all of ingredients are mixed together at once. They would be wrong.
- Forming baguettes. When making any type of loaf, it is important to make sure that all seams and ends are very tightly formed and sealed.

Baked Pain Viennois with Irish Soda Bread



Another classic bread returns, this time from Session 28. This butter-laden dough is the perfect base for numerous types of loaves. 

With our base doughs waiting in the refrigerators, we'll be tackling Craquelin next class... a muddled sugar and orange zest creation (also commonly known as Suikerbrood). 

Focus Techniques:
- Ensuring that the dough is properly hydrated. Before butter is added to brioche dough, it is very firm. Some additional hydration is helpful to ensuring that the dough remains sufficiently "Extensible" while the gluten develops. Extensibility refers to the ability of a dough to stretch. While gluten development is critical to a dough's stretchiness, if the dough is too dry, it will not demonstrated extensibility.

Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
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