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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Culinary School - Session 44: English Muffins, Kaiser Rolls, Oatmeal Bread and Danish... and Thanksgiving!

Culinary School: Session 44 (11.24.14)

English Muffins, Kaiser Rolls, Oatmeal Bread and Danish... and Thanksgiving!

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words Calories... 

It was a session mostly dedicated to shaping and filling Danish... quite the agenda for the day before Thanksgiving.

Oh well, I guess I know what to serve for brunch the following morning!

Bear Claw Danish with Cream Cheese Filling

Speaking of Thanksgiving... 

This year's feast was very traditional... which is to say we served all of the classics... and by 5pm, I was in a coma and on the verge of a gastric rupture.

I'll never eat that much again, until the next time I do.

Thanksgiving Turkey

Lardons of Bacon

Brussels Sprouts

Stuffing with Homemade Bread

Vanilla Rum Apple Crumble Pie with a Pate Sucree Crust

Thanksgiving - Dinner Time

Full Thanksgiving Plate

Empty Thanksgiving Plate

And the Big Reveal! 

The Thanksgiving holiday also meant there was finally time to visit the final installation of the L'Occitane showpiece at their Flatiron location. A pastillage (molded sugar) bust and a gown of royal-icing decorated cookies (over 300 at last count) came out quite well, if I may say so.

The piece was led by Chef Jensen and Chef Jurgen at the International Culinary Center and made for quite the project over the last couple of weeks.

Final L'Occitane Showpiece

- Ingredients Running Tally -

Keeping it lean(er)...

The doughs mixed during this session were certainly a departure from the heavily enriched world of brioche, danish and croissants from the previous week. 

Kaiser Rolls, English Muffins and Oatmeal Bread... while not completely devoid of milk, eggs, butter and sugar, they're closer to the basic flour, water, yeast and salt formula for a strict lean bread.

Ingredients used to date (11.26.14):

  • Flour: 20,170g
  • Eggs: 10,300g (206x)
  • Sugar: 10,680g
  • Butter: 12,150g
  • Milk/Cream: 11,445g

- The Recipes -


English Muffins

There are few pains that cut so deeply as when a highly-anticipated recipes lets you down.

English Muffins: the ironically named American breakfast (lunch and dinner) classic. With their nooks and crannies (and obscene quantities of dusted cornmeal that are the bane of my immaculately clean countertop obsessiveness), they have always been favorite. I was trained at a young age, English Muffins serving as the crust for mini-pizzas made in nursery school!

After preparing an extremely successful batch many months ago, I was perhaps overly complacent in assuming lightning would strike twice. After all, this recipe called for pan frying the muffins in clarified butter. It almost seemed like cheating.

Maybe it was my fault for waiting until later in the evening to test the bread, but I found the muffins to be dense and flavorless

But what went wrong?

The big difference between the two recipes is in the cooking process. This session's recipe called for pan frying the muffins until brown and then baking them for several minutes in the oven. The first recipe never used the oven - the entire cooking process occurred on a hot skillet. I think the extra time in a drying oven only worked against the muffins this round.

Oh well, they can't all be winners! Into the Thanksgiving stuffing you go!

Focus Techniques:
- Pan frying dough before baking. The frying process helps to set a crust on the muffins that should lock in moisture prior to baking in the oven.
- Properly splitting an English Muffin with a fork, a universally mandated practice for all homemade, non-Thomas' English Muffins. By using a fork, the hallmark nooks and crannies are carved into the surface of each slice. Using a knife creates a flat, untextured surface.
- Re-rolling dough. After the muffins are carved from a sheet of the rolled dough using a round cutter, the scraps can be gathered and re-rolled once. However, using the same dough a third time will not work as the gluten structure will be overdeveloped. 

Cornmeal Dusted Sheet Tray

English Muffin


Kaiser Rolls

Another product of Vienna, the Kaiser Roll is a deli-sandwich favorite in the United States. The rolls' distinct, five segment design is created using a bread stamp, which leaves a permanent impression in the dough.

In the age of bread guilds, a time when bread quite literally was life, bread stamps (and scored patterns) served as a guild's signature. Only bread guilds were permitted to produce bread, and the stamp was a way for a particular guild to label and highlight its products. 

Traditional Kaiser Rolls are left plain; however, toppings are sometimes used. Caraway seeds and salt are added to create the Kimmelweck rolls of Western New York, a version of a Kaiser Roll used for roast beef sandwiches ("Beef of Weck").

Focus Techniques:
- Using a bread stamp to form the shape of each roll. A metal stamp is firmly (very, very firmly) pressed into each proofed ball of dough, creating the signature Kaiser Roll shape. If the impression is made with enough pressure, the shape holds through the final proofing and baking processes.
- Firmly degassing the dough after each proofing to create a denser crumb. 

Kaiser Roll Stamp

Stamped Kaiser Roll

Kaiser Roll with Caraway Seeds


Oatmeal Bread with Fruit & Nuts

Another foray into the world of whole-grain breads. 

As anyone who has ever left a bowl of oatmeal in the sink knows, wet oats can create an extremely dense and sticky paste. This dough is no different. With minimal gluten development and high levels of hydration, the mixed dough is extremely dense and sticky... and I'm sure it would be a great wallpaper paste or grout.

Focus Techniques:
- Separately presoaking the dried fruits and the oats & whole wheat flour. The presoak helps to properly hydrate the ingredients prior to mixing the dough.

Unbaked Loaf of Oatmeal Bread

Unbaked Boule of Oatmeal Bread

Baked Boule of Oatmeal Bread



Focus Techniques:
- Shaping and filling Danish. Several classic forms were highlighted: Full Pocket, Half Pocket, Bear Claws, Bowties, Pinwheels and Twists. Traditional fillings include Fruit Preserves, Cheese, Pastry Cream and Almond Cream.
- Filling the Danish with an appropriate quantity. Over-filling the Danish will make it impossible to properly seal the pastry. Certain forms, like Pinwheels, are best filled after the dough has proofed so that there is adequate space onto which the filling can be placed.
- Firmly sealing any seams. The Danish significantly increase in size as they proof. If seams are not firmly sealed with egg wash and by applying sufficient pressure, they will split open. 

Portioned Danish Dough

Half Fold Danish with Pastry Cream

Half Fold Danish with Pastry Cream

Baked Half Fold Danish with Pastry Cream

Pinwheel Danish with Jam

Baked Pinwheel Danish with Jam

Bear Claw Danish with Cream Cheese

Assortment of Baked Danish

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