Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chocolate Mousse

Sadly, the first five weeks of the semester are over, and we have moved on from the Introduction to Baking class to Intermediate Baking. Judging by the syllabus, all this really means is that we have five weeks with a different instructor, elaborating on what we've already learned, and tossing in some "fancy" things like mousses, creme brulees and cheesecakes. I miss Chef Debbie already! 

Chef Amanda tossed us right into the action on day one with some chocolate mousse!

I am in no way a pro already at making chocolate mousse, but it was way easier than I expected! Easy in a..."I think I could perfect this and make delicious tasting chocolate mousse someday". 

The word mousse comes from a French word that translates literally as "frothy, foamy, or light". To make mousse, it's pretty necessary that you have a mixer. Something fluffy, like whipped cream or meringue, is folded into a base such as a fruit puree, vanilla sauce, cream or pudding, just to name a few options. The base will need to be light and smooth so that the aerator can be incorporated easily. Proper folding is needed to add the foamy mixture (in our case whipped cream) to the base, to ensure that the foam loses as little volume as possible.

The recipe for this chocolate mousse was pretty basic, but it's very crucial that you follow each step carefully and read ahead so you are prepared for each step ahead of time. Working quickly in some spots is needed as well. Seriously, try this at don't be disappointed! 

Chocolate Mousse
makes 8 half cup servings

  • 3 cups heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • 1 bag chocolate chips (12 ounces), melted over a double boiler and kept hot
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  1. Whip cream to soft peaks and reserve in fridge. (Whip with a mixer if you've got it- you don't want to know about the alternative method!)
    • Okay, remember that time I blogged about mousse and said it was basic and "easy"?? I lied. And I hate liars. What I meant is that, if you follow all the directions, and practice, this COULD be super easy. 
    • Just for the record, while working with a partner, she overworked the peaks a tad. TheKitchn has an awesome visual guide for what you want your whipped cream to look like.
    Soft Peaks
    • So basically, like this site says, when you turn your whisk upside down, the peaks are just starting to hold. They're soft and melt back into themselves after a second, if you're looking for soft peaks. Which we are for this recipe.
  2. Melt your chocolate and keep it hot or be ready to re-warm it later.
    • You can use a double boiler here. In our case, we simmered water in a pot, then placed the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl and placed it on the pot. Never put chocolate into a saucepan and then set it on the stove. (Let's just say, there is a lot of learning by mistakes in this class, and the more mistakes we all make, the better bakers we are becoming!)
  3. Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in the bottom of a double boiler. 
    • This is going down in a separate double boiler, or you can do exactly what was done above.
  4. Combine egg yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler. Begin stirring immediately and place it over double boiler bottom.
    • Absolutely, positively, DO NOT mix your sugar and egg yolks until you are ready to place them on the double boiler! Measure out your ingredients separately, then wait for this step to happen. If you do it ahead of time, the mixture won't combine in the same way as if you were to wait and mix them together right before applying heat. (another lesson learned from a mistake!)
  5. Cook, stirring constantly, until a thermometer registers 165 degrees F. Whip it cool with a whisk. It will be thick. Add about one third of whipped cream and whisk until combined.
  6. Take this mixture and pour it back into all of the remaining whipped cream. 
    • Whisk until just combined.
  7. Now, add about 2 cups whipped cream to the hot, melted chocolate and whisk! If the chocolate isn't hot enough, or you don't whisk fast enough, it will turn out like chocolate chip mousse (which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, just not what we're going for).
    • Here, we are tempering our chocolate. We don't want to add all the chocolate to the whipped cream, because it will collapse the whipped cream and we won't get that light, fluffy texture.
  8. Fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour into mold. Refrigerate until set.
    • To put the mousse into the glasses pictured ahead, we used a pastry bag and pipped it in. Makes it look pretty!
  9. Add any toppings you'd like. In this case, we sprinkled some chocolate shavings on top.
    • Take a big block of chocolate, and using a large kitchen knife, scrap the chocolate to get shavings. Tilt the top of the knife towards you, press down on the chocolate, and pull the knife towards you. Make sure the block is secured on the table, and up against a towel on your hip.
 This is the part where you WOW your guests with the chocolate mousse you just made! Tell them it took you hours and hours! They'll never know! ;-) 

Tomorrow we're on to creme brulees. Chances are, I will learn how to do this, and not spend much more time in my life perfecting it. But you never know!

Have fun in the kitchen!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Banana Bread Pancakes!

So, to celebrate Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday, I felt compelled to participate in the "Pancake Day" portion of the festivities! No, I'm not giving up anything for Lent, so I'm not really "fattening up" for the season, but since I've a) just learned it was Pancake Day today and b) been eyeballing this recipe for a couple weeks now, I just felt the timing was right! Sadly, I will not be participating in any English pancake day races....

Saw this banana bread pancake recipe on pinterest, pinned it, made it a few days later, and now my tummy is super happy tonight! Don't ya just love technology!?!

On the "bucket list" is purchasing a nice camera and learning how to take fancy shmancy shots, particularly of food and my baked goods. Until now, you'll have to deal with this! =o)

Banana Bread Pancakes
makes 12 pancakes (I just halved this and got exactly 6, measuring out 1/3 cup for each pancake)
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I used half all purpose, half whole wheat flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extra
  • 3 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted (I used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Light)
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Measure out the milk and add the vanilla extract to it. Whisk together the dry ingredients and add in milk and vanilla, stirring to combine. The mixture will still be dry. Add in mashed bananas and mix. Add in melted butter and stir until batter is somewhat smooth. Batter will seem very thick!

Heat a skillet or grilled on medium heat. Using a 1/3 cup measure, spoon batter into rounds and cook until bubbles form on top – about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for a minute or two more. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve hot with butter and syrup, or the vanilla maple glaze.

Note: Two cups of regular all purpose flour should be just fine. I'm not sure if I've ever seen pastry flour in the store.

I didn't use this glaze (just used Wegmans lite syrup, a tablespoon of powdered sugar, and spray butter), but it sounds delightful!

Vanilla Maple Glaze
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth. Pour over pancakes. 

A perfect way to start the day! Or for dinner, in my case. I imagine smothering it in heaps of peanut butter would be ridiculously awesome as well! And it won't completely set you back on the calories- especially if you do some substituting out for the calories (i.e., applesauce for butter...)

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size 1 pancake (when batter makes 12 pancakes, 1/3 cup of batter)

Calories 151
Total Fat 1.3g
Saturated Fat 0.3g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 22mg
Total Carbs 31.1g
Dietary Fiber 2.8g
Sugars 10.7g
Protein 3.6g

I drove past a bulletin board in front of a church tonight that said they were having a pancake dinner tonight! Ha!

Happy Pancakin'! 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Laminated Doughs: Cinnamon Rolls

Last week we finished off tarts, quick breads and laminated doughs. I baked a loaf of chocolate chip banana bread, but forgetting that convection ovens can cook a little faster, it got a little bit browner than I usually bake. No worries- at least I have learned more basic things about quick/loaf breads, and that the dry ingredients should be added to the wet ingredients just to the point of everything coming together- overmixing will cause gluten development, which is not desirable with quick breads, and you won't get a light, delicate texture.

The real excitement of last week was....cinnamon rolls!!! These were absolutely delicious. I can't remember the last time I had a cinnamon roll, let alone one so yummy. This was a definite out of control evening....more cinnamon rolls flew into my tummy than necessary. C'est la vie!

Cinnamon rolls would be one of those things that I would bake, and then not be able to watch people eat. A batch of them would be gone in seconds. And while that is the point in baking something, I would still be screaming in my head- don't you know how long those took to make?! Try breathing between bites!!

Anyways, these will take some practice for me, if I would ever be interested in making them in a make believe bakery I will own some day.

It starts with laminated dough. All that this term means is that you prepare a pastry dough, roll it out, and layer (or laminate) it with fat. It's really important to have an even, consistent combination of fat and dough that will cause expansion and create a flaky texture as an end result. This procedure is used with croissants, puff pastries and danishes. Again, we practiced this technique with cinnamon rolls.

Initially, I followed a simple danish dough recipe, which included yeast, and allowed the dough to rise for awhile. Then I rolled it out to the size of a large sheet tray and let it refrigerate over night, to relax the gluten, or protein, that was developed while mixing. Gluten is a protein that develops during bread or dough development when flour and water are mixed, and it gives the dough elasticity.

The next day I rolled my dough out, trying to get it as close to an even rectangle as possible, so I could spread the butter on one half of the dough. This step is called lock-in. Once the butter is evenly on one side of the dough, you do a single fold and fold the dough in on itself- this type of fold doubles the number of layers in the pastry. After this fold, you refrigerate before the next fold.

Basically, all that's left now is lots of waiting for the dough to relax under refrigeration, alternated between folding the dough into layers. The reasoning behind the layers is that, while baking your dough, the fat will melt between the layers. When the fat melts, this will create pockets in the dough where released steam from the moisture in the dough acts to rise the dough. As the steam rises, the dough will expand and rise, and the remaining fat will "fry" the dough so that the air spaces are retained.

And so, you start folding away.

The above picture comes from this website here, which has one of the best pictures I found for a four fold, even though this site is describing a puff pastry. What this does is quadruples the amount of layers of pastry dough that you started with. Visualizing your rolled out dough into quarters, you first fold the two quarters to meet in the middle. Then you fold the two halves like a book.

It didn't occur to me at the time to take pictures along the way, since I was a tad bit frustrated with this process.

Anyways, after the single fold and four fold, let the dough rest under refrigeration again. Then we proceeded with 2 three folds, in between refrigeration again. This would be just like folding a letter into an envelope- eyeball the dough into thirds, then fold one third over the middle, and the other end of the dough over that. Every time you do a fold, the next time you fold, you should rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll in the opposite direction.

Now I was finally ready to make the cinnamon rolls! After rolling out the last three fold, I divided that into two pieces and rolled them out one at a time. This was difficult for me- I'm pretty sure I didn't fold my dough in opposite directions each time, or maybe I didn't let enough time pass between foldings. Either way, my dough was hard to work with.

I finally came up with this. Theoretically, the dough probably should had been rolled into a bigger rectangle, which would had made the dough thinner. I brushed egg wash over my dough and sprinkled on a hefty portion of cinnamon and sugar.

Then I rolled it on up, and cut into pieces.

I'll need to work on my pretty factor here. But the taste didn't skip a beat in the deliciousness department!

See?! No wonder people just buy the dough ready to go in the can...this will take ya forever! But well, well worth it! ;-)

Now go get into the kitchen and make some!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie!

So, I clearly don't go around making chocolate chip cookies every other day in order to create the most perfect cookie. But I've made plenty a chocolate chip cookie in my day, and while they usually taste delicious, pretty is something I'm striving for, as I've mentioned before. Someday, when I am mass producing lots and lots of cookies, I will figure this out.

I found this helpful website on how to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie- if it's not perfect, it shows you what you did wrong and how to correct it. 

Problems with cookies
There are many variables in baking.  Pictured are cookies with various problems using the same dough (with flour adjustments in numbers 3 &4).
1.  This cookie is done just right. It is pictured to compare with the rest.
2.  This dough was not refrigerated.  It is still good but a little flatter than it should be.
3.  This dough contained too much flour and did not spread much at all. It is interesting to note that the dough looked identical to the correct dough, but was much stiffer and drier.
4.  This dough had too little flour.  It spread too much and didn’t bake evenly.
5.  This dough was over-mixed.  It had a poor color, baked flat and had a strange consistency.
6.  This dough was formed too small.  It was overcooked at eight minutes. It is fine to make smaller cookies, just bake them for less time.
7.  This dough was formed too large.  The outsides were done while the middle was too high and underdone.
8.  This dough was baked in an oven 25 degrees too hot.  The outside was overdone and the inside was slightly underdone.
9.  This dough was baked in an oven 25 degrees too cool.  It fell flat and became too crisp without much of an inside.
10.  This dough was frozen when baked.  It took longer to bake and didn'
t cook as evenly.  To use frozen dough, set on cookie sheet at room temperature while oven is preheating, 15-20 minutes.  It takes the frost off and bakes perfectly.
This picture was the most interesting part of the site for myself. I've definitely had cookies like number five before. I've paid hardly enough attention to over mixing dough in the past, but I'll be sure to do it as little as possible in the future. Having a mixer really helps on this one! I may even do what the website recommends, and toss my chocolate chips in before my flour, or at the same time, to prevent over mixing.

The thing that this class has REALLY made me realize is that your ingredients really really need to be weighed out. This website addresses that issue. Packing a measuring cup with flour can create many different actual amounts of flour going into your recipe, if you're not careful, especially since flour is airier than, say, packing brown sugar into a cup. That is why all of the recipes in my book for class has the ingredients listed out by weight, and we weigh everything instead of measuring it all out. Good thing I just got a nutritional kitchen scale for Christmas! =o)

Having all of that been said, my first attempt at chocolate chip cookies in class was pretty decent!

Since they sell these in the cafeteria at ECC and use them for events and whatnot, they make them mega huge for some reason. That's five ounces of cookie right there. I'd like to try this recipe using what it calls for, rolling out 1.5 ounces of cookie dough to be baked. 

My instructor claims that the best cookie recipe she uses at home is the one on the back of the package of Wegmans brand semi-sweet chocolate chips. She said it's slightly different than the Nestle Tollhouse chips, which is my go-to recipe, but I haven't checked out the differences yet. 

Anyways, for anyone interested in the whole weighing out your ingredients for baking process, here is the recipe for Chocolate chunk cookies. All of the recipes for my class come from the Mastering the Art and Craft, Baking & Pastry the 2nd edition, by The Culinary Institute of America. (how official of me! this is close to 1000 pages of baking tips and recipes, kids!)

Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes 4 dozen 1.5oz cookies
  • Pastry flour (all purpose is fine for home)     1 lb 5oz
  • Salt                                                         1/3 oz
  • Baking soda                                              1/3 oz
  • Butter                                                      14 oz
  • Granulated sugar                                       10 oz
  • Light brown sugar                                      6.5 oz
  • Eggs                                                        6 oz
  • Vanilla extract                                           1 tsp
  • Chocolate chunks                                       1 lb 5 oz
1. Line sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda.
3. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed with the paddle attachment, scraping down the bowl periodically, until the misture is smooth and light in color, about 5 minutes.
4. Combine the eggs and vanilla. Add to the butter-sugar mixture in 3 additions, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.
5. On low speed, mix in the sifted dry ingredients and the chocolate chunks until just incorporated.
6. Divide the dough into 1.5-oz pieces and place on the prepared pans. Alternatively, the dough may be divided into 2 lb pieces, shaped into logs 16 inches long, wrapped tightly in parchment paper, and refrigerated until firm enough to slice. Slice each log into 16 pieces and arrange on teh prepared sheet pans in even rows.
7. Bake at 375 degrees F until golden brown around the edges, 12-14 minutes. Cool completely on the pans. Store in an airtight container.

Then, you will get this!


Well, a much smaller sized cookie than this. 

For completions sake, all though who in their right mind would want to think about this while eating this cookie, here are the nutritional facts:

Serving Size: 1 cookie, 46.9grams
Calories: 200
Total Fat: 10.6g
Saturated Fat: 6.5g
Cholesterol: 33mg
Sodium: 160mg
Total Carbs: 25.6g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1g
Sugars: 16g
Protein: 1.8g

The moral of this story is....everything in moderation! Or, go for a two mile run to indulge in this fantastic, melt in your mouth deliciousness! ;-) Keep in mind if you get more cookies from this recipe by cutting back on the size of the cookie you shape out to bake, it will be less calories. I promise you they will be delicious, either way!

I'm still trying to perfect my peanut butter cookie in class- I can't seem to take them out of the oven soon enough, and they are too brown on the bottom. But they just don't look cooked in the middle! Gah! My oatmeal cookies today came out brown around the edges- the instructor said they looked fine, but fine does not equal pretty in my book! Next time I'll make the dough and let it chill overnight. I will try again in the next couple weeks!

Now go bake something delicious to celebrate the arrival of February! One month closer to winter being over- then we're on to ice cream weather! ;-)