Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 61!

Another day, another sourdough loaf (I swear this is the last time I'll talk about it). To keep me on my toes, this morning's batch of dough had over-risen throughout the night. One of the boules had an enormous bubble coming up out of it. A classmate astutely remarked that it looked like "one of the seven dwarfs" (specifically, Dopey; more specifically, Dopey's hat). His observation was spot on. But, have no fear! I was advised to knocked it back, reshaped it, and let it rise again. If you don't want to have the same problem, let it rise more slowly overnight in the fridge!

I also made sacristans (AKA pastry straws) with my chilled puff pastry dough (both sugar & almond and Parmesan & thyme ones), seared spice crusted salmon, leeks with yellow peppers and marjoram, and Indian Paneer bread. I got the chance to start a "biga" for ciabatta as well. A "biga" is basically a starter for ciabatta. Unlike sourdough starters, you add yeast to a biga. Because of this, it takes less time to get "bubbly" (only 12-24 hours), so I'll be able to make ciabatta tomorrow.

One note from this morning: when working with puff pastry, it often looks done before it is actually done. Hold your nerve and keep it in the oven longer than you think. You want it to be nice and crispy, not doughy!

We began our afternoon demonstration with a brief wine tasting session given by a woman from the Domaine des Graves d'Ardonneau vineyard in Bordeaux, France. We tasted a white Bordeaux made with sauvignon blanc grapes, and a red Bordeaux made with merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes. Most people think red wine when they think Bordeaux, but don't forget about the white wines from this region! They are delicious, and often a great value for your money.

We also had a quick visit from our headmistress' nephew, "Cully", of Cully & Sully (, a high-quality, pre-packaged foods business that has grown exponentially since its inception five years ago. Winner of the Global SIAL d'Or "Best New Food Product" (the first time in history an Irish product has won this award), these young, hardworking entrepreneurs already have universities around the country using their business model as a case study in the classroom! So, money can be made in food!

Then, it was on to the real business at hand: the afternoon's menu! We watched our headmistress joint a duck (and use every bit of it), make beef consomme (a crystal clear beef broth soup), and whip up two different hot, flourless, dessert souffles (one lemon and one Grand Marnier).

I-Cannot-Believe-It's-Already-Thursday's Tips:

- Buying a whole duck is expensive. So, make the most of it! Save the liver for pate, the gizzards for "Salade de Gesiers", the carcass for stock, and the meat for any dish you please! Any scraps of meat left on the carcass after you've removed the breast, the wings, and the legs can be saved for Duck Rillette (sort of like a coarse, shredded duck pate). Also, do not throw away the fat! It is incredibly valuable. Render it down and store it in jam jars. Use it for roasting vegetables, cooking meat, confit de canard, etc (it keeps for months). Our headmistress joked that you can use the feathers for a pillow and the down for a very pungent duvet!

- If you like, brown a carcass in the oven before using it to make stock. This will add a depth of flavor to your stock.

- Brown meat in a frying pan, and then transfer it to a casserole (AKA a Le Creuset). The heat required to brown meat can damage your precious Le Creuset!

- Jerusalem Artichokes and Dandelion Leaves are extremely high in inulin, which promotes the growth of good bacteria in your stomach.

- The EU (specifically the European Food Safety Authority) recently rejected all 180 of the health improving claims made by probiotic yogurt brands.

- You can live your life without ever owning a copper mixing bowl, but it really does make a difference when whisking egg whites. You get a finer, more stable foam (which really contributes to a successful souffle). Clean your copper bowl by sprinkling salt into it and rubbing it with a lemon rind. Don't use detergent on copper!

- To pan-grill a duck breast (AKA "Magret de Canard"), put the breast fat/skin side down on a cold pan, then turn on the heat to cook. If you put it on a hot pan, it will sear. You want to render out the fat, not seal it in.

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