Thursday, October 27, 2005

Cookin No. 30 - Cold Weather and Baking Practical

It has become treacherously cold outside. Already I have taken out my trusty winter hat, and am currently wearing it while I wait for my heat to kick in. Today I started my first day at Wegmans, by going though training called Produce University. It was actually very interesting. We learned about how Wegmans handles produce, how they handle marketing and customer service. Pretty cool how Wegmans expects all employees to be overly helpful to customers, and most of their employees are just that. One time, I saw that there was no cilantro, and I really needed a bunch for the dinner I was cooking that night, so I asked an employee if there was any coming in, and this person, went into the back room, came out with a box, opened it right in front of me and let me take the first pick of the new cilantro. I don’t find that at Giant. And they would also rather the produce department stocks a shelf 5 times out of the day with quality produce, than once a day and let the item sit all day long. I don’t know, I don’t usually get all excited about grocery shopping, but I have to tell you, that I love to shop at Wegmans. And now I get to see the inner workings. I can’t wait until Sunday when I start cooking in front of customers.

Tomorrow is my practical for baking. Basically I have to bake all by myself and present finished products to my teacher in three hours. I have decided to make baguettes and an apple pie. I decided to make the apple pie because it was that or a lemon meringue, and well, I don’t feel confident with my meringue skills, so it’s the apple pie or nothing. So today I went to my parents house for some practice time. I have to say, baking in the home, is so very different from baking in a commercial kitchen, especially after you have been baking in a kitchen with everything you could need at your fingertips for three weeks. And there is a huge difference between a home oven, and a convection oven. But I made due. I came out with two acceptable baguettes. The trick was that I had to knead the dough by hand, even though my parents have a wonderful kitchen aid, tomorrow I won’t have enough dough to put in a huge industrial stand mixer, so I have to know how to knead by hand. At first it was kind of tiresome, but after a while I developed a groove, and it was kind of comforting. Oh, and talking like Julia Child also is helpful and fun, as long as no one else is around ;).

This is what I love about cooking, I feel myself go into a sort of trance when I’m around food. All I see is the food, and know what I have to do. Everything else just falls away, even my personality falls behind, and all that exists is my hands and the ingredients, and I feel like I step back and just watch. Which is probably why I’m always surprised when something comes out good, because I can’t believe that I created something that I watched come into creation, and it came out just the way it was supposed to. Even though I am not completely cut out for baking, there is a calming repetition to baking; kneading the dough, rolling it out, and having patience. The key to good baking is confidence; actually, I think that is the key to all cooking. With out confidence and fearlessness you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes. Mistakes are the key to learning, and you never stop learning. If you think you know it all, you should just stop right there, because you will never be able to grow and adapt. You know, that’s the key to life too, but it’s too soon for philosophy my friends.

Would you like a good recipe for apple pie?

½ lb cake flour (two cups)
½ lb all purpose flour (two cups)
10 oz cold butter diced (the package should have a map on it)
5-6 oz cold water

Sift the flour together, and then add the butter, and use a pastry cutter mix together until the butter is about the size of small peas. Mix in the water and form into a ball, then refrigerate. Try not to use your hands because they cause heat and will melt the butter, you want this crust to be flaky.

While the dough is refrigerating start on the apples:

2 lb of granny smith apples (about 4 apples)
Melted butter

Mix it all together until the apples are good and coated.

Take your dough out of the fridge and cut in half. Roll out both halves, I have found that because the dough is cold, if you keep picking it up and flipping it between rolls over it rolls out easily. Put one half in a pie tray, and dock it with a fork. Let the excess dough hang over the edges, and add the filling. Make sure the apples fill the whole pie, so no gaps. Then if you want to make a lattice top, cut ½ inch wide strips out of the second rolled out dough. Start the lattice by placing about 4 or 5 strips on the pie, and going in the same direction, vertical or horizontal. Then fold back alternating strips, and lay a strip down going across the strips you already have laid out. Pull the folded strips down, and fold the other strips and repeat until you have enough going across. Basically you want to weave the strips. Then pinch the strips and bottom dough together all around, and cut away the excess dough. This is called fluting. If you want to make a full covered pie top, just put the second rolled out dough on top of the pie and flute the edges, cut away the excess dough and cut slits in the top of the dough to let steam escape while baking.

If my explanation of lattice was a little confusing, Betty Crocker gives a good demonstration.

Bake at 425o until the crust is golden brown and the juice inside is bubbling. Take out of oven, cool and then get out the ice cream!

Friday I have my written final for baking, I can’t believe that three weeks have gone by already. I feel as if I have been in school for 6 months, and only two months ago I was still working in the corporate world. Its amazing how far away that life is now, and how fast I have embraced this career decision. Next Monday I start meat cutting, oh yea, give me a slab of meat and let me at it ;). Well, as long as I don’t have to see the animal looking at me, I’ll be fine, but I don’t know how I will fare with lobster. I’m the person that will drop everything to save a bug and take it outside, rather than killing it. So we will see what happens, and see what my stomach does.

Until next time my friends, Bon Appetite.

(ps. I wrote this entry last night, today I took my practical and got a 93, she had to take some points because my pie came out a few minutes late)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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3:09 PM  
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3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog - I am leaving the corp world to pursue cooking also, for many of the same reasons, primarily personal satisfaction - best of luck to you.
I would enjoy corresponding with you in the future.

1:06 PM  

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