Baking 110

Going into culinary school, I didn’t expect to enjoy the baking aspect much since baking requires a lot of waiting around.  I’ve baked before, using family recipes, cookbooks and online recipes from the Food Network, and whenever yeast was involved, I dreaded waiting around for dough to rise and sitting in a hot kitchen.  Many, many moons ago, Grandma Rosita (my dad’s mom’s twin) taught my mom how to make her husband’s, Grandpa Floyd’s, great grandma’s Southern pecan rolls.  My mom busts out the recipe every year during the holidays, so they’re something to always look forward to.  Southern, old school recipes require a lot of love and care, which means a lot of time, so they usually taste better than the baking powder/soda quick-bake, no butter, kind of recipe.  It’s a yearly tradition for me to watch my mom make pecan rolls, and I have never been a fan of waiting around, twiddling my thumbs, as we waited for the dough to proof (rise), not just once but twice.  And one thing I don’t look forward to is the scrubbing and scraping of the sticky pans.  Because of this, I’d been drawn to quick, easy, no fuss baking recipes.

In high school and in college, I loved to entertain friends with food.  Some of my parties would be pure dessert parties.  In high school, my sisters and I would bake up a variety of sweet treats and our friends would come over to enjoy them along with conversation.

In college, along with the many dinner parties I threw, were cookie-baking parties where, surprisingly, more males showed up than females.  When a friend would walk through the door, I’d hand them a recipe, show them the ingredients and tools used for baking, everyone would bake, and we’d have a ton of cookies to enjoy with our coffee klasche.  Baking and cooking with friends is such a blast, especially since my friends always offered to do the dishes!

In school, we do things the old-school way – we bake bread using fresh yeast, we mix ingredients with a whisk and bowl scraper, and we knead the dough with our hands.  To my surprise, I love my baking class!  Especially since we have a proofer which rises the dough in no time, we get very creative with the aethetics of some of the baked goods, and there are less dishes I have to wash since I use plastic wrap to hold my ingredients.  There’s always something to work on.  Again, I am in an accelerated culinary program and we have much to cover within a short period of time, so there is no time for me to stand around and pick my nose, much less to use the restroom.

Even though I may have a weaker bladder, I really appreciate baking now.  I consider myself to be more of an artistic manual laborer, and baking (and cooking) is a perfect outlet for me.  Today I finally learned how to waterproof or moistureproof a fruit tart shell.  I sort of figured it out when I made the mini fruit tarts for Riva’s baby shower.  I thought back to Marie’s wedding – the dessert was excellent… it was a fruit tart with chocolate brushed inside the pastry shell.  When making the tarts for the baby shower I thought, the Hyatt chefs must have done something to keep from getting the tart soggy from the pastry cream and fruit – they have to make and keep 200 tarts from getting soggy… I thought the chocolate was the barrier and I was so right.  About 3 years ago, Marie and I catered a tea party, and our fruit tarts came out soggy… wish we knew how to moisture proof the shell back then.  Thank God for school – I am aware of much more food science.  Here are secrets to keeping the fruit tart crust crisp and not soggy.

1) Before completely browing the pie crust/tart shell, brush a coating of egg whites inside the shell (not too thick of a coat..you don’t want scrambled eggs).  Place back in the oven to finish (lightly) browning the sides of the crust.  Cool completely before placing the pastry cream into the crust.  Place in refrigerator for quick cooling.

2) Once pie crust/tart shell is browned (lightly), cool completely.  You can put it in the refrigerator or freezer for quick cooling.  Brush a light coating of melted chocolate inside the crust.  Cool completely before adding the pastry cream.

If you ever have any questions about this or other baking questions, please do not hesistate to ask.  I may know the answer.  If not, I have the resources to figure it out.

In this posting, I have pictures of the many baked goods I made this week only.  I made my own laminated dough, a danish dough, which was very time consuming but very rewarding.  So as to not morph into a butterball, I share my goodies.  I dropped off all my baked goods to my family and they are very happy that I chose a career in culinary – they are benefiting greatly from my education already.  If you want any of my recipes that you see on my blog, simply ask!

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