Monday, 14 April 2014

Something(s) for the weekend?

Having made our croissant and brioche doughs on the Thursday, Friday was the day when they were transformed into things of beauty. The doughs had been left to prove in the fridge overnight and when we peeked in to wake them up, the brioche had bulged to monstrous lumps barely restrained by its triple-layered clingfilm and the croissant wasn't far behind!

We started with the brioche and carefully unleashed it from its skin-tight clobber before tapping it with a rolling pin to start the knocking back process, which was completed with a quick kneading. We made a variety of shapes from the dough, such as a brioche burger bun and small individual brioches made from two ping-pong ball lumps of dough enclosing a few chocolate drops in a brioche tin, but by far my favourite, and which yielded the best results, was the large brioche loaf. We used a hand-rolling technique as with bread dough to make three equal-sized balls (ours weighed about 215g each) and snuggled them with each other in a loaf tin before generously egg washing. We left these to prove until they had doubled in size before they went into the oven at 200°C until golden. The resulting loaf was delicious - light, aromatic and comforting, and fabulous toasted. Definitely one to try again!

Next, it was on to the croissants and pains au chocolat. We had a template ready, a paper isosceles triangle with a base of 15cm and a height of 17.5cm. After removing about a third of the dough to use our chocolate treats, it was possible to see the spiralled layering in the dough; exactly what we were looking for as a result of yesterday's turning and rolling. We re-wrapped this chunk and put it back in the fridge.
Tapping the remaining dough flat with a rolling pin on a floured surface, as we had with the brioche dough, we then rolled it out, working quickly while it was still cold, to a thickness of 2-3mm, keeping the dough in as uniform a rectangular shape as possible. It is quite an active dough and shrinks back when you are rolling it out, hence the need to work quickly - this part is good exercise!
Croissants ready to be baked, each with lots of space!
Using the templates, we cut out one triangle at a time, before cutting a slit about 5cm long from the centre of the base of the triangle. This will reduce the density of dough in the centre of the croissant. Teasing the two 'legs' of the triangle away from each other, we rolled the pastry from the bottom of the triangle to the top point as tightly as possible, before bringing the two thin outer points in towards the middle, twisting them together and tucking them underneath the centre of the croissant. We repeated this for the rest of the dough, rolling out again as necessary if the pastry shrunk. With the scraps, we made an 'ugly bun' by smooshing them together with chocolate drops and dried fruit. Everything was liberally egg washed.

Pains au chocolat are considerably easier. For these, we again rolled the dough into a rectangular shape before cutting these into smaller rectangles, about 10cm x 15cm. We placed a few chocolate drops along the narrower base edge and rolled the dough towards the top. The dough cylinder was sealed by egg washing the open flap and rolling the pastry shut - the seam would be baked underneath. These, too, were egg washed. I also tried my hand at making a plait, which was beautiful to look at although I wish the filling was a bit more substantial! Starting with a rectangle of rolled-out dough, 1cm slits are made 1/3 of the way into the centre of the dough from the longer edges. In the open space in the middle of the dough rectangle I spread a little pastry cream and a few chocolate drops before folding the flaps in towards the other side of the dough, first from the left, then the right and so on. The top and bottom of the resulting plait is tidied and folded under before egg washing.
All of the pastries were left to prove for about 20minutes before a second egg wash to really glaze the pastry and they were baked first at 240°C then at 180°C after 15 minutes until they were deep golden brown.

I didn't have to try too hard to find some willing guinea pigs to try my first attempts at croissants and pastries, and their rapid disappearance was rather reasssuring! I was really pleased to see that the dough inside my croissants had spiralled like it was supposed to through the layering and rolling process. Chef advised us that if we could crack croissant dough, making puff pastry from scratch would be a doddle, albeit still a waste of a few hours of one's life. I'm keen to give these another go and see if I can make a better pastry by working quicker as mine seemed to leak more butter than I would have liked whilst I was turning it!

Lunch that day was a beef and mushroom steamed suet pudding. We had made the suet pastry the day before, as well as the beef filling. We drained the beef casserole filling and kept just the meat and the beef chunks, which we broke down into smaller pieces. We fried some sliced shallots in one pan and some sliced wild mushrooms in another, draining the mushrooms before combining them both with the meat. Meanwhile, the sauce had been reducing in a pan, and some of this reduction was used to bind the beef filling before seasoning. Ready for lunch, we rolled the pastry to 2-3mm thick before cutting it into a large disc, removing a wedge to make a 'pacman' shape and using it to line a small pudding basin (a cappuccino cup or dariole mould would also work) which had been oiled and lined with oven-proof clingfilm. We cut lids for the pudding bases, filled the lined basins with the meat mixture and sealed the filling inside the pastry, removing excess overhang before pinching the edges tightly together and closing the edges of the clingfilm together over this. This was all wrapped tightly in foil and steamed for half an hour.

To serve with this, we made a parsnip purée by peeling, coring and chopping parsnips into chunks and simmering in milk until soft. We drained the parsnips, retaining the milk, and once the parsnips had steamed dry we blended them in a liquidizer with as much of the milk as was necessary to make a smooth purée. This needed a LOT of seasoning, as parsnip can harbour an earthy bitterness that needs to be tempered with salt, but it was deliciously moreish. We also made beetroot en papillote by sprinkling chunks of raw, peeled beetroot with thyme, smashed garlic, rosemary, thyme, seasoning and balsamic vinegar in a foil parcel and baking at 200°C for 30 minutes.  Chef showed us how to make parsnip crisps by peeling strips of parsnip, dusting the with flour to stop them from sticking to each other and deep-frying these until golden before draining and sprinkling with paprika and salt. Lunch was served with the stew juices reduced down to a gravy and made into a glossy sauce with a little butter whisked through at the end of cooking. A lovely, simple and impressive dinner!

Could do better.
But everyone likes an ooze!
For dessert (can't spend the day making pastries and not have dessert, of course!) we made raspberry millefeuille. Millefeuille means 'a thousand layers' which might give you the clue that it is made from puff pastry. Most chefs will agree that as long as it is of a good quality, using good butter and base ingredients, ready-made puff pastry is a winner due to its consistency of product. We dusted the worktop with icing sugar and rolled the pastry with the layers pointing upwards, effectively ruining them in a process called 'back rolling'. When the pastry was about 3mm thick we rested it in the fridge in a sandwich of baking trays for 10 minutes before dusting with icing sugar and baking it in the same way for 15 minutes at 220°C. Once the pastry was cool, we carefully cut it into rectangles and used it to make our millefeuille, sandwiching fresh raspberries and piped pastry cream in between. The pastry cream was made with cornflour rather than plain flour this time, to give a more solid density, although mine was still a little too loose an could have done with being cooked longer rather than chickening out a little early as I did! I will have to carry the burden of needing to try making these again as well, I suppose!

It was a great day to finish a great course, and as we left that day, full of trepidation at the week ahead and the weekend of revision needed to get through it, I am sure I was not the only one having the occasional headshake of disbelief at just how much we had learned so far. I am so glad to have blogged it all!

No comments:

Post a Comment