Author Archives: Paul Aboud

About Paul Aboud

I'm just a regular type mid-50's fella, recently moved to Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, who enjoys bread making and sharing the adventure. I've only been at this on a steady basis since 2007 when I decided to look for better bread than what was available in the local grocery. You are cordially invited to add comments, questions and musings of your own to any of these posts; this isn't intended to be a one way communication. I'm not an expert and likely won't be one for years to come. But I do want to share my experiences and what I have picked up in order to help spread this "bread baking" virus. Because as habits go, it's a darn tasty one!

VIU Pastry 101, Weeks 2, 3 and 4

Well, it’s been a bit since I posted. So let me catch up on what’s happened.

As noted in the previous post, this Pastry section is divided into 6 parts, sandwiched between the intro of week one and the wrap up in week eight. During the last couple of weeks, I’ve gone through Cakes, Sous-Chef and just finishing Deserts (a sort of catch-all part).

During cake week, we made several large sheet cakes for the Vancouver Island University’s 75th Anniversary celebration. Or at least got them started; the cakes were finished and decorated the following week. I also made a a batch of chocolate cupcakes and some cheesecakes. And we made a giant batch of Italian Meringue Buttercream early in the week.

 

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Professional Baking, Week Five: Pastry

This week was the orientation part of Pastry Level One in my Professional Baking course at CIVIU. This is an eight week period where we’ll be doing the following:

  • Week 1: Orientation & Pastry Basics (this week)
  • Weeks 2 through 7: Rotating Duties
  • Week 8: Wrap up

The rotating duties are going to each be one week long, focusing on particular pastry aspects. Our group (Lauren, Kati-Ann and yours truly) will rotate through:

  1. Cake Decorating
  2. Sous-Chef and Decorating
  3. Deserts
  4. Pies & Savoury
  5. Pastry
  6. Quick Breads

I’ll explain each section further as we get into them. This week, however, we tackled a few of the basics of Pastry, starting with savoury pies and dipping into chocolate, finishing with cupcakes.

Once we’ve completed Pastry Level 1, we’ll switch off to Bread Level 1 for 8 weeks, then back to Pastry Level 2 in January, with Bread Level 2 rounding out the year in April to June.

During our two days in Food Lab, I was partnered with Connor, who was great fun to work with. Connor tries very, very hard to not be in pictures so here’s one of him I managed to snag from a couple weeks back; click to enlarge.

 

The first thing we tackled was creating stock for our pies, chicken and veggie. We set both stocks to simmer for a fair while as we worked on other items.  The Chicken Pot Pie, seen above is seen in progress.

Chicken Pot Pie

  • Cooked Chicken: 500 g
  • Oil: 30 mL
  • Onion, Diced: 60 g
  • Garlic, chopped fine: 1
  • Bay Leaf: 1
  • Mixed veg (diced carrot, celery, onion): 450 g
  • Flour: 100 g
  • Stock (or water): ~450 g
  • To Taste: Parsley, Thyme, Mustard Powder, Salt & Pepper

Have your 5″ pie shells prepared.

The cubed cooked chicken is heated up in a couple tablespoons of oil, then the garlic and veg are added and sauteed until tender and the onion are translucent. The flour is then added and cooked for a couple of minutes to get out the ‘raw flour’ taste; the mixture will look rather dry. Then the stock (or water) is added, a bit at a time, which makes a roux. The mix is cooked and stirred for a bit so you get to a thick soup consistency. Add spices ‘to taste”. Remove the bay leaf and set the mixture aside to cool.

Put about 125g of the mix into about 8-10 prepared pie shells (we got seven out of our batch) until almost full, cover with rolled out dough, using egg wash to seal the edges. Crimp edges, brush top with a little more egg wash. Slit a design in top to allow steam to escape and bake at 180°C – 200°C until pastry is cooked on top and bottom.

Kevin and Paul get their chilled Chicken Pot Pie mixes ready.

Generally, the same process is followed for the veggie pie.

Curry Veggie Pie

  • Veg oil: 25 mL
  • Onions, sliced: 75 g
  • Tomato, diced: 100 g
  • Carrot, diced: 150 g
  • Cauliflower, in small bite-sized pieces: 200 g
  • Potatoes, diced: 175 g
  • Coconut Milk: 200 mL
  • Curry paste: about 10 g – 40 g (depends on the heat of the paste you use)
  • Chutney: 50 g
  • Stock (or water) 175 mL or so
  • Salt & Pepper: To Taste
  • Rice vinegar: 10 mL
  • Chives or Green Onions, chopped: 25 g

Heat pan and add oil. Sautee veg until tender; season to taste with salt & pepper.

Add curry paste & chutney. Go a little lighter on the curry than you want as this develops flavour and heat as it sits over time. Add water as required. Re-season with salt & pepper if needed. Allow to cool before filling shells, about 125 mL per 5″ pie shell. Cover as above and egg wash the top. Slit a “V” in the top for steam escape and to identify pie as “Veg”.

Yields about 7 – 9. Bake at 180°C – 200°C until pastry is cooked top & bottom.

The pie shells had been made the day prior.

Our filled shells before covering with dough.

Chef Harper also showed us how to build a Quiche:

 

Ham & Cheese Quiche

  • Eggs: 200 g
  • Flour: 30 g
  • Milk: 300 mL
  • Whipping Cream: 100 mL
  • Salt, Pepper and Nutmeg: Pinch of each
  • Maggi (seasoning, optional): Dash

The above egg mixture is called a “Quiche Royale” and is used for most any different flavoured quiche.

  • Swiss Cheese, grated: 200 g
  • Green onion, chopped: 2 stalks
  • Ham, cooked & diced: 300 g

Be sure your 5″ pie shells are par-baked before filling; using unbaked shells means the filling will be overcooked before the shells are well baked.

Gently mix the cheese, ham & onion; place into pie shells until almost to the top, do not overfill.

Make the royale (savoury custard) with the other ingredients, blending until smooth. Pour into filled shells until just a bit shy of the top, stirring the mix in the jug or bowl regularly to keep the spices suspended. Place tray of pies on oven rack and finish topping up to top.

Bake in 180°C oven until the filling is set and the pastry shell is baked on the bottom, a nice golden brown tone. PRO TIP: To check the bottom, take a pie, place a piece of plastic wrap over the top, flip upside down in gloved hand, lift pie tin. The plastic wrap will keep the custard from breaking up. Return for a few more minutes if the dough is too pale.

Yields about 6 – 8  5″ pies.

 

We also made Sausage Rolls, a yummy spiced hamburger mixture which we piped into long ropes about 3 cm wide onto sheets of puff pastry, 5 in by 15 in. A bit of egg wash on the edge for adhesion and a roll-over gave us a long log which we then cut in 3 pieces. These are baked at 200°C until a deep golden brown.

Another pastry we made was Cornish Pasties, using puff pastry circles filled with a ground meat, veg and potato filling (shown above). They are crimped, egg washed and baked.

Taina displays a tray of tasty Cornish Pasties.

Andrea made some Brioche Cloverleaf Rolls as well as a few mini-brioches in fluted pans.

We learned how to temper chocolate on marble slabs and made little “chocolate cigarettes” but I had no photos of this part since everyone’s hands were, well, full of chocolate.

And that was Food lab.

Friday, we were back in the bakery early in the a.m. and tackled a few of the tasks we’d be starting on next week in our Sections just to get a bit of a handle on things. Lauren, Kati-Ann and I worked on finishing the slab cakes started last week for a surprise order (nice to have a few spare cakes to work up!) and also made up a few dozen cupcakes (chocolate and lemon flavours) for another order.

I totally screwed up my batch of lemon cupcakes when I used the wrong mixing instructions and had to start again, with the deadline looming. The second batch came together amazingly quickly now I had done the MEP once. We still used the “failed” batter in a tester cupcake (it was good!) but made it into a large sheet that we’ll use for cake crumbs later on. The “real” cupcakes turned out very nicely once we finally got tem baked up. We stayed a little later after class to get them iced and decorated, using the chocolate cigarettes we made the day before. I’d be pretty happy with these if I were the customer!

And that was Week One of Pastry Level 1. Well, except a few people also stayed late to prep for a special event over the weekend where Chef Harper, representing CIVIU, is competing with island restaurant chefs in a sort of “out in the fields” (literally: out in the grassy knolls on a farm) competition where they have to use, at least in large proportion, the tools and food they can forage, save for a few limited items they’re allowed to bring along. Think “Survivor for Chefs.”

 
Andrea, the elusive Connor and Kati-Ann work on prepping for Chef.

As well, I’m going in along with Sandie on Saturday to help out Mr B for the weekend “Artisan Baking 1” course offered to the general public. It’s a one-day bread baking seminar where people can learn to make Focaccia, Challah and other breads. Should be fun! I won’t take photos since this is general public stuff but I’ll report on it next time.

Next week: we begin rotations with Cakes & Decorating so more cakes, cupcakes and flying buttercream will ensue.

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Professional Baking: Week Four – Pastry!

Another week of Professional Baking School at VIU and this time we turn our focus on pastry with Chef Harper. Again, a bit intense as we’re really just learning the very basics so I have minimal photos. Still, a glimpse of the space and class are available.

Here we are in the Food Lab with individual work stations and (off on the sides) cooking elements, stoves, etc. All very high tech.

The stove top elements in the Lab are induction and are wonderful to work on. Watch a video explaining how they work here. Note how fast the water in the pot boils!  And you can put your hand on the element without burning yourself – the heat is ‘created’ in the pan itself. Amazing. Why these aren’t in every kitchen already, I do not understand. SOOOO much better than annoying ceramic/glass tops that are either on full blast or off.

OK, on to the class itself.

We tackled the following:

  • Choux Paste
  • Crème Anglaise
  • Pastry Crème
  • Diplomat Cème
  • Bavarian Crème
  • Sugar Cookies
  • Icebox Cookies
  • Spritz Cookies
  • Biscotti

Bavarian Crème was used to fill little puff pastry balls we made from the Choux Paste, the latter being an exercise in piping consistent sized balls of the paste.

These were later drizzled with chocolate.

The Diplomat Crème was made using Pastry Cream mixed with whipped cream, gelatin and raspberry purée and poured into small cups. Much like a mousse.

We cooked sugar and water to the point of burning, taking little samples of the syrup as it heated up to see what sugar syrup colour/temp we would want to achieve before it became rather bitter. Surprisingly, it needed to be just light golden yellow to be a nice flavour, and very quickly started to become bitter at the light caramel point. Darker was very bitter and inedible. Clear or nearly so had almost no flavour. Pro Tips: burnt sugar will stink up your house; even very burnt sugar is easily washed off dishes by giving it a long soak in water.

On the cookie side: We made sugar cookie dough which we later rolled out and baked, according to what Chef showed once but without any further instructions (temp, actual thickness, time, etc.). I failed: mine were too thin and not baked long enough. Many folk got it spot on, though.

We made checkered cookies (following about the same process as the Christmas cookies I made last winter) using white and chocolate doughs. Very pretty. Sorry, no pics :(

Spritz Cookies are piped cookies, made in part using almond paste. Again, the goal here was piping technique to emulate the sample shown, as it would be in a “real life” bakery situation: “Here’s the cookie we want, make 500 exactly like it!” In such a situation, you do not want much variance; they all need to be just as tall and wide as the sample. Too big or short means they won’t cook right and the final count will be off.

 

It took several goes – fortunately, you can scrape off the failed ones and re-pipe them – but I eventually got some nice looking ones. Above, a shot of a couple of them. In fact, lots of people’s cookies came out really well. Nice job, everyone!

Back in the bakery for the last day, we baked off some of our goods, packaged and set out for sale the cookies and puff pastry. Lauren and I also got to stack a couple of big cakes for a special order – no pics again. But here we are anyway, just to close out the post.

Next week: Chocolate!

Plus: Mr B asked for a Saturday (Oct 1) volunteer to get some items baked out for a special event. Not sure what we’ll be handling but I stepped up for that. Making dozens and dozens of one thing is excellent practice, since you can improve your technique as you go. So much better than just three at a time like at home.

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Songs About Food (but not buildings)

Mr B gave us a light (as in fluffy) assignment a few days ago to make a list of songs which are about food. The next night, as I was trying to fall asleep (and failing) I kept having “Songs about food” popping in my head. Finally, getting up at 4 a.m. before class, I tried to write all the ones I had come up with while also trying to fall into slumberland. I’m sure I missed a few.

I am also rather surprised how many of these food-themed songs I actually have in my iTunes library. Who’d a thunk!

For fun, I thought I’d share the list of songs I came up with (I’ll publish this post after we’ve done the class for it). The ones I already have are in colour, the others are some that popped into my head over the last couple of days. I then went online to find the recording date; seems a lot of food songs came out in the 60’s! I’m sure there are hundreds more food songs out there but I wanted to go with those I was able to think of myself, not just Google up someone else’s list. Surprisingly (or maybe not) much of the songs about food are from characters in play. I guess Top 40 stations aren’t so keen on that theme. Do they do food songs these days? Is hip hop and gangsta rap a good venue for food themes?

I also found songs fell into two different categories:

Songs About Food where the song is itself about the consumable such as “Worst Pies in London” from Sweeney Todd, where Mrs Lovett (Angela Lansbury) explains why her pie shop is doing poorly due to lack of available meat in 1785 London; video below. (I won’t get into the sad mess that was Mrs Lovett in Tim Burton’s recent film.)

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Songs with a Food Reference have merely a passing nod to a food or uses food as a colloquialism such as The Beatles’ “Honey Pie” used as a term of endearment or Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” where he describes the moon as “a big pizza pie” but the song isn’t about pizza at all.

Note: There are no mentions of building in these songs (a ;) nod to Talking Heads, for those of you old enough).

SONGS ABOUT FOOD

  • Food, Glorious Food! – Oliver! (1968)
  • Who Will Buy – Oliver! (1968)
  • Worst Pies in London – Mrs Lovett, Sweeney Todd (1979)
  • It’s Priest – Mrs Lovett, Sweeney Todd (1979)
  • It Couldn’t Please Me More (A Pineapple For Me) – Cabaret (1968)
  • Lemon Tree – Peter Paul & Mary (1961)
  • Toast – Streetband (1978)
  • Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens – Louis Jordan (1946)
  • Candyman – Sammy Davis, Jr, Willy Wonka (1971)
  • Just a Spoonfull of Sugar – Mary Poppins (1962)
  • Mama Come Home – Ella Fitzgerald (1944) (baking cake and other motherly duties)
  • Animal Crackers – Shirley Temple (1935)
  • Ham and Eggs – Children’s song
  • Spam, Spam & Spam – Monty Python (1970) – the origin of the term for junk email
  • Shortnin’ Bread – Fats Waller (1941)
  • Yes We Have No Bananas – Spike Jones (1954)
  • If I Knew You Were Coming I’d Have Baked a Cake – Eileen Barton (1950)
  • Bread Bakin’ Blues – Dave Beede (2011)
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SONGS WITH A FOOD REFERENCE (even if tenuous)

  • That’s Amore – Dean Martin (1953)
  • Sunshine, Lollipops – Leslie Gore (1965)
  • Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries – Rudy Vallée (1931)
  • Salt Peanuts – Dizzy Gillespie (1942)
  • Lady Marmalade – Patti Labelle (1974)
  • Honeycomb – Jimmy Rogers (1965)
  • Java Jive – Ink Spots (1940)
  • MacArthur Park – Richard Harris (1968)
  • Tea for Two – Ella Fitzgerald & Count Basie(1963)
  • Petootie Pie – Ella Fitzgerald (1948)
  • I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket – Ella Fitzgerald (1946)
  • Watermelon Weather – Perry Como (1957)
  • Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino (1952)
  • In Our Mountain Greenery – Mel Tormé (1964) (beans, beanery, coffee)
  • Feed Me! – Little Shop of Horrors (1982)
  • Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree – Andrew Sisters (1942)
  • Tangerine – Sal Soul Orchestra (1977)
  • Sugar Pie Honey Bunch – The Four Tops (1965)
  • American Pie – Don MacLean (1970)
  • McArthur park – Richard Harris (1968) (melting cakes)
  • It’s a Marshmallow World – Bing Crosby (1950)
  • Sugar Sugar – The Archies (1969)
  • Do the Mashed Potato – James Brown (1959)
  • A Taste of Honey – Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (1965) Album contains:

    • A Taste of Honey
    • Green Peppers
    • Tangerine
    • Bittersweet Samba
    • Lemon Tree
    • Whipped Cream
    • El Garbanzo
    • Ladyfingers
    • Butterball
    • Peanuts
    • Lollipops and Roses

     

  • Breakfast in America – Supertramp (1973)
  • Honey Pie – The Beatles (1968)
  • Glass Onion – The Beatles (1968)
    (refers to a monocle but close enough) 
  • Strawberry Fields – The Beatles (1967)
  • Brown Sugar – Rolling Stone (1971)
  • My Boy Lollipop – Millie Small (1962)
  • Popcorn – Hot Butter (1972)
  • I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl – Nina Simone (1967)
  • Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs – Kelsey Grammer, Frasier theme song (1993)

Can you think of more food songs, without doing a Google search? Check your music library and see if you’re already hoarding several food songs unknowingly.  Add yours in the comments below!

Professional Baking Course: Week Three

A few of the products we pumped out each day for the caf

This week at the Culinary Institue of Vancouver Island, we entered into week three of the Professional Baking course which meant getting closer to full steam production BUT at the same time, still learning many of the steps and methods required to actually produce the baked goods required by the University’s hungry students.

As such, the pace had been cranked up somewhat and photo-time was set aside in order to focus more on learning what we needed to do. Therefore the photos for this entry all come from Friday’s bake, although some of these products were being made all week.

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Convert & Scale a Recipe

Recently, new member Beckamojo over on the Mellow Bakers enquired about getting a white sandwich bread recipe to use in her 13 in x 5 in x 5 in Pullman pan.  She was having a few issues with her trials at making a Pain de Mie from a US (cups-based) recipe including not knowing how much dough she needed for her large Pullman. Jacqueline, another Mellow Baker, asked if Becka had digital scales so she could be more precise than her original use of cups for measuring. We would also need to look at proofing times and make sure her process didn’t end up with over-proofed dough.

I did a little hunting and this is what I suggested:

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Professional Baking Course: Week Two

Coming back from the long Labour Day weekend, our baking class began at 9 a.m. so we were past the early morning bake. After a little ‘theory’ class time where we went through some quick tests (health and safety, etc.) and laying out in general what the year would cover, we then went into the kitchen and basically oriented ourselves a little more on important things like:

Where’s the salt (not where you’d think)? How many refrigerators are there and what are they each for? How many things can you do at once (mix thing A while watching thing B bake and putting things C on trays) and not mess any up? Where’s the parchment paper? Where do you put wet canisters?

None of it earth shattering in importance but you still need to know these minor kitchen details. AND they’ll be entirely different when you work in another kitchen.

Apologies again as I didn’t take photos each day. The first two are all text but the last two are crammed with pics.

What we’ve made: MONDAY, our class was split up into small teams of three and our group mixed up a huge batch of bran raisin muffin batter. It was a LOT wetter than you’d expect a muffin batter to be. However, as it sits overnight, the bran soaks up a lot of the moisture and by morning, when the muffins are scooped into the pans and baked, it has solidified a fair bit.

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