While on MasterChef Canada, Chef Michael Bonacini gave me some advice during the baked Alaska elimination challenge — he told me to wipe my cake batter back into my mixing bowl and give it another fold or two to get rid of the unmixed flour. I chose not to listen to him and I was almost eliminated that day.
Why didn’t I take the advice of an expert Chef who was trying to help me? I trusted the chef but I didn’t trust myself. I wasn’t confident that I would be able to take his advice and complete the challenge on time. I also lack patience and the thought of doing something over again nearly kills me. It was a tough challenge, we had to make the ice cream from scratch, the cake, the Swiss meringue, and I didn’t want any setbacks.
Learn From Past Mistakes
When I was rolling out my cookies in my most recent class, the dough wasn’t smooth and looked a little dry, cracked – basically it did not appear that I had mixed it well. The Chef said I should probably mix the batter more to give it a smoother finish. My mind went immediately back to my MasterChef Canada experience and I took this opportunity to try again – even though I would fall behind. I rolled up my sleeves and worked the batter once more. I still had doubts that it would work. When I rolled out my cookie dough again, the dough was smooth and shiny! A lesson learned, I should listen more and have patience. The outcome was better than I could have imagined and I was really happy with my final product!
My classes are on Fridays which works out awesome for me because I always have something to serve to guests or to bring to someone’s house as a treat!
Cookies are My Jam
We made sugar cookies filled with jam and Piped Spritz Cookies in our last class. Besides putting a past lesson into action, we learned about creaming and piping. The creaming stage is when you cream together the sugar and fat until they are light and fluffy. I never realized how important this stage was until now. Proper creaming means cookies without holes (which are caused by over mixing) and cakes without tunnels (which are caused by under mixing). Tunnels are those tiny holes in cakes and are caused by fat or leaveners that have not been fully incorporated.
We use part shortening and part butter in these cookie recipes. shortening is preferred for the structure of the cookie (shortening is almost 100% fat and butter has about 15% moisture). Butter is added for flavour. Extra moisture from the butter will cause the dough to fall flatter so shortening will result in a better structure – especially with a piped cookie.
We also added bread flour which has a higher gluten content and helps the structure of the cookie as well as pastry flour, which helps with the bite (crisp and clean) and makes a good crumb.
Every ingredient has a consequence which I’m not mentioning to scare you but I think it is nice to know the science behind baking. I personally have all purpose flour in my house and now I know my baked goods could be better if I invest in some shortening and special flours.
When recipes say “mix until just combined” I always wondered why this was so. The chef explained that over-mixing the dough builds gluten bonds which results in a tougher cookie or a tougher bite. Over-working the flour can be the death of a cookie.
I received my grade for this class “Your grade for the piped spritz cookies and Sugar cookies lab is 74% – Good Job”. I am happy about this! My piping will only improve from here!
Creaming is Key
The next class was all about the creaming method (it is that important) in high fat cakes. First up was old fashioned pound cake. Do you know why it’s called “pound cake”? The recipe calls for a pound of each ingredient – I never knew that until now!
Since there is so much fat in this cake recipe, this is an instance where you want to mix the flour and sugar/fat mixture together well. The gluten gets coated in fat so in order to build those gluten strands for the structure of the cake, mixing is key. Sorry to sound technical but I’m in school now so I feel like I should show off a little (he-he!)
We had very few tunnels in our final pound cake – we nailed our creaming method obviously!
We also made a Cinnamon Pecan Sour Cream Coffee Cake. Sour cream is added for moisture and flavour. We also added a bit of milk and since milk has some sugar in it, this will help with the browning. We achieved great colour on our Cake! I ate the whole cake just to make sure I could really understand each ingredient and because it was damned tasty!
In this class, me and the other students felt very laid back, possibly because there was no piping involved but surely because we are all getting better with staying organized and cleaning up as we bake. Look how happy the other students look!
The chef emailed me my mark and I did a little happy dance: “Your mark for this class is 80%! A job well done and a very deserving mark, which you know from orientation week I don’t give out lightly! You earned it and are doing a great job and should be very proud of your progress. Piping again this week…your favourite!” self-explanatory, right? I had an awesome partner, look how calm and patient she looks! (Which I truly believe is the reason I did so well! Thanks Sarah!)
Pursue Your Passion
I am 5 weeks in to my Baking School journey and I have received an amazing response from these posts. I am so happy you guys are enjoying this experience as much as I am! One comment I am getting over and over again is how my followers would love to do a cooking or baking course but they feel that the demands of family life or career wouldn’t allow for it. I have some great news for all of you – Centennial is launching a number of Part-time Certificate Programs targeted at home cooks, bakers, and food enthusiasts in the Fall of 2016! These programs are offered on evenings and weekends which means you can fit it into your busy schedule easily!
I got a sneak peak at some of the programs being offered and they are pretty awesome – Healthy Baking Arts Certificate, Baking Arts Certificate, just to name a few! So, there you go! Now you too can fulfill your passion and it won’t interfere with work or family schedules! The best part is you will be learning in Centennial’s new state-of-the-art facility — their culinary and bake labs are like a home cook’s wonderland!
Next week we are learning about pastry elements and following that it’s reading week (thank goodness because I’m pooped and could use a break!) I will likely practice some of the techniques from the classes during my week off! Stay tuned to my Instagram and Facebook page for any updates on what I’m cooking, baking and eating!
*The above post was created as part of a paid partnership between Centennial College and myself, however, and as always, all opinions are my own.
Growing up in my Italian family, sandwiches were our go-to lunch on the weekends. They are quick and hearty and the options