I’m playing a little bit of catch up this weekend since I didn’t have time to post about school on Thursday or Friday. As I mentioned on Wednesday, we worked on making puff pastry dough, which is really hard, at least for me! I have the tendency to overwork my dough, which creates more gluten development and is not what you want to do when working with most doughs. When rolling doughs out, I do not apply even pressure and my dough often has no shape – usually we are trying to roll out rectangles… mine always look like blobs.
Anyway, we made classic puff pastry dough, where you encase the butter inside the dough and a quick puff pastry where you mix the butter in with the dough from the beginning. The classic puff pastry takes longer to make, but it is an absolute necessity when you need the puff pastry to bake an even height. The best example of a case when we need even height is when we are building containers to hold food in. These are known as vol-au-vents. There are a couple different ways to shape vol-au-vents; we did both a circle shape and also a diamond shape, which has a lot more dough to consume. We also cut rectangular test pieces, which can be split open, filled and served to guests more casually.
When you bake puff pastry, it has to go into a hot oven – 400° to 425°. Almost always though the puff will burn before it has dried out, so partway through the bake, we drop the oven temperature 50° to 75°.
So I said that you must use classic puff pastry when height matters; therefore, we use quick puff when height isn’t important. We turned out quick puff into cheese straws. We rolled dry cheeses, such as parmesan and gruyere into the dough and because most often people eat cheese straws while consuming alcohol, we pushed the flavor and heavily seasoned them with salt, pepper and cayenne. Each cheese straw gets two twists and you push the ends into the baking tray to secure. Again, they go into a hot oven, and once you start to see them brown, you drop the temperature until they have finished drying out.
The other recipe we worked on with our quick puff was Chaussons Aux Pommes, or apple turnovers. In France, turnovers are typically cut in a round shape so that when they are folded over they form a semicircle. In America, turnovers are typically cut in a square shape so that when they are folded over they form a triangle. We practiced both shapes and filled them with baked apples that we had used earlier in the week for our French Apple Tart, which we had reduced down. I somehow managed to get some cayenne pepper from the cheese straws rolled into my turnover dough… of course, so I could only sample one, but it was delicious and perfect for breakfast.
The other interesting thing from class on Thursday was our overview of quick breads. Quick breads are a category of pastries that use chemical leaveners instead of yeast or other natural leaveners. Examples that we will learn to make soon include biscuits, scones, muffins, tea breads, and coffee cakes. The chemical leaveners most often used in these items are baking soda and baking powder. It is important to know that you cannot substitute these two ingredients in a 1:1 ratio.
I didn’t know this, but was very interested to learn that baking soda reacts in the presence of an acid (vinegar, yogurt, buttermilk, lemon, chocolate, etc.). It is inexpensive, but the downside is there is only one reaction that releases C02 and causes the bread to rise, and it doesn’t have much staying power; therefore you mix and get the product into the oven quickly.
Baking powder consists of baking soda, plus dry stable acid (e.g. cream of tarter, sodium phosphate), and cornstarch, which keeps the soda and acid from reacting with each other in the container. Baking soda just needs to get wet for a reaction. The reaction creates the same C02 gas, but the acid in the mixture reacts two times – once when it gets wet and again when it is in the oven. You can make batter with baking soda and hold it in the refrigerator because it has more staying powder.
If you absolutely need to substitute one for the other, know that baking soda is more powerful teaspoon for teaspoon than baking powder. On average, a quarter teaspoon of baking soda lifts 1 cup of all-purpose flour, and one teaspoon of baking powder lifts 1 cup of all-purpose flour on average. Therefore, baking soda is four times as powerful as baking powder, or you need 4 times as much baking powder. A quick examples of this conversion would be ½ teaspoon of baking soda = 2 teaspoons of baking powder. To convert the other way – from baking powder to baking soda, you need to look at the liquid in the recipe to make sure there is something acidic to trigger the baking soda reaction and make substitutions if necessary, e.g. use buttermilk instead of whole milk.
There, I am like your own personal Wikipedia!