Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Gâteau à la Crème Fraîche

A few days ago I experimented with a couple of brioche recipes. The first one was supposed to be a straightforward recipe for a brioche loaf... I made the dough the night before and I let it prove in the fridge overnight.  The following day, I shaped the loaf, I let it had its second rise... then, here's my big mistake... I went to the gym, thinking I'll make it home on time to bake the loaf... but no... traffic was just mental and when I got home, it was without a doubt: over-proved.  (I imagine myself as a contestant in the Great British Bake Off and Paul Hollywood looking at me in disgust for my over-proved brioche)  I baked it anyway and it came out flat as expected....

Thankfully I didn't make the same mistake for the second brioche experiment... Gâteau à la Crème Fraîche.  This is one of the recipes that I've been wanting to try for ages and I'm glad that I've done it.  The recipe is from the Oxfordshire based French chef, Raymond Blanc from his book Kitchen Secrets.  When I first saw the recipe and the stunning picture in the book, I thought this will be a complicated one.... and it's not.  But do tell people you slave for hours making this exquisite tart and enjoy all the compliments :)

I made the brioche dough using an electric mixer attached with a dough hook which makes life so much easier.  But if you want to do it by hand, I think you can do, but just to warn you, the dough is wet and sticky.

Gâteau à la Crème Fraîche 
Recipe by Raymond Blanc

For brioche dough
250 gr strong white bread flour
3 pinches sea slat
30 gr caster sugar
12 gr fresh yeast (I used 6 gr dried yeast)
4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
150 gr unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes

For the crème fraîche filling
4 yolks
45 gr caster sugar
the zest of 1/2 lemon
the juice of 1/4 lemon
150 gr crème fraîche or sour cream

To finish
2 yolks, lightly beaten (recipe states 2, but 1 yolk is actually plenty)
caster sugar for sprinkling

In a bowl of an electric mixer attached with a dough hook, place the dry ingredients, keeping the salt and yeast apart, as salt will kill the yeast when they're put together.  Let them mix on a low speed and slowly add the lightly beaten eggs until fully incorporated.  Then add the speed and mix until the dough is coming away from the side of the bowl.  Now you can add the cubes of butter and keep mixing until all of the butter has disappeared.

Gave the dough a little scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover with cling film or tea towel, and let it rise for an hour.  Then, put it in the fridge also for an hour.  The dough will be much easier to handle when it's cold as the butter solidifies a bit.  Make the filling by simply mixing all the ingredients in a small jug, and set it aside.

Now time to shape the dough in the tin.  You can use a tart tin to make the edges look pretty but I left mine few thousand miles away, so I just use a regular round cake tin, about 30 cm in diameter.  Place the dough in the centre and using a lightly floured hands, flatten the dough, pushing in from the centre until it covers the bottom of the tin.  Cover again with cling film or kitchen towel and let it prove for 25-30 minutes at room temperature.  In the meantime, pre-heat your oven to 200 C.

Using a lightly floured hands, push the dough and make a well in the centre.  Pour the filling and brush the rim with the yolk(s).  Bake in the middle shelf for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with the sugar all over and bake for another 15 minutes until the edges turned golden brown and the filling is almost set.  Remove from the tin and let it cool slightly on a wire rack.  Serve warm with a nice cup of tea...

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

What I've been up to...

Greetings dear blog readers!

I am so sorry for the long blog hiatus and I do hope you are doing well.  I have missed you all and I cannot wait to catch up with my blog reading list. There are loads!!  I had some peeks and there are so many delicious posts.  I may need to get another round of sea salt caramel mocha frappuccino (my current favourite drink) to stop me from drooling all over my laptop later.

But before I start reading (and drooling), I want to share with you what I've been up to the past few weeks and my experience working as a culinary trainee at the pastry kitchen at the JW Marriott hotel Medan.

To just suddenly work in a kitchen surrounded by professional chefs, it was quite daunting to say the least.  I was nervous.  I have no formal culinary qualification.  I taught myself to cook and bake by reading countless cookery books, watching many hours of cookery shows and experimenting at the leisure of my own kitchen.     I just couldn't help but feel how if suddenly I realise that I couldn't actually cook or bake.  You know, that kind of thoughts...

But at the same time, I was very excited to learn... The first few days I felt I was the annoying new kid who asks for everything.  But then, I would rather be the annoying kid who asks a lot than to just assume and later make a complete fool of myself.  Especially since the recipe books only come with the list of ingredients with no instructions, required oven temperatures or timing.

Freshly baked rolls...
The kitchen is a shared space as well as all the equipments and tools. I am not used to this.  Living on my own for several years, I enjoy having my own territory.  The kitchen has always been my private place... where the magic happens.  At home, I know my way around the kitchen very well.  But here, very often I cannot find, oh for example a knife or a mixing bowl or the spatula that I wanted or it was being used by someone else.  Very annoying.  I was faced with the dilemma either to keep looking or wait and waste valuable time; or I could just used a different type of knives, dishes or spoons.  I was quite naive at first thinking that I must use the right tool for the right job.  Well, whenever possible, yes, I actually would.  But, to be honest, as long as I can get the job done properly, it doesn't really matter, does it?  So what if I cannot find the paring knife... the cheese knife would do just fine :)

There were plenty of daily tasks and I used to think that there weren't enough hours in a day to get everything done.  But it took me to a good week to realise that even though the tasks change daily and also depending on the shifts; there's a pattern to the routine, especially when setting/clearing up the daily mise en place.  Once I realised this, I was in competition with myself (my kind of competition and it's the best kind) to get the job done as efficiently (and of course, properly) as possible.  Then, I can get on with the rest of the tasks which also require a simple but useful tactic.  For example, when making a chocolate mousse, I always start by boiling some water in a couple of pans.  So that I don't have to wait for the water to boil later (I hate waiting and nothing worse than waiting for water to boil).  Then I use this time to weight the rest of the ingredients, cracked some eggs, get some iced-cold water to soften the gelatine and lightly whipped the double cream. Once the water is simmering, I can start melting the chocolate and make the sabayon.  This may sound a bit neurotic, however true, whilst whisking the eggs and sugar vigorously until they thicken, I make a sort of mind map to my next task; planning ahead and prioritising my workload, because at some point during my shift, I do want to take a break :) Anyway, after adding the now soften gelatine to the sabayon, followed by the melted and slightly cooled chocolate, I can start preparing the dishes and piping bag for the mousse.  And if the chocolate mixture is still a bit warm to fold the cream in, I can start preparing the ingredients to make other mousses or sauces or perhaps, a bit of a clean up.  What I'm trying to say is time management is the essence.

By the third week, in one afternoon I found myself making hundreds of mini quiches, donuts, sausage rolls, croissants, sweet buns and Danish pastries. It was madness but oh-so much fun!  However exhausting, I was always excited to learn, absorbing everything like a sponge.  I baked so many different types of breads... from the everyday white and brown toasts to various rustic French and Italian breads.

My first attempt at making baguettes... Not too bad I say.
I have also discovered that working in a kitchen is not that glamorous... unless your definition of glamorous is smelling home like bread, butter and sweat... :) and I still haven't managed to not cover myself in flour...
Oh yeah, before I forget, there's a great kitchen mantra "I taste the food I make" and I certainly tasted a lot!  Not just my creations but also everyone else's... :) I will  have to spend more time at the gym to make up for it now...

Bread basket for brunch service
Six weeks gone too quickly and I am sad that I had to leave the work experience earlier than planned due to other commitments.  But during this however short time, not only I gained valuable knowledge and hands-on experience in a professional kitchen, I met so many people whom  now I call friends...

To all the staff, my friends, at JW Marriott hotel Medan, I thank you for the opportunity.  And last but not least, I want to thank Louise from Fraiche Recruitment for putting this idea into my head and for your encouragement.  I hope this will be the beginning of something great...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

My Birthday Cake

So it was my birthday a couple of days ago and I just wanted to share with you the birthday cake that my mom made.

This is a three layers of the lightest vanilla sponge filled with strawberry jam, frosted with buttercream and grated cheese. It's a very old fashioned cake, but what's wrong with that?

I don't have the recipe yet for this cake. I have to dig deep into my mom's recipe scrap book. I had such a lovely day with my parents and other friends. Especially this was the first birthday that I celebrated at home in ten years...

I had been pretty busy the past few weeks with the work experience (more about that in the next post). But I am very pleased to tell you that blogging will be back to normality very soon.

Take care my friends and thank you for your patience.

Have a great day.

P.S. if you're wondering, I am now 25 years old... :)