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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cupcakes: Creme Brulee, Pecan French Toast, Car Bomb, The Elvis, and The Iona

Woah, I just realized how long it's been since I updated my cupcake adventure.  I've made half the recipes in the Robicelli's cook book.  Per usual, if you don't know about my personal cooking challenge you can check it out in this previous post.

Creme Brulee - Vanilla Cupcake, Vanilla Custard Buttercream, and Caramelized Sugar

The Creme Brulee cupcakes were pretty straight forward and a total hit with my classmates.  Making the various caramel topping was really easy.  I didn't make any adjustments to this recipe.  The only thing I'd change is breaking down the caramel more so it was smaller. 

 Pecan French Toast- Cinnamon Cupcake, Maple Cinnamon Buttercream, with Maple Glazed Pecans

OMG! This was so amazingly delicious!  It tastes like breakfast.  I would make this cupcake again, it was a huge hit.

 Car Bomb - Guiness Chocolate Stout Cupcake, Baileys Buttercream, and Jameson Chocolate Ganache

I specifically saved this cupcake for St. Patrick's Day and it was great!  The chocolate cake was really dense but still super delish and moist.  I think I'd go lighter on the Jameson in the ganache next time but it was still really good.

 The Elvis - Banana Cupcake, Peanut Butter Buttercream, Candied Bacon

These are the most beautiful cupcakes I've baked so far.  They came out perfectly domed on top and they were super moist.  I went ahead and added more cinnamon to the cake because I'm a huge fan of cinnamon.  I used my favorite powdered peanut butter in the frosting, and instead of using brown sugar to candy the bacon I used maple syrup. 

The Iona - Pear Olive Oil Cupcake, Blue Cheese Buttercream, Port Reduction, and Candied Walnuts

The best way to describe this cupcake is mild.  The flavors are all nice and easy and blend really well.  I used a really mild blue cheese, Point Reyes Bay Blue, in the frosting and that made all the difference. 

I wanted to try a few other cupcakes so I made some of Prohibition Bakery's recipes.

Irish Coffee - Coffee Cupcake with Jameson Frosting

I made this cupcake exactly as the recipe says.  It was really delicious but I'm not a fan of powdered sugar frosting.  The cake was really great.  If I were to make this cupcake again I'd use my buttercream recipe and add the Jameson to that. 

Dark and Stormy - Ginger Cupcake with Rum Buttercream and Lime Zest

Absolutely delicious!  I used my buttercream frosting for this cupcake instead of the powdered sugar frosting.  In the future I'd add more rum to the frosting, or maybe use a different rum.  I used Kraken, and I think it's too sweet to really taste the rum.

Drake's Drakonic Chocolate Stout Cupcake, Brown Butter Buttercream and Sea Salt

I'm pleased to say this is my first original cupcake.  I used the Robicelli's stout cupcake recipe and Prohibition Bakery's stout recipe for inspiration but the final product was my doing.  I specifically made this for a small Drake's event at Shotwells Bar

So, I've now made 24 of the Robicelli cupcake recipes!  YUM!  Only 26 more to go!


Week 11 at San Francisco Cooking School

We kicked off the week with BEANS!  Chickpeas, pinto, red lentils, cannellini, and more.  My teammate, Jules, and I got to make the Balkan Bean Salad which was definitely the best bean salad I've ever eaten.  Our bean salad had cannellini beans, fire roasted peppers, red onion, kalamata olives, garlic, and sliced chorizo (that we'd previously made in class).  Soooo delicious.  The perfect salad to take to a BBQ.  It was so delicious that I didn't get a picture before we'd eaten it all. :P 

 Corn, bean and pumpkin stew

We also made butter and creme fraiche this week.  It turns out it's much easier than you'd ever imagine.  We had a butter tasting to compare textures and saltiness, and baked some delicious Irish Soda Bread and scones so we weren't just eating butter. 

Fresh pasta was also on the menu this week.  We made all kinds of stuffed favioli, and then the next day we made tortellini, cappelletti, tortelloni, ragu and fettuccine.  I got to make pasta using the kitchen aid attachment as well as using a hand crank machine that attaches to a table.  Both pasta makers have pros and cons but I think if I were going to buy a pasta maker I'd get the manual hand crank.

 tortellini with prosciutto and cream

We had an awesome day when Tori Ritchie came to our class to talk about recipe development.  At the beginning of class Tori had us write down recipes for how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  We had to write down the name of the recipes, a little information about the recipe, how many people it serves, the ingredient list and the instructions.  A few people read their recipes aloud and what it showed us all is that everyone has a different idea of how their perfect pb&j is made, and when writing a recipe you can't assume that anyone knows what they're doing.  After that little exercise we split into teams and had to create a recipe using celery root and celery.  My team made celery root chips with a sour cream, cumin and celery dip.  The dip was pretty fantastic, but sadly our chips did not turn out properly because we oven baked them - and we didn't have enough time.  One of the teams made the most amazing celery salsa, it was sooooo delicious, and they fried celery root chips.  So delicious.

We de-boned a chicken and stuffed it with sausage - chicken ballotine.  Pretty delicious, and it was awesome pulling all the bones out of the chicken and then wrapping it back up.  Now I could make my own turducken if I want - which I don't.  And I had brought in my first attempt at whiskey brittle, and we put it on our dessert!

Chicken Ballotine

Caramel ice cream with apple fritters and whiskey pecan brittle.

But the real high light of the week, at least for me, was my birthday!  My classmates are seriously the bestest!  They surprised me with champagne and so many wonderful baking gifties!

 Julia, giving me a happy birthday kiss and my awesome bag o' goodies! 

 Net week will bring about more pasta, and some excellent guest instructors so stay tuned!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Week 10 at San Francisco Cooking School

Week 10 brought about our midterms.  Good news, everyone passed, whew.  We were also lucky enough to get the next day off of school, which was a really nice break.  I managed to walk away from our practical exam with only a small burn on my right hand.  I grabbed a pot off the stove with my towel and as I was walking back to my work station my towel slipped enough that my palm was touching the hot handle.  In my mind I was thinking, "f@#k, f@#k, f@#k," as I made my way to my area - it wasn't like I could just drop the pot.

Matthew Dolan, of 25 Lusk, visited our class on Monday to teach us about Russian caviar service, blinis, oysters and sabering champagne.   I was one of the lucky people who actually got to saber champagne AND there's video.  Scroll down to be amazed!

 Russian Caviar Service - sadly I had already eaten my buckwheat blini.

Found the cork!

This was also the week of RICE!  That's right, get excited, there were all kinds of rice.  We started off with Risotto and worked our way into: regular white rice of varying grains, brown rice, sticky rice, red rice, bamboo rice, basmati, and forbidden rice (black rice).  We cooked a bunch of different rice and then we had an awesome time creating our own bread puddings and rice fritters!  One of the teams was super creative and made a tarragon and ouzo rice pudding.


 Various Puddings!

And then, as if the week couldn't get more exciting, we also introduced GRAINS! Bulgur, quinoa, millet, kasha, barley, and farro.  I gotta say, I love farro because it's got a nice texture and combines really well with other flavors. 


Due to so much extra rice being cooked we got to experiment a bit more with re-purposing rice and each team in the class, there are typically 6 teams, got to create a new dish.  My partner, Jules, was a damn genius, and we made brown rice fritters with green onion, peas and curry powder.  Our fritters were soooo delicious.  Another team, Mandy and Sam, made kimchi fried rice which was also phenomenal.  Sadly no pictures were taken of the delicious fritters.

Overall week 10 was a little high stress but ended on a creative high note!


(Thanks to Harriet and Mandy for all the lovely pictures featured in this post.)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Week 9 at San Francisco Cooking School

I still have all my fingers and haven't burnt myself, at least not in class, so I'm calling week 9 a win. 

Taylor Boetticher, the owner of Fatted Calf, came to class to teach us a bit more about charcuterie.  It was a great afternoon of meat grinding, brining, and dry rubbing.  I worked on getting the pancetta in a dry brine and letting it sit.  We'll get to eat that delicious pancetta in about 3 weeks.  I also helped stuff and wrap basque coils.  (Sausages rolled in a little pinwheel.) 

Basque Coil making!

We also had a visit from Amanda Haas, who runs the test kitchen for Williams-Sonoma.  She's helped write multiple cook books, and runs her own blog called One Family, One Meal.  She spoke to our class about other options outside of working in a restaurant after culinary school.  Much to most of my class's disappointment it's pretty hard to get a job in a test kitchen.   

There were quite a few menu class days this week.  A menu class is where we have to get all the parts together for a three course meal and plate everything by a certain time.  I kinda like these days because you can see what's coming, and everything knows what to do for the most part.

This next week we have another practical and written exam, but we'll be starting the week off with a visit from Matthew Dolan from Twenty Five Lusk.  Keep your eyes peeled for awesomeness.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Week 8 at San Francisco Cooking School

We went whole, well half, hog this week!  Thomas McEntee, from 4505 Meats, came to our class to show us how to break down a pig.  As with the lamb, I enjoyed it immensely.  This is a Berkshire Pig, this breed of pig is known for all its awesome marbling which helps give it extra flavor.  This pig was around 200lbs and we got half of it.

A size comparison of the piggy, for your pleasure.  Wilbur was an excellent model, he stayed still the whole time.

I was lucky enough to be the first one to work on the pig, I got to cut off the front quarter of the pig.

As you can see, I'm quite pleased with myself.

We spent the entire morning breaking down the pig into various cuts that we could then cook.  Some things cooked fast, while others (braises and roasts) took longer.  There was pork for pretty much all this week.  And if that wasn't enough, we also worked with beef!  I was a little disappointed to find out we would not be breaking down a cow, or even part of a cow.  I suppose a cow is way too large for us to handle and cook quickly. (The following pictures were taken by my classmate Mandy.)

 Braised pork shank, sauerkraut, cider braised pork belly, and sautéed apple

 Pork shoulder braised in stout

 Pork scallopini with a lemon butter sauce and fried capers

 Pork chops a la charcutiere

As you can see, we were not starving this week.  By the end we all just wanted a salad and a nap.

We started some charcuterie projects this week and got to play with the meat grinder as well as the sausage stuffer.  My teammate Julia, and I made Rabbit Terrine.  I don't know that I'm a fan of terrines mostly because I'm not a fan of cold wet meat, but I guess we'll see.  Other teams made sausages - boubin blanc, and chorizo.  Some teams made crepinettes which are ground meat patty things rolled up in caul fat.  Caul fat has the most vile scent ever.  It's the fat the holds the pig's intestines together, like a little bag.  The end result was delicious but the small while they're being made is horrid.

And finally, we started baking!  We made muffins - orange ginger, bran, oatmeal, etc, as well as some donuts!  We talked about gluten and different kinds of flour and why some flour is better for baking bread, and some is better for pastries.  We talked about how gluten effects your baking and the difference between whole wheat and white flour.  I'm pretty pumped about all the baking we're going to be doing this upcoming week.

Molasses Donuts! (Picture taken by my classmate Harriet.)

It was a wild and busy week.  I came home with about twice as many recipes as usual but it was fun, fast paced, and delicious.  I expect that we'll be getting crazier and crazier from here on out. 

Oh yeh, this week marked the half way point!  I'm half way done with the class room portion of culinary school!