Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Four Sheet Pans to the Wind

We're all soldiering on at school, dutifully plating the various bits we've made, learning to make sugar cages, yada yada, but everyone is SOOOO ready for the holiday. Today we finished the passion fruit creme brulee (with the aforementioned sugar cages) and the chiboust (with some berries and honey wheat tuile, the latter being a very thin cookie made of, you guessed it, honey and wheat flour). We were supposed to finish the roasted pineapple with mango sorbet and a mango "chip" (a very thin slice of mango that had been dried in a low oven), but my partner and I didn't get to that. We didn't get to much of anything, except the madelines (which were used as garnishes for the chiboust), and I fucked them up by overfilling the mold and underbaking the product a little. I did start to get the hang of the sugar cage (though I didn't have my camera so you'll have to take my word for it).

One of my classmates offered to loan me her half-sheet pans, and even shlepped them in for me, but I discovered that half-sheet pans were on sale at a local chefs' store (they have lots of knives, but lots of other stuff, too) for $5 apiece. I decided that was too good a bargain up to which to pass, despite our current financial straits (hey, it's a legitimate business expense), and I ended up getting four pans plus a small assortment of other tools (an extra rolling pin, a small rolling pin, an offset spatula, a skimmer, some pastry bags). I did not get an extra pair of chef shoes, despite the excellent price.

Once I finally got home with all my crap, I started adapting the pistachio nougat mousse cake for the Thanksgiving crowd. Of the eleven of us, four need gluten-free, three also need dairy-free, and one of the dairy- and gluten-free also needs corn-, soy-, cinnamon-, and sage-free. This last one is the biggest challenge, mainly because confectioner's sugar has cornstarch in it. (I also haven't figured out what I'm going to do for the dairy-free nougat mousse, but I'll work on that tomorrow.)

The basic cake is great for the gluten-free-but-dairy-okay crowd: you may remember that it was pistachio dacquoise, apricot-passion fruit gelee, and honey nougat mousse folded with whipped cream. I'm making a pecan dacquoise, I'm going to try to make a pumpkin gelee, and I'm going to have to do something with the mousse for the dairy-free folks. I made the dacquoise this afternoon (in my new sheet pans, thank you very much), and it looks (and tastes) pretty good. It's a little different texture than the one we made at school, because I don't have the turbo food processor necessary to truly flour-ize the nuts. I like the chunkier texture, though, so that's okay. I also didn't have a big enough mixer or bowl to whip all of the egg whites at once, and the biggest bowl I have was only barely large enough for the folding in of the nuts and confectioner's sugar. Plus, I didn't have my mondo spatula for the folding. Still, it's an interesting challenge, and I'm definitely taking samples in for the chefs to get their feedback. Tomorrow I have to find some acetate for building the cake (the chef said the art store should have it); a cake frame would have been nice, too, but I didn't see one at the store--didn't look for one. I called the Knox gelatin people to find out the strength of their gelatin--typically, that's called "bloom"--and the person at the other end was nice but pretty clueless. She was giving me equivalent weights, but didn't know the gelling strength of the gelatin and seemed unaware that such things varied.

I'm also going to make our spice bread--amazingly enough, it has no butter in it. I'll replace the flour with the gluten-free blend and see what happens. I'll also leave out the cinnamon, though maybe replace it with something else. And I might use ginger ale mix to make the honey nougat mousse . . . If I have time tomorrow, I'm also going to make a batch of nougat candy so the crowd can try that. That's the product I want to sell in my sister-in-law's store.

Speaking of stores, I found a location for the bakery yesterday while coming back from the unemployment office. It was a restaurant, but it looks like they had to close in kind of a hurry (which is a little surprising, because the restaurant had been around for a long while). The location is great, there's no other bakery in the neighborhood, there's probably some equipment on site, and the place almost certainly has appropriate wiring and plumbing. Of course, I can't do anything about this just yet, but it's sure a nice fantasy.

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