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|Baking Lesson 1: Cream Puffs & Madeleines||Posted by: Chi Anh | September 18, 2011|
Apologies again for my lack of blogging. But all the work travelling has taken a toll on my blogging routine. However, it’s all going to change from now, because I have started a Baking course at Le Croissant bakery, and will be baking at the Bakery every Saturday & Sunday from now for 6 weeks. I’m crazy excited and am eager to share each and every session with you. So stay tuned for at least 12 blog entries on my baking lessons and what I learnt from the pros.
Le Croissant is a bakery/training outlet by the Hoa Sua Culinary & Hospitality vocational school. Hoa Sua is an NGO with financing from France. It is one of the first culinary institutions in Vietnam, and provides free vocational training to disadvantaged youths in Vietnam. So by taking up this course, I will not only gain precious training in the pastry kitchen, but also contribute to a meaningful social cause. Le Croissant is known as one of the good bakeries in Hanoi for fresh French breads everyday and does a lot of events catering as well.
A hardworking Apprentice at Le Croissant bakery making egg custard.
Coming to Le Croissant for my first lesson, I was very nervous. After all, this is not one of those leisure Baking Classes where you get to have your own workstation in nice Kitchen Studios (which also costs a bomb). This is the real deal. You will bake among the bakers and students of the Hoa Sua school. And it was exactly what I had imagined, only more intense. The kitchen is incredibly small for the amount of breads and cakes they produce everyday, and the heat from the ovens make the room really hot and stuffy. Nevermind, I was determined to blend in. My instructor was a no-nonsense, fierce woman who juggles the works in the kitchen, non-stop phone orders and teaching me plus supervising the other full-time apprentices. Forget about the sweet talks you usually get from your baking class instructors. This woman tells you in the face that what you had just piped was unacceptable and wipes it right off the baking tray for you to repipe. And looking at how she shouts at the other apprentices, I am already getting the most “gentle” treatment. Oh, and forget about readily printed recipe sheets at the beginning at your class. My instructor basically reads it off her head during preparation and I have to write it down and remember myself whatever she’s saying, especially the method and tips. Exciting, no?
One good thing about this training is I get to choose my own syllabus. They showed me their entire pastry line-up at the bakery, and I just picked and choose what I wanted to learn. So in the next 6 weeks, I’ll be learning Baguettes, Pain Au Chocolate, Croissants, Apple Tarts, Chocolate Tart, Creme Brulee, Chocolate Cake, Fruit Cake, Mousse and so on. If what I make passes their standard, it will also be sold at the bakery, and I’ll get to bring the rest home to share with family and friends (beware of your diet guys!).
In my first session yesterday, I learnt Cream Puffs (Choux Pastry) and Madeleines. Honestly, all my previous knowledge of baking was put in question. Forget about Mise-En-Place, exact measurements, or flour sifting. Everything was handled with incredible speed and roughness that left me in constant state of shock. All mixings were manually done. Yet the result is nothing less than what it’s supposed to be. I guess this is based on their years of experience of producing hundreds, if not thousands, of cakes a day. Take a look yourself at my quite decent looking end-products…
The incredibly soft Cream Puffs:
And the golden, beautifully risen shell-shaped Madeleines:
Amazing, no? To de-mystify everything I said above, I shall share with you the recipe and method of these petit fours, as made by the pros by Le Croissant. Hold on tight, and just… don’t think.
1) Cream Puffs (Choux pastry and Creme Patisserie filling)
(makes 30 pcs)
Filling (Creme Patisserie):
1. Brush baking tray with melted butter or oil. Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Combine water, butter, sugar and salt in a deep skillet and put on high heat. Once boiled, take it off the heat.
2. Add flour to the hot mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon. Hold the spoon straight and mix in the same direction until well combined.
3. Add eggs one at a time, mix until combined before adding the next egg.
4. Fill the batter into piping bags and pipe 3cm-wide circles with your pastry tip holding vertically straight and steady, about 2 cm above the baking tray. Leave about 2cm space between the puffs. This was the hardest step for me as I could not pipe steadily. However, it will come with practice.
5. Bake for 25-30 min. Do not open the oven during the first 15 min to allow the puffs to fully rise. Let cool before piping the filling. While the puffs are baking, proceed to making the filling.
6. Filling: whisk the eggs and sugar in a deep skillet until combined, then add flour and mix until incorporated. Boil the milk, then add into egg mixture. Stir the mixture on medium heat until it is no longer sticking to the sides of the skillet when tilted. Add butter & vanilla and stir until all is melted. Note: Let the filling cool completely before piping into the puffs.
7. Punch a small hole at the bottom of each puff with the back of a spoon, then pipe the filling into the hole with a pastry bag. Pipe until you feel the filling fill up the entire puff. Decorate the puffs with melted chocolate.
1. Brush the Madeleine molds/pan with melted butter or oil. Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Melt butter with sugar in microwave or preheating oven. Once butter is melted, whisk heavily until the butter mixture is cooled before adding the eggs to avoid curdling.
2. Add eggs one at a time, whisk until combined before adding the next egg.
3. Add flour, salt, baking powder and lemon zest. Now this is the crucial step that decides if the madeleines will rise fully later: Whisk heavily, beating the whisk strongly against the bottom of the bowl, until bubbles appear and batter flows down smoothly when whisk is lifted.
4. Bake for 25 min. Do not open the oven during the first 15 min to allow the madeleines to fully rise.
And that’s it for 1st session. It was supposed to be the easiest lesson. Today I am going for my 2nd session, which probably is bread-making. Can’t wait. I’m travelling to Bangkok tomorrow for work the entire week. So the 2nd entry will have to wait a bit longer. Stay tuned!
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