happy thanksgiving! (and the corn bread stuffing rant)

happy thanksgiving! I love thanksgiving, but this year I was getting a little stressed as thanksgiving was approaching because at work, we had extra prep to do plus I had to make stuffing and yams early since I had to work on thanksgiving. once the day arrived though, the kitchen smelled great, there was excitement in the air for the big thanksgiving lunch at work, and everything went well. a lot of families come to celebrate with the residents too, so that means more food and more good cheer. it was really nice seeing everyone enjoy their lunches and their time together, and lots of people complimented the food.

this is the first time I made my stuffing and yams early, but both turned out very well. they both can easily be made a day ahead. i finished them, put them in the fridge, and then Cameron just had to heat them up the next day at 325 until they were warm (~1 hr i think), then about 15 minutes at 400 uncovered to get a little crust. this year’s stuffing was the best yet. I’ve been making the same recipe for about five years now I think, but every year gets a little better. i’m very happy with it now. this year I started making pretty much the ultimate white sandwich bread (from the bread bible), so I made a batch to use for the stuffing. using good ingredients is the key to most things. having good bacon is also important. I used some thick cut maple bacon this year, which was perfect. finish it off with granny smith apples, fresh sage, and homemade chicken stock! in fact, this year we ate it all! no leftovers!

now for my rant. I am against corn bread stuffing. first of all, corn bread is pretty much cake, not bread. and cake is crumbly! at work, they said this year they wanted to make corn bread stuffing. I had never tried it, so I figured I would try it at least. ugh, so gross! ok, it’s crumbly and like a cake, then you add other things to it and probably some stock. result: mushy mess! stuffing needs real bread that can stand up to all the flavorings, moisture from the other ingredients, and liquid from the stock/eggs. I don’t want to eat a mushy mess! i think this can only work if you actually make corn BREAD, i.e. make a yeast type bread with corn flavor. that i am okay with if the bread is properly made and fit for stuffing. anyway, that is the end of my rant.

happy thanksgiving!

sourdough

i first learned about sourdough in intermediate baking with chef wetter. sourdough is so interesting! it is also a challenge because the yeast is alive and has its own personality. instant yeast is great for making a lot of great breads, but there’s always something special about sourdough.

to start a sourdough starter, people just leave out some flour and water and let the natural yeast in the air start colonizing in there. the flavor of your sourdough will be different depending on the wild yeast in the air in your area. i haven’t started my own starter; i think it is pretty challenging from what i hear. my sourdough starter is from the one chef wetter started about six years ago. to keep the starter going, it has to be fed regularly or else the yeast will run out of food, get too acidic, and die. for example, i feed mine once a week, leave it out for a little while, and then keep it in the fridge for the rest of the time. if you don’t feed it regularly, it might need to be revived. for long term storage, the starter can be put in the freezer and later revived.

for the past few months, i’ve been making sourdough every week. i named my sourdough “Fred.” it’s good to name your sourdough because he’s basically like your pet. well except you can put him in the fridge and freezer… anyway, it’s been a great learning experience figuring out the right schedule for Fred, and figuring out what conditions bring out his awesomeness the best. usually i feed him once a week, which means i take part of him, add flour and water, and knead him and beat him up a bit (helps develop gluten and incorporate oxygen). i am not an abusive parent to my sourdough! it’s what he needs. anyway, then i take another part of him as the starter for my weekly bread. the rest i toss. you have to toss part of your sourdough every time or else he’ll just keep getting bigger and bigger.

this week i had a breakthrough! actually first Fred kind of became dormant, and i was worried about him. for Fred to be ready to make bread, he has to be able to double in size after feeding in 6-8 hours. he hardly was rising in 8 hours, so i had to go back to the revival schedule and feed him once a day until he was ready. he was really kicking after that! doubling in a good 6 hours. i think one mistake i was making was i would feed him and put him straight into the fridge, which means the yeast didn’t have the chance to multiply enough for the next week. i think he needs to stay out for about an hour after feeding, and probably needs to come out of the fridge for a couple hours before his next feeding.

so anyway, this week the bread was really beautiful. great crust, nice soft fluffy interior, and great flavor. GOOD JOB, FRED!!!

update

hmm i haven’t updated my blog in a while! well, it has been a busy year. i finished culinary school in may, hooray! i’ve been working as a cook for about a year and a half now, and it’s been going pretty good. now that cooking is my job and not just my hobby, i kind of don’t know what to put in my blog. i have some recipes i might post, but it’s hard to remember to take pictures! i might post some more crafty things and bunny related things instead. we’ll see!

 

finding nemo cupcakes

here’s some finding nemo cupcakes i made for ryder’s 2nd birthday party. they’re funfetti (homemade) with vanilla buttercream. they came out pretty good:

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nemo, dore, the turtle, the pink octopus, seaweed, and coral.

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here’s a close-up:

it was a fun little project.

gingerbread

gingerbread was our second main project in confisserie. i kind of didn’t want to construct anything after pastillage, so i decided to make a rabbit sleigh. actually i had one other idea, the trojan rabbit, but i didn’t think chef brown would go for that. anyway, i’m glad i went with the sleigh since it’s more christmas-y. so first i had to get the shape with some input from chef brown. looks good!

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then i made the sleigh body out of special strong but bendable cardboard and lots of masking tape.

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then cover the sleigh with gingerbread! yes, cardboard is not edible, but i wasn’t entering mine in the food show and it would have been really hard to make it without the cardboard, so oh well. then some egg wash and bake. the egg wash kind of had a cool effect, almost like old looking wood.

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then cover the interior and bake as well. also fill in some of the edges with gingerbread and then sand down for a nice smooth edge.

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more egg wash and bake to desired color. i think this was some egg yolks and sugar to get it a little more brown.

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then i cut and baked the feet, then sanded down and egg washed. egg wash had a little black food coloring to give it a darker color.

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gingerbread rabbits! had some issues, but overall they came out pretty good. only one is standing because it’s hard to get them standing… the other ones are resting.

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after baking them, egg wash lightly and toss in granulated sugar. some ears got a little burnt but kind of cute actually. also, make scarves!!! those are made of marzipan and fondant.

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the sleigh needed a little simple decoration around the sides as well as royal icing snowflakes. those were really hard to make. hardest part of this project.

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santa bunny and his little helper with his marzipan and fondant presents and CARROT!

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BUNNIES!!!

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here’s the completed piece. bunnies!!!

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bunny close-up!!!

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after we finished all these, they were donated to local hospitals, so that’s nice. merry christmas!