Friday, February 29, 2008

Cooking Class: Part 1

Janet and I have the best husbands. They listen to us. They pay attention to what we like to do and support us in doing it. And, they get to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

For Christmas, Kevin (with the help of Janet's Dad, John) and Michael gave us baking classes at La Tulipe Patisserie in Mt. Kisco. Our first class was Wednesday. We covered: Chocolate Hazlenut Biscotti, Orange Short Bread Cookies, Ginger Snaps with Lemon Fondant Filling and Gruyer Puffs.
This kitchen is amazing. A small space, that is efficiently organized. A chef who knows what he's doing and tells you how to do it correctly, without screaming or making you feel like a fool -- Gordon Ramsey could take a lesson from Maarten Steenman.
The classes are limited to 5 people, so he is able to spend time with each of us. All of us have some sort of cooking experience. By that I mean we've all tried to make cookies and cakes at home. None of us seem to be trained professionally, except our own Janet.

One of the things that I like are the tips. Chef Steenman tosses off hints/tips without realizing how important they are to those of us who are new to the cooking arts.
For example: If you are baking something round, stagger the m as you lay them out on the baking sheet. If what you are baking is square, lay them out in a straight lines.

Baking Soda makes the cookies spread; baking powder makes the cookies rise. I guess they are things you learn and get stuck in your brain.

The Orange Shortbread cookies are pictured here. Notice that the top surface is a little
smaller than the bottom surface, creating an angled side. This is very definitely on purpose. Chef Steenman explains that the crystalline structure of granulated sugar would cause the bottoms of the cookies to spread too much resulting in too severe an angle. He uses powdered sugar instead.

This cookie formula also calls for patent flour which Chef explains has a little more protein than pastry flour.
Janet and I both looked at each other and said, "What?" I thought I'd heard of all flours -- as I'd thought I purchased all of them working our way through the Cake Bible. Neither of us had heard of this one. We decided to do a little research, at I found the following.
All-Purpose Flour: Developed for the home baker. A general all-purpose flour useful for cookies, muffins, rolls and some breads. The flour is usually made out of hard red winter wheat and/or soft winter wheat. The flour is usually bleached, malted and enriched. Typically this flour contains a protein level between 9.0% to 11.0%.

Bread Flour: A flour that typically has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour capable of producing breads and rolls of excellent quality. The flour is usually made with a greater percentage of hard red winter or hard red spring wheat which have higher gluten content giving the bread dough the elastic quality necessary for greater product volume. Protein levels vary from 10.5%-12.0%. The flour is usually malted, enriched and can be unbleached or bleached. Common applications include breads, pizza crusts and specialty baked goods.

High Gluten Flour: The highest gluten content of all of the wheat flours used fo r baking. This flour comes from Hard Winter or Spring Wheat, and has a gluten content from 12-13%. This flour is used for dough needing extra strength and elasticity such as pizza, focaccia, mullet-grain breads and Kaiser rolls.

Whole Wheat Flour: Also called graham flour is flour milled form the whole grain, it contains all of the bran and germ from the wheat berry. Most whole wheat are made out a hard red wheat, but hard white wheat (a white wheat berry is "whiter in appearance" than a red wheat berry) is gaining in popularity due to its lighter appearance and naturally sweeter taste. It is used for breads, rolls and some pastries. Because it contains the germ and bran, it retains vital nutrients. It needs to be used fresh, and stored properly as it gets rancid quickly due t o the high fat content from the wheat germ. Typical protein levels range from 11.5%-14.0% and most whole wheat flours are enriched.

Self-Rising Flour: Self-rising flour is typically all-purpose flour (flour made from hard red winter or soft red winter wheat) blended with baking soda and salt. The flour is predominantly used for scratch biscuits, pancakes and cookies. Protein levels run from 9.5%-11.5% and the flour is enriched. This type of flour cannot have a very high protein level other wise baked end-products will not have a light and fluffy texture and will not "relax" during the baking or cooking process.

Cake Flour: Usually bleached, and of soft texture and smooth feel. It is milled from soft winter wheat. It has a low protein or gluten content, and produces cakes with a tender crumb. Protein content is typically 8.5%-10% and the flour is enriched.

Pastry Flour: This flour can be bleached or unbleached. Used for cookies and pastries. It too comes from soft winter wheat, and is very starchy. It has a low protein content, and produces pies and pastries with a flaky or tender consistency. Protein content is typically 8.5%-10% and the flour is enriched.

Vital Wheat Gluten: Flour milled from the pure gluten derived from washing the wheat flour to remove the starch. The gluten that remains is dried, ground into a powder and used to strengthen flours lacking in gluten, such as rye or other non-wheat flours.

Interestingly enough, they don't even list patent flour. I found this detailed note from
Patent flour is the purest and highest-quality commercial wheat flour available. Patent flour is made from the center portion of the endosperm. Patent flour is classified in five categories, depending on the amount of straight flour it obtains. Extra short or fancy and first patent flours are made from soft wheat and are used for cake flours. Extra short or fancy patent contains 40 to 60 percent straight flour. First patent flour contains 60 to 70 percent straight flour. Short patent flour made from hard wheat is the most highly recommended commercially milled flour for bread baking, it contains 70 to 80 percent straight flour. Medium patent flour contains 80 to 90 percent straight flour and is also excellent for bread baking, as is long patent flour, which is made with 90 to 95
percent straight flour. It is up to the baker to determine which of these flours best serves his or her purposes.

Maybe that's why it's not available in my Stop and Shop. Seems like you need a culinary degree to figure it out.

Our class ended at 10:30 pm and Chef Maarten was going to get up early the next day to begin cooking. He also taught a class the night before, and was teaching a class Thursday night after work. As he said, "I could bake all day and night." And, he is, almost.

Ok, if you don't want to stay up late, cooking all those cookies, cakes, etc. You can stop by La Tulipe in Mt. Kisco and pick up something sweet to eat like these wonderful gingersnaps. The recipes we are cooking are some of the ones that he's used in his own patisserie.

1 comment:

Jean Girard said...

I noticed your discussion on patent flour was very interesting. My company produces for export and distribution such flour.

I would be pleased for you to visit our site: Federation Flour Mills

If you have any questions please ask there and please do check us out.