Week two at SFCS has wrapped up and it was a great one. This week was mostly dedicated to discussing and experimenting with eggs, but we spent some time early in the week focusing on fats and dairy products too. Making our own cultured butter was one of the easiest tasks of the week, but as a butter enthusiast, of course I loved it so much that I will be continuing to make butter at home from this point forward. Once we launched into eggs, this week was heavy on foundational techniques – almost overwhelmingly so. We practiced creme anglaise, creme patisserie, French, Italian & Swiss meringues, various baked custards, and a variety of choux pastries. From this point forward, we’re expected to commit these techniques to memory so that in future recipes, an instruction as simple as “make choux” will suffice and we won’t require written steps to make it. Honestly the hardest part is not mixing up the processes in my head for all these different egg-based recipes, since we made so many of them back to back.
I definitely got more comfortable in the kitchen this week since it really started to feel like we’re baking! Just give me a KitchenAid mixer and everything feels second nature. Despite still working on foundations, we’re now creating really beautiful and delicious things. With each passing day I felt more and more inspired to learn since this week was a perfect example of what I came to cooking school for. I have made most of these things before (usually with success), but it’s typically by following a recipe of some sort. I came to school to understand the “why” for every ingredient and process. Of course I have made creme anglaise as the base for an ice cream recipe in the past, but did I really understand that the core of what I was doing was in fact creme anglaise? And why it’s so important to use the exact technique spelled out in the recipe? Once you understand the base process, you have the knowledge required to exercise your creative freedom and take your recipe to the next step. I experimented with a grapefruit and rosemary infused creme anglaise in class and next up I want to incorporate brown sugar to create a bruleed grapefruit flavor. Now that I’m armed with more understanding, I know that I will need to be mindful about how I add in the grapefruit and brown sugar to my recipe, since those levels of acidity can cause milk to break. The more you know!
Another thing I learned this week – I’m really fast. I made a conscious effort to slow down at the start of this week because I didn’t want to call attention to myself as the girl who moves too fast and generates sloppy work. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, so the idea of the quality of my work slipping literally keeps me up at night. Ultimately I found that I really can keep moving quick and feel good about the work I’m putting out. To be completely honest, I don’t think I’ve had any job where someone hasn’t commented about how fast I work. I’m good at time management and I love to (literally) have all burners firing at once. I also think some of this has to do with my level of comfort and confidence in the kitchen. I will move noticeably slower when I’m less confident (like when piping perfect rosettes – something I don’t often practice at home), but I can make a quick meringue in my sleep. Chef Nicole always says that the first step is accuracy and consistency, but once you have that down it’s all about speed. As speedy as I am right now, I have no doubt that in the coming weeks things will be thrown at me that blow me out of the water.
There has been so much work in the kitchen each day this week that I am nearly dripping sweat at the end of the day. It doesn’t stop here though because next week is dedicated almost entirely to chocolate and we’ve got a lot to cover. This even includes a field trip to Dandelion Chocolate to learn more about how chocolate is produced and I’m unreasonably excited.
p.s. I’m still trying to do a better job at taking photos, but failing miserably. It’s hard during the chaos of the day!