The end of Baking and Pastry, and a sad day. Well, not horribly sad, but it was definitely the end of a very good thing and I will miss Chef Knaster.
Here's what I've been up to the last several days:
Wednesday, I was on bread team, so I made whole wheat pitas. It's actually a very simple bread - just combine and mix/knead the flours, water, yeast, salt and a touch of sugar and olive oil. Let the dough proof for an hour, then shape and bake. Actually, the shaping was a bit involved, owing to the fact that each of the 35 pitas were first rolled into a seamless ball, then flattened and partially rolled, then rolled out to a nine-inch circle. I slid them off the wood peels and into a 500 degree oven. They're done in just four minutes - puffed into a sphere, slightly brown on the bottom, delicious. I mixed up a huge batch of hummus and it made a fine lunch.
Thursday I made Armagnac Prune and Walnut Galettes - rustic tarts made with a flaky butter pastry, a layer of sweet walnut filling, and topped with prunes rehydrated in Armagnac and vanilla syrup. Life doesn't get much better than a slice of this tart, served warm from the oven with a dollop of creme fraiche. Thanks for the recipe, Chris!
In preparation for today's pizza, I brought in five quarts of fresh raw milk to class and made real mozzarella. Illegal cheese...! It's true; you can't buy fresh, milky mozzarella like this anywhere in the country. Italy, yes. But it's sad how most people don't know what mozzarella should taste like - all they know is the rubbery, plastic-tasting mass one finds in the grocery store. Mmmm! Plastic and rubber! For the pizza today we also had to use cheese curd mozzarella because I just couldn't make enough from the five quarts. I thought it might actually be good, but no. Sure, it melts. But it has no flavor, and is way too chewy. The handmade one tasted like fresh, sweet milk, and oozed rich cream when bitten.
I must say, though - the Italian stuff is even better. I experienced Mozzarella di bufala for the first (and only, regretfully) time in Florence about five years ago. What I make at home has the ability to transport me back to that sunny piazza where we devoured a whole ball of the luxurious cheese with perfect tomatoes and basil and olive oil, and slurped down handmade goat cheese tortelloni with shaved truffles. I must go back. Though I wouldn't say no to buying and milking my own water buffalo....
Back to the pizza. It was very good, though our ovens just aren't hot enough to produce the ideal crust. Better go to Italy or Stroll-Inn (McKees Rocks, Pittsburgh) for the really good stuff!
I worked with Kendall and Amanda today for our chocolate truffles. We made two types: Port (enlisting the use of a half bottle of port, reduced to a syrup), and Bourbon and Coke. We used Coke syrup in place of glucose, and added a healthy dose of Makers Mark, albeit over Chef's recommended 10% of the chocolate's weight - try 20-25% !!! Pretty awesome, I must say. They were visually stunning too, since I used colored cocoa butters to pattern the molds - purple swirls for the port truffles, red and gold splatters for the Bourbon and Cokes. I ate way too many.