Meringues, Fingers in Boiling Sugar and a Farm – Day 28

TODAY’S TIDBITS (Courtesy of Chef Fischer)

  • Vegetables loose 50% of their nutrients within 3 days of harvesting
  • Squeeze lemon juice from a lemon through your fingers, so you catch the seeds.
  • Oysters start out male, and then change to female after 3 years.

We learnt about frozen desserts and meringues today. There are three types of meringues – I remember them by personality types: French Meringue (cold), Swiss Meringue (warm), Italian Meringue (hot). We got to practice several of these today, the most memorable being the Italian Meringue. It is a hot meringue, because you heat sugar up to the “soft ball stage” 240F, and then add it to whipped egg whites and whip for 10-20min. Now, how do you tell the sugar is at the “soft ball stage” you may ask. By dipping your hand in ice water, and then GRABBING SOME OF THE BOILING SUGAR FROM THE PAN WITH YOUR FINGERS and dipping your hand back in the ice water. If it forms soft little balls between your fingers then you’ve got it right. [You could also use a candy thermometer, but we don’t have those]. A golden rule of cooking in the kitchen has always been ‘beware of hot sugar, it’s very very hot!!!!!’. And now we had to dip our fingers in it and pull some out. I hesitated quite a bit in doing this, but sure enough it worked.

I didn’t have a good day in the kitchen today. I caramelized my sugar the first time trying to ‘soft ball’ it. And I curdled my Crème Anglaise twice in trying to make ice cream. Furthermore, we ran out of eggs, milk, rolling pins, and measuring cups. And because I was a little behind, I was the one having to deal with a lot of these, so it wasn’t much fun.

Chef John showing us 'the moat'
Chef John showing us ‘the moat’
Nina practicing the moat
Nina practicing the moat

I did make up some time doing the Pate Feuilletée, which we didn’t get done yesterday. This was an interesting way of mixing ingredients. Chef John taught us to pour the flour onto the table, make a well, and then a second moat. Gradually mix the flour ‘until the water fills the moat’. Then we add some butter, and fold it into a dough. After a brief rest, we fold four flaps over a huge square of softened butter to create a ‘paton’, and then a book fold and quarter turn, a double fold, fridge, a quarter turn, double fold, quarter turn, double fold….and voila….puff pastry. I had done this before, so caught up some time.

Chef Fischer teaching us about Farm to Table
Chef Fischer teaching us about Farm to Table

There was an after-class session from Chris Fischer, who specialized in farm-to-table food. He owns a farm on Martha’s Vineyard, and use to run a restaurant on the farm. He had lots of really insightful anecdotes (see today’s tidbits). He featured celery root, an under-appreciated vegetable which I’m trying to use more and more. By the end of the session he had cooked a celery root puree served with a poached fresh oyster. It was delicious.

I was then supposed to go help the bakery class build the gingerbread house display for the Bloomingdale’s Christmas Windows, but tonight’s session was cancelled. Off the buy a measuring cup. Tomorrow is Chocolate Soufflée!!!!

Ps: Happy Birthday Nina.

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