Wednesday, 13 September 2017

One LONG Class!

I arrived at school at 05h45 this morning (and that is not a typo ... a quarter to six AM) and three quarters of the students in culinary arts were already there, waiting for the doors to be opened. This take a mix of courage and chutzpah ... and it helps to be a little nuts as well!

Got dressed.
Note the time on the clock!

So ... what did we get done?

• Rye loaves ... 6 regular size
and learnt how to properly top-dress breads with a gentle veil.
• Focaccia ... 2 large pans
• Hummus with smoked and caramelized sugar onions ... 3 litres
• Guided tasting of 6 wonderful Ontario mustards
• Learn to use a capuccino machine steam wand to make scrambled eggs
* Make breakfast eggs and kefir blitzes for everyone
* Have a formal lecture on the history of restaurants, and how our work is tied (historically) to the medical community
• Attend a school assembly
• Prepare for photo day tomorrow
• Clean up everything to perfection
• Watch and discuss two safety videos

AND ...


We have been in class for 1 week today. There has been NO time allowed for a slow start-up ... it is 110% from the very start! Today's class was (on the surface) about getting a lot of work done in a variety of teams, but the underlying structure I am working on is learning to notice, to be able to juggle 2 or 3 things at a time, be even more aware of safety, to not interrupt anyone else's work or focus, and to start developing basic knife skills.

Sounds easy, eh?

Results = Fabulous!

Well done, everyone. You've earned the praise..

Monday, 11 September 2017

Bread and Patience

Takes time to bake

Takes time to learn how to bake

Takes time to train hands

Takes time to learn the secrets of making dough,and kneading

Takes time to train eyes

Takes time to learn how to use heat

Takes time to learn how to be patient

Takes time to learn how to bake

But ... here is Chef Bailey's first shot at making traditional pumpernickel.

Impresesive, Chef!

Learning to Wear the Uniform, and HUGE Cookie Success!

Day two ... time for a demo.

I have taught the concepts of getting ready to get ready, and mis-en-place. Now it is time to see these in actual application.

My kitchen is prepared and the demo takes 30 minutes from me starting to make cookies to the student chefs getting to eat the first ones out of the oven. We talk about their experiences the previous day...a sort of bash-yourself analysis. I don't let them beat themselves up TOO much, but do permit specific comments which are task-focused ... nothing personal.

Then ... it is time for our new chefs to learn about the history of the traditional western chefs uniform, and the meaning of the toque. Each get to put their uniform on for the first time.

Then ... find some new confidence with the uniform AND the demo .... I give the students 45 minutes to, again, Make Me Cookies.

As predictable, everyone is successful ... everyone has a HUGE grin on ... and the satisfaction level with a new set of challenges suddenly moves from"I can't do this" to "Let Me At It!".

And another semester begins on a strong and positive note.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

September ... And Another New Start. MAKE ME COOKIES !!


Culinary Arts has another new brigade starting this week ... and after a very basic intro day yesterday, loaded up with paperwork, today was the first day actually in the kitchen.

We start, by tradition, with a day called "Make Me Cookies". I supply two recipes from older cookbooks ... just photocopied right onto a page ... and divide the students up into groups. I tell them they have an entire commercial kitchen at their disposal, and 90 minutes. Here is a recipe ... go exploring, work in your small groups, and MAKE ME COOKIES!

Away they go!









And ... finally ... the work is assessed.
Sometimes we actually have an edible product (or two). This time ... nada. Zilch. Boom! Everything went into the dumpster, with explanations and commentary and a lot of laughter. Everything was raw / poorly-baked. Gentle, tough, honest and precise criticism ... and the chance to improve.

Tomorrow there will be a professional demo ... and another, professionally-written recipe will be supplied. Students will get another chance to make cookies and, if history is any guide, there will be 100% success. Everyone will know exactly WHY things turned out better ... and this is the first bit of strong, edible feedback they get in the course. EVERY student can choose to be very, very successful.

Welcome, new students! Welcome to our historic Brigade!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Service and Giving at The Good Shepherd Mission

Again (and for the last time this semester) we went to The Good Shepherd Street Mission to serve lunch to about 400 clients. Meghan, a grade 8 student who has heard about our work there has joined us ... and today's brigade did wonderful service to the community.

Big respect to each of you ... and heartfelt thanks.


Ciabatta and Disgusting Biga

Sometimes you have to start with something pretty plain and humble to create something beautiful. We did that.

On Monday we made biga ... a bread starter that was tossed into a huge bowl and covered with plastic wrap, then tossed into the bottom of a cupboard for a week to ferment, bubble, grow, collapse and ooze while it made a wonderful sour base.

Some students arrived early at school ... these two were at the back door when I arrived at 05h45.

Start in the kitchen at 06h00.

It takes real dedication to come to school over 3 hours early ... by 06h30 the whole brigade was hard at work
using the biga we'd made 4 days previously to make a big, fat, sticky, ciabatta dough ... which oozed out of every bowl and plopped onto the racks.

Someone has to do a full and complete clean-up ... Willem volunteered to come in 3 hours before his co-op time usually starts to be the 'kitchen bitch' and help everyone. What a wonderful guy!

Then ... wait for 75 minutes ... so Jahquane and Herold and others got to serious work and made breakfast for everyone. Yum ... delicious! And great attitude, everyone!! A few people caught up on their Zzzzzzs in my office.

Then ... bring the ploppy risen dough out of the bowls and splat it onto the counters.

Start kneading and form basic shapes and start proofing.

Then ... learn how to make a steam oven, and do steam injection ... and bombs away! Bake and enjoy t
he results.

Results = 100% delicious, with wonderful crust and delicious, slightly sour crumb.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Creating Perfect Sticky Buns! (a.k.a. inducing diabetic collapse if not careful!)

Well, this is the second-last day of "Bread Week" ... it is time to take on the world-famous (or they should be) UBC Sticky Buns. These are famous at the University of British Columbia (where Chef did his undergraduate work and part of his graduate school) ... and now, as they have been enjoyed by generations of Vancouverites and students of UBC, they are sold all over Vancouver to students, and former students, who still have the habit.

How to make?


Start the night before combining warm milk, a bit of sugar, and bit of salt and a lot of butter. Melt the butter into the milk
and cool to room temperature. Get a pair of eggs and about 2 1/2 litres of flour, and make a soft dough. Raise for about 75 minutes above a warm spot, then turn out and roll into a rectangle. Smear the inside with melted butter and them smear on a thick base of brown and white sugars combined into a goo with more melted butter. Today we added raisins that had been soaked in brandy for about 2 hours. Roll up the dough
with the filling,
and cut into disks. Place into a deep prepared pan, and bake for about 40 minutes.

What could be simpler?

Invert onto a rack-lined tray, allow to drip and cool. Prise buns apart with a pair of pallette knives.

MMmmmmmm .....

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Fougasse ... Deceptively Simple Bread

There are two things you can say about good fougasse ... 'YUM', and 'Wow, how did you make that excellent bread?'

Let's just leave the YUM and go to part II (above).

Fougasse is a simple dough to make ... blossom some yeast in sweetened water, add some basic-quality EVO, pour it into flour and salt mixed (with maybe a little herb added) ... and ... VOI and LA, you've got the beginnings of some serious classic french bread.

So today we just practised rocking another great bread ... and learnt some cultural history along the way.

Make the dough, allow it to rise, then roll it out and cut it to a classic shape. Add a little egg wash or milk wash ... or perhaps some light flour topping ... and bake at 425 for about 25 minutes.

Along the way the students learnt that really good bread should not be cut, but torn. This is a reflection of old, old roman catholic history, with the stabbing in the side of Christ on His Cross.
Because of that, and the representation of the risen Christ through the risen loaf (see how this ties together?), no blade should be applied to classic loaves. Use your fingers and hands, and don't squash the life out of the poor thing! This is why we "break bread together". Break gently, not saw apart or flatten. We join and share, not cleave. This tradition of tearing rather than cutting is also reflected in the Jewish Challah (see the previous blog-post) shared on the night of the Sabbath. It is torn and shared, not cut.
Bread brings people together to stop their busy-ness, to spend time together, to be grateful and to make community.

Everyone practiced the gentle tearing and was successful ... and Makayla made a just delicious gentle garlic butter shared as a quick dip.

Results were delightful. Well done everyone!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

(Not Quite Kosher) Loafers! It Is Challah Time!

Well, this week is all about breads ... good breads ... and starting at work VERY early! What a learning experience.

I arrived at school at 05h55 to unload. Jahquane was already waiting there ... Herold showed up about 2 minutes later. We unloaded the car of supplies and went into the kitchen. Willem turned up about 3 minutes after this, kindness of Mom's taxi. We all needed coffee (and Willem was up to the job of making us all wake up in the nicest possible way)! Coffee it was, all 'round.

Challah takes time to learn to make ... it is not the simplest of recipes, although it is a straight-dough. The three secrets of making good challah are; get all the temperatures right (including those of the bowls and racks), move rapidly to make the dough after a completed mis-en-place, and braid and egg-wash with verve after proofing! These are easier said than done, but today's excellent results speak for themselves. It takes a lot of practice to be able to rock this stuff with confidence and panache.

The brigade arrived and was all at work by 06h20.
This was QUITE the shock. The brigade looked ... tired. Except Coco, who is the DuraCell Bunny of student chefs (and just a fabulous cook).

The bowls were warmed ... the yeast carefully blossomed ... the mixers used ... the flour added and stirred by hand to make a ragged dough ... and then the dough put on the hook for about 4 minutes, with a finish of hand-kneading until supple and just slightly damp-feeling (tested with the baby-formula-check inside of the wrist). Then ...


Have a little discussion about the intimate relationship, over centuries, perhaps millennia, of bakers and brewers ... both are the yeast-users and collectors and cherishers of any long-ago village ... and beer or ale and bread-baking are intimately inter-twined in western culture.

My students do not wait well. They have little patience (typical), so everyone made themselves breakfast. AND cleaned up beautifully. This chef had more coffee. If I cut myself this morning I would bleed brown.

Then ...

Set up the boards and clean counters ... bring down the risen dough (Yahya and Makayla demonstrate)
... turn out the dough ... cut into two large portions then each portion into three lumps.

Roll the lumps
into long cylinders,

and braid them together.
Proof them on baking sheets

Add a slight egg wash and, if desired, sesame seeds or poppy seeds (as Jenny is demonstrating)


Voila! Challah!

And it was delicious.

Jahquane kindly shared half of his loaf ... ALL the rest were carefully taken home, with blushing pride.

Well done, Bakers! (Or should I call you Loafers?!) See you again wicked early almost every day this week!