I’m so full, it’s possible I’ll never eat again. Unless I decide to eat another cookie.
Day 2 of the CIA Baking Boot Camp has come and gone and I’m sprawled on the hotel bed, with aching feet and a box of cookies from class sitting just out of reach. It’s been a really long, but good day. (Missed Day 1? Read my review of Day 1!)
It all started this morning around 9 am when Mom and I met up with another boot camp participant in the lobby of the hotel to head over to the CIA campus to enjoy some breakfast before meeting up with the rest of the group. We hit up the Apple Pie Bakery again and enjoyed some croissants, bagels and coffee. We gathered with the rest of the group at 10:30 am for a tour of the school. My brother had prepped me to ask to see the catacombs and the store room. Wait? Did I say catacombs? Yep. It turns out that the CIA was originally a Jesuit monastery, so the footprint of the entire main building is still the same. There are pews for benches in the hallways, beautiful arches throughout and all kinds of neat architectural stuff. Apparently there are also crypts, but we weren’t allowed anywhere near those. Oh yes, the main dining hall is in the old sanctuary, which is just beautiful and was our first stop on the tour.
After the sanctuary, we headed down to the catacombs and saw a bunch of kitchens. Apparently there are about 45 teaching kitchens on campus. What’s kind of neat is that lunch is served out of a whole bunch of them. Basically, the students cook all morning in class and then at lunch, the students who aren’t in class can choose which class/cuisine they want to have for lunch and go get that food. Trust me, no one is going hungry at this school.
Lorrie, our guide for the week, pointed out lots of things of note, but the next big, exciting stop on the tour was in the store room. The store room is really a whole collection of rooms and giant walk-in refrigerators and freezers. It’s kind of like a magical wonderland.
After the tour we headed to the Bocuse restaurant for a fabulous lunch. We had an amuse bouche of mini caprese salad and then I had the gnocchi with braised veal cheek appetizer and the duo of lamb for my entree. The gnocchi was light and delicate and the lamb was flavorful and cooked perfectly. So good.
Then it came time for dessert. There were 6 people at our table and 5 dessert options, but the ice cream made table-side required it be for at least two people, so we ordered one of everything for the table. The table-side ice cream was pretty fun and was made with liquid nitrogen in a hand-cranked KitchenAid. Apparently KitchenAid developed these hand cranked models for the Amish, who don’t use electricity. I think that’s pretty damn cool.
After lunch we waddled downstairs for a group picture and for our day of cooking to begin. It’s 2 pm at this point and I already wanted a nap, but it was time to get to work!
Today’s topic was the “rubbing” or “cutting in” method, which is most commonly associated with pie dough or biscuits. Here are my takeaways from the lecture:
1. The size of the fat is the biggest determination of the consistency of the final product. I mean this in terms of flaky or mealy. When you work the butter into the dry ingredients, larger chunks (approximately the size of a shelled, half walnut) yield flakier results, whereas smaller chunks of butter (approximately the size of a pea) yield mealier results. In this context, describing something as “mealy” isn’t always a bad thing.
2. Aside from nailing ratios of ingredients, the main thing you need to know when using the rubbing/cutting in method is when to stop mixing.
3. I’ve always been pretty sparing with water when making pie crusts, but Chef Bruno explained that you need to use at least almost all the water called for in the recipe, if not all or a little more. If you don’t use enough liquid, then the dough doesn’t develop enough gluten. This means that the crust has no structure and just crumbles away when you try to cut into it.
4. Cold ingredients. Chill the dough. Roll it out and then chill it again. Cold is good.
5. We want flakier crusts for pies that don’t need as strong a crust. This would include Apple, blueberry, cherry etc. Basically, pies that have a starch holding the filling together. We want a mealy crust for pies that require a stronger crust. This would be for “loose” pies, such as cream, custard etc. Pie crusts for loose pies are also partially blind baked before baking with the filling.
After the lecture, Chef Bruno demonstrated how to make pie dough. He used a bench scraper to cut the butter into the dry ingredients before adding the water and then kneading it all into a “shaggy mass.” Then he portioned out the dough (roughly 1 ounce of dough for each inch of pie plate diameter), formed flat discs out of the dough, wrapped them in plastic and stuck them in the fridge to cool.
We all then went to work mixing up our own pie dough. Once our dough rounds were chilling, we turned to our cookie dough that was in the fridge from Day 1.We all set to work slicing or rolling out our cookies, as the case may be.
Next up? Biscuits and scones. I think the coolest thing I learned from Chef Bruno about making biscuits is how to avoid wasting the scrap dough that is left between the cut out circles. He folds those scraps under the rest of the dough and gently presses down on the dough to make it an equal thickness again. This just incorporates another layer to add to the flakiness without reworking the dough. Super cool.
So we baked off our biscuits and mixed up our scones and put them in the fridge to chill overnight before turning back to the pie dough.
Chef Bruno demonstrated how he rolls out pie dough and measures it an everything. Rule of thumb: pie dough should be 1/4″ thick. Good to know. However, I think the best thing 2 things I picked up from this part of the class have to do with making lattice topped pies.
1. You can use your rolling pin as a straight edge when cutting the lattice strips.
2. Assemble the lattice on a cake board that is about the same size as the top of your pie. That way you can assemble the lattice, chill it and then just slide it onto the top of your pie. How cool is that?
We ended the day by rolling out some pie dough before returning it to the fridge to chill for tomorrow. Oh, yeah, we also ate dinner somewhere in there. I was still so full from our enormous lunch, but dinner was nice. Now it’s time to wind down, watch a little telly and get some sleep before the adventure continues!
Can’t get enough? Read about day 3!