Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pastry Class: Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Chocolate Chunk Cookies

In my pastry class, we are starting to get into technique. Most of the class is focused on labs, rather than lecture. We've picked groups, and I ended up with a good one, I think. Three of the other guys have industry experience. I've done large scale cooking in the SCA, at science fiction conventions, and catered some LARPs. Everyone takes initiative, and just get things done. We communicate well. Just by random draw, I ended up being sous chef for our group for this lab. We seem to be fast and efficient, so may find ourselves doing Chef's mise en place, as well as our own. Sometimes there is a price to pay for being teacher's pets.

Our first recipe was a banana cake with cream cheese frosting. This was a very moist cake, and I loved the tanginess of the frosting. We were focused on professional methods, so much of the ingredients are measured in weight, not volume. The way we cut the cake, there was a row for each person in the group, so we each got to decorate our own. I just followed Chef's scheme. Others in my group came up with their own designs. My row is the second from the left.
The point of this exercise was to illustrate the Mix Method. This is the simplest of methods for combining ingredients. Dry ingredients are sifted together, wet ingredients are mixed together, then wet are added to dry and combined quickly. A lot of cakes and quick breads are done this way.

The other recipe we did was chocolate chunk cookies. Like chocolate chip cookies, but bigger pieces of chocolate. This recipe produces a moist, chewy cookie. We used a bittersweet chocolate, with 58% cocoa liqueur. That was fine with me, as I prefer darker chocolates. This recipe was to illustrate the Cream Method. In the cream method, the fats and sugars are beaten together to add air and provide leavening.

Both these recipes are provided by my instructor, Chef James Foran. As these are professional recipes, much of the measurements are by weight rather than volume.


Banana Cake

Wet Ingredients
9 fl oz vegetable oil
6 oz by wt eggs
12 oz by wt peeled bananas
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 fl oz cream
5 oz by wt brown sugar

Dry Ingredients
10 oz by wt sugar
10 oz by wt cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Prepare  a half sheet pan, oiled and lined with parchment or wax paper.
Preheat oven, 325 degrees for a convection oven, 350 degrees for a conventional oven

Using an immersion blender, blend together wet ingredients. Sift together dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients all at once to dry ingredients. Whisk together until just combined. Pour batter into half sheet pan, and smooth. Bake 12 - 15 minutes, or until cake is browned and springy.

When cake is completely cooled, invert onto cutting board, and frost.

Cream Cheese Frosting

12 oz by wt cream cheese
3 oz by wt room  temperature butter
6 1/2 oz by wt powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer. Cream with a paddle until smooth.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

fats/sugars ingredients
5 oz by wt butter
4 oz by wt sugar
5 oz by wt brown sugar
3/4 tsp. kosher salt

wet ingredients
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

dry ingredients
8 1/2 oz by wt all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder

garnish ingredients
9 oz by wt semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Preheat oven, 325 degrees for a convection oven, 350 degrees for a conventional oven

Using a paddle in a stand mixer, cream together fats and sugars for at least five minutes, until smooth.
Add egg and vanilla, cream until smooth.
Add dry ingredients in two stages, remembering to scrape down the bowl periodically.
Stir in chocolate.

Scoop out dough in approximately 2 tbsp. balls onto sheet pan. Top each cookie with a few grains of sea salt.

Bake about 5 minutes, or until flattened and brown.

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