Wednesday, June 12, 2013

If You Give A Baker A Recipe...

By CIA student blogger Morgan

...They will probably need a scale. They will probably measure out everything carefully to the gram into separate containers with a label and line them all up in the order they will be added. Even if that recipe is for chicken stock  and does not require any of this -at least that's how it went for my class in Cafe Savory.

There are definitely two distinct personalities when it comes to bakers and culinarians. In varying degrees and of course I can't speak for everyone, but when I first came to the CIA and met my baking class there was a lot of this:

          "Wait, you start a new page of notes when you have to scratch something out too?"
          "You can't get off the treadmill until all the numbers are even, either?"
          "The professor's messy handwriting is driving me insane."

It's why we're good and it's why we're crazy, but there's definitely something meticulous about  bakers. So you can imagine my lack of surprise when my class was given a chicken stock ratio on the second day of Cafe Savory and the scales came out. I myself spent lunch that day figuring out how many ounces of each ingredient I'd need for mirepoix that was 2 parts onion, 1 part celery and 1 part carrot. Silly bakers. Chef Skibitcky chopped away and made little (um, slightly uneven) piles of vegetables on his cutting board, shrugged and said ,"So, about that much," as we stared, wide eyed, and yearned for our precise bakeshop formulas.

Cafe Savory is the three week long Culinary Fundamentals class that all Baking and Pastry students at the CIA must take. It's a crash course on everything you need to know about the savory side of our profession and you produce everything from a perfectly clear consommé to a shallow poached salmon. The class is four hours a day, and we take it at the same time as College Writing and Intro to Management. In such a short period of time, it's hard to go very far in depth with exotic techniques and ingredients. For the most part we made comfort foods and items that you would see on a cafe menu.

We worked in teams of four and five to prepare a different menu each day. Chef would do demos as we went along or in class the day before. In the picture above is one of our first complete meals: pasta in a Parmesan cream sauce, candied red beets, rice pilaf, mushroom risotto and a perfectly hard boiled egg.

We called this our 'Hudson Valley' Salad. It was cherry tomatoes, blanched walnuts, blood orange segments and fuji apples over a bed of fresh microgreens and herbs. Oh, and that's Coach goat cheese peeking out from under those greens and it is basically the most delicious goat cheese I've ever had. Turns out the Coach family is not only talented when it comes to designing handbags.

Here's the same salad alongside sauteed chicken breast with a demi glace, rosemary garlic mashed potatoes and homemade German spaetzel. 

Overall, I think my class really enjoyed Cafe Savory. It was most definitely an exercise in letting go and trusting our instincts - which sometimes worked and sometimes not so much! By the end of the three weeks we were only using paper cups to measure and had all but mastered the art of "eye-balling". And even if we were all as giddy as kids on Christmas morning when breakfast day rolled around and we got to act like bakers again, it was nice to be challenged in a new way and get a small taste of cooking on the line. 

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