Monday, November 3, 2008

What is this gadget?

On Saturday, after my pasta class was over, I went to see DH in his class, The Art of Artisan Bread, Part 2, at Johnson and Wales. I noticed the above apparatus on one of the benches and picked it up. DH asked me if I had any idea what it was. I was completely puzzled. He gave me a clue: it can only be purchased in Mexico. I still didn't know. He told me to think of pan dulce (pastries). Then I realized it is a press for making the distinctive designs on conchas, a very common pastry made in Mexico.

His class made conchas! What a splendid surprise! DH had been talking to the Chef about Mexican pastries, and it turns out that the Chef worked in a bakery in Mexico for a while. So, the Chef gave the students the option of using some of the batch of brioche dough they had made to form some conchas, using the presses he had purchased in Mexico. Everyone in the class decided to try making conchas.

They were quite a hit with the class! One student jumped at the chance to get some cafe con leche (coffee with milk) to drink with his concha. Great idea! Conchas are also excellent with hot chocolate.

The topping is a mixture of flour, sugar and fat. It is definitely decadent. Often the sugar is colored bright yellow or bright pink. The topping is also sometimes flavored with chocolate.

The crispy, crumbly topping crunches a bit in your mouth but soon melts. And the pastry itself, when made well, is moist and soft. The topping adds the sweetness, and the bread is buttery.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Chef's Choice Pasta Class, part 2

Here are more photos from the Chef's Choice Pastabilities class at Johnson & Wales this weekend. When I enrolled in the class, I wasn't sure if it would be vegetarian friendly but took a chance. It didn't turn out to be a problem at all. In fact, there were others in the class who also did not want meat in their sauces, so we teamed up to make our own pomodoro sauce and vegetarian lasagna. We received so many compliments on them! Above you can see a plate of the food we made in class, which we ate for lunch. There is a vegetable salad with house-made balsamic vinaigrette, wild mushroom filled ravioli and vegetarian lasagna. The next time I make the mushroom filled ravioli I will put a simple butter sauce on them so that I can taste the mushroom flavor better. We used such excellent mushrooms in the class, and I was disappointed that I didn't get to fully experience their flavors. Below are some of the gorgeous mushrooms we used.

Here is a plate of tomato flavored pasta topped with Salsa di Creme E Formaggio, Parmesan Cheese Cream Sauce. Different groups assembled different combinations of the ingredients, so it was possible to try different variations.

Here are the pots of sauces simmering in a water bath. Our vegetarian Sugo di Pomodoro is the one of the far right, it is darker red than the Bolognese Ragu sauces that the other groups made. One of the groups also made a pesto.

For our vegetarian lasagna, we alternated layers of tomato flavored pasta and regular semolina pasta. The dollops are cream cheese.

Chef's Choice Pasta Class, part 1

At Johnson and Wales in Charlotte NC, as a part of their Chef's Choice series, I took the Pastabilities class this weekend. Previously I have taken bread baking classes there. We learned to make pasta dough (including flavored pasta), how to roll it out using a hand-cranked pasta rolling machine, and how to shape a few different stuffed pastas. We also learned how to make a few sauces, which I will write about in part 2.

Above, the instructor has rolled out the dough to a long length and is about to pass it through the machine another time.

Here the instructor is passing the dough through a fettuccine attachment. In the foreground you can see the ravioli moulds and a few ravioli.

Below are some fettuccine, ravioli and tortellini awaiting being boiled.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pan de Muerto in Charlotte, NC

In Charlotte, we visited Panaderia Odalys, a Mexican bakery there, because we had read that they were selling Pan de Muerto. And indeed they were! Pan de muerto means bread of the dead. In Mexico it is made to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead (known in the US as All Saints Day). The bread above is supposed to look like it has bones on top. The bread is similar to brioche in texture, with either an orange or an anise flavor and it is commonly covered with sugar, but not always. However Panaderia Odalys also offered pan de muerto in an alternative shape that we had never seen before, shown below.

Rather morbid looking, isn't it? Either style was 85 cents each.

On a lighter note, we were quite pleased to find some fall colors in Charlotte this trip. Last year we were here the same time of year, but didn't see nearly as vibrant of colors as we saw this year. The colors weren't everywhere, but there was enough to make us feel like we had experienced a bit of autumn.