XXX rated sticky buns

The past 5 days have been a week long practical on viennoiserie.  It has been a crazy combination of new challenges, creativity and stress which culminated in the past 2 days of baking like mad men.  Monday and Tuesday were individual practical days, where each of us were responsible for mixing and baking our own doughs.  This sounds easy enough, but when you don't have team members to bounce ideas off of as far as the dough strength, fermentation time, etc... it presents more of a challenge than expected.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were our first tastes at creating a production schedule and finding creative ideas to make things happen within certain time lines and circumstantial limitations such as storage and oven space.

At times, tensions ran high. Especially near the end of the week....especially today.  But somehow, all of us have come out on the other side that much wiser and confident in our abilities to create some seriously kick ass brioche, croissants, coffee cakes, and danishes.  Can I get a witness?!

The Jenna Jameson of our group production was unveiled today as the best damned sticky bun I have ever tasted.  These things could create an instant party in your pants.  Seriously, one bite of these and you'd better not be wearing a speedo while lounging poolside lest you be caught, sheepishly enjoying it's tender, nutty, caramely, slutty goodness.  With the basics down and traditional supplies running low, we flipped our artisan switches and ran a bit wild.  We created 2 sets of absolutely amazing flavor combinations.  Sticky roll #1 - Cinnamon sugar, golden raisins, currants, pecans and toasted coconut.  Sticky roll #2 - Brown sugar, stollen spice, currants and pecans.  The stollen spice is used in the baby Jesus bread (not to be confused with the Ol' Dirty Bastard bread.  Anyone who catches the Wu-Tang reference here instantly gets brownie points).  This combination of spices is the absolute square root of Christmas and every single happy moment of waking life.  Sticky roll #2 was hands-down the favorite amongst the connoisseurs in the class.

Evidence of these escapades, you say?  You got it.

Danishes with pastry cream, blackberries and blueberries.  Also proof that I have found and fallen in love with the macro mode on my camera.  Food photography is my next calling.

Full pocket danishes garnished with pearl sugar.  I love how this particular shape is elegant in it's own right, showcasing the lamination, ie: the layers of dough and butter.

Brioche tart.  Wish I could take credit for this bad boy, but it was the creation of another classmate, Jesse.  The struesel border is out of sight!

Rae: "So, I have this problem.  What do you do with leftover pumpkin brioche loaves?"

David: "Oh, don't you know?  Slice it up, toast it, soak it in cinnamon rum syrup, top it with toasted pumpkin seed cream and bake it again.  Duh."

December 11, 2009, the pumpkin brioche bostock was born.

The tray of Sticky Bun #2 which made history.  I have no doubt these will be mentioned in cookbooks 20 years from now, right along with our collective genius.

As A Tribe Called Quest once said, "Oh my God, Oh my God!"  A healthy scoop of butter, brown sugar and pecans nesteled in the bottom of each tray melts and oozes into a fantastic chewy, caramel coating for every single bun.

There's no way in hell you can only eat one quarter of this little slice of heaven.  God frowns upon those who even try.

Sticky bun porn.
Camera macro mode geekiness.
Party in your pants.

Call it what you will.

Building blocks

By the time I swing back into Salt Lake City for the Christmas holiday, I'll have completed half of my bread and pastry training.  The first 2 months were breads.  So many breads, I never realized the subtleties between them until recently.  Month 3 has consisted of Viennoiserie, which is the magical land where breads and pastries meet.  Unicorns graze in the mountains, wine flows freely and leprechauns are found at the end of every rainbow.  It's a glutenous, sugary, buttery tryst, much like a late summer romance.  This fleeting moment with croissants, brioche and other enriched doughs will end next week, rounding out my knowledge of goodies created with flour and yeast.

I must say, I've been consistently impressed at the ease of information flow into my little foodie brain.  I'm certainly not saying that all things come easily to me, but I've always been about cooking and baking.  I recall many a night geeking out on the Food Network.  Before moving to San Francisco, I found a cookbook my dad had given to me when I was 12.  I recall reading the book cover to cover repeatedly and executing many of the recipes.  The book in question is The Joy Of Cookies.  The minute I found it in my book case as I packed all of my belongings into brown cardboard cubes, it solidified my decision.  Hell-to-the-yes! I'm having a damn good time baking and learning.  It's like I've found my own slice of foodie heaven.

Everything we learned in the breads section was a building block for the next step.  Techniques we have learned during the first few weeks of Viennoiserie are now fusing together rather seamelessly as we have moved onto danishes and even laminated brioche.  I'll be honest that in the past, I had a rather poor opinion of croissants and danishes.  I had the misconception that they were, on the whole, dry and tasteless.  Turns out I had been basing my opinions on what amounts to poorly created products.  The croissants and danishes we've been making are made with quality ingredients, skimping on whole milk or european butter is not an option.  The first bite I took of our croissants in class, I wanted to look to the heavens and shout hallelujiah!  Light, flaky, moist, sponge-like and meaty.  These are truly little pillows of heaven.

I have absolutely loved what we've done so far, but the excitement level is reaching a new high for me as we delve into fruits, creams and fillings.  With danishes, we have been using these elements as part of the construction of danishes, coffee cakes and sweet rolls.

Pics of this past week...

Danish squares with pastry cream and blueberries.

 Danish full and half pockets with pastry cream and blueberries.
 Danish twists with cinnamon apple filling and pecans.

 Danish twists with frangipane and kirsch cherries.

 This giant box of pastries represents about 1/4th or 1/5th of what we each make daily.  Some students leave them in the donation area of the walk in, others take tons of boxes home and to coworkers.  I've been boycotting bringing anything home unless someone specifically requests it.  Removing temptation is the first step!

 Today's white board, outlining how the day will flow and just what we will be doing.

 I've said this about 3 times about previous items, but this is my latest favorite item we've made yet.  I am a SUCKER  for lemon goodies.  Here, we have a danish with lemon filling and raspberries.  OH. MY. GOD.  Yeah, this is the exact reason I don't bring any of these little bastards home.

 Danish coffee cake.  Filled with raisins and pecans.

 Stuffed danish, rolled in style of a croissant.  This one was filled with almond cream and buttery goodness.  This particular dough was laminated brioche, which is tricky to work with.  One must juggle a softer, more delicate dough along with blocks of butter on the sheeter.  The trick is to move quickly and deliberately to prevent the dough from warming up, becoming melty, hard to work with and ultimately backfiring by disintegrating the layers of butter and dough.  I'm rather pleased with my lamination.  Check her out, ain't she a beaut?

 Herringbone danish.  A sheet of dough filled with frangipane, topped with kirsch cherries, pine nuts and almonds.  The dough is cut into 'fingers', which are crossed over each other to create a herringbone design.

 Today's crowning glory - bienenstich.  Sweet, enriched dough pressed into a sheet pan, then topped with piping hot almond-honey-caramel and baked.  As we watched this one bake, the cakes were literally raining almonds in the convection oven.  Once cooled, we split this down the middle and filled it with diplomat cream, a mixture of 1/2 pastry cream and 1/2 whipped cream.  Butter, caramel-y, almond-y, Goddamned delicious!  My classmate Susan, author of the Wild Yeast blog, did a little research into the history of this fantastic concoction.  Check this out, I found it rather interesting.