Sunday, May 10, 2009

My first time: Scones

My scones

Lesson I

I got up at 5am in order to get to school in time for class at 730am.
Chef said that if we are late, we will be locked out!

Transportation here in Sydney isn’t like in Singapore. I always thought that waiting 15 minutes for a bus was long. Now, I can be waiting up to half and hour. Talk about efficiency!

I met my newfound friend, Sarah, to go to school together since we stay close by. At least, I have some company while still trying to figure out the route to school. We had some drama getting to school on the first day and ended up having to run 800 metres up a slope from the bus stop to school. Try doing that with a huge bag and tool kit!

We got to school at 720am. While that may be early enough for uni lectures, that wasn’t quite enough for us as culinary students. We had to change into our uniforms, chuck our kits and bags into our lockers before going to demo class. Thank God that we manage to step into class at 730am on the dot.

Our chef, Chef M*ichael, introduce the course and class to us. He’s an Australian who has worked in many good restaurants in Sydney and in other parts of the world. Most of all, he has a good sense of humour and also very patient.

The first week of class focuses on afternoon tea snacks. On our first day, our task was to produce plain scones with chantilly cream on the side. Scones are one of my favourites- did I mention that before? I love them warm and toasted, with a strawberry jam spread in the middle. It makes for such a lovely afternoon snack, together with a pot of black tea.

Back to the lesson, Chef M*ichael explained to us the origins of scones and also the method used to produce them. Sarah and I, being overly zealous, asked many questions about the substitution of ingredients and the adaptation of recipes. And thus, we got ourselves the reputation of being the diet people. (Because our questions veered in the direction of replacement of milk, sugar etc. you get the idea)

Before we realise, the two and a half hour demo class is over. We got a taste of the scones which was heavenly- picture perfect, with a slight crusty top and a little dense center.

We had a half an hour break which we made use of the time to chat with our classmates. I also took the time to mentally prepare myself for the practical lesson in which we needed to produce a batch of plain scones.

I thought about my horrid attempt at scones a couple of years back. They were a complete failure. I prayed and hoped that I would start my first lesson on a good note.

I entered kitchen 5 gingerly, feeling the awe of being surrounded by all these professional equipment. Chef M*ichael gave us an orientation of the kitchen and a run through of the work procedures in the kitchen. It starts with disinfecting your hands and there’s even a proper way of doing it- hot water, disinfectant, paper towels.
After that, we headed to our own work stations. Sarah and I shared a bench and throughout this course, she will be my partner. I took sometime to orientate myself since it was almost like being in someone else’s kitchen where I don’t know the locations of all the items.

I took and weighed all our ingredients and have them mise en place, the way the French would say it- Have all your ingredients and equipment in order before you begin.

Then the action begins.
The creaming of the butter and sugar till they are pale, light and fluffy. This had to be done by hand. I feel so pampered by my KitchenAid. Where are you when I need you most, my dearest friend? I imagined myself as a baker in the early days where everything is made by hand.

It was hard work, I thought, but still manageable.

I proceeded on to the rest of the steps of adding the dry ingredients (Flour, baking powder, salt) and then the wet ingredients (the milk, not skimmed milk though).

Right before the first lesson, I vowed to myself that I need to learn to make things pretty and decorate well. This time, I tried to keep that. I was extra cautious when rolling out of the dough and using cookie cutters to cut out the scones and lining them out on the tray. While egg washing it ( brushing it with a whole egg whisked with milk), I ensured that I have covered all areas.

My babies going in and out of the deck oven. Turning from a pale, almost unattractive dough to a tanned and almost gleaming golden scone!

I lined them neatly and was photo whoring with just about the rest of my class.

There and then, I felt the immense satisfaction and joy that I have not been feeling for a long time. Maybe I’m born to create things. You know, like how some people just derive joy from say, painting a picture or from making a table? I don’t know?

As I packed up my stuff and thank chef for the wonderful lesson, I felt a little tired but I was still whirling from the joy of my successful scones.


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