Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Pancakes in Space
It's a damn fine thing that I don't have any aspirations to be a breakfast or brunch cook, because the stress would kill me. I'd have better luck joining the astronaut corps.
Yeah, yeah, it's just eggs, and it's just pancakes, but Lord a'mighty the stress and the agony I went through to produce 6 regular pancakes and 6 silver dollar ones has taken veritable years off my life. Years!!
If you really want pancakes, go here. Some of the best pancakes on the planet and their bacon is the bestest. Or, just buy a box of Bisquick or Hungry Jack...trust me, it saves wear and tear on your blood pressure.
For the second half of the practical, we had to make 3 omelets: 1 French style/rolled with filling, 1 French style/rolled with cheese and filling, and 1 American style with cheese. Then, the aforementioned pancakes from hell. Nothing to it, right? Right.
We have a guy in our class who was a transfer student from another culinary school somewhere in the Midwest. He's currently working as a breakfast line supervisor for a hotel, but because of the way transfers are set up, he has to take x% of classes at Fine Technical College to get his degree. So, he's got to take Pantry and maybe something else before he can get out. And, while it sucks for him to re-take something he's already had, it's a boon for us, because he can really cook omelets! (And, he will henceforth be known as the Omelet King!) He was even nice enough to bring in some omelet pans from work that we could us to take our practicals with, because the ones at school look like they've been run over by a truck. (Evidently, he had to make many promises and give bribes to get the guys at work to lend out their pans.) Personally, I think it made all the difference in the world. On Monday, I turned out a perfect French omelet, one with no color (i.e. browned), good shape, texture, and flavor. Today, I did my French with filling and American with cheese just perfectly, then...I switched pans.
I had thought the pan I was using was a bit small, so there was a slightly larger one available and I decided to try it. Bad. Idea. Just bad. It was like night and day from the other pan. It heated faster and browned my last French omelet. I mentioned it to the Omelet King, and he confirmed that it was a bad idea to switch pans...sort of the go with what you're used to, don't change horses in midstream approach.
Then, I had to do pancakes. I had put it off as long as possible, but the hour of pancake reckoning was upon us...actually it was 1 hour to go before we had to start clean up. Surely, I could make 12 pancakes in a hour...surely. I mean, how long could it possibly take?
Let's try 57 minutes.
I had kind of figured out the ingredient measurements for the batter by essentially halving the recipe we had...figured that would give me enough for many trial runs. Well, in the fine print on the practical test page, it said "scale by 18." Ack! Math!! Cold Sweat!! I was sort of gobsmacked by that idea, and was kind of at a loss as to how to begin. (Remember math = not strong suit!)
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see something white fluttering...it's the Chiclet, and she's sort of scooting a paper over to my side of the table...a paper with calculations on it. Out of the corner of her mouth, she says "try this. I think it's right." (Obviously, the fear of math is rolling off me in waves...plus, she was an engineering student in a previous life.) I'm mumbling back, "why can't I just halve the damn thing?! That should give me enough and then some." She points out that we might get counted off if we have too much batter left over. Point taken. I'll try her calculations.
A few weeks ago, when we made pancakes during class, she taught me a nifty trick about measuring the ingredients...and we only had to half the recipe then. Basically, we figured out the measurements and totalled them up so we could sort of do an "add to" measuring on the digital scale. For example (and example only!), if we needed 12 ounces of flour, 4 ounces of sugar, and 1 ounce of baking powder, that would add up to 17 ounces. (It's the higher math that gets me, thank you very much.)
So, we'd measure out the 12 ounces of flour, then add the other ingredients until the scale read 17 ounces total. She said she learned that in Baking class, and it made perfect sense to me.
Except today, we couldn't use the digital scale, because it was AWOL or something. So, I'm trying to eyeball decimal measurements on a spring scale. Then, after I measured everything, and it came close to the proper weight, I realize forgot to put in the baking soda. So, I guesstimate it and crossed my fingers. I then mixed up the batter and stuck it in the fridge to thicken up a bit, which would help my pancakes hold their shape.
When I pulled the batter out of the fridge, it had the consistency of cement. I think something was a wee bit awry with my measurements, no? So, I started pouring in heavy cream and beating it, trying to thin it out some, because in its current state, there was no way I was getting 5 pancakes, let alone 12.
And, the things you find when you Google "pancakes." Like this nifty Pancakes for Jesus pan. Or, we have pancakes in space...well, actually, they're on Venus, but that's in space, right? And, this one that I had almost forgotten about. Runaway pancake, indeed. It is me who should be doing the running away. (Oh, and almost forgot that whole Shrove Tuesday thing.)
All in all, the day turned out pretty okay. I did manage to make 12 pancakes that passed the test, and they tasted pretty good, too. Chef said they were fluffy, had a good texture, and flavor. It's telling when he actually consumes more than one bite, because he's had to eat so many omelets and pancakes for the last couple of days. He even at several bites of my first omelet, too.
Next week is the written part of the mid-term, and then we start on hot and cold hors d'ouvres...yeah! no more eggs, we think. Then, he lets us in on a little secret. The final? It will be a practical, too. And guess what? Eggs will be back! Bwahhhaaaahhaaa!
I may start clucking soon.