Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup.

Today I made Minestrone Soup! 🙂

My husband loves Minestrone soup so I wanted to make it especially for him. I started by heating olive oil in a large pot, then adding garlic, a red onion, and thinly sliced proscuitto, and cooked it all over a medium heat for 3 minutes until slightly softened. I then added chopped red and orange bell peppers, and chopped tomatoes, and cooked for an additional 2 minutes. I then stirred in pre-made vegetable stock (that I made a few days ago), sliced celery, cranberry beans, shredded cabbage, peas, and chopped fresh parsley. I seasoned with salt and pepper, brought it to a boil, then lowered the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.

After the 30 minutes of simmering, I added vermicelli to the pot, and cooked the soup for another 10-12 minutes. I removed the soup from the heat and served it garnished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Yum!

I also made another soup today.. or maybe I should say, I “revisited” another soup today! 😉 In addition to the Minestrone soup, I also made Chicken and Potato Soup with Bacon. That soup was so amazing last time, that I really wanted it today just for me! Hahaha.. 😀

Cranberry Almond Bark and Hazelnut Rochers

In today’s chocolate class we made Cranberry Almond Bark and Hazelnut Rochers. Yum yum yum!

I think most people know what chocolate bark is. We made ours today with whole natural almondswhich we roasted after we covered them with sugar and triple sec. Then we pre-crystallized the dark chocolate and mixed in the roasted almonds and dried cranberries. We also sprinkled extra roasted almonds and cranberries on top. Then we spread it onto parchment paper to set. Then we cut into bite sized pieces. 🙂

We also made Hazelnut Rochers (or in other words, little nutty chocolate piles). We roasted slivered almonds in the oven, and toasted the whole hazelnuts. We then chopped the hazelnuts to smaller pieces. We tempered our chocolate (or pre-crystallized it), added the almomds slivers, chopped hazelnuts and feuilletine. We then very quickly spooned out the little piles onto parchment paper to set. Delicious!! 😀

A sheet of Hazelnut Rochers and a sheet of Cranberry Almond Bark after the chocolate had set.
Cranberry Almond Bark.
Hazelnut Rocher with almond slivers, enveloped in dark Lindt chocolate. Yummy!
A whole bunch of Rochers.

Pane de Altamura (Semolina Bread from Altamura)

In last night’s Rustic Artisan Breads class we made Pane de Altamura (Semolina Bread from Altamura).

Altamura is an old artisan bread from the south of Italy, near the heel of the boot. It is famous in Italy as one of the finest and oldest types of bread in the country and is protected within the Eurpean Union. This bread has a crisp thin outer crust, and a soft cream coloured interior. And it is oh so yummy! 🙂

Pane de Altamura (Semolina Bread from Altamura).

Last night we also made a Poolish for next week’s class. Poolish was adopted by the French from Polish bakers (hence the name). It is made up of an equal part flour and water (100% hydration) and varying amounts of yeast. The loose mixture is high in enzymes that denture proteins, giving the final dough a silky texture and increadsed extensibility. The poolish baguette (introduced to Paris in the early 60s) has become the standard in most respectable French bakeries.

Vegetable Stock..

When I peeked into my freezer I saw that I still have a little bit of Chicken Stock left to make two more soups, but I decided to venture out of the chicken zone today and make Vegetable Stock.

My husband loves Minestrone, and Vegetable Stock is the base stock for that soup, so I made it today. Can I just say that compared to Chicken Stock, Vegetable Stock is super easy. Wow!

Don’t get me wrong, there is alot of work involved in terms of all the cutting of vegetables, but there isn’t that ultra long wait of hours waiting for the stock to simmer, or the browning of the chicken before you even begin the simmering. With Vegetable Stock, you cut, you cook, you’re done! In fact, you can immediately make a soup from that stock. Unlike Chicken Stock where you have to let it cool for hours, so the fat rises to the top, and then you have to remove it.

So that’s what I did today.. I made Vegetable Stock! 🙂

And here’s what I did: I heated vegetable oil in a large pan, then added a finely chopped onion and finely chopped leek to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes and until softened. I then added finely chopped carrots, celery stalks, fennel and a tomato, covered the pot and let it cook for 10 minutes. I then added water and a bouquet garni (consisting of fresh basil, thyme, rosemary, and parsley), brought it to a boil, and then let it simmer for 20 minutes. I then strained the stock into a bowl and let it cool. Voila! 😉

Chocolate Cake

My very first Introduction to Chocolate class was this morning. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew we would be working with chocolate, and I was very excited about learning to temper chocolate and make bonbons and other confections. But I wasn’t sure what to expect to make the very first class.

So what did we make? Chocolate Cake! hahaha

It turns out that Introduction to Chocolate is going to be very similar to my Baking Arts class where we will learn to do a whole lot of different things in chocolate without focusing on a specific area until after this class is completed. Today we started with a chocolate cake, another class will be truffles, and so on. Then after this class is completed, we can then specialize in the other classes that are part of the chocolatier program with classes like: Chocolate Confections (which I want to do starting in January), Chocolate Desserts, Chocolate Showpieces, etc. I can’t wait! 😀

So in today’s class we made not just plain old boring chocolate cake, but Triple Layer Dark (Lindt) Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache filling and icing… and a cake crumble on the outer side edge!! Yum Yum Yum!!! And yes, everything had to do with chocolate, and not just any chocolate but dark Lindt chocolate. So to say that this cake is decadent would be an understatement. 😉

Triple Layer Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache.

Chicken, Avocado & Chipotle Soup

Chicken, Avocado and Chipotle Soup.

Tonight I made the next installment of my adventures in Soup: Chicken, Avocado & Chipotle Soup!

First I placed the frozen pre-made chicken stock ina large pot, along with garlic and dried chipotle chiles, and brought it to a boil.

Meanwhile, I cut an avocado in half around the pit, twisted it apart, then removed the pit with a knife. I carefully peeled off the skin, diced the flesh, and immediately tossed it into lime juice to prevent discolouration.

I arranged thinly sliced scallions, precooked and chopped chicken breasts, avocado, and chopped fresh cilantro in the bottom of the soup bowls. I then ladled the hot stock over these items and served with lime wedges and restaurant style tortilla chips. Yummy! 🙂

Broa di Milho (Portuguese Corn Bread)

Last night was my very first class back to school for the Fall term. The class: Rustic Artisan Breads. Yum! 😉

I will admit going into the class, I was a little nervous. Whenever I start a new class I am a little nervous, but in this case, there were two reasons. Reason # 1) Rustic Artisan Bread is an advanced bread class. It is not actually part of the Baking Arts program I am in, but an advanced bread class part of the Artisan Breads Program. Reason #2) I was especially nervous for this class because the Chef teaching the class is much more serious, from what I could tell based on the one time she filled in for my Art of Breads Chef. This Chef was fast, no-nonsense, and very serious. Past Chefs added humour to relax the class, but my one experience with this particular Chef wasn’t like that. Now its not to say she wasn’t nice, because she was very nice, but it was different. Its hard to explain. Either way, just from that one class with her, I discovered how good she was and there was no question I wanted to take this class! 🙂

In last night’s class we made Broa di Milho (Portuguese Corn Bread). Apparently this is an old and popular bread in Portugal, though there are many kinds of Broa de Milho made with varying types and amounts of corn meal. The final result a very large 1kg loaf. Although during rest, the dough rose and kept the air pockets to form, the final product was still a very dense bread. But it is not as sweet as alot of North American corn breads.

In last night’s class we also made our Biga for next week’s class where we will make a Pane de Altamura (Semolina Bread from Altamura). Biga is an Italian term for pre-fermentaed dough. Its is uusally a firm pre dough (or starter) – approximately 60% hydration – consisting only of water, flour and a small amount of yeast. Like many forms of prefermented dough, biga’s are used to provide the flavour found in slowly fermented breads.

Working the ovens.
Broa di Milho (Portuguese Corn Bread) fresh out of the oven!

Cheese & Bacon Soup.

Cheese and Bacon Soup.

After the very time consuming soup adventure last time.. Tonight I decided to tackle an easier one this time around. The plan: Cheese & Bacon Soup.

I melted butter in a large pan, added chopped garlic and onion and cooked, stirring until slighly softened. I then added chopped bacon and leeks, cooking for a few more minutes.

In a separate bowl, I mixed flour with enough chicken stock to make a smooth paste, and stirred it into the pan. After a few minutes, I poured in the remaining stock, and added chopped potatoes. I seasoned with salt and pepper, brought the soup to a boil, then lowered the heat and let the soup gently simmer for 25 minutes, until the potatoes were tender and cooked through.

I stirred in heavy cream and cooked for an additional 5 minutes, then gradually stirred in grated cheddar cheese, until melted. I removed the soup from the heat and served with a little grated cheese for garnish. Mmm mmm good! 😉