NAIT: Baking Program

I can say without a doubt, enrolling in the Nait baking program was the best decision I have ever made.  I have the passion for baking, the motivation to make things happen, I just needed the professional experience to take me to the top. I still have a long way to go, but my teachers and fellow students have taught me so much and have given me a new appreciation for baking.

My first time going down the stairs to the bakery, I was blown away with what I saw.  Large stainless steel benches with wooden tops, giant mixers accompanying each one. The massive rotating tray oven, proofer and countless ingredients bins.  As we were ushered into the back of the bakery, a beautiful display of delectable pastries awaited us.

I ate…a lot!

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As the weeks went by I learned, I baked, I cam home everyday with a bag of goodies.  We started out making simple things, our first cake was a chiffon cake with continental buttercream, lemon curd and a chewy coconut wafer. I’ve come a long way since that first day!  With only two weeks left of classes, my memories are bitter-sweet. Excited to start a new chapter, a little sad my time in the Nait bakery is coming to an end.

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If I could make a suggestion to anyone who loves baking, apply for this program. The teachers are amazingly talented and have so much knowledge to share. Without this program my career wouldn’t have been possible.

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

My most memorable bread would have to be the Jewish Challa, mostly because I couldn’t braid that thing to save my life.  I did eventually figure it out after some guidance, and I’ll definitely never forget my first Christmas yule log. The product I’m most proud of is hands down my wedding cake, titled “A tale as Old as Time”, I learned a ton from that project and can’t wait to make more wedding cakes.

 

So with my final weeks of classes quickly coming to an end, I get to reflect on what I have learned and what it truly means to be a baker. Without sounding to cheesy, probably already to late. I will forever be grateful to Nait for the amazing opportunity to be part of the Nait Baking program.

Congratulations class of 2017!

 

 

 

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Panforte

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During my family’s trip to Italy, we stayed in Siena for maybe a day to shop and sightsee. While we walked around, I noticed that in pretty much every shop display, there were these cute little cakes.

These short, candy-like cakes are a specialty of Siena called Panforte, and are usually eaten around Christmastime. Panforte is traditionally made with fruits, nuts, and spices, as well as a bit of cocoa powder to give it that appealing dark color. The closest thing I could compare it to would probably be fruitcake. It also contains a lot of honey, making the cake chewy and, well, ‘forte’, and is commonly topped with a coat of powdered sugar.

I wasn’t familiar with Panforte at the time, since my family isn’t from the Siena area. So unfortunately, this means that I don’t have a centuries-old family recipe that has been passed down for generations to share with you guys, but I can at least provide a little history.

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Panforte has been around since the 13th century, but the recipe has gone through some significant changes over the years. It was originally called Panpepato, and was instead topped with a coat of black pepper, which is where the ‘pepato’ part of its name came from. The recipe was changed in 1879 when a special version of the cake was made for Queen Margherita of Savoy, called Panforte Margherita. This version was changed to be more palatable by cutting down on the spices and removing the black pepper topping entirely, replacing it with the powdered sugar. This version of the cake was probably easier to enjoy as a dessert because of its milder flavor, which why this is the version still sold to this day.

(Photos courtesy of http://cookdiary.net/panforte/)

 

Massa Sovada

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Since Easter is just around the corner, I’ve decided to tackle my Avó’s Massa Sovada recipe!  Massa is a traditional bread popular during holidays especially Easter. There is a festival in Portugal called the Festas do Espírito Santo” which originally started in the 1300’s with Queen St. Isabel of Portugal who devoted her life to helping the poor.  Queen of Portugal

In today’s Easter celebrations, in honour of the Queen, women participate in a procession wearing white dresses and carrying baskets of sweet bread and flowers on their heads to be blessed by the church.  Festas do Espírito Santo

For Easter it is traditionally made with a hard boiled egg in the center, then made plain for the rest of the year.  Check out this video…Massa Sovada

 

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What you will need:

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1/4 cup (lukewarm) water

1 cup of scaled milk, cooled

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

3 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup butter, softened

5 cups all purpose flour

1 egg plus a pinch of salt (egg wash)

1 teaspoon of sugar

 

Steps:

1)  Grease with butter and flour (2) 9″ x 1.5″ pans, set aside.

2)  Pour milk into a saucepan and scald, set aside to cool.

3)  Dissolve the yeast into the lukewarm water, set aside.

4)  In a large bowl pour the yeast, milk, 3 eggs, salt, sugar, softened butter, sugar and 3 cups of flour.  Mix together until creates a smooth, sticky batter.

5)  Slowly add the remaining 2 cups of flour until dough is formed – If the dough gets too dry add some melted butter.

6)  On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smooth.

7)  Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a towel and set in a warm place to rise.  This should take about 1 1/2 hours or until it’s doubled in size.

8)  Punch the dough and divide in half.  Shape each half into round loaves and put into the greased/floured pans.

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9)  Cover with a towel and place in a warm room to rise for about 1 hour.

10)  Preheat oven to 350°F

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11)  Create an egg wash (whisk one egg with a pinch of salt) and brush onto the loaves.  Sprinkle tops with 1 teaspoon of sugar.

12)  Bake the loaves for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

13)  While still warm move onto wire rack to cool.

 

Feliz Páscoa / Happy Easter!

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Ginger Molasses Cookies

Christmas is probably my least favorite time of the year, but there is one thing that makes it better, and that thing is Ginger Molasses cookies! I used to have these every Christmas as a kid, and I would choose them any day over a chocolate chip cookie. However, as I got older I began to become impatient when it came to waiting for the once a year chance to have them, so I decided to learn how to make them myself. Now I can enjoy my favorite cookie year round! (That is one of the perks of being an adult. I can have a cookie whenever I please!)

You will need:

3/4 cup                 of softened butter (room temperature is best)
1 cup                     of granulated sugar
1                           whole egg
1/4 cup      
        of molasses/ treacle 
2  1/4 cup          
all purpose flour
2 teaspoons      
ground ginger
1 teaspoon        
baking soda
3/4 teaspoon    
cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon     
cloves
1/4 teaspoon  
  salt
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Step 1:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and remove any un-needed guests from your work space. (that is Sophie, ie. my un-needed guest)
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Step 2: 
In a mixing bowl, cream together your sugar an butter until pale in color, scraping the bowl down when necessary. You will know it is creamed properly when the butter starts sticking to the sides of the mixing bowl
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Step 3:
Once butter and sugar are creamed, add your whole egg and molasses. Mix until smooth, scraping down when necessary
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Step 4:
Combine your flour, spices, and salt in a bowl, and add them  gradually to your wet ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix until just combined, but with no flour visible.

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Step 5:
Roll your dough into balls the size of golf balls. Once rolled, roll them in a spare bowl with Granulated Sugar. Place them a silicone sheet, or a piece of parchment paper, and bake for 10-12 minutes. If over baked, they will become quite hard, but on the upside, they become really good for dunking in coffee!
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And you’re done! Enjoy this simple recipe!

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Cavacas

(The Portuguese Popover)

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From my Avo’s kitchen to yours!  Cavacas are a hard sweet bread served during holidays or celebrations, however my family enjoys these anytime!

Traditionally in Portugal they would be distributed to the less fortunate as payment of promises made to São Gonçalinho, who was a 13th century parish priest known as a matchmaker and healer of bone diseases. Saint

Every January in his honor hundreds of people gather in Aveiro, Portugal to celebrate the Festival of São Gonçalinho.  They crowd the streets in front of  Capel de São Gonçalo and wait for the bells to ring which signifies the start of  Tossing of Cavacas .

“The streets that surround the chapel are filled with people whenever you hear the bells ringing, a sign that the cavacas will start to rain. At the top of the chapel, several people, loaded with sacks of cavacas and in fulfillment of their promises, throw the candy, one by one, before multitudes who step on and push in an attempt to catch as many as possible.  Lack of experience can result in a major bruise….  Those who take the “catch” seriously are suitably equipped with upside-down umbrellas, shrimps, giant fishing nets and all kinds of manually constructed utensils that allow them to catch the flying cavacas.”

Festival Article

 

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Now it’s your turn!

What you will need:

Cavacas

2 cups of all purpose flour

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup milk (room temperature)

8 eggs (room temperature)

Glaze

2 cups icing sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

Zest of 1 orange

5-6 tablespoons of milk

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

To get started:

Cavacas

1) Preheat oven to 350°

2) Combine all ingredients into bowl, beat with electric mixer (medium high speed) for 20 minutes

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3) Spray muffin tins, fill halfway with batter

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4) Bake on middle rack at 350° for 40 minutes.  (Do not open the oven door until fully baked or else the cavacas will collapse!)

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Glaze

1) Mix icing sugar, lemon zest, orange zest, milk and lemon juice until smooth

2) Glaze popovers while still warm and let cool

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You can serve these with tea or coffee (or a shot of Port wine… YUM)

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ENJOY AND BON SABOR!

~Kennedy