Monday, October 26, 2009

Dawn Prather

As our students go out into the world sometimes their actions and what they have accomplished gets noticed.  Dawn Prather is one of those individuals.  The following article was published in the local newspapers.

Cutline:  Alvin Community College Culinary Arts student Dawn Prather, of Pearland, works as a preparation cook at the new Cracker Barrel location near Shadow Creek Ranch. She is shown on opening day of the restaurant on Sept. 7.

Prather pursues passion for pleasing palates
The opening day of the new Cracker Barrel location near Shadow Creek Ranch was just as exciting for at least one of its employees as it was for the approximately 1,600 guests who flocked in to appease their palates.
As the constant stream of customers kept the crew hustling throughout the day on Sept. 7, Dawn Prather, of Pearland, was doing her part in the kitchen to keep the food flowing and reveling in her first official day serving the public as a culinary arts professional.
“I just thought I would never be good enough to do it, but in the last 10 years I realized I was good enough to do it,” Prather said of finally pursuing her passion for cooking at the age of 42.
The position at Cracker Barrel will serve as an internship to help her finish a Culinary Arts certificate at Alvin Community College. It will also serve as an invaluable learning opportunity. 
“The time at Cracker Barrel will definitely be worth it to move on toward my goal,” Prather expressed. “I ask a lot of questions; it’s difficult, but I’m learning.”
“Cracker Barrel believes in old country cooking and country style and giving everybody a chance…that’s how they are,” she continued.
For Prather, it serves as an excellent example of what she plans to accomplish someday.
“Eventually I want to open my own restaurant…food for the family, food that sticks to your ribs, like old world cooking,” she stated.
Prather stepped on the path toward her goal by enrolling at ACC in 2007.
“I had worked everywhere…Dillard’s, Michael’s…but food was my passion. Coming to Alvin (Community College) was like a second chance,” she said. “I devoted all my time to going back to school, getting an education and getting some kind of career.”
“It had been 25 year since I was in school and it took time to relearn study habits and test habits,” Prather added.
In addition to her husband, Prather credits her success to ACC Culinary Arts Director Leslie Bartosh, CEC, FMP, for helping her to get through.
“If you have any problems, he will help you in the best ways he can,” she mentioned. “I had test anxieties and he pulled me to the side and said, ‘why don’t we work on it.’”
“He sees each student as an individual and helps them as an individual any way he can,” Prather continued.
“Dawn is a determined individual who has demonstrated strong self-motivation in her studies,” Bartosh stated. “She approaches her studies with tenacity, dedication and a desire to learn all that she can; she is constantly performing research to broaden her horizons and understanding of food.”
Despite the time it took to get her first culinary arts job and the time it will take to learn what she needs to know to open a restaurant, Prather said she encourages anyone, regardless of age, to pursue their passion.
“It takes time, but if you work hard you can get there,” she said. “In the end, it’s well worth it.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Recipe for Ciabatta Bread

I promised to post this recipe last week and never got there so here it is.  You really do need a mixer for this one.  It can be done by hand but it is tough to do (this can be translated into much work and be ready for blisters).  Be aware that the temperature used and the baking time is approximate.  With the oven I am currently using at home I leave it at the prescribed temperature for approximately 12 minutes or so.  Then I have to open the door and cool the oven down some and allow the bread to finish cooking.  Use the color of the loaf and how fast it got that color to determine whether and when to turn your oven down and the heaviness/lightness of the loaf to determine when it is done.

I usually cut the loaves into three portions and freeze them, it freezes quite well.  Reheat, thawed, at 350 degrees for 4 - 5 minutes.  This bread is great by itself, with butter or cheese and makes a great sandwich.  It has great mouth feel and does not dissolve into nothingness. 

Yield: 2 (19.6 oz) loaves

2.3 oz              Water, room temp
0.1 oz              Instant yeast
3.5 oz              Bread flour

5.9 oz              Biga
15 oz               water, room temperature
0.4 oz              instant yeast
17.6 oz                        bread flour
0.4 oz              kosher salt

For the Biga:

9 – 17 hours before you want to bake, prepare the biga.
Add the dry ingredients to the water in a small bowl and stir to combine into a rough dough.
Scrape out the dough and knead on a lightly dusted surface for 1 – 2 minutes to get it somewhat smooth.
Oil mixing bowl lightly and put dough back in, turning to coat.
Cover with plastic wrap and set at room temp for 1 hour.
Refrigerate until ready to make dough.

For the dough:
Use an electric mixer with paddle or hook.
Take the biga and mix with water to soften and break into clumps.
Add the yeast, and salt.
Mix to dissolve.
Change to dough hook.
Add the bread flour and mix on medium speed for 13 – 15 minutes.  (Medium high with a kitchen aid, speed # 8, do not let it walk off the counter)
Dough will climb up hook and not clear sides.  Periodically stop the machine and scrape the dough down.
Turn machine to high (kitchen aid to 10) and knead until the dough starts to clean the side of the bowl and collect around the hook.  It will be glistening, creamy and extremely elastic.

Ferment in oiled container for 3 – 4 hours until triple in size.
Prepare ½  sheet pans by covering with parchment and making a pleat down the middle of the paper.  Dust the paper well with flour.
Turn out dough and divide in to two equal pieces.
Pick up one piece of dough holding one end in each hand and in one fluid motion transfer to the parchment lined pan.
Repeat with the second piece with the pleat dividing the two loaves.
Dimple the tops of the loaves with your fingers.
Dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap.
Proof for 30 – 40 minutes until you see bubbles under the surface of the bread.

Preheat oven to 475° one hour before baking, placing a pan for ice on the bottom of the oven.
When ready to bake, pull parchment so it lays flat.
Bake bread on the middle rack.
Add ½ cup – 1 cup of ice cubes to the hot pan on the bottom of the oven.
Bake 25 – 35 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack at room temperature before cutting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fundamentals of Baking

Last night marked two different occasions.
1.  It was the first night, this semester, that the program has operated from the kitchen in E building where our lab classes are normally held.  The E building has been undergoing a major renovation that kept it from being occupied.  The kitchen renovations are not yet complete but things are in a sufficient state that we were given permission to hold class in it.  Yeeha! 
The culinary arts program offers a heartfelt thank you to all that helped us during this time period by allowing us to hold class in their kitchens.   Most particularly, we would like to thank Jeanine Wilburn, Department Chair of Child Development and all of her staff, for allowing us the opportunity to hold class in their kitchen.  Without your help I do not know what we would have done.

2.  Last night was also the last night of our fundamentals of baking class.  Being in our "normal" kitchen allowed the class to end the class with a plated dessert night.  As you can see from the photo below, there are many interpretations of how a plated dessert should look.  The one thing I can say for certain is that chocolate mousse is chocolate mousse.  Yummm!
Happy eating!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Clear Springs High School

Yesterday, October 8, 2009 I had the opportunity to attend an advisory committee meeting for the Clear Springs High School culinary arts program.  This was the first meeting I have been able to attend in almost two years due to my class schedule.  I am very pleased to say that the program under Chef Lann is doing quite well.  Enrollment is good and the quality of student is high.  Well done Chef!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Over the weekend, at home, I discovered we had used our last piece of ciabatta bread.  So this meant of course that I had to bake some more.  The photo below is the bread that I baked on Sunday.  We do this bread as a part of our International cuisine class when we are "in" Italy. 
It really is good.  It makes a tremendous sandwich bread.  Fill it full of BBQ brisket or pulled pork or even sausage and peppers with caramelized onion.  There are worse things in life I promise.
I will try to post the recipe later this week.  I must warn you a mixer is really required for this one.  It can be done by hand, I have, but it is a lot of work.