A Calgary Highlander plays a mournful lullaby at Legend Distilling on the Naramata Bench.
1. Mise en place is a MUST
Mise en place, a French culinary term which means “setting your ingredients in place prior to cooking”. Even before the mise en place, the first task is to read the recipe from start to finish…twice. At our Naramata-Blend cooking class Chef Dana went over the recipes with us explaining terms, discussing ingredients and explaining why the steps are necessary and even some of the chemistry and history behind what we are doing. At home, the mise en place step helps make sure you have all the ingredients and that they are carefully weighed before beginning.
2. Know your ingredients
It sounds obvious but how often do we take time to really know our ingredients? Chef Dana Ewart of Joy Road Catering was passionate and knowledgable about the ingredients we were using, which was very inspiring. She suggested fresh yeast as apposed to dry, organic high-fat content butter, farm fresh eggs, Dutch cocoa powder… It seems like a pretty basic concept but your finished product is made up of your ingredients. Try using margarine instead of butter in a brioche and you will soon learn about the importance of high quality ingredients. It’s like adding vinegar to milk to create a buttermilk substitute…it really is not anywhere near the creamy buttermilk flavour you are really after. Ask your instructor where they source their ingredients.
3. Learn what tools you need and how to use them
A cooking class is the perfect time to try out new tools – dough scrapers, stand mixers, food processors, different types of knives, pastry bags and tips, molds and pans, silplats, zesters, scales, French rolling pins and on it goes. You can then go right to the nearest kitchen store and keep your local economy rolling. Instructors will also give you tips about which gizmos and gadgets you really need, which are nice to have and which will gather dust. I need a bigger kitchen… six brioche molds now added to the collection.
4. Stretch yourself
A baking class is the perfect opportunity to try something you have been too intimidated to try at home. Step-by-step instructions, hands-on practice and help from the Chef will give you the confidence to try more complicated recipes at home. I’m hoping to finally get some help with my sad piping skills at the eclairs and profiteroles class in February.
5. Revel in the age-old joy of cooking together
There is nothing like a baking class to bring a room of people together. As the class progresses notice how the chatter becomes louder and how often you hear people laughing. Maybe it’s because you show up in a room that has the recipe and all the ingredients on hand and organized, the room warms up and starts to smell like a bakery and you leave before the dishes are done.
The next Naramata-Blend cooking class is all about choux pastry and how this light and airy pastry can be turned into a vessel to hold creamy fillings before being dipped in chocolate. Amanda Perez of The White Apron will be teaching us how to make fancy eclairs and profiteroles at the February 11 class just in time for Valentine’s Day. We will drink some bubbly from Bella Wines and chat, laugh and leave the kitchen a big mess.
Come and join us if you live in the area. Tickets are available through eventbrite for the Saturday afternoon class.
Brioche! How hard can that be?
With ‘go big or go home’ thinking the first Naramata-Blend cooking class tackled the most delicious and some would argue, trickiest to make of the bread family – brioche. This rich, buttery egg French dough is versatile and Dana Ewart, Chef and Proprietor of Joy Road Catering helped our class of 20 make no less than five variations on this buttery theme including: herb with chives and tarragon, cocoa and dried cherry (CC Orchards cherries), plain, jelly donuts and the crowning achievement – Naramata Candied Chestnut and Dried Plum Loaf filled with local fruit and nuts.
You can buy candied chestnuts or marrons glacé but what would be the fun in that? Making your own is easy but takes a few days as you wait for all the sugar to absorb into your lovely locally-sourced chestnuts. Here’s how: (This recipe makes twice as much as you will need for your Naramata Loaf but since it takes so long, you may as well make enough for two batches…)
1. Blanch 500g fresh chestnuts in boiling water for 4 minutes, drain, then peel while still warm.
2. Bring 300g sugar and 300ml water to the boil in a heavy-based pan to make a syrup. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the chestnuts and simmer for 7-8 minutes.Take off the heat and leave to stand overnight in the syrup.
3. The next day, bring the chestnuts/syrup back to the boil, cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and cool. Repeat the boiling and cooling process 2 or 3 times over the next couple of days until all the syrup is absorbed.
4. Preheat the oven to around 150°F, spread the candied chestnuts on a tray covered with baking paper, then pop into the oven. Prop open the door and leave for 2 hours or until firm.
Brioche master recipe
|Flour (white all purpose or bread flour)||188g|
|Flour (white all purpose or bread flour)||563g||Naramata Candied Chestnut and Dried Plum Brioche|
|Eggs||10 whole||Add 125g chestnuts & 125g prunes|
|Unsalted butter||454g/1lb||Yield: 3-4 loaves|
This recipe can be halved. Any left-over brioche dough can be frozen. Wrap tightly in plastic as the dough will continue to expand in your freezer. Your baked brioche can also be frozen if for some unknown reason you can’t eat it all in one or two days…
In a bowl or Tupperware that will hold about 3 cups, weigh the flour and sugar. Gently warm the milk until it is about body temperature or slightly warm to the touch. Crumble the fresh yeast and pour the warmed milk into the flour mixture. Mix & knead until all of the flour is hydrated and the dough is homogeneous.
Rest the pre-ferment a minimum of 4 hours out of the fridge or overnight in the fridge.
The following day, or 4 hours later- Pull the butter and eggs out of the fridge to temper.
Mix together by hand or in a kitchen aid with a dough hook attachment the flour, sugar, yeast and eggs. Mix until the flour is all hydrated- scraping down the sides of the bowl and underneath the hook occasionally to ensure that there are no lumps of dry flour.
When the dough is homogenous, stop the mixing and allow to rest for 15 minutes (this is called an autolyse).
Add the salt and the pre-ferment on top of the dough, pulled in to fist-sized chunks.
Mix again for a few minutes until the pre-ferment and the salt is mixed in. During this mix, plasticize the butter, by cutting it into pieces & beating it with a rolling pin inside a garbage bag or between layers of parchment paper.
Begin adding 1 tablespoon-sized pieces of the plasticized butter- in increments until all of the butter is incorporated. Now is the time to add the candied chestnuts and dried fruit.
Once the butter is incorporated, mist a tray or bin with neutral oil to put the dough in – cover & rest in the fridge. After 30 mins-1hr, fold the dough or punch it down. Rest for 4 hours- overnight in the fridge.
Punch down the dough, and lightly mist oil- or butter and flour your brioche pans. Weigh the dough into desired portions, shape & place in the molds or pans (making sure the dough fills only 1/3 of the pan) Proof in a warm draft- free area for approximately 40 minutes or until the dough has doubled in bulk. Brush with egg wash, and bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, then 375F for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the pan & cool on rack.
Dana’s brioche tips and tricks
- You can make brioche by hand but it’s super tricky to incorporate all that butter in without warming it too much with your hands. If you want to do serious baking you need to invest in a stand mixer. Christmas gift list item?
- To take your baking to the next level, you will also need a scale. This relatively inexpensive purchase will allow you to be accurate and ensure more consistent results.
- A dough scraper will cost a couple of bucks and is invaluable when you are working with this sticky dough.
- Buy the best local ingredients you can find. The better the ingredients the more flavourful results. Shop your farmer’s markets, seek out local farmers…
- Neutral oils include grapeseed, vegetable and canola oil.
- Fresh yeast trumps dried yeast and it can be purchased at most grocery stores. Ask at the bakery counter. Fresh yeast can be frozen. If you do use dried yeast in the recipe above substitute the 30 grams of fresh for 15 grams of dried.
- Make sure you mix the brioche dough for the full 15 to 20 minutes. It needs to feel soft, smooth, warm and have good elasticity.
- Don’t be worried about over-working your dough. It’s not a cake batter but a bread dough.
- Don’t skip the egg wash step. It helps keep a crust soft so it can continue to rise and “not be a prisoner in its own crust”. It also makes your brioche shine.
Terra Madre, slow food, Cittaslow … What’s the deal with all those names?
“It’s all about creating community, about why we all live here in this special place,” says chef and proprietor of Joy Road Catering Dana Ewart when asked to explain Terra Madre, the slow food movement and Naramata’s Cittaslow designation. “There are a lot of terms used to describe what we are all about and our philosophy around feeding people with great food but it can be much more approachable and less cerebral. It comes down to people sitting around a table enjoying themselves.
“For me personally, I get the most energy and joy out of creating beautiful food and sharing it with people,” says Dana and she has been doing this for more than 20 years.
Saturday December 10 is Terra Madre Day. With its origins in Italy, the land where food is worshipped and quality of life vigorously defended, Terra Madre is a network of food communities of small-scale food producers committed to producing quality food in a responsible and sustainable way. Translated as Mother Earth, the slow food network has biennial conferences bringing together farmers, fishers, food producers and cooks. Dana and her partner Cam Smith have attended two of these conferences. “We have brought back so many ideas about how we can better share and showcase our regional cuisine.”
Terra Madre Day promotes the diversity of food traditions and production. It’s a day to show how our network is using its creativity and knowledge to express our love for the planet and defend the future for next generations. It’s a day to celebrate local eating, agricultural biodiversity and sustainable food production summed up as good, clean and fair food.
As far at Terra Madre goes in Canada, Naramata gets it.
We get it so much that we are one of only three Canadian communities with a special status as a “slow city” bestowed on us by Cittaslow, an international organization formed in Orvieto Italy in 1999. We join Cowichan Bay and Wolfville as places where the pace of life is a bit more human.
To quote from the charmingly translated Italian on the Cittaslow website, “A Cittaslow place is motivated by curious people of a recovered time, where man is still protagonist of the slow and healthy succession of seasons, respectful of citizens’ health, the authenticity of products and good food, rich of fascinating craft traditions, of valuable works of art, squares, theatres, shops, cafes and restaurants. These are places of the spirit and unspoiled landscapes characterized by spontaneity of religious rites and respect the traditions of the joy of slow and quiet living.”
Terra Madre Day Cooking Class
Slow food or local food of high quality with connection to the local land made into traditional recipes where the community comes together is what it’s all about and this year we are marking Terra Madre day by hosting the first of a series of cooking class. The Naramata-Blend classes bring together Okanagan Valley chefs, local ingredients and people passionate about food who will cook together and eat together.
The Terra Madre Day inaugural class lead by Chef Dana, will focus on brioche in its many wonderful forms including the unveiling of a new Naramata Loaf recipe (recipe will be shared in an upcoming post) featuring local dried fruits and nuts. Mulled wine made from Cliffhanger Red from Naramata Bench Winery Association featured member Moraine Winery and warm spiced apple and cherry juice from orchardists Amanda Perez and CC Orchards will keep the slow food convivia fuelled as we learn to bake this special buttery egg bread.
“Ten years ago fewer restaurants in the Valley were using local produce in their restaurants,” says Dana. Now a lot of us are using are only using pretty much everything produced here. It takes a lot more effort but the quality of what we have here is amazing and the caliber of the producers and chefs is incredible.”
She says she has made it her mission to spread the word about the Terra Madre principals that were first ingrained at the Stratford Chef School where she learned her craft and to let other young people know that the Okanagan Valley is a great place to set up shop to produce and prepare amazing food.
“We (Dana and her partner Cam Smith and their business Joy Road Catering) have shown that its possible to have a successful business. Our community here is very supportive. We are a product of this great community coupled with our hard work.”
Dana is also passionate about trying to expand our way of thinking about the importance of food and those who produce and prepare it for us.
“Professionals with special skills are appreciated. For example, we hold our doctors, accountants and lawyers in regard and pay them well for our occasional visit or meeting. How often do we eat? Why not offer our farmers that same high regard?”
She has a point.
Thoughts over dessert
Some final thoughts about Terra Madre, slow food, Cittaslow…
Alice Waters, the famous Californian slow foodie, gives us this sweet slow food manifesto:
- Eat locally and sustainably
- Eat seasonally
- Shop at farmer’s markets
- Plant a garden
- Conserve, compost and recycle
- Cook together
- Eat together
- Remember food is precious