Monday, 19 September 2011

The Daring Kitchen - Daring Cooks #2: Stock to Soup to Consumme - French Onion Consumme and Brioche

Well. If I thought that last month's Daring Kitchen challenge was... well, challenging, then I obviously didn't see this one coming!

Peta, of the blog Peta Eats, was our lovely hostess for the Daring Cook’s September 2011 challenge, “Stock to Soup to Consommé”. We were taught the meaning between the three dishes, how to make a crystal clear Consommé if we so chose to do so, and encouraged to share our own delicious soup recipes!

As the description suggests, this challenged walked us through the three stages of a consumme, starting with a good quality stock and ending up with a clear consumme. You know, if you did it right. Kind of not like me. Although it had a clear quality about it, a certain transparency, if you will, I don't know whether I quite followed the directions correctly.

Strained soup on the left, consumme on the right:

Can you tell the difference?

Didn't think so.

Honestly, though, there is a slight difference in clarity between the two. And you can also see some grogans floating atop of the consumme, which is indicative of my poor ladeling (one "l" or 2??) skillz.

Something that I did get right, though, was the brioche. But more on that later. First, to the soup recipe, which I will preface with a few handy tips:

1) this stock contains a buttload of vegies. I got a blister at the base of my index finger due to my poor cutting technique (and possibly also because I chopped a buttload of vegies with damp hands and a metal-handled knife). Note that the double-buttload of onions that is added later to the soup part (I made French Onion soup) required further chopping. Note also that I was supposed to use broccoli but the man at the greengrocer convinced mum that she really wanted broccolini, possibly in part because it was cheaper than regular broccoli. I don't know whether that detracted from the flavour but it tasted great to me so I was fine with it!
2) You'll need to use a bigger saucepan than you thought possible or reasonable. The one on the right is the one I originally wanted to use (it's a normal "large" pot that you get with a lot of saucepan sets, but nowhere near large enough for making soup, and have also discovered previously that it's not big enough for a batch of marmalade, either.

Huh. I made marmalade and forgot to blog about it. Oh well, I'll get to it one day!

Luckily mum used to cater for large groups of people, and so we had this lurking in the bottom of our shed. Turns out that all this time mum's been bitching about not having a good collander, she's had a darned good stainless steel one! Possible a little large for domestic purposes, but nonetheless she owns one.

Note that this is quite a long and detailed post, but it's an interesting read to find out the whole background to the stuff. Bet you never knew it was this complex! If you're not into soup, I'd skip straight to the brioche. If I can do it, you can do it!

To the recipe, but first the really, really detailed instructions that precede the whole shebang:

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 hours to 10 hours depending on the type of stock and amount made. (I did the vegetarian one which is quicker)

Preparation time: 30minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

Preparation Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Equipment required:

• Large, flat-bottomed pan or pot with lid.
• Food processor or a V-slicer or mandolin (not necessary, but handy) (OH! NOW I see this bit!!! Me and my stupid inability to read instructions in full)
• Knife
• Cutting board
• Whisk
• Bowls
• Sieve
• Clean tea towels or muslin that have been well rinsed in hot water.

Bread and/or Crackers
• Knife
• Cutting board
• Whisk
• Bowls
• Loaf tin or baking tray

Terminology (note that I have removed the bits that don't apply to the particular recipes I made):
Bouillon is French for Broth. In French the verb bouillir means to boil.
Bouquet Garni (or bundle of herbs) consists of parsley, bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, and whole peppercorns, wrapped in one of the outside layers of a leek, a large teaball looking device you can buy in a Chinese grocer or in a little cheesecloth bag tied with string (called a "sachet d'epice"). You can just throw it all in the pot separately but if you do this you cannot take out the bouquet garni part way through the cooking process if the flavours get too strong. You will be straining and then clarifying the end result.
Broth is a basic soup made from stock where the solid pieces of flavouring meat or fish, along with some vegetables, remain. It is often made more substantial by adding starches such as rice, barley or pulses.
Consommé is a type of clear soup made from richly flavoured stock or bouillon that has been clarified traditionally through a fining process usually involving egg white protein forming a 'raft' which filters the impurities from the stock. Also consommé (technically an essence) can be made using the newly discovered (2004) freeze (gelatine) filtration method. Using this technique you can obtain a clear liquid from any puréed liquid. Fruit, stock, vegetables, bread, cookies even coffee since the matrix formed using this method traps all particulate matter (impurities) giving a clear liquid.
Fond is French for stock. Stock is produced by simmering raw ingredients in water or a mixture of wine and water, after which the solids are removed, leaving a thin, highly-flavoured liquid. Classic stocks are made from beef, veal, chicken, fish and vegetables.
Glaces – Glazes Are prepared by reducing a finished strained stock to a thick (think cream) consistency. This needs to be done slowly at a simmer and skimmed as required. As the amount reduces it needs to be transferred to smaller and smaller pots. Five litres of stock can be reduced to as little as a quarter of a litre (250 millilitres). The glaze can be heated and a small amount of butter can be whisked in for a lovely sauce.
Jus is a rich, lightly reduced stock used as a sauce for roasted meats. Many of these are started by deglazing the roasting pan, then reducing to achieve the rich flavour desired.
Mirepoix is a combination of chopped onions or leeks, carrots and celery in the ratio 2:1:1 by weight, it adds a lovely fresh note to soups. A white mirepoix is onions or leeks and celery. Some recipes use the peels, stalks, etc. of the mirepiox vegetables these must be of excellent quality or the result will be affected. If you add other vegetables to your mirepoix this changes it from a mirepoix to a bowl of finely chopped vegetables. To make 500 grams (1 pound) of mirepoix use 2 medium onions, 2 medium carrots and 2 large (12 inch/30 cm) celery ribs. To make 500 grams (1 pound) of white mirepoix use 4 medium onions and 4 large celery ribs.
Mirepoix has an 'evil' twin it is an aggressive flavour base for soups and consommés it is called pinçage (pen-sazsh) and it is all about darkness – you slowly cook mirepoix (with the addition of tomato paste (just enough to coat the vegetables) for more sweetness, balancing tartness, and oomph) to concentrate, soften and caramelise the sugars for an incredibly complex brown flavour.
Raft a mixture consisting of finely chopped vegetables and minced (ground) meat with egg whites whisked vigorously into simmering broth and cooked over a low heat so that the proteins coagulate and form a 'raft' on the surface that traps the impurities (but not the flavour) of the broth thereby clarifying it.
Remouillage is French for rewetting, which refers to a stock made by re-simmering bones that have been used to make stock once already. Restaurants who make their own stock often start off the new stock with a remouillage.
Soup is a food that is made by combining and cooking ingredients such as meat and vegetables with stock, juice, water or another liquid.
Sweat to cook (chopped vegetables etc) covered over medium heat until soft but not coloured. This process intensifies the flavours.
Vegetables As we discussed earlier good ingredients make good stock. The fresher and tastier the vegetable, the better the stock. Unless you particularly want a strong flavour in your stock strong tasting vegetables such as fennel can change the flavour of a stock in an unwanted way. Use of starchy vegetables will ruin your stock, potatoes, pumpkin, etc have no place in a clear stock.

Types of Stock
• Fond Brun or Estouffade, or brown stock. The brown colour is achieved by roasting bones and mirepoix. This adds to the flavour. Tomato is added to help break down the connective tissue so the stock will set and to add flavour. Any type of bone can be used or a combination e.g beef and chicken.
• Fond Blanc, or white stock, is made by using raw bones. The bones are not roasted, chicken bones are the most common for fond blanc. For an even clearer soup no carrot is used.
• Fumet - Fish/seafood stock is made with fish bones or the shell sucks of prawn or lobster and finely chopped mirepoix. Fish stock should be cooked for 30 – 40 minutes at the most or it gets bitter. This is caused by the bones overcooking. August Escoffier uses pounded caviar in one of his fish consommés. Concentrated fish stock is called "fish fumet."
• Vegetable stock is made only of vegetables.
• Master stock is a special Chinese stock used primarily for poaching meats, flavoured with soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, and other aromatics. It would make an interesting addition for a consommé though.

Preparing stock

For best results there are rules.
• Start your stock in cold water. Hot water seals everything in including the flavour. Even if you have fried/roasted the bones for flavour use cold water. After adding the cold water it is vital that you do not put the lid back on the pot – this can cause cloudiness.
• Stock should be simmered over a low heat, very gently. The bubbles should just break the surface. If it is boiled, it might became cloudy (maybe that's where I stuffed up?)
• After you add the cold water DO NOT STIR IT. You will need to keep the bones etc covered. After the stock has started to simmer if you need to add water use hot (not boiling) water.
• Your stock is only going to be a good as your ingredients. A good stock is made from carefully selected meats and vegetables not from the kitchen scraps and rubbish. Fresh meat and bones make better stock. You can use leftover carcasses from your roast chicken if you want to. The stock will be better if you keep the fat to a minimum. You will need a ratio of at least 1 part meat and bones to 2 parts water (by volume). You can increase that ratio to 1:1 if you want. The flavour of the stock comes from the cartilage and connective tissue in the bones. Connective tissue has collagen in it, which gets converted into gelatine that thickens the liquid.
• Stock made from bones needs to be simmered for longer than stock made from meat. If you are tempted to get those big beef leg bones with marrow don’t bother. The marrow in them is a type of fat which will make your stock cloudy. Bones from young animals contain a higher percentage of connective tissues than older ones. This type of connective tissue is what makes a rich, full bodied stock that will gel beautifully if you want a cold stock.
• Chop the bones (or get the butcher to do it) into small pieces. Wash the bones.
• Remove as much fat and marrow as you can. Fat will make your stock cloudy and make it a lot harder to clarify the stock. If you are not cooking the bones in the oven first blanch them in boiling water for 3 minutes. Strain and proceed.
• The meat or bones (cooked in the oven, raw or blanched), vegetables and flavourings go in with the cold water. After it has gently reached boiling point reduce the heat to a low simmer and skim off as much fat and scum as you can. The fat, scum and foam is what contributes to the cloudiness and may make the stock bitter. If more water is required during the cooking process use hot (not boiling) water.
• For a base stock fry your vegetables in organic rice bran, grapeseed or sunflower oil. I prefer the rice bran oil since it has a higher smoking point and little to no flavour. However if you are using the freeze method use cold pressed olive oil or butter if you are not confident in your skimming abilities.
• Don’t add any salt. As the stock reduces it will become too salty. Season the dish not the stock.
• The herbs and spices you use will flavour the finished product. If I want a good base stock just use a bouquet garni and add any other flavours later.
• Cool the stock as quickly as you can. I put the whole pot in a laundry tub and run cold water around it
• The type of meat and bones is optional. A mixture of different types of bone can be used or just one type i.e. all chicken or beef or a mixture. For the seafood stock a mixture of bones and prawn or lobster shells can be used depending on the result required.
• When cooking your stock it is best if it is cooked for the recommended time. Over-cooking can result in a deterioration of flavour and under-cooking does not allow time for the flavours to develop fully.

Below you will find amounts for 5 litres (5 quarts) of water the amounts of ingredients are a guide. Ideally you want your pot to be one third to half full of bones and then add your vegetables and other flavourings and then add your cold water. The ingredients are a recommendation only.

Fonds Type
De Legumes
Vegetable stock
Cooking time 40 minutes - 1 hour
400 gm (14 oz) onions, about 3 medium
400 gm (14 oz) carrots, about 6 medium
200 gm (7 oz) celery, about 4 large ribs
2 leeks
50 gm (1¾ oz) dried mushrooms, about 12
250 gm (9 oz) tomatoes, about 2 medium
200 gm (7 oz) broccoli stalk, 2 large stalks
bouquet garni

Now on to the type of filtration you want to use for your consommé (I chose the egg white one so I've deleted the rest)

First there is the traditional method using egg white. Try not to gag at the following picture because this is what it looks like in action (although apparently not quite correct action, given my end result):

Protein Raft Filtration

To get most of the fat out of a stock, you can simply chill it. The fat will harden and float on top of the stock where it can be scooped off easily. A fat separator, which looks like a big measuring cup with a spout at the bottom, allows you to pour the stock out while trapping the fat. Or you can carefully drag a piece of really top quality paper towel over the top of the stock.

To completely clarify stock, use the following method:
• Prepare your extra meat, vegetables and flavourings as per the recipe (below)
• Beat egg whites to soft peaks, one for each litre/quart of stock. Combine with your flavourings.
• A pot that is higher than it is round improves your results, because the consommé percolates through the raft in a more efficient way (I transferred my stock back to the smaller pot once strained for this reason)
• Stir the mixture into the hot stock and bring it back to a bare simmer, do not let it boil. The egg-whites will coagulate, rise, and take any particles and cloudiness out of the stock.
• Keep a close eye on the consommé (push the coagulated egg whites to the side a bit to see) let it simmer 10 to 45 minutes.
• The raft is a delicate thing. It is vital it doesn’t break apart (if it breaks apart it will all mix back into the soup and you’ll have to strain it and start again with just the egg whites.). You want to bring the liquid up to a simmer very slowly. Keep a close eye on it. Once the raft is substantial, break a little hole in it if there isn’t already one.
• As the consommé simmers, you will see bubbles and foam come up through your hole. Skim it off and discard. When the bubbles stop coming and the consommé looks clear underneath, then you’re ready to take it out.
• Removing the consommé from underneath the raft is another nerve racking procedure. You want to break as little of the raft as possible, but you have to get underneath it to remove the liquid.
• Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for another ten minutes.
• Enlarge your hole with a ladle and spoon it all out as gently as you can. Once you’ve removed all of the consommé from the pot discard the raft (you cannot use for another purpose). You could try siphoning it out. Some chef’s say this is possible but they are using great big pots or steam kettles. I haven’t tried this so good luck and let me know if you do it and it works.

Recipe No. 1 Vegetarian French Onion Soup/Consommé

(For a vegan option do not use the egg white technique use the freezing method).

Step 1 - Stock
• 5 litres (5 quarts) water
• 400 gm (14 oz) onions, about 4 medium
• 400 gm (14 oz) carrots, about 6 medium
• 200 gm (7 oz) celery, about 4 large ribs
• 2 leeks
• 50 gm (1¾ oz) dried mushrooms, about 12
• 250 gm (9 oz) tomatoes, about 2 medium
• 200 gm (7 oz) broccoli stalk, two large stalks
• bouquet garni

Step 2 – enriching your stock to a bouillon
• 80 gm (5½ tablespoons) (3 oz) butter
• 1 kg (2 lbs) brown onions, sliced in rings
• 20gm (1½ tablespoons) (¾ oz) brown sugar
• 60 ml (4 tablespoons) cognac or port
• 200 ml (¾ cup + 1 tablespoon) red or white wine
• 3 sprigs fresh thyme
• 2 fresh bay leaves
• 30 gm (2 tablespoons) (1 oz) Dijon mustard
• 2 litres (2 quarts) mushroom/vegetable stock

Step 3 – Consommé (Using the egg white raft technique)
• 1 clove garlic - finely minced
• 500 gm (1 lb) dark coloured field mushrooms
• 2 large egg whites – beaten
• 1 cup crushed ice

Step 1 – Stock
1. Sweat the vegetables in the oil or butter until soft.
2. Put ingredients in a stockpot and cover with cold water.
3. Cover with a lid, then bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
4. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered, skimming foam from surface, for 1-2 hours
5. Strain stock through a muslin-lined sieve. Discard solids.

Step 2 – Soup
1. Melt butter in a large saucepan and add the onions.
2. Add sugar and a little salt to help the caramelisation process.
3. Cook over medium to low heat until the onions caramelise to dark brown. Stir regularly. This can take hours so don’t be tempted to increase the heat to speed it up.
4. Deglaze the pan with cognac, port and wine and then pop in a couple of sprigs of thyme, bay leaves and the mustard and cook together.
5. Pour in the stock and reheat.
6. To make this soup into a consommé proceed to Step 3.
7. For the soup - taste it and adjust the seasonings. (For Australians you can add ½ to 1 teaspoon of vegemite or marmite at this point if you want a little more flavour kick.)
8. It is now time to either strain out the solid bits or blend the whole lot or if you like chunky bits don’t bother. Ladle into hot bowls.
9. Top a thick slice of bread that will fit into the bowl with grated tasty or gruyere cheese, a pinch of pepper and chopped thyme and grill the top until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden. Put these on top of your hot bowl of soup.

Step 3 – Consomme (clarified with egg whites)
1. Fry the mushrooms until brown and cooked. Allow any juices to cook off.
2. Add garlic and cook gently for 1 minute. You don’t want any burnt bits it will make your stock bitter.
3. Strain off any fat or remaining juices.
4. Allow the mushrooms to cool. (This is so your egg whites don’t cook).
5. Strain the soup to remove onions etc.
6. Place egg whites in a bowl. This is the time to taste your stock and decide if it needs salt and pepper. Add seasoning to the egg whites.
7. Whisk the whites to a bubbly froth and add the crushed ice.
8. Add to the cooked mushrooms. Mix together.
9. Add this mixture to the simmering stock. Whisk for a slow count of three.
10. Let it heat slowly back to a simmer. Don’t stir it again.
11. The raft is a delicate thing. It is vital it doesn’t break apart (if it breaks apart it will all mix back into the soup and you’ll have to start again with the egg whites), you want to bring it up to a simmer very slowly. Keep a close eye on it. I try to push the middle back so I get a good hole. Once the raft is substantial, break a little hole in it if there isn’t already one.
12. As the consommé simmers, you will see bubbles and foam, come up through your hole. Skim it off and throw it away. When the bubbles stop coming and the consommé looks clear underneath, then you’re ready to take it out. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for ten minutes.
13. Removing the consommé from underneath the raft is another nerve racking procedure. You want to break as little of the raft as possible, but you have to get underneath it to remove the liquid.
14. Enlarge your hole with a ladle and spoon it all out as gently as you can. You can strain it if you want too but hopefully the liquid is clear.

Once you’ve removed all of the consommé from the pot discard the raft. If you have never made a consommé before Victory dances and loud cheering are totally appropriate.

15. Now you are ready to serve. You can add a crouton as you would for the soup but I would put the crouton on the side so as not to interfere with the beauty of a bowl of crystal clear consommé

And now to the brioche (my favourite part of this challenge, as it didn't involve extensive chopping or worrying over an egg-white raft).

As mentioned before, I'm scared of using yeast, but am trying to break out of that fear. Mind you, it's nothing like my fear of cupcakes (and I have cupcakes planned for... whenever I have time to bake them... but they're gonna be soooo cuuuuute!) but it's still a fear. It became evident during this process that it's because I'm simply unfamiliar with the techniques involved in breadmaking, and what it's "supposed to" look like when it's "ready" to put aside to rise.

I used mum's Kenwood with the dough hook attachment, and three of us crowded around the bowl, watching it not do what we wanted it to. But I perservered and left it running, even though the Naysayers cried "Enough! Enough!" And I was right. So there. And now I'm all inspired to make more bread, and I'm dreaming of something herby and cheesy (this was a herb brioche).

I'll show you a picture of a slice of my brioche, before I finish off the brioche recipe with my braggy picture of the whole loaf. It really does look tasty. I did good.

Oh, and I sliced my hand as well as the bread. But nobody is suprised at that, are they...

The brioche recipe:

Herb and Garlic Brioche

• 2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm) (10 oz) all-purpose plain flour
• 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) active dry yeast
• 2 tablespoons (30 ml) (28 gm) (1 oz) granulated sugar
• ½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) salt
• ½ cup (120 ml) milk, warm
• ½ cup (1 stick) (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 3 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (1 gm) chopped chives
• 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (1 gm) chopped parsley
• 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (2 gm) Italian mixed herbs
• 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (2 gm) freshly crushed garlic

1. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.
2. Slowly mix the warm milk, butter, herbs, garlic and 2 of the eggs into the flour mixture
3. Knead until the dough is smooth. The dough is ready to rise when it is completely smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
4. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise until it is doubled in size.
5. Transfer the dough from the bowl onto a floured work surface and punch it down a few times.
6. Finely chop the fresh herbs and mix with the garlic.
7. Press the dough out into a rectangle then spread with the chopped herbs.
8. Roll up like a swiss roll and place on a lined baking tray.
9. Cover the pan and allow the dough to rise until it is doubled in size.
10. Preheat the oven to moderately hot 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
11. Remove the dough covering, gently brush the loaf with the remaining beaten egg, bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and bake for an additional 25 minutes, until the brioche is golden brown. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, and then transfer it to a wire cooling rack

12. Marvel at how awesome your brioche looks, and then proceed to eat half the loaf while it's still warm, slathered in butter. It was delightfully soft and springy, with a sort of flaky outside. It reminded me quite a lot of bread you get at Vietnamese bakeries, which is unsurprising given the French influence.

The verdict? I wouldn't make the consumme again. It was a very, very tasty French Onion consumme but also very, very time consuming and not worth it in my opinion. I would however be far more likely to shell out money for a consumme at a restaurant, now that I actually know what goes into it and what amazing and delicate flavours it has. But I spent an entire Sunday on this particular challenge, and given how much I have going on in my life at present, that was hard. If ever I wish to make a consumme I shall cheat and get my vegetable stock from a catering supplier and turn it into soup and then consumme, rather than mucking about with all the initial chopping and boiling. But the brioche - well, that's another story. Have a crack. It's well worth it. And then serve it up on an awesome 80's tray - perhaps I ought to have added a doily :)


  1. HI Vanessa,
    Great soup and brioche, yes it is a definite winner. I live in the Adelaide Hills, great place to live isn't it.
    Peta of Peta Eats

  2. Hi Peta,

    It is indeed a great place to live (although not such a great place for a holiday, as I realised when none of my friends wanted to visit!). I live down on the beach near Semaphore, so I get the water, nice access to the city and I'm pretty well equidistant from all the wine regions. I'm happy with that!


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