Friday, June 29, 2007

We had our final for the the class. I've had a lot of fun making all the different kinds of bread, but (oh man) I can not TELL you how happy I am to be done with it. I think I'm going to es-plode if I have to knead one more dough lump this week. Which is good, because with finals out of the way, we get an entire week off! I haven't had a full week off in years! I don't know what I'll do with myself! If we face reality, I'll be cleaning the apartment from top to bottom, but lets just pretend I'm doing something exciting like budgie jumping.. I don't know.
Also, I seem to have made enough puff pastry to no longer find it a daunting task for the home baker. The dough is only: Flour, salt, water, & butter. (No yeast to throw curve at you!!!) Then you fold an appalling amount of butter into the chilled dough, but it makes such a pretty pastry!! I love it! I was actually thinking today that I would love to make this for the wedding, but I think I have more sanity than to try and make 300 o'rdourves the day before my wedding. If I had the resources, I'd totally do it. It's so much fun.
This pastry puff:
is a 2'' round base and a 1 1/2'' cutter crust. These babies are bite size and totally delectable. I made 6 for my final and consumed them as soon as the grade was given. The filling is feta with half and egg, 2 teaspoons of milk, dried basil, and ground pepper. OH MAN. You have no idea how awesome these things are. I may be bias since I incorporate feta cheese into at least one meal every day, but's tasty.

The second puff pastry is filled with raspberry jam, topped with 1/2 of a fresh raspberry, and drizzled with milk chocolate. Also delectable, also consumed at record speed. I have to say I was very happy with todays final. I was deducted only 5 points because my pinwheels were slightly underdone. Stupid pinwheels.

Now I have a week off to analyize past baking experiences and ready for the next section which will be mostly pie's and some cakes. At least these are unlikely to fill up my freezer making me unable to pull out the ice tray with out an avalanche!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Book Cake-Cake Book

So. Here is the latest birthday cake.

It was designed to be modeled after "To Kill a Mockingbird," but I'm afraid it really didn't turn out that way. It ended up looking more like something out of a story book. Sigh. The big thing is that the birthday girl loved it. Which is all that matters to me. I thought the lettering turned well. I just wish I could've given the cake more.....aspect of the book???? The title looks rather like a last minute side note of the left-top page. I was hoping to make it a more defining point, but it didn't turn out. Ah well. It looks pretty nice and as I get into classes that are actually cake decoration related (we have a whole quarter on the subject) I believe my talents will improve and I'll be able to give my friends ever more impressive birthday designs!
My classmates and I are considering forming a group for the iron chef-cake decoration competition they have at school twice a year. I am excited at the possibility, even if we don't win, it's still really good experience.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


My downfall in life seems to be bread, in particular, Sourdough Bread. As a child I was known to be able to consume at least half a loaf of sourdough bread from Panera in one sitting. It got a little out of control for a while. I’m better now. I’ve learned the ways of a nutritious diet that includes some form of greenery, maybe a little protein in there. I still get very excited about bread though.

This week we made pretzels and that’s just really close to heaven for me. They taste very similar to the ones I have to get under any circumstance when I go to a baseball game, only four THOUSAND times better. They are so fluffy and chewy, it’s ridiculously good. They also ruin me for the rest of my life because now the pretzels at the baseball game are going to make me sad by their lack of flavor. Boo. To make it even worse, we used a grape sour starter for the bread that took 6 weeks to develop. I may not be ambitious enough to undertake that in my own kitchen, but I do really love sourdough, so we’ll just see how we go. The dough is really simple, aside from the starter:

10 oz Water

¼ oz Yeast

9 oz Grape Starter

20 oz Bread Flour

1 Tbsp Malt or Honey

2 tsp Salt

You mix, let it rise, form into pretzels, rise again, and bake. To help pretzels get that chewy crust, you dip them lye or a mixture of 2oz baking soda and a pint of water right before you bake them, fairly simple. Maybe I will start my own sours at home. I probably won’t regret it.

I’m now off to make a birthday cake. If it turns out well, I’ll probably post it tomorrow. If it doesn’t turn out well, I’ll definitely post about it tomorrow.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Who, day and night, must scramble for a living,
Feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers?
And who has the right, as master of the house,
To have the final word at home?

Who must know the way to make a proper home,
A quiet home, a kosher home?
Who must raise the family and run the home,
So Papa's free to read the holy books?

-Fiddler on the Roof

Challah was one of the first breads I ever remember baking. For the first couple years I made it my mom kneaded the dough because I'd get tired and bored, but it was always fun braiding the doughs together, and my mother would invariably end up singing "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof at least half the time. That seems to have been passed on to me as we made two different Challah recipes in class today. I was singing "Tradition" in my head all day. It got a little old, but I was feeling very nostalgic about memories of family baking, so I kept a smile on my face the whole day.

Challah bread, as most people may know, is a Jewish bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. It is a rich bread or an egg bread and it makes excellent French Toast. We did two different types of Challah, one was a simple egg dough, the other was slightly richer and contained saffron, one of the most expensive spices in culinary. Chef told us in his culinary career thus far, the most he's ever paid for Saffron is $180.00 for 1 ounce. That's about 3/4 of a cup. Why are they so expensive? Saffron comes from a crocus flower. They look like a very thick hair on the outside and must be hand picked to preserve them, making them highly labor intensive. It gives off a subtle flavor and an orange color.

Personally, I think the recipe I've been making since I was 10 years old is the greatest thing ever and doesn't compare to the recipes I did today. My recipe is a lot richer, or maybe I just think it is. So, here's a treat! I'm actually going to post a recipe! I know I don't do this often, but this is one of the greatest recipes of all time, so I want people to know it. Traditiiioonn!


2 Packages dry or compressed yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup light oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
8-9 cups flour
1 egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon water and pinch of salt
Poppy seeds

Sprinkle yeast over water and mix with a fork until yeast is disolved. Blend in sugar, salt, oil, and eggs. Beat in 4 cups of flour until mixture is smooth. Mix in about 4 more cups to make a soft, workable dough. Knead for 10-12 minutes on floured board. Place in a warm, greased bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and towel and set aside to triple in bulk-1 1/2 hours. Punch down and let it rest for 10 minutes.
You can form these guys anyway you want, in loaves or braids. I usually did an easy three braid, it doesn't hurt or frustrate. :)
Form, cover, and set aside to double-45 minutes.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with poppyseed.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Best in the City! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Sorry, again!

The haze of the afternoon sun has been leaving me in a somewhat exhausted daze and I have not wanted to turn on my laptop and add heat to my un-air conditioned apartment.

Speaking of stiflingly hot, we had to be removed from our classroom for the first two days of this week and were thrown back down the road to the basement of Brown College, which is where the program originated. Now, I've heard lots of horror stories of the beginning years; lack of classroom space, finding colleges to support it, Baking and Pastry classes that met from 10pm until 2am. Lots of interesting stories of how the program found it's feet in the early years.

Monday and Tuesday were two of the most uncomfortable days in my life thus far. The facilities at the schools new building FAR exceed those found at Brown. For one thing it was hot and sticky. Theoretically there was air conditioning, but it never really kicked in. Which wouldn't be so bad except for the four ovens in the corner. For another thing, there was a depleted number in just about everything. In our classroom, all tools and ingredients are at your fingertips. We were spoiled. We didn't want to share sheet pans, we didn't want to share oven space, or bowls, or counter space, or rooms. It was a good test of how we work together and (a side from one individual) we did perfectly fine. I was very impressed. I hated every minute of it, but impressed nonetheless.

What came out of those two days of heated discomfort and inconvenience was a bread plaque. It was a test of creativity and skill. It was a project of art and sculpture. It was playdoh. The base was made from weavers dough, a relatively simple (not at all delectable) bread that was solid ground for building our ideas. The actual forms that sat on the base were made from salt dough, exactly the same recipe for home made playdoh-flour, water, & salt. Technically food, but I wouldn't suggest it.

For anyone that has met me more than once, it will be no surprise that I picked a monkey for my design. (Actually, it was modeled after an orangutan-and ape-but I didn't add enough red to the dough, so it turned out looking like the generic plush monkey you find in stores.) All in all, I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. The trust over the top is the name of a center in Iowa that houses some of the most famous apes in Primatology. I haven't gotten a chance to actually visit it, but I hear fabulous things.
Anyway. The plaque it a dedication to the apes and my obsession with them that will never go way. (Even if I do become a world famous pastry chef)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The fruit of my back aches

I know you all are aware of that wonderful thing called puff pastry. It comes in the form of danishes, croissants, bear claws, turn-overs, and a multitude of other guises. However, many of you may not know the work that is involved in making the puffy pretties.

It is a regular dough, similar to most others, with the very notable difference of being folded into layers with a slab of butter equal to one pound, four ounces. This is a terrifying sight, especially to the diet crowd. Unfortunately, it is the only system to give the pastry it's flaky, puffy greatness.

So this week(over the coarse of three painstaking days) I made the dough, folded the butter in, and chilled the concoction three times over. This may sound simple, but if you've ever worked with chilled butter in any fashion you know that to roll out a slab of chilled butter is about as easy as being given a large rock and told to make some sand. It's slow going and it's hard going. The palms of my hands were, quite literally, bruised when I rolled the dough out this morning. My back and forearms were sore and achy from the unusual exertion forced on them.

Today I saw the fruits of my back aches! Today we completed the puff pastry dough and made some pretties that I am very excited about. These things were well worth the effort. (Don't get any idea's though. I'm not about to go home and clear a shelf in my fridge for this terror.) The pastries turned out awesome. The Crosiants turned out so flaking and buttery, they seriously just about melted in my mouth. There's also some business involving chocolate that I just won't subject you to, but it was fabulous as well.

I don't recomend this as a ruetine sunday breakfast tradition, but if you're feeling adventurous or looking to tone some back and forearm muscles, this might be just what you're looking for. If you're sane, you'll probably leave this to the professional bakers and just lean back in wonder, eating your flaky goodness, ache-free, and just a buck or two poorer.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Points For Effort?

I have been keenly aware of the advantages and disadvantages of being in a baking and pastry program.

Advantage: doing something I love.

Disadvantage: sometimes dealing with people who can't remember more than one sentence of instructions at a time.

Advantage: Learning new recipes and the skills & attributes that must go a long with them. (i.e. patience, listening, faith in your own intuition.)

Disadvantage: Eggs.

One aspect that has been an advantage AND a disadvantage is being able to taste all these awesome recipes. Some of these treats, I never even heard of. Some, I never once dreamed of trying to undertake. In either case, I have been surprised by my own abilities and delighted with end product. This, in turn, means...I have to try them! You can't NOT try something you've toiled over for 4 hours. You can just give your hard earned puffy deliciousness to a bunch of snotty culinary students, who think baking is a ladies sport. NO! You have to try the deliciousness! The only problem is to stop with the taste. My instructor gave some very good words of wisdom, admitting that he always tastes what he bakes, but doesn't make a whole meal out of it. Thus he's as skinny as a 20 year old, which just isn't fair!

With the above picture in mind, consider what happens everyday. Towards the end of class, when golden brown things are coming out of the oven and your sweet tooth starts to beckon, think of how hard it would be for you to not sit down and just have a taste.

P.S. Interesting fact about these puppies. They are more of a cake donut that a true donut and they're actually baked for cooking. Frying comes in for presentation, it's just to get a brown color. Vanity. Vanity.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Beautiful Cake

It’s been hard to keep up on the blogging recently, sorry. Between work, school, and the slow development of a social life, it’s been rather busy.
I did want to touch on one thing that I made last quarter. We made a simple Devils Food Cake about a month ago that had a more than simple flavor. It was phenomenal. This cake was so rich, so chocolaty, so smooth that almost makes you melt. I had a great time decorating it as well (surprise, surprise). It was given a simple ganache bath (maybe 2 or 3 baths, hehe) and white chocolate decorations that I came up with myself.

Isn’t it beautiful! I was very excited for this cake. I planned on giving it to one of my friends for her upcoming birthday. I was so proud at the awesomeness of this cake, it was unreal. I even made two trips out to the car so I could carry it safely home. Only, with two mindless steps in the wrong direction, to have this happen:

I screamed. I cried. I threw such a tantrum my cats had to go hide under the couch until I was safely removed from the house. I had put the cake too perilously close to the edge of the counter and turned to close the back door, forgetting that my backpack was still on; I knocked the cake upside down onto the floor-still in its cake holder. There is nothing so frustrating as to spend hours working on perfecting something, just to have it smash to the ground. I find my tears are justified in this.
So, I wanted to read a poem I found online in honor of this, most admirable cake. Hemm..

The chocolaty pillow rests on my plate,
The sugary brown frosting,

I can’t wait, To dive into my plate.
I couldn’t eat another bite but,

It’s taunting me,

Staring with a sweet glare,

Just saying, “Eat me, eat me”.
Finally I decide,

To make a sacrifice,

To gain some weight,
And to eat the cake.

By Lucas Lee

Fair Well beautiful cake, we hardly knew you.
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