Thursday, September 13, 2012
Posted by Tara at 9:32 PM
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Whew, this past month has been a total blur, which I guess explains why I've been MIA. In the past 4 weeks, I've completed many major end of class projects at FCI, graduated, quit my job, went to Disney World, and started a new job!! So I'm sorry that I've been neglecting my blog, but hopefully I will have more time now to be updating. I'll get to all the explanations in a bit, but first let's start with the projects!
After menu projects, we were on to our wedding cakes. The Level 1 students picked the theme, 1920's inspired with red, black, and white decor. I didn't want to do a traditional wedding cake with flowers, and pearls, etc. I decided to use poured sugar to created a mosaic border and blown sugar spheres to cascade down the cake. It took me a full class, 5 hours, to blow all of the sugar balls. It's a process similar to blowing glass, but with edible materials. The days that we did our cakes could not have been more humid, which meant shortly after putting my cake together, it was a sweating, dripping mess. Fortunately it held up for grading though.
When our wedding cakes were completed, we moved right into our final exam. Our final consisted of a written exam, covering everything we learned in the program, and a practical exam where we made five items we drew at random and created an edible stand to display them all on. The theme for our stands was "space." For mine, I did a stand with the sun and planets cut out and sugar poured into the holes. On the stand I had rockets, a moon man, shooting stars, and the moon. My final didn't go as well as I had hoped it would, but at least I finished it and graduated!
Graduation was really nice, with a lot of our instructors showing up to wish us farewell and send us off with their words of wisdom. I surprised myself and graduated with honors, meaning I had a 95 grade average for the entire program. I know grades mean very little, but personally it was reassuring being as I had invested so much into the program and given up so much to make it happen. While in school, I worked full time, attended class, maintained a small side business, and had a restaurant internship every Saturday night and some Sundays for over 3 months! It was tough, but well worth it in the end. Not long after graduation, I got hired at a very good restaurant in the city and started there this week!
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Doesn't my post title make you think of this?:
As much as I love Guns n' Roses, this post isn't about them (it's a baking blog!). One of the more exciting units at school was definitely our Sugar 2 section. We finally got a chance to pull, blow, and pour sugar into really beautiful, delicate items.
That's the thing about sugar - the wow factor is high. Due to the amount of skill, tools, and space you need, sugar work is not the type of stuff the average home baker is making in their kitchen.
For the culmination of the unit, as a class we made a giant sugar showpiece. We chose the theme "jungle" and all divided and conquered. Some people were assigned making the animals out of blown sugar, some people poured the base (a mammoth task given the size of the showpiece), others made the trees and leaves. My job was to pull sugar flowers. It's a time-consuming process, pulling one petal at a time and cutting it off the sugar, letting them harden, and then attaching them all together.
The final result was really cool looking. I loved the monkeys my classmates made, and the waterfall was really beautiful. Overall, we worked really well to pull this off, and I think it was a major success.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I absolutely love the challenge of making fondant-covered cakes, even though my skill set in that arena is still pretty lacking. Every year our family friends host a massive beer pong tournament. It's really something you can't believe unless you see it for yourself. Every team agonizes over team name and comes decked out in matching uniforms.
The cake flavors were chocolate cake with cookies and cream buttercream (10"), white cake with passion fruit buttercream (8"), and banana cake with white chocolate buttercream (6"). Despite the massive quantity of cake, it was pretty much demolished at the end of the night. The cutting of the cake went down around midnight, many rounds into the tournament, so it should have come as no surprise that I sliced my hand while divvying up the cake. Luckily it wasn't too deep, and nothing that 5 Band-Aids and another Bud Light could not fix.
The party happened to coincide with the beer pong commissioner's birthday, so I made a miniature birthday cake. I did a white covering with black polka dots and a pink glittery bow. Thankfully, my friend Vica came to visit just in the nick of time. When she arrived at my house, I was thoroughly in the weeds (chef talk for "in major s***") and didn't think I would finish on time to make it to the party with a completed cake, much less the tiny birthday cake too. Vica stepped in and made an awesome pastry assistant, helping me out with the finishing touches on both cakes.
I have no idea how cake designers transport their cakes without any damage. We had a short 10 minute drive to the party, and my cake arrived with many cracks (albeit they were only noticeable to me). We had a kind of rough drive there, with me sitting in the trunk of the Explorer and my mom driving, us yelling at each other the entire time. She probably could have driven a teensy bit smoother, but at least I know that when I need a delivery person for my future business, we already had the test run (fail). My mom has many skills, but apparently smooth driving is not one of them.
I'm already looking forward to next year's tournament (the 5th annual!), but think I'm going to go easier on the desserts so I can rest up pre-tournament and maybe go further (my partner Morgan & I had a pretty abysmal showing).
Thursday, August 26, 2010
The Evening of Desserts is an event in the pastry program that we were all looking forward to. We had seen the Level 2s before us get to do it, and I know I was anxiously awaiting a chance to show off what I had learned for my friends and family.
With Melissa & Joe - another illustration of how I've spent my summer tucked in a kitchen, away from the any sort of UV rays...they both work at the beach
After everyone left, we got to taste the desserts we served. My personal favorite was the fontaine, which was a chocolate cake with ganache and fresh raspberrys wrapped in filo dough and baked. It was served with a trio of sauces, and was so good. A close second was a kataif (another type of dough) nest with the fromage blanc mousse.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
There are three plated desserts units in the FCI pastry program, and in our second one we moved on to some more complicated desserts and some more polished plating. The style of plated desserts we do at FCI is VERY polished - a lot more so than I see my style evolving. On every plate there will be a dessert, a couple sauces, a tuile (thin cookie), a chocolate doodad, some fruit, a garnish, more garnish. Don't get me wrong, it all looks very pretty, but just a little too "done" for my taste.
What's been interesting to me has been the combinations of flavors we put together that surprisingly go well together. I like experimenting with this, and our chefs having a lot more experience than us and have been good leaders. When I read the dessert descriptions the night before class, I'm sometimes skeptical about how things with pair, but it's all been good so far.
The highlight of the second plated dessert unit was the Evening of Desserts we hosted for our friends and family (more about that in another post), but a close second was the Saturday morning Chef Peter made breakfast for the 8 of us who had showed up for class. Poor Chef Peter, the only male in a group of 16 women, has to put up with a high chatter volume, lots of giggling, and a ton of Christmas carol singing (don't ask...) from us. The biscuits he made nearly brought the 8 of us to tears, they were so good. Buttery, light, flaky. I've never had biscuits this good before. I still dream about them.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Lauren, the bride of the second wedding I did in July, was nice enough to send me over some of the professional pictures after my last post. The pictures look incredible, and I'm so happy I can share them!
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Had to throw out almost everything in my fridge to make room for the cake truffles -
just 1/2 the vanilla here!
For the second wedding the following week, I had learned my lesson and was super, super prepared. There were lists of lists. I needed to make an 8" cake covered in fondant and 144 cupcakes decorated with individually cut and painted (with edible luster dust) fondant pieces. The fondant decorations were shaped like blossom flowers and butterflies. I was able to get those all done over a week in advance to leave me enough time to bake everything the night before pick up.
I was fortunate that when my parents were up to help out with Wedding #1, they took me to the grocery store so I had a car to transport all the ingredients. Which was excellent being as it was 12 pounds of butter, 3 dozen eggs, 10 lbs of flour, 10 lbs of sugar, and many more heavy items! That would have been quite a struggle carrying that back to my apartment.
The one issue with this all was that the pick up was on a Friday morning. I'm in class until last Thursday night and don't usually get home until midnight. Class is my first priority, so I knew missing one wasn't an option. Not having the freshest cupcakes possible also wasn't an option, so I settled on the fact I'd have to start baking when I got home from class and stay up as late as it took. Everything went really smoothly though, and I was getting a new batch of cupcakes into the oven every 20 minutes - about as fast as I could expect to go.
Sometime around 3:00 am, the cupcakes were baked and frosted, and it was time to start the cake. Covering cakes in fondant is always really nerve-wracking for me, but it went pretty smoothly, and I was happy with the way the fondant decorations looked on the cake. I boxed everything up, ending just after 4:00 am.
Crashing into bed was probably one of the best feelings ever. What a long day - I was up at 7:30 am to go to my "real" job, then class, then 12 dozen freaking cupcakes!!! Talk about a sense of accomplishment. Somehow I managed to remember to take pictures of everything too (it was on my to-do list!).
Looking back on both these orders, I think I was clearly insane for agreeing to do them, but I'm so happy I did! Not only did I get to be a part of these awesome people's weddings, but I got to test the limits of my baking, something I really love.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
This week I posted on Food 2 about our final chocolate projects. You should check it out there! Our theme was fairy tales, and I chose my favorite fairy tale - Little Red Riding Hood. My piece weighed about two and a half pounds and was made entirely out of chocolate. There were some challenging moments during the course of the project, but overall, it came out pretty close to how I envisioned it.
Initially, I had wanted to make the characters out of modeling chocolate (it's pliable like clay), but Chef Peter called that a cop out. Using various molds and piping techniques, I managed to make Red and the Wolf entirely out of solid chocolate. The only elements that were made out of modeling chocolate were the roof shingles, Red's hair, quilt, cape, and the pillow "cases." I hand-painted the quilt and pillows using luster dust mixed with vodka.
This project was a big deal for me because like I said in my Food 2 post, I had built up a lot of anticipation for this assignment. Plus, chocolate was never really my strength during Level 2, so I felt like this was a particular achievement.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Week 28 brought the return of the dreaded chocolate unit. I did not enjoy the first chocolate unit - it was messy and tempering chocolate proved to be challenging. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed our second chocolate unit. I now have a feel for the tempering process, and the whole thing went much smoother.
When I think of bon bons, lazy housewives lounging on the sofa eating them comes to mind. This is probably because whenever my dad would come home from work, a frequent refrain from my mom would be "What do you think I did all day? Lay on the couch and eat bon bons?"