Wednesday, July 28, 2010

CSN $50 Gift Certificate Winner

The $50 gift certificate to CSN has closed, and the winner is...Comment #5!

Deb commented that she would purchase the Caphalon Fruit & Vegetable Set:

Congratulations! Deb, can you please email me ( and let me know your mailing address so I can have the gift certificate mailed to you? Thank you everyone for entering!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Week 26-27 Sugar

After moving on from the debacle of our first plated desserts unit, our next was sugar. We started off making some marzipan fruits. Carefully sculpting the pieces of marzipan to be the shapes of various fruits, we later airbrushed them to be quite realistic looking.

My mom loves marzipan fruits, so it was fortuitous that the following weekend I was going home. Using my level 1 basket weave skills, I made a lemon chiffon cake with lemon curd and vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream.

We also made a basket out of nougatine. Nougatine is caramel with almonds mixed in that is then rolled out, cut, and molded. It is VERY hot to the touch and was difficult to mold because you couldn't keep your hands on it for very long without feeling burned.

For me, the highlight of the 1st sugar unit was our classes with Chef Ron Ben Israel. Chef Ron is an incredibly talented cake designer, and I've admired his work for a long time. When I first looked at the French Culinary Institute, the fact that Chef Ron taught there was a major selling point. In person, Chef Ron was as entertaining as he was informative. Before long under his tutelage, we were making realistic looking sugar flowers. I wrote about the sugar flower classes over at Food 2, and you should check it out there.

Me with Chef Ron and a sugar flower I made

After sugar flowers, we worked on our pastillage projects. Pastillage is a sugar dough that dries rock solid and is excellent for supporting weight and building showpieces out of, but less excellent for eating. One of the ingredients in it is white vinegar, which is my absolute least favorite smell in the world, so I didn't enjoy working with it much.

My completed pastillage project

For our projects, we were tasked to make a cake stand in the theme of "Famous Moments in History." I chose to recreate Ben Franklin flying a kite and discovering electricity, probably making it the first time it was represented in sugar ever (although who knows with all the crazy cake competitions that are out there). Using only edible materials - pastillage, poured sugar, sugar paste, fondant, and cake - I managed to do the event some justice.

It's been a really great feeling to see that my skills level is finally catching up to the level of my ideas. Usually I have these grand plans in my mind and when I actually make them, they look nothing like what I pictured.Once again, my classmates totally blew me away with the amazing projects they created. I'm lucky to be in class with some incredibly talented people; it just pushes me to think bigger and work harder.


Along with the cake stand, we had to make pastillage favor boxes

Highlights of my classmates' work:

Liesel's Noah's Ark

Mary's Sheep Cloning

Brittani's Babe Ruth's 500th Home Run

Janelle's 1st Pixar Movie

Molly's 1st Man on the Moon (her cake was shaped like a moon)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

CSN Stores Giveaway!

I know I've been very neglectful of this blog lately, so this post comes at perfect timing. After the skillet giveaway went well, CSN would like to give a $50 gift certificate to one lucky Cupcake Obsessed reader.

Le Creuset baking set

CSN is great because they have everything from dining room sets to cookware to bedding. It's a serious one-stop shopping destination for all your home needs. Perusing their sites, there's so much there I have on my "wish list." The pictures here are what I'd buy if I had the $50 gift certificate.

Rolling pin like we use at school

To enter to win the CSN gift certificate, just leave a comment by next Wednesday, July 29 5:00 pm saying what you would purchase at CSN if you won the gift certificate with your contact information.

Winner will be selected at random. This contest is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Good luck!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Week 25: Couple More Plated Desserts

When posting pictures last week of the plated desserts unit, I forgot the last two desserts we made the night of our exam. We weren't graded on these desserts, but both were really delicious.

The first was a cold strawberry charlotte. The charlotte was made up of ladyfingers with a strawberry Bavarian cream (kind of like a mousse). It was plated with berry sorbet and salad with a clear sauce.

The second was a warm charlotte. This one was made from white bread soaked in butter (delicious on its own) that was filled with a mixed fruit compote and baked. We served it with a butterscotch sauce and a red plum spuma. A spuma is a delicious new frozen treat I've discovered thanks to FCI. It's just a sorbet with an Italian meringue (a very sweet, airy mixture of egg whites and sugar) folded in.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Week 24-25: Intro to Plated Desserts

Our first plated dessert unit was only 6 classes long, but boy did it feel like a lifetime. Perhaps one of the units I was most looking forward to, it was almost a complete disaster. I'm now regularly blogging at Food 2, and you can read all about my class's struggles with plated desserts in the Food 2 School series here.

Chocolate Marquise with cherry compote & creme anglaise

Here's all the pictures I took from the unit. Everything we made was as delicious as it looked, if not more. My chef pants grew even tighter over those two weeks (and they're tight to begin with being as they're manufactured inexplicably so that the "elastic" waist is half the circumference of 1 pant leg). For many reasons, I was really happy to leave behind individual desserts for the time being.

Creme Caramel

My favorite items from the unit were probably the pineapple tarte tatin and the creme brulee (which has long been my favorite dessert). Any of the ice creams and sorbets we made were delicious, and I could usually be found covertly (ok, maybe not so covertly) taking additional scoops of them.

Creme Brulee with Pistachio Shortbread

My least favorite was definitely the creme caramel (flan). How can a cousin of creme brulee taste so bad?? For me, when I don't like an item it's usually because of the texture, and creme caramel is the perfect example of this.

Fennel Hazelnut Tart with Fig Ice Cream
To illustrate just how many components go into these desserts, for two of the pictures I identified each of the items on the plate.

Lemon Tart with Basil Creme Anglaise & Berry Sorbet

Milk Marmalade Tart

Manjari Chocolate Tart with Coconut Ice Cream

Banana Macadamia Financier

Pineapple Tarte Tatin with Pineapple Passion Sauce
& Lemon Frozen Yogurt

Spinach and Cheese Jalousie with Bechemel Sauce

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Week 23: Chocolate Candy Stands

Chocolate I feels like it was ages ago (over a month ago!), but I'm just getting to post the pictures of my finished chocolate project now. The task was to create a candy stand, complete with a bowl that held the chocolate candies we made in a theme of our choice. With the start of the summer, to me it seemed like a good idea to go with an under the sea theme. Chef Toni allowed us to use some coloring, and I decided to take full advantage of this. Brown is one of my least favorite colors, so a stand made entirely out of chocolate seemed a little "blah."

Close up of the bottom of my piece

My stand was made up of four white chocolate "waves" that supported the white chocolate shell bowl. Using a couple molds I bought, I made the fish and shells using a copious amount of disco dust and chocolate. Using a new technique Chef Toni showed the class, I also made some glittery chocolate seaweed to attach to the base. The work spanned over two days, and it was a rush to get it done. Despite our relative inexperience working with chocolate and the time crunch, my classmates made some pretty incredible pieces.
Me with my finished chocolate piece after class

Sidenote: You know those cans of compressed air you use to clean out your computer keyboard? We use those to instantly set the chocolate (the air comes out freezing cold). Because of people "huffing" them, the manufacturers have started including a bitter taste to them. In fact, when purchasing my canned air at Target, I even got carded! Unfortunately, with a class of 16 people all spraying these cans, it was inevitable we all got a taste of this truly revolting airstream. Nothing ruins the taste of chocolate faster than an accidental swallow of this air, and those classes had a lot of intermittent bursts of "Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww."

Display of our finished pieces

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