Saturday, October 31, 2009

October Birthdays!

I'm a little late on this... but:

Happy Birthday to my cousin Jozzy!
Happy Birthday to my wonderful fiance!!!!
And Happy Birthday to my youngest brother!!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Maine Adventure Pt. 2

Throughout our journey, I was just continually amazed at all the cool trees and colors! Autumn is a beautiful season, and totally made this trip worthwhile. We came at the perfect time. I kept pointing out trees, saying, "Ooh look, that's a good one!"
My friend and I had done a little bit of research for our trip, some done at the local B&N. I flipped through a book titled "500 Best Scenic Drives in the US" (or something to that effect). For Maine, the book recommended taking Route 1 up the coast. I expected it to be somewhat like Pacific Coast Highway, but it wasn't actually on the coast. It was really scenic, took far longer than Hwy 295, but was worth it! That was how we found the beach in NH as well as Ogunquit Beach in Maine. We also passed through several cute little towns and villages (even smaller than towns!) which made the drive fun.

Once we got to Portland, Maine, we did a little driving tour I'd looked up. In 2 hours, you can drive around and see 6 lighthouses. These were all cool! There were 3 that we couldn't walk up to (on private property or out in the water) but they were all fun to see and fun to think about...

Here's a view of Two Lights beach park...
And one of the many lighthouses we saw...
Can you see my friend waving? :) To get to this lighthouse, we had to drive through a community college campus - so lucky they have that location! It would be so fun to study and bask in the sun on this rock jetty between classes!
This little one was called "Bug Light". At this port, a lot of people were enlisted to make emergency ships really fast for WWII.
After we finally made it to our cheapy hotel in Brunswick, Maine, we took a good hour nap (we were pooped!), then got ready and headed to dinner. Turns out my friend's cousin had lived in Brunswick (it's really small, so that is very random!). She gave us a recommendation on where to eat dinner: Cook's Lobster House. It was 11 miles from our hotel and we had to drive across two little islands to get there, but it was sooo cool!! It was on a little harbor and was casual but a bit expensive.

Since we were in Maine, I just had to get lobster! Or "lobsta" as they pronounce it there. This poor guy never had a chance.
I guess lobsta stuffed with breadcrumbs is popular here - I've never had it that way! It smelled fresh and tasted like I was eating the ocean! Wow! This guy was a lot of work, but I did my best to get the most meat I could out of the claws and tail.
The next morning, we woke up early and attempted to catch the sunrise, which I have never seen from the Atlantic Ocean. My fiance and I like to watch the sunrise and sunset in Hawai'i whenever we get the chance. It was nice to see it from a different place. This was as much color as we got because it was really overcast!
It was reeeeeeaaaaallly cold....
...but I loved taking in the sights and salty smells here!
Bailey's Island is so pretty. We meandered around the island, taking little side roads and exploring. There were lots of docks with lobster traps/cages and the houses were all really cute.
We had planned to stop in New Hampshire on the way back to do some giant corn maze, but it was pouring rain! Once we got to Epping, New Hamphsire, I gasped because I noticed that the raindrops had turned into big fat snowflakes! It was beautiful. As we drove, the snow got thicker and it looked like we were inside a giant snowglobe - so pretty! Fortunately the snow wasn't sticking to the road, but it did create a little bit of traffic.
The snow lasted until we got to Connecticut, where it turned back into rain. I like snow, but I don't like the cold. Hopefully we'll have a few more weeks of bearable weather here in NY before winter sets in!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Maine Adventure Pt. 1

Our journey began at 2am! We'd rented a car and wanted to get to Maine early enough in the day to see everything we could see. From NY, it's a lovely 7ish hour drive. We cut through Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire to add to our "visited states" list (and according to my friend, you've "been" there if you've put your feet down, so we did it!). As a side note... I've now been to 29 states and I want to go to all 50 before I turn 50! I think I can make that happen :)

I love roadtrips! And how could anyone not when you get to see beautiful things like this:

Can you believe that this is NEW HAMPSHIRE???? I had no idea it was so beautiful up here! I guess I always thought East Coast beaches were rather trashy... I was so wrong!

We ended up finding this beach (Wallis Sands) by randomly following a road sign that said "Beach: 1.5 miles---->" Since I was driving, I definitely wanted to take that right! I miss the ocean, so I couldn't resist taking a peek. I'm so glad I did!
This scene of trees was right across from the beach - so weird to see the ocean and then turn and see lots of fall colors. It was super frigid out (a cool 35 degrees) and we saw a whole grip of surfers checking the waves and driving around with their boards throughout New England. Brave souls!
This shot looks like the typical "East Coast Beach" shot for a calendar, eh? Ogunquit Beach, Maine.
I was a happy camper with the ocean breeze in my face! :)
Check out this cute ride! We got 36 miles to the gallon. Not too shabby!
More to come!

Dark & Stormies

....or "Stark & Dormies" if you end up eating too many of these babies!
The flavor profile of these little rectangles is dark chocolate, white chocolate, and Bermudan rum! I tasted the centers alone and didn't like them (thought the rum was too strong), but when coated in the dark chocolate, they are absolutely delicious!

These chocolates were made using the "slabbed ganache" technique. My partner and I had to temper our white chocolate and then combine it with the liquid flavoring. That same day, we had learned techniques to use when ganache separates, or "breaks". Ours broke, and I gently heated it and agitated it (aka stirred it) for awhile and it magically came back together! Wow! Chef G said that emulsions are like a metaphor for life: sometimes things get really ugly before they get good. So true!

Once our ganache had come together, we poured it into a frame (zinc coated bars) on top of a piece of plexiglass. It was left alone over night so that the cocoa butter in the chocolate could crystallize/set. We used this cool device called a guitar to cut out perfect shapes. It has sharp wires that can cut chocolates, ganache, candies, fruit jellies, etc. We used one at a bakery I worked at to cut soft cheeses into cubes for our bread, so I was familiar with this machinery. It is a GREAT tool - quick and easy and all uniformly-sized pieces. For our Dark & Stormies, we cut them into rectangles.
Then they were dipped in some tempered dark chocolate, left alone to set a little bit, and then we made the wave patterns on top with a dipping fork. Yum!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Polymorphism and You

Interesting title for a lecture, no? We sat through an hour's worth of super interesting information on the polymorphistic characteristics of chocolate. Polymorphism means that a substance can crystallize into several distinct forms. One great example is carbon. At its softest stage, it is the graphite you find in pencils. At its hardest stage, it is a diamond! Pretty interesting.

Chocolate contains several types of crystals that change form over time. It gets complicated...and anyone can temper chocolate without knowing all the science, but I think the science part is fun! Chef G compared the crystals to rabbits (which multiply endlessly) and gave us some helpful tips about tempering. After a short break, we were let loose to finish our products.

Surprisingly, this one project took us all day! I love the way artisan chocolates look - imperfect and handmade by a human! Made with aloha as well :)

Anise Sticks
These were made using the piped ganache technique. We piped them in long strands and precoated them (yesterday), and then cut them into two inch sticks. Next we tempered some milk chocolate and proceeded to dip each stick individually, using a dipping fork.
They were laid out on an icing rack. After setting for awhile, we rolled them a few times to create the spikey effect!
I was amused to find that these actually tasted good! I don't care much for milk chocolate or anise (licorice), but this recipe was subtle enough for me to like.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

O-Block: Chocolates and Confections

Wow! Finally it is HERE! I have been waiting a long, long time to take this class!!! And so far it has proven to be just AWESOME!!!

One of my favorite things about culinary school is learning the science of baking. As of now, I'm finding chocolate to be the most complex scientific thing!!! It is just incredible, and there will be a lot to wrap my head around in the coming weeks.

Chef G is a self-described "confectionary geek", who reminds me of the weirdest cross between Mr. Rogers and John Malkovich - sarcastic, distinct in his speech, and you just never know when he is being funny. The man knows his stuff! Our textbook for the course is evidence for certain - he wrote it! He will teach us a lot in the next three weeks and I am looking forward to soaking it up!

The general feeling of the class is like a 180 from last block - totally relaxed. It's not a production class; if we didn't make chocolates all week, no one would notice! So the pressure to finish on a schedule is off, which is really really nice. We were also allowed to choose our partners (finally!), so my roommate and I are working together since we've never had the opportunity. It's nice to be with someone who works well and doesn't have a lot of attitude, and we have fun!

We also get a morning break - 15 minutes! We can run down to Club Farq and grab some coffee, tea, or a breakfast pastry and shoot the breeze for a little bit. It's nice!

Day One was full of lecture and then we got to work making ganache, a chocolate fundamental. There are two ways to use ganache when doing chocolate work: the piped method and the slabbed method (there are other ways to use ganache, like as a glaze or as a filling, it's all in the ratio of ingredients!).

We were to focus on the piped technique for Day One. The truffles pictured above were made this way. These will be what we make for our 5th term practical. Cream and glucose syrup are heated and poured over unmelted, tempered chocolate. It sits like this for a minute or so, then is vigorously stirred together to create a stable emulsion. An emulsion is two things that don't normally combine: fat and water.

After our ganache was assembled, we tabled it on the marble slab at our station. Tempering ganache?! Weird! I'd never heard of such a thing. It was necessary to do in order set the crystals in the chocolate so that the ganache would set quickly. Then we got it all into a piping bag and piped away! After the truffles had set, I rolled mine round, then put a precoat of tempered chocolate on each one by hand. The precoat is a thin layer than protects the truffle from moisture migration (moisture leaving or entering the center), exposure to oxygen and makes the centers easier to handle. Day Two we put a thicker outer coat for a crunch effect and to make them look nice and shiny! Pretty easy, and rustic-looking. Hand rolled truffles will never look perfect, but that's not the point.

Today we learned how to do the slabbed technique. This is the process of creating a center of consistent thickness. We do this on a plexiglass with zinc-coated bars on top. The bars can be moved and make a frame setup in which we pour the ganache. It sets and then can be cut, glazed, etc. to create chocolates! Pretty ingenious.

We also learned how to fix ganaches that "break" or separate. This is an important skill to know, because it's more cost-efficient and saves time for pastry chefs to fix mistakes or problems than to throw them away and start over. Ganache is a fat-in-water emulsion. Chocolate contains cocoa butter (fat) and heavy cream also contains fat, as well as water. Usually there is a liquid flavoring as well, which adds more water to the emulsion. Ganache can break when there is too much fat. This can be fixed by adding some liquid, slowly. It can also break from over agitation when it is not at the correct temperature. That can be fixed by slowly heating it up, but keeping it under 94F so the cocoa butter doesn't melt. Scientific stuff!

Our slabbed ganache ("Dark and Stormy" - ginger and rum) totally broke, as we figured it would. It looked sooo ugly, but putting it over the fire (aka gas stove) and vigorously stirring it *magically* brought it back together! So cool! My partner and I also made another piped ganache (Anise sticks). This took a little more finagling since the ganache was made with milk chocolate (which has much less cocoa butter than dark chocolate). We piped it in long strands across the back of a sheet tray, then precoated them. Tomorrow we will cut them into 2" sticks and do the final coating/dipping. Fun!

Every day for homework, we not only have reading and reviewing, but we also have to cost out a recipe each day. This is educational and not too hard, but is just another thing to add to my list of things to do! Those truffles cost about 5 cents each to make! And we'd probably sell them around a quarter each.

Another fun thing about class is that Chef G wants us to be eating chocolates for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I'm not sure I can follow through on that assignment, but I agree that it's a good idea to expand my palate and try what I can! Wish I could send some of these goodies home!

Wordless Wednesday #23!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Grand Buffet Spread

Garde manger's set up for Grand Buffet in Club Farq:Bubble Tea in two flavors: pandan milk and mixed berry, both with large tapioca pearls:
Butternut squash mousse and pan d'epices petit gateau:
Chocolate mousse and chocolate sable petit gateau:
Tangerine and chestnut petit gateau:
Indonesian date cake:
French waffles with tonka bean flavoring:
Lemon blueberry basil petit gateau:
Tiramisu with mascarpone cheese petit gateau:
Green tea mousse petit gateau:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mac's Modern Crepe Cake

Woohoooooo!!! All done! This morning we all enjoyed an early 5:30am breakfast with Chef W. What a pleasure! Then we had about 2 hours to finish off our individual entremet projects. This was plenty of time, as I finished up in about 30 minutes!

I had to make the glaze, gather my equipment and decor, glaze my cakes, remove them from the cake rings while they were still frozen and toss some garnish on (yes, I literally haphazardly tossed it on! It's very "contompory" you know!).


From top to bottom: caramelized hazelnuts, candied orange peel, maple icing, maple syrup mirror glaze and one large orange crepe; mascarpone mousse; nutmeg bavarian mousse and orange crepes, orange chiffon cake soaked with maple simple syrup, and an orange cookie base.

All in all, I was very satisfied with the way this cake turned out. The flavors are GREAT!!! Reminds me of Christmas and eggnog and happy times. A lot of the orange comes through, there was some chewiness and texture from the cake and crepes, and the cookie base was crunchy! The colors are very monochromatic, but I couldn't help much with that. The nutmeg mousse was SUPER GOOD! I decided to call it a "modern" crepe cake because it is a twist on the traditional, plus using crepes as an insert is like a surprise when you cut it open!

At the end of class, each student had to get up and share about their cake in 2 minutes. Then everyone tried it. This was fun.... until you got to piece o' cake #10... sugar overload! We had to taste 16 pieces. Gahhh... way to kill my lunch appetite! Everyone came up with either iconic or interesting flavor combinations, and there were maybe 1 or 2 that didn't quite work or taste good. Plus you could easily tell if people made their products well. Cakes and mousse don't lie... If a mousse isn't made right, you can feel it in your mouth (lumpy or grainy) or see it oozing out of shape once it thaws. Tricky, tricky!

We also were required to cost out how much one cake would be to produce. I was exempt from this exercise since I had compiled everyone's ingredient shopping list for Chef W, but I decided to do it anyways just to know! It would cost me $6 to make one cake, and I could definitely sell it for more!

We took our final after production and I think I maybe only missed one question, so that's good. I studied a LOT as usual.

At lunch I knew I needed to get rid of my second cake (aka give it away because I am absolutely sick of mousse cakes!). I wish I could send something like this home or off to my friends, but it just wouldn't make it in one piece! So I took it down to some of my culinary friends in another kitchen. The other chefs I don't know are kind of intimidating, but the one in this French kitchen was very nice and everyone looked super happy to have the cake to eat! It brought back memories of me bringing my baked goods up to my friends houses back home :) I miss sharing my food with people I know!

And now, off to enjoy the weekend! I'll post some pictures tomorrow of our Grand Buffet spread. I'm taking a looooong road trip (as in many hours, but only a few days!) while I'm out here in New England. Gotta see as much as I can!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Practical Cake & the Super Grand Buffet

At my school, we have two "big" practicals we have to pass in order to move on/graduate. The 2nd term involved a cake, a puff pastry apple strip, and pastry cream-filled eclairs. The 5th term practical is about six weeks away (whoa!) and it doesn't look as scary this time around, for some reason. Could it be that I am more confident in my skills? More comfortable making timelines/gameplans? Sure, sure. The components for this practical exam are: chocolate truffles, challah bread, and two raspberry mousse cakes.

The thing I don't like is that we only get one chance in a class to make the cake. We did it this week, and it really didn't seem so bad. After making and presenting them, Chef W deemed them all "passing" with some work to do to get a better score. Fine by me! He said that the recipe has really been manipulated to show all defaults if you don't do things correctly. Greeeeeeaaaat.

We have to make two cakes, leave one whole and cut a slice out of the other. Here's my cake:
I definitely need work dividing a cake into six portions, because mine was definitely off center! I also forgot to take a picture after I placed some chocolate plaques on the side. Those decor pieces are surprisingly easy too.
Today was Grand Buffet... ahh! I got to class at 5:15 am to help Chef W out with setting our classroom up and getting things proofed. My partner and I made these beauties:
They're called Bamboloni and are Italian Doughnuts, found on streetcarts early in the morning, filled with all kinds of jams and creams. We filled ours with pastry cream and raspberry jam. Yum yum! It's a sweet brioche dough that's proofed and fried on both sides then sugared and filled!

We also made these:
Fruit tarts with pastry cream and an apricot glaze. A simple dessert that highlights good tart shell-making skillz.. These better be good! They took us about 4 hours to make. Argh!

Here's a nice picture of our team display at the Grand Buffet... pretty sweet!!!
And a picture of the chefs :)
This also happened to me:
Chocolate shiny glaze looking not-so-shiny on my jacket. Yeaaaaaahhhhh.......That's not coming out :(

Last day of the block tomorrow!!! Woohoo!!! I'm so ready for this class to be over and for a three day weekend. I need a break!
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