Saturday, December 19, 2009

Traveling

"You're like a boomerang," said my older brother when I talked to him last week on the phone. Yes, I am, in the sense that I flew across the country back and forth three weeks ago and then again last night.

My journey to and from school is always long. I never appreciated living "close" to an airport (under 1 hour driving time away) until now! When I booked my flight, I knew that I needed to have at least a 6-hour window of time from when I leave my room to the actual take-off. Time to wait for the taxi to come, to take me to the train station. Wait for the train, get on the train, make it to the other station. Walk to the bus, wait for the bus, wait for them to load the bus, then make the trip to the airport. Wait in several lines to check in, go through security, then wait to board. Get on the flight, wait to get to the destination, wait for the baggage, wait to get picked up. It is a long, long process!

My waiting time is usually filled with reading, naps, staring off into space, watching the scenery, and doing some thinking. Yesterday I realized that it's been at least a year and a half since I traveled with someone else. It gets lonely traveling by yourself all the time. I don't like to impose on others around me, so when things get frustrating or annoying, there is no one to gripe to. Any observations I make, I just think to myself. I carry everything myself, eat by myself, and sit by myself. This wouldn't be so bad if I only took one or two flights a year, but I travel a lot. This year, I've logged 14 flight segments. For the last 5 years, that's been my average I believe.

The good thing is that I'm a pro at flying now. I know how to pack well and quickly. I'm prepared for the trip, I have everything ready before I get to the counter. I can zip through security when my turn comes. I am familiar with several airports now and I know how things work. However, I fear that the novelty of it all has worn off. I no longer pay attention to the flight attendants' spiel or the general comments made by the pilots. I don't check my watch several times while in the security line - I'll get through when I get through. I know to drink a lot of water before the flight, to bring emergency snacks in case I get stuck on the runway, and I bring earplugs as well now to block out the noise from crying babies and loud sighers.

The only thing that is exciting to me about flying now is what is on the other end - a new place, a familiar face, and the hope of good things to come.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

If You're Bored...

Look this up!

http://www.sundog.net/carolofthechins/flash/card.swf

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Award and Graduation Pictures

Before I get to the award... ("it's a major award!")

Last week we had to take our graduation pictures. Seems waayyyyy early, but whatever!!! We took all our individual headshots (very awkward!) and got to pick the one we wanted right there on the computer! For some reason they make us a take a picture with our arm curled around a toque?? That is everyone's least-favorite part of our uniform (besides the neckerchief) so why in the world would we want a picture with it?! No idea.

While we were waiting for everyone's individual shots, a few of us headed outside to take some candid shots, like this one! (photo courtesy of German Giraldo)


Look, we're ankle deep in snow!!! Then we had to take our group pictures... outside! It was freezing cold, in the 30s, windy, and we didn't have our overcoats on, just these fancy blue ones. Hope our faces don't look like we're freezing! We'll get the pictures a week before graduation and maybe I'll think about distributing them to family members... haha!

And now the award! I got a call from Financial Aid last week, and thought "Uh-oh, what happened?" because they wanted me to come into the office. I did and found out that I am getting an award! I had the highest GPA going into the 5th term, making me the official recipient of the President's Scholarship! It's a cash prize :) and I have to accept it in front of the next batch of new students in January, make a little acceptance speech and inspire them to study hard and go big! Kinda cool :) Never thought I'd get money for being smart! That's working hard and getting paid for it!

Well, it JUST started snowing right now, gonna go enjoy it! May be my last until January since I'm going somewhere warmer for the holidays!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gluten-Free Day

Woohoo! Another class up and running :) This new one is called "Advance Baking Techniques" and is taught by Chef C. We will be learning about how to manipulate recipes and cater to those who have special dietary needs. So interesting, and so necessary!

Today was our designated "Gluten-Free" day. You can read more about celiac's disease here. Basically, about 1 in 133 Americans have this disease. They have either a wheat allergy or intolerance to all forms of wheat and there is no cure. The gluten-free diet is not a fad - it's a way of life. After learning about all the things that contain gluten (all forms of barley, rye, oats, and wheat), I concur that having this disease would be disheartening, frustrating and sad for someone who loves food. It is often more expensive for people to live gluten-free because the food (especially processed food) is much harder to find and more costly.

Also, even the smallest bit of gluten can make people really sick. It damages the vili inside the small intestine, causing it to become inflamed and results in a lot of gastric discomfort. Also, nutrients can't be absorbed when this happens.

When baking gluten-free, a lot of care has to be taken to make sure that the kitchen is clean and free of contaminants. This morning, we had to clean the entire bakeshop. Usually 48 hours is needed to let the dust settle. We had to disinfect the ovens and all countertops. All of our gluten-free equipment is kept in a separate pantry and all finished gluten-free products have their own freezer.

Once that was done, we all got going on our individual projects! Chef C wrote a book about gluten-free baking which is AWESOME! And he came up with five different blends of flour to use as substitutes in our recipes. These contain different amounts of flours like white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, powdered egg whites, guar gum, soy flour and whey powder. The blends differ in strength so that you can adapt them for what you need. (For example: a pie crust would need a low-protein flour because you want it to be soft and tender, same for a cake. For bread, it would need high-protein to create structure and strength)

My team got assigned pumpkin roll cake. Yum!! I think that people usually have the misconception that anything flourless is good for you. Not! I learned that most of the time, extra eggs or fat is added to compensate for the protein/structure lost from taking out the flour. People also may think that gluten-free food doesn't taste as good. In some cases, this is true. It's hard to create something exactly the same without the original intended ingredients. BUT there are a lot of gluten-free foods that are DELICIOUS (like this pumpkin roll!) and people with Celiac's are happy to have anything even close to regular food!

This cake was made using one of Chef C's flour blends. I was surprised at how it came out. I thought that since there was no gluten, we would need to whip the eggs a lot to incorporate air and compensate for the structure. Nope! The mixing took hardly any time at all (no gluten to develop) and it was aerated with baking powder. The filling is a buttery cream cheese filling. So good!

Some of the other products today included doughnuts, crackers, angel food cake, cinnamon buns, pasta, waffles and bread. I liked everything except the doughnuts (which I'm not a huge fan of anyway!)

Tomorrow we are learning about sugar substitutes. Another interesting day!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Snow!


Yesterday I worked in the bakeshop all morning, assisting Chef W with a baking class for "regular" people (civilians, haha!). It was really fun and I enjoyed doing it, and getting paid! We made apple pie, sour cream pound cake, and a devil's fudge cake.

Throughout the morning, I kept peeking out through the windows to look for snow. The forecast said 100% so I knew it was going to happen, it was just a question of when! Then, it started to rain, and before long, the rain turned into snow! Small little flakes drifted down and floated around everywhere. Yay!

By the time my friend and I finished up the class and had to take the trash out, the snowflakes were huge and in full effect! It looked like we were inside a big snowglobe that just got shaken up! I caught snowflakes on my tongue and had them land in my eyelashes. Magical!
It came down fast and didn't coat the pavement. Soon enough, the grass was no longer visible and the bare trees finally looked pretty again. Winter is here!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

5th Term Baking Practical

After a spectacular weekend at home with my family, I made the journey back to school and was thrown headfirst into the 5th term baking practical. Yay?

Fortunately, I'd gotten a lot of sleep on the plane, bus, and train, so when 4:30am rolled around, I felt rested and ready!

Tuesday was Day 1. We had fifteen minutes to get setup (gather equipment and set up our stations) and then it was go time! The first thing I had to make was the chiffon cake so that it would have time to cool. Then I made the ganache and piped it for the truffles. Once the cake was cool, I trimmed and cut it into 1/2" layers, made the mousse, assembled and froze it. One product almost done! I rolled the truffles by hand, and had just enough time to scale out the ingredients for the challah bread for the next day.

Wednesday was Day 2 and I knew I had a tight schedule to stick to. There would only be one shot at the challah bread! The sponge and dough had to rest and ferment, and I also had to divide and shape/braid three loaves, so I had to work around that and the resting time. I got my chocolate in temper, quickly made the square plaques for the cake, glazed the cake and released it from the mold, and slapped on the pre and final coats for the truffles. I ended up finishing everything with about 20 minutes to spare! What a great feeling! Every minute that you are late is one point off of your score, and you need 70 points (out of 100) to pass in addition to scoring at least 70% on each item.

It was a relief to be done, but then we had to wait a good hour and a half for the chefs to grade all of our products!

Finally, Chef S came out with our cakes and truffles, informed us that everyone passed (yes!) and then discussed some of the problem areas and things we could work on. Then Chef C came out and showed us all of our challah breads. In my group, everyone except one person passed! Woohoo!

It is a great feeling to know that I am done and I don't have to worry about it anymore! I feel like I turned out an average product, but that I did my best considering the circumstances.
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