Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Momma!!!

It's a big year for our family - lots of events coming up and big milestones to celebrate as well!

Today is my momma's extra special birthday (wink wink!). I wish I was there to spend it with her, bake her a cake, and just laughlaughlaugh!!! But instead, this blog-love, a phonecall, and some flowers will have to do.

Love you Momma! Happy Birthday!

A NYC Get-Together

I had the fun opportunity to get together with some fellow brides-to-be this past Saturday in the city. The thing we all have in common: we're getting married in October! It has been so much fun to plan virtually with these other brides, get their input and compare where we are on our various checklists for the big day. The online web board is hosted by a large company that has a national magazine. The gal in charge of the online operations lives in NY, so she stopped by to say hi and organized this fun day for us. There was also a professional photographer on hand as well as a videographer. We were all interviewed for the website's online tv channel. This was a get-together for all the October brides in the tri-state area, so we had girls come from New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

Our get-together started off at The Plaza Hotel, home of some of the swankiest weddings out there! (Also seen in the movie Bride Wars) I would never even be able to afford the $600 stay in a tiny room for one night! Sheesh! We got a brief tour of the wedding areas (super gorgeous!) and then the retail section of the hotel, which was also super pricey. They have two bridal salons there as well. One is from a designer based in Milan. He comes in twice a month to custom-make dresses for brides, and he uses some special loom to weave the fabric that Leonardo da Vinci made and only he has access to... yeah. Big bucks! We were treated to a cup of tea and some petit fours from the hotel's little cafe, Dremel. I checked out their pastry case and wasn't really impressed. For what they were charging, I could have done better!

After our interviews, photos, tea, and chatting, we headed uptown a couple blocks to Flute, a champagne bar/lounge. Ultra swanky! And what a great idea. In addition to a full selection of all kinds of champagne, they also served appetizers and a few desserts. It was comfy, dark, and warm from the chilly outdoors! We celebrated our upcoming weddings with a champagne toast and some food. We even had a few wedding cake samples brought in for us from a bakery! After we chatted it up some more, we called it a night and then parted ways! It was my second get-together with these girls and my last, seeing as I will be moving from the tri-state area in about five weeks! Eep!

It was a GREAT experience and it was nice to be treated to a good time, as well as turning some virtual acquaintances into real friends. How cool! Here are some pictures:

Petit Fours from Dremel

Swanky wedding gown from uber-expensive Milan designer!

The infamous ring shot

enjoying our tea from Dremel

Trying on some lip moisturizer in the ridiculously expensive makeup retail area of The Plaza

New friends!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Runnin' on E

This week has just been killer! And it's not even done yet!!!

In addition to my current class, final, and projects, I've had to start cross-training for my next class, which officially starts on Friday.

The next class is referred to as Back-Of-House (BOH) Cafe Operations. The Apple Pie Bakery Cafe is the last stop for all baking and pastry students for the last six weeks before graduation. Three weeks are spent in the BOH and the last three are spent as FOH (front) or servers. Personally, I do not find these next classes particularly valuable as I have worked in a few bakeries before and have been a server. Plus we are not getting paid to work! Free labor! The food cost and packaging costs the cafe racks up are also ridiculously unrealistic, but the food sells here because of our school name. It's good, just expensive and labor intensive.

We've got a few stations in the BOH and we sort of got to pick which one we wanted. Of course, not everyone would get their first choice. There is a Breads, Pastry, and Savory station, each divided into smaller individual stations. You do your own duties with no partner (yes!) and get through the day quickly.

My first choice was to work on the breads station, and I got put on the "baking and finishing" station within the breads department. Sounded good on paper, except for the hours. 12am to 8am or until we're finished? I am going to seriously have to work on my sleeping schedule!!

Today and tomorrow we have to cross-train so that we are completely prepared for Day 1 on Friday (it's a production kitchen, and they don't want to lose money on mistakes, so they work us to the bone!). Not fun (or fair!) when you still have to go to class afterwards from 7-130pm!

Yesterday I tried in vain to get a good afternoon's sleep in preparation. I fell asleep for probably an hour and a half, and then spent another four hours trying to get some shuteye to no avail. I just could not fall asleep!! I gave up and somehow made it through my day today (no doubt thanks to many prayers! thanks!!!) - 13 hours of "class time". Wow. And tomorrow I get to do it all over again! Hopefully my tiredness will carry over because right now it feels like I'm running on E.

My station will be a busy one that may take some time to get the hang of. I am in charge of two convection ovens, so all the other stations deliver their product to me, I set it up on sheet pans, glaze or eggwash it if necessary, and organize some kind of oven schedule to get everything baked correctly. Each item has its own specifics - temperature... does it get steamed? Does it need to get vented? Does the temperature get dropped? How will I tell when it's done??? A lot of unknowns and guesswork to be sure. The gal that trained me did an okay job, and I guess we'll see what happens tomorrow. After some of the products come out, I've got to garnish or glaze or finish them in different ways. Today I baked off all kinds of cookies, danish, pastries, brioche, croissants, and cinnamon rolls. It is a lot of product! Hope I don't burn something.

Clearly the key to success at this station is going to be a good night's.... I mean afternoon's rest!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Gettin' Judged

My partner and I gettin' judged by a panel 0' chefs!

Today was "Mystery Basket" day in our class. Chef D has done this exercise for only a few of his classes. He will pick an exotic fruit that is in season, let us do a little research, and then we have one day to come up with a plated dessert. It's pretty intense - a fruit that none of us have ever heard of and we're expected to produce something delicious! Well, at this point in our education, it is totally doable, and I was surprised at what our class came up with. This exercise really opened my mind and I'm excited for opportunities like this in the future!!

The "Mystery" Fruit
Chico Sapote. Sapodilla. There are several other names, but this is a fruit with a skin like a potato, a smell like a pumpkin, and a taste like sweet brown sugar and rootbeer. So interesting! It grows in warm climates like Mexico, South America, Florida, and was recently introduced to the Philippines.

The fruit has a yellow-orangish soft flesh and 4-5 large black seeds. The seeds can wreck havoc on your insides if ya eat a few, and they have a small, lethal hook that will catch in your throat. Stay away!

Chico sapote doesn't ripen until it's picked. At that point, it is rock hard! At this state, the fruit is very astringent, and actually contains a gummy substance referred to as chicle. It is from this fruit that chewing gum originated! The Mayans chewed it in private, and as time passed, it became common in Mexico. A Mexican president was chewing on it while waiting passage into the USA at Staten Island in New York when a Thomas Adams noticed it, procured some, and created the first commercially sold chewing gum. Today's chewing gum does not contain any chicle.

Here's the fruit raw. We all got a taste when it first arrived in our bakeshop fresh from Southern Florida.

My partner and I decided on pairing the chico sapote with a variety of flavors and wound up doing Creme Catalana in four flavors. Creme Catalana is Spain's version of creme brulee (and the Catalans claim to be the inventors, but who really knows). We made a base using egg yolks, sugar, heavy cream, the puree of the chico sapote, then paired it with dark chocolate, strawberry, blood orange, and pecans. The strawberry was by far my favorite! We made all the flavorings just subtle enough so that the chico sapote would still be "heard" in the dessert.

I wanted to put the creme in those asian noodle spoons, but I couldn't find any in our dishrooms here at school, so we opted to use mini ramekins. When we tried to brulee the top, the granulated sugar just melted into the creme, leaving us burning the creme black. Undesirable! We decided to go with an invert sugar piece called "bubble sugar" to use as decor instead, a modern twist on the dessert. The green stripe under the ramekins is a banana leaf cut to size.

Chef D thought it would be great to have a panel of chefs "judge" our desserts and give us some criticism. This turned out to be such a wonderful experience! We had the Dean of the baking and pastry department and two of our past chefs (Chef H and Chef S). They were great judges.

Even though their criticism wouldn't affect our grade, it was still nerve-wracking! Would they like it? Hate it? Put it down? I was worried that it would come off as too elementary, but I was stoked that we had put out four different flavor combos that were really interesting.

Finally, it was our turn. We set a dessert in front of each chef and explained what we'd made, then went away for a little bit to let them judge things on their own. Chef D was taking pictures of everything, and his camera died so I let him use mine. He was like a crazy paparazzi! Taking pictures of everyone's desserts and reactions. He is going to send the pictures to the company in Florida where he got the chico sapote, our school newspaper and alumni newsletter. Pretty cool!

Chef S. really getting into his critique about what we could improve on.

The Dean listening and Chef H offering some suggestions.
They loved it!!! The Dean said he immediately wanted something to dip into the creme, like cake, a cookie, or fresh fruit. Chef H said he immediately thought of fondue. They all loved the flavors. Chef S thought we could have added a few more elements to the creme. They offered suggestions of things I hadn't even thought of!

It was a great exercise, and all the guest judges encouraged my partner and I to expand on this idea and take it to the next level! I am definitely keeping this in mind for the future.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Here's something I could eat by the spoonful, only because it's so FRESH!
More to come ;)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Sweet Sampling

Welcome 2010!!! Yes, I'm a little late. I've been a busy gal. My holidays and travels were amazing!!! I had a great time with my family, and it was so nice to see my fiance after 5 1/2 months of being apart! We only have a little bit more to go until we're together again. So worth it!

I'm looking forward to 2010 for many good things to come:

  1. Graduation - March 5th! This also means leaving NY!
  2. Roadtrip across America with my mom - something that's been on my list for a long time!
  3. A good chunk of time with family and friends, and time to purge and consolidate all of my belongings.
  4. Moving back to Hawai'i!
  5. Planning, celebrating, and getting married!
  6. A new, amazing job???!!
As of now, I have less than 3 classes to go until graduation. It is going to be like the last sprint before the finish line of a 2-year marathon. Ugh! The next class is going to be killer because I'll be in class, working for free, from 12am-8am. Yes, I will be messed up.

Right now, I'm enjoying my regular schedule and routine. The class is called Restaurant Production Desserts, which is what any pastry chef does at a restaurant. This is old news to me as I have had experience in this area several times now! Chef D is funny yet serious, yet kooky at the same time. He was born to Mexican and French parents, and he's trilingual, which means he has a crazy crazy accent.

Every day in class, we prep one dessert for the next day, and finish another at the same time. There are a LOT of components. On Monday, we did an open invitation service time for anyone at school to drop by for a free dessert. We were "open" for a half hour, each team had a station and their one dessert to do. Chef D would call out the order and we'd have to assemble it and give it to the customer. Somehow, this is supposed to simulate what happens out in the industry, but we veterans know this is not realistic at all! Reality is that one person would be doing all ten desserts on their own.

Here is a sampling of what my partner and I have done. We prepare ten desserts each day, plating nine the way Chef D shows us, leaving us one to do our own style.

Our first dessert was a strawberry tart, composed of fresh strawberries on top of mascarpone mousse and a cookie base along with strawberry sauce, a white sauce, and strawberry gelee. This was Chef D's design:

Followed by our own interpretation:

This is the chocolate pistachio bomb. On top is a tuile spoon with pistachios. The bomb was sprayed with chocolate and glazed with chocolate sauce. The bomb was made of milk chocolate mousse with a frozen pistachio mousse insert and chocolate chiffon cake with a crispy base on the bottom. The sauce was raspberry. Pretty tasty! This was our interpretation:

This one is called Zucotto - sooo delicious!! Inside this italian-style bomb is milk chocolate mousse, chocolate shortbread and a gianduja crispy base. The decor on top is chocolate tuile and bubble sugar.
I'm not a huge fan of cheesecake, but this one was super good! Goat cheese cake - A mixture of goat cheese and cream cheese. We made a grape compote and grape sauce with red wine and black grape juice. The pasta-looking thing on top of the cake is actually baked pastry cream!!! The process was so amazing, I had no idea you could bake pastry cream! While it was hot, I peeled it off the pan and wrapped it around a tube to give it the nest shape. We also made a white grape sorbet which was really really refreshing.

The next dessert was also one of my favorites so far - Chocolate caramel apple. It was a little time-consuming but very rewarding. The mousse was a chocolate caramel mousse. The base was chocolate chiffon with a caramel chocolate crispy base (yummmm!!) and the insert and garnish was spiced apple! It took me a long time to cut them in tiny perfect cubes. They were then stewed in a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, orange juice, vanilla, apricot jam, white wine, and Calvados. We also made an apple cider sauce, which was the best part of the dessert - apple cider, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, Calvados, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. The tissue-looking decor is called apple paper, and was made using only apple puree, cake flour and powdered sugar! It looks delicate but is pretty sturdy and tastes delicious! There were also a few Calvados-soaked raisins. This was our design:
Lastly, today we finished off this dessert: Pain Perdue 2! This is an interpretation of the French's French Toast. The bread was brioche which we soaked in a creme caramel base and then pan seared on both sides. The citrus sauce was made with orange juice, vanilla, cinnamon, orange segments (used for garnish), sugar, and then monte au buerre finished with butter. It smelled amazing! We also put candied orange peel on top and served it with a refreshing lemon verbena ice cream.
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