Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Butterflies, Butterflies, Santa Hats and Christmas Trees

Wow, what a whirlwind of an end of the year it has been! I apologize for not keeping up more with my blog. Things were a bit hectic at the end of the semester. But, I managed to get through it and now I have too much time on my hands! I went from being super busy, to being free 5 days a week. Something is going to have to change or I might go insane! haha

Okay, so last time I was getting ready to finish up my butterfly cake for my pastry class and my reliquary for my sculpture class. Both turned out great and I was so excited! First, the cake.

It was a nerve wracking day for my final pastry class. I was all set to go but was so nervous! My fondant went on beautifully, and the butterflies looked gorgeous. However, we were all having problems with our royal icing. See, there are two different ways to make this type of icing. One is with egg whites and the other is with something called Meringue Powder (basically dried egg whites). We all like to use meringue powder because it is less messy and you don't have to refrigerate the icing. The only downfall is, it can produce clumps. Now, the brand I use at home I have never had problems with, but for some reason the brand of powder we had at school was so difficult! We ALL had lumps in our royal icing. Well, this makes it hard to pipe with a metal piping tip. So, I had to improvise and use a paper cone instead. The problem with that is, you don't get a perfectly round stream of icing. So, that part of my cake could have been a lot better, but I "made it work" as Tim Gunn would say. :-) The butterflies were easy to attach but in the end, I should have made even MORE than I did (and I thought I had extra!). But all in all I was SUPER happy with how it came out and I got a 95% on it so I am happy.

On to sculpture. I think I mentioned previously that we were making reliquaries.

"Reliquary: a repository or receptacle for relics."
"Relic: a surviving memorial of something past or an object having interest by reason of its age or its association with the past."

So, I chose a 14k gold butterfly charm that I was given when I was about 7. It was given to me by my biological father who passed when I was 10. Butterflies are also something that remind me of both my grandmother on his side, as well as my Grandma B. Something about Grandmas and butterflies...haha. Anyway, we were to build something to hold it in that would show it off and represent it. Oddly enough, mine turned out looking like something out of Snow White...and similar to a tree. Family tree perhaps? Who knows. It was not conscious. Art has a way of developing in ways you wouldn't even imagine. I started off in a completely different direction and ended up with something I was very proud of. Now, I did not make the hearts, the bird, or the front oval frame, but I did use power tools for the back, the neck, and the base as well as put it all together and hand painted everything. I love it. It is sitting on the other side of my bedroom as a reminder that I am not only artistic and talented, but a symbol of my emergence into a new career that is happy and beautiful! On the back is an Irish Blessing about butterflies. I am Irish on both sides of my family but my Grandpa on my father's side was SUPER Irish.

The last week of school I made some Red Velvet cupcakes with Candy Cane frosting. YUM! They were a hit in class and my Mom even took some to her English department office for all the teachers to munch on.

Then comes Christmas. My FAVORITE holiday. Oddly, it took a while for me to get into Christmas this year. But Christmas day was wonderful. I had a great breakfast with my Mom and her boyfriend and we opened presents and then I went to my Dad's house to hang with him and my cousins and open up presents and make...CAKE POPS!!!! It was my first time showing someone how to do them as well as using a design out of my Bakerella cake pop book. I chose two things that were simple and the same shape. It was a hit! We had so much fun and everyone got in on the fun. We ended up making round pops too that I have dubbed "ornament" cake pops. haha That way they could look any way they wanted. Everyone is so creative! Here are a few pictures of our creations.

Then last but not least....one of my cousins got me the CUTEST Christmas tree ornament. Look how adorable!!!

I can't get over its cuteness! :-)
I made some gluten free banana bread this week too, but pictures of that are boring. heehee Next up...to use my new Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker my bestie got me for my birthday! I got lemons off the Dad's lemon tree and the metal freezer bowl is in the freezer preparing to be used already. YAY!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and have a fantabulous New Year!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's been a month????

Where has the time gone? A lot has gone on since my last post. I have learned to table temper chocolate, how to use templates to cut chocolate for sculpture, how to make chocolate truffles, the use of power tools, started a new project in sculpture, made rolls successfully at home for Thanksgiving and started a new job.

Let me start by saying....I might like eating chocolate but chocolate and I don't get a long when it comes to working together. :-) Tempering by marble slab is difficult. Now, I got pretty good at that part but the first day was a nightmare. The first time I tempered, I did awesome. Then we had to do it again, and again, and again, because of the chocolate sculpture we were doing. Let's just say I eventually gave up and there is only one picture of a horrible chocolate sculpture flower of mine in existence and very few people have seen the disaster. haha The second day of chocolate went much better as we didn't have to temper it as many times and it was all about cutting out pieces before they hardened and then gluing them together with chocolate. Much better:

Then the last day was truffles. Oh yummy truffles. Now, I was doing great and way ahead of everyone and then....my filling set up too fast before I could get it in the truffle shell. Air holes. UGH! Now, they still turned out pretty and tasted amazing but I had to keep them in the fridge just to make sure they didn't go bad! But for the first time, not bad.

No pictures of stuff in my sculpture class quite yet, but it involves wood and power tools! I have learned to use multiple types of machine sanders and saws. It is fun but I finally had to start wearing a mask because of my allergies. haha

Thanksgiving was interesting. Made an amazing cherry pie filling but instead of making my own pie dough, I decided to use frozen pie dough. Well, I tried to use the Trader Joe's brand and it did NOT work out well. In retrospect, I should have either bought the frozen dough in a metal pie tin or made the dough myself! lol So, it ended up going into a dish with a crisp crumble on top. As a pastry student that is 6 months from graduating, I could not bring myself to put out a pie that looked like that, even to my family. So, crisp it was and it tasted awesome!

My rolls were beautiful. I was nervous about using the granule yeast and trying to proof in my Mom's temperamental oven, but it worked out great and they looked awesome. I only regret not taking a picture!

It was nice to have a Saturday and Sunday off and used my Sunday morning that I am usually up at 4am to get up at 7:30 and drive over the hill towards the ocean to take yoga in Laguna Beach at 8:30. It was a great Sunday!!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Two more weeks of school left and two weeks of making my final cake in class!! Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time is flying by!

Okay, so I can't believe it has been a few weeks since I posted. I have so much to catch up on! Right now I am taking a break from my cake project presentation for my pastry class. It is almost done. Design is finished, requisition is complete, just need to finish writing the story and put it all together. Whew! Can't wait to get started on that cake!

So, going back a couple weeks....oh yes...we had a guest lecturer/instructor to teach us how to make amazing gum paste roses. Wow. It took ALL DAY to make 1 rose. However, this man (John Jennison) was amazing and I learned so much from him. My rose came out amazing. It looks so real.

Then last week we got to work on our cake dummies again and practice new techniques for our cake project. The theme was Halloween cakes. Because I like to plan and not wing it, I decided a few days before to do a Nightmare Before Christmas theme and cut out stencils. Here is a tip: you can make your own stencils (for cake decorating, scrapbooking, or even painting) with an exacto knife and those plastic write-on page dividers for binders. They come in different colors and are perfect for stencils. They ARE a bit thick so it takes some muscles to cut through them, but they will now last a while. Also, because they are plastic, they can be washed off for a second use. The brand I used was Avery. They were the "Durable Write-On Plastic Dividers" and are PVC Free. The Avery number is 16171. I put in the link to help you out. :-) They helped me create this cake:

Cool huh? I am so super proud of Jack Skellington!! Not the best piping work as I was having problems with clumps in the meringue powder but not too bad for a practice cake!

Next comes my Sculpture class project. We just finished these today. We started with a block of clay that we carved that we used to make a silicon mold and then poured plaster in to get multiple tiles. Then we painted. Here is my end result:

I am proud of this too. If I had more room on my current bedroom wall, I would put them up right now!

So, the other big thing is that I got a new job. YAY! I was hired as a cake decorator at a bakery near my house. I am so super excited and can't wait to take the next step in my career.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chocolate dough, 3 weeks, and 3am

So, I realize it has been 3 weeks since my last post. Same amount of time I have had since a day off from work or school. Things have been a bit crazy. I did take a day off last week and had a scheduled day off as well. Two days off in a row! I celebrated by taking myself to lunch and a movie one day (The Social Network...GREAT movie) and to Disneyland with some friends the next. It was much needed play time.

So, the biggest news I think, is that I got my cake assignment for my class. A colorful butterfly cake. I am so excited! Now if I just had time to really work on designing it! haha We also worked with chocolate dough last week in class. We learned to make a chocolate rose first. Then we learned how to do chocolate molding with rice cereal treats like you see on TV all the time. It was my first time working with that method and it worked out okay. We had limited time so my chocolate monkey didn't get her full halloween costume, but here is a picture of her. I didn't have time to clean her up either so she is a little messy. But I am proud of her for my first try! Oh, also a picture of my chocolate rose. Whatever....I was having problems posting so you are going to have to turn your head. I am too tired to figure it out! LOL

Yesterday I had to get up at 3am and go to the school bakery to work. I was supposed to work 4 hours but my sculpture class was cancelled so I put in a full 8 hours. Wow...weekdays (especially Thursdays when the school restaurant is open) are totally insane compared to my normally scheduled Sundays. I am looking forward to Sunday! haha But at least my hours are caught up now.

Tomorrow's pastry class we have a guest teacher, John Jennison. He is going to be teaching us gumpaste roses and flowers. I look forward to it! It is always nice to get a different view on how to do things. Pictures will be taken!

I had wanted to do a charity gingerbread house for SOS (Share Our Selves) in Orange County but do not have the time or money to put into what goes into a good gingerbread house for auction. However, I came across a cupcake contest that I may participate in that the deadline isn't until January. So, I have time to play around and submit. Hey, first prize is $10,000...even 3rd prize is like $3,000. So, I might just go for it!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gluten Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free Vanilla Cupcakes

So I had a couple of hours to kill this afternoon and decided I wanted to make cupcakes or cookies or something of the sort. However, I really didn't want to spend any money or have to go to the store. I went to my cupboard and took a mental note of the ingredients I had. Many of you probably know that I am allergic to wheat, eggs, and milk. So, I went on a flipping spree through my baking books. I have some gluten free baking books but they all require all these really weird, expensive ingredients that I just don't have on hand. So, I went to one of my cupcake books to find a simple recipe. I found a decent, easy, fast recipe for vanilla cupcakes.

I substituted the flour with AP gluten free flour blend, the milk with almond milk, and the eggs with egg replacer (a powder you mix with water that acts in a similar way eggs will when baked). Everything else was the same (baking powder, sugar, etc). They turned out okay. The problem with gluten free AP flour is that it has this weird aftertaste to it. I prefer to bake with almond flour but of course, I didn't have any. :-) Gluten free also always tastes less sweet. I guess that can be good but it makes cupcakes and cakes taste more bread like than cake. But it was an experiment and for the first time, not so bad. Next time I think I will swap out a bit of the flour to add a bit of brown sugar.

The batter also didn't make very much. The recipe said it would make 16 cupcakes but they must have meant MINI cupcakes because I got a whole 6 cupcakes! haha! But since I am the only one around that will eat the GF, it is better there are less.

The icing (I say icing because it is more like poured fondant instead of a frosting/buttercream) was a wing it as well. Well, more of a wing it than the cupcakes. I really didn't start with much of a recipe. I took a bunch of powdered sugar and mixed with a little water at a time until I got a thinner icing. I then added vanilla extract. I decided to also add marshmallow to give it a bit of a different flavor. Ummm.....lets not discuss the fire I almost started with the first marshmallows I put in the microwave. heehee Let's just say I had to throw out the plastic container I was trying to melt them in. :-/  So, I finally got the marshmallows melted and mixed it in with the icing I had made. The thing about marshmallow is it hardens up really fast when it is by iteself. So, when you melt it to add to something, you have to add it quickly or it becomes a sticky mess. I was able to get it mixed in pretty good with the icing so I could dip the cupcakes.

Well, while I was waiting for the cupcakes to cool, the icing set up a bit too much. The first cupcake I dipped turned out okay but the second one broke. The whole top came off in the icing! In the end I ended up just spreading it on with a spatula knife. So, they aren't as pretty as I hoped. I sprinkled with some pink sanding sugar to make them look a bit better. But, they are a great sweet treat in the afternoon!

So, next time I will try a couple different things. I hope to have my own recipe in the end!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I'd rather be burned with a curling iron

Okay, so the semester is underway and I have been so excited for what has started I had no idea it was underway so quickly! I am trying to sit back and soak in as much as possible.

After getting the confirmation that I had not only got into the on campus internship but also the last class in baking (the class I took the whole program for) I threw myself into getting all my supplies without even realizing I am almost done. HOLY CRAP! I am almost done with school! This semester I am taking a sculpture class, Directed Practice (the on campus internship) and Baking 3/Pastry.

So the first thing I have learned in the last couple of weeks is that for the next few months I will be tired, period. I have school, work, and my internship. I am at school 4 days a week with two of them being Saturday and Sunday. I also work at least 2 days, if not 3 during the week. So, I wake up no later than 6:15 pretty much everyday but some days as early as 4:15. Such is the life of a baker, right? Okay, on to the fun stuff!

So, an overview of sculpture: we are carving clay! Right now we are working on a clay carving project that will, in the end, teach us how to make molds. Molds as in silicone molds I believe. We are still carving. I am almost done! So, here is a picture of it almost done:

The first day of Pastry class, we actually worked with sugar. Boiled sugar. Hot ass sugar. Sugar burns hurt. I would rather be burned with a curling iron. However, I have heard that once you burn yourself with sugar, you will never do it again. So looks like I am good to go now. :-) Hey, at least I didn't blister. Thank goodness. Before class we had to create a fish mold with clay. I forgot to take a picture of it, but it was a basic outline of a fish. You bake it so it is hard and then you spray it with vegetable spray before pouring the boiling sugar into it. When it hardens, you break away the mold and you are left with what was inside it. Here is a picture of my fish right after taking it out of the mold:

Next we put it all together with some other forms of sugar (bubble sugar, rock sugar, pulled sugar) to create an underwater scene. Here is mine:

Isn't he cute. I haven't named him yet. What should I name him? (Well, he is now swimming with the other fishies so to speak...RIP fishy).

The next day I had Directed Practice which is where we do an on campus internship at the school bakery. Since our school is a full Jr. College, we have many places we bake for. We have a fully functional Starbucks on campus that we bake for, our student center cafeteria, a child care center, and two snack bars. We are pretty busy. My first day turned out pretty good. I made chocolate chip muffin mix with a new recipe, a new recipe of chocolate brownies, I prepped muffins (prepped pans and scooped for next morning), made sugar dough and rolled out to put in tart tins. Tomorrow we should have more going on but I am excited about practicing all I have learned in the last year.

Today in Pastry we worked with pulled and blown sugar. First was the pulled sugar. It was difficult at first but I got the hang of it. We were to make a bunch of leaves and then flower petals and put together a flower. Everyone had different colors and were making different types of flowers. I kept mine simple as I really want to learn the techniques before I start getting all fancy. :-) Here is my end flower:

Next we went on to blowing sugar. Yes, it is similar to blowing glass. And it is hard!! In the end I had a bit of problems and only ended up with one good piece, a green apple. For the first time, I was pretty darn stoked on it! Here it is:

So, more DP and more sculpture this week and then we move on to buttercream and fondant in Pastry next week...something I am a bit more comfortable with thank goodness. haha I am so loving this!

No morning to sleep in for at least the next 4 days and no day off for at least 8 days, maybe more. Thank goodness I love what I am doing! :-)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Good News!!!

So I got into all of my classes! I will be interning on campus at school and also taking the pastry course. I am also enrolled in sculpture. (As well as still working at the cupcake shop). So, it will be a busy semester with lots of projects and lots of work, but I am so looking forward to it! More info to come as the semester gets under way!!