Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday cookies

Well, since school has been out it seems like everything has been a blur. I made cookies for three days, wrapped presents, the holidays were here, then I got sick. Blah. haha But I am feeling better and thought I would post my cookies.

I spent one whole day just making sugar dough, cutting cookies, and baking them. I made 6 dozen! The biggest tip I can give for sugar dough is to roll it out between waxed paper so the roller never touches the dough and to refridgerate it after you have rolled it out. It helps so much! Thanks to these tips from my hand dandy Cookie Craft books! I made snowflakes, peppermint candies, and candy canes. I spent ALL day doing cookies. By the evening I was so exhausted I crashed out on the couch!

The next day I started with the snowflake decorating. It took me over an hour just to make the frosting (royal icing) and organize it all. I realize now I should have taken pictures of the whole process but I am new at this blogging thing!  I followed my friendly blog Bakerella as well as the Cookie Craft books and organized my station and used their tips for using the icing. I used plastic squeeze bottles bought at Michael's and made by Wilton for the flood icing. These worked out great because you can put the lid back on and it is air tight so you don't have to store it in a different container over night. It stays fresh and works very well.

For the piped icing, I put it into different sealable containers to color them. After finding the desired color, I put them in the pastry bags using twist ties to close right above the icing and at the end of the pastry bag to avoid messes (which worked very well). Another tip I learned was to have cups or glasses the size of the pastry bags with wet paper towels in the bottom so when you are done with the color you can place the bag in the glass with the tip down touching the wet paper towel and it keeps the icing from running out and from drying up. This is where pictures would come in really handy! haha The flood color was the easiest because it was in the squeeze bottles.

How decorating cookies works is you pipe a thicker royal icing around the edge and then the flood color is placed inside (a thinner form of the icing and color) to make a smooth surface. The piping can also be used for decoration as well as any kind of sprinkles or candies. I kept mine pretty simple and used only icing and colored sugar.

I unfortunately cannot eat them but I have been told they were yummy! I had fun making them even if it took 3 days to make them all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

And the semester is over....with straight A's!!!

Okay, so it has been a couple of weeks since I have updated my blog. Things have been a bit hectic with school since Thanksgiving passed. I will give a quick update on what has happened between then and finals.

After Thanksgiving we had a lab where we learned cream/custard sauces. We did creme anglaise which is also referred to as vanilla sauce. This wasn't too difficult but there is a short window of time between it being ready and burning it! Basically it is milk and cream with eggs, sugar and vanilla. It is a thin sauce and most likely you have seen it drizzled on desserts when you order at a restaurant. You cook it on the stove and strain it to get the lumps out. My favorite was pastry cream. This is actually more like a custard or pudding that is used to fill cakes, pastries and sometimes donuts. It is also good on top of things like pound cake. It is made similar to creme anglaise but it cooks to a thicker consistancy before cooling it down. It is also done on the stove and requires a talented eye to know as soon as it is done without burning it. I did a pretty good job with it and wow was it yummy! Thing vanilla pudding. Yum! That same lab we also did stovetop brulee. I let my team partner take them home as most of my family is either allergic to milk, lactose intolerant, or both. haha But we learned how to torch the top which was pretty cool.

Since then I skipped a lab to study. I had a certification test for my food cost analysis class which I am still waiting for the grade on. I am pretty sure I got the certification, but just have to wait. As for my regular finals I did pretty decent. I got an 86% on my written baking final and an 84% on my food cost analysis final. Not as good as I would have liked on either but I was happy with them. Then, last night, was my baking practical (hands on) final. We were going to either end up making apple pie and creme anglaise or pound cake and pastry cream. I have been wishing for pound cake and pastry cream for weeks now. HAHA! I am happy to say that I DID end up with pound cake and pastry cream! And, I rocked the final. No crazy stories to tell, nothing went badly, I just rocked. And I got a 199/200. I was so excited! So, in the end I have ended up with A's in both classes!

Now I have a break until February when Spring semester starts. I will be taking Baking 2 and Art. The art class is a 2D design class. It should be fun. I was hoping to take another drawing class but it just didn't fit into my schedule.

As for updates on here, there won't be much to update unless I am baking at home, which I intend to do. With Christmas right around the corner, I am going to make sugar cookies and make use of my Cookie Craft books. (I just bought Cookie Craft Christmas today!!!!).

So, Happy Holidays to you all and I hope to have fun updates during my winter break.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What did we do??

So my brain has been so occupied by my 3 finals and 1 certification test that I barely remember what we did in class last week! Last week was Thanksgiving right? haha!

What did we make? Oh yeah, we made different cakes! Well, my team partner and I made blondies (which are like brownies but taste like butterscotch). I had another great partner last week. I made the blondie mix and she made the cream cheese topping. We added a cream cheese swirl with raspberries and sliced almonds. It took a while to cook since we added so much but they turned out great and were by far the yummiest things made in class! Most people had to make things like red velvet cake and devils food cake but we were happy to get the blondies which were our first choice. And if my family was actually telling the truth on Thanksgiving, they liked them too! I brought as much home as possible so we could put them out on a platter for snacks. They went quickly. (I forgot to take pictures).

What else did we do? Okay, that's right....we made pound cake! Not as easy to make as you think but I did a pretty good job. The hardest part is making sure you mix the butter and sugar until it is smooth and fluffy. In a Kitchen Aid mixer that is about 25 minutes on speed 2!! But, after checking and checking, my first step was finally done and I was ready to add in the eggs and flour. After that you have to mix it for a bit as well. We each made our own pound cake as it is one of the things we might have to make for our final. I really hope I get pound cake for my final not only because it is helluva lot easier than apple pie, but since I want to do mostly cakes for a living, it would be awesome to be able to do it again and get graded on it to see where I stand. Most carved cakes (cakes that are shaped) are made out of pound cake because it is fluffy and moist but it is strong and sturdy. It holds weight better than regular cake when stacking and putting a lot of fondant, etc on it. So, fingers crossed I get pound cake!!

As for everything else, I am really happy my math/accounting class is almost over! Although, it was really cute in class today as our teacher (who is not only Amanda Beard's Dad but is also a new Grandpa) had the new issue of People magazine with his daughter and grandson in it and was showing off the picture. Such a proud Grandpa! haha And the kid is a cutie too. As much as I like him as a teacher I will be happy when the test is over. Next week we review for the final and take our certification test for ManageFirst for the National Restaurant Association. Oy! Then I also have my written Baking 1 final next Friday. Oy! But at least the last day of finals we will have our baking final scores back. I won't have to wait to get my grade!

Well, off to get sleep. Wish me luck on all of my tests. This week's lab is creams and sauces and next week's lab is cheesecake (I think), but with all the tests I am not sure I will be able to update until after that is all over.

Happy December!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Muffins and Donuts and icing oh my!

Hello there! So, it seems like it has been forever since I have updated my blog. We had a bit of a lull of class because of the Veteran's Day holiday. Well, last week we got back under way and it was a great class!

I wasn't too excited about the lab of making donuts and muffins but it turned out really fun. We got to pick our partners (YAY) and one of the guys I have made friends with partnered up me. It is always good when you can partner up with someone you know is on top of it. He and I work well together as well as fast. We made coffee cake muffins which turned out soft, moist and SUPER yummy. The odd ingredient in the mix was lemon peel but you know what...it really made a big difference in the taste! I am not usually a fan of citrus anything (although I can do lemon and lime a lot easier than orange) but the lemon really made the muffins.

Tips on most muffins: 1. Don't over mix. Most muffins require you to blend ingredients until just incorporated and I think a lot of people over mix. I know I used to. Over mixing can cause the muffins to turn out too tough. It should be mixed only until dry ingredients are moistened with the wet ingredients. Most batters will be lumpy. That is okay. 2. Muffins will rise a lot better if you do not use paper cups. However, paper cups are many people's preference because not only is it easier to get out of the tins, but it makes eating a lot less messy. If you choose not to use the paper cups, make sure you grease the tin!! 3. You can put most muffin recipies in a loaf pan as well. If I had it to do over again, the Coffee Cake Muffins would have been done in a loaf pan. I think it would have been easier to eat.

Coffee Cake Muffins with blueberries

After the muffins were put in the oven, each team paired up with another team to make donuts. Unfortunately for our team that did cake donuts that meant that there weren't very many donuts! But the making of the donuts was fun. I honestly thought I would hate it. But, it was enjoyable and our donuts tasted pretty good. We took fondant icing at the end and poured it on some of them and cinnamon and sugared the others. Because we used a donut cutter we had donut holes too. Some of the other teams made yeast-raised donuts (similar to churros), orange drop donuts (like donut holes with orange zest in the mix and on the outside), and Beignets (made popular in New Orleans). I didn't get a chance to taste any of the other donuts, but ours were awesome!

Tips for making donuts: 1. Make sure after you cut out the donuts to let them rest 15 minutes before frying. This allows them to rise slightly as well as settle the gluten. 2. Make sure to keep the frying oil at a constant temperature. When you put donuts in the fat, the temperature will go down so make sure to keep an eye on the temperature. 3. Watch the donuts carefully and flip them over when half done.

Cake style donuts

Today we make old fashioned pound cake. Sounds easy....but I REALLY don't think it is going to be!

I am thankful for many things, but for the sake of this blog, I am very thankful for my family and friends who support me in my decision to go to pastry school and a special thank you to my mom, who has let my cat and I invade her home so I can pursue this dream. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Not much to tell about last week's lab. It was pretty chaotic and we didn't do much. We took the croissant dough and danish dough we had prepared and froze the week before and made croissants and danishes. That is about it. A lot of standing around. We had a lot of fun though cause we were chatting a lot. Some crazy things were said and happened but definitely not to put in my blog! haha!

Next week is Veteran's Day so we have no lab. So, no updates for a while.

FYI...had half of a chocolate croissant. It was pretty yummy. Much better than the danish!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Short but sweet (no pun intended)

Well, last week was a pretty chill one. We made croissant dough and danish dough to be put into danishes and croissants this week. It was a fun lab and Chef also made cinnamon rolls and we all got to take one home. YUM!

The good news is...I got a 96% on my baking lab midterm, 95% on my written baking midterm AND a 98% on my food sales/accounting midterm!! All A's!

So, I celebrated that and my b-day at Disneyland with a friend. :-)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Annoying guy needs to get a clue

More rolls? Yup! More rolls! Well, the midterm proved to be a bit tough but fun at the same time. I got to class early so I could grab the equipment that I am always the last to get, and what do you know…I was the 7th person there. Yes, I was 25 minutes early to the bakery and I was still the 7th person there! I guess everyone else had the same idea as me. Luckily I was still able to get my large bowls, etc, to be ready. I felt calm and confident, so I was ready to get started.

I measured, mixed and kneaded away. I felt like I was keeping up a bit more with everyone than I was the first go-around a few weeks ago. Unfortunately my rounded, benched dough didn’t rise quite as quickly as some so I still had to wait to put it into the divider to cut it into even pieces ready for me to form. Once I got to that point I started to rock it! My makeup and panning step was going awesome! My rolls were looking awesome and I didn’t screw up the figure 8’s and crosses this time. AND my French forms looked awesome. People were telling me they were jealous! (Thank you play dough for helping me out!) So, I got the first pan in the proofer and started on the second and last pan. Well, when my second pan went into the proofer, my first one wasn’t even CLOSE to being done proofing. What the??? Yeah, leave it to the lame ones in class to basically stand there with the proofer door open for long periods of time so those of us with pans still in there get screwed! If it wasn’t for that I might have been done about 20 minutes before I was.

Well, my first pan was finally ready and the rotating oven was full. So, fortunately I got to use the convection oven for the first time! I love that oven now! No one uses it and it bakes a lot faster. K…a bit of a reminder here…remember at the beginning of the semester I mentioned a guy that was going to test the Chef’s patience? Well, I have dubbed him “the annoying one.” Seriously, during the lecture class you can tell the students from the other labs are really happy he isn’t in their lab! Anyway, when I put my pan in the oven, he had put his in there as well. I went back to my station to clean up a bit and a friend of mine…we will call him “nice guy”…told me that annoying guy had just got him in trouble and he was really mad about it. He told me the story and seriously, annoying guy is not nice. Annoying guy asked nice guy a question. Well, it is midterm and we weren’t supposed to be helping each other at all. Well, totally not realizing he was doing it, nice guy started to answer annoying guy’s question (hence him being dubbed nice guy). Well, Chef overheard and got mad. When nice guy said he was sorry, he wasn’t thinking when annoying guy asked him the question…get this!!!!…annoying guy LIED and said that he hadn’t even ASKED nice guy for help!!!! WHAT? Poor nice guy. I was mad for him too when he was telling me the story.

So, this leads me to the fact that now my first pan is done in the oven and I went out to get my pan out of the oven. Well, “surfer guy” and “quiet guy” were out there waiting for surfer guy’s pans to be ready. I went into the oven, got my pan out and put it on the cooling rack. Surfer guy said, “What about the other pan?” I told him it wasn’t mine. He asked whose it was. When I told him it was annoying guy’s he said, “You aren’t going to take it out?” I said, “Of course not. It is midterm and [annoying guy] needs to learn to do his own work for a change.” Surfer guy and quiet guy said that was messed up but they hadn’t heard about the story from nice guy. Plus it was midterm. I wasn’t about to get in trouble like nice guy just had.

So, I laughed it off and went about my business. I got my other pan out of the proofer and put it in the oven. I weighed a roll from my first batch to make sure it was correct and kept on going. When my last pan was done and started to cool, I took it to the other kitchen to be graded. I was so happy! Chef had a lot of nice things to say about my rolls which was definitely a relief after my first go around in lab a few weeks ago. She said the forms were nice, the crust was smooth….the only bad thing she really said was about the egg wash. When you put egg wash on bread, it creates a shiny brown crust. Although my crusts were a beautiful color, she noticed that there were spots that were shinier than others which just meant that my wash wasn’t sprayed on evenly. She cut a roll open and complimented the texture inside and tasted it and liked it! I got a 96!!! And luckily I wasn’t last to be done this time. Haha The first 8-10 people done got extra credit so there were a lot of people that got over 100 points but I was so happy that I wasn’t last and I still got a 96!

I gathered my stuff and put my rolls in a bag to bring home. Annoying guy was just taking his second pan out of the proofer…..

Written test:

Holy cow that written test was HARD!! Brutal even. I felt pretty confident most of the way through it but when I got to the end….fill in short answer! YIKES! Well, I only need to get an 83 out of 100 on the written to keep an A on my whole midterm. Keep your fingers crossed! I get my results next Friday!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Foccacia pizza!

Well, this week was happily an easier week. I think Chef planned it that way since last week was crazy and next week is midterm. So, we did everything as a class. She gave everyone specific jobs and we stuck to that. Pre-fermented dough made into dough for foccacia, fougasse, ciabatta, and baguettes. All of these are made from the same dough so it was very easy. I got to round the dough for proofing. Basically that means you shape it into a round ball with the skin of the dough on top smooth. It is actually a bit harder than it sounds but I was happy to get the practice for next week’s midterm. The best part of the lab was getting to take the foccacia and each make our own individual pizzas! Yum! After that all craziness broke loose as everyone was concentrated on eating their pizza instead of listening to Chef. Haha

So, our lab next week is our “practical” midterm. We will be again making rolls. I feel a bit more confident in making them now as I practiced the shapes with the play dough (which I am still trying to find the recipe for as I lost it). So, today and the rest of this week I will be concentrating on studying for the written midterm on Friday. Good thing is, I got an A on my last test! YAY! I am going to use the same technique I did for studying for that test for the midterm. Let’s hope that works!

Oh, and someone in our baking class has swine flu. Fantastic. Luckily not someone in my specific lab we don’t think. So, I have been disinfecting myself after every class. Haha Let’s hope that keeps it away!

I also made some pumpkin pie bites for a pre-Halloween Thanksgiving party last night. They seemed to be a hit! Tried to upload a picture but it won't work. Oh well. They were cute!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A caboose full of dinner rolls

Well, after a week off for being sick, class sure returned with a bang. Let’s just put it this way….anyone that makes their own dinner rolls from scratch at home on a regular basis should be put in the looney bin. And I thought making a pie from scratch was hard. This won’t be a funny post, nor a lengthy post as I am still tired from Wednesday nights class!

Not only did we learn the 12 steps of baking bread this week (and were tested on it on Friday) but we put it into action. The mixing part was pretty easy. The kneading until you think you are going to die or pass out? Not so much. I don’t want to knead bread again any time soon and unfortunately in 2 weeks will be repeating this last week’s process for the practical midterm. I already had rolls coming out my caboose and now I will have more! I kneaded bread dough for 35 minutes. And this is not something that is done slowly. This is quick and gives you a workout. I was sweating more kneading dough than I did the first week of school when it was almost 100 degrees out and hotter in the bakery! Kneading bread isn’t a difficult technique to master, but your muscles need to be built up, that is for sure. The good thing was that when the bread was benched so it could rise, we got a bit of a break. However, this was just followed by another 45 minutes of working as fast as you can. Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough per the Chef. We had to divide our dough and then shape them into dinner roll shapes. 7 round, 7 French, 7 single knot, 7 figure 8’s, and 8 crosses. Well, this being only the second time even trying these shapes (and not all of them were done the first time) I struggled. But I wasn’t the only one. And of course I managed to screw something up on the figure 8’s. Well, at least they tasted good according to friends and family.

I am off to pull out my play dough that was made a few weeks ago so I can practice my techniques for shaping. The fact I will be graded on it in 2 weeks does get me a bit motivated. I need to keep that A!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Missed the Challah

So, last week I was down with a cold and since I still had a cough on Wednesday, I couldn't attend lab. I missed making Challah. I have heard it is yummy. Oh well, I guess I will practice my bread braiding with the play dough we made. Dinner rolls this week! I will update this weekend. Normally I update on Thursdays but I will be attending a taping of The Bonnie Hunt show on Thursday! Hey, set your DVR on Friday...I might be on tv!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Only a tiny bit of blood, and definitely not easy as pie

Well, this week we got our chef's uniforms. Of course, they weren't in until the night before my class. So, I went early to get my uniform so I would have time to change. Wouldn't you know it....they were in a meeting...IN the room with the boxes of uniforms. Figures. haha So, I am in class 30 minutes early and one of my friends walks in. She obviously had the same idea. Anyway, since I was there early, Chef asked me to get my sugar dough and put it in the bakery fridge so she could use me as a demo for the class. That was kind of cool. (Oh, and unfortunately we got our jackets just in time for class and it was hella hot! Not looking forward to having to wear the pants too next week. Especially since they are like 2 feet too long on me. haha)

This week was pies and tarts. Like Chef has said, "Whoever came up with the phrase 'easy as pie' obviously has never made one." They are NOT the easiest thing to make. Pies are temperamental and need love. If you don't treat them just right, trust me, they will get back at you.

We started off the class making our tarts. MMMMM Pear Almond Tart. I just had a piece so it is still on my mind. Chef used me as a demo for how to prepare the crust and how to use the dough sheeter. That thing is fun! It is big moving belt with rollers in the middle that you pass the dough back and forth through while changing the settings on the rollers to roll out the dough for you. It was a bit scary at first (also because the whole class is watching me do this while Chef is telling me what to do). But it went so fast. I want one! Anyway, since I was done quickly (and chef prepared 3 of my 5 tiny tart shells) I was off to prepare my almond filling. My partner this week was someone I have become friends with so we had a lot of fun preparing everything and the first time I have had a partner where we really worked together. He is a young kid straight out of high school (maybe 2 years) and is on the same path as me. He actually wants to have his own bakery with a workshop area where he can teach cake decorating to kids. How cute is that?? Anyway, we really worked well together. We had a lot to get done so we worked really fast too. Of course we worked so fast that our paste/batter was done and ready to be put in the tarts before we found out that the almonds were to be put in the food processor instead of hand chopped. (For the record...the recipe did NOT call for this so at least we didn't get in trouble for doing it wrong). But, Chef said not to redo it. So, we filled our tart shells (5 each) and put them in the fridge to cool before baking.

The next thing we know Chef is telling us 45 minutes until the pies are to go in the oven. HOLY COW! My partner and I rushed to get our apples and started peeling and cutting away. It is pretty tight quarters in that bakery for 16 people. Well, switching back between my paring knife and my BRAND NEW chef's knife...well, if you know me well you have to know that I cut myself. HAHA Well, STABBED is a better word for it. My brand new chef's knife went right into my thumb knuckle. Thankfully I am pretty sensitive to pain so I pulled back really quickly. It wasn't too bad of a cut but it was right on the knuckle. So, knowing that I have to take care of that and now only have 30 minutes to finish my pie before it goes in the oven, I am wandering around franticaly looking for Chef so I can get it bandaged up, put on gloves and get back to work. As soon as I found her I didn't even have to say anything when she saw me holding my thumb and said calmly, "Did you cut your finger off?" I just laughed and said, "No, it isn't that bad but I need to bandage it and get gloves so I can get back to work." So, after that was taken care of, I went back to my spot and my awesome teammate was working on my apples since he was done with his own. Awesome teamwork! I thanked him profusely and let him get back to his pie as I dashed around trying to get my pie done. Well, since pies are so hard to get perfect, rushing is not the best thing to do. But, I managed to get everything done and the only thing I forgot was to spray the pie tin (which I didn't find out until later that night when I was cutting it to give the pie to my Dad. haha). Well, as odd as my pie turned out (one side was beautiful and the other half looked like an ogre made it) mine was one of the better ones in class! Of course my Dad made a face when I told him that. I don't think he believed me. I have yet to taste it, but he hasn't called me complaining that it was awful. haha

Next, while the pies and tarts were baking, we were off to make play dough. Yeah, not a baking dough that you play with....actual PLAY DOUGH like you have when you are a kid! That was a messy time but fun. My partner picked this cool teal coloring to put in our mix and it turned out really cool. I guess the whole idea was for us to make it so we can practice our dinner roll shapes at home. Yeah, I just want to make people with it. heehee So, if anyone ever wants to make your own homemade play dough, let me know. I have the recipie!

Well, a funny tidbit here....yesterday I was washing my chef's knife and cut my middle finger knuckle on my other hand. HAHA Luckily I heal quickly although I felt like an idiot.

Oh, and first two quizzes: 100%! First in class quiz/test: 89%! (31/35) Third online quiz: 9/10!! I am rockin' away!

Here is a picture of the Pear Almond Tart. No, I didn't take pictures of my sad little apple pie. :-)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The fun of it all

Who knew that sweating your butt off, standing on your feet for 4.5 hours (a lot of it in front of an oven) and pushing around behind people at a fast pace would be so much fun? I really enjoyed last night’s class. And only 20% of that is because my partner and I stood near “The Cute Guy” as I have now dubbed him. :-)

As the weather gods love to do, the temperature of So Cal increased again just in time for my baking lab this week. Never fails! But honestly, it wasn’t that bad. I think I am getting used to it. Maybe not so much when we get our chef jackets. Haha So, it was quite warm in the bakery which, as you bakers out there know, is not good when you are working with shortening to make things such as biscuits and pie crusts. The temperature of the shortening increases in your hand as you break it up with the flour which can cause problems when you want your pie crust to turn out flaky.

We started class with Chef doing two demos. The first: popovers. To be honest, I didn’t really know what they were! I mean, I have heard of them, but I have never seen them or eaten them. The batter seems pretty easy and quick to make but baking them seems to be somewhat of an art form. The second demo was for our blind bake pie crust. She did everything step by step so we would know exactly what to do. Because our theme for last night was “biscuits,” she wanted to get in as much as possible. Biscuits can mean a lot of different items, including popovers AND scones which are both in the biscuit family. (Pie crust dough is also made in a similar fashion with similar ingredients). My partner this week was a nice enough guy but very quiet. And me being the talkative one, I had a bit of a problem with that! But after some coaxing, we decided to make chocolate chip scones from our list of choices. (Luckily Cute Guy is a bit goofy like me so I actually interacted with him more than my own partner even though I tried to joke with my partner a bit).

Scones and biscuits are best made by hand. So, we had to get down and dirty. And my partner was all the happier to let me be the one to stick my hands in that gooey mess. To me it was fun so I didn’t mind at all. After a heavy cream wash and a sprinkle of sugar, those scones baked up wonderfully and tasted so yummy! I even got to taste Cute Guy’s scones (cranberry…YUM!). (Oh, and after "testing" so many items from last week and being sick the whole next dayb (wheat allergy), I decided to be more selective with what I taste). Next was on to the pie crust.

I have never once made homemade pie crust. I know some of my family are bakers (Aunt Genene??) so they might know exactly how difficult it is to get a perfect pie crust when hand mixing it from scratch. You have to break up the shortening just right and mix it just enough so there aren’t any pieces of shortening that will melt and leave holes in the crust but not mix it too much so the flakiness of the crust disappears. Believe it or not I was pretty impressed with my crust. It was a little under-baked but the look was great and no holes! I brought it home with hopes of making it into an actual pie. Haha Now to figure out what to do with it.

Once we divvied out the biscuits and scones (this time I remembered my container so no one would mistake their bag for mine) it was cleaning time. As I was waiting for others to finish gathering their baked goods, I kind of zoned out standing right under the fan. I suddenly heard not only the Cute Guy kind of giggling but my friend “Miss Y” was cracking up at me. I looked at her like I was all confused and she said, “So, are you guarding those with your life this time?” I looked down to see I was holding my container of goodies against my chest like I was clutching on for dear life. HAHA! I started laughing. Even the Chef noticed and made a funny comment. It was so subconscious! I kind of just laughed and said I wasn’t even thinking about that (which just made the whole thing even funnier). No one was going to steal my stuff this week!

Next week we make a pie AND a tart!! Oh my family will love me.

OH! I almost forgot…in the midst of all the craziness, we also took a hands-on measurement quiz. It was quite chaotic but yes friends…I got 100%. I still have my A.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Great Cookie Caper

Okay, so my day was less than great before heading to my second week of baking lab, and honestly, it didn’t get much better. I was excited though as we were to actually going to make things on our own this time. Well, I got to class and found out that my job for the day (everyone is assigned a job every week) was the second shift of washing dishes. No big deal. So, I went ahead and worked with my partner on the Snickerdoodles that we planned to make. We worked well together and got things done pretty quickly. In fact, ours were the first ones on the rack in the cooler!

So, then I started my shift of washing dishes. Washed a little, then went back to my station to start measuring out my ingredients for my sugar dough (to be frozen and used for next week’s tarts). I managed to get everything measured out and told my partner to go ahead and mix hers up while I was finishing up my shift on the dishes. Well, on dishes I had a partner too. Unfortunately, he hadn’t come prepared to class and was getting pretty knocked by the teacher the whole day. Poor kid. Anyway, we were going along great with the dishes and had a great system going. Then….duh duh dah! Flood. Yup….flood. Somehow his sink and my sink drained at the same time (he was washing and I was sanitizing) and the drain underneath couldn’t keep up. Although we were told this happens quite frequently, it was our first day in lab (the first week doesn’t really count since we didn’t do anything) so we weren’t exactly thinking about the possibility. Well, we spent the next 30 minutes with a mop and squeegee cleaning up the floor. The only good thing about it was that we will never open the drains full speed ever again. Haha And maybe those after us will remember to keep an eye on it.

Well, when the mess was cleaned up and the hands were washed, I was able to get back to my sugar dough. This actually went fairly quickly since I had already measured everything out. I wrapped and labeled it and stuck it on the sheet pan to go to the freezer. At this point we still had over an hour of class left! So, since there were a couple teams still working on their first cookies (fancier cookies than Snickerdoodles), I went to go check out the other teams. Hello…so happy that my partner and I diplomatically chose our cookies by picking a name out of a hat because she wanted to do Rugelagh (and my first choice of the Snickerdoodle was the one picked). And although these cookies looked awesome, the team that ended up doing them worked the hardest in class. And I mean hardest! They did a great job and yes, I did have one when they were done and they were FANTASTIC! Anyway, one of the teams was doing biscotti that required a dip in chocolate. So, to keep us all occupied while these were all being completed, the teacher had us make parchment piping bags, gave us all chocolate, and let us practice writing with chocolate. So much fun!

Once all the cookies were cooled, the teacher went team by team to talk about each of our cookies and how they turned out. I was very proud when the teacher talked of our Snickerdoodles and all she really said was that they were fantastic and turned out exactly how they were supposed to! YAY! Not everyone got that praise! Out of 8 teams I believe only 3 teams got the “turned out exactly the way they are supposed to” so I was ecstatic! So when that was all done we started packing them up to take them home. Well, unfortunately I had forgotten my container to bring them home in so I had to use a plastic bag like everyone else. So, I carefully picked out 3 Snickerdoodles for my Dad, 3 for my cousin Jarre, 3 for my cousin Jon and a few for me and my Mom. Then I took the remaining cookies and traded with others so I could have a sampling. Well, when we were all done it was time to clean up so our bags of cookies went over to the storage racks. Everyone ran around cleaning up and when we were done, I went back to the rack to grab my folder and my book bag….and my cookie bag. MY COOKIE BAG!!!! It wasn’t there. I started looking behind the rack and under the rack and in peoples bags and everywhere I could think of. I said to those remaining to check their bags to make sure they had the right one because mine was missing. Instantly everyone started helping look for it. Nope. Gone. My carefully chosen Snickerdoodles were gone! I was angry and sad. How could someone steal my cookies? Trying to give people the benefit of the doubt, I thought maybe they just actually picked up the wrong bag….but there were no bags of cookies leftover. I was going to head home with no cookies after working my butt off.

Thanks to my kitchen partner for the day, and one of the other nice girls that is about my age, I was still able to bring cookies home. My kitchen partner gave me a bunch of her Snicker doodles (and thank goodness too cause I tasted one and they were darn good if I do say so myself!) and the other girl gave me her whole bag! How sweet. I tried to make her take some with her but she refused and said that she can whip up cookies when she gets home if her family wants some. It is nice to know that there are some nice people out there. Next week you better be darn certain that I am bringing a container from home so The Great Cookie Caper doesn’t decide to take home my scones and tart!

It was nice to walk into lecture today (9/11) and find out that the whole cookie caper incident was indeed an accident. Poor girl running off to a class on the other side of campus scooped up her stuff and accidentally grabbed my cookies. She felt so bad that she emailed the Chef to tell her what happened. Today I sat down at my seat and the poor girl came over with my bag of cookies and was extremely appologetic. It was nice to know that someone wasn't just being mean. :-) On another note, I did try to get the girl that gave me her bag of cookies to take this bag but she still refused. So, I have extra cookies! haha

Friday, September 4, 2009

Maintenance staff conspiracy

I am thoroughly convinced that my school's maintenance staff has concocted a conspiracy to save money: no working air conditioning across the whole campus. Seriously? The whole campus? Not even the cafeteria? Come on! Conspiracy indeed!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"I am working on my patience"

So as most of you know it has been sweltering in SoCal lately. No change yesterday, my first day of baking lab. So imagine 25 people squished into a tiny baking kitchen that is made to only hold about 16 max. This with only a window about 3 feet by 2 feet, no door except that straight to the food kitchen (where the burners and ovens are), and it is about 90+ degrees outside. Yeah...that was my introduction to baking lab.

Other than the heat, things were great! The teacher kept the lights off, had the air blowing (not that it really worked) and the tiny window open. Once everyone had shown up that was on the list....she sent us away for a half hour. Literally....she said, "Go away and come back in 30 minutes." haha There were so many people petitioning and already a full class...plus me. A full class is 12 and she let me add before school started so she had a roster already of 13. When we returned, there were only 16 people in class and she got things underway. One of the good things for me was that the class was a mixture of genders and ages. I didn't feel out of place at all. There were women and men way older than me and way younger. We have a nice range of people in there. And a few that I have already kind of made friends with which of course always makes classes like that more fun. Especially since we will be pairing up with different people each week.

We went over the rules, where things were located and how we are supposed to act. She then told us that she isn't very patient. I thought it was funny. There is already a guy that is testing that for her, I can tell. She then added, "I am working on my patience. That and being a better person in general." I found her comedic and pleasant because people bug me too. I get her. She showed us around the facility which is amazing for a junior college. I also got to see a picture and article on the wall of the huge cake (I mean....HUGE...think bigger than an American flag) that won awards last year. The cafeteria alone at the school is the best I have ever seen at a JC. Everything is so clean and organized. Great facility.

The worst part, in my opinion, is that it is going to cost me more than I thought, above and beyond the cost of school and class material charges. There is the uniform: chef's jacket, neckerchief, chef pants, slip-resistant black leather shoes, hat (our choice but she gave us guidelines), and a white apron. Then there is the list of items that we need to have and bring to lab everyday. Some are little things like small scissors, a sharpie, and our own towel. Then we also need to have a chef's knife, a paring knife, a pastry brush, measuring spoons, a peeler, a quart sized plastic measuring cup, and a bench scraper (dough divider). $$$$$ I bought my shoes today....$60. And that's only one item off the list. Oy vey. Remind me I want to do this please. :-) Seriously though....despite the anticipated costs, I was really excited.

After we got all of those discussions out of the way she wanted us to do dough rolls and chocolate chip cookies as a class. The dough she mixed herself but went step by step with us. Then after cutting them she showed us 5 different ways to shape them and then let us shape them all for baking. Very cool stuff! You know when you go into a bakery to buy bread rolls and they are shaped all fancy? Yeah, like that! Of course, I took the hardest one and did that one first. It comes out looking like a figure 8 but you shape it nothing like an 8! Nine,Q, twist and pull the tail through. That is how I remember. haha Unless you have done this you are probably thinking I am talking jiberish. I wish I would have taken a picture. Maybe I will make some for Thanksgiving and will take pictures.

Next was the chocolate chip cookies. With this she gave everyone in class a specific task. I didn't exactly get a good one. My task was to find where to plug in the commercial Kitchen-Aide while others were measuring out ingredients. haha But, because of that I got to scoop most of the cookies with one of the other girls that I had kind of made friends with.

Class was almost over as these were all baking and the teacher had those of us that needed to order uniforms go try them on. Well, when we were done and returned to class pretty much half the class had left thus leaving the rolls and chocolate chip cookies for the 8 of us remaining! My mom was a happy camper last night! I tasted both. BOTH were amazing! Wheat allergy be damned...I will be tasting all of the products. In moderation of course. haha We will also be bringing stuff home every single week. Next week we make short bread and a cookie of our choice from the list.

So, all in all I had a great time. We only learned a few things last night but those things that we learned were great! Here's a tip for better chocolate chip cookies: refrigerate the dough until completely chilled for better cookie shape and texture. They don't flatten out that way (and use a small scoop to form them and leave them in a round ball on the pan to bake). I also figured out why I always screw up breads with live yeast. While continuously mixing, add the salt last. Salt kills yeast. So THAT is why my dough would never rise! ;-)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First day of school

Well, the first day of school wasn't so bad. Although an 8am class 20 miles from my home made me have to wake up at 6am after 10 months of waking whenever I wanted proved to be a bit of a problem, but I managed. I did take an art class in the spring but it didn't start as early!

Today wasn't anything exciting....just my accounting class specific for the food and beverage industry. (We will learn how to understand and read financial statements as well as the accounting and business math that goes along with running or owning a restaurant or bakery...or business in general). I walked in the room and immediately thought "Oh HELL no am I going to make it through this 4 hour class with this nasty, hot, stuffy room." HAHA Well, thankfully the teacher wasn't too happy with the situation either so within an hour it was much more comfortable (of course, after the campus maintenance tried fixing the air AND brought in two industrial fans). Plus he let us out over an hour early. Nice.

Of course it was just the normal first day yada yada stuff but here's an interesting tidbit: my teacher is the father of Amanda Beard, the Olympic swimmer. Of course, he does not make this publicly known to his class, but I already knew this. And you can SO see the resemblance. But I found my thoughts wandering at times to the fact that the man in front of me has a daughter that has posed naked for Playboy magazine. haha Then my thoughts went to "I wonder how he feels about that? How would my parents feel about that? How did he react to his naked daughter being seen by millions upon millions of men?" HAHA But that aside, I think he is going to be a great teacher. It is accounting, so although it will be helpful it isn't the most exciting subject. He did crack a really corny joke and the guy next to me said "He's gotta be a good teacher if he can make a corny joke like that and the class actually laughed." Honestly, I was the first one that got it and giggled out loud. ;-) Although, I AM easily amused.

On a more exciting note, I found the two books I ordered from Amazon left on the doorstep when I got home! The Cake Decorator's Motif Bible by Sheila Lampkin and Cookie Craft: From Baking to Luster Dust by Valerie Peterson & Janice Fryer. SUPER EXCITED! I have wanted the motif book for about a year now and Amazon had a great deal on it. Both books give step by step instructions on making some really fancy items and have templates in them as well! I highly recommend both. But don't buy them in the store. I got both on Amazon for the price of the motif book in the store!

Sorry it wasn't more of an exciting post today. Tomorrow is my Beginning Baking class! That class should be a little more exciting to hear about.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The first daunting task

School starts next week. So today I decided to go through my packet for the baking lab and to open up my book for lecture. (I am staying away from the culinary arts math book for now...yikes...that can wait until class).

The packet is basically the syllabus, letting us know what we will be doing every week. The first week is all measurements. Ummm...seriously...how many teaspoons go into a tablespoon and how many pounds are in a quart. Guess I should start studying for my 3rd week quiz on measurements now! :-)

The book for lecture is a bit daunting. I have considered weighing it via my Wii Fit. It is seriously the size of an encyclopedia (and must weigh just about as much). It is about 1 1/2 inches thick and much bigger than my tiny little Dell Mini 9 laptop. The book is 770 pages!!! Leave it to the Le Cordon Bleu schools to make a text book so big.

As I opened up the book, intimidated by its size, and turned to Chapter 1, I was instantly enthralled by just the first page. The first chapter has to do with the historical background of baking. And when I say historical I mean....back to prehistoric times of gathering. Pretty interesting stuff! Did you know that unleavened flatbreads, such as tortillas, were most likely the first breads ever made? And more than likely they were an accident by leaving the paste of water and smooshed up grains on a hot rock. haha I look forward to finding out more about baking in the middle ages and the first sugar and pastry making. To some this must seem boring but to me it is very intriguing.

I was also very happy to find out (by just flipping through the book) that there are some recipes that are gluten free! Woot Woot! Not only am I allergic to wheat but I have friends that are allergic to gluten. Nice to know that our crazy food issues will be included.

First week looks like it will be just learning measurements and the kitchen. After that is cookies!! Yum!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beginning Thoughts

Well, here I am. A 33 year old former corporate world girl switching her life upside down for a new found career. Am I crazy? Or just finally doing something for myself?

I have wanted to go to Pastry School for about 10 years. Somehow it just never worked out for me. When the universe kept putting me in bad situations within the corporate world, I knew I was in need of a change. Growing up in the performing arts I felt I was way too creative to sit behind a desk all day (even if it was in a marketing department). Having taken a few cake decorating classes through the local craft store I finally made the decision to take that leap of faith....on to pastry school!

I finished up my Sanitation & Safety training last spring and now have my certification (well...at least for the next 5 years until it needs to be renewed). I start my on hands training in the pastry arts on September 1st.

Since many of my friends and family members have asked me to keep them up to date on my goings on at school, I decided to start a blog after seeing the movie Julie & Julia with friends one night. :-) I have never had a blog or even written in a journal really, so this is a new experiment for me. I figure a former corporate world girl going to pastry school could lead to some pretty funny situations. ;-)

I hope you all enjoy keeping up with my new adventure. I am excited more than I can express in words.

In the words of Julia Child...."Bon Appetite!"