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 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.