Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'm no Martha Stewart

Cakes are definitely not my forte. I wouldn't say I hate this unit, but I'm not enjoying it as much as I hoped I would. Everything is tasty, but I just can't get the decorating down. And it's just simple icing techniques at this point! Nothing fancy at all. But, if you can't get the basics, then how do you move on to the more advanced techniques? Ugh.

Classic Genoise (sponge) cake with buttercream icing

Dacquois with coffee buttercream - holy smokes this was delicious!

Chocolate Ganache Cake

Marjolaine - a very complicated cake consisting of about 6 entirely different layers, including chocolate genoise, dacquois, praline buttercream, whipped cream, whipping ganache, etc. However, once complete, it's quite tasty.

Cassis Cake - raspberry jam between layers of cake, with a cassis fruit mousse.

Inside of the cassis cake

Chocolate Cupcakes

Carrot Cake, complete with marzipan carrots

White and Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake

Sachertorte - lots of chocolate, with apricot jam

Dobos Torte - thin layers of cake with chocolate buttercream, and caramelized discs on top

"Enchanted Forest" cake - I ran out of the logs of chocolate meringue, so I added my little meringue stars on to fill in the space

I am missing pictures of the angel food cake (delish!), the lemon cakes (Dave ate about a dozen of them this past weekend), the pound cakes, the pecan coffee cakes, our ladyfinger cake and another fruity creamy cake, and the mess of a chocolate mousse cake we made today. The lemon cakes were almost a disaster, because the power went out while they were baking. There was a collective cry of dismay around the classroom, because we were so looking forward to them. Thankfully, half of mine were done baking, and all of Katy's, so she donated them to my pile so I could take them to my parents last weekend. Also, the chocolate mousse cake was a disaster from the get-go. Our tray was underbaked, so after cutting them into circles and discovering the raw middles, we had to go back and rebake them to dry them out, cut and piece them into squares, try and make a cake without cake molds, and then there was the mousse...oh, the horror. My partner and I made a beautiful mousse - it was perfect. But, since we had to make a cake without the mold, as ours was now square instead of round, we needed a firmer mousse. So, the chef swapped our perfect mousse with another team, giving us this terrible (but firm) mousse that had chunks of chocolate in it because their temperature wasn't right when making it. It was disgusting, and we were laughed at because everyone thought we had made such a terrible product. I'm already not good at cakes, and then that thing had to come along, which makes everyone think I'm even worse than I actually am. Sigh.

Our last test in Pastry 1 is tomorrow, so please pray that I'm able to produce a pretty cake! Then, on Monday, we move onto Pastry 2. I can't believe that I'm a third of the way done already.

Catching Up....

We had a real snowfall last week! Katy was trying to look miserable, since she's from Illinois and "hates" the snow. I however, couldn't stop beaming when I saw that it covered the ground.

Hours later, we have a couple inches on the ground.

Of course, while it was gloriously beautiful that day, it turned to slush the next day. Gray, watery ugliness, all over the streets of Manhattan. Thankfully I had my rain boots and could go trudging through the puddles on the way to school, but there was one that was so deep I thought it was going to overflow my boots - I should really pay more attention when I walk. I think I was trying to juggle my cup of coffee, my cake carrier, and my umbrella and just didn't look where I was stepping.

Also, I went to Texas for the long weekend (yay for Monday holidays from class on occasion!) and visited with the family. I have missed them so much! My plan was to head straight to Pappasito's for mexican food and margaritas right when I landed, but the plane was delayed 2 hours due to weather, so I didn't get in until midnight. So, it was Whataburger drive thru to have a yummy mustard burger, since those are non-existent in the northeast (and Whataburger is non-existent outside of Texas). Gotta love the fancy ketchup too! Made it to Pappasito's on Saturday and then to the grandparents' house to visit. Saw Luke's parents after church on Sunday, then up to Huntsville to see the little sis, mexican food for dinner as a bonus. The pictures below are of Mom and Dave's new house, which should be finished in the next couple of months or so.

Inside of the parents' new house - family room

Front of the house, with Coda in the yard.
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Monday, February 11, 2008


It snowed yesterday for about 30 minutes, so I dragged Luke and Molly out in it to get some pictures. I promise that it felt more blustery and snowstorm-like than it looks in the pictures.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Last Days in Viennoiserie


Marzipan Bees

Apricot Tart on brioche (before baking it)


Tete a Brioche


Brioche Loaf

Unbaked Savoy Scones

Pan au Chocolat, or Chocolate Croissants


We've come to the end of our bread unit, to be completed later in Pastry 2. Speaking of Pastry 2 - we move on to this in 9 class days! I can't believe that I'm already a third of the way through this program. Katy and I take pastries to her sister's office a couple times a week, and when people stop by the kitchen to collect, they are always amazed that we've only been doing this for a couple months. It's so affirming to have people compliment your work, especially after having a rough day in class, where you feel like nothing you make comes out right. Being out in the real world reminds you that most people are happy with anything, and that it's just us culinary snobs that critique food so much. We are our own worst critics, right?

This coming week we start cakes, learning the basics so that we can eventually move on to wedding cakes in our final level. Pastry 2 students develop the wedding project for the Pastry 3 students to interpret and reproduce in their wedding cake designs, but right now there is a bit of a war going on between the current two upper levels. It's a bit tense in the locker rooms, and all of Pastry 1 tends to rush through changing and then hightail it out of there.

The weather in NYC feels like winter again - we had a couple days last week where it was 55-60...felt like being back in Texas. Tonight it will get down to about 12 degrees, and it's quite windy and chilly outside right now. I looked at the forecast for next weekend in Texas - I need to pull out my spring wear and leave the down coat at home.

Gotta make a third trip to the grocery store to try and find tomatillos for enchiladas tonight. Can't wait to get back to Texas and have some good Mexican food! I think I might eat it for lunch and dinner everyday that I'm there.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I'm so behind on posting pictures and updates on class that I had to fit them all into one collage. Quickly describing them, from top to bottom, left to right:

Row 1: Papillons (puff pastry cookies that mean butterfly or bowtie), a sampling of items that the chefs left for us, about 30 seconds after being cut up, a jalousie (puff pastry filled with almond cream and raspberry jam), pithivier (puff pastry filled with frangipane), tarte tatin (caramelized apples in puff pastry - divine), chocolate banana tart with peanut butter creme anglaise ice cream

Row 2: Chocolate Napolean, vol-au-vent filled with concasse de tomates and mushrooms, dartois (puff pastry filled with apple compote), my exam mille-feuilles - once again I have mastered that one, last two pics on this row are from a dessert tasting hosted by the Pastry 3 students...the first one is a lemon mille-feuilles with lemongrass granita, and then a pear tatin with chocolate red wine sauce.

Row 3: Orange Cinnamon Swirl bread, spiked sticky pecan buns (I may have to make these every weekend for the rest of my life), unbaked challah bread, baked challah, Sally Lunn rolls, and fruitcake (eh...not my favorite dessert, funny story about that in a sec)

Row 4: Cinnamon Nut danishes, bundle of baked goods to take home for distribution, close up of danishes, me eating a slice of cake at the Ron Ben-Israel demonstration, the cake I was eating, and Katy trying it.

Row 5: Ron Ben-Israel the cake master, the cake he created with the help of my classmates, Chef LeeAnn from Top Chef who is also a faculty member of the FCI, how I made the grid marks on my mille-feuilles, what the pithivier was supposed to look like but mine collapsed a bit in the oven, and classmates.

Row 6: close up of the papillon cookie, Ron Ben-Israel placing the final tier on his cake, the sugar flowers he put on top of the cake (yes those are fake flowers!!), another danish (not sure why I have so many pics of them), Chef LeeAnn and Chef Ron Ben-Israel again, smoothing fondant on the cake (he makes it look so easy).

Okay, now for the updates and stories. Ron Ben-Israel gave a demonstration yesterday at school, which I was so excited to attend. He is the master of sugar flowers/decorations and his wedding cakes are highly sought after. They aren't necessarily my style, but he is the go-to guy of the industry. Plus, he loves to take interns from the FCI. However, take a good look at the cake that was created for the demo, and try and guess my thoughts on it.

Moving on...we've started a new unit again, and we are finally working with yeast. I've managed to not kill any yeast yet, and my breads have come out beautifully. My challah and my orange swirl breads have great texture and crumb, but the final shape is a little off. I'll get better over time, but at least the texture and taste are right. I have literally eaten half of that challah loaf already, in just a matter of a few hours. I love this unit, but the chefs are pushing us really hard right now, and I always feel like I can't catch my breath. I don't even sit down to eat anymore. I grab a plate of food and set it aside so that I can scarf it down during the last 5 minutes of our lunch break. I am so physically and mentally tired sometimes, but I still love it all. And I'm starting to notice more definition in my arms, thanks to all of the rolling and kneading of dough that we do.

The fruitcake story: we had to make a double recipe so that my partner and I would have a lot of little mini fruitcakes to take home and also donate to the restaurant or family meal. I doubled the flour and doubled the fruits and nuts, happily chopping everything and prepping it to go into the batter. However, I was interrupted so many times so that Chef could demo something, that I forgot to double the eggs, the sugar, and the butter. I couldn't figure out why I was having such a hard time filling the cups, as everyone else easily and quickly piped the dough in. They came out looking very pretty, and with a comparison to someone else's fruitcakes, the taste was the exact same. However, my fruitcakes were the densest, heaviest fruitcakes ever. EVER. Still don't like fruitcake. Hopefully the chefs aren't keeping up with my blog!

Not much has changed in non-school life. Luke is finally back from his business trip - yay!! I'm going to Texas in 2 weeks, and then half of everyone we know is coming to visit in March. If anyone else would like to come visit, please choose April or later. It'd be much appreciated. I start to wonder if they're coming to see us, or if we're just a free place to stay while they tour NYC. :) We might start charging a nightly rate. No, really we're so excited to see friends and family, and can't wait until everyone starts coming around. It'll be so fun to show everyone our favorite places.

We have company this week, and I have realized that I've become such a New Yorker. I walk faster than I used to, plus my tolerance for walking long distances has greatly increased. Katy and I gave up the subway in the afternoons, and we walk home from class everyday, usually with detours on the way, such as to her sister's office to unload pastries. We walk so much, so now skipping the train doesn't bother me at all. I love it! I don't miss driving at all. However, I used to have the worst road rage. Now, it's turning into sidewalk rage. Slow walkers and tourists totally get on my nerves...for instance, we were in Chinatown this weekend, and it was so hard to stay patient, because everyone out walking was at least 70 and it required some creative maneuvering around them.

Speaking of Chinatown...we did Dim Sum on Saturday at this fabulously over-the-top cheesy palatial restaurant, where about 10 women wheel carts around and you do a lot of pointing at food. It was the best meal, and Luke finally got his long-wished-for char siu bao (cha-see-oo-bow), which are steamed bbq pork buns. Delicious! We then ventured out and found bubble tea, and I shall return there probably twice a week now. Chinatown is much bigger than I thought it was, because I've only ever been on Canal Street, which is the big tourist attraction to buy cheap knockoff purses. When you venture out into the actual neighborhood, it's so colorful and exciting, and you really get to see a whole new side to the city. I loved it. Plus, we stopped in at a branch of our bank...the promotion was so funny. They had a crystal clock with gold-plated animals in honor of the Chinese New Year (this is the year of the rat, or golden rat, not sure which), which you could get with opening an account or something like that. So different from the bank in our neighborhood, where we got an Ipod Shuffle.

Okay, we're off to dinner and then I'm really going to try and go to bed early tonight.
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