On the road to somewhere


Sometimes a life lesson comes along that actually makes sense.The road there may be rocky, even venomous snake infested and constantly raining, but a rainbow (double rainbow??) could be at the end. I don't know if I've found a rainbow or anything remotely that cliche, but I did get a chance to change my attitude. Let me explain. 

On day 1 of my cake assembly and custards class, we were moved 4 times to different kitchens, were not assigned a chef instructor, and were mostly in the wrong course. Not only that, but we were sandwiched with 20 other students beside our class topping off at a hefty 40 person class. We were like sardines. All said and done, classroom sorted out, we end up in a culinary kitchen, not a baking kitchen (different equipment and temperatures) with no hopes of leaving until the completion of this 6 week course. Aside from being thrown in another class, the kitchen was a nightmare. Tables so wobbly they could not be touched, no plugs, no mixers, ovens without windows, and worst of all, an internal temperature of about 85 degrees. "How will my buttercream stand up?" I was wimpering under my breath day after day, huffing and puffing leaving school. It is hot in there. I spent the first 2 weeks flustered over the issue, thinking about my tuition and I could do. Certainly I did not enroll for this cluster.

Convinced to find resolution I sought out the head of the pastry department who is a nationally accredited pastry chef. Even upon arrival, I felt silly in my seemingly whiny complaints, and instead of a verbal wake up call, the chef told me a story of her first experience in a 5 star resort where her work station was a trash can turned upside down with a sheet pan over it. She worked that way for 6 months. Our conversation took a more relaxed turn, and I eased when she told me the classes would get small again, but to remember that work experience is not like a classroom. This is a "duh" moment. However, when I was able to let go of how I thought things "should" be, I was able to relish in my accomplishments in a scorching hot kitchen turning out cakes within an hour. Today during our practical exam, producing whatever cake and buttercream recipe we picked from a hat, there was an awfully excessive amount of complaining from students because the room was 88 degrees. I was able to blow it off and accept the less than favorable, sweat inducing conditions and get an A on my cake. I smiled the whole way home, which I do often, partially because I like smiling, and also because today is the first day I have given thought to being a food stylist. Another note on that later. 

Here are a few cake close ups for your viewing pleasure. 
Carrot cake with a basket weave icing design and marzipan carrots in chocolate sprinkle dirt.

Ever had an Opera torte? Coffee butter cream, espresso simple syrup, ganache...

Black forest torte, full of brandy and kirsch

Almond Pound Cake

Devil's food cake with chocolate Italian buttercream and apricot preserve filling- pictured above too

I have three weeks left in this class and the rest of the time with be spent on custards and mousse. Our final project is to create a signature 3 layer stacked mousse with any 3 flavors except chocolate. I'm planning on spinning the concept of figs and honey into a mousse creation. I have a fatal attraction to fresh figs- even dried figs- send them my way.

...And in the world of music: 
If there was one song I could listen to on repeat right now, it's Architecture in Helsinki's "Contact High" remixed by Clock Opera. Don't bother with the original track- too 80s- and not in a good way. The melody is unassumingly familiar, making you mumble along before you know the words, or simply humming the chorus. It's a song I like to place myself inside because isn't music an escape anyway? I haven't had a real escape in awhile.


Sometimes, we cook.

I should say, sometimes he cooks and I dance around the kitchen relishing in not cooking.                      

A beautiful ahi tuna tower. Layers of fish roe, spicy sprouts, ahi, hoisin plum sauce, sticky rice, avocado and arugula. What would we do with the Asian market? Or the fresh fish market.. and so many wine stores. I had to pair this with a dry rose.

Simple yet... Wow. I still think about eating this days after it happened.

What did I make? Simple chocolate mousse, of course. I had to contribute something to the dinner and I had figs on the mind..and dark chocolate..and coconut..and coffee. I don't have a picture for this creation, but it is an elegant 10 minute dessert. I was inspired by Heidi Swanson's No Bake Chocolate Cake. I simply made a couple substitutions. Coconut milk for heavy cream, cinnamon for allspice, and topping the dessert with coconut whipped cream and fresh sliced figs. I like my version better, but until I have some pictures, I guess you'll just have to take my word for it.


Back at it and not in it.....

I love Hot Chip. I want to zone out in my imaginary perfectly stocked catering kitchen, baking oddly flavored (and of course, deliciously mindblowing) pastry confections.

This past weekend was the first time I got to "free bake." Free baking is what I do when I let my taste buds speak and jot down every possible combination with one main flavor. Coconut is where my head's at on this one. Not a fruity coconut, but a creamy and dense pound cake texture. And lime. And cream. And a simple color scheme. Where did I end up.....

Take a look.

Coco loco summer love.

I have to give credit where credit is due- a perfectly simple cookbook I found browsing at the library. Yes, I am a proud library card holder. And I would love to tell you the name of that cookbook, but it's in my car. (Will fix that later..)

Of course I added a few things, took a few things out, and made it my own. My cupcake creation was a coconut pound cake filled with tangy lime curd and topped with whipped coconut cream cheese icing. I accented with a touch of crystallized ginger and shaved coconut pieces.
Candied ginger is a spicy contrast to the cool coconut cream.
I would not be telling the truth if I said this recipe was a complete success. Was it irresistible after I took one bite? Yes. Visually, it did not match my sketches of what it should have been, but I guess I'm bound to fail once in awhile. I pictured tall swirled pillowtops of icing, while the actual icing would not tighten as it should. I blame the Florida humidity. I am so very pleased to give you a recipe after 3 months of just pictures of baking school.

Coco Loco Cupcake
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
7 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350. Line your cupcake tins. Cream together the butter and sugar in the mixer with a paddle attachment or by hand with a spatula. It should look like a paste. Add the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl (dry mixture). In a separate bowl, combine the vanilla and coconut milk (wet mixture). Alternate adding in the dry and wet ingredients, ending with the dry, until just incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Carefully fold the egg whites into the cake batter until just mixed. Use a scoop to portion into cupcake tins. Baking time varies.. give them a glance around 22 minutes. They should spring back when you touch the top and be lightly golden. Let cool completely. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Lime Curd Filling 
3 egg yolks
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lime juice
zest of 3 limes
6 tbsp unsalted butter

In a bowl, whisk all ingredients except the butter. Place the bowl over a water bath on the stove. Whisk about 8-10 minutes, or until thick. When lime curd becomes thick, remove from heat and immediately whisk in butter. Strain in cheesecloth to remove all of the zest. Cover and chill overnight.
*Can be made in advance. I made mine 2 days in advance.

Whipped Coconut Cream Cheese Icing 
1 stick butter
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz cream of coconut
1 tbsp vanilla
4-5 cups confectioner's sugar
16 oz heavy whipping cream

Cream together the butter and cream cheese with a hand mixer until completely combined. Add the cream of coconut and vanilla. Mix. Slowly add the sugar while using the hand mixer. Be careful not to "antique" yourself. Icing should come together but still be a bit soft.

In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into icing. Chill overnight.
*Can be made at least 2 days in advance.

Garnish with tasty bits. That's it. Coco Loco summer lovin cakes.


Summer favorites...

What does summer mean to you? To me, it means listening to Sebastien Tellier, plenty of bossa nova, indulging in rosé wine and long beach/boat days on the water that end with a whole fried fish and a very sandy bed. 

I'm on a summer break, if you can call it that.. after being in college and getting about 5 months off a year, this 10 days off seems a bit cheap, but I'll take it. I finished off my Bread and Viennoisserie class with an A+ and my next is Advanced Patisserie Technique. Finally, I'll be knocking out some tiramisu and maybe even an opera torte. Rumor has it we'll be making frozen desserts too. Add a day or two in cannoli making and I will be on cloud nine.

Here is the rundown in photos of my last two weeks before break.
Channeling a fancy strawberry shortcake~ Napoleon filled with Bavarian creme and strawberry preserves
Handcut pithivier filled with almond creme... I have knife skills..
Cute sugar crusted miniature palmiers
Croissants worth writing home about
Chocolate croissants

Goat cheese, sun dried tomato & basil croissants
I was told not to make bear claws look like actual bear claws, but I couldn't help myself!

This is the "correct" bear claw formation, both filled with pecans, cinnamon and sugar.
Guava filled danish pastry

The second way to do a danish- covered in apricot glaze and flat vanilla icing, filled with apples.
A little slice of heaven if you love honey as much as I do... Baklava.

I brought it home to my mom to share with her friends.
And now finally to the summer favorites list... 

If you are like me then you LOVE sangria....here are two recipes I've been dying to try out: CHOW.com's Lambic Sangria looks like everything that's good in the world. Bon Appetit ( of course) has me salivating over their Rosé sangria with pinapple and guava.

I am kind of obsessed with having a bento box for lunch. A bento box is something so nice looking you don't want to eat it. Food art. It feeds into the Japanese side of me that I claim is real. I had a bento box today. Check them here

I like weird photos. I pride myself in collecting them. Find your own here

Art things. Bellwether Gallery

Fashion things. Les Nouvelles

Where I wish I was spending my summer holiday: Capri, of course. 

And now, I'll send you off with classic Tellier's "Kilometer".........

Sebastien Tellier - Kilometer from Lucky Number Music on Vimeo.


The grass is greener....

Ever been to Assateague? I only surfed it once during my random summer spent in Ocean City, MD, but I think about it often. It is a beach inhabited with wild ponies. They run the show. If they want to trample your towel and eat from your cooler, chomp on your beer cans and whinny all over your folding chair, then move over. I remember watching it from the line up and my jaw nearly dropped in excitement. The reason I recall that day, other than the territorial animals, is because I lived every moment as it came along. Each wave. Each conversation with my girlfriend surfing with me. The clouds. The air (chilly!). And the horrified look on a middle-aged woman's face as a proud pony snorted in her face and stomped on her woven sunhat and rattan beach bag, only to run off with its friends and start an all out stampede.

Sometimes we focus so much on what's to come, we forget to look at what we're actually doing. I am definitely guilty of that right now. I find myself constantly planning ahead, looking to tomorrow, next week, month, and so forth. But what about now? I had to tune back in today. I've been on autopilot. I've noticed it even more since I moved to Orlando. Now when I go to the beach, almost every weekend, I want to spend every minute like it's an hour, and you'll often hear me saying jokingly it's the best day of my life. But when I lived on the beach, I was unhappy, unsettled, and felt like I was wasting my potential... And the cycle continues....and so the grass is greener always it seems. I'm sure I'm not the only one with this habit.

It doesn't help that I've been in a Bread and Viennoiserie class for over a month. The concept of breadmaking is "hurry up and wait." Three and a half hours of this. Make your dough, let it proof, fold it, scale it, rest it, shape it, proof it and so on. I miss baking little sweet treats! Atleast we made puff pastry and did some different formations. There is a lot of photos because I have waited until now to post all the bread pictures. I figured it wasn't that exciting but maybe someone will be fascinated by it. In that case, feel free to drop me a line and I'll tell you all my bread secrets.

This is our main bread oven. I wish I had a single oven this wide in my house. Maybe one day.
J'aime des baguettes.
White pan bread at its finest, aka white mountain bread if you shop at Publix.
Fresh sage, garlic, and rock salt epi formation with baguette dough.
And now in a fougasse (foo-gahz) formation.
And we made brick oven pizzas. I let my partner put meat on the pizza because I wasn't going to eat it.
Rosemary and rock salt focaccia.

Swirled pumpernickel loaf.
 Pain de campagne. Sounds fancy, tastes pretty standard. Contains animal fat. Meh.
 Ciabatta! Mussels marinara anyone?
 Soft rolls in several formations.

 Amish pretzels... they have little fu-man-chu mustaches..
Black sesame, poppyseed, and coarse salt bagels.
Apple cinnamon coffee cakes, double chocolate chip muffins, and cranberry chocolate scones.
Strawberry boulee formations of puff pastry.
Apple or guava turnovers.
Puff pastry pinwheels.
Rosemary olive oil cake with bittersweet chocolate chunks. I can't take credit for this one. I made it from Heidi Swanson's 101 cookbooks website. It smelled divine.
 Challah bread. Pronounced Hollllllaaa... Can I holla atchu?

And finally my brie en croute from outer space. My fluted round details on top really blew up. In hind site, a simple handcrafted leaf would have been better. But I am fond of my little cheese pastry martian.

And now, only 2 weeks left until my "summer break" which lasts 10 days. Can't wait to lounge in my bikini for the entire duration, slam coconut waters, use the ocean as a shower and live like an island child, because that's who I am.


Long awaited peacefulness.

It has only been two months here in Orlando and I can admit to a concrete list of accomplishments... and with that a longer list of undone to-do's, mostly scribbled on random pieces of paper throughout my room.

I officially passed (with an A+) my very first patisserie and baking class at Le Cordon Bleu. I do have more than a few photos to share. Hit play on this Munk banger and feel free to swing your hair around while you browse.

To start, these are the first two cakes I've made at LCB... handcrafted buttercream roses.. don't worry about those. The rest is simple and fairly standard, a yellow chiffon cake with vanilla buttercream, raspberry preserves, and hazelnut coating.

This is based off the world famous Sachertorte.  It is a sinfully decadent, highly addictive chocolate cake with chocolate ganache coating. My cake vision was to throw together some peanut butter whipped cream filling and raspberry preserves to create a peanut butter jelly monster cake. I ate 1/4 of it before swearing it off... and then cutting off another sliver "to make the cut straight" from before.

The conclusion of my intro pastry class was to team up and produce a final sweets table of everything we learned through the course. As I mentioned before, our theme was Alice in Wonderland. Production was spaced out over 4 days and we had to make a couple dozens treats from 6 different categories. It was definitely a change of pace...a couple days with no instruction and free reign for 4 hours of any ingredients. I can totally see myself in the future, putting on my huge headphones and tuning in to beautiful beats for hours on end as I decorate cakes and plan petite fours for parties.

Centerpiece of our table... Cheshire cat morphing into the Mad Hatter hat.. Perfect fondant work done by my talented roommate and baking partner Jadrianna.

Magic mushrooms, mad hatter hats, and lovely little flowers sit atop cayenne spiced chocolate cupcakes with orange cream cheese icing.

 Queen of hearts. Blondies with white chocolate ganache and brownies with chocolate ganache.

 Garden of cinnamon nutmeg spiced linzer cookie flowers kissed with confectioner's sugar.
Pate sucree with lime curd and blueberry caterpillars. If only we could have fit a hookah somewhere...

 Eat me! Drink me! Mini eclairs with chambord whipped cream filling and white chocolate coating.

 Trippy petite fours. Apricot jam filling between sweet spongy frangipane and almond paste.

 French macaroons made into the white rabbit.. filled with guava buttercream... sweet and scrumptious.

 Lemon madeleines so tasty they can make you purr like a walrus.......... what?
The final shot of the table. 

Currently I am in a bread and viennoiserie class. Just last week, I took home 7 baguettes. Help! I cannot eat all this bread. Today we made whole wheat pitas, pizza in a brick oven, and focaccia bread. If you like bread, please let me know and we can work something out. We can even trade for it... but you better have something good to bring to the table... like rollerskates.... or Pocky.

The next 6 weeks are more relaxed and I can breathe again. I have an interview next week for a better job (wish me luck) and Electric Daisy Carnival this weekend.