Spring cleaning and what not...

Spring in Orlando is humid enough to be summer, and thus far I haven't done too much cleaning. Cleaning doesn't have to be throwing away junk or using so much bleach on your kitchen floor that your eyes burn and drip with tears uncontrollably...It can be more of an inner cleaning, a mental renewal, and a time to focus on goals. I have never understood New Year's resolutions- do you know how hard it is to drag yourself to the gym or not have an extra generous portion of homemade coconut chocolate ice cream when everyone is covered in layers and generally miserable? Not happening.

With that said, I'm a big fan of starting good habits one at a time, and being a (future) pastry chef, I don't have any choice but to work out 5-6 times a week hard. I'm spring cleaning my attitude. I just got a job, typical food and bev in a high traffic area near the convention center. Am I psyched about telling our guests all about our enticing "starters" or "perfectly cool" cocktails? No. Do I like money? Yes. Do I want to own a bakery in the tropics soon? Yes. So Taylor, get to work. There was once a time to be lazy and daydream on the beach and surf twice a day. That time is over... for awhile.

This past week was all about quick breads. I was especially thrilled to bake biscotti, which was a regular treat my beautiful grandmother used to make for the family. We dabbled in muffins, banana bread, pie, danish butter cookies, and biscuits.

Day 1: Danish butter cookies with fruit filling. I didn't actually take this picture until I got home, and they might have been tossed around in the car a bit. Orlando traffic. Fail. However, quite scrumptious.

Day 2: Biscotti means to bake twice. First you bake the dough in a log, then slice it and bake it again. Vanilla almond with orange essence, drizzled in chocolate.

Day 3: Biscuits.... I will never buy biscuits again. This was not only extremely easy, but the technique created biscuits that were tender and flaky and HUGE. These are roasted garlic and cheddar biscuits. Next time I'd probably do sage and cracked pepper biscuits, maybe with a sharper cheese.

Day 4:  Apple pie. This was another common treat my grandmother made for every holiday. She taught me the lattice crust back in the day, what kind of apples to use, and always used fresh fruit. They gave us canned apples (Gag.) I was rusty on my lattice skills but it still came out nice. 

Right out of the oven in class

Day 5: Blueberry mountains, or muffins, and banana bread. I've made better blueberry muffins, and I wasn't crazy about this recipe. I like to use a lot of fruit in my muffins and less sugar. The banana bread was so-so. Banana bread is kind of my thing. Banana mango, banana chocolate chip, sometimes with coconut, sometimes blueberries... Anyhow... this one I topped with streusel and sanding sugar. It was filled with miniature chocolate chips. 

Next week is all about pate a choux, pronounced pot-ah-shoo..... which means eclairs and cream puffs! Maybe even a cream puff swan. When I was in grade school, I used to walk to a little French pastry shop called Denoel on Charlotte Street in St. Augustine and buy one cream puff swan. With cream on my nose and confectioner's sugar on my plaid uniform skirt, I'd wait on the corner for my mom to pick me up. Denoel is still in the same place, and I happen to be going home for Easter weekend, maybe this time with a swan that I crafted. Let's be honest, if said swan is made, I'll be walking to my car with cream on my nose and sugar on my chef's coat. Nothing has changed.

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