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Friday, April 30, 2004

Is this not the best compliment anyone could EVER receive:

That is by far the best, very best, bestest cheesecake I've ever eaten in all of my 32 years on this earth.
Kristin H.
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We're finishing up week 2 of cakes. I'm pooped!

Yesterday I was moving so slow. I almost fell asleep in class. I didn't, but it was pretty bad.

I started looking at part-time jobs yesterday because I just don't know how long I'm going to be able to keep this up.

Anyway, yesterday I finished off my cheesecake. I'm really quite happy with it. It's cute and tasty to boot! (Good grief... sounds like a line from "Bring It On")

  • Polka Dot Cheesecake


  • Ryan and I worked together to make our chocolate decadence cake. It was an interesting technique. It's kind of custard like (like a cheesecake), but it's a little different. Again, no flour is used. Chocolate and butter (2 fats like the cream cheese and sour cream in a cheesecake) are melted together, then, in another bowl you make a sabayonne (eggs and sugar that have been heated up to body temperature ~100 degrees and then beaten until they can form medium ribbons). Lastly you fold the two together and bake in a water bath for 35 minutes. Not too bad.

    Anyway, we got the cheesecake and the chocolate decadence cake done before 7. So I moved on to piping roses (not rosettes, actual buttercream roses). It's official. I suck! It was all very depressing. There was an improvement in technique by the end of class, but the buttercream had gotten so soft that it didn't want to hold it's shape. Well, we have to do 100, I got 35 marked off and I was ready to move on. I'll probably crank out the last 65 tonight (IF IT KILLS ME!) so I don't have to deal with them again for a while.

    After working on the buttercream roses, I switched to chocolate roses. I really like working with the chocolate modeling paste. I made an absolutely beautiful rose, held it for a minute thinking I was supposed to DO something with it and then squished it. This morning I remembered what I was supposed to do with it: TAKE A PICTURE! DAMN! Wish I'd remembered. Well, I can make another one tomorrow. It was awfully beautiful and you get such a realistic look (you can get the tips of the petals super thin and kind of wavy (like the old fashioned roses, not the rosebuds). I was very impressed.

    So, while I was finishing up my chocolate rose Chef Ken came over. I mentioned that I'd written Rochetti chocolates and asked them for an informational interview (BTW, Jackie Rochetti emailed me back yesterday and asked that I write her and check back in after Mother's Day... I totally understand!). I asked his advise on who to work for/ whom not to work for. The only real advice he gave me was that, no matter how good/bad the situation is, there is still something to learn... even if that lesson is what NOT to do. I told him I'd been learning for the past 10 years what to do/not to do and I really wanted a good experience. He asked if I was going to be staying in the area and I told him, "Absolutely, Yes!" (Here comes the really cool part.) He told me he should have his shop open by then and I could work for him. That would be very cool. He's so quiet and mellow, but then at the same time also very funny and mischievous. (side note: ever notice how similar mischievous looks to miscellaneous... I wonder where the word comes from, if there is any similarity to the - what's it called? the science/study of words? - between the two) We'll see. I've started trying to be a bit more leary and apprehensive about good things. (The old: I'll believe it when I see it!) It was terribly flattering, but we'll see.

    I also got a chance to ask Chef Ken about my wedding cake idea. I asked if it would be OK if I brought in some gold leaf to use on my cake, he said Sure. I also, kinda, sorta, described my wedding cake idea, particularly the part about the lacy top cage and my idea of piping it around a balloon. He said I'll probably need to do it several times to get it to work properly. Here is the question I just thought of... once I do get one to work, where am I going to store the little sucker? I suppose I could put it in a box and have one of the chefs keep it in they're offices, but, honestly, if I were the instructor, I wouldn't want that responsibility. We'll see. Chef Ken said I should read up on royal icing. Apparently there are several variations that will make the icing more, or less sturdy depending what you are looking for. I'm really curious to find out... I always thought there were one three components to royal icing... powdered sugar, egg whites, water. I could be wrong. We'll see. (Can I just say that I'm constantly amazed at how MUCH I DON'T KNOW!!! In addition to the usual stuff, Chef Ken was telling me that ganache means stupid or idiot [apparently a sous chef in France - centuries ago - knocked some chocolate into some cream and the chef called him an idiot... and then turned the mistake into something good! Who woulda thought?]. He also was telling me that there are actual cheesecake pans. Now, when he mentioned this I immediately thought of springform pans. Nope, wrong again! When you bake a cheesecake in a cake pan and turn it out, the sides wind up retracting in, toward the middle, a bit. So, instead of nice vertical sides, you get slightly - sometimes more than slightly - tapered sides. A cheesecake pan is fluted, like a nice Champaign glass, so as the custard bakes it crawls up the sides and when it cools it retracts down to having nice straight sides. Huh! Who woulda thought. I mean, as much reading as I do and as much Food TV as I watched (years and years ago), you would think I would have at least heard of such a thing.

    We'll be finishing off our chocolate decadence cake tonight, and since we weren't handed any recipes for tomorrow, I'm guessing that it's just going to be a catch-up day. With any luck I'll be able to do another chocolate rose, finish my buttercream roses and get my chocolate decadence cake done. (I'm supposed to bring Casey a slice... or two, but I think I'm going to save the rest for the morning crew at the parking garage. - they're always sooooo appreciative.)
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    Thursday, April 29, 2004

    So something big is happening in my family, I can say because I'm afraid the person it's going to happen to will read this, but I'm pretty excited and sooooo ready to spill the beans that it hurts. I'll write with more details when I can, but in the mean time I thought I'd say just enough to let you all suffer along with me! :)
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    I just got emailed this quote...from a person who just broke off her engagement....

    Life isn't like a bowl of cherries or peaches.. it's more like a jar of jalapeƱos.. What you do today might burn your ass tomorrow.

    Nothing like a little post-breakup perspective to make sure you're in touch with reality!
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    Things move fast on the net! Not to do the old, thank you for the thank you for the thank you bit, but it was awfully nice of Cedric to thank me in his blog this morning. What a nice surprise to start the morning with him mentioning me in his blog.

    For those of you new to reading this, please don't think I have this over inflated opinion of myself based solely on the title of this blog. I'm all about having some fun and totally value the irony of a student chef calling herself superchef. :)

    Anyway, back to school.

    Last night we started a little late, 3:15... the mise en place people were totally unorganized and didn't have everything together... heavens knows why. Anyway, we got a demo of marzipan roses and how to make a cheesecake. It was all pretty straight forward (hint: make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature and keep on mixing until all your lumps are gone... when in doubt, run the batter through a sieve). The one thing I did learn, which totally makes sense, if you want to add chocolate (white or dark) to your cheesecake (marbled, dots or other pattern) make sure you mix it first with cheesecake batter. If you just swirl straight chocolate into the batter it will stay molten while cooking, but when it's cooled the chocolate will harden and you won't be able to cut it without botching your cake. This was particularly good advise because I wanted to do a vanilla cheesecake with chocolate polka dots. (Don't ask me, I just seem to have a thing for dots lately, I think it's because its a symmetrical theme that I can actually do, and it's straight forward enough that I can set my work apart from everyone else's without having to think too much or risk screwing up my end product.) (BTW - Chef Ken asked me if I was going to do a polka dot wedding cake... what do you think? I said that I'd never seen one I liked (and I haven't), but that that didn't mean I couldn't do one that would look nice. Maybe for a groom's cake, but not the wedding cake. Anyway, I mentioned that a friend of mine - not to be named for fear of reprisal - was a huge Green Bay Packers fan and that since her current relationship was working it's way toward the aisle I thought it might be fun to do a nice green and gold wedding cake. YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN THE LOOK ON HIS FACE!!!!! The Horror! The Inhumanity! I just cracked up! [There is no way in hell I'm going to do a green and gold wedding cake... not even if she asked me... not even if she paid me... not even if the GB Packers won the SuperBowl and paid me... well, since I am in this for the money, I might take the money from them... but I certainly wouldn't be happy about it!])

    After the lecture I pulled out my carrot cake (poor ugly little sucker) and my sacher torte and finished them up. Below are pictures of my marzipan carrots in process (very cute), my ugly carrot cake (see, even I can't have EVERYTHING turn out right the first time!), and my sacher torte.

    I had Chef Bob grade my carrot cake. How bad could he criticize it? I mean really... I already thought it sucked. So I cut his slice and then proceeded to start at the beginning and tell him exactly how I screwed up the cake... at least it was a learning experience. (It still tasted awesome, it was just ugly.) Chef Ken asked if I wanted to take it up to Chef Amy's cost control class. Oh sure, why not, I'm OK with public humiliation! :) On my way up an AOS student asked if he could have a piece... sure! he just reached in and grabbed it off the round! Boy must have been hungry! :) When I got up to Chef Amy's class everyone was taking a test, but they were very happy to see the cake (It was just after 5, so it was pretty early, but apparently everyone is always up for carrot cake.). I apologized for it's appearance and told them what I'd done. Chef Amy, being as nice as ever, asked the class if my cake was ugly, a resounding "NOOOOOooooo" came from the class. Then she asked if they were happy I brought up my carrot cake... a resounding "YEEESSsssssss" rang out. (I heard afterward that as soon as I left a line formed and that sucker was gone in under 30 seconds. Poor sugar deprived, math depraved bastards... I hope my standards don't drop quite to that level when I hit cost control - in all reality, they probably will, especially considering I'll be just getting out of 6 weeks of breads, but who knows!)

  • Ugly Carrot Cake
  • (I photographed it the same way I do all the others, for better or worse!)

  • Marzipan Carrots


  • Anyway.... I got back to class to finish off my sacher torte. I only had to write sacher on top, do a little decoration and then I'd be done with that. Very nice. My "sacher" turned out nicely and my decorations, minimal though they were, turned out nicely (I just wish my white chocolate dots had been a little more symmetrical. I think if the chocolate was a little hotter it would have flowed smoother and dropped more symmetrically. Next time.) This time I had Chef Ken come over to grade... he was trying to act all hurt that Chef Bob had graded my carrot cake. Yea Right. If I had to eat 33+ bites of cake a day, I'd probably become Bulimic... after two bites of my sacher torte I needed a glass of milk... something to get that awful taste of chocolate out of my mouth. (I know, this sounds like sacrilege and the first thing you might think is that the school is cheaping out on quality chocolate. They're not. We use Callebaut chocolate, I haven't paid any attention to the cocoa butter %, but I'd bet we're pushing 70%, if not over. So it's good stuff, but it's rich and after multiple bites I was ready for some strawberry, lemon, ginger... SOMETHING else to lighten up my taste buds.) I was very happy with how my sacher torte turned out. There were a lot of cakes that just didn't look good. No way, no how. But there were quite a few that looked absolutely lovely (until the students put hideous marzipan decorations on). The one thing I learned, that strangely wasn't mentioned, is that your crumb coat (that you use the spreading ganache for) should be perfect. Assume there will be no poured ganache. Does the cake have vertical sides and a horizontal top? Are there any lumps and bumps? Does the lip for a perfect 90 degrees? If the cake looks less than 95% perfect the poured ganache will just magnify those errors. If there are little errors then the ganache will smooth them over and make the end product look pretty close to perfect.

    The only criticism I got from Chef Ken on my sacher torte was that I could have taken a little more of the ganache off the top of the cake. Not too bad in the realm of criticism.

  • Sacher Torte


  • By now it's only 5:30. Ryan and I go down for a quick dinner (I needed food, not necessarily a lot, or good, just some protein). When we came back upstairs we cranked out a double batch of cheesecake and crumb crust. I melted chocolate for my chocolate polka dots, but when it came time to add them in, I didn't have enough cheesecake. Thank you Tiffany! Apparently she and Katrina had made a double or triple batch of cheesecake and had quite a bit left over. It was lumpy, but I knew I'd be stirring it with the melted chocolate, so I wasn't too worried. I added the chocolateafied cheesecake with a pastry bag to my plain base and injected dots. I did big dots at the center, 12, 3, 6, and 9 and then smaller, offset ones that maintained the symmetry. I CAN'T WAIT TO CUT IT!!

    After finishing my cheesecake I decided to make one more marzipan rose. Finally a complete one. I finished it, got it graded (I put 2-3 of the petals too low on the base - I agreed) and then forgot to take a picture. If any of you want to see a finished one, let me know and I'll make another tonight.

    For a pretty slow day I have to say I got a lot done.

    Next I made up the sugar paste for making the piped roses. Not a problem, but when I went to do them it was obvious I needed some help. We haven't had a demo on this yet (maybe today, but I wouldn't hold my breath!) so I was just flying blind, trying to take what I'd learned from the marzipan roses and what I'd seen Ryan make and apply it. Yea, right. They looked like crap. I asked Chef Ken to come show me what to do, but we were getting pretty close to 9 and he was trying to finish up the grading. Where was Chef Bob? A 2 hour dinner break? I don't know. I don't care. All I know is that I needed an instructor and I'm paying $25/hour for 2 instructors, not 1, 2, and he wasn't there. It was a good thing it was getting close to the end of the day 'cause I was getting pissed. WTF? Anyway, I wound up throwing in the towel and calling it a day. On the upside I had a relatively easy cleaning assignment - ovens. They were hot because we'd used the deck ovens and the convection ovens and I had to work with Allen (if you remember back, this was the guy who drank during the first week of class... during class!), which wasn't too bad... mostly because I did all the work, but whatever. I don't care what anyone else does. I do my job, I help where I can, I volunteer for extra work/ help the instructors time willing and that's all I can do. I think that's enough.

    Today is a new day. I still can't wait for class to start. I'm not feeling like I'm going on a first date every day, but I am very happy on my way to school and I can't wait to be doing this 100% of the time. The office work is putting me to sleep! :)

    TTFN!
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    Wednesday, April 28, 2004

    I was just reading a review of the new movie 13 going on 30. The reviewer asked the question: If our young selves visited us today, would they like what they see? I got chills.

    I haven't thought about it in a long time, but there, for years and years, not just my early teens, but into college, I just wanted to be good, maybe great, at SOMETHING. An amazing weight has been lifted off my psyche... I am good at something! Even though I know I can be better and even thought I know there are people out there who are better than me, I know I am good and actually have the potential to be great!

    If my 13 year old self saw what I was doing now (working, going to school, making new friends, having a great time, eating amazing food) I think she couldn't wait for it to be her. (If only she knew the not so great stuff that has happened in the 14 years between 13 and 30 that she'll have to live through so she'll be able to appreciate the good stuff!)

    The future is full of unknowns. Forget seeing my 13 year old self now, what would be really intriguing would be to see my 53 year old self now. Now THAT would be a movie!
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    How did Bridget put it? "Is the polka dot cake in the walk in yours? (To which I replied, Yes) Bitch!" hee hee

    My chocolate truffle cake turned out pretty good. I was hoping to have a more circular (instead of oval) filigree, but since I didn't ask, silly me, I did the filigree the hard way... ovals. It still looks good, but not as nice as I would have liked. The chocolate polka dot tiles turned out very nice. Chef Amy came by as I was working on my filigree and commented on the dots, she liked them! Yea!!! (Nothing like a little positive reinforcement to keep a girl going!) I had all sorts of difficulty with the filigree. It was so hot that the chocolate wasn't setting. I actually pulled Chef Ken aside and asked if someone had accidentally used couveture chocolate instead of coating. He said he was sure coating chocolate was used and that I should take it into the walkin. I did and it made all the difference in the world. I really wanted to make my filigree nice and delicate and thin, but as I scraped them off the parchment they kept cracking. What a PITA!!! So I got my cake mostly done and then I had to crank out 15 more filigree in the hope that I'd get 6 that turn out. I was so caught up in making my filigree look good that I almost didn't notice that it was Chef Amy who said she liked my dots, not to mention Ryan must have said my name 3-4 times before I actually looked up and noticed that he was trying to get my attention.

  • Chocolate Truffle Cake - chocolate on acitate used to make tiles


  • Chocolate Truffle Cake
  • Make sure you click the next button, there are several pictures of this cake

    After I finished my chocolate truffle cake and got it graded I started on my carrot cake. Silly me. I've so gotten into the rhythm of splitting cakes, that I split my carrot cake. The one cake I could have cranked out and not have HAD to split and I split the little stinker. Oh well. I did a good job even though there was a lot to cut through. Ryan made the cream cheese frosting so I didn't have to worry about that part. So I split my cake. Everyone loves cream cheese frosting, I'll just frost it! Easier said than done. It was just warm enough that the frosting wanted to melt... and not in a good way. Anyway, I got it all frosted and the portion sizes marked and the rosettes on, it actually looked pretty good. (Notice the past tense in the word looked?) Chef suggested that we add toasted slivered almonds to the bottom of the frosting for the cake, but yesterday (and in the past) he's said that we shouldn't do this until we've cut the cake. Well. My carrot cake sat in the fridge for maybe 2 hours. MAYBE. Definitely not enough time for the frosting to finish setting, particularly considering the heat. So, I cut the cake. WHAT WAS I THINKING??? I got about four slices away from finishing cutting the cake and I was noticing how bad my cake looked in the middle. It looks all caved in and the slices don't come to a crisp point. As I was finishing I realized what I'd done wrong: I should have waited until TOMORROW to do the nuts and the cutting. Oh well. (I actually said out loud... "Well, I won't make that mistake again... I'll probably make some new, equally stupid mistake!" Heh Heh. As long as I try to keep my sense of humor I'll be fine.

    Next we finished off the Sachre Tortes that we made on Monday. I split the cake in half, used a raspberry jam simple syrup and then filled with raspberry jam. Next the cake was coated in a chocolate spreading ganache. Now this is pretty tricky. The cake is relatively moist (at least mine was) and some of the jam spilled over the edge from between the layers so the ganache didn't want to stick to the cake, I just kept coming up with crumbs. After a little fiddling I was able to get everything to stick nicely and after I finished off the spreading ganache I was actually pretty pleased. Nice straight sides, very flat top. Next came the poured ganache. Since I'd made a double batch of the ganache (in exchange for my share of the double batch of cream cheese frosting) Ryan and I used the same ganache to coat our cakes and for the poured ganache. Small problem. When we melted the spreading ganache it had lots of air bubbles. Now, we might have been able to fix this by sending the chocolate through the chenoise one more time, but we decided (for better or worse, I think for better) to make a new batch. I'm so glad we did. I actually think my end product turned out better than Ryan's, but we'll see tomorrow. One thing I've learned is that there are many steps to the final product and even though your cake is good, or you did a good job splitting your cake, or the frosting is good, or your rosettes and filigree/tiles/decorations are good... if you don't get all these parts to pull together at the same time for your finished product, it will wind up looking like crap. So, even though my sachre torte looks good now (hey, my carrot cake looked good at this stage and now it looks like total crap!), let's wait until tomorrow to come to a firm consensus.

    Lastly, Ryan (dear sweetie!) made up a double batch of marzipan and tinted it orange so we could make our marzipan carrots for our carrot cake. During the demonstration I was able try to make the carrots and even though I didn't get a chance to do mine last night, I'll be able to do them tonight without too much of a problem. They are sooooo cute. We use little pistachio nuts for the carrot tops and dip our paring knifes into cocoa powder to mark off the wrinkles in the carrot. Very cute.

    I wound up buying my chocolate truffle cake and giving two pieces to the parking attendants, two pieces to Casey and Rod and the rest came into work with me this morning... people are ooooing and ahhhing all over the place! Very satisfying!

    Hope you enjoy the pictures. More tomorrow night.
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    Tuesday, April 27, 2004

    Could it have been any hotter last night? Maybe... in HELL!!!

    So yesterday hit 91 in the city and I got to walk into a classroom with 350+ degree convection ovens cranking out more heat. Yea. To top it all of the masochistic bastards we have impersonating instructors had us make whipped cream frosting with pure whipping cream (as opposed to whipping cream with various stabilizers in it to help it stand up in the heat).

    Chef Bob did the lecture, which I was having trouble staying awake through, and it was interesting and I was learning all sorts of new things, but when we started working I took one misstep after another and wound up feeling like a complete idiot. Looking back, I think I was so hot and there seemed to be so much to do (we were handed 6 recipes!) that I think I just got overwhelmed, so instead of stepping back for a minute and getting some perspective before diving in, I just dove... not the best choice. After getting very frustrated with myself, I went outside to get some fresh air... and cool down. Thank goodness. I tried calling everyone I knew (or at least had in my cell phone!)... I mean EVERYONE! All I got was voice mail... I would have thought that working through three different time zones I would have been able to reach SOMEONE, but nope, didn't happen. Poor Mom, she got the brunt of it. I left her a horrible voice mail, something to the extent of, "I was hoping to get a hold of someone, I needed to talk so I could get a little perspective, but I guess this is just one of those times in life when I'm just going to have to suck it up and do it on my own." Yikes... a little harsh, but it give you a glimpse into how crappy I was feeling. After not reaching anyone I almost cried... almost. I took a couple of deep breaths, put my hat back on and got back to work.

    This time, instead of diving right in, I organized my tools and then picked a recipe to work through. Started and then finished my cake... just in time to take a break and get out of the classroom and cool down. When I came back my cake was done and I was able to move on to my cake from Friday.

    I realized mid day on Saturday that I'd forgotten to take my cake out of its pan and cater wrap it. I was hopeful that someone had done it for me, but when I got to class there it was, still in the pan, uncovered and dry. Personal responsibility aside, couldn't whomever was responsible for the tray and oven cleanup on Friday yelled out that it needed to be wrapped? WTF? Would that have been so hard? Anyway, I cut my cake into it's three layers, mixed up some flavored simple syrup and got to doing my second cake. (Thank goodness for simple syrup!) Earlier I'd made a chocolate whipped cream, and while I was making my cake for the day the cream and chocolate mixture was cooling. It was nice and cold by the time I needed to whip it and frost my cake. I beat it beautifully, but within minutes of starting to frost my cake the cream started breaking. It was just so hot in the room and because there weren't any stabilizers in the cream it just wanted to turn into butter. Anyway, I moved as quickly as I could... unfortunately I forgot the simple syrup on the second layer... again (second cake in a row). I probably should have decorated the cake in three or four stages with brief stints in the fridge, but what's done is done. I got it frosted and the holding your arm at the necessary 90 degrees to the cake was much more natural than last week. (What a relief!)

    Chef Bob showed us how to make chocolate tiles for the sides of our cakes. Very cool... and VERY PRETTY! Originally I thought I'd do squiggles or streaks, but I wound up doing polka dots. I love them! White chocolate dots on a dark chocolate background. I'll just need to make sure to mark off the squares before I cut them and then use a nice hot knife. Thank goodness for the tiles too... it will help hide the crappy consistency of the whipped cream. Oh well, what can you do? I'll have pictures tomorrow.

    After everything was said and done I stayed on schedule. I didn't fall behind, but I didn't really gain any ground either. Tonight we're decorating our carrot cake from the first day of class. Ahhh, cream cheese frosting in 90+ degree weather... that should be fun. (Not really, but I think I'll separate things out a bit more with some extra fridge time!) While writing this I remembered that I forgot my rose nail and tip, so I'll have to swing by home to pick them up, yea. With any luck I'll be able to learn how to do, and maybe get good enough at, the buttercream roses tonight to get signed off of them. If it's still too hot we'll have to wait another day to do the chocolate roses (similar to the marzipan, but think about working with slightly gooey tootsie rolls)... the chocolate paste was going straight from solid to gooo.... not so good for modeling!

    The bright spot of the day: It can't be any worse. 90+ degrees, hot ovens, not knowing what you are doing... that's really about a bad as it can get!

    I also came to the realization that I'm going to have to break down and get my uniforms laundered tomorrow. I'm just getting too dirty and I don't have enough pieces to get me through the week. I figure two uniforms can't be all that expensive... maybe a couple of bucks... we'll see.

    Back to work. TTFN!
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    Monday, April 26, 2004

    Friday was yet another good day.

    We FINALLY finished one cake. What a relief! Below are pictures of mine, Ryan's and Ami's cakes. We took our cakes from earlier in the week and then decorated the bottom of the cake and then stuck filigree into the rosettes. (The pictures really tell the story.) As I was doing my filigree (I probably made close to 30 so I could pull the best 16 out to use on the cake) Chef Ken came up behind me and bumped my arm. I laughed. He said I was so serious that he just had to. I laughed again. I just want to do a good job. I just want the end product to be as perfect as I can get it - which is particularly funny since we are talking about a cake here... not exactly the cure for cancer or world peace, but still, if you can't be good (maybe even the best) at what you are doing, then why even bother doing it in the first place???!!! When it came time for me to get graded (for once I was willing to have Chef Bob do the grading, but Chef Ken was actually there and saw I was ready so he came over... more on this in a minute...) Chef Ken asked me if I was happy with my cake. Yea, mostly. I like the chocolate sprinkles at the bottom, I don't like how I didn't line the cake up properly, so some of the top layer is sticking through the frosting, I originally liked my rosettes, but then I had to re-adjust my filigree, so now I'm not 100% thrilled with them, and lastly the filigree is OK, not all the same size - close, but not quite there - I'd say I was 85% happy with the filigree. Overall, yes, I'm happy, but I know I could have done better. When we pulled a slice of cake out I was also pleasantly surprised. There was supposed to be equally thick layers of cake and buttercream and sure enough! There were! I think, for some strange reason, even Chef Ken was surprised. The only critique he had on looks was that the sides weren't 100% perpendicular to the top. The kind of tilted in towards the middle. (You might be able to see this on the pictures, but then again, you might not.) After tasting the cake Chef said that I'd done a good job and that I was very critical with myself (for better or worse!), but that that will make me a good pastry chef! YEA!!!! THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN WANTING TO HEAR!!! If only these words had come from Chef Bob, then I would have passed out with joy! It never would have happened, but it would have been nice.

  • Carissa's Chiffon Cake with Buttercream frosting and filigree decoration


  • Ryan's Chiffon Cake with Buttercream frosting and filigree decoration


  • Amy's Chiffon Cake with Buttercream frosting and filigree decoration


  • We, almost the whole class, are officially ahead of schedule. I finished making my marzipan roses on Friday and have a couple of pictures of the steps for you all to see.

  • Marzipan Roses... in process


  • We also made a chocolate cake on Friday. I'm sure the cake will be tasty and I'm really glad Chef Bob gave us an alternate recipe since he's gotten so many complaints about the original recipe, but he didn't take the time to convert everything to ounces or re-write the instructions. I mean, come on. How hard is it? I could do it and I haven't even been cooking all that long. Here they are trying to get us into the swing of using ounces instead of cups and the primary instructor wimps out and gives us a recipe with cups and crappy, at best, instructions. (Vent done.) After completing the roses and the cake there wasn't really too much to do, so Ryan and I asked Chef Ken for a better tasting pound cake recipe. Yum Yum. It was actually a lot of fun. He gave us a list of ingredients and told us to make it... there WERE NO INSTRUCTIONS, but that was the fun part. We'd already made a pound cake, so we were pretty familiar with the process. It was great! I wish I understood the chemical reasons why we did some of the things we did (like, why did we use corn syrup? to keep the sugar from crystallizing? Probably not. To add more sweet flavor, without adding more sugar? Again, probably not... hmmm, I'll have to remember to ask today!)

  • Pound Cake... 1/2 eaten


  • As I was working on the pound cake I asked Chef Ken to take a look at my skills just to make sure they really were all checked off. I'd hate to not be able to do my wedding cake because of something stupid like forgetting to do my chocolate roses (on today's list). Chef Ken commented that Chef Bob hadn't marked off any of my skills. (Sad, but true.) He said that as the course progresses that becomes more and more of a trend. Again, sad, but true.

  • Look at that smile!!! Tiffany and some chocolate cake! Yum yum!

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    Friday, April 23, 2004

    I finished my skills last night. I cranked out the last 16 (ok, I actually made 18) Happy Birthdays and the finished.

    You know that old saying...Birds of a Feather Flock Together. Well I don't know how much Ryan and I are the same kind of bird, but I have to say he is a good motivator. There are only a couple (like maybe 3) of us who have finished our skills. So he's good because he's better than me at this stuff and it helps me stay motivated. (The cooking version of keeping up with the Joneses.) That, and there is NO WAY I'll be as good as him at this stuff (at least not cakes) any time soon because he has so much more experience. Anyway, I'm done with my skills.

    Last night we learned how to cut cakes (well, split is more accurate). We started with our pound cake and split them into four layers (three cuts). It wasn't too bad. After we showed one of the chefs that we knew, approximately, what we were doing then we moved on to our chiffon cakes. I took Ryan's chocolate pound cake and my almond pound cake home and turned them into cakes for work and for Kimberly's son's birthday. hee hee! (HEY, everyone else was just throwing theirs away, so at least I put mine to good use!) We filled and frosted with buttercream and soaked each layer with simple syrup flavored with some liquor. I used rum. Not very creative, but hey, what can you expect at this stage. Rum in the simple syrup, rum in the buttercream. I'm not all that enthusiastic about eating it, but it's going to have to be done. Apparently we'll be finishing/tasting tonight. (Why we didn't do that last night, I don't know. I'm sure there is some big master plan, but, for the life of me, I can't see it!)

  • Chiffon Cake with Buttercream frosting
  • Make sure you click next... there are a few (or a few too many) pictures of the cake.

    I finished my cake around 6:10 and then went off to dinner. Ewwww. It just wasn't good. They were super stingy on the protein and the starch was totally unrecognizable... and sweet. Ick. Anyway, it came with some grilled pineapple, which I'm a sucker for, so overall it wasn't totally unpalatable.

    After dinner I did some serious clean up and then Chef Ken showed me how to make marzipan roses. I made my first one last night and I'll probably wind up making another one or two tonight. I took some pictures of Ryan making his roses, so at least you can see what's going on in the assembly process. I'll make sure to take some pictures of my work tonight.

  • Marzipan Roses


  • After cleaning up and going home started a double batch of buttercream. I felt like such a wreck! I'd grabbed my tool kit, but left my purse (with my cash and credit cards), backpack (with my notes and recipes) in the car. What a loser! At first I thought I'd just call Ryan and have him read the recipes to me, but then I realized I didn't have my phone... great. (OK, sidenote here... have you ever heard that sleep deprivation has the same effects as intoxication? Well, I'm really starting to think it's true. I drive worse. I lose things. I can't track down the right word to say -don't ask me for an example now, because I'm living on even less sleep than usual. Anyway, I'm really starting to believe it's true, I feel like a mess - and not in the I've-been-cooking-and-I'm-wearing-chocolate-in-my-hair-and-look-like-I'm-mid-way-through-an-egg-and-flour-facial kind of way, but I feel frazzled. Hmmmm, can't help, but chuckle and wonder how I'm going to do by the end of class when I do actually add a couple of drinks to this already slightly compromised state! :) I'm sure I'll be fine, I'm just dragging right now... End sidenote!) Anyway, I used my lovely Cake Bible by Rose Levy Bernanbaum to make my buttercream. It mostly worked out, but my butter wasn't as fresh as it could have been and I think it tasted a little like the refrigerator. Anyway, I make up a double batch of frosting and two simple syrup mixtures, assembled the cakes, washed my hands and crawled my butt into bed... it was midnight. Boy did that alarm go off early this morning! Six hours just isn't enough... and it's not like I could get away with not showering or washing my hair, I'd already done that once this week. Ick!

    Anyway, here are pictures. I'm going to finish getting everything done here and then pop out and run an errand or two. This should be an interesting weekend. Out tonight -possible expansion of the gang of 4-, brunch with the gang tomorrow morning, shopping (I need, at least, a hip shirt to go out in Sat night), Cherry Blossom festival in Japan town, dinner and drinks at Mecca (I think... assuming I can get a reservation!). Sunday should be a little more calm... cleaning, laundry maybe a trip to the museum... we'll see what the day looks like.

  • Amy and Bridget


  • Bridget's Cake

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    Thursday, April 22, 2004

    Last night was another good night. A good balance between hard work and fun.

    I got into class a little early (I took my breaks at the end of the day yesterday, so I left at 1:30) and there were people piping away, so I dove right in. Before class started I'd finished my 100 lines and my 100 beads. The stinking frosting kept breaking so they looked pretty much like crap, so I didn't take any pictures, but I was able to see how the beads didn't leave tails with this other type of buttercream. Very nice! As soon as Chef Ken came into the classroom I pounced on him and got signed off.

    We started with a product ID where we looked (and should have tasted more) at different nuts and chocolates. (As I'm writing this I still can't believe I'm in culinary school. Denver seems an entire LIFETIME away. Thank God!) Then Chef Bob did a demo of pound cake (which, if you didn't know it before, was based on the one pound of every ingredient method... hence the POUND cake!). Pretty straightforward. No levener, no salt, just butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Easy. There were a couple of variations mentioned in our recipe, namely chocolate (for making a nice marbled pound cake) and nut. Well with the chocolate you subtract 2oz of flour and replace it with 2oz of cocoa powder, but with the nut you subtract 2oz of flour, but replace it with 4oz of almond meal. Now. I was confused. This doesn't make sense. I would expect that you need the same relative total weight when working with your dry ingredients. So I asked. Why do we replace the 2oz of flour with 4oz of almond meal instead of 2oz almond meal? I thought it was a pretty straightforward question and as the chef he should have understood this question and been able to start the answer by breaking it down into two parts. (More on this in a min.) He didn't. He had someone pass me back the cocoa powder and the almond meal to feel the textures. Sure. There is a slight weight difference (which is part of the question), but overall they don't feel all that much different. While I was feeling someone asked the question about mixing multiple flavors, like chocolate and hazelnut meal. Good question. Chef Bob replied that we are working on texture and not necessarily flavor at this point. Sure, you can make whatever flavor combinations you want, but if you don't know how to cream butter for long enough so that you create air cells, there is really no point in additional flavor. (All this while I'm feeling the texture of the cocoa and nut meal). Now I'm feeling a little dense, a little confused. So I stop Chef Bob and say, Sorry, maybe I'm being a little dense. The two products don't really feel all that different. So why is there a difference in the total dry ingredient weight? Is it a chemical issue (maybe nuts soak up less/ give off more fat???) or is a flavor issue (chocolate being a stronger flavor and almond being more delicate.)? Well did I ever feel like the queen Bitch! I tried to be respectful in my questioning, but he was not great in his answer. Anyway, the answer to the question was that it was a flavor issue. Chocolate is a much stronger flavor and almond is more delicate, so you need to use more almond meal. (You have no idea how many people came up to me afterward and thanked me for pursuing the answer. They had the same question as me originally and when he didn't answer it and diverged away they were still as confused as I was.)

    As soon as we were done with the demo I started cracking on my star tip. I had my 30 rosettes left over from the other day, all my shells and the shell/rosette combos to do. No problem on the rosettes and the shells went surprisingly well. (Funny, I'd mentioned to Ryan earlier that I really hoped that I didn't totally suck at shells. They were my last buttercream skill and I really wanted to get my skills done.) I cranked out my 100 shells without too much difficulty. Now, the trick with the shells is that, while holding the bag in the same two hands, you have to be able to do one forward and one backward. (Left to right and then right to left). I actually did this pretty good too. What a relief. As I was working on my shells Chef Ken came up behind me and knocked my arm. What a surprise! I was irked, but I laughed and moved on. Then he walked by the other way and bumped my other arm. Then I was really cracking up. For the next couple of shells I kept looking over my shoulder. He tried again and I threatened to cover him in buttercream. HA! TAKE THAT! :) As you can imagine, I got signed off on my rosettes and shells without too much drama... of course I'll never ask Chef Bob to look at my work again... I'll wait until the 12th of forever before I ask him to sign off on my work...

    Next I switched to my 0 star tip to do my shells and rosettes (l-r shell-rosette-r-l shell). Now, we had to make 200 of these little buggers and within my first 20 my pastry bag was slippery and greasy. I'm not sure what a good fix for that is (or even if there is one besides getting out a fresh clean bag) so I just kept on working. The buttercream was also breaking... so I made the guys small. Now, this may be operating under a false theory, but I figured the smaller the decoration, the harder it is to see if you did something wrong. Hmmmm I got them done, but I certainly wasn't thrilled with them.

  • Shell Rosette Shell


  • Zoom - Shell Rosette Shell


  • After I finished my last buttercream I took a break. It was international day at school, so there were desserts from all over the world. Some were better than others (lots of bad flavor combinations or poor execution during production, but instead of the usual 4-5 desserts that the plated desserts class makes, they had more like 20-40 desserts. It was crazy.) I'd planned on getting dinner, but Cyril's didn't open until 7 and it was only 6:05 at this point. So I went back upstairs to make my pound cake. (Earlier, while I was waiting for Chef Ken to sign off on my buttercream, I'd measured the eggs and cut and weighed the butter to get them to room temp... they were still too cold, but better than they would have been.) After the whole almond meal vs. chocolate debacle I figured it was my obligation to make an almond pound cake. (BTW, I really wish he'd also mentioned using almond extract instead of vanilla... if you want almond flavor, but want your texture - your dry ingredients- to be the same, you should be able to take out 2oz flour, add in 2oz almond meal and substitute the 1tsp vanilla for 1tsp almond extract, but NOOOOooo this never came up. Odd. Anyway. I creamed my butter and sugar. No problem. Added my eggs one at a time to help create an emulsification with the sugar and butter (of course it started to break so I added in some flour). Of course it kept on breaking so I kept adding flour...by this point I'd used half of my flour. Hmmm, maybe not the best move. After finishing off the recipe I poured it into the pan and baked. Now, mine looked like it had quite a bit more volume than everyone else's. Odd. (Sidebar: I know it's easy to mix up pans, so I ALWAYS get the pre-cut, labeled parchment circle first and then match it up to a pan. We've only used 9 in pans to date, but last night the recipe called for a 10 in pan.) I'm sure you see where this is going. I grabbed a 9 in liner, matched it up to a 9 in pan and went merrily along my way. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!!! Yeash! So I wound up with a VERY tall cake... that looks a little silly next to everyone else's... on the upside, I've got nice straight edges and since the top peaked a bit I can cut a nice flat surface! (Hmmmm, I wonder how a cake would look with, maybe, 5 layers each one being 1 inch smaller than the others??? To keep the cake from getting too tall you could use 1/2 layers of cake. Hmmmm, something to think about!) Later that evening, I also realized that I didn't sift the flour. Oops! It was totally my fault, but with the adding the flour into the butter/sugar/egg mixture to keep them from breaking too much distracted me. (Good excuse!)

    Anyway, after my cake was in the oven I went off to dinner. I was actually not bad. Grilled sausages with polenta. I also had some fresh fruit salad which was pretty good. I finally remembered to bring my camera to dinner, so here are some pictures of the student dining hall. I think its pretty dramatic, but you'll have to see for yourself!

  • Student Dining Hall
  • Make sure you hit next, because there are several pictures.

    Back to class. Time to work on my last skill... Happy Birthday... in chocolate. 50 of them. (Sorry Dad, I thought we had to do 100, but I was wrong... thank goodness!) I got 34 done last night. I was having all sorts of issues. Bad bags, bad chocolate, untalented chef (that would be me!). I really don't like my capital H. I'm going to see if I can't track down some calligraphy on the web today and give it a go. It's a little late to be working on style (maybe if I have more time later, I can work on style), I need to get my skills done so I don't get behind in class. It's not like you can make up this work at home. It just doesn't work that way.

    All in all, not a bad evening. I got lots done and signed off on and I'm meeting/beating my goals for myself for this week.

    Here are some more general pictures.

  • Classmates Working


  • Ryan Looking Goofy!


  • Tonight we're decorating our carrot cake, chiffon cake and pound cake. All with buttercream... if I understood correctly. I really don't like the idea of carrot cake with buttercream, or even pound cake with buttercream, but I don't think we really get a say in this matter! :) I'll have pictures of actual cakes tomorrow. YEA!!!

    Until tomorrow!
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    Wednesday, April 21, 2004

    I've just started my reading for cakes class and have a new book I'd like to get... at some point in time... hint hint...

    Le Patissier Royale by Antoine Careme (translated into English!)
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    Last night was very productive. Dad called me mid morning to remind me that he was going to be in town. I knew it was coming up soon, but wasn't sure about the exact date. We arranged for him to have dinner at the Careme Room and then to take a tour of the school with me afterward. That being said, I had to get a lot done in a relatively little amount of time.

    Now, take a step back, my usual day is actually not overly stressful. Get into class, have a demo, take a break, make a cake, take a break, do a skill, take a break, clean up, go home. Well, since I knew I was going to be gone from class for over an hour, I had to get everything done, minus that hour. No breaks. It actually wasn't all that bad, but once I did take that break, for dinner, it was hard to settle down and not keep going at that pace.

    I got signed off on my filigree last night. Sigh, what a relief. I also got signed off on 77 rosettes. They were smaller than my rosettes from Chef Amy's class, but I got 77 on one sheet. Very impressive. I would have probably gotten some lines signed off on last night too, if it hadn't been for asking Chef Bob what he thought. Now, I'm not looking for the easy way out. I want to do the best I possible can, but if all you get is criticism and never any positive feedback, that's just going to make you grumpy and make it that much harder to learn. After my first sheet of lines I looked over to see Chef Bob standing there. Apparently I was doing them wrong. Fine. He showed me the correct way to do them and then I cleaned my workspace and started over. The next time I asked him what he thought. He said they weren't all the same. Now, I was asking if they started, and finished OK. I was asking about the straightness. I was asking about the consistent thickness. All he said was that the lines weren't the same length. Hrmph. Can I please get a little more than that? I laughed and said, "Well at least they are the same width!" (Which is vaguely ironic because we are all using #3 plain tips and there really isn't too much variation on the width.) He at least smiled. Well, that was a semi waste. Tomorrow I'll be drawing a series of lines 3 inches apart and starting and finishing my lines. Jerk. I'm also going to do my 20 or so rosettes so I can get that done with. Then I can move on to shells, which I'm really not looking forward to, but still need to be learned none-the-less.

    I took pictures last night. Hopefully they aren't too boring, but at least you can get an idea of what our kitchen looks like!

  • Lecture


  • Filigree
  • (Make sure you hit the next button. There are two pictures of the filigree.)

  • Rosettes


  • Class
  • (I should have turned around and gotten a shot of the ovens and the stove... very impressive, but I didn't so this will have to do for now.)

    Oh, before I forget, I got to school a little early last night and was able to track down Chef Amy to get my scores. I got four As. I only missed four on my Safety/Sanitation certificate test (very gratifying). I told Dad about all my As and he asked why I was so surprised. Good question. I've never felt like I been really good at ANYTHING my entire life, so the fact that I do well in this, even though I try hard, is still surprising. Dad suggested that I was afraid of success. I don't really think that is it, I just take success, appreciate it and am surprised by it each and every time. I think the surprise (and desire to continue to be surprised!) of success is what makes it particularly painful (more like a sting than a stab) when my work is criticized. I know when my work is total crap and if it is, trust me, NO ONE is going to see it. So when I do actually ask for critique then I think it's decent enough to show, or at the very least I don't know what I am doing and need some guidance. I suppose, unlike some 18 year olds in this class, I don't just want to be good, I want to be great. With that I understand that this takes time and practice, not to mention a liberal dose of humility and patience (both of which, at times, are in short supply!). I just think that I'm going to avoid Chef Bob and stick to Chef Ken, unless Chef Bob makes a point of coming over like last night... and then I don't know what I can do but grin and bear it! (I can't tell you how tempting it is to just say, Awwww F@#$(*@&#$ it, as long as I get the cake done and the skills signed off on, then I don't care. But I do care. I don't just want to get it done, I want it to be the best. (Yes, I know, there is always someone out there who is better at everything than you, BUT, conversely, there is always something you are better at than someone else... I just want to be a little higher up on the scale so there are more people that I am better at, than are better than me... does that make sense? Does that make me an ego maniac? Hmmmmm, something to ponder.)

    Anyway, I need to get off to work. I'll load the pictures momentarily (while I'm eating breakfast and drinking my coffee!) and then re-edit this so you all can see what I've been working on.

    TTFN!
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    Tuesday, April 20, 2004

    Sorry I've been a little negligent about writing. I haven't gotten my scores back on my exams... later this week, but as soon as I know I'll be sure to let you all know!

    Well. Last night was the first night of cakes class. I think I'm really going to love this class, with one big but!
    Chef Bob.
    As much as I liked Chef Amy and as much as I gushed about her being so enthusiastic, that is about how much I dislike Chef Bob. He's negative, critical (in all the wrong areas), judgemental (again, in all the wrong areas) and just plain not funny (not that this is the Laugh In Comedy Hour!). I just think its kind of funny that we were reminded about the old adage of "You only get one first impression.", but that Chef Bob could really hear that occasionally too. I'm really hoping that I'm an open enough person to let the first impressions pass by and see what I can learn from Chef Bob.

    Now, that being said, Chef Bob's associate chef is Chef Ken. He seems great. A little too quite, but great. In addition to being a teacher, he also runs his own business (VERY BUSY man!). You've just got to respect a guy who works with us all day, goes home and makes half a dozen cakes, sleeps and then decorates those cakes before he comes into class the next day. Yikes!

    In advance, sorry there are no pictures today, I forgot my camera last night. I'll take plenty of pics tonight.

    We started the class with a demo. The method we learned last night was quick bread or a wet and dry ingredient combination. The structure of this class is very different than Chef Amy's class. Much more self motivated, self planned and self scheduled.

    We have to divide our time between the cake that was demonstrated (I think this will happen every night) and our skills. Before we can finish the course we'll have to have made 18 cakes (+a practice wedding cake and final wedding cake, which we can't make until we've completed everything else), 100- rosettes, lines, 2 shells & rosettes, chocolate filigree, shells, pearls, roses out of paste, 50 chocolate happy birthdays, 1 marzipan rose, 1 chocolate rose and assortment of gumpaste flowers and 1 sheet pan of royal icing decorations. Yeash! That should keep me occupied for 6 weeks!

    Last night Ryan and I decided to work together. Everyone else started working on their cakes first, so we started with the chocolate filigree. There are four designs (you'll see them tomorrow when I post the pictures from tonight). Three of them aren't all that difficult, but the fourth is a real bugger. The nice thing is that we don't have to do 100 of each, we just have to do 100, so we can get signed off wherever we can. Last night I just had Chef Ken take a look at my last round, so I got signed off on 24.

    After we did a couple of sheets of filigree, and most of the class had their cakes in the oven, we started our cakes. I measured out the wet, Ryan did the fruit/veggies, I did the dry that needed to be weighed, Ryan did the dry that needed to be measured. It actually worked out really well. Couldn't have asked for a better benchmate! We took a leisurelly dinner (maybe a bit too leisurelly, but it was only 40 minutes) and then came back and did more filigree. Just before dinner we removed our cakes from the oven to cook. Funny thing was that there were people who had put their cakes in 20+ minutes before us we were taking their cakes out at the same time. Our suspicion is that our cakes will be nice and moist and theirs are going to be little round bricks. Hmmmm, we'll see tonight!

    Anyway, it was a successful night. Aside from starting the evening feeling like a cat being petted backward, I think it was a good day. I can't wait to get signed off on all my comps, which might happen this week, but probably not. My goal for this week is to get signed off on filigree, H.B., rosettes and pearls and learn how to make shells. We'll see if I'm being too ambitious.

    I'll make sure to take pictures tonight!
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    Friday, April 16, 2004

    Last night was great!

    I walked into class thinking we were going to have a S/S review and everyone was getting set up for comps. Great. Well, I was about 10 minutes early for class, so I started setting up too. I can't find my peeler! It must be at home, but what a pain!

    I got my station prepped for doing fruit first, but I also made a bunch of paper cones (as perfect as I could so they would work well!) and got my pastry bags ready to go.

    When we started I was a nervous wreck. I totally had the shakes. Sharp knifes and the shakes really don't mix! :) I think I had less fruit on my plate than anyone, but hey, mine looked awesome! I'm not sure if I mentioned it yesterday, but I kind of made bugs. (General philosophy: focus on the positive, draw attention to the good) I only put perfect fruit on my plate and then arranged it beautifully. I got all the points possible for this skill. Here is a picture:

  • Fruit Plate Presentation for Comp


  • I moved on to rosettes and beads. Thankfully I just traded workstations with Bridget, so I didn't have to get anything else ready. Soooo much easier! I wasn't really all that worried about the beads, so I did them first. After the day before I was pretty worried about my rosettes, and I did make and then remove about 10 (four of those were at the beginning and they were too spread out, so I wasn't going to be able to fit 10 across). Even though I was squished against the wall for the first rosette in each row, they still wound up looking pretty decent. I got all the points possible for this skill, too!

    On to chocolate. The bane of my existence! I started with Happy Birthday. Lets just say I had some technical difficulties. By the time I was done writing it 6 times (which I did so after going through two cones) I had chocolate coating my entire right hand... it wasn't pretty, and frankly, neither was my writing. Chef Amy took off .25. Now the pressure was on. I still had two more things to pipe in chocolate and I didn't want to loose any more points. I did Happy Anniversary next because it is the second longest and I was worried about time. (Remember, we only had 1.5 hours, that's 30 minutes for each exercise, 10-15 depending on how you break it down.) Lastly came Congratulations. I was actually the second one finished. I would have KILLED for a clock in that classroom, but it all worked out.

    Over all, on all the comps, I only missed that one little quarter of a point. I actually got the same score as Ryan who missed .25 also because his rosettes weren't as uniform as they could be (of course he did do them in about 2 minutes, if that! Brat!). So I felt pretty good. Geeezzzz, I've really got to remember to breathe and I'm not so sure how to handle the shakes. They were gone by the time I finished my buttercream, but they were a bit distracting. I was pretty conscious about the breathing. I would stop, bend my knees, take in a deep breath and then keep going. It probably only took 10 seconds, if that, but it did calm me down. The time pressure is also something I'm really going to have to get used to!

    After cleaning up we got a nice long break. We needed it! I chugged a Hansen's energy drink, 2 Alieve and downed a granola bar. I was ready to go!

    When we came back Chef Ken talked to us about Cakes class, handed out his business card, and the class requirements. Not that I was planning on it, but I'm going to make sure I don't miss a single day of this class! I don't know how I could possibly catch up!

    Chef Amy gave us the choice of doing the S/S review and then dinner or changing it up again and doing the Food Science final and then dinner. Those of us that wanted the next test right then won (there were only 8 or so of us that spoke up, but hey, in a voice count, if you speak up, you win!). I'm not sure if I mentioned it yesterday, but I used PowerPoint to write up my notes and then did a slight (95%) shrink to fit page. I had definitions, drawings, the whole thing and it was in a very legible 10 point. Everyone thinks I 1) have way too much time on my hands or 2) am totally anal retentive! Either way, I don't care. I'm 98% sure I only missed one, maybe two out of 80 (or maybe it was 100) questions. It was great! I love open notes!!! (Particularly when the teacher tells you what to include in your notes!) :) It only took me 15 minutes to finish the test.

    Off to dinner, plated desserts and a walk around the block. Dinner was horrible, not even worth mentioning, but the plated dessert I got was phenomenal! It was a caramel Napoleon and it was filled with caramel mouse. YUM!!! The pastry layers were nice a flakey and light. The caramel sauce (which I've never had a bad batch of yet!) was creamy and rich. The caramel mouse. YUM! Light enough to not be too over-powering, but definitely had that nice rich creamy burnt sugar taste. (Boy do we like ripping molecules apart! VERY TASTY!)

    After we got back we reviewed for the S/S exam today. At first I was furiously writing everything down and then I realized I knew everything Chef was saying, so I stopped and only wrote down what I didn't know. (Which was minimal.)

    Then we got to go home. Thank goodness I took that Alieve earlier in the day. I'm sore as I write this and yesterday I got a charlie horse in my thigh... I think I need to eat more bananas, but I've also started taking a woman's one a day multi vitamin. Hopefully that will help keep me healthy and a little more balanced.

    After three visits to the security office yesterday (WHERE did I find the TIME!?!?!) I got my student ID card. Yea, that's done. That little sucker is NEVER leaving my car!

    Well, off to work. Talk to you all later! I'm ravenous, so I'm going to go get a bite to eat!

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    Thursday, April 15, 2004

    Last night was bad. After trying to get my replacement student id card before class (which was supposed to be ready the Friday before spring break and which allows me to pay $7/night for parking instead of $14-18) I went to class a little grumpy. I left my phone number and told them to call me and then let me know where I could pick it up.

    We started off class with S/S review on chapters 9-11 and then took the quizzes. I missed four on chapters 9 and 11, but somehow, by some act of mercy, I got my first perfect score on a S/S quiz. Chapter 11. Yea! (Considering how the rest of the day went, this small victory was forgotten until now.)

    Chef Amy finished lecturing on S/S and then moved into Food Science. After completing all she was going to cover in Food Science we got a chance to pop into the cakes class as they were working on their wedding cakes (which are due Friday... lots and lots of freaking out students everywhere!). It was really very cool! I'm not so sure I'll have that opinion once I'm in there, but I'm ready for a change and as much as I like my nice clean uniform... I'm Sooooooo ready to get dirty! (I did leave class wearing a fair share of blue buttercream, but that's another issue.)

    Just before dinner we did the review for the Food Science test. We are allowed one page of notes, so as soon as I'm done writing here I'm going to type up theses puppies!

    Dinner was disappointing at best. Dessert was really bad. Poached pears with whipped ice cream and whipped cream... the texture was good... a little mushy, but I think that's kind of the was they're supposed to be, but the flavor was just not good. I also went out on a limb and ordered mochi. Now I've had mochi, and I knew what I was getting (and the high point of the evening was seeing Ami, Ryan and Bridget actually eat the stuff... the LOOKS ON THEIR FACES!!!... it was priceless!), but it just wasn't what I wanted. Technically, I think whoever made it did fine, and I know it's more of an eastern sweet, but it just wasn't doing it for me. Presentation was a little lacking on the mochi, but at least someone tried something very different.

    After dinner I went to find the Security office to pick up my student ID. They were closed. (How can this be? What if there was an emergency? How would anyone get a hold of them?) I went over to admissions. The doors were locked. I called... again, no answer. Great. I'm going to have to call this morning and raise some holy hell! I know I shouldn't be getting stressed about this, but I've had to wrangle two different people to go with me to get my car so I won't have to pay the ridiculous Civic Center parking fee. It's a pain.

    First lesson anyone learns when they cook with me... Don't piss off the woman with the big sharp knife.

    We got back from dinner and started our practice comps. I was very concerned about the time limit and even more cranky about the student ID. We only have 1.5 hours to make 50 beads, 50 rosettes, 6 each of Happy Birthday, Congratulations, and Happy Anniversary written in chocolate and a fruit plate that consists of apple jullianne, orange supremes, strawberry fans, pear slices and chiffonade of mint.

    I think my mistake was starting to work with the chocolate. Chocolate is a tricky medium. If you parchment tube wasn't made well... you'll have problems. If you move too slow and the chocolate cools too much (especially at the tip).... you'll have problems. If you get a lump.... you'll have problems. If you cut off even the slightest bit too much of the tip... you'll have problems.

    I think maybe, out of 20 each, I got one decent Happy Birthday, Congratulations and Happy Anniversary. At 8:30 I thought it would be wise to move on to buttercream.

    I made two sheets of almost 50 rosettes first. After the first sheet I asked Chef to come over and take a look. I knew some where better than others, but she said I needed to focus on the follow through (so I don't have little tails pointing into the air) and on consistency. I know WHAT I need to do, it's just a matter of doing it. She also told me that I needed to remember to breathe. Now, I've never fainted, and I'm certainly not going to start now (think of the insurance costs!), so I thought I'd better try taking her advice. After doing my second sheet of rosettes with mixed results, I moved on to beads. I think I did a hundred before I asked Chef to come take a look. I told her to ignore the first 50, the second 50 looked better. She said that they did look better, and that I still needed to breathe more. There was something not overly convincing in her tone... I don't think they were the best beads I'd ever done, but she was tired (she'd also taught Chef Steve's morning class) and she knew that I was being pretty hard on myself, so I don't think she was quite a forthcoming as usual. (My new technique for beads is actually pretty good, but it involves putting my entire left forearm on the bench... no wrinkles in the bead, lots of frosting on the arm... oh well!)

    Around 8:35 I moved on to the fruit. Now, today, when I take the comp for real, I'll be doing the fruit first. There was no mint left to chiffonade and I've never done that in class... eek!, but I am familiar with the technique, so hopefully it'll be what Chef is looking for when she grades. My orange supremes were, well supreme. They were the best I've done to date. (not too hard as long as you take nice long knife strokes and don't leave ANY pith!) This was the first time I'd done strawberry fans and Chef said that I had the technique down, but that I needed to made the slices smaller... can do! My apple jullianne... well, lets just say that I didn't jullianne when we worked with apples. I don't know if I wasn't paying attention (highly unlikely) or we just missed this part, but I did, so yesterday was the first time I did that too. My pears actually worked out pretty well.

    For presentation I going to make bugs. It just kind of came to me last night as I was arranging the orange segments. I can do two flying bugs/butterflies and a flower (all pretty highly stylized, of course, but it's the idea that should get me some extra points.) I'll take pictures tomorrow for you all to see.

    Overall I finished on time, but I was very discouraged. You know, there are just some days and some points in school where you just want to do something well. ANYTHING! ONE THING! But you want to do it well. I didn't feel like that happened last night. I kept trying, but it just wasn't meant to be and frankly, as long as I can suck it up tonight and come through for the real thing, that's ok, as long as this doesn't get to be a trend! I know Chef Amy isn't looking for perfection... especially not at this stage, but an improvement is the desired result...

    Well, off to get ready for Food Science! I should probably get some breakfast too!
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    Wednesday, April 14, 2004

    Well, last night was the first night back from break. Sigh... it was good to be back in class and even though this is going to be a mad crazy week, I know it will be good.

    Poor Aunt Sharon has been having some root canal issues, but got me these pictures from her and Mom's visit to the school. Not too bad! Now everyone can see what I look like in my chef's uniform!

  • Mom, Aunt Sharon and I... in uniform!


  • We started off the evening by playing Safety & Sanitation Survivor. It was kind of like a spelling bee, but with S/S questions. I got a little over 1/2 was through. Stink. (I sat down on a very stupid question...well, stupid, but important...Q: "What do you have to do when you defrost in the microwave?" A: Cook the food right away. Oh well, you can guarantee I won't miss THAT one on the test.

    Our first skill was supposed to be making strawberry fans, but apparently the price of berries has gone through the roof and the school is refusing to buy them. We'll have some for our comps, and maybe our practice tonight, but no extras for practice. So we did buttercream. It was actually a relief. I cranked out some nice beads, a bit on the large side, but pretty consistent. As for the rosettes, I really need to make sure I don't leave little holes in the middle. Very bad. The frustrating part is that I KNOW how to do them right, but somehow at the moment that I start (which is usually when I mess up) I either don't squeeze out enough frosting or I start to make my circle to wide. At least I think I've identified the problem... now all I have to do is fix it!

  • Beads & Rosettes


  • We finished the last two chapters in the Safety and Sanitation book, so now it's all studying.

    Dinner, was, well, not great. I was a new batch of chef's first day so there was a buffet. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't as hot as I would have liked. Oh well. We also missed dessert so it was a double disappointment! I suppose I could have had a crepe, but didn't... thinking back I'm not quite sure what I was thinking!

    After dinner we did food science and then more buttercream. Lastly we took another quiz which I think I got another perfect score on... we'll see tomorrow. I forgot my calculator, so I did quite a few of the computations by hand. What a nuisance!

    Anyway, when everything was said and done, it was a good day. Went by quick. Learned something (can't remember what, but there just HAS to be something). Went home tired.

    Here we go again!
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    Tuesday, April 13, 2004

    I Am A Chef
    A Poem From The Kitchen
    By: Jema Ema

    I am a chef, every day I wake-up tired.
    I am a chef, every day my feet are sore.
    I am a chef, every day I ride the bus with workers who will finish at five.
    I am a chef, and today I will skip my break.

    I am a chef, every day sweat stings my eyes.
    I am a chef, every day I deal with bullsh*t
    I am a chef, every day I fight waiters.
    I am a chef, I have scars to prove it.

    I am a chef, every day I peel chop and slice.
    I am a chef, every day I learn, teach and create.
    I am a chef, every day I reach a natural high.
    I am a chef, and at the end of every day - I am proud of what I do.

    Today is the first day back to school from spring break. Again, I'm nervous. Have I forgotten everything we learned in the first two weeks? Will I still remember how to make rosettes and those damned beads?

    Last night I got pretty organized. I did every last scrap of laundry and packaged four days worth of uniforms up in plastic bags... one less thing to do after I get home from school. I also pressed those stinking hats! What a pain, but at least I won't look like a wrinkly dork who doesn't even own an iron! :) I also did every last dish and made up lunches for the rest of the week. (Boy am I going to get tired of pasta with asparagus and sun dried tomatoes!) I also got all my tools and books together for the rest of the week, even though we're going to be testing most of the days. (Have I mentioned that I'm a little nervous about the tests!)

    Foruntately, Mike (my boss) is out of the office all day Wednesday and Thursday and for a nice chunk of today. I've been very bad and not studying (I got sucked in by GlobalChefs.com!), so I'll have to suck it up today and get to it! I'm going to review all my S/S stuff today. Anyway, back to work.

    OH, before I forget. I ran across the poem above on the globalchefs.com website and I was at once taken aback and proud. Thank you! We all know it's a tough industry, but the rewards are well worth the pain and hardship.

    I'll update more tomorrow.
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    Friday, April 09, 2004

    There is a tide in every man's fortune, which, taken out at the floods, will lead on to fortune.
    William Shakespeare

    I ran into this quote yesterday while I was doing research for the world's smallest term paper. The person who used it wasreferringg to the effect of cooking school on one's career path and later success. I thought it was wonderful.

    Last night everyone came over for dinner. I'd originally suggested that we go to Foreign Cinema, but Bridget reminded me that we're starving college students. Since she was so nice as to point this out, she made dinner! hee hee

    We had salad, garlic bread, and tortellini with tomato basil sauce and Trader Joe's andoullie sausage. Yum! We also cracked open two of the bottles we bought the other night. The first was the Chardonnay and although it wasn't bad, I'm pretty sure that Chardonnay isn't really my favorite. The second bottle was a Sauvignon Blanc. It was MUCH better. No little bit at the end of each sip, much smoother.

    For dessert I made bread pudding with chocolate hazelnut spread on each slice of bread and some Frangelico in the custard. I served it with some strawberries that had been macerated in Frangelico and some whipped cream with vanilla paste. It was YUMMY! And soooo easy!

    Chocolate Hazelnut Bread Pudding
    Serving suggestion: Sliced strawberries and whipped cream. The cream will melt from the heat of the pudding, but that's not an altogether bad thing.

    Ingredients:
    8 slices older bread
    Chocolate Hazelnut spread (Nutella or something similar)
    4 eggs
    1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    1/4 cup milk
    1/3 cup sugar
    2 tsp. vanilla
    3 Tbs. Frangellico (hazelnut liquor)
    Turborino sugar (Sugar in the Raw)

    Directions:
    Pre-heat oven to 400.

    Spread the chocolate hazelnut butter on all the slices of bread and then reassemble into a rough loaf shape in a bread pan. (Alternately you can tear or cut the bread into chunks and put into a casserole or pie plate... whatever you have handy.) Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and beat until you have a smooth mixture. Pour over the bread. The bread will soak up a fair amount of the custard and when it starts to float, you'll know you've added enough. Make sure all the bread has at least been moistened by the custard (even if it is sticking above the top of the pan). Sprinkle with Turborino sugar.

    Bake at 400 for 15 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350 for at least another 1/2 hour. You'll know its done when the internal temperature is 165 or the custard is a little shakey. (If you hate eating raw eggs, you're definitely going to want to make sure your custard is cooked all the way!) The top of the custard will poof a little.

    Pull out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. The poofy part of the custard may deflate a little, but don't worry about this.

    Slice up strawberries, sprinkle with 2 Tbs. sugar and 2 Tbs. Frangellico. Let stand for 10 minutes.

    Beat 1/2 cup heavy cream until stiff peaks form (make sure you don't overbeat, or you'll wind up with butter!).

    Serving idea: Scoop out large slices of pudding and add to one half of the plate. Spoon strawberries into the other half of the plate and add a dollop of whipped cream so that it hits both the pudding and the berries.
    (1) comments
    Quote of the day:
    You have to try everything once, even if you have to close your eyes.
    Diana Kennedy

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    Wednesday, April 07, 2004

    Quote of the day:
    Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death because they can't decide what they want to eat.
    Meredith Brody


    I think I'm getting addicted to blogging! I haven't written in two days and it feels like years... I've missed sharing.

    Yesterday Ami and Ryan called me to check in and see what I was doing. I suggested that we make a pilgrimage to Trader Joe's after I get off work and then go back to my place to make some magic out of the leftover artichokes from Saturday night.

    Ami and Bridget had never been to TJs. (Ami is from NY and Bridget is from Eastern Washington.) They were overwhelmed. I shared a quote with Bridg that I'd read earlier in the day that seemed to accurately describe her feelings. "The world is a buffet and we're starving because we can't choose what to eat." This quote was specifically directed at the abundance of options we are given at supermarkets. I have to say that even as I read the quote I was feeling a little contrary. I, as a budding chef, love the variety. I am a very visual person and if one thing doesn't look good, I'll move past it to something else. When there are lots of options I get to try lots of different things. I could have very easily taken one of every sort of produce from Berkeley Bowl. Heaven knows what I would have done with them, but I would have worked my way through.

    We picked up several odds and ends and then dropped Ryan's groceries by his apt (he had the most stuff and since they'd be walking home and we drove right past his place on the way to mine, it only seemed to make sense.) and then headed on to mine. I can't tell you how nice it is to have people to help you with the groceries! It can be a lot of heavy lifting if it's just you!

    I set Ami to work making a tomato and mozzarella appetizer. I didn't have any basil, but since there was mint leftover from Saturday night, we thought we'd give it a go. It actually was a nice compliment, especially with the sweet notes from the balsamic.

    While Ami was doing her magic, I set Ryan to work getting at the artichoke hearts. There were plenty of leaves left and he wasn't about to waste them, so he and Bridget and Ami ate them away. No waste in a chef's kitchen!

    While they were working on that I was dicing garlic and some thyme for the cream sauce. As it worked out I had some rue already made up from some chicken fat. It worked beautifully. After Ryan had pulled out the chokes, there was a nice little pile of butter mixed with salt and pepper and artichoke juices in the bottom of the serving pan. I promptly scooped those leftovers up and used them in the sauce. (artichoke drippings with most of the water cooked off, add diced garlic and saute, add 1oz of rue, cook until thickish, add heavy cream and stir until you get a nice thick sauce-you may need to add another oz of rue, the sauce will be too thick, at this point add some milk to thin it out. Next add diced up artichoke hearts-don't even think about doing this with any canned variety, about a cup of freshly grated Parmesan and about 2-3 tsp of thyme leaves. Because the drippings already had salt and pepper in them I didn't even need to add salt or pepper.) I've never had all that much luck with cream sauces. I'm sure this is mostly due to lack of trying, but this was amazing. I'd picked up some brown and serve bread (1 loaf sourdough, 1 loaf 3 seed sourdough) and we recycled the salad from Saturday night. Yum. With the tomato/mozzarella salad it was divine.

    Ami our mixing queen made very yummy, yet unnamed drinks. Peach nectar, Absolute Lemon, Club soda. Light, refreshing, fruity.

    After dinner we attacked the coconuts that we bought on Saturday and didn't attempt to break into. Let's just say that it was interesting.... and that I lost a plate in the process. I broke out the power tools and drilled through the shells and drained out the milk. (Other than drink it, I'm not quite sure what to do with it.) Then took my hammer to the nut. We all tasted the raw coconut and were all sufficiently underwhelmed. I diced up the coconut, added sugar, vanilla and egg whites and baked it in a muffin pan. Then turned them out onto a cookie sheet and baked again. I think I should have cooked them longer and shredded the fresh coconut with the cheese greater, but it was a valiant first try. I melted some bittersweet chocolate and spooned it over the custardy coconut mounds and then topped with some whipped cream flavored with some sugar and vanilla bean paste. (If any of you can find vanilla bean paste, snap it up. It's a really good deal and it makes adding amazing vanilla flavor to any dish a piece of cake!)

    With dessert we had a Bonny Doon Framboise. It was sweet and fruity. Lovely color and smell. I think Ryan is getting addicted to dessert wines. They really do make the fruit flavors in the dessert so much more complex.

    At 11 I kicked everyone out. Early morning for me.

    Tonight I'm getting several hours of bodywork done. Chiropractor, massage and then steam. It should be divine and I should be a pile of mush by the time I get home. I can't wait!
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    Monday, April 05, 2004

    Last night Ryan and I had the most amazing dinner. We went to Cafe Kati. (This morning I learned it made the Top 100 Restaurants in San Francisco for something like the 5th -conservatively- year running.

    We got a bottle of Chardonnay (since he was having duck, I was having pork and our appetizer was seafood). We started with Dragon Rolls. Yum. Shrimp and crab rolled in rice and seaweed with salmon around each roll. As we ordered Ryan commented that he only likes sushi to be one bite. I agree. Seaweed is just too difficult to bite through gracefully. When the rolls came they were pushing the circumference of a baseball. WAY TO BIG. The way the rolls were plated was lovely, but since the rolls were big and there was a dipping sauce, we were a little confused about whether we should use chopsticks or cut up the roll and then dip them. It was all just a little confusing, but the flavors were so amazing that getting the food to our mouth was really not an issue once it actually got there.

    For dinner I had the double cut pork chops with broccoli rabe and sweet potato gnocchi. Ryan had tea smoked duck breast on a bed of jasmine rice with some sort of veggie.

    I honestly can't remember the last time I ordered a pork chop and it wasn't overcooked. This was a very large cut of meat. After cutting into it and taking several bites, I realized the the chop was stuffed with a little goat cheese and some sauteed veggies (I think maybe squash and onions). The stuffing just sent the dish over the top.

    I usually have a rule that pork should NEVER be served without fruit (fried apples, cherry confit, cranberry sauce...), but I went out on a limb and got this pork. The sweet potato gnocchi that was served with this dish was wonderful. Light, pillowy, not gummy at all and the sweet potato flavor went really well with the pork.

    Ryan's selection was equally tasty, unfortunately he didn't get nearly as much meat as I did, but what he did have was amazing. (Have you ever had the experience with food when you try something so amazing that you know, given the opportunity, you could turn into a total glutton? This duck had that effect on me!)

    For dessert we ordered the meyer lemon tart and the two sorbets (passion fruit and blood orange) and a glass of moscato (we'd been discussing dessert wines and pairings the night before with the group, and since Ryan had never tried a dessert wine it seemed like a perfect time). When our dessert came the tart had a three inch halo of spun sugar stacked on top. If you've never had spun sugar, think of the edible version of the angel hair that people use for decoration at Christmas time. It tasted a bit like classy cotton candy... assuming it was made with cactus thorns. It really sounds much worse than it tasted. I really enjoyed it. The lemon tart was just about the best I've ever had. The lemon curd was a bit looser than I usually make, but it was creamy and let me focus a little more attention to the crust. Now, if you know me very well, you probably know that I HATE pie crust. I can't make it worth anything and I can't honestly remember the last time I had a crust I actually liked enough to remember it. The pie crust on this tart was amazing. Very light, buttery almost a shortbread type crust. yum! Definitely worth returning for.

    I was a little disappointed with the sorbets. We'd ordered one of each of the night's sorbets and the waiter made a mistake and brought us two passion fruit servings. Now, I'm not sure if they were out of the blood orange or what, but he confessed that it was his fault, but didn't do anything to fix the situation. In addition, when the sorbet got to the table it was very melty. It looked like it had been served and then accidentally placed under a heat lamp. (VERY BAD) The flavor was good and the texture was also very appealing, even more so with the Moscotto, but I was really looking forward to the blood orange.

    Anyway, after we were done the waiter came over to see if we needed/ wanted anything else and I asked him if there was anything else to order! We all got a good laugh out of that since we'd already ordered something from every part of the menu.

    Anyway, that was dinner. It was wonderful and I would highly recommend it.

    Tomorrow is my nephew Matthew's 5th birthday. Months ago, before I started school and knew what my schedule was going to be like, I promised to make him a cake. We discussed it and decided that it should look like Legos. After sleeping late yesterday I finally got up and made the chocolate cake and got the crumb coat of frosting on before dinner. After I came home I finished decorating and assembling it. I have to say, even though it is a little messy and the colors bled in some areas, it is better than the Tiffany box. As I was finishing it I thought of a bunch of different things to do to improve the lines and the brilliance of the colors and the definition between the blocks. I brought it into work today so that Mom could pick it up. Everyone that's seen it says that it's amazing and said that it looked EXACTLY like a bunch of stacked Legos. Just what I was going for. I am pretty proud.

  • Matthew's Lego Cake


  • Well, enough for now. I've got to get back to work.
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    Sunday, April 04, 2004

    Friday Chef Amy changed things around a little so we could get out of class early. (Very Nice!) We took our math quiz and our S/S quiz right after our first skill. (BTW, I think I've gotten the math thing down. I got another 5/5 on my last math quiz and I'm pretty sure I got another 100% on Friday's quiz.) The S/S quiz, I only missed one... again.

  • Beads


  • I can't tell you how strange it is that we've only been in class two weeks and we're already taking a weeks vacation. I'm going to enjoy it, but it does seem a bit strange.

    Mom and Aunt Sharon came into the city for a little shopping and for dinner at the Careme Room. I told Chef Amy that they were coming and she said I should enjoy dinner with them and then show them the school. I hadn't expected that and it very nice to be able to take a break and enjoy their company. We got some really good pictures (I'll see if I can get them from Aunt Sharon and I'll post them here for you all to see.) and they got a chance to see where I'm going to school. I even took them into our classroom to take a look around, I think they really enjoyed themselves.

    The week we get back from vacation is going to be short and, maybe, a bit stressful. We're going to have a semi regular day of class (skills), but we're also going to present our Food Science papers (they're only 250 words, but we've also got to give a 2 minute presentation.). I've chosen to write about gold and it's uses in decorating. I'm sure I'll wind up focusing on gold leaf, but there is also powdered gold that I can touch on if I don't have enough to write about... yea right! On Wednesday we're going to play S/S Survivor. I think it's basically a Q&A of S/S so we can review before we take our national certification test on the 15th. We're also going to do some Food Science review and then the rest of the week is going to be taking tests. We've got our comp (which I believe I've already told you about), a Food Science final and our S/S certification. Yeash. That's a lot to fit into four days.

    After that we're off to cakes class. I have to say I'm filled with a bit of trepidation, but I'm sure it will work out just fine.

    Friday after class a few of us went out for drinks. More good conversation. Barney (a Sac native) and I had a great talk about food, careers, the future, past food experiences, lack of past food experiences and school. It was great.

    Saturday I cleaned like a crazy person. I got all the crap done that I don't have a chance to do during the week. Sigh... I didn't get everything done, but at least my place was presentable.

    Barney, Ryan, Desiere, Ami, Bridget and I got together shortly after 3 to go over to Berkeley to make the pilgrimage to Berkeley Bowl . It really was a food equivalent of Mecca. Ami and Bridget had mentioned the previous weekend that they wanted to have artichokes. I'm not sure if they'd never had artichokes, had bad luck cooking them, or it had just been a long time, but it was a good motivation to go over to Berkeley. (BTW, Chef Amy said that she actually moved from NY to CA just for Berkeley Bowl.... that should give you an idea of how great the place is!) We started at one end of the store and worked our way to the other. It was bliss!

    We got everything we needed for dinner and a bunch of fruits that looked cool or that we'd never had before. After shopping we came back to my place and made dinner. It was great. There were 2-3 of us in the kitchen and 3-4 in the living room. It was a little crazy. Cutting boards, knives and food... EVERYWHERE, but we were having such a great time. We had: 2 kinds of olives, red pears, Humbolt Fog blue cheese, a really creamy double cream brie like cheese, dill havarti, a bagette from La Boulongeri, a salad with a stone ground mustard and Champaign vinegar vinaigrette, steamed artichokes with salt, pepper and butter drizzled over the top, a HUGE London Broil and mojitos. (Surprisingly, we didn't have dessert. We'd intended to get a cake from Mionette in the Ferry Building, but it was closed, so we skipped it.) After dinner Ami and Bridgett did the dishes. I can't tell you how nice it was to have someone else do the dishes... especially after such a big dinner/mess!

    After dinner we turned into even bigger food geeks! Ryan had mentioned how much he liked Alice Waters, so I gave him her Chez Pannise Fruit book to read through. I handed Desiree Rose Levy Bernanbaum's Cake Bible and the How To Bake book to see if she wanted to get a head start on cakes class. Barney got the Spices book Dad gave me a couple years ago for Christmas. Ami got the Desserts book I got on my last trip to Hawaii. And Bridget got the Drinks/Alcahol book. We'd be reading away, see something interesting or read something interesting and then share it with the group. It was so freeform, and not at all planned, but totally cool. Even though my family is great and totally supportive of my interest in food, I don't feel like I get nearly enough feedback on food and they certainly don't have the enthusiasm for food that I do. These people are at the same stage I am and there is such a free flow of ideas and learning from one another that it is really inspiring. If this is what school, and hopefully the career following school, is going to be like, I CAN'T WAIT!

    Tonight Ryan and maybe Barney and maybe Shane (my friend from work) will be going to Cafe Kati for dinner. It should be amazing!

    Well I'm in the middle of making Mathew's birthday cake (it's going to look like a bunch of Legos) so I'd better go. I have to make the frosting.

    I'll fill you in tomorrow on dinner tonight.
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    Friday, April 02, 2004

    No pictures to show off today.

    Our first skill was working with gel. Ick. One of my least favorite mediums, but still necessary to know, if only to successfully complete the comps. Thankfully, about half way through, Ryan showed me an alternate way to hold the pastry tube and my writing improved exponentially. Of course Ryan was making roses and generally trying not to be bored as he worked with buttercream (his family owns a bakery out in Connecticut, so he's been making buttercream roses since he could reach the bench).

    S/S was, well S/S. We discussed serving and buffets. We also discussed time limits on food and how to make sure that none of your customers will get sick from buffet food (ie. how to keep the hot stuff above 140 and the cold stuff below 41).

    Food science was a blast. Thinking back, I remember writing that I wasn't so sure about liking food science, but that Chef Amy promised it usually wound up being everyone's favorite. Well, this is the first class that she's done demos, and boy has she done demos. Last night we got 3. We were talking about thickening agents. The first one we were introduced to was the Creme Anglese last week, where we used a protein (egg yolks) to thicken the milk. Last night Chef started by making pastry cream (very useful for all chefs!) and thickened it using starch (corn starch). Very cool.

    Next Chef made mayonnaise to demonstrate emulsification as a means of thickening. Emulsification is actually pretty cool. You are actually introducing a molecule of fat (in this case the lecithin from an egg yolk) into the oil molecule, which then lets the modified oil/fat molecule stick to a water molecule.

    Lastly Chef made meringue to demonstrate the denaturing of egg whites and how sugar/fat can increase/decrease volume and to show us what soft and hard peaks and overbeating looked like.

    Plated desserts were ok last night. I got a molded tuille cup with scoops of vanilla and apricot ice cream, fresh berries and a little chocolate decoration and a tuille curl. Good flavor, nice color.

    Dinner was really good. Grilled shrimp and pineapples over some green veg, maybe spinach that had been cooked with something spicy and bacon and all served over a molded cup of rice. Yum! It was the perfect combination of spicy and sweet and I'm always a sucker for grilled fruit.

    After dinner we came back and made orange supremes. This is done by cutting the top and bottom off the orange (so you get a nice, level work surface) and then, in one slice, cutting the rind off the orange. It takes about four, maybe five turns of the orange to get all the rind off, but then you're left with a nice, skinless, pithless orange. From here you cut out all the segments leaving you with two piles: the first is a lovely pile of orange supremes (no rind, no pith, no seeds, no membrane) and a pile of membrane. I was cruising along. For my comps I need to make sure I don't leave anything white behind. If this means moving a bit slow, then so be it, but they have to be perfect.

    Speaking of our comps, it looks like we'll have an hour and a half to do the following: 6 Happy Birthdays, 6 Happy Anniversarys and 6 Congratulations out of gel and chocolate, 12 buttercream rosettes, 12 buttercream beads and a fruit plate that demonstrates all the fruit we've worked with. Shouldn't be a problem

    I got a perfect score on my Food Math test from Wednesday night!!!!! And I'm pretty sure I got another perfect last night. Sigh, what a relief! Tonight we are working on a large conversion math project. We're taking a recipe for a cake and then making sure we have enough cake for 200+ people. Yea. On the up side (yea, I know I say that a lot), since it's the last day before spring break, Chef Amy said we should just go as far as we can and then don't worry about it.

    Yes, I did say spring break. And Yes, I am a little grumpy about the whole thing. We've only been in school two weeks and their sending us off for vacation for a week and a day? Good Grief! We'll I'm going to enjoy it. I just switched phone backup weeks with one of the other assistants, so I won't have to worry about that. I also plan on going out almost every night and being a bit of a rowdy girl and working on my Food Science paper.

    We had to give Chef Amy our paper topics last night. The paper topics varied from possibly fascinating to completely dull. Either way, it should be fun and since it only has to be 250 words, it really shouldn't be a problem. I decided to do my paper on the uses of gold in decorating. It should be very fun. I have some rough ideas, and I'll probably wind up doing an outline Saturday night and writing my paper at lunch time during the week. It shouldn't be a problem.

    Talk to you all later.

    Sara, I'll give you a call some time this weekend... maybe Sunday.
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