Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gateâu St. Honoré

Today was a much better day!

I got to school in the early morning, with the intention of going to another class. However, it had been cancelled, so I found myself with a lot of down time. I took the time to do some homework and take an online test. I was in my uniform and into the baking classroom half an hour early today. And boy, I was determined to not let today kick me in the butt!

Today we made Gateâu St. Honoré. It's quite the cake! My baking theory teacher loves talking about this cake! No joke. It was made to honor the patron saint of bakers, St. Honoré. Either that, or it was named after the bakery where it originated. No one knows for sure.

This cake is made up of a pie dough (or puff pastry) bottom, with caramel covered cream puffs and pastry cream. Choux paste (which makes up the cream puffs) is such an interesting paste. You have to boil shortening and add some flour to make the paste, and it's leavened completely by steam. It's really neat how much it puffs up while in the oven. We learned how to make caramel today and spent a lot of time playing with sugar. So much fun! We made caramel, and then once it had cooled a bit, we used an open ended whisk to whip the sugar and create little nests! We also learned how to make corkscrews out of the caramel.

Can you see my little corkscrew?

I forgot my camera at home, so my lovely baking partner took some pictures! She keeps saying that she'll upload them all at the end of the I'll put them up when I get them. Meanwhile, the pictures here of the extras that we made- I made a few extra pie shells and cream puffs. I'm very excited, because I also got to take home a bit of pastry cream, so I'm definitely filling these bad boys sometime in the near future!

Close up of sugar nest

I would have taken more pictures of the extra cakes, but I promptly ate them as soon as I was done taking that picture. I was excited, what can I say?

I'm back!! I'm excited about school again, which is just grand. Happy and cheery posts to follow!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Unsellable cakes

Today, a dear friend called me to let me know he was in town. I rushed off to meet him for a quick supper, cake in tow.

After a quick catch-up, I told him all about my anxieties about baking school, and thoughts of what I want to do with my life. I showed him the cake I brought for him to take home. He leaned over to our table mates, and said, "My friend made this cake! Isn't it amazing?"
They all agreed, that it was pretty awesome. They asked me if I was going to school for baking, and what grade I got on the cake.

That made me feel pretty great. I think I needed to hear something like that after several classes in a row, looking over at my classmates' cakes and seeing how much better theirs looked than mine. After countless classes where I just seem to run out of time and my classmates have to help me finish all my duties. After worrying if my partner is sick of working with me because I just can't get it.

I'd show you a picture of this cake, but I was too embarrassed about it to take a picture. The icing had split due to the temperature in the classroom, and we just didn't have enough time to fix the icing and make it right. It was "unsellable", which was something I hadn't heard since the first few weeks of school.

That being said, my friend really knows how to cheer me up!
To leave this post, here's a happier photo of something I've made. And I'm proud of it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gone crochetin'

I've had quite the week, so I've been crocheting instead!

I learned how to do this on Friday, and I haven't been able to think of much else! Friday morning, I found this tutorial, and I said to myself "self, you would WAY rather be doing this than homework!" and promptly spent the next 6 hours working on some granny squares. It was totally worth the weird nerve/wrist pain!

 And voila...

Pardon the blur...

After running out of my rad purple yarn, I had to get myself to the internets and buy a few more skeins! I talk uncontrollably about my recent yarn purchases to anyone who will give me a glazed eyes and a nod. I'm pretty excited!

Crochet has always been my crafting nemesis: I can do pretty much anything craft wise that I set my mind to. You should have seen me in Girl Scouts! Crochet was the one thing that always fell out of my head, however.  My grandmother said that I held my crochet hook like a knitting needle, so I would revert back to knitting. I've learned how to crochet at least three or four times in my life. This time (fingers crossed) it stuck!!

I haven't been too inspired by any yarn-y crafts lately because I hate my entire stash of yarn! So I'm getting rid of it. That being said, anyone interested in some vintage-y yarns? Let me know :)

There's more where that came from!

I've totally needed some inspiration in my life. Now I wait (rather impatiently) for my yarn to arrive! It's going to be in all sorts of bright colours!

What's been inspiring you lately?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Black forest and strawberry short!

Today was one of those crazy days!

I'm still trying to calm down from class. We decorated two whole cakes in the span of four hours! I know that amount is absolutely nothing compared to what we're going to be doing in the industry, but this was my first time decorating a cake! I like to get things perfect, which often means I spend most of my time re-doing something over and over again. I also get a bit tripped up because we are given a demo example, which I feel like I have to replicate exactly. Then I beat myself up because I made my rosettes a bit too big so there won't be enough room for the chocolate shavings. Then I spend some time thinking about what I should do. I'm working on not doing that anymore, though!

The bane of my existence today was the masking of the cake! The hardest part was trying to keep the icing covering the cake. I kept smoothing things down, and then the cake would peep through! So I'd have to do that spot all over again. And don't even get me started on the crumbs that would find their way back into the whipped topping!

Strawberry Shortcake

We also had to do all of our decorations/extras today- marzipan title flags, little chocolate garnishes, chocolate covered strawberries, whipped topping, and kirsch and triple sec syrup. I was in charge of whipping the 35% cream (we used a mix of whipped topping and whipped cream) and I looked away for one second and it was over-whipped! Luckily, we were able to save it- if I had left it on a second longer, it would have indeed turned to butter! That seems like an interesting experiment unto itself.

I am very thoroughly excited for tonight, as I am having my first slice of a Black Forest cake that I've made!  I'm even more excited because the cherries we used for the inside are very fancy cherries. Very fancy cherries from France, soaked in brandy. I can't wait! I also got to take home an extra sponge cake. Does anyone have any suggestions with what I could do with it?

I had no time to take pictures during class (as I was running around trying to clean things and get everything organized) but I was able to take some pictures before I walked these two lovelies home!

Black Forest Cake

It's days like this where I have to remind myself that I need to be confident in what I do. Questioning what I've done and re-doing things is what slows me down. It's in my nature to do things perfectly, but I really need to get that combination of quality and quantity that is needed in the baking industry. I know that this comes with time and patience and hard work and I know I'll get there!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A day in the life

Now that I'm back in class, I feel like I should give a little overview about my school day!

A normal Baking Skills class goes a bit like this:

5:00 or 5:30 am, depending: I wake up, curse that I did not get enough sleep the night before, and vow to go to bed early more.

6am: It takes me quite a long time to wake up at that hour. I usually watch Kids in the Hall clips and eat breakfast. I have to have all my things ready for me in the morning, to make it as painless as possible. I set up my coffee pot with coffee and I have everything in my backpack ready to go before I go to sleep the night before.

6:15: At this point, I realize that I should probably get going, and I head out the door. I walk to school, which takes about half an hour. It's quite the journey at this hour, as it's usually quite dark. I'll have to remember to take my camera along one morning!

6:45: I arrive at school, and change into my uniform.

Our uniform consists of a chef jacket, chef pants, chef hat, necktie, apron and side towels. I also have to wear steel toed, non-slip black shoes. We are not allowed to wear any type of jewelery or nail polish. I only say that because I love nail polish and I have 15 ear piercings, which I have to remove.

7:00: Class starts! I like to show up a bit early, which gives me time to measure out ingredients and get my mise en place ready. A mise en place is a tidy collection of all the tools and ingredients that will be used that day. It's really important to keep everything together, and clean as you go.

Class typically starts with the Chef doing a demonstration of what we are going to make that day. I love the demonstration part of class! We all gather around the Chef and take notes on what we're about to make. I learn a lot from the demonstrations. It's really helpful to use what we're learning in Theory class in the kitchen. Then we get started.

We spend the rest of the morning organizing our time and ingredients. We work with a partner which makes it a bit easier. We make three or four different products each class. What we bake is most often determined by what we are learning in Theory class, but not always. Days of stress level can range from "what a lovely class, I'm so calm!" to "OH MY GOODNESS HOW ARE WE GOING TO BE ABLE TO FINISH IN TIME?!"

As stressful as that sounds, I love it. A friend once asked me why I was so darn happy in class, and I responded with: "I just love being in a kitchen. It makes me happy." At the time, I didn't realize how close that statement was to the truth!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pay it forward 2011!

So when I first created this blog, I thought about making it a personal blog with a baking slant. Baking is awesome and everything, but I'm interested in more things than just baking! I love knitting and sewing (will trade cupcakes for crochet lessons!) and umm...general crafting? On that note...

Deep here I go!

I'm participating in Zoe's Pay it Forward. I don't know how it got started but it's an awesome idea! So, lovely family and twitter friends, I am posting my own Pay It Forward!


The first five people to comment will receive a homemade gift from me! Party time, right? If you're in the Toronto area (or a family member of mine) and like baked goods, I will more than happily bake you something to your liking! Other than that, I'll create something for you and mail it to you wherever you are in the world! Then you have to make five things for five people too!

So who's in?

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I have a not so secret confession: I love brownies.

When I was a footloose and fancy free University student, I had a few friends that worked at the University's Women's Centre. I remember spending an entire spring afternoon (procrastinating, no doubt) going through their collection of zines. All of the ones I read were interesting, but only one sticks out in my memory, purely for it's bizarre and amazing topic. This happened at least three years ago, and I think it's kind of funny that I still remember it!

A guy took it upon himself to create an entire zine about brownies! What a great idea! He said that he made brownies for himself every day, which is quite an undertaking. His zine had tips on what a "perfect brownie" is, which is free of walnuts and chocolate chips. He added in a few recipes of his favorite brownies and some tips for making brownies. He also put in some pretty rad drawings! After a quick google search, I've found it! And I've definitely emailed them to ask if they can restock it.

I also remember that he had an email address listed, and I remember emailing him (even though the zine was made 5 years prior). He never responded. I'm still a bit sad about that.

I love brownies. They're delicious. When I want to eat what I bake, I usually want to eat brownies. In fact, I have a pan cooling on my stove AT THIS MOMENT.

And now they're on my rad spider plate!

I love sequins. I really really do!

Today I was feeling a bit low...or bored. I guess I couldn't decide. This recipe popped up on my twitter feed, and I got up right then and there and started baking! I decided to add a few extras, with some chopped up white chocolate and a Cadbury creme egg and they turned out great! I liked them, as I love all brownies, but these were a bit too "cakey" for me. Right after taking that picture, I promptly sat down and ate all three brownies. Delicious!

Do you have a favorite brownie recipe? Do you love brownies as much as I do?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My story of pie

Why the Pie Window, you ask?

My dearest and best friend used to always say that when she grew up and bought a house, she would love to have a pie window. With this pie window, she'd be able to put a pie to cool and then shout "WHO WANTS PIE?!" in her most southern accent imaginable.

This used to always make me laugh- what a great idea! What an eccentric window! Who has a window just for pie? I know I want one!

Fast forward 10 (ish) years later...

I'd always been way too scared to make my own pie crust. I had heard horror stories of how you had to get everything just right, and I had no idea how to do that. I didn't want to waste a perfectly good filling and end up with a bad crust! So I stuck to buying a pie shell and filling it with lovely things.

I would judge a baker on how "good of a baker they were" if they could make a pie crust. And by judge, I mean I would be rather impressed/intimidated. It was my standard of baking, I suppose. Needless to say, I was intimidated by those who could.

When we made pie dough in class, understandably I was quite nervous. I was Chef's partner that day, which meant that she would see how everyone else was doing before seeing me. So naturally, I worked the shortening (we use it for most things because it's easier to handle than butter) too far into the flour before she could stop me. Eeep! I had to remeasure everything out and start again. This time, I knew what the paste shouldn't look like, so I could make my second batch with confidence. And it turned out alright! I was quite proud.

I've made a few pies since then, and I'm still learning! It's been really fun, and I'm glad I got over my fear.

I won't lie. I still want a pie window.

Me with my stylin' Christmas apron and my mincemeat pie!