Thursday, August 20, 2009

A World Full of Beautiful Bread

Was I living in a cave? Cause I missed the memo where bread could be more than a loaf or a roll. I have never seen, let alone made, a crazy looking bread before but that day has now come and gone....ending with a beautiful leaf cut Fougasse with Gruyere cheese bread. After seeing this come out of the oven I was tickled pink, granted there are a few little things I will work on for next time....things I will not say because you may never know the difference! Luckily I made a few little cheese bread sticks to go along with the leaf and ladder (pictured behind the leaf) Fougasse's and they turned out excellent. So right now I am cramming for the big bread test tomorrow and then off to sunny Central Oregon tomorrow afternoon to see the family for the weekend where I hear it's over 100 degrees right now (yuck!). Anything over about 65 degrees and I start running for the hills. This trip home might be interesting since I have decided to take little Poppy (the hamster) with me to meet everyone. She has gotten her own travel cage with goodies to keep her occupied. Knowing her....she will probably sleep the whole time and never know she left. Finally, I would like to announce that I have picked up my knitting needles again after about 8 weeks. The schedule is finally starting to agree with me (early mornings didn't exist before school started) so the energy is slowly coming back and thus so is the urge to knit. It must be interesting to see a knitting baking school student (in full uniform) with bags of bread traveling on the bus everyday. But I like to think that I am just trying to fit in even though trust me, my little getup is nothing compared to some that I have seen!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Knots of Bread

The past few days have been consumed with bread. I actually have been having to go into school at 6 am everyday because of the extended amount of time that it takes to get the yeast rising. You just can't throw together these little knots! These were a day long process! But I am starting to find that I enjoy making bread quite a bit. The textures along with the ability to get very creative with the doughs (oh....and getting your hands very dirty!!) make me excited each morning to get the breads on their way. Now, not every bread turns out perfect (like my chibatta bread, I have barely tasted one let alone made it!) but these were awesome and very fun to make. Tomorrow....more bread including more baguettes and baking my leaf and ladder shaped breads that I can't wait to get a picture of.

Today was topped off by getting some great news, if you saw one of the previous posts we were waiting for the phone call to see if Lucy (our Lab) had cancer. Great news!!! It was a benign tumor. Thank goodness. All is right in the world for today (well, everything except my chibatta bread).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bread Homework

So today was the beginning of the next class in my adventure to become a graduate of Western Culinary Institute. We started Baking Principals class and I will now be making 3 (yes 3) baguettes a day for the next six weeks. Not to mention various other breads each day. First you work with sugar for weeks and then get sick of sugar. Next you work with bread then get sick of bread. I am debating if I should become a vegetarian next. But knowing my luck we would then do a Carrot Cake each day for six weeks then I would stop eating altogether.

Our first written assignment today was an essay on our experience with bread.
I can hear you out there in the Internet universe laugh hysterically, but yes this was my homework.
So for your enjoyment here you go.

My Bread Background

I have to admit first of all that before coming to Western Culinary Institute I had only had two experiences with bread: the first being the biscuits that I have made in the past for my family, and the second being the consumer of bread. In no way, shape or form had I made a loaf of bread (let alone knew how to do it). But with this little experience in the world of breads I still knew that I wanted to be a baker. It would be a little bakery in my hometown of Redmond, OR that would give me that urge since I could finally reach the counter tops in our kitchen.

Gibbs Bakery was a little mom and pop bakery that was known for its amazing pastries and breads but it was also the only bakery in town besides Safeway, so everyone bought what they needed from the Gibbs Bakery. As a little girl, Saturday was the day to visit the bakery to pick up a weekly dose of a doughnut and rolls which were to go with dinner later on that evening. Seeing the people that worked there make everyone smile with the simple handing over of a maple bar, a beautifully decorated cake, or a fresh loaf of French bread in turn made me smile. How could anyone be mad after the sugary baked goodness of a pastry? So as I grew up I decided someday I would open up a bakery where I could have my own little piece of sweet heaven. A place to put smiles on people’s faces and make sure everyone walked out full. But of course, it would be in a different town since Gibbs had already staked their claim to the town of Redmond.

But as dreams go sometimes, the bakery was put on the back burner. I quickly found myself getting through high school and looking towards new adventures in the medical field. Nursing was calling my name but it soon turned out that I didn’t want to respond and thus, looked for a different path to follow. It would take quite a few large bumps in the road of life and a very supportive husband (and family) to finally get me to ask the question “What do I really want to do with my life”?

Baking a cupcake in a home kitchen and baking it in a professional bakery are two very different things but the experience for the person receiving the cupcake can be one in the same. Making people happy is one of the key reasons I decided to become a baker and if I can make the world a little better place handing out one cookie or baguette at a time then I am up to the challenge. Another reason I looked to baking was the immense creativity that is involved with each and everything you make. I have always been drawn to creative outlets, finding myself in the floral industry for many years for instance, while the normal desk job in a cubicle just doesn’t interest me in the least.

Becoming a baker overall is a way to make my life a meaningful adventure in which I took control and did the career that I had always dreamed of because I have been on the path where life was taking you down a path you didn’t want, and I won’t let it happen again. Making bread has become a favorite piece of the large puzzle of baking and I look forward to the coming weeks, expanding my knowledge and having fun in the process.


Fun wasn't it! (can you imagine me rolling my eyes)

So finally I would like to show you the pain and suffering our poor lab Lucy endured this weekend. Unfortunately, Max found a lump on her and it had to be removed. We don't yet know if it was cancer but she was forced to wear the ever fashionable dog halo to keep from licking her wound where the lump was removed (on her butt of all places, like having a lump alone isn't bad enough). Luckily the halo can't keep her from waggin' her tail, which has yet to stop since recovering from anesthesia.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Bus Ate My Work

So I got on the bus with multiple pieces of bread, ranging from bagels to more baguettes after a long day at school. But today I also had these wonderful soft breads that were filled with turkey, bacon, and cheese (as well as onion in a few). After stuffing the bread, they were then baked in the oven so everything got nice and melted inside. I walked on the bus with two bags full of these things....I walked off with two individual soft breads (think of them as a hot pocket, but way better). I felt mugged in a way! Most days I usually keep to myself and ride the bus to school in the morning and home in the afternoon, but holy cow I had people asking me over my shoulder if they could have one and before I knew it everyone around me was tasting my work.
I have to admit in a way I was a little irritated since I myself had not been able to taste one, but to hear everyone say how great they were (as well as that this bus ride was the best one they had ever had) made me happy. And of course when the bus driver herself asks to try one you have to hand one over, I do have to make it home!
But that is the true joy about baking....
it may be a job but it sure can make someone's day.
So I would love to show you a picture of these delicious little things but unfortunately they have now disappeared. After finishing one, a woman on the bus told me that I should "Quit school right now and open up a little shop just selling these things!", which I couldn't help but laugh at.
It's only week 6 of school for goodness sakes, these filled soft breads are only
the tip of the iceberg.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Baguettes and BLTs

This is a beautiful site.
Baguettes, and lots of them.
Today started our week long study of breads, before the end of Baking 102 class.
But then we get to go to another class to make, for 6 weeks, more...
Unfortunately a little kink happened in the midst of fermentation when someone decided to set off the fire alarm in the school.
So we all took off our aprons and headed down the 5 flight of stairs where upon hitting the last step was told that it was safe to go back to class.
So after rolling my eyes a few times and groaning for at least two minutes I headed back upstairs. Now this is the second time the alarm has gone off in the past 6 weeks and it always seems to be the culinary students (becoming chefs) that set it off.
I am waiting for the day I see actual flames coming out of one of those classrooms.
It's bound to happen with their track record.
So luckily the bread was still in one piece upon arriving back and after baking came the best part, making BLT's. It was one of the best sandwiches I have had in months.
Plus the fact that I made the bread kinda gives me a biased opinion but it was good!!!

The End of Cake Week

So Friday concluded cake week with cupcakes and Genoise cake.
At this point I can't wait for something besides sugar. I know that sounds weird coming from a person working towards becoming a pastry chef but at this point I haven't been eating any of the sugary goodness I have been making because my body can't handle any more sugar.

Give me a loaf of bread for goodness sakes.
Above is my own concoction called Citrus Cupcakes, yellow cupcakes made with orange and lemon peel then a butter cream frosting made with orange juice.
On top we have some candied orange pieces.

Next we have a Genoise cake (sponge cake) with mint chocolate chip flavored butter cream frosting and coated in chocolate sprinkles.
I only wish smell-a-vision was possible!
So overall it was a good week with lots of sweets and a good grade on my test!
Next week is the last week of this class before six weeks of bread class.
It's amazing how time flies when you are having fun.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cakes Galore!

So it's the second to last week in our Intro to Baking class and therefor it's cake week. At this point in the game I have become completely turned off at the sight of butter and sugar when it comes to eating it but that will never stop me from turning them into a wonderful pastry for someone else to enjoy! Luckily next week will be bread week so at least it will balance out all the sugar. Anyway, so far this week I have made a total of 3 cakes that will total 5 by the end of the week. One of which is the shiny Devils Food cake you see. I cringed when the Chef said that we would have to pipe out the words "Happy Birthday" 25 times before piping it on the cake. There is something about piping chocolate that usually makes me end up in the hallway cursing but really....I didn't have a choice at this point. So while I piped the happy birthday's (the first 12, looking the way they did, I would never admit to piping...even under oath) they seemed to get a bit easier by the end. Then the fun part, actually piping a birthday cake. This two layer devil's food cake already has genoche filling as well as a milk chocolate crumb coating and genoche glaze but hey! let's add a bit more chocolate for the heck of it! So, holding my breath the entire time I piped the birthday cake. And just to be a smart ass since there was no one with a birthday today that I could give this to I made it an UN-birthday cake! The piping finished and I could finally breathe. I looked at it and was actually kinda proud. "Holy cow! I did it! Woo Hoo!" Then just for fun I got cocky and added a flower with vines and leaves. If you are on a roll then you just have to go with it. So if I do say so myself, being that I am in week 5 of pastry school, this cake wasn't half bad. The other cake is a Genoise (sponge cake) with lemon butter cream filling, orange flavored rosettes, and candied oranges in the middle of the rosettes. It has a graham cracker edge and is three layers. I was kinda in a citrus mood when I was making this as you can tell. So this picture is all that is left of this cake. The cake was quickly consumed today by my roommate's co-workers who I have decided to make my guinea pigs for a lot of my pastries that I bring home (which seem to add up quickly and take over the fridge). Those people are wonderful and are the perfect taste testers, mainly because they love everything. So cake test tomorrow then a weekend before bread week. Hopefully somewhere in there sleep is involved because right now I am on autopilot. Off to hit the books!

An Icon and Lots of Butter

I can now add a new movie to my top ten list. Last night Western Culinary Institute had a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House where for only $10 you were served a three course meal in Bleu, the schools restaurant ($10 for dinner and I am there!).
After being served some of the most spectacular food that of course, was straight out of
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
we were then treated to an early showing of the movie Julie & Julia.
Before seeing the movie I only knew a little about the life of Julia Child, and only bits and pieces of the project done by Juile Powell (the other main character) but by the end of the movie I found myself having a new found respect for the woman that brought cooking to America.
Having Meryl Streep play Julia was a brillant choice, being that no one else could have done better (not to mention the voice!). And Amy Adams was adorable as usual and struck a nerve with me as Julie, being that I too will be hitting 30 way too soon as did her character.
So as I sat there laughing until I was almost crying, and sometimes seeing the exact things I had done in class just the day before, when I realized that I finally found my passion in life because anything like cooking or baking that makes you that happy is something you should do forever.
So I found myself this morning, slightly exhausted from the lack of sleep but jumping out of bed to head to class at Le Cordon Bleu exactly like Julia did in her life with excitement and anticipation, eager to bake and take on the day one slab of butter at a time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Dead Guy Cake

So thanks to Judith, one of my friends from the awesome Redmond Stitch n' Bitchers Knit Group, I have found a new favorite blog. Cakewrecks is a somewhat disturbing site where there are mounds of pictures of the worse cakes that people have found around the world. While there are so many with serious misspellings, and some that people should be ashamed to call themselves cake decorators. But out of all of these this one was just wrong.
Yes, that is a cake of a dead man that is being served to people and yes he is supposed to be laying in a casket.
"Oh server, can I have a piece of the dead guy's nose and maybe a bite of his finger?"
Granted, this is a very unique cake but do you really want to be known as the cake decorator that made the "dead guy" cake?
There are just somethings that sound amazing as unique idea but sometimes....
keep your idea to yourself and for goodness sakes don't turn it into a cake!
Thanks Judith!!!
Check out Cake Wrecks at

Monday, August 3, 2009

Battle Wounds

Usually you would see the many photos of the pastries I have been working on but today, it's the rough side of pastry work. This past weekend while making hand tossed pizzas for my mom, dad, and hubby I received a nice burn to my arm. The oven door decided that it wasn't going to stay down while putting in a pizza to cook and sure enough, the war wound occurred. The only important thing was that the pizza turned out great. Now this fun burn is the worst of this weeks war wounds, consisting of a few burnt fingers and small cuts on my hands. Luckily I haven't hit the level that some of the people in my class have hit. Two people have already ended up in the hospital with large cuts to their hands, one of which ended up with blood all over the classroom. Yuck! And we were told about a student in the last class that either cut or burnt them self everyday of class, ending up in the hospital multiple times. Finally, there is always the possibility of loosing a finger. Like the student a few weeks ago that cut the tip of their finger off in one of the culinary arts classes. So the battle continues this week with cakes. And with each battle scar I come a bit closer to becoming a pastry chef.