December 31, 2009

Sticky is good

It is Wednesday and I still haven't done my homework. Ugh. Instead, we went out to dinner with friends, fed the sour starter, and made butterscotch sticky buns... mmm. The recipe made the cover of Food & Wine, January 2010 so of course when I saw it in the store I had to buy it and try them out.

You eat them warm from the oven and drenched in the delicious gooey sauce. Oh man! With a whole batch it really is sad that it is only Alan and me here to enjoy them warm. Of course I have pictures on a vintage cake stand for you to drool over.

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We have had a lovely holiday this year. Thanks Ken and Paula for all the treats and very generous gift. Thanks to Grandma Roma too!

Brian and Shirley, thanks for the cookbook. You definitely know me!

Dearest Kirbie, I hope you and the family have a nice holiday. We will enjoy Powell's. I hope you get the treats before they are too stale.

Mom, take care of yourself. Zack, I miss you!

Grandma, stay warm.

To our friends as far away as Barcelona, close in Seattle and San Francisco, up the road in Leaburg and Silverton, or on the move caring for family in Oregon and California, we miss you all. Cheers!

December 23, 2009

Maple Sweetened Carrot Cupcakes

This recipe contains no refined sugar. The sweetness comes from molasses and pure maple syrup.

Here they are one of my cake stands. I have collected quite a bit of nice hobnail pieces and other cake stands. I hope to get a picture of the entire collection soon so you can all see it.

The cupcakes tasted pretty good. They weren't too sweet. I even got to candy little carrot slices in maple syrup to decorate the tops.

Wedding inspiration

Ok, I do know where I got these photos but I don't have time to label each one. I can say it is a combination of Utterly Engaged, Green Wedding Shoes, Once Wed, Style me Pretty, 100 Layer Cake, the Knot, and more.

I will be making the cupcake tonight so photos of those soon.

Colors are:

December 22, 2009

Holiday break!

We are in Eugene on holiday break. We have made some treats, wrapped presents, and watched a few classics (Love Actually, Scrooged). I have a couple more movies I want to watch (It is a Wonderful Life, Serendipity, Sabrina) and I also want to sleep more too.

Wedding planning is slow going, the list is getting longer as the day gets closer. Decor to figure, photographer to find, toasting sets to drool over... I will try and post some pictures of inspiration tomorrow. And tomorrow I will either make sticky buns or cupcakes... what is your vote?

December 18, 2009


Time is a funny thing. When you are bored with something, it seems to go on forever. When you are in a groove and are liking the situation, there is suddenly no time at all.

I went to school early again. My new bud Amanda joined me so it was nice. We had the entire back kitchen to ourselves. It was so cool! 12 burner gas stove, the 4 deck oven, industrial mixers, bowls, ingredients, everything and we didn't have to wait on other students for the salt. No one kept opening the oven and screwing up the temperature. I was able to really concentrate. We talked about our homework too. One question was about what needed a higher temperature of oil to fry correctly. You have two batters of yeast-donuts of equal fat but one with higher sugar content. It was cool to hear her reasoning and then explain mine and then between the two of us we figured it out.

It was nice to catch up. I made my coconut macaroons and by golly, they checked out perfect. It is so satisfying to understand the process and just do it. I pulled them out of the oven and when I cracked the crust, just knew that it was right.

I also measured out my ingredients for scones and lemon pound cake. For the scones internal garnish, I decided to use chunks of candied ginger, a little bit of sliced, roasted almonds, and top it with a cream wash and turbinado sugar. Mmmm. We cleaned up our kitchen and went to class happy as peaches...

Well, funny how life works out. Chef also wanted us to do a few other things too. Today was crepe, beignet, and corn muffin day. Yes folks, 5 recipes scaled, mixed, and baked off. I had 2 ready to mix but the crepe and beignets were more important today because the crepe batter was mixed up and had sat the right amount of time and the oil was set up and at the right temperature to fry the eclair paste/pate a choux for the beignets.

I decided to compromise because I realize that I am still not fast enough to do it all (no one in the class is). I decided to bake off one of my pre-scaled formulas (lemon pound cake) and then work on the pate a choux for the beignets, and then, if time permitted, I would practice my crepes. I will bake off my scones and measure out and bake my corn muffins after break.

Meanwhile, I managed to fold my coronets, all 12 from one sheet of parchment perfectly, check. Coconut macaroons, perfect, check. Oatmeal raisin baked last night, bad. Grr. Overdone again. This time Chef let me use the pre-scooped, community dough to try again. My advice, take them out when the don't look done. Seriously, it works out in the end because they still cook on the pan. I finally took them out when I didn't think they were done and they turned out. Check!!! Third time is a charm.

I have made pate a choux/cream puffs before but as I have found with most of my classmates, that means nothing here. You could have made a hundred biscuits a day for 2 years straight and you still don't have it right. I was nervous. I didn't want to be the person who boasted and then bombed. I read the formula, measured everything twice, and checked my temperature often. My dough turned out the right texture and color but the true test is in the frying. Does it puff and do you get nice holy, fried nuggets of goodness? You bag your dough with a #826 star tip, stand over the hot oil (360 degrees), press out a consistent 2 1/2" piece of dough, snip it with your scissors, and repeat until you have a few in the oil. Then you watch them fry. It goes pretty fast and you know right away if your dough is a success or not. Mine puffed up and browned, I couldn't believe it. I made about 10 pieces and was able to get 3 of them checked off as a successful skill. I watched people tonight stand at that fryer with their entire bag of dough and still not have a single piece that was correct. It is crushing.

My lemon pound cake looked done so I pulled it out to let it cool. It was too close to the end of the skill check time though so I knew I had missed the window for it to be tested. I was pretty bummed but Chef just told me to freeze one loaf of it and she would test it after break. So it wasn't a total waste.

I didn't have much time left so I didn't practice the crepes. I did get to bring some batter home so I can practice. It is pretty tough to get it evenly thick, very blonde in color, no crispy edges, and circular. Some of my class mates got pretty good at it by the end of the night though.

Any who... The time is flying by and my brain is overwhelmed with info and my shoes are covered in flour. I am used to taking things out to the oven with my short towels. I was so afraid of using them instead of oven mitts. Now I don't even notice. Alan and I are definitely not craving any sweets. I have so much left over. I am oozing sweets here. Won't anyone visit? ;)

Too much sugar

Uh... this week is almost over. Where did the time go? I baked a ton this week, most good but some not so good.

Monday, we got a demo of creme brulee and ganache and we got to start our own shortbread and biscotti. We could choose between hazelnut and almond biscotti... I love almonds so that was a no brainer. We started what is called our 'skill checks' and it is now serious. I have yet to fold 12 perfect coronets from one sheet of parchment but I am getting there.

Creme brulee is a tricky one to get just right. The picture is pre-torching. Shortbread is so easy and also so easy to screw up. It also bakes really fast. My shortbread passed the skill test. It was so good I kept popping the cookies into my mouth and half were gone before I knew it. Dangerous.

Also demoed, how to heat chocolate and creme Chantilly. We also learned how to make the ganache, how to use the ganache to glaze our dream torte, and how to cut torte and cheesecake. That ganache is wicked good. Sooooo chocolaty. Anytime ya'll want to try it, come on over. It is a staple on the menu at the restaurant OR I could try and make it for you.

Tuesday, more baking. I had the chance to second bake my biscotti. The biscotti was a bit difficult just because I couldn't tell if it was done enough unless I really burnt the tips of my fingers touching it for doneness. I finally decided it was dark enough and my numb fingers didn't feel any give. I let it cool and when Chef did checks, it passed! I can make biscotti!!!

Wednesday... Next up, coconut macaroons, oatmeal raisin cookies, and brownies. I love coconut. LOVE IT. Chef doesn't and I felt so bad for her having to test everyone's. I started with the coconut macs. It seemed easy enough but I was wrong. It takes time to get the mixture to 120 degrees over a bain-marie (water bath) and then scooping, ugh. It is sticky and they really bake in the shape that the scoop is so you have to fix any imperfections. Then they bake for what seems like forever. Mine got really dark so I finally took them out. When they had cooled, Chef tested them and there were almost perfect. The shape, color, outer crust and inner goodness were all great but they were a tad, small tad, undercooked. My first failure. The other problem is that the batter only made enough for one batch so I have to do the whole thing over, not just the baking part. Ha, funny. I ran out of time. I didn't get my oatmeal cookies measured, mixed, or baked off and as a group, we didn't get our brownies made up.

Thursday... Our class got to have dinner in the restaurant tonight. They want us to get to know each other better, relax, and also see what we will soon be producing. The school restaurant puts out a 4 course lunch and dinner. All for a very reasonable price (lunch is $12 and dinner is $18, seriously. 4 courses for that price!!!). All tips go to fund scholarships for the students. If you want to see how fancy the menu is, you can go here. Dinner was fantastic. I had roasted cauliflower soup, an endive salad with apples, walnuts, Oregon blue cheese, and a cider vinaigrette, my entree was crab pappardelle (mmm... crab season is among us), and for dessert a piece of angel food cake served with 3 sorbets in a tuile. OH MY.

The dinner was superb but we lost several kitchen hours because of it. We knew this yesterday so feeling slightly behind, our group decided to go in early today. Well, 3 out of 4 of us made it. We were told that there is space around 2 pm in the kitchens, which means 2 hours without distraction, right? No, not right. There is 2 other classes going on. One is in where the ingredients are and another is practicing eggs where there was only one table free for us to us, at 2:30. Half an hour wasted... Blah.

Since I am ahead of the group by one recipe, I start on the group brownies. I hate brownies. I don't eat them, don't make them, and I was nervous. Hee, hee. I was so distracted in the kitchen that I sort of leave out the sugar... but only for a bit. A group mate catches it before I add the flour. Phew. Anyway, I only manage to get the brownies in and one sheet of oatmeal raisin before I ran out of time. Oh, I over cooked my oatmeal raisin too. In the kitchens, we don't time things. We are supposed to have internal timers. Well, mine was off. The oatmeal raisin cookies were so overcooked that they just snapped in half. I still had 12 balls of dough from the batch so after dinner I tossed in 6 (saved 6 just in case I burned them again) and they might work. I will have Chef check them tomorrow and let you know.

My mates did get a few things done so we are pretty much even at the table. We each have some failures and no time to make it up in class.

Before dinner, Chef H demoed how to make biscuits, scones, and Chef demoed lemon pound cake. We started to scale out the ingredients after dinner. We all get to try lemon pound cake but she wanted us to choose between biscuits or scones. I went with the scones, cream scones... I'm drooling just thinking about it. Chef H's biscuits look sooooo flaky in that picture. I am definitely making those for Paula with some gravy and hashbrowns (please come to Oregon soon 3sott and Paula!)

Oh, and back to the other class practicing eggs. I love it when a breakfast place can make an egg over medium correctly. I understand it takes practice. The culinary students at my school go through racks of eggs (4-5 dozen) just practicing the different eggs. Daily. GO SCHOOL!!! Send them out to make breakfast eggs correctly. Thanks! But really, seeing that much fried eggs made my stomach turn. The smell was crazy.

I am glad Alan is finally back in Portland with me. He was at home in Eugene to work for part of the week. I missed him. It is nice to have someone to share the goodies and information with at the end of the night.

I am going in early again tomorrow. Coconut macaroons, meet your maker. Wwwaaa...

December 11, 2009


Yippee, I made it to Friday! My legs and feet definitely are not used to this. Standing. My hands are cracked from so much washing, washing, and washing.

Today we reviewed the history of baking and the teacher demonstrated some sauces. Caramel, chocolate, and crème anglaise... mmm... tasty.

The caramel was totally different than how I normally make it. I only take it to 245 degrees (ish) and it is with the cream in it... Hm. I wonder what I am making.

The chocolate sauce is pretty simple and very tasty. It is interesting how shiny it is in the end.

The best sauce was the crème anglaise. I have never had it. Only four ingredients but so good I wanted to cry! I am so glad we got to bring home samples AND that the Level 2 pastry students made angel food cake and shared. :)

Chef WW also did a demo of how to make a coronet. As part of our skill checks, we have to make 12 coronets. I could not for the life of me, make one without a hole in the bottom. Grr. Must practice. Dang, I should have brought home potatoes and parchment!!!

Alan treated me to a slice of week 1 done/celebratory pie at our favorite pizza joint, Escape from New York Pizza. It was perfect.

Have a good weekend all. Watch out for those ice pellets.

Knuckles bleed less

Day 2 done. Today was a knife skills demo and PIZZA! Not your LQP here, no sirry bob. We could put anything we wanted on our pizza. First we mixed up the dough and while it bulk fermented, we got the toppings ready. I went with yellow and green peppers, mushrooms, red onion, fresh basil, and a garlic cream sauce. And on top of that, BACON. Chef H brought out a giant box of bacon and one of the other students put it in a pan, oh the smell is heavenly. Other folks had zucchini, goat cheese, potatoes, pepperoni, Canadian bacon... Next time, anchovies!

It is all kind of a blur but I think I have it down...

-Formula (recipe)-
bulk ferment
Punch down
scale and shape

My table mates are all so fun. High school grad, ex-Marine, and more. Everyone in class just wants to bake. There are only 12 of us so it is a great size class. Not crowded, enough ingredients, just feels safe. Here are some pictures from the day. Note, the perfect round pizza with all vegetables is not mine. I had to take a picture of the perfection though. ;)

We also got to watch the process for a baguette and breadsticks. The Chef from the advanced pastry student section kept coming in with fancy stuff like angel food cake and cheesecake, I wanted to cry. Later, Chef H was packing up cupcakes, yes cupcakes, for something else and when there was leftovers, I missed them. They were claimed on the other side of the room and I didn't even see it.


I did get a picture of the cupcakes that got away. I am not above bribing Chef H. She mentioned her favorite food is pancakes... I have a certain spiced pancake mix that is super tasty that I want to figure out how to make myself anyway...

December 10, 2009

Love your dough

The apartment in Portland is different. The view from our apartment building roof top is sweet and the lobby right now is decorated with huge, lush poinsettias and they even have a wrapping table with supplies so people can wrap holiday gifts. I miss my yarn cabinet but it is exciting to live in a city with multiple (YES MULTIPLE) cupcake shops! Also, Escape from New York Pizza is literally 10 minutes walking distance.

Today was day one in pastry school. I was nervous but really excited. The Chef for this term is funny and nice. Ha, I forgot my scale. It is sitting down by the mixers in the student lounge. :)

How was it you ask? Crazy. We hadn't even got through inspection of our tool kits and we had 2 injuries (not me!), one requiring a call to mom and dad for a quick visit to urgent care. The knives are so sharp, shiny, and new...

The kit, an collection of lovely tools... chef, bread, and paring knife, zester, measuring spoons and cups, calculator, scale (that I left, jeesh), a vegetable peeler, and piping tips. I do need to add a few things, a microplane, a parisian scoop, a bench scrapper, and a bowl scrapper.

We did get in the kitchen a bit. We learned where all the supplies are and then we practiced measuring out stuff for recipes (my table had corn muffins and butter bread). Chef then tried a couple of the recipes that were measured out to just show us a bit of process. She mixed up the whole wheat rolls and butter bread. The rolls we quick proofed (too much, oops) and then they baked for a bit. They were ok tasting but not great. The butter bread was left to proof overnight. We then learned all about cleaning up our spaces. You could eat off those counters!

Anyway, I think we get to make pizza tomorrow but I am not sure. I will let ya'll know. The best news, we can bring cameras. In fact, they encourage it so we can see just how much we progress over the time we are here.