10.25.10: Two Week Catch Up!

Hello again friends!

My apologies for the long wait, I have two weeks of catch up….but what a WONDERFUL two weeks!  I also have a new set of photos for the regular top of the blog – everything I have made in class, and I have to say I feel my level has really gotten higher from this experience!

Monday October 11th:  TARTS!  We started with the tart dough…sablé!  What did I learn most from this class (and will be repeated as needed):  COLD DOUGH, HOT OVEN.  You have to keep your dough cold if you want it to be GREAT!  It’s not easy when you’re a warm-handed person!  The tart for tonight:  Poached Pear!  This is a tart with frangipane – I haven’t heard of this before (I only knew or even cared for three tarts:  Chocolate, Lemon with Meringue and Fresh Fruit with Pastry Cream – YUM!).  Frangipane is more like a cake…  Along with the crust and frangipane, of course a lot of time was taken poaching the pears, but I think you will agree the results look tasty!

Wednesday, October 13th:  The Classic French Fruit Tart!  Well folks, I can tell you this was not my night!  After all the instruction and work (making the vanilla shortcrust dough, pastry cream and cutting fruit for the top), my first crust baked too much – I wasn’t able to finish my tart until next class, but hey – who’s complaining when it looks like it does!  (Thank you to my friends at Time, Inc. who were the testers…good reports back!)

Saturday, October 16th:  the DREADED!!!  PIES!!!!!  Flaky Crust!!!   I do have to admit I was thinking I would do my best and move on – I never had good success with pies.  It certainly was a fun experience and I learned a LOT.         With the biggest reminder for dough:  COLD DOUGH/HOT OVEN!  We all had to keep working our dough a bit then putting it in the refrigerator to cool before working more.  It’s all about those pea-sized clumps of butter – that’s the key to flaky pie dough!!!  Along with finishing my French Fruit Tart (above), I made TWO pies:  Poached Pear and Cranberry (the pears were left over from Monday – and were they ever deep burgundy and beautiful), and an Apple Pie with a lattice top – take a look (YUM!).  And if that wasn’t enough for a full day, we also made mini-tarts…my favorites too! (Lemon and Chocolate – with a raspberry on top) :

SPECIAL THANKS TO THE PIE TASTERS – Angelique’s workplace folks!

Monday, October 18th:  Crisps and Cobblers!  I just LOVE a good crisp and cobbler (specially peach or blueberry!).  For class, I decided to try the French classic Apple Charlotte.  The catch?  I made them “individual” size which meant a LOT of work, and VERY buttery hands!  I was happily surprised I got it accomplished before class was one.  First was softening the apples – have you ever done this with Granny Smiths?  Well, it took 45 minutes!!!!  And I still had the bread placements to deal with…cutting pieces small enough to fit into cupcake pans…  Suffice to say I was last into the oven.  But of course someone in class mistakenly turned off the oven while trying to clean (I said I was late into the oven!).  Luckily we caught it in time, and my Mini-Charlottes were a hit (thank you Katie and Christina for the photos)!

Wednesday, October 20th:  Ice Creams!!!  While I don’t have pictures from this class, it was SO MUCH FUN!  Of course we all had to compete for saucepans (practically every ice cream we were making starts on the stove…).  It was looking like we were going to need more ice, and it just so happened that Mike and I had a LOT of ice left over from Blue Angels day.  Also, while up in Napa with Angelique a month ago we found this incredible chocolate port wine at Trentadue – Chocolate Amore.  It’s the deal!  SO…I made a deal with Chef – I’ll go home and get some ice (remember, I live not even a block from school), but in return I wanted to make an ice cream with this port.  She agreed!  Chef also helped me along the way with how to adjust the recipe for this change.  I do have to admit – while it was milkshake (too many of us using the freezer for it to set properly), it was DELICIOUS!  I ended up taking it home to try churning it in this little, put-the-can-in-the-freezer type of ice cream maker – BEST LITTLE GUY! – the ice cream came out WONDERFUL!

So I HAD to try more and exotic ice creams since we had an off-weekend (more “Try This At Home”)!  Impatience got the best of me, and on Thursday I made two other ice creams – Orange/Vanilla/Anise and Black Tea/Fresh Mint.  I really enjoy the first one – the anise isn’t strong and gives it a very nice aftertaste to the experience.  The black tea (inspired by my sushi chef – he said I make a good one, he’ll try it) was too strong – for tea drinkers like me and my friends Renee and Christiana it was okay, but it still needs work.  I have ideas on how to do so, so experimentation will ensue!

Before I sign off, I want to take a moment to thank all those who are my tasters.  Your feedback is SO important – and so is the fact that you’re eating this instead of me.  I’m going to have an uphill battle with adding pounds (I DO have to try my creations!), but testers help keep that – hopefully – manageable.

More to come, my friends!

Cheers and Happy Baking!

Thom

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The Blue Angels Party

Hello friends!

It’s been a week, but what a week!  I’ll catch up on the school week later, but for now I want to catch you up on a FUN day – Fleet Week in SF and our annual Blue Angels get-together. 

We had basically the same cast of characters as last year, but an addition of Jindra’s pop from Czech-Republic.  We had a Baker’s Dozen here (pun intended!).  Lots of beer and champaign and juice for three five-year-olds!    Everyone remembered last year when we watched the jets fly into clouds and fog (like Fourth of July here!).  Not this year, no!  The weather was IMPECCABLE!

Mike and I had a great spread:  Fruit, Cheese & Crackers, Mike’s Famous Shrimp, Cream Puffs, Elcaires, Classic Gougeres, Paris Brest, and a Goat Cheese Souffle that didn’t last 10 mintes!

 

The pastries sound familiar?  They are all items I have learned in class.  I was really excited to make the Paris Brest in honor of Jindra’s father, who owns a bicycle shop, and Franck since it’s from France.  Here’s a pic of me making the cream puffs:

While I know sometimes friends say they like your cooking to be nice, some of these folks who were there I know would NOT do that – they would tell me if they didn’t like…and I’ll take the compliments they were giving!  THANK YOU CHEF!  My Pastry School instructor is the BEST!!!

I was SO glad to have all food done before the Blue Angels started.  I got to relax a bit after that…however, unbeknownst to me, my best friend was ensuring my champagne cup was never empty (I thought I wasn’t drinking that much while baking…)  THANKS ANGELIQUE!  Je t’adore!!!!

We called everyone into the kitchen when the Blue Angels started.  What a GREAT show!!!  Unfortunately, I didn’t get good pictures, but others did!

And, to cap the day, I’ve always been told the sign of a good party is when the guests pass out (looks like a typical Thanksgiving, huh?):

Thank you all who came over – we really enjoyed your company!

And thank you all for your continued support and for reading this blog!  (AND special thanks to Angelique for the photos!)

SMOOTCH!

Thom

10/06/10 – Meringues!

Happy happy friends!

Tonight was such a GREAT night…meringues AND I learned to take my pictures from school with a flash!  (you’ll see it didn’t start until the second half of class…).

We started with making a Swiss meringue (there’s also French, which we made for the souffles on Monday, and Italien…which we didn’t make because it’s too cumbersome unless you’re making meringue for an army…).  Easy enough…whip sugar and egg whites together on a double boiler then the Kitchen Aid!  (Thanks Mike for the Professional mixer, thanks Mom and Pop for the red-hot red mixer – I brought both to school so we would have enough for the class…and not a bad workout carrying both to and from school – not even a whole block!)…..

We piped the meringue into shapes (was MUCH better with the “shell” shape used for this and the swans from “eclairs, cream puffs and swans oh my!” night…).  I didn’t take a picture of the other shapes I made, but here’s how the cookies came out…note the nice, not AS brown picture…that’s because while we made the meringue first of the evening, it takes a LOT of oven time so we had to get it in ASAP, and let us stay in until after the souffle:

Second tonight was the Raspberry Souffle (because we didn’t get to make it on Monday…) – this one was fun and adventurous.  French meringue is usually used for this, but given we made the Swiss meringue we tested it with both.  Here’s the results (yes, this was the picture without flash, so it’s sepia toned…)

 

The ones on the left are made from Swiss meringue, the ones on the right from French.  The Swiss came out with a silky luster, the French more traditional.  Also, the texture for Swiss was smoother.  Some in class (like me) enjoyed the Swiss more than the French (only here folks, J’adore tout le monde!).

So, here’s where I finally figured out taking a picture from school – have a look at how wonderful it looks after you take your first  bite from the Raspberry Souffle (of course it wasn’t dressed up for plating…):

By the way, that’s also how beautifully pink they should have looked in the brown picture above it…

It’s late, so I’ll leave it here for now…but be on the lookout after the weekend – the “Try This At Home” section will be EXTENDED, EXPANDED since there’s no class on Saturday (SLEEP IN YIPPIE!!!!) I’ll be baking all day for guests on Sunday – BLUE ANGELS BABY!!!

Happy Thoughts and Sweet Dreams!

Thom

Monday October 4th…

Hi all!

I just finished class, and tonight was SOUFFLES!!  No pictures from tonight, it was a hectic one and souffles flatten quickly.  A goat cheese and herb souffle and a chocolate-peppermint souffle.  Can’t wait to make the latter for Christmas Dinner!  I’m also glad to learn more about souffles so I can perfect the Commander’s Palace Bread Pudding Souffle with Whiskey Sauce…(I know it rocks now, Angelique, but wait until I get my new techniques behind it!!!  You get first taste!)

The fun challenge of the evening…make creme anglaise in 15 minutes…I didn’t quite make it, but that was also because I hadn’t finished my chocolate souffle yet…but it’s all good!

I do have a new item for “Try This At Home”:

Looks good, huh?  I REALLY enjoy making eclaires and cream puffs and swans (oh my!)…  I know I annoyed Mike because for the past three days I wouldn’t stop saying “pate a choux” (pronounced pot-a-shoo).  It just sounds so cool and French to say…

On a totally separate note, I had a musing I would like to share with you:  

While eating my Bertoli four-cheese mini-ravioli with marinara sauce, I’m nostalgically taken back to my days living in New York.  Mom would always send me Spaghetti-O’s because it was my favorite!  With my refined, “urban” palate is it scary that Bertoli is the “urban” Chef Boyardee??

Wednesday night – MERINGUES!

Until next time, Happy Dreams and Sweet Thoughts!

SMOOTCH!  (from shugerlips!)

Thom

Thom’s Second Post!

Hello again friends!

I’ve had two more classes between postings, and I’m SO SO happy with class!!  I have a permanent grin all through class!

Wednesday was custards!!!  It’s AMAZING (to me) knowing the spectrum of Creme Caramel-Pot de Creme-Creme Brulee!  (shh – here’s  the secret…it’s all about milk v. heavy cream and whole eggs v. yolks!)  Since I’m not that much of a fan and it seemed the best challenge for me, I chose to make the Creme Caramel (Flan) – not bad results:

Then yesterday, Saturday – our first full, eight-hour day – Pastry Cream and Pate a Choux.  For those who don’t know, Pate a Choux is the AWESOME batter for Cream Puffs, Eclaires, etc.  Here’s what we made:

Cream Puffs, Éclairs and Swans, Oh My!!! Who doesn’t love these!  I brought one home to Mike, and he actually said “you made this” – YUP, that good (welcome to my ego!!! LOL!)
Paris Brest A pastry made to resemble a bicycle tire…why? It was created in 1891 to commemorate a bicycle race between Paris and Brest.
Classic Gougeres A savory pastry from Choux, and QUITE tasty!
 
And…The BLURRY close-ups (hopefully I’ll have a better photo for next posting):

Class is an incredible experience.  The way we all work together even though our projects are our own…and how we get each other’s advise and suggestions.  What a GREAT bunch of folks!

Here’s a new segment I’m starting – “TRY THIS AT HOME” – I’ll post my practice baking pictures as well as creations on here with reviews from whomever tastes – I’ll post the Good, Bad and Ugly!  I’m still learning how to make this blog (I want this as an insert section), so I’ll just post regular for now.  Here’s my home Flans as well as a mini-cake I made for Mike:

Most of you that know me know how much I LOVE music.  You know that saying that is even an understatement.  Of course when I bake at home I listen to music.  I’m kind of a Rock-N-Roll Baker!  Starting next blog I plan on posting a “Baking Music” section, hopefully with songs to listen to and links to listen more or buy!  Again, I have a vision on how I want it and have to see if I can within the blog format.  You’ll of course get my music reviews as well – I’m going to incorporate my “always wanted to do it” music blog into this one – more reason to come back, and more reason to comment.

With this little bit for post #2 (and a lot of blog-creation research to follow up), I wish you all wonderful days full of happiness, peace and BAKING!

SMOOTCH (from shugerlips – again pending!)

Thom

Thom’s Baking Adventures (and more)…

Hello all an welcome to my Baking Adventures (and other things)…

I’m mostly going to talk about my journey from Pastry School to hopefully opening a bakery with my husband, Mike.  Along the way I may throw in a line or two of my thoughts on other things…

Also let it be known that I am an Marketing/Advertising employee with Intel Corporation (your Sponsor’s of Tomorrow!!!), but this blog is 100% THOM.  (if i need anything else for legal, you’ll be reading it!)

So, back to baking (and me)…I have loved to bake for a LONG time…and this passion was augmented during my Year Without a Job!  (Ironic I now work at the company that was responsible for my job loss in 2001).  I will be gathering all my cake pictures for a photo gallery, but suffice to say Angelique gave me a picture of a three-tiered Mad Hatter cake and said “make this”…which I did…and kept baking from there…

I’m always in search of challenges, and of course working on what I hope to be one of my signature cakes, the S’mores cake!  Right now I have actually mastered the graham cracker cake, so I use that, make marshmallow and chocolate buttercreams (separately), and end it with slightly toasted/burned braham craker crumbs.  And when done right – YUM!

A challenge I’m partiularly happy with (if i do say so myself) is my honey dew melon buttercream.  I came across the idea one day as I LOVE the taste of honey dew and smelled it while I was baking.  I read two handfulls of baking sites where there were no suggestions for buttercream with melon (it’s usually too wet for a buttercream to hold it’s consistency).  I thought like my brother Pete used to – I’ll be the one to crack this!  So I started by using this increadible buttercream recipe from the guys at Baked in Redhook, Brooklyn (thanks Renato and Matt!).  I thought I was so smug and smart with my first solution – I crushed and concentrated the melon then mixed with heavy cream to a consistency that would keep in the buttercream.  This resulted in a very light, refreshing buttercream – tasty but not as pungent as I would have liked.

As luck would have it, I think I got it right today.  Since the recipe I borrowed from Baked called for lemon curd, I decided make a curd substituting honey dew for lemon.  The result – AWESOME – it tastes more like a melon custard.  It worked PERFECT – I made it with chocolate cake, filling a hole in teh middle of three layers with the curd and incorporating the curd in the buttercream.  I wasn’t sure I would like the results at first, but I think it’s unique and VERY tasty!

That brings us up to PASTRY SCHOOL!!!!!  I started tonight at Tante Marie’s.  It’s a great location – less than a block away from my house.  It’s been two years since I have been applying but it wasn’t sinking in.  I took last week off work for a STAYcation to get myself mentally and physically prepared and it still didn’t hit me…not even when I hung up a shelf for my baker smoker:

(direct from Germany! – I need a name for him!!!)

Then today – what a day!  The excitement just increased all day….I was getting a bit good-scared when finishing my chocolate/honey dew mini cakes at 5:30pm (class starts at 6:00).

After a stand in front of the fan, I put on my checkered pants – oh yeah, baby!  Of course, what to wear?  Dress to impress, right?  I was just getting nervous.  Mike lovingly reminded me that this is about me, so just be ME!  (LOVE YOU!).  Had to wear concert-t from latest Rush tour – more on RnR later…)

So I got to school and from the moment I wrote the check there was no turning back!  Everything that happened just kepy me smiling wider.  I could not help it!  I absolutely ADORE the instructor – Cindy Mushet, you can get her books online or at Sur La Table – and she’s the author of our textbook!  I can’t wait to learn all I can from her.  And my classmates!  Fun people – and of course there’s less then 6 degrees between some of us, through work or friends or both.  I can’t wait to collaborate and discuss – and even practice – with these folks!!!

Lastly, when I got home from Cookie Night (learned a LOT about the mistakes I always make that made my cookies flat and not baker quality), not only was I extremely hyper and excited (oh, and HOT AS HADES – tis hotter in the house than outside), I decided that I would start a blog.  I don’t know where this blog will go, what voice I’ll end up with (limited characters SUCK!), but I hope it’s fun for anyone who chooses to read it.

So, I thank you all for reading…you’ll see more from me here!!!

SMOOTCH!  (from sugarlips – name spelling still pending)

Thom