Tuesday, December 30, 2008

hello 2009!

2008 went by so fast.... all of a sudden, it's 2009!  2008 has definitely been a great and exciting year.  so many things have happened and it's been a blast. i feel so fortunate to have such a wonderful family and group of friends who are totally supportive of my passion.  they're the ones who pushed me up when i'm falling down.  you might not realized it, but the little things you said are the things that made me keep going. so ... THANK YOU ^_^.  

i didn't do any baking for new year's eve.  instead, i prepared dinner for my family... hee hee hee... while baking has become somewhat comfortable for me, cooking is.... well.. to say the least... quite challenging! hahahahaha 

since there's no picture of sweets to post... i asked my hubby to make a collage of all the custom cakes/cookies i've made in 2008.  it's kinda neat to see all my creations in one page ^_^. 

i'm really excited to start 2009.  i've got a new job that will start in the middle of january.  it's an office job, and i'm gonna have to go back to working m-f 8-5. it might reduce my baking activities a little.  but it wouldn't stop me ^_^.  


Saturday, December 27, 2008

winter love

this cute little one was created for my aunt's wedding anniversary.

my aunt and uncle celebrated their 30th anniversary on christmas day, december 25th. that day happened to be my parents anniversary too. i always wish that i can be near my parents this time of year. holidays just aren't the same without our loved ones nearby...

this cake turned out to be very different than the original idea. i was going to use fondant bows instead of roses for the top, but my bows didn't dry in time. eh, isn't that how it always goes anyway? hahaha i'm kinda used to improvising at the last minute (or hours).

i like the end result. it's simple, pure, and elegant. kinda like love, don't you think? he he he

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

holidays cookies!


i've been dying to blog for weeks, but i've been extremely occupied with holidays cookie-baking activities .... and it's been absolutely FUN! ^_^

instead of giving gifts this year, i decided to make cookie baskets/bags for my family and close friends.

in the effort of encouraging others to help create a sustainable environment, this year's theme is: REDUCE, REUSE, and RECYCLE.

hubby helped create the holiday tag, that says "reduce, reuse, recycle - change starts now". listed inside the tag are pointers on how one can change his/her behavior to help reduce their waste.

the packages themselves are quite earth-friendly. i use used boxes and reusable bags that people can use for groceries as the packaging. the containers are reusable and recyclable. i try to use as little plastic as possible, but it's a bit difficult since the cookies need to be wrapped with something... ^_^

i know it's not much, but every little bit counts right?

i made lots of different types of cookies & snacks... some i've made before: chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisins cookies, spritz cookies, banana bread, brownies. some are traditional indonesian snacks: nastar (pineapple tartlets) and putri salju (snow white). some i've never made before: peppermint cookies, decorated sugar cookies.

out of all of them, the most fun to make were the spritz cookies and the decorated sugar cookies. i've made spritz cookies once before when i was in the culinary school. this time, i tried using the cookie gun that i got for my bday. oh my! it was SO MUCH FUN! *hee hee hee* and they taste SO GOOD too!

i've never made sugar cookies before, but i got this book that triggered my curiosity. i used the basic sugar cookie recipe from this book. i gotta say that it's a pretty good recipe. the dough is easy to make and it bakes perfectly. it holds it shape and makes a beautiful canvas to ice and decorate.

check out my army of snowmen.... of course there's got to be one "different" ^_^ (i was just playing around... that's what happened when i had too much sugar!)

and here are some of the finished products:

i think i have the most fun this holidays season. i hope all the recipients enjoy eating these snacks as much as i enjoyed making 'em! ^__^

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

a few of my favorite things...

it's been quite chilly the past few days in the bay area. i've heard stories about people spotting snows at nearby places such as San Francisco or Berkeley. i'm never a big fan of the cold weather, but there's just something about the month of December that screams "holiday!". even though the weather outside is chilly, the holiday musics, decorations, and lights somehow just make my heart feels warm ^_^.

i've been keeping our place somewhat warm by my baking activities... unfortunately it only works when the oven is on ^_^.

we had a get-together with the gang at the Chiengs last saturday. originally we had planned to spend the day at downtown San Jose's Chrismas in the park. however, due to the cold weather/rain, we decided to stay in-door. it turned out to be really nice as it was warm and cozy at the Chiengs' house, and i got to play with cute-baby-Kyle.

i provided some desserts for the gang. for this event, i decided to make a few of my favorite things...: fruit tartlets, cheesecake bites, and orange truffle cuts.

coincidentally, tuesday was my office retreat ... so i made enough desserts for both events. the highlight of the retreat for me personally was the fact that some people did not realize that i made the desserts ( i made most of the desserts. the actual caterer only brought some cookies & baklavas ^_^).

the director even came to me and said, "hey Hany, this must be your type of events, huh? with all these desserts and mini-tarts...". i paused for a few seconds, and then said, "um....you do know that i made these right?" hahahaha

it's a good sign when people can't tell the difference between my home made goodies versus professionally catered goodies ^_^. i love it!

Monday, December 8, 2008

a nice little surprise in the mail

i found a little package in my mailbox last friday. the return address showed that it was from PCI. it felt somewhat heavy for such a small package. what could it be? i went back to my apartment and opened it with much curiousity.

to my surprise, the little package contains a medal and a letter.

it turns out that i was the recipient of the Joseph Amendola Award for Outstanding Baking & Pastry Student. the award was given during the commencement ceremony that i did not attend :-p.

it's a pleasant surprise. i've received some awards back in high school for being the top student in my class, but this one means a lot more to me because this is something that i really love to do. and to be acknowledge by my instructors truly gives me a good feeling.

i felt somewhat sad a few minutes after i opened/read the letter. i guess i was feeling a bit disappointed with where i'm at in my life. working 8-5 in an office doing accounting/finance does not feel like the right thing for me to do. sometimes i wondered if things would've been different if i had realized my passion in baking a few years early. it might have been so much easier if i had started my career in the baking and pastry industry. switching career has not been an easy thing to do.

truth is, there are two sides of me... the "grown-up-hany" and the "baker-hany". the grown-up-hany always uses logical thinking. the grown-up-hany thinks about the grown up stuff i should be doing: buying a house, saving for future needs, and start thinking about a family (can't deny that baby fever has hit me several times :-p). the grown-up-hany constantly reminds me that i need money to buy the things i want, and i really can't live out of $8.50/hr paychecks. but the baker-hany longs to be in the kitchen, the baker-hany wants to be a pastry chef, the baker-hany wants to learn more. the grown-up-hany says "you're a good enuf cake decorator, just keep at it". but the baker-hany says "there's so many more things out there to learn about".

ah...dilemma, dilemma.... life is full of choices ^_^. and i can't turn back time and "realize my dream sooner". there's no way to change the course of life, and i am fortunate enough to have at least discovered the thing i love to do the most.

i haven't decided what i'm going to do next. i don't know where i'm going to lead my life. but i'm thankful for everything that i have (this starting to sound like a late thanksgiving post ;-p).

heck.... enuf thinking about stuff...

i'm just gonna live my life..... one.... step... at... a... time!!


happy birthday, colin! ka-chow!!

colin, who was turning two last weekend, loves cars. what could be more suitable for this boy's bday cake than a cars theme cake, complete with lightning mcqueen? ka-chow!! ^__^

it took hours to make this cake. it's my first time making sculpted cars. and it's not just any cars, it's lightning mcqueen! as always, i'm slow when i'm doing things for the first time! :-p

lightning mcqueen and guido are made of rice crispy treats, sculpted and shaped into form. i covered the whole thing with royal icing, then patched them with fondant to get the shape i want. i had so much fun making them! my icing gun came in handy to make the small parts on the decorations. i also discovered "fondant glue" made from cmc (Carboxy Methyl Cellulose) and water. it works like super glue for fondant... perfect for making characters ^_^

they really did take a long time to make though. took me about 20 hours to make these decorations. and overall, it took me about 40 hours to make the whole cake (from the beginning to the time i left the venue, after delivery).

i had to make some changes from the original drawing. "route 66" didn't make it to the final product, and originally i was going to make racer's checkerboard flags to decorate the bottom tiered. instead, i ended up with checkerboard border all around the cake, which turns out pretty nice.

i was really tired by the time i'm done with this cake. cold weather does not get along well with me. i feel like i was fighting off a cold right from the beginning of the week. i crashed and slept for hours as soon as i got back to my apartment.

later that day, i received the nicest e-mail from colin's mom, saying how much she loves the look and taste of the cake. that totally made my day ^_^. all sickness went straight away!