Friday, August 28, 2009

running solo

Last week I had the honor of making a dessert table for my good friends', Milly and Izzy, wedding. When Milly asked me if I’d rather do a wedding cake or a dessert table, I immediately said “dessert table”. And boy did I make the right choice, cuz I had a blast! I’ve been curious in exploring different things, and when I saw a feature of a dessert table created by the talented Amy Atlas in one of the blogs I follow, I was totally intrigued! Without a doubt, she is definitely the main inspiration for all my dessert tables.

Not only that this was my first dessert table for a wedding, it was also the first time I’m running solo. My hubby, who usually helps me with delivery and setup, was the photographer for the day (check out his awesome pics here). I must admit, I was extremely nervous a few days before the event. I guess that’s a good sign right? It shows how much I care ? ^_^'. But seriously, I was telling my co-workers a few days before the wedding of how nervous I was. I guess I wasn't sure if I could do this all by myself. I finally was able to calm myself; I said to myself that I’ve planned it to the best of my ability, I just needed to execute it.

I was in awe on how smooth everything went on the day of. I didn’t think I was going to be able to attend the ceremony. The ceremony site, reception site, and my apartment are located in three very distant locations (Burlingame, Milpitas and Fremont). I had little time to spare between the ceremony and reception, so I decided to book a room at a nearby hotel that has a refrigerator. I had requested for an early check in, and two people I spoke to prior to making the reservation gave me two different information. The first one said “of course, early check in is not a problem!”, and the second one said “mm... I'm sorry, but I can’t guarantee it. You should call back on the day of your arrival”. And the last person I spoke to in the morning of the wedding day said “nope… we have no room available”. Yaiks! I was certain that I wouldn’t be able to go to the ceremony. But the guy suggested that I call again a bit later, which I did, and luckily… one room became available! Long story short, everything works out exactly as planned, and I even got a ride from a friend!

Items served on the table were selected by Milly and Izzy. The table includes a selection of assorted candies (caramel, chocolate covered gummy, almond kisses, yogurt covered pretzel, and assorted candy sticks), Milly's favourite Hawaiian cookies courtesy of Arlene from Baked Vanilla, and fruit tarts, cheesecake bites, cream-cheese brownie bites, and raspberry-chocolate cakes made by yours truly. The flowers on the table were courtesy of the talented Annie Siu.

The feedback I received were overwhelmingly amazing. The desserts were gone in a matter of minutes! I really enjoyed seeing people enjoying my desserts. My favorite comment was from a guy who asked me if I owned a store. And when I said no, he followed up by saying that when I do open a store, I would already have a customer (him) cuz he thought the raspberry-chocolate cake was so good ^___^. That comment alone took me to cloud 9. hehehehe.....

I must thank Milly and Izzy again for letting me make this dessert table for them. Opportunity like this doesn't come very often, and I am truly thankful that they put their trusts in me. I really enjoyed everything. The planning, the baking, the delivery. I even remember thinking the day before the event: "Could this be a glimpse into the future?" (.....that was before things went hectic and I had to go to three different stores to get three different berries.... :-p).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The past couple of weeks have been extremely busy…. and I’m loving every minute of it! I just did my first “solo” dessert table last weekend, and it was a success!! I am so happy with the result. ^_^

This blog post, however, is not about the dessert table. There’s so much to write, and so little time. But I do have something important to share with the blogosphere (and whoever is reading this out there). After numerous attempts and pounds and pounds of almond meal, confectioners sugar, and egg whites went down the drain or into the trash, I finally did it!!

I put the whites and the almond meal into a food processor, pulsed it a few times, and then sifted it.

I whipped the whites to a silky stiff meringue.

Then I poured the almond/sugar mixture and fold… and fold … and fold…

Then I stopped. I piped... and on they went into the oven….

Ten minutes later…. Smooth tops… beautiful little feet…

JOY!! ^__^

I wanted to scream to the world “I DID IT!! I DID IT!! I DID IT!!”

Not just once, or twice, but THREE times!!! YEAYYY!

All of a sudden, all the instruction makes sense. “Whip whites to a stiff meringue” – check! “Fold till mixture looks like magma” – check!

I did it successfully last time with the Italian meringue (hot sugar syrup poured onto whipped meringue), and that allowed me to see what the mixture suppose to look like. This time I did it with the French meringue (whites + sugar). There were still some with cracked tops, but mostly were good. I made them a few days ago and they still bring smile to my face whenever I get home and see them. I know, it sounds silly… but after numerous attempts, hours reading tutorials and various blog posts, and finally getting it, I feel like this is a big thing. ^_^

They are now ready to be filled and served on my next dessert table.

Oh and for those who doesn’t know, I’m talking about the cutest little diva in the baking world (in my opinion)… French Macarons ^_^

Monday, August 10, 2009

julie & julia

I went and see Julie & Julia yesterday. I've been wanting to see it since the day I first saw the commercial on TV. Unlike many others, I went to see Julie... not Julia. Lotsa reviews are starting to pop up online. Most of them applaud Meryl Streep for her excellent performance of Julia Child. I agree with that. She is superb and fun to watch. But I didn't grow up or live in the era of Julia Child. I'm a lost office worker, trying to find my purpose, who love to spend time in the kitchen. I'm Julie.

I think many people went to see the movie expecting to see a bibliography of Julia Child. In my opinion, this movie is not about Julia Child. It's about Julie Powell and that one year period she spent with Julia's book that changed her life forever.

There are so many parts of that movie where I thought, "that's me!". I'm like Julie at the beginning of her one year journey, still at lost and not knowing how to break this mundane daily routine. It's nice to see that it works out for her and in the end she's able to find her true-self.

Hopefully it'll work out for me as well ;-)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

getting inspired...

It's interesting how sometimes little things in life brings inspiration to me.

Things like music:
Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction

My faith is shaking
But I gotta keep trying

Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain

I'm always gonna wanna make it move

Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there

Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

(Yeah.. it's Miley Cyrus' song... hehehe)

Or the blue skies and green trees:

Or the random food bloggers I follow out there: Tartelette, Dessert First, The Journal of a Girl who Loves to Cook, Melanger, and many others.

Or the not-so-random food bloggers that I just found recently: Gourmet Baking and In Love with Baking. These two lovely ladies are actually people I know from back in college.

It's exciting to find/see/read about others who are passionate about desserts and sweets as much as I do. When I found a new blog, I usually go to their first post and then compare it with their latest post. It's always interesting to see how far some have come from when they first started. Truly inspiring. This is what motivates me to keep learning, and also what keeps me humble. I know that I can do some things that others think they could not, but I also know that there are others out there who are way better than me and have achieved much greater accomplishments from their hard work and dedications. Their works inspire and motivate me to learn and try other things.

I always try to be a positive person, but occasionally I do find myself complaining and whining about things I don't have or unable to do. Truthfully, it's not whether I can or cannot do it, but more like whether I want or don't want to do it.

Yes, yes... things aren't always the way I want them to be (if they were, I'd be a millionaire traveling around the world ^_^). But look at these people... this is Anita's kitchen (the writer behind Dessert First). Then go to her blog and see how wonderful her creations are. The size of her kitchen doesn't stop her from doing things she loves to do. And read through Bertha's Gourmet Baking and see how she manages to find time "an hour before work" or "right before the guests arrived".

Amazing, I'm telling you!! So I smacked myself on the head for being a whiner. ^_^

It's either do or don't. No more "I would, but..."

Monday, August 3, 2009

exploring new stuff...

Somebody asked me "so, what's up in the baking world?". I guess I've been bad in updating this blog of mine.... hehehe... it might seems like I haven't been baking much, but it's actually quite the opposite. My calendar has been filled with so much baking 'schedule' that sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by it. But once I get into the kitchen, I almost always able to find my happy place.... almost. ^_^

Not too long ago, I started wondering if custom cake really is my thing. Wedding and special occasion cakes are fun. I always felt great when I'm able to execute a cake that I've planned/designed. However, often time I find the process is always so nerve-wrecking... there's always the last minute change of plan cuz things never work out they way I thought they would. I always started with plan A and ended up with plan Y or Z. And then there's the pressure of delivering the product in one piece, or assembling it at the site.... I'm not sure if my heart can take it.... hahahaha

Nah...I'm just kidding. I still like cakes, but I think there are so much out there that I still need to explore. I wanna make yummy desserts, and the more I think about it... cakes with fondant are pretty, but most of the time they don't taste that yummy (the fondant part - that is).

So now, I've decided to explore a different aspect of baking and pastry... dessert table ^_^.

I think creating a dessert table allows me to explore more variety of desserts and pastries. I get to try to make all sorts of stuff and I get to be creative too in designing the overall look of the table.

I got to do my first "gig" for my dear friend's bridal shower last Saturday. The theme for the shower was a French tea party. We tried to create a Parisian cafe theme on the decor. I got a break this time, since another friend actually did all the decor. So I only had to provide the pastries.

I thought cakes were nerve-wrecking... well this is actually twice as nerve-wrecking as cakes! Well, it could also be because I was making a cake as well in addition to the other desserts. Scheduling the production was rather difficult. After all, this is a one-woman show, with limited refrigerator space, limited kitchen space, and limited production time. I didn't/couldn't start the production too early in advance since I want the pastries to still be fresh. The last thing I want was soggy crust on my fruit tartlets. And I do have a full time job to go to during the day... hehehe. So my activity last week has been: wake up, go to work, go home, bake, sleep, and repeat.

I think the best thing out of all this was my first successful attempt in macaroning *yay*. I've been trying to make this tiny-cute-yummy-finicky-temperamental-concoction numerous times and have wasted so much egg whites and almond meal. I think the problem I kept having is that I didn't know when to stop "macaroning". I always overmixed or undermixed. All the tutorials I read on various blogs said to "mix till the mixture flows like magma". I've never visited a volcano and not planning to do so anytime soon... so I don't really have a clue how magma flows. Anyway, this time I used the italian meringue method, instead of the typical french meringue method. I've made this recipe once before. It was pretty good, but I thought it was rather sweet. However, my objective this time is to get that perfect shell and feet. I needed to know what the batter consistency should look like... then I can work on the taste.

I didn't put my hopes up too high, since I kept getting disappointed over and over again. But to my joyous surprise, they actually rised! Perfect feet, perfect shell (well half of them, at least). Woohoo!! I was sooo ecstatic!! I didn't take a picture of the shells when they first got out of the oven, but boy.... they looked like little soldiers...aligned so prettily, standing tall and proud... I'm a happy camper ^_^.

In the end, I think it all went pretty well considering this is my first time. It definitely took way more work than I anticipated. My main issue is the lack of appropriate tools and storage space, but i'll make do with what i have ^_^. Two more coming up at the end of this month. Wish me luck!