Friday, November 12, 2010

Saved the Best for Last

I think I have a problem. I go through an endless cycle of getting bored from not having enough things to do, and getting stressed out from having too much things to do. I never seem to be able to find a balance. When I don't have any cake or dessert projects on the side, I would say "I'm so bored!!". Then I went and got myself a cake order or a dessert project. Then I would say "OMG! What was I thinking! This is too much! Why am I doing this to myself??". It's sort of predictable that way that it's just a matter of time before I start getting myself overworked again after being stressed out from an exhausting cake/dessert project.

Nothing stresses me out more than wedding cakes. With desserts, I can kinda take my time in making them. If I mess up in one of them, I can simply go to plan B and do a different dessert. But with wedding cakes, it's all or nothing! The pressure is on since there's no room for failure. There's no plan B since the cake is based on an agreed upon design. Everything has to be perfect, because you know that a wedding cake is the number two most photographed item in a wedding. Number one being the bride herself!

This last wedding cake I made was the biggest cake and the farthest delivery I've ever made. I agreed to do this cake because it's for one of my girlfriends at work. She's such a sweet girl, I could never say no to her ;-). Her wedding was at Paso Robles. When she first told me where the wedding was gonna be, I thought that it would only take about an hour to get to Paso *sigh*. It's actually about three hours long when there's no traffic. And since her wedding was at the labor day weekend, sure enough... there was traffic :-P.

Luckily, the cake was mostly made of dummy. Since we knew the delivery would take forever, we decided to have the real cake as sheet cakes. The only real part on this cake was the bottom tier. It was still quite stressful though, since the flowers were so fragile. The flowers on the cake matched her wedding flowers, which were hydrangea and calla lilies. I've never made either one before... They were fun to make, but very time consuming and oh so fragile. Every bumps we encountered made my heart skipped a To make it even more intense, it was SOO HOT that day and the wedding was out door. I think it was about 95F that day.

Everything went well though. Despite the traffic, I managed to get there about an hour before the wedding, leaving me enough time to set up. We left the cake in an air conditioned room until the weather cools down a bit. Some of the hydrangea broke, but I had enough spare to cover up. And what's most important is that the bride loves the cake!

So there it is. My last wedding cake.

The last one until the next one, that is... Knowing me, I think I'm still gonna do wedding cakes, as long as they're not big (max three tier) and the venue is within 30 minutes from where I live. I think that way I can be creative and still stay within my comfort zone ^_^.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tea's Birthday Bash

The past few months have been real busy. Soon after my last post, we actually did another Honey & Tea event. It was back in August; a dinner bash to celebrate Tea's birthday.

I was really busy with work at the time. Adjusting to my new responsibilities at work was proven to be quite challenging. Things were a lot busier than before, and having to be the one responsible for the pastry production was really really hard to get used to. It's one thing to organize my own day, but having to organize other people's work day is quite challenging. Especially since it's hard to estimate how much time is needed to accomplish a certain task since it's different from person to person. Anyway, somehow I managed to squeeze in some time to prep for Tea's birthday bash. This one was much bigger than the first one. We had about 70 people coming. Thinking back, I really don't know how we pulled it off.

We made some of the same desserts we made last time and some new ones. The macs are the keeper for sure. Matcha macs got as much love as they did the last time.

Instead of the chocolate raspberry verrines, I decided to make white chocolate mousse with rose dacquoise and raspberry sauce. It didn't work out as well as I hoped as the white chocolate mousse really overpowered the raspberry and rose flavors.

I also got a really great deal for mini ramekins from a local store. I used them to make these mini vanilla creme brulee. They are so cute and so yummy!!

Since it was a birthday, I thought it wouldn't be complete without a birthday cake. So I made this simple two tier cake.

It was the fastest I ever assembled and decorated a cake. The cake inside was vanilla chiffon with passionfruit buttercream. The decoration is super simple. I wanted to match the colour of our logo, which are green for Tea and orange/gold for Honey. Since it's Tea's bday, I used green as the colour scheme. The bubbles represent dreams and ideas... large dreams, small dreams. They're just floating around... maybe waiting to be realized? heheh I dunno... it was just a random idea, and it was easy enuf to execute.

The party went really well. I was dead tired even during the party. I'm glad I wasn't the bday girl!! :-P I wouldn't have enough energy left to socialize!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Introducing: Honey & Tea

The past months have been truly busy! Work is busy as always, but in addition to that, my friend and I have been working on our little side project. We've been baking together on and off, and we have explored many different business ideas. I, being the conservative one, always hesitant in doing anything risky.... such as starting a business. However, I know that I have to start somewhere. So despite of my reluctance, I decided that this is safe enough and a good first step toward starting a business.

So, let me introduce to you (drumroll, please): Honey & Tea. Tah dah!
It's not a business. At least, not yet. Maybe it will be. Eventually.

Currently, we just like to experiment on different products. As an outlet for our experimentation, we host dessert tasting for our friends to come and taste our creations. We bake, they eat, and then they give us feedback as to what works and what doesn't. So it benefits both!

We just did our first dessert tasting last Sunday. It was a success, but I was dead tired afterwards!

The week prior to the event, work consumed most of my time.. I was too tired to bake after work. So I kept postponing my baking schedule, until before I realized it, it was already Friday :-(. I got off work, went home, and started baking again! Of course it wasn't a smooth sailing from there either. My teeny tiny oven just got fixed and I really haven't tested it much. So my first batch of macarons had to go to the trash :-(. They cracked cuz they were overheated.... I had to remake a second batch, baked them double panned, and thankfully they came out beautifully. It also took me about three hours to make and bake 1kg of pate a choux. Ridiculous, I say! :-p

In the end, everything worked out... and I learned a lot from this experience :-). We're hoping to do this periodically, but I need to really work on my schedule so I can keep my sanity... hehehe. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 12, 2010

end of the six-month internship!!


It's crazy how fast this year has been. I can't believe that I'm already at the end of my six-month period. It seems like it was just a while ago that I took the Pastry III class there...

Well, to say the least, life has been very interesting ever since I switched career :). Like the past weekend, I made this cake for another friend of mine. It's a simple and elegant little cake with a groom and bride figurine topper. I think they're quite adorable, if I may say so myself ;-).

Here's the final cake with the flowers and table set up....

I was having a little difficulty attaching the orchids since I'm not very familiar with working with fresh flowers... but I think I did alright.

So, now that the internship is over... I'm staying for a while! I'm now officially a full time baker for SFBI. There are still so much things to learn, and there's no better way to learn than by getting more experience!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

mission "almost" impossible

When I decided to switch career, I knew that my life would be different. My work is fast paced, long hours, and very physical. It might sounds undesirable to some, but I actually embrace all that. But after long and exhausting days at work, baking and making cakes on the side doesn't sound so appealing anymore. That's why there's been a lack of updates in this blog, since I haven't been experimenting as much in my kitchen and have been avoiding all cake requests this year. Until this one came along....

This cake was for a very sweet and bubbly couple, T+S. We've talked about this cake since last year, before I even got into this internship. After many discussions, the bride showed me a picture of a building that she really likes in NY. She asked if I can build a cake with a similar offset structure. It's got lots of stuff that I have never done before: square fondant cakes, towering five tier, offset structure, delivery to Napa.... sure, why not! ^_^

Anyway, as the day got closer, things started to get even more hectic. Work's been crazy, and I tried to squeeze in cake decorating any time I could possibly find. Not to my surprise, all my time estimates were wrong. In reality, everything took longer than I predicted. But luckily, I was able to pull it off in the nick of time. It wasn't my best work. As a matter of fact, I was quite disappointed with all the flaws I could see in the cake. But perhaps that's what happen to your eyes after seeing so many strips all night long! ;-)

A few lessons I've learned from this cake:
- Never freeze a cake the day before you decorate it. Especially NOT in the blast freezer. The condensation will cause your cake to sweat. However, if you do put your cake in the blast freezer because you were so dead tired and could not find any space in the fridge and just want to go home and sleep.... you can save the cake by covering it really well with suran wrap, and letting it thaw for a few hours in the fridge.
- Always, always, knead your fondant until it's elastic and pliable no matter how sore and tire your arms are. Otherwise it'll rip on you. However, if it does rip and your cake is white.... some royal icing can come to the rescue :-).
- Only give two options: delivery or pickup. My poor heart can't take having somebody else drive the cake, and finding that the stacked cakes have shifted from one side of the box to the other, and then having to repair it. Luckily no major damage, except for some broken pieces of stripes.
- Know that there is no such thing as perfection :).

All in all, this cake has been a crazy experience. Almost mission impossible. But now I can say "mission accomplished" ... flaws and all ^_^

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is Your Oven Telling You the Truth?

I live in an apartment. So I don't have the luxury to purchase my own stove/oven range. So far, a good kitchen where I can bake in has always been the highest factor in deciding on a place to rent. I've lucked out so far to always have had a working (yet small) oven. I guess I've ran out of luck when I moved to this new apartment.

Don't get me wrong, the apartment is awesome. It even came with a new oven. Unfortunately, one that overheats... :-(. I reported this to my landlord. She called Sears to send their technician, who then claimed that the oven is under-heating instead of overheating. Hmm.. I wonder how that explained my burned macs *grr*.

Anyway, I need to proof my case, so after much researching, I found a few simple tests to determine how accurate your oven temperature really is. Since I am now stuck at home, waiting for Sears to send another guy who happens to be "running behind", I figured I'd write this up. It might come in handy to others or even for myself if I need to run tests again in the future.

Test 1: Purchase an oven thermometer
This one's easy. It's pretty cheap too. Just get an oven thermometer and hang it on one of the oven racks. If it registers higher then what your oven is set to, then chances are your oven temp is off. The downside to this is when the technician comes with a more hi-tech gadget and tells you that your thermometer is wrong... it's hard to beat that.

Test 2: The Ready-bake Biscuit
Buy a can of ready-bake biscuit from any supermarket. Follow the baking instruction to the T. If you get golden brown biscuit, then your oven temp is a-okay. If you get burned biscuit on the other hand.... then chances are your oven is overheating.

Test 3: The Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen Water Test
I saw this on TV a while ago. According to ATK, if you put 1/2 cup of tap water in a pyrex cup in a 350degree oven for 15 minutes, the water should registers 150degree when you temp it out of the oven.

I've done all three tests, and everything suggested that my oven is overheating. Alas, I am now sitting at home, waiting for the Sears guy, who's running WAY late to come and fix the darn oven *sigh*.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dawn to Dusk

It is now May and I can't believe that I've been interning for almost five months. I've learned so many things and am truly enjoying it. I gotta admit, the morning schedule is a killer. I swear, waking up in the morning reduces my IQ. I can get into a very normal sounding conversation with somebody, and then five minutes later forgetting the whole content of that conversation *shake head*. Pretty sad... It also feels strange going out to work when it's still pitch dark out. The streets are empty and there's hardly anybody out. But then again, it's amazing to see how much you can get done by the time the sun is out.

I still have a couple more weeks to go in this rotation. My days are filled with breads and Viennoiseries. I started my typical day prepping for the schools breakfast (pictures above; poor quality since they're taken with my phone). Aside from waking up in the morning, I actually really enjoy this rotation. I'm not so afraid of yeast anymore and have a newfound appreciation to great artisan breads.

The next couple of weeks I'll hopefully have my hands on laminating croissants. If not, I'll make it my mission to at least practice with a smaller batch of dough.

After the two weeks, I'll be going back to the pastry station. I CAN'T WAIT!! ^_^

I'm loving my life now. Work is hard, but satisfying. I hardly have time to do baking on the side anymore. Not that I can anyway since the new oven in my apartment is still not working properly (overheating issue).

I'm so glad I made this decision. I guess some dreams are worth chasing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Meyer Lemon Macarons: Another Season, Another New Rotation

Yep! It's time for another internship rotation! I'm kinda excited to rotate ^_^. The next rotation will be the bread production for Thorough Bread & Pastry. I have not fallen in love with bread just yet, but I'm excited to learn more about laminated dough. I'm also excited to say goodbye to preparing lunch. I have to admit, I learned a lot about making savory stuff. But, I can pass on that any day. I like eating good food. Just not preparing it. ^_^

Anyway, last week, I believe, was officially the first week of spring. Soon, all the citrusy fruits will be gone and replaced by the summer berries. I got some Meyer lemons from work and haven't had a chance to make anything out of them (except from making lemonade. but that doesn't count! ;-)). I also haven't had a chance to test the oven in my new apartment ever since I moved in. So, over the weekend, I decided to kill two birds with one stone with some Meyer Lemon Macs!

My oven temp is totally screwy. I think it must've been off by about 100F :-(. Sad! I put in two pans at a time (stupid me!), and the pan on the bottom rack totally got overheated. But at the same time, it created an insulation for the pan above it that came out perfect. The second batch I did came out so much better. I had to toss some of the macs that exploded, but I had enuf to fill with some yummy meyer lemon ganache. Then on Sunday, hubby & I made time for a little photo shoot for this tiny little divas (hence the awesome pics compare to the pics from the previous posts that were taking with my iphone).

The next eight weeks is gonna be busy, busy, busy! I'll have to get used to waking up AND going to sleep early! I wonder which one is harder, waking up or going to sleep early.... all the good TV shows start at 9pm~! ^_^

Monday, March 22, 2010

Living the Sweet Life

The past few weeks have been so sweeeeeeet! ^_^ I ate so much sugar, I think I gained back all the weight I've lost! BUT it's ALL GOOD! heheh

Last Friday was a graduation day at SFBI for their part time professional program. I was very lucky to be a part of the event. I had always liked helping/catering for events, so this was a chance for me to be a part of a pretty large scale event. I know it's just a graduation, but it's not like any graduation I've ever attended before. Even bigger than the final day of my schooling at PCI. The students worked for a whole week to prepare all the bread and pastries for the graduation. I managed to help with some of the bread production and the making of the animal shaped breads. I have to say, it was quite fun! We had breads, pastries, mousse cakes, confections, pizza, savory pastries, booze, and even ice cream! hahaha

It was a long day, but very fun nonetheless!

On the weekend, I went to the annual SF Chocolate Salon with hubby and T2. After all the sugar I consumed on Friday, I wasn't able to devour that much chocolate at the Salon. I was so looking forward to finally attend the SF Chocolate Salon since I've always missed the event on prior years, but unfortunately it wasn't at all what I had envisioned in my head. The Salon was more like a wedding fair, but for chocolate and only chocolate. I was hoping to see more variety of vendors... like more tools, books, wholesale chocolate vendors, etc. But the vendors that participate were mostly local chocolatiers trying to promote their products. There were good ones.... but there were too many for me to try them all!

And the past couple of days, we had a visit from a group of pastry chefs from Las Vegas who came to attend a class from Valrhona that was held at SFBI. Man! I'm so lucky to be able to see and taste some of the stuff they made!

Everything was very stimulating to my palate. It's not just the flavors, but also the texture, the mouthfeel, and of course.. the visual appeal. They talked about different cocoa butter vs cocoa content/fiber vs. sugar content and the affect on the final product. I'm just so blown away! (Maybe this is still the sugar talking). But nonetheless, I feel very lucky to experience this kind of exposure ^_^.

Most importantly... I feel H A P P Y. I'm living the sweet life. And it is quite awesome.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rum Raisins Bread Pudding

I can't believe it took me this long to finally update this blog again. My internship has been going well and I've been very much busy. Adjusting to the first few weeks was quite difficult, but eventually I got used to my new routine and now I'm thoroughly enjoying it :-). I've tried on several occasion to update this blog, but for whatever reasons I've always ended up not finishing the post and then completely abandoned it... hahah.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and before I realized it, it's already the first week of March! It feels like Spring is almost here. The days are getting longer, but occasionally we get cold and windy days, such as today. I can't believe how fast time flies. I'm currently on the second rotations on my internship. My current duties is to make lunch and bread for the students and staff. Imagine the horror! Two things I don't usually do combined together! :-P It's a great learning experience tho. Cuz if I can manage to do things I don't really like, surely I can manage doing things that I do like. But despite that, I gotta say, I can't wait for this rotation to be over!! hahahaha It's only been two weeks, but I'm feeling pastry deprived. I take any chance I get to help my coworkers doing pastry related jobs, and making pastry at home whenever I get a chance to. Unfortunately, I don't usually have much time left by the time I get home, and weekends seem to always be filled with chores or fun times with family and friends.

However, this weekend, I managed to squeeze in some bread pudding. Before I went to SFBI, I've only made bread pudding once and it didn't impress me at all. I never realized how easy it was to make bread pudding until I had to make one at SFBI when I was in the pastry rotation. It was quite yummy, but the best bread pudding I've tasted was from Tartine. It was so simple, yet so scrumptiously delicious. I had some bread that I took home from work last week, and I was planning to make some bread pudding for my father-in-law's birthday. I was so busy last week that I only had a chance to make it on Thursday night (his bday dinner was on Friday). I didn't even get a chance to go groceries shopping. So I had to use whatever I had in my refrigerator. As I was about to make it, I realize that I didn't even have a recipe handy. Thanks to the www, I was able to find a recipe of Tartine's bread pudding on this blog. Unfortunately, I have not done a lot of baking in my new apartment so the supplies in my refrigerator was very limited. I ended up having to modify the recipe slightly... but the result was surprisingly finger-licking-good!!!

As it turned out, I didn't have enuf time to bake it for Friday night's dinner. So I had to go with plan B instead. I ended up whipping up a real simple cake at work, and kept the bread pudding for myself hahahaha. The cake consists of layers of golden chiffon cake, lemon mousse and fresh raspberries. Didn't get a pic of the cake since hubby and I were running late and forgot to bring our camera. That just means that I have to remake it again, since it was also quite yummy.

One thing I can conclude from my first two months of internship is that I love pastry. I love entremets, macarons, tarts, cakes, pate a choux, puff pastry, and everything pastry. I haven't developed any affection to bread, but I'm okay making it. We'll see if I'll fall in love with it too eventually ;-).

Rum Raisins Bread Pudding
Modified from Tartine's Recipe

6 slices of bread, cut 1" thick (I used challah)
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy cream + 1/2 cup water
pinch of salt
raisins + rum, enough to macerate the raisins

* Butter a 8x8 glass dish.

* Macerate the raisins.

* Place all ingredients in a bowl and use an immersion blender to mix them thoroughly. Take the rum used to macerate the raisins and mix it with the custard.

* Arrange the bread in the glass dish and pour the custard till the bread is completely covered with the custard. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes so that the bread and absorbs the liquid. I let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.

* Pour remaining custard and sprinkle raisins over the bread. Cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Bake at 350F for about 1 hour. Use a knife to test the doneness. If the custard is still very liquid-y, bake it for a few more minutes.

* Let cool. Serve it warm or chilled depending on your liking.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Week one update, and the class that started it all...

I did my first week of internship last week!! Woohoo! It felt like such an accomplishment cuz it turns out to be harder than I anticipated... well, not "hard" in terms of difficulties of tasks, but "hard" in terms of getting used to the workload and work hours. I'm still not used to standing up for a long period of time, my physique is not as fit as it used to be, and I'm still trying to familiarize myself with the kitchen. But I'm sure as time goes by, I'll get better at it! :-)

I'm so glad that the first rotation I am placed into is the lunch dessert prep/pastry/mousse cakes production. This is something that I happen to be very much interested in and like doing. The only difference is that instead of making one mousse cake at a time, we're making 4 or 5. And in addition to the production, there are always other things to do simultaneously.

My work hours typically starts at 7.30 and ends anywhere between 5.60 to 6. It's long hours, but the difference between this and the office job is that time moves so much faster! When I was working in an office, I always feel like time was moving really slowly. But now, my day seems to be going by so much faster. I guess when you're doing something you enjoy, time pass by faster... it's either that or there are so many things to do that I just don't realize how time flies hahaha...

Anyway, that's pretty much how the first week went. I was so darn tired at the end of the week, I fell asleep right away after I came home! I've no pics to share now that work is gonna take most of my time. But the blog post looks so bare with no picture, so I figured I might as well include past pictures that I haven't shared in this blog, starting with pics from the class that started it all :-). Here are some pictures from the Pastry III class that I took back in October at SFBI.

Some petit fours that we (the class) made:

The cakes I made:

And here's the full spread of desserts we made:

Can you tell now why I wanted to intern at this school? hehehe

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hello, Goodbye...

Happy New Year!! I can't believe it's 2010. Oh how time flies...

Sorry I've been MIA the last part of 2009. There were lots of things happened, lots of contemplating, lots of pondering and lots of moving. But, anyway, I'm back! It's the new year, and I'm saying hello to a new job, a new apartment, and a new city to live in.

Along with that, I'm also sadly, saying goodbye to some things...

This week was actually my last week working at my day job... After five years, I've finally decided to say goodbye to the job that has supported me in my many baking adventures. From going to culinary school, traveling to many bakeries to taste their goodies, and to baking numerous cakes for friends and family. It wasn't an easy decision. Despite of all the stress, this job brings lots of stability and flexibility. And most importantly, it also introduced me to many wonderful people. It's hard to let go something so tangible, so stable, so readily available. However, on and on I'm finding myself moping. I can't seem to be happy. I'm day-dreaming about macarons, mousse cakes, glossy meringue, spatulas and icing in the middle of the day.

Mid last year, I signed up for a week-long pastry class in October at SFBI. It was something that I really looked forward to. Little did I know that this one-week course was the tipping point of my career. It made me realize that, more than anything, I want to learn more about baking. Coming back to work after that was like waking up from a dream. Except it wasn't a dream... or was it? After all, it was only for a week, and I was there as a student, not as an employee. It might not be the same if I were working there... but I would never know, unless I try it....

Against all odds, I do have the opportunity to try as it turns out that SFBI has an internship program. Ooh...dilemma, dilemma. Should I apply, should I not? Change is scary and I hate scary thing. Contemplate, contemplate. Alas, I made my decision. I'll never know unless I try. It might just be a dream, but who knows...? Maybe I can make my reality as close as possible to that dream. I might regret it. I might crumble and fall. But I will never know unless I try. And even if I apply, I might not even get in to the program...

But I did get in.

So there you have it! A brief summary of what happened the past 3 months or so. The next six months will be filled with the unknown. It's scary. And I'm terrified, worried, anxious... yet at the same time, hopeful.

Amidst all these, I did do some baking. I was just lacking the inspiration to write here. And in addition to that, we just got our internet connected at our new place... But like I said earlier, I'm back!

Hello 2010!