Vegetable Garden

Saturday, July 30, 2011

First Paid "Commission"

Today I delivered my first paid commission - a birthday cake for a friend's wife.  I had a lot of fun making this cake and was the highlight for me over the past few days.  The specs given to me were:- white sponge, white icing, flowers on top.  Favorite colors are pink and purple.  This was what I made:

It's a white cake with lemon curd filling, white frosting and fondant flowers/plaque.  I must say that it was a mildly stressful undertaking as it calls for decoration skills a little ahead of the pastry program curriculum.  But with a few books from the library, I think I managed to pull it off.  Most importantly I am super thrilled that the birthday girl loved it :)

There was a small problem during delivery.  I forgot to put some icing under the cake cardboard, so when Vince hit the breaks a little too hard on 5th Ave and 60-somewhat street, the side of the cake smeared against the side of cardboard box.  I decided to turn around and went home to fix the sides.  2 lessons learned - #1 glue the cake to the cardboard box.  #2 always have extra icing (which I did).

Friday, July 29, 2011

Christmas in July

We started cakes II yesterday but due to the multi-step (chill, assemble, chill, assemble) nature of cakes, I had nothing to "showcase" yesterday.  Fraisier is a strawberry, sponge and mousseline (pastry cream and butter) cake.  The green top layer is marzipan (basically ground almond and sugar). 


Fraisier Slice

Christmas came early in the sweet kitchen.  It's odd to be making a Buche de Noel (Christmas Log) in summer but that's what we did.  To make it feel extra "holiday'ish", we used cranberries to flavour the butter cream.  Where's Santa?

Buche de Noel

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Petits Fours Test

My partner and I worked non stop from 8:30a to 1:30p to produce 7 varieties of petits fours.  It was an intense day for sure.  From the top:
* Blood orange glazed puff pastry barquette filled with chocolate ganache
* Passion fruit macarons
* Green tea and honey madeleines
* Strawberry petits fours glaces
* Blood orange pate de fruits
* Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
* Swans filled with pastry cream and fresh mango

We are back to baking cakes tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More little treats

These petits fours glaces are a huge pain to make.  First you make the cake base, then the flavoured butter cream, assemble them, chill/freeze, glaze, chill/freeze and finally decorate.  Oh, wait...that's what Tricia (my partner for this unit) and I are making tomorrow for our test (plus 3 individual desserts each). 
Petits Fours Glaces

We also made lemon cookies dipped in chocolate.

Lemon Cookies

Packaged these cookies for Vince to bring to the office tomorrow...  Gotta find a way to "spread the love"... :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Black and White

It just dawned on me that I forgot to take pictures of the petits fours I made last Friday.  Oh well... my ex-colleagues Mike and Jeff can tell you that they were quite delicious :)

We made these ice box and swirl cookies on Friday when the temperature in the kitchen was over 100F.   It was rather impossible to make little desserts in such warm temperature and at one point I almost wanted to give up.  My persistance paid off.  These cookies turned out to be almost perfect. 

The heat wave finally broke and the temperature in the kitchen today was much more reasonable.  Great day to make petits fours glaces (lots of buttercream).  It's setting up overnight in the freezer and we'll glace them tomorrow... so until then...

Ice Box and Swirl Cookies

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Baking is definitely less fun in a 100F kitchen, standing next to a 400F oven.  I survived...

Lots of sweet treats today since we did not bring home any yesterday.

My plate of Petits Fours

Opera cakes are one of my favorites.  I love the rich and intense flavour combination.  Nutty, chocolaty and coffee'ish...

Opera Cake

Pate de Fruit are my least favorite on any petits fours platter.  I'll choose gummy bears over Pate de Fruit any day.

Pate de Fruit (Lychee and Peach)

Nougats - one of my favorite treats and I like them soft and chewy, just like these I made today.  I didn't know that it is so easy to make Nougats. 


I can eat a whole lot of Madeleines.  I'll be making a green tea version for my test next week.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Macaroons, Barquettes and Sarah Bernharts

I had to run some errands after class today and by the time I got home after being out on such a warm/humid day, the petits fours we made were beginning to look less attractive than they were.  So here's a picture of the platter we made in class.  From today's class, we made macaroons, barquettes filled with passion fruit curd and Sarah Bernharts (those chocolate cone shaped petits fours).  My favorite of the day are the barquettes.  The passion fruit curd is nicely tangy, good complement to the sweet tart base.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Delicate little desserts

Who doesn't like petits fours!  They are like the bonus round of dinners.  I've been looking forward to this unit and finally it's here. 
Tuiles D'amandes (Almond Tuiles)

Palets Aux Raisins Secs (Raisin Cookies)
Financier Aux Noisettes (Hazelnut Financiers)

I'm thinking maybe a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream between the Raisin Cookies will be a fantastic treat for this warm summer day.  The cookies were glazed with sugar and rum mixture.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bread Test

Test days have become less intense and stressful.  Even with plain croissants, chocolate croissants, petit pain and scones to produce within a few hours, we had quite a fair bit of time to idle and chit chat.  As usual, following a test day, we'll be moving on to the next unit.  Petits Fours is next!  I love cute little desserts :)

** in case you're wondering, the square things are scones, not fried tofu.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bread Overload

I now have enough bread in my freezer to last me a few months.  I just reorganized my freezer so that I can add more to the "collection".  I now have bagels, olive bread, fruit cake, chocolate croissant, plain croissant, plain brioche, sweet potato brioche, banana bread, corn bread, lemon poppy muffins, foccacia and ciabatta. 

Adding to the collection today... Foccacia.  It smells so delicious and tastes incredible.  In my version (we were allowed to add our own toppings) I incorporated fresh rosemary, blue cheese, crushed red pepper and fleur de sel. 

In the cornbread, I added bacon, cheese and jalapeno.  Unlike other cornbread which I've had recently, including the blue cornbread at Mesa Grill, which tends to be dry this cornbread is surprisingly moist and flavorful.  I had very low expectations on the outcome when I was making this cornbread just because I haven't had much luck with cornbread in general, but I was pleasantly surprised.  This is a keeper recipe and it's making it into my freezerful of bread collection.


I love to use English muffins for my burgers and these turned out beautifully.  I must admit that it does not quite have the "moonscape'ish" interior like Thomas English Muffins.  I am saving these for my next BBQ.  In the freezer it goes.

English Muffins

We baked the banana bread/muffins for breakfast this morning.  What a great way to start the day.  It's moist and delicious.  It has bananas, so considered "healthful" breakfast?  I haven't tried the lemon poppy muffins yet... I'll save them for breakfast tomorrow morning. 

Banana Bread and Lemon Poppy Muffins

Vince (my husband) just asked me what we should have for dinner... should I say one of the above?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Out and about

I am out and about, but I can still blog from my mobile phone.  This is the tote that have been serving a great purpose (transporting all the baked goodies) for the past 2 months and I have great confidence that it will hold up for another 4 months. 

Today is the best day.since we started in the level 2 kitchen.  No chaos, no drama... My brioche was slightly over proofed, but not too badly.
Ciabatta was great.  Good recovery considering that the baguette we made yesterday was hardly a baguette.
I have yet to try the Pissaladiere.  Looks pretty good to me though.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


It's another chaotic day in the kitchen... I hope the next unit is going to be better than this one.  I find it hard to retain new information when I feel like we're working randomly for the entire 5 hours.  To add on to the already chaotic schedule (oxymoron), our class triggered the fire alarm causing the entire the school to evacuate.  We saw fire come out of the the back of the oven and since we were not sure if it was an electrical fire or parchment paper on fire, the chef took the necessary precaution.  As it turned out a piece of parchment paper had caught fire since we were baking bread at high temperature.  Crisis averted but chaos persisted.

Here are more chocolate and regular croissants.  If you recall from my earlier post, we also made these in level 1. We'll be making these again for our exam on Friday.  So if you're on a low fat diet, you may want to avoid Friday's post :)


This Tarte Flambee is delicious.  I just had some before updating the blog.  Perfect for a late lunch.  It's like a pizza made with bacon, creme fraiche, fromage blanc, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and egg.  Sounds delicious?  It tastes even better!  It's a great alternative for pizza.

Tarte Flambee
Oatbread - being added to my collection of breads in the freezer...


I was looking forward to making baguette but it turned out to be a disappointment.  As you can see, the internal structure is not baguette like - it looks more like an Italian bread to me. 


I should feel better after a glass of wine with another slice of Tarte Flambee, toasted.... 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bagels and Danishes

For some odd reason, I feel really hurried in the kitchen since we started level II.  Considering that we're baking only 2 items today as compared to 3-5 items per day in level one, I have yet to figure out why the pace feels so different. 

From left to right - Danish with pastry cream & apricot, Danish with creamed cheese filling, Danish with almond cream and apricot. 

I frequently hear people say that bagels in New York are delicious because of the water.  I am not quite sure if I subscribe to the theory.  These are pretty good, but I must admit that I prefer the bagels from H&H on 2nd and 81st.  We saved a few bagels for breakfast in class tomorrow morning (with smoked salmon and cream cheese).


Weekend Baking

I can't believe that I baked over the weekend, after all that baking during the week.  Nonetheless, it was a delicious cake.  The cake base was the lemon cake that we made in school sometime a few weeks ago... the cakes and tarts and cookies and bread and... are all becoming a blur to me.  I added stone fruits to the lemon cake to give it an extra summery flavour.  I liked it a lot. 
Lemon Cake with Stone Fruits

Our patio garden is also doing very well...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Level II

We're starting level II pastry with breads.  This may sound crazy but bread baking is one of my favorite pass time activity.  The process of transforming simple ingredients such as water, flour and yeast into a great variety of breads is such an organic process - I find the "back to the basics" nature of bread baking very appealing.

So, on day one, we made an Provencial Olive Bread.  It's unfortunate that unlike in the bread kitchen (where I previously learnt to make artisanal bread), the pastry kitchen is equiped with convection oven instead of steam injection oven.  The convection oven, though great for pastries, does not produce as nice a crust as the steam injection oven when comes to baking artisanal bread.  Except for thin crust, this bread has very good flavour and texture. 

Provencial Olive Bread

The level II kitchen is very small and the layout is very awkward.  Chef Christopher's instruction & organizational style is also quite different from Chef Jeanne's in Level I.  As you can see, I have some "getting used to" to do around the kitchen... I am thinking of adding a tube of burn cream to my tool kit.... and maybe my own personal oven mittens!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nice and Easy

Today's test was nice and easy (compared to the prior ones).  We had almost 4 hours to make one cake, buttercream, a almond paste rose and write "happy birthday" on a plaque.  The cake came out very well - nice straight sides, good 2" tall, moist, all 3 layers were even, even coating of buttercream.... I was pleased.  Not a bad way to end level I! 

We're moving on to level II tomorrow with a new new chef instructor. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Flourless Day

The cakes we made today were both without flour... well, needless to say, it's high in sugar and fats.

The chocolate & hazelnut cake is a 6-layer stack of light sponge cake with chocolate-hazelnut mousse in between each layer of cake.  If you like Nutella, you're going to love this cake.  (And I do love Nutella)

Chocolate & Hazelnut Cake

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake Slice

This flourless chocolate cake was covered in creme d'or (melted chocolate with whipped cream) and decorated with Chocolate Meringues.  I can't say which cake is more delicious because both are fantastic!

Flourless Chocolate Cake Covered in Chocolate Meringues

With these 2 desserts we have come to the end of level I.  Tomorrow is another test day (on cakes) and we'll moving on to level 2 thereafter.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Austrian Tortes

We just enjoyed a nice long relaxing weekend in Miami and now I am back, ready for another stretch in the sweet kitchen. 

This cake takes its name from Vienna's famous Sacher Hotel.  It came into prominence during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when the emperor requested a pastry that he could easily ship to his embassies.  Austrian law specifies that a Sachertorte must be made with butter (not margarine or vegetable shortening), fresh eggs, apricot jam and chocolate (not cocoa powder). 

This cake is named after the Austrian pastry chef creator, Josef Dobos.  It's a 5-layer cake with the 6th layer covered in caramel as a garnish on top of the cake.

Dobos Torte

Dobos Torte

Friday, July 1, 2011

End of a Long Week, Beginning of a Long Weekend

These two cakes are special to me - it's the cake that the class was making when I audited the program.  I've been looking forward to make these two cakes for weeks now.  The mousse is made of casis puree, whipped cream and egg white foam.  It's super light, slightly tangy.  The mousse on its own is so refreshing, it tastes almost like a palette cleanser.

 Miroir Aux Fruits (Fruit Mousse Miroir)

I've always wondered how the pastry shops make the lovely intricate sides on this cake.  Finally, now I know how.  We first spread the chocolate batter on a template then spread the plain batter over the chocolate pattern.  This cake is filled with white and dark chocolate mousse.  It's delicious but I have a slight preference for the fruit mousse one above. 
Gatueau De Mousse Aux Deux Chocolats Avec Pate A Cornet
(White & Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake with Pate A Cornet)

 This chocolate cupcake may not look like much but it's one of the moistest cupcake I've ever had.
Chocolate Cupcake

I had a piece of this coffee cake after lunch.  The cake was super moist and the topping is basically butterscotch peacans.  How could that go wrong! 

Coffee Cake

What a great way to end a long week and start a long weekend!!