Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Officially Hate Bread

After this week's intense bread making classes I officially hate bread.

I don't want to see it, smell it, taste it, touch it, or have it anywhere near me. The smell of yeast in beer even makes me gag. I went to lunch with my good friend Jim today and I could not eat the pasta or the cheesy bread that came with it. Heck, I couldn't even ask for croutons for my salad.

I know I will get over it in about a week, but I still have more bread baking to go before my finals in two weeks.

I'm really, really, really looking forward to the six weeks of pastry classes after this baking class. I feel like I'm in bread hell.

But with that said, we did produce some good looking bread. And I made a delicious pizza:

Over the last three days, our group produced the following:

Kaiser and Vienna Bread
Sauerkraut Rye Bread
French bread
Soft Yeast Dinner Rolls
Poolish Baguettes
Trad. French Baguettes (olive bread)
White Sandwich Bread
Whole Wheat bread
Apple Pecan Bread
Potato Herb Rolls (w/cheddar cheese)

That's a LOT of work! Here are the results:

The focaccia was my favorite.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I No Longer Fear Breadmaking

I don't have time to write much tonight as I have to be up in 6 hours for work, but I wanted to say that I am no longer fearful of making bread. The kaiser rolls and Vienna loaves we made in class tonight turned out beautifully. I'm once again proud of my team as we had some of the best looking bread out there tonight.

Oh, my hands smell of yeast and sauerkraut. More on that tomorrow.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Note About the Brownies

If you notice, this brownie recipe does not call for baking soda or baking powder, yet the batter rose as it should.

Why is that, you ask?

Because the eggs act as a leavening agent.  Mixing the sugar and eggs for 10 minutes adds air and creates a semi-stable mass of bubbles. Not as many or as stable as just beating egg whites, but the incorporation of air into the egg allows the brownie batter to rise as if chemical leaveners were used.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Brownies AKA: I'm Practicing For My Final

Late last night I decided to make a batch of brownies. The same brownies we made in class but weren't able to taste because they went to feed the new crop of recruits at the open house on Friday.

I cut the formula in half and added pecans (which we omitted in class).  I baked it for 30 minutes instead of 40 and they turned out amazing.

They taste even better than the Wuollet brownie, a recipe I've been using for years. Seriously.

Yield: 4 Dozen Brownies 2-in. (5-cm) each, 1 Half-Sheet Pan
Method: Sheet cookies
Unsalted butter, room temperature
18 oz.
535 g

Unsweetened chocolate
1 lb.
480 g

1 lb. (10 eggs)
480 g

Granulated sugar
2 lb. 8 oz.
1200 g

0.2 oz. (1 tsp.)
6 g

Vanilla extract
1 fl. oz.
30 ml

Coffee extract (optional)
0.5 fl. oz.
15 ml

Pastry or all-purpose flour
1 lb.
480 g

Pecan Pieces
240 g

Powdered sugar (optional)
as needed
as needed

Total batter weight:
7 lb. 3 oz.
3466 g

  • 1 Melt the butter and chocolate over a double boiler to 120°F (49°C). Hold the chocolate at this temperature.
  • 2 While the chocolate is melting, beat the eggs and granulated sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 10 minutes. Add the salt and extracts. Scrape down the bowl, then add the melted chocolate, blending until well combined. Add the flour and mix until combined. Fold in the nuts.
  • 3 Spread the batter evenly onto a paper-lined half-sheet pan. The pan will be very full. Bake at 325°F (160°C) until the center is set, approximately 40 minutes.
  • 4 Cool completely before cutting. (Refrigerating or freezing brownies before cutting ensures a clean edge.) Dust the brownies with powdered sugar, if desired.
Approximate values per 2-in. (5-cm) square: Calories 343, Total fat 18 g, Saturated fat 9 g, Cholesterol 70 mg, Sodium 16 mg, Total carbohydrates 41 g

Source: On Baking page 325

Friday, January 21, 2011


I'm so glad today is Friday. I've decided to not let my procrastination get the best of me this weekend. I'm going to do the rest of my vocabulary units for the remainder of the class as well as start on (and hopefully complete) my paper that is due on Wednesday.

Even though Wednesday's class was a disaster, I'm still really happy I made the choice to go to pastry school. I'm learning a lot. I like the fact that you need to know science and math to bake. I like having to use my brain and really concentrate to make sure that my formulas are correct. It's really challenging at times and also a little frustrating, but I really enjoy it.

I've been ignoring my work duties this afternoon and looking at recipes online. I think I'm going to try making these home made potato chips sometime. They look and sound delicious. I won't be making them for any superbowl party because there's a strict No Football rule in my house. I'd make them to watch the Oscars, but not the superbowl ;)

Thursday, January 20, 2011


My coworker brought his teeny tiny pug puppy in to work today. Just look at that adorable face. How could you not want to kiss it?

I want a puppy of my own. But alas, I'll have to wait til I'm out of pastry school.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 6 AKA: There's Such A Thing As Too Many Cookies

Today's class was a disaster.

I've never been a fan of working in groups. Especially groups that were chosen randomly.

I'm going to make this short. I was the makeup person today. My job was to take the batter from the mixer and scoop it into uniform sized cookies onto the baking sheet to hand to the baker so he can put it in the oven. I did a fine job. All my cookies looked uniform and my biscotti logs were ok. They could have been shaped a little better, but for my first attempt, it wasn't that bad. I even cut my own pattern out into a heart so I could make cute sculpted tuile cookies.

But that's when things went downhill. I don't like to blame people for things very often, but our baker totally dropped the ball tonight. He did not pay attention. He never prints out his recipes and relies on the rest of us for the formula or bake times and temperatures. I found myself saying "I don't know" a few times when he asked me how long they should bake. Of course I knew, but this kid needs to stop relying on everyone and take charge of his own responsibilities.

Long story short, our biscotti was overbaked, our flourless chocolate chewies were burnt, and my precious, delicate tuile cookies were set on fire and blackened because our baker walked away from the oven. Tuile cookies cook in literally 2.5 minutes.

If all went well, I'd be telling you I was proud of the following:

Coconut Triangles
Tuile Cookies
Spritz Cookies
Flourless Chocolate Chewies
Sugar Cookies (which I cut into hearts and did not have time to ice because by that time it was 10:30 and class was over)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 5 AKA: Bring On The Cookies!

Two things to know about me: 1) I'm an over-achiever and 2) I'm a procrastinator. You'd think that the procrastination would affect my over-achiever-ness, but it doesn't seem to. It does get me in trouble, though.

For example, I decided to work from home today. I spent 8 hours dividing my attention between my real work and my school work. I had 5 whole days to work on my vocabulary assignment, but I put it off until the last minute. Part of this is due to the fact that I did not want to spend $30 on the workbook in the school bookstore. I found it on Amazon for much less, so I bought it on Friday and made sure they shipped it to me by Monday. I got it on Monday but decided to go shopping with my friend Simmie (see previous post) instead of doing my homework. I've always been like this: put off doing an important assignment or project til the last minute and then hoping to get an A+ on it.

So here I am, working on work stuff and working on homework at the same time. I literally finish my vocabulary assignment (chapters 1-6) at 4:15 with fifteen minutes to spare before I leave for class. When I get to class I feel pretty good about myself, only to realize that I forgot to do chapters 10-17! D'oh!

Thankfully, my Chef is allowing me to bring it in tomorrow, but he gave me a stern warning to not let it happen again. I won't!

We baked a lot of cookies today. A LOT!

Chocolate Chip
Oatmeal Raisin
Peanut Butter
Brownies (which are resting overnight until tomorrow where we frost them)
Coconut Raspberry Macaroons
Sugar Cookies (we'll cut the shapes out tomorrow)

Today I was the mixer. Man, that's hard work. I thought being the scaler was tough. Mixing is intense. When I left there, my back was killing me. I was standing in one spot for 5 hours, so I'm sure that's what contributed to the pain.

Our cookies turned out awesome, though. Take a look:

All of these tasted so good. But after my fourth bite of peanut butter cookie (we have to sample everyone's product and there are four teams) , I didn't want to look at another cookie. But with that said, I'm anxious to get back to class tomorrow. We're baking more cookies!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Costco's Shrimp Wonton Soup

I'm pretty much addicted to this stuff. I went to Costco with my friend Simmie today and she was telling me about how awesome this soup is. Both of us love the shrimp and port wonton soup at Quang, but can't get there two or three times a week to feed our soup addiction. I picked up a box (containing 6 individual soup bowls) and Simmie said "you're going to want to buy about three more boxes." I laughed and said "nah, this is good enough."

What was I thinking? This soup is amazing. I wish I'd listened to her and bought fifty more boxes. I could eat this soup every day. Seriously, go get some.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

You'll Pay For This, Chef's Knot!

I see that I'm currently at a 95% in my class after 3 days. That's pretty good, but I can't figure out why I lost two points both Tuesday and Wednesday. I think it might be due to the fact that, until now, I did not know how to tie a chef's knot. Thanks to YouTube, I now know how.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Check out the awesome Bento box I got from my good friend Dave for Christmas. I love Bento boxes. I've made it a point to pack my lunch from now on. I was spending too much money on lunch every week. You can get really creative with Bento boxes, too. So much fun!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Days 2 and 3 AKA: A Whole Lotta Bakin' Goin' On

I finally have some time to sit here and write. I work this weekend so I have today and Friday off. Well, I did have to work 9-12 today, but from the comfort of my home, so that doesn't seem like work to me. Thankfully, my shift is over so I can concentrate on writing.

Tuesday was an interesting day. I was chosen to be the "baker" for my group. The baker is the person who makes sure all the ovens are set to the correct temperature. I was also responsible for running the muffins and quickbreads to and from the oven.  It was a hot and sweaty job, but I think I did okay. In between running the items to the oven, I made sure that our station was clean and organized, which is really important in a kitchen. A messy and cluttered station could lead to disastrous results, and I did not want that.

Tuesday we baked the following:
Blueberry muffins
Cream scones (we added dried cherries and almonds to the mix)
Sour Cream muffins
Streusel topping
*Sour Cream coffee cake
*Corn muffins

Yesterday was an intense day as I was the scaler for our group. The scaler is the person responsible for weighing out the ingredients to give to the mixer. With baking,  every measurement has to be precise, so it takes longer weighing out 16oz of flour than measuring out two cups. It was the role I was dreading the most, so I'm glad I got it out of the way. It went well, but at one point I was feeling a little overwhelmed and scattered because for a second I forgot which container contained all purpose flour and which had the pastry flour. I just had to step back, breathe, and stop second guessing myself.

Wednesday we baked the following:
Lemon poppy seed bread
Spiced Banana Bread
Morning Glory  Muffins
Caramel Bran Muffins

The popovers were by far the best part of the night. I love popovers. I think I ate about 7 of them. I can't wait to "practice" them at home. I'm happy to say that my team's popovers turned out the best. They rose the highest and were the best tasting. I might be biased, but our Chef seemed to be impressed, too.

After we did our baking and cleaned up (I did more dishes last night than I've ever done in my life!) we had our first quiz. I did well; only missed one question (and it was a stupid mistake), so I feel pretty good about my standing in class. I really can't wait to get back to it on Tuesday next week.

I'm off to my chiropractor. He will make my back feel better from being on my feet 15 hours this week.

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Day AKA: The Biscuit Blunder

Today was the first day of class. I'm taking five weeks of baking and then six weeks of pastry. I was a nervous wreck in class today. There are about 20 of us and only 5 of us are on the Baking and Pastry track. The rest are culinary kids. And they are kids! I don't even remember being 18, so I can't really relate to them, but I'm sure things will be just fine.

There was about 4 hours of lectures by my chef instructor and then he put into 4 groups of four. Our task was to make biscuits. For some reason, I was at a station where everyone was using our scale to measure out the ingredients. It seemed to take my partner and I forever to measure and then mix the ingredients together. Once we had everything mixed, I rolled out the biscuit dough and cut them into rounds to bake.

Here are disastrous results:

They may look like normal biscuits, but they did not rise as much as they should have. In fact, they were about half the size of the rest of the class. They were delicious, but they did not look as appealing.

I know what I did wrong. We added too much milk and then I over-worked the dough and rolled it way too thin. Too much gluten was created and therefore didn't make such a great biscuit. Chef went over this with us at the end of the class, which was good. 

I didn't get  home until 11:00. I don't know how I'm going to be able to handle this. I have to go to bed ASAP and get up at 6 for work tomorrow. Then I go right back to class and do it all over again. 

Tomorrow should be good, though. We are making muffins.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

One Day to Go

Ahh. Sunday.

A day to do nothing. And that's what I plan on doing. I start classes tomorrow, along with a very, very long day. I work 7:30a to 4:30p and then have to rush over to school before 5:15 so I get there on time. Class ends at 10:30p! I hope that these really long days aren't going to kill me! We will see.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Peppermint Patties

I work a full time job and is scheduled to work one weekend a month. This weekend is not one of them (thankfully). I have today and tomorrow to myself before starting the rest of my baking career, so I thought I'd do something fun and make peppermint patties from scratch. I made a batch of these to give as Christmas gifts, but they are so easy and so delicious I decided to make another batch today.

Here are the supplies you will need for the peppermint patties:

  • Double Boiler
  • Spatula
  • Sharp knife (to cut the chocolate)
  • Kitchen-aid Mixer (or hand mixer if you do not have a Kitchen-aid)
  • 1" round cookie cutter (or shot glass if you do not have one)
  • Cookie sheet
  • Parchment paper

  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (less than 1 pound), divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
  • 10 ounces 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Make filling:
Beat 2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, shortening, and a pinch of salt using an electric mixer (with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at medium speed until just combined. It should resemble a crumbly mixture.

Knead on a work surface dusted with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners sugar until smooth. Roll out between sheets of parchment paper on a large baking sheet into a 7- to 8-inch round (less than 1/4 inch thick). Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove top sheet of paper and sprinkle round with confectioners sugar. Replace top sheet, then flip round over and repeat sprinkling on other side.

Cut out as many rounds as possible with cutter or shot glass, transferring to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, gather scraps, reroll, and freeze, then cut out more rounds, freezing them.

Temper chocolate and coat filling:

Melt three fourths of chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove bowl from pan and add remaining chocolate, stirring until smooth. Cool until thermometer inserted at least 1/2 inch into chocolate registers 80°F.
Return water in pan to a boil and remove from heat. Set bowl with cooled chocolate over pan and reheat, stirring, until thermometer registers 88 to 91°F. Remove bowl from pan.

Balance 1 peppermint round on a fork and submerge in melted chocolate, letting excess drip off and scraping back of fork against rim of bowl if necessary, then return patty to sheet (to make decorative ridges on patty, immediately set bottom of fork briefly on top of patty, then lift fork straight up). Coat remaining rounds, rewarming chocolate to 88 to 91°F as necessary. Let patties stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.

These Peppermint Patties are the best! They taste just like the originals, but you know exactly what ingredients are used to make them. They will store in an air-tight container for up to a month, but I bet they won't last a day, they are that good.

Friday, January 07, 2011


Orientation was a blast!

I don't know if it's because I'm older or what, but standing in line for 30 minutes just to be told that the Student ID printer was out of ink and that I have to come back on Monday didn't upset me at all. The 17 year old me would have been pissed off, much like the 15 or so 20-somethings in line behind me.

I can't wait to start classes. I'm so excited.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

One Hour to Go

I'm sitting here at work, kind of wishing I hadn't eaten those spicy green beans from Asian Max for lunch. I leave here in one hour to attend my first college orientation since I was 17, and my tummy is all a-flutter. I've decided to enroll at the Art Institutes and work my way through the Baking and Pastry certificate program. It's something I've wanted to do for a very long time. Now that I have the opportunity, I'm a nervous wreck!

I know that I've made the right decision. Baking and pastry arts is something that I'm very passionate about. I'm 35 years old, been working as an IT professional for almost 12 years, and not enjoying it. I figure now is as good time as any to get my foot in the bakery, so to speak. I'm just nervous because it's a whole new world for me. But I know it's a world that will open so many doors and opportunities, so I've got to dive right in.

I'll be posting here throughout my trip through pastry school, and hopefully share my ideas and creations with everyone. So, stay tuned!