Saturday, June 25, 2005

News From The Front

Faithful Readers,

(Or should I say reader?)

To the one or two of you that are still out there...Hello and thank you for reading...

I am just completing my second week of internship. It's at a high end Midwest resort catering to golf and other similar recreational activities. The pastry kitchen is divided into a bake shop ( and boy do they do cool breads) and a cold side doing all the cakes, tarts, trots and other similar items.

Although I really want to work on the bread side, I'm needed on the pastry side of the kitchen. To date, I've done a ton of plating and cake cutting (hot water and hot knifing are my new best friends!). I've done the traditional mousse and fillings countless times. It's interesting to see all the tricks done by the cooks. For example, the wheeled Rubbermaid waste basket can be rotated around while filling and there is no need to use the offset spatula to smooth down.

I'm still not used to not washing all my own dishes. The stewards work very hard when every one just dumps their dishes in the sink.

I'm less fearful of filling and icing cakes now, but I still say a little prayer when transferring a 14" wedding layer to the cardboard. But, a lot of what I do is getting plates for the cooks, or wheeling dollies around, or rotating stock in the cooler.

I hope to work in the bread section at least part of the time, but I need to negotiate this with the chef.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Still here...

Faithful Readers,

Sorry for not posting in so long. It's been an incredibly busy quarter with all 5am - 12pm classes, and then some independent studies that I have been doing.

I'm my usual topsy, turvy self. For the first time ever, I was sick three days from school last week with a bad cold that has since turned into a sinus infection. I'm hoping that I can work something out with Chef II, since normally if you miss three days you fail the class.

I've got an internship offer at a famous Midwest resort. I would be exposed to both breads and pastry, and I also get paid! But I would have to live there , and pay for housing. It's a great offer, and I am tired of interviewing...

I'll post more tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Temous Fugit

Faithful Readers,

Well, I'm a little discouraged...

First a quick update about my three stages. Stage one (at a city club) went well . I had to plate a dessert on demand and present it (I made a white chocolate mousse with some Marnier flavoring). I think the Chefs liked it. Stage two was at a bakery. Basically I did production for eight hours. Stage three was at a cake decorator. The long and short of it is that I really liked the club environment. Instead of doing a production of a 1000 items (like at a production bakery) I would do three or four platings each day of a 100 or so. Unfortunately (after they indicated that they would hire me) there was some political fallout and they are not taking on any new interns. So, I'm not sure where I will end up.

As for my discouragement....Right now I'm taking a culinary requirement (compulsory) . I seem to be all thumbs today in making garnishes. I got a low score in my garnish and my fruit plate did not turn out well in presentation either. My skills are still middling and my belief in my ability is still shaky. And, I'm still not proficient at icing cakes either.

During one of my baking classes last week, my team's production was basically crap. I thought they were keeping an eye on the proofing and baking process, but the communication was bungled. The chef told me that if I want to be a leader I can't be afraid of communicating with people about what to do.

So, my discouragement stems from my mediocre skills. They're probably not as mediocre as I think, but that's how I feel right now. Spring has always been a hard time for me.

Thanks for reading

Monday, March 21, 2005

Stage Left

Faithful Readers,

There's this funny French word "stage" (and lest you think I am making fun of the French --non--we owe then a tremendous culinary debt). Anyway, stage is kind of a working test in a kitchen to see if you fit in and vice versa.

This week I'm staging at three of them I really like, and it is a paid internship. I would be exposed to a variety of platings and situations, and they would work around my school schedule.

However, when the executive chef interviewed me (very nice, but gruff--do they go to school for that?) he asked me a question I was unprepared for..."I'm coming over for dinner, what are you making for dessert" Perhaps I was nervous but the first thing that came to my mind was eclairs, and then pastry creme....Perhaps not the most articulate and scintillating answer.

On the plus side, I feel passionate about baking. About the way ingredients are mixed, the tactile nature of the mix, and the science behind the baking. I know that I like this, and I feel that I can do it, and learn from my mistakes. I want to learn to do it well.

At the end of this post is another good poem. It's about prayer nominally, but substitute something you feel passionate about when reading it.

Thanks for reading

On Prayer

You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word 'is'
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say we; there, every one, separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.

Translated by Robert Hass
Czeslaw Milosz

Monday, March 14, 2005

Of Cabbage Patch, Walruses and things

Faithful Readers,

I have been thinking of the nature of food, and its connection to nourishment. When you think about it, poetry nourishes our hearts just as good food nourishes our bodies. And that's what I would like to do some day--nourish others. Not in a hokey all about me way, but in a way that I can try to pay back some of the goodness that has been given to me in this world. At the end of this post is a beautiful short poem by William Carlos Williams (which he wrote to his wife).

As follows is one of my sculpted cakes that I did. It's a little sloppy, but I enjoyed doing the modelling.

Sculpted Pumpkin

This is Just to Say

I have eaten the plums
that were inthe icebox
and which you were
probablysavingfor breakfast
Forgive me they were delicious
so sweet and so cold
William Carlos Williams

Thanks for reading

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Another Quarter Gone!

Faithful Readers,

It's hard to believe that another quarter is completed! This time has gone by so quickly for me. The only project I have left is my ethics final due on Wednesday.

I know I say this pretty often, but I still think baking is pretty cool. You take all these basic ingredients, and a multitude of items can develop. Here's what I think will happen for me: I'm pretty much going to be an all around, nuts and bolts type of baker. I won't be the queen of decorating, but I should be able to do basic cakes. My strengths are problem-solving, thinking quickly, and seeing the big picture. Thanks for reading as I yet again go in into self-analysis!

One sad story: for my cakes final this week, we had four hours to finish (sculpt, airbrush,decorate) a cake (usually a novelty) of our choice---although some people had taken theirs home for a head start! To make a long story short, when I was transferring my completed cake to the board, the board shifted and it fell apart. I had to complete a new cake in less that 40 minutes. I did it, but the finished product was somewhat sloppy.

Each day we begin again!

Thanks for reading


originally uploaded by JessamynB.
These were the Kaiser with this cool knotting technique I read about!

Bench rest

Bench rest
Bench rest,
originally uploaded by JessamynB.
Every baker's favorite time: Bench Rest!

Boule, boule. boule

originally uploaded by JessamynB.
Faithful Readers,

This is one of the breads I made last week. The Chef showed how me to add some cilantro!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Just Give Me Bread

Faithful Readers,

There is something about making bread that is so sensual and poetic. It's a work of art really. You make this living, breathing, and sometimes frustrating organism. You massage it, rest it, portion and bake..At every step along the way there is a symbiotic relationship between the bread and you. And just like in any other relationship, sometimes every thing is wonderful and sometimes it is horrible.

We made a couple kick-A@@# breads this week. I tried a seven strand braid that I had never done before. The braiding was ok, but my shaping of the strands needs some work. I'm not putting enough pressure in the middle -- so the braid was a little lumpy. I also researched a way of knotting a baguette to simulate a kaiser. These came out pretty well.

I'm very intrigued by starters, and what makes one better than another. Just as in poetry, starters seem to be part alchemy, part art, and part prayer. Take sourdough for example. There's a whole mythological coven out there about all the varieties of sour. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think I have ever had a really good sour.

As much as I love bread (and I do...) I wonder where my place is going to be. I can't lift the 100# doughs off the mixer (I can just about do 40 - 50#). It seems kind of a boys club. And I can't do the competition crap--meaning that I'm not particularly forceful. But what I can do is try different shapings and formulations. I respect the bread.

Among my class, somehow I am known as loving bread. Now, I'm also starting to really like some of the pastry side. I think I am kind of this anomaly being this middle aged woman with a bread fixation.

Tomorrow's my interview with a cake decorator. I'll keep you posted...

Thanks for reading

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