Sunday, February 21, 2010

Valentine's Day... and puppies!

A bit overdue, but here they are! My one big Valentine's Day cookie order. I really love decorating cookies. First of all they're easy to do, and you can have so much designing them. Royal icing is my best friend. I still need to work on my piping skills, but slowly but surely I'm getting better. I had loads of fun making these, and I received a lovely e-mail from the woman that I made them for, so I was satisfied :).

pr0n cookie!

As a pastry chef, Valentine's Day is a hoot because of all the cute things you can do for the shop - Linzer heart cookies, meringue hearts, chocolate pate hearts, pink macarons, etc. As a day I'm not a huge fan - I try to show those whom I love how much I love them on a ongoing basis, so I feel like having one to "prove" your love is a little silly. However, were I to pick a Valentine, it wouldn't be my boyfriend...

It would be this little guy, Wally!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cookies! And new purchases

Before I go into my baking banter, I want to show off my new purchases of the day. Domus has a retail shop next to the restaurant where it sells everything from baking tools, to pretty towels, to the best knives, a whackload of espresso machines... it's seriously heaven for me. Well, little did I know that I was walking into a sale! Of course I went hog wild. Can I justify buying these things? Not really, especially since my Toronto blow out was not two weeks ago! Oh well, I call them investments ;D.

My biggest splurge - Nielsen-Massey products. Decently priced too. I'm super pumped to try out the rose water on some macarons.

Ok, this purchase isn't so bad. I hate using water bottles at work that I just have to throw out later, and I only have a small metal bottle, so I wanted this big one, because I love my water. It was only $5 too.

I'm actually getting paid back for this, so this is ok! I bought this for work as the one digital scale we have is crap and tends to go crazy and/or turn itself off after 5 seconds of being on.

A few weeks ago I made some cookies for a family friend's baby shower. They were a hit! Though, silly me, I was only asked to do 24 cookies, but for some reason the words "two dozen" translated as 48! I must have been exhausted. Ergo, being the perfectionist that I am, I did a bit of a rush job and thus I wasn't as happy with my end result. Apparently I need not have worried because I've never received so many compliments as I did that day!

(some of them got a little squished during the day)

I seem to have wormed my way into a very lucrative market - motherhood. There's so many events that you can bake for! Baby shower, baptism, first birthday, second birthday, pregnant hormones that crave cake... the list can go on!

I made a coconut cake this week for my old work, and it was a bit of an ordeal. I just happened to pick both cake, filling, and frosting recipes that worked against me. The cake too forever to bake, the filling took forever to cool and combine, and the buttercream did not yield enough to cover my huge cake, nor did it have a good consistency for working with. It all turned out alright in the end. I had some fun with the borders this time by changing from my usual round tip or star tip to my leaf tip. Simple but a nice change!

Back to cookies! I got a number of people wanting to order from me, and so far I've gotten one lady who wants multiple things from me, starting with Valentine's Day. You guessed it, heart shaped cookies. Here they are in their naked state.

Dun dun dun... to be continued! Next post I'll show them in their finished form.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New job and my wee adventure in Toronto

Well, I started a new job last week and it was quite an adjustment, to say the least. I went from working in a cake shop that pretty much has a small set of flavours, the only variety being pan sizes and shapes, to working in a catering company/take home food shop that changes things every single week. I also happened to start on a particularly crazy week, so with that coupled with a 7am start meant I was feeling turned very upside down!

I'm into my second week now, and things are slightly better. I enjoy my co-workers tremendously and the pastry head has been fantastic and very encouraging. Basically people trust me and don't treat me like an idiot, which is refreshing. I'm forced to use and stretch the skills I have acquired, and they also know that I love to decorate, so they let me have some free reign with that as well. I'm also a 7 minute drive away, so new job is proving to be a success. My schedule needs to be improved upon, but I won't make a peep until after my probation period :).

Going back to decorating, I think people have it all wrong when it comes to the kind of education needed for cake decorating - everyone assumes that you need to focus solely on cake decorating techniques alone. While that is helpful on some level, I do believe that it's visual arts that are far superior. Having taken art classes for the last 3 months I've already noticed an increased improvement on my presentation, my dexterity, and general ability to 'eyeball' things. My teacher is fantastic and I want to stay with him as long as I can, but what I think would really help is taking a fully comprehensive course in the arts, with a focus on sculpting, as that is something I have yet to master and my current teacher does not provide. Having travelled to Toronto this past weekend for a friend's birthday, I find myself wishing to live there and attend Ontario College of Art and Design. I have a grand variety of artistic interests - pastry, fashion, and classical art techniques, and I would love to study that. But I am just moving into a new apartment and my boyfriend is looking to start a career in Ottawa, so moving is not in the books, so one can only dream of a crazy life in the big city and in the mean time do the best with what is available here :).

But I'm digressing! Here are a few photos of late. I find my decoration lacking in something... I need to figure out something that makes an individual slice look good, since that is what the customer sees, rather than a whole cake.

Chocolate Genoise with Raspberry cream and Chocolate Ganache - I find I can never flat ice it really, really smooth. Ah well, it's tasting nonetheless!

Pumpkin Crunch Torte - this is apparently a HUGE favourite, yay!

Brunch at Queen and Beaver in Toronto - French toast with chocolate hazelnut praline and maple smoked bacon. Um, delicious? Yes.

Cinnamon Apple pancakes with vanilla creme fraiche. Fantastic!

Of course, the old standby - Full English! Minus blood pudding, but the bread was fried perfectly so that is forgiven.

And a blatant non-related shout out to my most favourite purchase of the weekend, my fur hat! The mink goes really well with my crazy leopard coat.

Back to work tomorrow, after a very unproductive day off. My schedule is very helter skelter at the moment, making for a very strange sleep pattern (6am wake up one day, 8am the next... my body's internal clock is struggling), but like I said, I'm still adjusting. At least I have the house to myself this week - my parents have gone off to Cuba! Lucky them, but they are bringing me back rum. I'm going to see if I can use a little bit in a baked good! Just a small thing though... Cuban rum is meant to be drunk, not cooked with.