Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hey, I thought this was a craft blog!

It definitely started that way, and I want to keep it a craft blog, but as this pastry school thing has taken over my life it’s also taken over my blog. It does seem like all I post lately are food pics. I’ve tried to spare you all the not-so-pretty and uninspiring pics of food (think apple brown Betty and bread pudding), but I’ve wanted to share the pretty and interesting creations I’ve been making.

But just as I suspect you all want to see some crafty things; I’m also am really trying to fit more art and crafts into my life for my own sanity.

So campers, it’s time for Arts and Crafts! We have a lot to cover today so let’s get started—

First, some exciting news…My friend Julie, Miss CupcakeDD herself, has awarded me the Brillante Weblog award! I’m so honored and surprised. I never think anyone reads my little blog. Thanks Julie for the award and your continued support!!!

Now I have the honor of passing the award on to a blogger that I adore and admire. I immediately knew who absolutely deserves the Brillante Weblog award…

Emily of Sugar & Meringue! Emily’s blog is fun, beautiful, interesting, and full of sweet vintage eye candy. I’m such a loyal reader!

Congratulations Emily!

As the new recipient here are some rules:

- Put the logo on your blog
- Add a link to the person who awarded you
- Nominate at least 1 other blog
- Add links to the blog(s) on yours
- Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs

My next exciting announcement is that I'm participating in Artsy Mama's annual Sweet & Sinister 2008 Swap! I've been kind of swap crazy lately, and I've realized that I need to scale back and focus on my products and selling my crafty wares. But this swap is legendary and only the best of the crafty best get into this swap, and I'm sooooo excited that I'm in this year! As some of you know, I used to specialize in Halloween crafts so this will so much fun to put together a wonderfully sweet and sinister Halloween package for my partner.

Unbelievably, my swap partner is Miss Artsy Mama herself, Kari! I’m so honored and thrilled to have such a talented crafter as my partner! Here is a little peek at past sweet and sinister goodies I’ve created.

Now even MORE exciting news...I've been asked to join a new online shop that my friend Sadie Lou Who is putting together. It will be called LolliShops! How cute is that name? Well, the site Sadie is putting together is even cuter! In fact, it will be a "frou frou friendly marketplace." Now that sounds just perfect. We should be up and running by fall. I'll keep you all posted. Here's a sneak peek at LolliShop vendors and wares:

Do you see my cupcake felties right in the middle?
Look at all of these beautiful things! I'm so excited to be in such fabulously talented company!
I'm hoping to really focus all of my spare time on new products for LolliShops and my Etsy store.
Take care everyone and go make make something!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Au Revoir French Pastry, I'll Miss You Dearly

Well, my all too brief affair with European Pastry has come to an end. Of course just because the class is over doesn't mean my love affair has to end. I have to admit that I went into this pastry school thing with the intent to end up as a cake decorator. Yes, I know that I didn't need to go to full on culinary school to decorate cakes, but I really wanted to learn how to bake properly.
Now I'm really thinking that the Patisserie is the life for me!

I just love making individual works of art that taste as amazing as they look. And the flavors are like nothing I've ever tasted before. I'm sad to admit that I was raised on grocery store baked goods, so I never knew what real puffed pastry tasted like. Well, holy crap! When you use the best ingredients it tastes like nothing out of a grocery store (yes, you can say it with me...DUH!). I'm use to wanting the cake with the most frosting and the sweetest taste. Now I'm in love with subtle, rich flavors rather than just shockingly sweet.

Here are the highlights of the last two weeks of class:
Almond Pear Tart

Apple Custard Tart

Chocolate Mousse Bombe (there is caramel hidden in there too!)

Buttery Flaky Palmiers


Mini Mango Raspberries Charlottes. Charlottes have a sponge cake base with Bavarian cream filling. It sounds lovely, but Bavarian cream is a gelatin based cream and this girl just doesn't do gelatin, no way no how. So sadly, as pretty as these look I just wouldn't eat them.

Mini Raspberri and Mango Charlottes

Pear Charlotte

Raspberry Swiss Roll Charlotte

For our final practical exam we had to make:

1) 8" Gâteau St. Honoré (a magical layered pastry consisting of puff pastry, eclair paste, caramel, and vanilla and chocolate diplomat cream)

2) 6 Mini Puff Pastry Items

3) 6 Mini Cake, Mousse or Tart of our choice

It was a three day final and I chose MUCH more complex products than my classmates. There was a lot of sweat, stress and a little swearing (all in my head, I promise), but I totally pulled it off.

Here is the full final presentation for grading. Shockingly, there was a pink theme inspired by the Laduree bakery in France. I know, hard to believe I'd choose pink.

Gâteau St. Honoré

Rose Frambroise Cake Slices: Sponge cake layered with raspberry jam, rose buttercream, topped with fondant

These are my mini St. Honorés inspired by the Ladurée’s Le Saint Honoré Rose-Framboise.

I have to say, these turned out amazing. The flavor was so subtle and fresh. I love how they turned out.

Yes, I did get an A. Yeah!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

One Atomic Summer

Howdy campers! Well, this summer has pretty much been a bust so far. Sky high gas prices, outrageous food prices, and our vacation back in May is now just a distant memory (Paid for with our stimulus check we just received today. Gee, thanks George!). What’s a girl to do to make life more interesting? Have a luau!

My mail lady brought me a whole lot of summer fun in a box! My super awesome friend Julie, Miss CupcakeDD herself, hosted an Atomic Summer Swap. And I got the fabulous hostess herself as my partner! What a super lucky girl I am! Just look at all the treasures I received. So much vintage luau fun!

My grandmother had these glasses, but she never had such fun colors. I swear, the pink glass makes drinks taste better!

Look at this pile of fun! I love the fish toothpick holder (which goes with the platter below). There is also two sets of fun luau themed toothpicks, swizzle sticks, and colorful leis.

This picture doesn't do these justice: flamingo and palm tree swizzle sticks, parrot and pineapple crepe garlands (super fun!), luau napkins, and an adorable handmade charm tag.

But wait, there's more! Look at this awesome retro platter and cookbook. The cute fish toothpick holder goes in the center of platter for appetizers, but I didn't realize that at the time I took the picture. Yes, I'm a blonde.
See? Summer fun in a box. Thanks Julie! Summer is look up. I'll see you all by the pool with a fruity umbrella drink in my new pink retro glass.
Unfortunately, I snapped really lousy pictures of the package I sent to my partner, so I'll spare you those.

Here's a little peek at some new felties I've been working on. I originally made these for two swaps, but since posting the pics on Flickr I've already had orders for more! I'll be listing some in my Etsy store soon.

I hope you all find some summer fun and a yummy umbrella drink!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I Bow to the Patron Saint of Pastry

This post is dedicated to St. Honorè, the patron saint of pastry and bakers. I thought going into this culinary school adventure that I only wanted to focus on baking and decorating cakes. I was excited to learn about how to bake other items correctly, but I didn’t think I’d have a long term interest in other pastry. Well, that was before learning how to make classical European pastries. They look so simple and unadorned (read: lack of frosting and yumminess), but when they are made correctly (with real cream and butter) they taste so incredible and look beautiful.

The base of most European pastry is puff pastry (Pâte Feuilletée) and/or elclair paste (Pâte a Choux). We’ve been making many different products using both. The crowning glory has been Gâteau St. Honoré. This complex and magical pastry includes a base of puff pastry, sides made of Pâte a Choux, mini cream puffs filled with Diplomat cream (pastry cream and whipped cream combined), topped with caramel, and attached to the rim with caramel, the center is filled with alternating rows of chocolate and vanilla Diplomat cream. It’s garnished with a caramel dome. Isn’t it just beautiful?
It's also so amazingly delicious!

These are Paris-Brest. They are a tire shaped pastry made with Pâte a Choux and filled with chocolate praline cream and pastry cream, topped with almonds and powdered sugar.
Mini Eclairs and Swans

Baba au Rhum (Baba O'Reilly?)--This is a decadent rum soaked cake filled with whipped cream and fresh berries. Please ignore the lousy presentation.

Friday was cooked fruit day which didn't really excite me all that much. Above is caramelized pineapple with homemade coconut ice cream.

Bananas Foster--Since this dessert originated in New Orleans, I'm not sure how this fits into the classical European curriculum other than it's a cooked fruit dessert. Cooked bananas REALLY don't do a thing for me.

I really was about to write off the entire fruit day, but then I made a Port wine syrup that was to die for! We poached pears in the syrup, and plated it with chocolate ganache and vanilla ice cream (called Pear Belle Helene). It was so unexpectedly delicious. I even took the extra Port wine syrup home :)

So, I am officially a devotee of St. Honorè and the fine pastries he watches over. I'm even considering doing my externship at a French Patisserie rather than just a bakery that specializes in high-end cakes. We'll see, the cake classes are still to come. I may change my mind--I've been known to do that a time or two.

Have a super sweet weekend!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Happy National Sugar Cookie Day!

Now this is a holiday I can get behind! My friend Emily over at Sugar and Meringue is hosting a blog party and cookie exchange. Since I haven't had time to actually make sugar cookies this week (I'm going to try to this weekend), I thought I'd post my favorite sugar cookie recipe.
I LOVE this recipe which came from my best friend Erron's grandmother (Thanks Erron!). It's extremely flavorful and is fabulous for rolled cookies as the dough keeps the shape well and doesn't spread in the oven.
**One note on this recipe--You MUST refrigerate overnight, a few hours won't do it. This dough freaks me out every time I make it. When it goes into the fridge it is very sloppy and doesn't seem like it will ever firm up enough to roll out, but every time I'm pleasantly shocked and it works perfectly. So, just trust me on this and try this recipe. You'll love it!

Oh, also know that this makes a HUGE batch!

World's Best Sugar Cookies
1 Cup Butter (room temperature)
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
2 Eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
4 Cups All Purpose Flour

Cream butter, sugar and oil together. Beat in eggs, add vanilla. Cream to just incorporated--creaming too long (to light and fluffy) makes the cookies spread. In a separate bowl sift together cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and flour. Stir flour mixture into creamed mixture until fully incorporated.
Divide into two or three balls and enclose in waxed or parchment paper. Refrigerate overnight or longer.
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll out chilled dough and cut with cookie cutters. Bake on silpat sheets or lightly greased baking sheets for 10-12 minutes until edges begin to brown.

For those of you who like to decorate cookies you'll love these flavorful, firm cookies that hold the shapes you've so carefully cut out. Enjoy and let me know how you like them!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Birthday America!

Howdy campers! And a fine Happy Fourth of July to everyone! I'm seriously trying to be patriotic, but I've been in American pastry hell for the past few weeks. Well, maybe not hell, but I haven't really learned much new or exciting while exploring the wonderful world of classic Amercian pastry. Apparently brownies and pies are about all we Americans have brought to the dessert spectrum. Alas, it's over and I got my A so we can put this chapter to bed. Here are a few of the highlights...

And my final exam presentation, which had a Thanksgiving theme: Pumpkin Pie, Cranberry Crumb Tartlettes, and Chocolate Chip Cookies with dried Cherries.

Yes, I HAD to bring in my needle felted pumpkins to jazz things up. I'm such a geek.

And then came Classical European Pastry (hear angels sing and harps play)

All I can say is don't mess with tradition...or puff pastry. Seriously, I always thought I didn't like puff pastry because I thought it didn't have any flavor. Turns out you just need to make it right, and with butter! So this week has been all puff pastry.

I can't tell you how amazing these are! These are three layers of puff pastry, a layer of chocolate diplomat creme, a layer of vanilla diplomat creme, and topped with fondant and chocolate. The sides are covered with puff pastry crumbs. Soooo good!

Pithivier--Almond Creme is sandwiched between two layers of puff pastry and baked. I love the elaborate sunflower design.

Tarte Tatin--This tart is created by carmelizing apples in a saucepan, taking it off the heat, covering the top of the apples with puff pastry dough and putting the whole saucepan in the oven to bake. You take it out and invert it for service. It's made very much like a pineapple upside down cake. OK, the aluminum foil takes away from the presentation, but it was the end of class when I took the pic.

Close up yummy caramelized apples!

This long weekend is all about finishing up a bunch of swap and mega crafting, so I should have lots of felty pics soon! Have a safe & super fun holiday weekend!