Monday, January 11, 2010

Anatomy Lesson for an EMT

Ever wondered how those shaped cakes come into being? No, not by baking it in pan that you can buy in aisle 4 at Michaels and cover with thousands of frosting stars. In my mind it's an art form. Sculpture. The only kind I'm successful at (shall we discuss my failed attempt at pottery in college, no more clay for me). Here's my most recent cake, an ambulance, along with some step by step shots.

Create a 3-d Plan (a little package design experience does help)
Bake the cake, make the frosting
Arrange the cake into layers and chill
Carve the basic shape
Cover with buttercream (with real butter) and chill
Carve and refine the shape of the buttercream
Cover in fondant, stack and chill
Decorate and deliver

An ambulance cake for Tammy's 50th birthday complete with custom license plates.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Christmas Miracle

I have just received the greatest gift of the season, the news that HGTV will indeed be airing a holiday special about the workers and decorations of the white house! Do you hear the angels singing? It's on tonight, Christmas Eve at 7pm central. Now, Joan has been downgraded to Genevieve Gorder (her only redeeming quality is that she hails from Minnesota and played the violin as a child) but at least there is hope. Hope in a new beginning. Hope that I can find out the theme of the decorations this year. Hope in knowing that no matter who is inside the house, it can be decorated by volunteers into an amazing Christmas spectacular. Hope for a new tomorrow that isn't dictated by oprah-forced change. Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!

White House Christmas Special

I know, this has nothing to do with my baking, cooking or school. But, as you read on the gingerbread portion of the blog, I love the white house Christmas special normally aired on HGTV. How pissed, and yes I'm using the crude and non-ladylike term again, pissed was I that the show was given to the annoying-president-picking-emotional-ratings-whore-richer-than-god Oprah! Really? Do we really need anything else promoted, chosen, shown or even endorsed by this woman? Wasn't our president enough for her?

She stole, yes stole, the best show of the year from the sweet Joan Steffend and turned it into a bastardization of it's former self. Joan wasn't there to promote her politics, see herself on television or show off her latest weight. She was there to praise the hard work of all the every-day people who worked thousands of hours to make the white house look as good as possible for the holidays. She took pride in the theme, the colors, the tree. She praised the hard work, the hours volunteers donated to hang and fluff garlands and wreaths. And most of all she actually took pride in showing the best of the best, the gingerbread creation that year.

Not Oprah. Noooooo. That is way to simple and base for a woman whose goal in life is manipulating the American public into thinking everything she says in unique, intelligent and the best ever. Oprah showed me two, I repeat two complete decorations in the house. We spent more time petting the dog than looking at the gingerbread house! Did we see the entry way that was adorned with 10 foot tall nutcrackers last year? Nope. Did we see the balcony, wreaths, garland and theme of the hallways and anterooms that can house 10 foot high poinsettia trees? Nope. We walked down a hallway with the First Lady who made mention of the new holiday photographs from administrations past but didn't even bother to do a close up of the wreaths in the window. They were red (but we got a 2 minute diatribe earlier on the playground/habitat that had been constructed on the lawn for the two kids), that's all we got.

We did see the tree in the oval office, after all, Oprah gets to chat with the president. Who better to chat, discuss and influence national decisions than a talk show host whose greatest contribution of the decade was the couch jumping incident of '05. What did we learn, there were dried hydrangeas in the tree, Oprah loved that idea.

We did see the red room, all decorated in cranberries (or so I could guess from the one garland we saw. We did see the tree in the blue room (you know, the main tree that is decorated with ornaments from around the country) and I could only guess at the theme of recycling because all they shared was how they sent out old ornaments from holidays past (money saving you know, after all the Christmas vacation house for the first family in Hawaii is $4000/day, priorities) for people to decoupage for their state, city or reservation. Not cute, they reminded me of the soap we made in Awana for the old people's home when I was 8.

We did see the gingerbread house encased in white chocolate and a little 3 minute spot on it being made. Ok, I'll give her that one. She did show it but made sure to highlight the miniature gumpaste garden & hypo-allergenic dog that made it different this year, cause we all know the First Lady is out weeding and tending that propaganda beauty on a daily basis. Yeah.

All told we saw 10 minutes of decorations and holiday cheer. The first 10 minutes were with the President spewing crap. 10 minutes of decorations, sorta. Then 40 minutes of more crap with the President sitting in the green room... no decorations highlighted. It was all about his politics and agenda. That is NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT what this is supposed to be about. Why must Oprah always strip all that is good and holy about being American from us? Why can't she just fly out to California and get her eyebrows waxed instead of stealing my one December joy. Why?

I'm so sad. It's just not the same without Joan. That's my dream job you know, working in the white house. Not for any administration or political agenda but for the house. Keeping something so precious in top shape and well presented. Being able to possibly bake or create something for a dinner in the East Room. And the ultimate, helping decorate this landmark for Christmas. I think my dream is dead. I haven't been this whipped up since the Chinese gymastic olympic uniforms... ugh, don't remind me. Well, happy holidays (cause with Oprah you can't say Christmas) and I wish you all the joy and happiness that Oprah has stolen from me this year.

Not the gumdrop buttons!

The gingerbread house was a hit, the teachers loved it and they decided to put the house out for all to enjoy. This way all the students could enjoy it, smell it and have a little bit of holiday cheer. But all was not well. Who knew what horror would arise... one of the gingerbread men was kidnapped!

Here's one of the last photographs we have of the poor victim (highlighted).

Thank goodness they have a Anoka Police Liaison Officer on staff who could take charge of the investigation and really get to the bottom of the problem. Emails were sent, teachers were questioned, security footage was reviewed. Was it the gingerbread mafia? A disgruntled teacher? A student with aspbergers? After a day of investigation the crime was solved, it was none other than Lord Farquaad torturing yet another gingerbread man in his reign of terror.

Not the gumdrop buttons!

Gingerbread Masterpiece

One of my favorite holiday shows is the yearly tour of the white house showing the decorations and the amazing gingerbread house displayed in the East Room created by the head pastry chef. I just love the detail, design and artistry that is displayed each year... and you know I'm sitting there thinking, I could do that. What is wrong with me that I always say that? But I could you know.

This year I got my first shot at it. Not the White House, can't go for the big dog for my first structure ever. Instead I made a gingerbread replica of Sandburg Middle School in Anoka, Minnesota for the annual holiday luncheon for the teachers. Now, as many of you know, my life has pretty much been a big pile of crap covered in poo since my mom went into the hospital after Thanksgiving. Life, schedules, sleeping and sanity hasn't been real regular (much less existent) and there was a real possibility I wouldn't get this house made. The stars aligned and my baking ability was good enough to get all the parts and pieces measured, designed and baked by the evening before the party. Now all I had to do was assemble all 27 walls, 18 internal structure pieces and 4 roof's to complete the final school.

I'm all about deadlines. I need a deadline to get something done. Well, I had one (it needed to be up in Anoka by 9:30 am on Friday morning). So of course I wouldn't begin this until the evening before, correct? As of 10:30 p.m. on Thursday I started making the royal icing to glue and construct the house. I was going to do it. I had a bet going on completion time, I said 3:30am and Nick said 4:10am. I won, to the minute (and I wasn't even trying!). I made my deadline with 3 hours of sleep to spare.

The next day I got the 40" x 18" x 11" structure out the door, down to the garage, into my car, up to Anoka, out of my car, up the school stairs and into the party room without one, I repeat one broken piece, trip, spill, fall or break! It's a Christmas miracle. The school was complete except for a few gingerbread men that I added courtesy of Lisa and Megan. My first gingerbread house, next stop... food network challenge. It's on.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Time to Make the Donuts

Remember that classic early 80's commercial? Many times I feel just like him getting up at 5 in the morning to go and bake at my internship. I'm working at a production kitchen doing just about anything they tell me, from making marzipan pumpkins (which I rock at) to cutting bars and everything in-between. By far my favorite thing was making boxes, hard to mess that one up and I am an expert at packaging.

However, I did meet my first foe in the kitchen that officially scared me—a 60 quart mixer. Think about how much 60 quarts really is and imagine the bowl to hold that, a small child could take a bath in it. The spatula to scrape the bowl looks like some industrial ice chipper. I was afraid, very afraid. I mean let's face it, I'm a B.O.A.S (that's bit-of-a-spiller) to begin with but add 60 quarts of batter, a beater and a very powerful motor? We're talking high probability of stuff going everywhere. I never did the full lucy and ethel but there was a few incidents where a mop was required. I will not talk of my uniform those days. Classic B.O.A.S.

Well, on Wednesday my time was done. I did my 111 hours of indentured servitude and I am going to one up Donna Martin and graduate. I can't believe this year is over, what a ride it has been. Only a few more weeks and I'll officially graduate and have my $19,000 certificate to prove it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Under the Sea

It's done. Finally. This piece has been torture for me. It started with the missing coral that needed to be recast. Next, the tree coral with swimming fish decided to take a big fat digger and broke into a hundred pieces. Nothing is going my way on this one.

Finally, finally I got everything repaired and assembled. My lumps and chunks of chocolate were formed into fish, corals, shells and starfish. Photo taken, assignment completed.

The last step is to enter it into the Chocolate Extravaganza put on by the Pastry Professionals of Minnesota this weekend. With my track record I think I may do better walking it over to the convention center instead of driving it. Don't bad things come in three? Wish me luck on getting inside in one piece.