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.

Sweet Revenge

Normally I love any type of showpiece but I wasn't excited about this assignment: create a chocolate sculpture 18" high that represents the theme of animals. Yuk, I had a bad feeling about thist. I decided to make a coral reef, this way blobby clumps would look artistic without having to be too precise.

Step one, temper 4 pounds of chocolate and pour a base. That only took 2 hours. Step two, temper 6 pounds of dark chocolate and create three pieces of coral. To develop lumps and bumps I poured tempered chocolate into a pan of ice, allowed it to set up and as quickly as possible remove the ice as water is not the friend of chocolate. It took me 3 hours but it looked great. I was happy... do you see it coming?

Three coral pieces assembled on top of the base

The next day (Sunday, yup we have to do extra hours for this bad boy) I go to the rack with all our chocolate on it and I can't find my coral. Where is it? The slot where I put it was empty, all the other trays were there except mine. I couldn't believe it, 3 hours of work, down the drain. Breathe, breathe, don't get angry, breathe. That's what I get for putting my name on the tray. Really? 3 hours later I once again had some lumps of chocolate coral and a slightly bitter attitude.

The mystery was solved next week. Any guesses who did it? The Chef who taught the cake decorating class. She thought it was "dirty chocolate" (we always have a big tray of crap chocolate that gets used for practice) and said it wasn't labeled well. Yeah, not buying it. Who thinks my three perfectly round chunks of coral looked like a big tray of messy, gloppy, dirty chocolate. Me and dirty? I think not. I'll never get my 3 hours back, so I guess I'll just have to start making wedding cakes that are better than hers.

Fred the Scorpion

Meet fred, the scorpion shaped cake that I made for my godson's 4th birthday (see what happens when you let the 4 year old choose the theme?). He came with rice krispy tail and claws, light blue cake guts and heath bar crunch buttercream.

Unfortunately a bout of flu and strep throat prevented him from enjoying this very boyish cake. What to do? Let a teacher friend bring it to school (even if it was 6 days old). See what happens when you leave free food out in the teachers lounge?

Opening Day

Here it is, opening day of 350° Bakery. It recieved rave reviews (from the AI staff and stoned students that really needed a snack) and looks to be the hottest thing on 4th floor. So tier one!

Look closely and you'll see that some things never change. Yes, I'm the one doing dishes. Can you believe I posted a photo of myself!

Falling Back

Not daylight savings time... falling back into my old life of branding, marketing and design. Hi, my name is Stephanie and I'm addicted to making things look amazing and being better than everyone else. Is there a meeting for this? Sign me up because I need help.

My final class is production baking, basically we run a bakery on campus from 7:30 to 11:00 am and sell everything from breakfast sandwiches, scones, muffins, cookies, cupcakes to puppy chow and pizza. Besides developing the menu options, part of the class is to decide on a name, create a logo and come up with a marketing plan. You see it coming don't you.

This class includes everyone in our current graduation cycle—EVERYONE—so needless to say there was a tier one meeting (have I not explained the tier system that naturally develops in all social environments?) to strategize. The last thing we needed was chatty kathy who kept telling us she would go into anaphylactic shock if she breathed in pepper smell while eating pepper laden food making any decisions. Not going to happen. Tier one went into full swing, we were determined to have an entire plan ready from menu to marketing by day one.

Here's where I fell hard back into my old life. I took on the naming, logo, packaging, marketing and overall look and feel of the bakery. I had almost two weeks, piece of cake (yeah, I said piece of cake). On day one I had a complete visual presentation including 5 name & logo options, 3 sample posters, 2 sample labels, frequent buyer card, signage program, advertising plan and a basic color palette. Shocked faces, they didn't know what to say. Welcome to the first lesson on how to professionally present and sell your ideas. Take notes people.

Needless to say Chef put me in charge of the PR committee and I became the creative director and marketing director in one. So here it is, the production bakery name for the class that is always "setting the standards" (according to many of the chef's).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Something New

Here it is in all it's glory. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. It is truly a fussy, overwrought Louis XIV style cake that I think captures the look and feel I was going for. It received the ultimate compliment when a former chef's said it was exactly the style of cake that Carême himself would have created. Look him up, can't really be in better company.

The grade. Well, even though I thought it was pretty close to perfect it received 245 out of 250, not bad for the second wedding cake I've ever made. Here's the rest of the class (click on it for a closer look).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 4

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. I've already done the blue so today was something new. I created a pleated ruffle at the bottom of my cake. Sounds easy doesn't it.

Hard to imagine one 2" pleated ruffle circling the bottom layer would take 3 hours to complete. 3 solid hours, and that doesn't count the time I took yesterday creating the card stock pattern mold. 3 hours of roll, place, crimp, dry, crimp some more, dry, place on the cake, glue, arrange, ruffle and sigh.

What did I learn? Charge double for the pleated ruffle.

Friday, September 18, 2009


In the spirit of testing everything out I have diligently been doing some homework that has turned into pieces I think I'll use on my cake. Gumpaste flowers. Made by rolling out gumpaste, cutting, thinning and ruffling the edges, shaping (some in grace's antique fostoria sorbet glasses... we're baptists, we don't have champagne glasses), assembling and pinning into some extra Styrofoam forms.

Next, what color shimmer dust should I accent them with? It's the adult version of glitter and I can't get enough.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 3

I did everything different today. Different uniform, different rolling pin, different surface, different mindset. I was going to succeed today and cover my bottom two forms with fondant hell or high water. I can do this. Music. It's not often I plug in to the ipod but today I did. Loud. Good old fashioned rock. Queen, Bon Jovi and even a little Blink 182.

Please Lord, just let me get this done with some level of success.

I did it. All three forms are now covered in prussian blue fondant with a nice fabric inspired texture. I even got the board covered as a bonus. The cake is stacked and ready to decorate. Down, but not out. I'm back.

Day 2

God is a fair God. You do something well and gloat about it, praise yourself and look out, it always comes back around. You'll pay for it, trust me.

The next step in my cake process was wrapping my three Styrofoam layers with the colored fondant, easy enough. I've wrapped plenty of cakes and on practice day I had no issues whatsoever, this will be a snap... or so I thought.

Top layer... roll out the fondant, check. Add a little corn syrup to the Styrofoam to get it to stick, check. Lay the fondant on the center of the, wait, nononono no no, not there, it's sticking, I can't pull it up! what the F! Ugh, crap, now it's peeling in chunks. Get it off, get if off!!!! It won't come up. ok, I'm done. it's a mess. what do I do?! One 6" Styrofoam cake covered in lumps of fondant. That's what I get for gloating about my perfect color.

Top layer, round 2.... Smooth out the hot mess I created in round 1, check. Roll out the fondant, check. Skip the devil corn syrup that sticks to everything. Lay the fondant on top and smooth over, check. Seal the bottom with a little syrup, check. Phew. I got it done with just a few minor imperfections.

Ok, I'm going to try one more.

Middle layer... roll out fondant, check. Lay fondant on center of form and smooth out, check. Smooth out and trim excess, check. Seal the bottom... wait, crap, what!!! I leaned into the form and gouged the top edge perfectly with my coat buttons. Too deep to smooth, I have to start over. That's it, I'm done for the day. I told you, he's a fair God.

Day 1

On Monday we started working on the final project by coloring our fondant (if necessary) for the bases of our cakes. I did. Of all the parts, pieces and tasks of my cake this was the one I was least worried about. After all, I've been color matching for decades (and getting paid to do it).

If I can get china to print PMS542 blue correctly on thousands of cards (and mind you, it took years to get to that point including two trips to that food-forsaken country) I can color 6 pounds of fondant to match my paint chip.

Done. Perfect. "Right on the nuggies" as an old printer friend used to say. I was pretty proud of myself. God would get me back for the pride, just you wait. But on my checklist of tasks the first item is done and I am on my way.

It has begun!

The reason I came to school, cake decorating. I'm 4 weeks and and starting on the final project, a 3 tier wedding cake of my own design. I really struggled with a, I don't have an ultimate cake design in my head (just like I have no plan, no goals, but that's a whole other topic). I need a style, theme, dress, flower choice, location and then I can create.

So I bought some magazines and came up with three designs:
1. Mid-century modern, a nod to mad men with it's clean, modern lines and a dress that reminds me slightly of Pantsy (my mom). Inspired by layered graphics, a wooden console that reminded me of our old hi-fi (that's a record player for all of you born after 1970) and a pair of stylized owls done in modeling chocolate.

2. Modern Petals, based on this amazing Monique Lhuillier dress I found with a cascade of petals. Simple in design but difficult in execution. As you can see I love the concept of a floral pommander (that flower ball thing) on top. I've been obsessed with them for years.

3. Louis XIV Gone Mad. It's hard to grow up in the house I did and not have hidden somewhere a love for this style. Grace loved it. French provencial, Queen Anne, and all the Louis. I had pulled these pillows and settee out of a magazine years ago and stashed it in my "cool things" folder (doesn't everyone have one of these?) knowing I would use this inspiration someday. I found a dress that matched and the formal, fancy french concept was complete.

I reviewed the concepts with my Chef and I knew what she would choose, not only because of style but of difficulty. I'll let you guess for a bit and feel free to chime in on your favorite.

I started it this week, and it's due next and you know it needs to be perfect in all aspects so I'll try to keep you updated on progress as we go. After all, this is the culmination of my journey, making a cake that can be sold as a professional work. Did I just have a goal? Phew. Maybe I'm not as broken as I thought I was.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spicolli Returns

Fast times at Art Institutes. Yesterday we had spicolli in class and he came just short of ordering pizza to ward off the munchies. Yes, my little friend that I named Jew-Dude (JD for short) gave me the quintessential art school moment.

Each of us had to interview a wedding cake bakery, write a paper and then present that paper orally in class yesterday. It's a simple project, the chef gave us the list of 14 questions to ask and have answered, very straight forward. Everything was going well and we were cruising through until JD, he was last, but certainly not least.

There he stood, in front of the class with bloodshot eyes and speaking at half speed. "Dude, I totally did my project on so-and-so's because my bro Joe works there, dude. It was awesome. I was stoked to see all the stuff they had." He was 100, one-hundred percent stoned. And if I can point that out you know how obvious it was.

There were giggles, smiles and people eventually couldn't look at him for fear of laughing. It almost became sad when the teacher started to point out the missing information, even she gave up so he could finish as soon as possible. As amusing as it was for all of us, we all knew he needed to finish to go snack on something to get through the rest of class.

It was finally done and we all took a break, one classmate said all he could do was hear "buffalo soldier" over and over in his head. I think bob himself heard that request because when we returned from break and turned on the radio what did we hear? Yup, Buffalo Soldier. Dude, that was awesome. Sometimes I love these art school kids, they never cease to amuse and amaze.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Better Than Tony

Let me tell you, there is nothing better for boosting your self esteem and self worth than going back to school as an adult. I mean really, having people tell you that you're the best is just great. And (this is the best part) it's not that hard! Yup, it's easy. I don't know why it's so much easier now that when I was 18 but it is. It's amazing how a little work, organization and well designed homework (it's all about making something look pretty) can make you the star of the class. Those kids have just not figured it out yet.

Now, lets remember exactly what and where I'm going to school for: culinary at a school that is currently trying to get accreditation. We're not talking CIA or French Culinary in New York. This is the place where one students answer to "why did you decide on Art Institutes" during orientation was, and I quote: "because I couldn't get into that other school". Yes. We're honest here at AI. Now I don't know if he was referring to Le Cordon Bleu (which I personally couldn't attend just for the fear I'd have to pronounce the french name correctly) or MCAD (which is the snooty-artsy-fartsy design school that I refused to hire anyone from) but the fact he wasn't smart enough to keep that to himself shows you what I'm up against in class. Hence, why I feel so smart. It's like I'm in school with 3rd graders.

I'm in practice school. It's not master program or heaven forbid some fancy doctorate program that you have to work at (just as Lisa and Alicia). I'm in a school that teaches you how to wash your hands so you don't poison people. I actually figured that out in elementary school. The fact I can do that AND make something look good is so above and beyond they just don't know what to do. I mean, I can do dishes without being asked! What, she thinks too? Do you see the pattern here?

No wonder I'm the star. I love being the big fish (literally) in a tiny, tiny, tiny pond. Again, this is the best self-esteem booster I've ever had. It makes up for all those nerd-ridden years of high school where I wasn't even cool enough to be in a tier. I rode the school bus and played the violin, need I say more? Even in college I wasn't aware enough to snap out of it. True, I had friends and came off as the snooty girl from cake-eater land but I wasn't even smart enough to know I was perceived that way, it was just because I was so painfully shy. Here I am, finally, at the ripe age of... well never mind... finally tier one at my school. If only they had prom.

Now, this may be a bit more expensive that attending a Tony R. weekend event, but let me tell you, it's so much better. Not only do you feel good about yourself and have people tell you're amazing, you don't have to walk over coals or be fearful the giant is going to talk to you. I highly recommend this esteem booster to any and all. You too can feel good about yourself in 12 months or less (is that a book title?) and all the while get to eat yummy food. Hi, my name is stephanie and I'm cool. Never thought I'd say that in my lifetime. Well done AI.

My 5 Year Plan

It's finally here, the class I've been waiting for—cake decorating. This was why I decided to go to school, to learn how to make amazing wedding cakes. This was going to be my new direction in life. I love it. I love my class, the chef is great and I'm working with people that are fun and smart, well most of them (the majority of "re-tarders" are in the other section). I think my classmates like me but I've never been good at gauging my popularity at school (shall we discuss me telling everyone in kindergarten they were stupid because they couldn't read? Yeah, that cemented my popularity). I have seen a withering glance or two my direction during practice but let's just hope this shining "late-bloomer" personality (as Jodi calls it) overshadows my spirit-crushing need to be the best.

I finally feel like I could do this, for real. Not just some dorky girl in a kitchen making a birthday cake for a friend on the weekend but for real (translation: I can charge money). Really? I'm not ready for this, I like playing at school, this is my happy-fun time. I don't want to be a part of the working world getting a paycheck and contributing. Yuk. I like learning and making things and having people tell me I'm great. You just don't get that very often in the real world.

A friend of mine asked what my 5 year plan was (he was technically asking about my 5 year car plan but disguised it as caring about my life) and I was stumped. I don't have one. Never have. Now I'm panicking because I know I need one. What am I going to do? Do I have the guts to go out on my own or should I take the safe route and get a job. And that's assuming I can get a job, who wants to hire some old lady? Ugh. When did pantsy crawl into my head and start talking? Snap out of it Kissner! Cakes, the whole reason this blog exists, to be creative with my favorite thing (food, I mean have you looked at me recently?) and make people happy. There's got to be a place out there that wants to do the same, right? I'll find it. But in the mean time I'm open for suggestions on that 5 year plan.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


My latest and greatest, NOT for class but one of my best friends. The filling flavor was definitely inspired by one of my desserts (remember that tropical napoleon, I just loved the pineapple and coriander and had to try a filling) and the butter cream had a bit of coconut cream in it. The wood-tone wasn't perfect but the plumerias looked good enough to make stac jealous (that was what she wanted on her wedding cake but nobody could make them). This tiki is sure to bring good luck, no bobby brady juju here!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Practice Almost Makes Perfect

I guess Grace was right, practice does make perfect, almost. I showed you how it all turned out but I didn't tell you how it got there. Just like last time I immediately went into top chef intensity on day one and I'm worried I made my dishes too complicated, too many parts and pieces, did I just pull a Blaize? Will I choke even though I'm most likely to have the best presentation (yeah, I said it, I'm at the top and I want to win). That was the bus ride internal monologue. Once I got to school it was time to suck it up and figure out how to get it done.

Some things went great (thanks to Lisa and her recipe for the best flourless chocolate torte ever) some things not so great but that's what weeds out the weak—figuring out how to make it work. I had marshmallow fluff that melted, cake that didn't turn out quite right (I personally think Armond put the wrong flour in the cake flour bin—it was yellow—Leave it to Armond to sabotage me) but I still made it all work. I did set a record for sweatiest t-shirt of the quarter (sorry you had to read that but it's all part of the experience isn't it?), fully soaked. Three days of running around with internal panic but I finished early and pulled it off.

The cherry on top was the placemat for the pear cardamom bread pudding. I know that put me over for chef. I saw her reading it when she thought I wasn't looking. Yeah, she liked it. She loved the jars as the container and the blue ribbon pear honey story (thank you Lisa again). Best of show. Looks like all those years doing design finally paid off. Well, here's a closer look of each of them.

Bacon Maple Tuiles were a hit, even though God and his excessive heat and humidity made them soft. MMMMMM bacon.

Pina Colada Napolean. The corriander made it so good (that's three for Lisa).

Damn lemon torte, cake that wasn't quite right and curd that wasn't thick. I just prayed it stayed together. Figures it would annoy me since it's original name was cloud nine... cursed.

A friend did question the chips with the PB & J, I told him you always get chips with your sandwich! "Maybe in Edina but we never did". Cake-eaters rule.

My all time favorite. Best tasting, best presentation (that's four for Lisa).

Final thought... I guess fate knew what it was doing all those years ago when I became friends with that girl at church who liked to cook and be the best at everything too. I officially share my A (if that's what I got) with Lisa, at least half of this is her's! Thanks Lis, here's to food and friends making a crappy week seem just a little bit better.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


That's the name that I finally settled on for my restaurant and menu. I figured "Pantsy" wouldn't sound professional enough. Here is the final desserts and platings as well as the final printed menu I turned in. Everything went ok, not perfect but ok. We'll see when my grade comes in how I did. What do you think?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cake for Breakfast

Its' not like I choose to be this way, a super-planner-slightly-crazy-competitive-need-to-be-perfect-at-all-times person. It's just too late for me to change so here I am practicing my menu to ensure I can execute it perfectly. Here is my first practice, what do yo think?

Chocolate Truffle Cake... for Breakfast
This dark chocolate truffle torte is glazed with orange-chocolate ganache and accompanied with orange scented whipped cream and a bacon maple crisp. This is the way breakfast should be!

P.S. that brown holy thing sticking up from the cake... that's a tuile. Still hate em. Thank goodness the x-games were on to entertain while making them one by one.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Would you eat here?

Our big project this quarter is to make our own dessert menu, cost and review the nutrition, design the menu and then for the final make the desserts and present them.

I feel a little like I'm competing in a figure skating contest because I have to fit in all these "required elements" but I finally put the puzzle together and came up with my top 5, most cohesive dessert choices, here they are:

Chocolate Truffle Cake
This dark truffle cake is glazed with an orange-chocolate ganache and served with orange scented whipped cream and a bacon maple crisp, our ode to having cake for breakfast.

Pear Bread Pudding
This warm bread pudding is filled with roasted pear and hints of cardamom all drizzled with blue ribbon pear honey and vanilla sauce.

Lemon Cloud 9
We’ve layered vanilla cake with tangy lemon curd, a touch of raspberry and encased the entire cake in a cloud of meringe toasted a light, golden brown.

Tropical Vacation
Layers of grilled pineapple, coconut rum cream and puff pastry are accented with a passion fruit sauce and a macadamia nut dust for a light, airy treat.

Peanut Butter & Jelly for Grownups
Light, whipped peanut butter mouse and a little chocolate ganache are sandwiched between peanut sponge cake and served with blackberry ice cream and chocolate covered potato chips, a grown-up version of cake for lunch.

Now it's time to test out my ideas and see if they really work, who would have thought hearing that cheer at all those hockey games would become this cake-eater's menu inspiration. Here's to becoming part of the million dollar bunch!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tuile really is a 4 letter word

Yes, I can count, I know it's 5 letters but if you ever had to make them you'd share my opinion that they are the most annoying little devil cookies whose name makes you want to swear up a storm. For those not in culinary school a Tuile (pronounced tweele) is a very thin, crispy cookie that is used on almost all plated desserts to bring texture and add height, design and interest. You know, that crunchy thing that always sits on top of your facy-schmancy dessert and tastes like an ice cream cone? That's a tuile.

Sometimes it's lacy with nuts, other times it's crepe-thin and crispy but almost always it's bent into an interesting curved shape. To make these treats you need to spread batter neatly and evenly into a template, remove the template (without smearing the batter), bake and within 30 seconds of removing them from the oven place them in their final shape. Roll, wrap, bend, or place on an dowel or rolling pin to create a perfectly fluid and interesting cookie. If you miss that 30 second window they just break. Time consuming, detail oriented, not able to be made in mass production and they burn quicker than anything. See why they are annoying?

During my vacation to Disney I was fortunate to go eat at a variety of great restaurants where I examined, picked apart and ultimately enjoyed a bevy of amazing desserts; and almost all of them had one of these little devil cookies. Crap. I guess I really have to learn to love these little beasts.

This quarter my class is all about creating plated desserts for restaurant presentation so you know I'll be making tuiles till they come out of my culinary you-know-what. But I promise, each and every one will be documented with their own unique name so you too can share the joy of the most evil cookie ever invented.

Hi, My Name is Stephanie and I'm a Tanorexic

It all started my sophomore year. The orchestra (yes I said orchestra) went on tour to Hawaii and I spent 7 days in paradise. It was the best tan I ever had since Grace wasn't there to tell me to get out of the sun and go weed or practice. I couldn't wait to show off the bronzed glow (with some burnt red areas) in my white maui yacht club t-shirt. Two weeks later it only got darker when I went on a week long canoe trip to the BWCA, the weather couldn't have been better. I was hooked. After 13 trips to Hawaii, 5 years living in California and trips to beaches from Capri to Hong Kong my search for a tan has only grown more desperate. This is why I haven't blogged in a month—it's been sunny and I have a pool.

At first it was just to get ready for Florida. Then I needed to maintain that tan. Then I had to get ready for the lake. Then I just wasn't tan. You see what happens... No matter how tan I am I only see white, pasty skin. You know it's bad when I check my pantone color before vacation and compare it after to make sure I advanced at least one shade (right now I'm in between 7510 and 7511). So here I am, admitting my addiction and promising to not ignore my duty to blog anymore.

My name is stephanie, I spent 2 hours by the pool today (after all it was our first day above 70 since wednesday) but I'm trying to quit and taking it one day at a time.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


never have 4 letters given me such joy. I've rediscovered the absolute happiness of the word "what". It's many uses, the many questions or statements it can be a response for and the beauty of communicating something normally laced with profanity or annoyance with one deceptively simple syllable. What?

Used in it's purest form it truly is just a question that means, "hey, I didn't hear or understand what you just said, can you please repeat that?" But thats not really very fun, you're just wasting it.

By the age of 3 or 4 you learn of it's subtle ability to stall a situation. It's way of communicating "I heard what you said, I don't like what you said, I'm going to ignore what you said and feign ignorance." Yeah, we all did it.

Later in life, somewhere in your 30's you learn that it can be used in place of expletives, a way to nicely tell someone they suck and I'm not listening to you again. The beauty is you can do out in the open, in public, without any fear of being looked at like a potty-mouth-crude-white-trash-bad-influence. By perfecting the stalling technique and adding your own little "yeah, I know what you did" look on your face you've completed the transformation to perfection of the word to it's highest level. This is truly the way to say, "yup, I've been F-ed in the A by volunteering to walk in a local parade and now I'm sweating and jingling bells like some street fool and all I want to do is chuck candy at the white trash onlookers". What?

Yeah, you heard me.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Top 10 Mean Girl Moments - part 1

I feel that I have been shirking my mean girl duty, after all I don't know that I've shared one Judit story or even introduced you to my latest "friend" kk the albino. It's time, time to recount all those stories that went untold in another top 10 list.

10. The horror that was "the round table." Every day we had to gather for the last 30 minutes of class to see and taste what everyone had baked and take note of what the ingredient substitutions did. At first I was so excited, it was like being in my own Good Eats episode! I was having so much fun being all sciency and pretending to be smart and know what's going on. I mean I actually uttered the words "I think this has a better mouth feel and a rounder flavor". Yeah, I was that big of a dork. Well eventually this joy turned into the great bane of my existence. No matter how teenie tiny the bites were you walked out of that class feeling like a bloated beluga whale. Sick to your stomach, abdomen distended with some form of carb overload wanting to only eat protein—in 6 hours. Damn the round table.

9. The day I lost 3 pounds on cookie day. Now one would think I would have gained 3 pounds, right? After all you must taste all cookie dough to verify flavor and try the final cookie to ensure it was baked properly. Nope. Baking cookies is the best workout I've had in years. It all starts with Chef's very efficient and precise procedure for baking cookies. Let me summarize:
1. All cookies need to go on the "cool rack," starting at the bottom.
2. Once 4 full sheets ready they bake for 4 minutes, get rotated, bake another 4-5 minutes till golden.
3. Finished pans are placed on the "hot rack," starting at the bottom going up.
SIDE NOTE: there is absolutely no mixing of cool and hot pans on the racks, this is a world of segregation: cool stays on cool and hot stays on hot until cool enough to be removed (but they cannot be placed on the cool rack, that is for cool and unbaked, not cool and baked cookies. So many rules.
4. Once cookies are cool enough to be touched and still hold their shape they get shingled and moved off the rack to an appropriate counter.
5. Always remember: all pans need to constantly get rotated to ensure they're always starting at the bottom of the rack.
This entire process takes two people working in syncopation full time to perfectly execute. You know that I LOVE and respect the precision and well thought out efficiency of this system. For once I was not behind such a procedure, I was not managing the chinese sweat shop, I was the sze mihn factory worker sweating (literally) my slightly oversized but off. For about an hour and a half I repeated this procedure over and over and over and over. Oh yeah, did I mention it was in front of a 375° F oven that was opened every 5 minutes? And I'm wearing long pants, a t-shirt, neck scarf and long sleeved chef coat with apron? I think if I had this outfit that fateful BWCA canoe trip I often complain about I wouldn't have been cold and needed to put on my swimsuit and plastic bag for warmth. I digress, back to the kitchen. We were working like fiends but getting cookies in and out like it was an olympic sport (and you know I always go for the gold). Oh did I mention Chef's other rule?
6. Once you start baking, you do not leave your post. And you KNOW from the "doing dishes" complaints that I was not sitting in a room of overly motivated workers so yup, I was the one who finally started baking after 9 trays were on the rack. I'm such a sucker, you know they were just all waiting for me to do it.
I truly think this should be a workout class at the gym, I was wringing out my t-shirt like I had just completed spin class, even my socks were wet with sweat, I mean whose FEET sweat? Ugh, so gross. Open, check, close, turn, squat, shift, timer, open, pull, balance, place, close, down, shift, turn, timer, up, rotate, close, down, shift, up, check, down, shift... There was a moment where I started thinking in my head "all even numbers front to the rear two steps to the left move, one, two, three, four". Only edina grads will get that one—Ikola truly is king. I will say that I did not feel guilty for tasting any of the cookies with my calorie burning post. Screw hot yoga, I'm baking cookies.

Ok, I need a break, I'll have to continue the list later. the pool and sun is calling my name. This is what happens when I don't write all quarter! Buildup and diarrhea of the blog.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Zack Attack

The last few weeks I've had to taste over 289 different quick breads, cookies, pies and tarts—some containing lard (very meaty). Try this flour instead and taste. What does vegan sugar do to flavor (abso-fricken-lutely nothing. Really, if you have a problem because some type of bones were used to grind down your sugar and you can TASTE that contact with bones... bake your own freaking cake, I'm going to go and eat a steak, rare). Organic cream, lard, french butter, goats milk, kefir, raw sugar, whole wheat organic pastry flour, muscavado sugar, honey from the night blooming flugelflower. You name it we tasted it. And it got to us, even the glee kids amazing rendition of "don't stop believin" couldn't crack through. A fellow classmate even accused my bad attitude of preventing our cheese bread from rising. Thank goodness God sent me an angel this week and his name is Zack Morris. Seeing him on Jimmy Fallon wearing the same acid washed jeans talking about the max, kelly kapowski, the beach club, his brick phone and singing the hit song "friends forever" by the zack attack was just what I needed to get through this class. This week my attitude was saved by the bell.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Who doesn't love Jello?

My sister sure does. When we were growing up she just didn't feel it was a proper meal unless there was jello on the table. I thought it was only fitting her a birthday cake looked like the classic combination of red jello (and yes when it comes to jello red is a flavor, not a color) with bananas—in a white, melmac bowl. Classic grace kissner cuisine circa 1972-1991. The real thing will never hit my dinner table but I can be convinced to make gumpaste bananas floating on fondant jello... for my sister.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Masterpiece

Ok I'll admit it, there are days when my entire goal is to make sure I am the best of the best in the room and I settle for nothing short of crushing everyone's spirit. I've always been this way, I mean who tells their kindergarten class they're dumb because they can't read? This was one of those weeks—dead dough sculpture week in Artisan Bread class. I've been looking forward to this all quarter, my own personal coupe du monde (world pastry cup).

I had (in the words of Jodi) "myself a fine time—a fine time." I created a 3-D representation of Forrest Gump, the only requirements were for it to be 12 inches tall, have both live (with yeast) and dead dough and have cutouts. I think I hit the high points... what do you think? My personal triumph were the shrimp shaded with paprika although the nike's came in a close second.

At one point yesterday the Chef told me there were only so many points I could get. Two classmates told me they hated me and were not going to talk to me the rest of the day. I think I did it, I crushed their spirits and showed them all who the best in the room was. After all not everyone created a spreadsheet with each individual component labeled with color, thickness and finish treatment along with labeled templates—but they will now. I am the ruler of the dead dough sculpture contest.

Goodbye Breads

I just had my last day of Artisan Breads, frankly I was getting a little bored with bread. It's hard to stay excited sometimes when every day is flour, salt, yeast, water and knead-knead-knead. I have to say I learned a ton, I can make an english muffin or a baguette with the best of them. But really, it's time for something new. New group (so sad), new chef and new challenges.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Shoulder Update

I can firmly tell you that my shoulder development plan is on track after a week of whole grain bread kneading. I never knew making rye bread was so difficult and muscle-developing! I really think that the loaves of marble rye we made could be used to bludgeon someone to death, maybe I should ask my fellow student in sanitation if any of his former inmates used bread with intent to hurt or mame.

The only bright spot, the totally scrumptious whole wheat croissants we made with swiss cheese inside. I told myself that because we made the dough with partial whole wheat flour, the fiber is definitely going to negate all that butter, right? Anything so I can enjoy these flaky, buttery pieces of heaven. If this was the only thing I learned at school it would still be worth all that tuition, trust me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Week of Legalese

And the legal jargon keeps on coming... this time in the form of a subpoena. I have officially been served and requested to appear in court to make sure the k-fed wannabe (who pled not-guilty to trying to rip me off) stays behind bars. It seems fitting the official court date is during class, I am not missing any class for this clown! Can I show up to testify in my chef coat? Let's hope they plead it out. Stay tuned... courtroom drama possibilities on the horizon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chef Jailbird

I am taking an online course this semester all about safety and sanitation in the workplace, you're jealous aren't you. During this fun, fun, fun class I get the privilege of posting my thoughts and answers to various questions and conundrums that usually involve feces, bad hygiene and someone having abdominal cramps and possibly vomiting. The best part, I have to participate in class chatter by commenting on at least 2 other peoples posts. Unfortunately this means I have to read their thoughts, comments and often unusual stories. Today I read the best one yet responding to "what would you do if you found a band aid in your food". And I quote...

"I would call that a felony! I have an example from when I was locked up..."

What?! I'm pausing so you can digest, just as I had to while reading it for the first of many times.

" inmate was working the serving line, and he spit in the food of all the CO's that came in for lunch (editorial comment: I love that he automatically assumed we would know the lock-up lingo, CO being correctional officer). They charged him with 6 counts of felonious assault or something like that, anyway he got 5 years for each felony. He only had 60 days left so you can see that if someone puts something in food deliberately and the person who eats it dies that's murder."

Flabbergasted. Talk about getting a little extra education about the law and our correctional system. I love that he went from spitting in food to possibly getting sent up for murder! Astounded. All I want to do is pass this class as quickly and with as little work as possible and now I know the specifics about felonious assault and how many years you can possibly receive. What a bonus!

Mental note: do NOT comment on any of Anthony's stories, let's just stay out of that pool of thought. wow.

You must be a swimmer!

One of the most embarrassing things ever said to me. Some random "dude", and yes he was a dude, looked at me while hitting on my adorable skinny blond friend and said "man, you must be a swimmer, I mean look at your shoulders!" Now, we were in Kauai and he was a nasty SP (that's stinky person for those of you who don't know my entire short-hand language) who had lost many a brain cell while living the surf-SP life so I shouldn't have taken it to personally. but that was the quickest, most effective way to make me feel like the largest amazon in the room—and not in a good way. pretty. Let's just say that particular halter top came home from vacation and went directly in the good will bag.

This story came to mind after my last 2 weeks at class where we have been hand kneading bread, all day. My upper body is getting quite the workout and I wonder if I my swimmers shoulder's are going to make an appearance again (just in time for swim suit season, yeah!).

Now I am quite possibly the laziest person in the world when it comes to any type of physical activity. I don't like exercise. It's not fun and you usually can't eat or tan while doing it. Little did I know how satisfying kneading bread could be, and what a workout it was. From baguettes to sourdough bread to every possible type of french named loaf I will never be able to pronounce we've made it and it was fun. Who knew I would actually enjoy this type of exercise. I think it's because all that hard work makes an amazing treat for me to eat when it's all said and done. There is nothing better than fresh, warm, artisan bread straight from the oven and torn off with a little butter melting into all the chewy goodness. I can just smell it.

I have 4 more weeks to go and I can't wait to see what shoulders I'll have after all this work. lI wonder if the good will still has that halter top?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Top 10 of the quarter

I can't believe it's over! The first quarter of my new culinary life. (sigh) It flew by so quickly. As I look back I realize I had some of the most fun, annoying and interesting moments that I'll remember forever. Here are the top 10 best and worst that impacted my first quarter of school:

10. NOT permanently staining any part of my white uniform, from chef coat to apron to hat. And we all know that I'm, shall we say, a bit of a spiller. How amazing is that! Now, I did go through quite a bit of bleach but hey, that's only $1.89 a gallon.
9. Doing dishes for everyone in the class as most of them think they're magically cleaned once they set them down on that shiny silver thing in back (or just don't like doing dishes and won't be adult enough to do their own work).
8. Trying to outsmart the system but still getting the laziest person assigned to my group. Damn.
7. Having to explain what a decimal point is and how it works to a grown adult who somehow figured out how to have 3 kids.
6. Again explaining to the class that "doing dishes" is not the same as placing your dishes by the sprayer, it actually means a process of rinsing out your crap (don't you own a scraper or spatula? Why is there so much extra stuff left over in the bowl), washing it WITH a scrubby in the soapy water until there is no more goo on it, rinsing it, sanitizing it, draining it AND putting it away. Glenda the Good Witch does not wash your dishes for you while you're making the ugliest cake in the room.
5. Judit. She just gets a whole point unto herself, the particulars are just too many to list. Poor Judit. She still hasn't found the missing dough from our first practical.
4. Being told (at the dish sink), "wow, you must work. you're really good at doing work. I haven't worked in 3 years so I'm not good at moving fast or anything. I hate doing dishes, that's why we use paper plates for everything at home. It's just easier". I didn't know what to say. I didn't know if the statement or the fact that she was actually at the sink was more shocking.
3. The many top chef moments from making the best dessert in the room to not managing my clock properly and having to show a bad plating. Or the worst top chef moment, pulling a season 4 richard blaise on day 1 of the practical and choking on the one thing I know how to do perfectly—icing a cake (and being told by chef it wasn't my best work).
2. Learning how to make popcorn, bacon chocolate chip and coconut curry with cashew ice cream, yes ice cream. And they were good believe it or not!
1. Having the best plated dessert... ever (at least in my mind) and having Chef be speechless, he didn't know what to say and asked me to show the plate to the head chef of the department. I felt redeemed for the cake. Here is my final presentation....

This is what I call "a night at the movies"
Popcorn flavored ice cream with a side of cinnamon caramel corn. It comes with caramel sauce, roasted peanuts and sea salt to create an ice cream sundae according to your own tastes and wishes. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Becoming the Early Bird

The only thing I wasn't looking forward to about this new career in baking was getting up early. I am not a morning person (at least before the first cup of coffee) and I saw nothing redeeming about such early hours—until last Friday.

It was a standard day for me, get up at 5 am and get over to the bus station by 5:55 am for my ride downtown. It's always so quiet and silent I am shocked to see someone in the garage--and he's by my car. Hmmmm. I park by a wall, there is NO reason to be near my car and this guy is a K-fed wannabe-- 20 something with a baseball hat off to the side, baggy jean shorts, oversized shirt, scruffy facial hair, he does NOT belong in our building of 65 and older retirees. Growing up in Edina did not prepare me for things like this! What do I do? I am not street smart. I say "good morning" and pretend everything is normal. It wasn't, he had been in my car. The glove box was open, contents everywhere, center console open and I smelled the stale smoke from him sitting in my car. He was watching me.

I all I could think was CRAP! what am I going to do, what if he goes upstairs! Gracie Pants would just open the door thinking it was me, CRAP! You have to get out of here. So I drive out and call my mom, have her call the Manager who gets the cops there. Well, they end up catching him as his brilliant escape plan was to sit upstairs in the cushy lounge and wait for the cab he called. Who calls a cab as their getaway care from the break-in? Not smart. Turns out he did this for a living and was working the entire neighborhood. And here a lowly baking student caught him just because she has to get up before everyone else. Good thing I decided to become a pastry chef don't you think?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Quickfire Challenge

Last week we started learning the art of plating--you know, taking bread pudding and making it look like it's worth 12.95. Big plate, tiny dessert, add a sauce (in artful drips of course), stick chunk of carmel lace and poof, the dessert may now sit under glass at MoMa. I had so much fun--too much and my day turned into a episode of Top Chef, and not in a good way.

We were given to 10:30 to present 2 plates for our group (guess who did this, anyone? anyone? yeah, me) and 4 other desserts on our own. I'm thinking the day is going well, making fruit couli's, spritz cigarette cookies and trying to ensure the mousse we made actually worked and in my super-control-freak-manner needed to be the one to remove our tortes from the ring molds. I just didn't trust the other two yahoos to not ding, dip or peel the acetate properly. Our Strawberry and Opera torte looked fabu! Check, one down, best in the room. I'm so winning this challenge.

I moved on to the individual plating. Since most of the morning was spent with the two mute idiots standing watching me I just did it all. I will give them credit for the garnish on the full strawberry torte--yeah, they can cut and fan a strawberry, talent. I think the plates look great. Check, second and third down, the win is in the bag.

Then I hear those dreaded words... 15 minutes to go. 15 minutes? really? I have to plate 4 other things with 15 minutes. Let's just say those four presentations are not making the blog. I was running, shoving, unmolding, inverting, dusting and saucing my little heart out. I got the plates to the table and only three were worth a photo. There goes the win down the tubes because I didn't watch the clock. Lesson learned. Just wait until next week...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Am Not a Navy Seal

I once claimed (many years ago) that I could be a navy seal, I thought I was so tough. My very good friend laughed and brought me back down to earth with, "really? because you cry at work. I don't think navy seals are allowed to cry at work." She's right, I am not a navy seal. At least this week.

The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament is my favorite event of all time. I love it more than anything--possibly more than the Minnesota State Fair (and that's really saying something). My team, the Edina Hornets, were poised to take it all - seeded number one in the state. I could not wait to watch all 7 games that I had pre-purchased tickets for in November. All I have to do is get through classes and make my friend Nick's birthday cake.

It's Thursday and after 5 hours in the kitchen I have to sit and watch a movie in Danish. Let me repeat--DANISH! For two hours!!! What's harder than reading subtitles on a poorly lit screen? Trying to read play by play text on your cell phone of a hockey game, I gave up and watched the movie just to pass the time. I have now missed the first game. I'm finally done with class, hop the bus and get home in time to change and head down to the Xcel center. I have now missed the second game.

I get there and I'm so excited! I get some food, find my seat, stand for the national anthem and proceed to watch my team take a beating, from a spud. The opposing teams mascot is a potato. Really? I don't think inanimate objects should be allowed. I sadly watched the third and fourth game but much of it was a blur. What a day. I cry--I am not a navy seal.

I trudged through Friday and Saturday classes attempting to drown out stupid questions without much luck. Between games and classes I finally finished Nick's cake. It fought me the entire time, from breaking to fondant wanting to tear but I did it, two board games with a couple cards and pieces. It was all done and boxed with 30 minutes to get ready for the final game.

I'm walking down to my car, an extra chocolate torte (thank goodness) in a bag on my shoulder, purse on my wrist and holding the cake box in both hands. I make it down to the garage and loose my balance, on what I still don't know. In slow motion I watch the cake fall out of my hand and land on it's side. In the box, but on it's side. I just sat and stared at it, eyes glazing over. 3 days of work sitting in a box on the floor of my garage. I want to cry but think, no, I AM going to be a navy seal--just this once.

I open it up, mash it back into place as best I can (even though all the writing has been smeared off) and deliver it with head held high. Rumor has it they enjoyed it, dents and all even if it wasn't perfect.

I finished the mission and I wanted a reward. I was done with this week kicking me whenever it could. As I drove to my friends house I saw the one thing that would make me feel better... Taco bell. Yup, all I wanted was a chili cheese burrito. It's amazing how less than $1.50 can turn your day around.

My team ended up winning consolation (that's 5th place for you non-tourney-buffs) and I still enjoyed my annual trek down to this event. I just hope this doesn't foreshadow a bad State Fair for me! Here are the before and after photos of the cake.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Just Like 5th Grade

Snow and Substitutes. Remember how fun it was to have a sub? How you could get away with things? Today we had a substitute Chef and at the age of 40 I attempted to pull the wool over his eyes. Because of the snow some students didn't make it in so I innocently suggested we only have 2 groups today, it would just be so much easier. Substitute Chef agreed (sucker) and I volunteered to go over with my three friends creating a team with no weak links. Ha! Take that Judit and FB.

It was heaven, an entire day of not telling anyone what to do, correcting errors, or reading recipe's and explaining what a decimal point is. I didn't even mind doing their dishes, it was a small price to pay for one day of freedom. What a great snow day.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pie Karma

It was inevitable. We planned, plotted, created charts and tried to tell people "that spot looks really nice, sit over there" but alas it did not work. Chef saw through us, mixed up the count and created new daily work groups for class. I was in group 3. Because of a poorly timed bathroom break I missed the under-the-table-black-market number exchange and was stuck... a permanent member of group 3 saddled with the one person in class who:
1. is allergic to 43 different food ingredients
2. has a bad back and must sit down every 5 minutes
3. doesn't like to do dishes, that's why she only uses paper at home
4. doesn't know the difference between 1 oz and .1 oz (the meaning of the decimal point has escaped her somehow)
5. stands next to a filthy table staring off into who knows where and never realizes she should actually wipe it down

It's fate, my own personal karma for secretly plotting to put all the dumb people in one group. Why me, lord? Why me? Wasn't Judit enough? Must I really wander alone for 40 more years? Well, he may have banished me to the desert (or is it dessert...) that is group 3 for six more weeks but at least he's sent me a little manna from heaven called pie week. And I have to say, I made the best looking mini lemon meringue pies in the room (because I made sure the other two were busy so I could quick make them on my own).

Behold my own personal golden calf, the lemon meringue pie

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Case of the Missing Croissant Dough

Today's practical exam was going along so nicely. D and I staked out our table, spread out sufficiently to ensure nobody else would even think of asking to share; and carefully started a very well planned day--don't you plan your day with a 15 minute increment schedule?

8:00 am: baguette dough punched down, rounded and resting, croissant dough fermenting, butter smashed into a square and coffee almost gone. Oh look, nobody's doing their dishes, just let it go.
9:45 am: baguette cooling, croissant dough first turn finished, labeled and in the retarder (that's fridge for you non-culinary-students), biscuits baked and graded and banana bread in the mixer. Dishes piling up - Ignore, ignore, ignore, just let it go. My day is going swimmingly, right on schedule.
11:15 am: Third turn of the croissant dough complete, sticky bun dough is labeled and in the retarder ready for tomorrow, Baguette and banana bread graded. Dishes, out of control but I'm biting my tongue and helping. Then came a certain someone I like to call Judit (pronounced Who-dit for those of you who don't chat with Jodi on a regular basis) who shot my day with one little sentence...
"Whoever just worked on their croissant dough (looking directly at me) took my dough, that was my dough."

Really? You're accusing me of taking your dough? You? The person who only got one item completed and graded ALL day? The same person who didn't do a dish and didn't know that when you roll out your butter into a thin square you put it between two sheets of plastic wrap; not make a butter snowball in your hand and then try to roll it out on the butcher block counter. Really? The some one who missed the midterm because of a panic attack? You, the most irritating little piece of crazy I've encountered at this learning institution, you're accusing ME of taking what I'm sure is crappy-not-square-goopy-butter-nuthouse-made dough? Done, I'm done being nice, game over. It's time for her to pack her knives and go.

(looking directly at her) "No, I did not take your dough, that was mine, it was labeled with my name and in a different retarder than yours. Are you sure you made the dough? Are you sure you put it in the retarder? Are you sure you labeled the dough? Hm, it's a mystery. This is my dough."

Amazingly everyone all of a sudden decided to do dishes. Was it to get out of my burning stare or just to do something so Judit didn't accuse them of taking her dough? What really happened to the dough? Personally I'm going for the St. Elsewhere angle - it's all in her head, and only she knows just how good that dough could be.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More than you ever wanted to know about Cupcakes

I never thought I'd have to think about end notes or citing references ever again. I'm a designer, I don't need to know that silly grammer-paper-writing crap. Try again. Here's the first paper I've written since the 80s, I hope you enjoy the story of the cupcake as much as I did.

Cupcakes - a brief history of the all-American dessert

All I wanted for my 8th birthday was black joe cupcakes with seven-minute frosting. A classic from Pennsylvania, this was my all-time favorite dessert. It’s not just the moist, ultra-chocolaty cake I loved, it was the fact it was a cupcake. An individual portion that was all mine; no sharing with sisters required. A perfect portion wrapped in an accordion paper shell. The cupcake is the quintessential all-American dessert born from ingenuity and the drive to take things to the next level. It wasn’t cake we invented, just the way in which it was baked, presented and eaten. Simple, individual, no apologies—the cupcake.

The American way—do it faster, make it bigger and produce more all at the same time—was the drive that helped create the cupcake. During the 19th century the tradition of weighing ingredients on a balance scale was replaced with a much faster, easier method, measuring with cups. From this new system came the name “cup cake” or number cake, an easy name that explained exactly what you were making. Around the same time the baking process also evolved. Large cakes baked on a hearth would take a very long time and often result in uneven and burned products. Baking the cake in small cups sped up the process and yielded a more consistent baked good. Both adaptations contributed to the evolution that was first named “cupcake” in E. E. Leslie's Receipts, written in 1828. A star was born.

It was just a matter of time before someone decided to automate this little dessert. The first commercial cupcakes made their way into the marketplace in the early 1900s. An enterprising Philadelphia bakery started making individual desserts packaged to sell at local groceries, a convenience that is truly American. The Tasty Baking Company started making cupcakes around 1919 and by 1930 was baking $6 million worth of snack cakes a year, with the cupcake being their number two item. In 1950 a now famous classic came on the scene when D.R. “Doc” Rice added crème filling and seven white squiggles to a chocolate cupcake named Hostess. Between Hostess and Tasty Kakes there was an affordable and convenient way to put a cupcake in every child’s lunch when mom didn’t have time to make them herself.

By the 1950s the cupcake was a staple in the American kitchen. If they weren’t purchased pre-packaged in the grocery store then Betty Crocker (through General Mills) was there to help any homemaker bake a batch at home. Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, published in 1950, had step-by-step instructions and ideas for any flavor of cupcakes. If mom was running short on time, the introduction of cake box mixes in 1947—where you just add water, stir and bake—became the easiest way for her to create “from scratch” treats. Cupcakes didn’t change much in the 60s, 70s and 80s. What could you do to improve on such a classic? Nobody could have predicted the stardom that came with the next evolution in the mid 90s.

Magnolia Bakery was founded in 1996 and started making cupcakes with leftover cake batter. The popularity was mostly localized in New York City until 40 seconds on Sex in the City in 2000 turned their humble little cupcake into a nationwide phenomenon worthy of praise from Oprah. This was the beginning of a new breed of cupcake. The ultra-luxury-fancy-pants-three-fifty-a-pop cupcakes served in the finest bakeries. These special treats were seen being eaten by the coolest, most trend-setting stars from coast to coast.

Hollywood and the power of marketing ingrained cupcakes into our pop culture. Every female in middle America wanted to eat the same dessert Carrie Bradshaw did when confessing she had a new crush. Lines began forming around the block at Magnolia Bakery. Even Saturday Night Live paid homage to Magnolia’s cupcakes in their famous digital short “Lazy Sunday.” This craze and successive demand for luxury cupcakes has spawned independent bakeries across the country including Sprinkles Cupcakes, a Los Angeles storefront that makes high-end treats as well as doggy cupcakes, t-shirts and mixes for Williams-Sonoma. They turned a high-quality product with simple, classic style into a well-branded empire.

The cupcake craze isn’t dying, it’s actually spreading to all forms of merchandise. Search “cupcake” on and you’ll find 23 items ranging in price from $105 for professional sized pans to $10.95 for three individual storage containers. You name it and someone makes it in a cupcake shape: jewelry, bandages, t-shirts, mints, full-sized cake pan, even dental floss. It’s more than just a dessert. Its become a cultural phenomenon—so American.

Why do we love these sweet treats so much? What is the power they hold over us? Is it the nostalgia from our childhood or the convenience of buying a single-serving treat? In a society where healthy eating is more and more important do cupcakes seem less guilty, not as big of a sin? Is it the Hollywood stamp of coolness? Is it the luxury we can afford to give ourselves in today’s economy or just the desire to have something fresh baked from scratch with quality ingredients? I think it’s a little of everything that makes this classic dessert an important part our culture today. That’s why I searched out Sprinkles; to see if any of their cupcakes could hold a candle to my Aunt Arlene’s black joe cupcakes—they don’t. Hers are still the best and still my favorite.

I say all hail the American dream; I’m proud that we developed this classic dessert. It’s the classic rags-to-riches story; a simple dessert with humble beginnings being marketed to luxury status by the machine that is free enterprise. The cupcake is truly worthy of its place in American history and pop culture—what other country could (or would) make a star out of a childhood treat.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Time to make the donuts

I have oil burns all over my hands. Put me by a fryer and I'll get burned. So I though glazing, that would be safe right? Nope, you have to pick up hot donuts, more burns. I couldn't even take sweet potato's out of the oven this week without branding my arm. Now that I look back, getting that second degree sunburn in the BWCA was just the beginning of my skin torture (and we won't get into curling irons and the 80's). I figured I better not even look at the tanning bed today or I'd end up in the hospital. But the donuts tasted really good! I can't believe I made donuts... neither can Gracie Pants which is why she's currently sleeping in a butter and sugar coma. I have a feeling I'll be checking her in after danishes tomorrow--if I don't burn myself again.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cakes in the Desert

Time to escape the cold and run away to the desert--phoenix to be specific. I didn't just work on my tan, 3 of the 5 days were entirely dedicated to baking and decorating 2 cakes. Ethan put in his request 6 months ago for the batmobile and "bumpa tuffy" needed something fun for his 60th birthday. Since these two gentleman are more than special to me it was totally worth it.

The Batmobile for Ethan's 5th Birthday

Tuffy's 60th Birthday Cake

Even though it wasn't quite classroom experience I still learned a few lessons over those 3 days:
1. There is no such thing as too many dowels to support a cake (see Tuffy's cake)
2. Cream cheese filling is not solid - at any temperature (especially in the desert - see Tuffy's cake)
3. Gumpaste is fragile
4. I am the biggest clutz known to man (see #3, does this really surprise anyone?)

I guess it's time to get back to class, I think it's croissants next week - boy, do I need to get on that treadmill before I hit hawaii.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's a Miracle!

Lo and behold but what did my little eyes see today? People washing dishes. Specific people (look very carefully at the photo). I couldn't believe it, I didn't have to say anything, yell or even give evil stares. I just didn't do their dishes. I let them sit there, for hours. You know it was killing me to look at them but I didn't give in. Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Now, let's see what happens tomorrow when our bread-baking is a little more intense! stay tuned for the ongoing saga.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My First Cakes

Here are the cakes that started it all. The first is a wedding cake for my friends Nick and Steph. 3 days of baking, 4 layers of peanut butter and chocolate or vanilla and raspberry cream cheese.

The next was my entry in to one of my favorite things - the Minnesota State Fair. No ribbon but look out next year.

My godson Ryan wanted a garbage truck theme for his 2nd birthday. My goal was to create a three-dimensional garbage truck complete with minnesota plates and BFI cans.

Last but not least was a birthday cake for my friend Katie - someone who loves hockey as much as I do. This stanley cup pays homage to her firefighting and Edina State Championships. The top part is styrofoam and gum paste so she could keep it. Only the bottom was edible cake. Next year I'll figure out how to make it gluten-free.