Sunday, January 31, 2010

Another Day of Chocolate Bliss... was back to Cocoamoda for more adventures with the chocolate crew. Never knowing what to expect upon arrival is half the fun of this externship and they did not dissapoint. We helped Chef Ken work on a chocolate sculpture for a donation gift the OPAS Gala. It was not only amazing to watch the entire process come together...but also to lay hands on it myself and be part of the process. WOW! In a matter of hours, Chef Ken took the theme of James Bond with umbrella, martini glass and bola hat from his brain to the finished product and the result was nothing less than amazing. With the deadline looming and chocolate not tempering quick enough, it was like watching a reality show on TV where they get down to the very last commercial break and you still don't know if they are going to make it or not. Stressful but yet Chef Ken never broke a sweat (we did!!!). Some pictures of the process....

Can you tell what this will be eventually?

The beginning of the umbrella....maybe by spraying chocolate (with a paint sprayer!) on acetate. Who knew?

Brim of the hat.

Martini glass in the making...

Starting to look more umbrella-y.

Fast forward to the end result....amazing!!

Chef Ken doing his King Kong impersonation (actually just snapping a photo!)

Mad scientist/genious at work! Thanks Chef Ken for another fun-filled educational day at Cocoamoda!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Up to Our Ears in Cookies

Yep....a few days of  baking cookies in class and look what you get:

Let's not forget the brownies:

Is your belly aching yet???

Exam coming Monday on cookies, pies, tarts, pastry creams...etc. My head is spinning thinking about it!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Onward Through the Cookies, Pies, Tarts, etc

Today we worked on cookies and pies. I am really excited with the things coming ahead as we will finally be getting into French pastries and such. Only 10 weeks of class left...I can't believe how this has flown by!

Chocolate pie awaiting Italian meringue topping...

Lemon pie with meringue

Checkerboard icebox cookies ready for slicing and baking

Almond spritz cookies

French macarons....they grew feet...SUCCESS!

Pies, Cookies, Tarts....O My!

For the next couple of weeks, we will be focusing on pies, tarts, cookies, petites fours and a few other things that escape my fermented mind at the moment. To start the apple tart with frangipane filling, apples and almonds. What's not to like??

It truly tasted as good as it looked.....delish!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cake Competition....Bronze Medal Baby...

Our class had the option of participating in the Ben E Keith culinary salon/pastry competition this past week. Several of us decided to take the plunge and enter cakes for the competition. As we have not even touched on the part of the syllabus yet in class...we went into this completely blind. At times, I must admit, I wanted to kick our cake into orbit and head for the nearest happy hour. However, we persisted and had amazing results. Of the 5 cakes entered by our team, we brought home 4 medals-- two silver and two bronze. I worked on my cake with my friend/externship buddy Tracey earning a bronze medal. Hooray-- a notch for the ol' resume! Some pictures of the event and our cakes.....

For all that work.....a medal!

The original "plan" for our Mardi Gras cake....note: it's ROUND and covered with fondant.

The round cake takes shape.

Covered in buttercream to adhere the rolled fondant ...

After three attempts....the cake was successfully covered in fondant!

Decorations made of pastillage awaiting coloring.

Fast forward and we are done! While the cake fell off the plate during the 3 hour transport to Conroe, I think the judges could see the hard work that went into such a tedious design.

Another classmate's cake

Alice in Wonderland...another classmate's cake.

Farm cake....another classmate's cake.

Beautiful roses on another classmate's cake.

There were many other entries of all types- sugar, chocolate, plates desserts, etc. here are a few pictures from the salon:

Giant chocolate sculpture

Our medal winning team that worked so hard (and chef Todd!).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Eat Your Heart Out Willie Wonka

Where do I begin?? Sooo...I have managed to talk my way into an amazing place called Cocoamoda for some externship hours. It's like an oasis in the middle of nowhere-- truly. Imagine fine French cuisine and delightful chocolate truffles made from luxurious Valrhona chocolate. Where is this Cocoamoda you might ask?? In Calvert, Texas! This small town is located approximately 2 hours from any major city. At one point in its history, Calvert was the fourth largest city in Texas. Back when cotton was king and the railroad was booming, Calvert was thriving. Now it is a bit of a sleepy little town with a mere 1500 inhabitants. There are several antique shops, artists lofts and cafes. And then....there is the jewel that is Cocoamoda. At the helm is Chef Ken Wilkinson-- a colorful and entertaining character that has quite a resume to boast about. From cooking for royalty to a TV cooking show, he has pretty much circled the globe and has stories to entertain and skills to wow your pallate. I went last Friday for my first day of chocolateering (is that even a word??) with Chef Ken and his motley crew. Truly no expense has been spared with either the restaurant or the chocolate factory. Chef Ken had a hand in tearing down and rebuilding the historial edifaces--- showing me the digits he lost during construction as proof of how "hands on" he truly was. I was given an apron and allowed to help create some of the delicious morsels that treat the taste buds of anyone who walks through the door and asks for a sample. If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Calvert, Texas, be sure to stop in and visit with Chef Ken. And if you are unable to stop in, do yourself a huge favor and order some of these delicious treats online so that you too can sample what Chef Ken Wilkinson has poured so much of his blood, sweat and tears into.....literally.


The grand entrance to the restaurant.

A view of the restaurant seating area and chocolate sampling area.

How could you possibly resist??

Entrance to the chocolate factory....aka heaven for chocoholics... my glory surrounded by an unending supply of the good stuff...

Do you think they had to drag me out of here kicking and screaming??

Dive in to the vat of tempering chocolate!

Truffles filled with milk and honey ganache.

Creepy head carved out of chocolate--- leftover from Halloween.

Wine bottle made of chocolate that will serve as part of a display for Valentine's Day.

Cacao bean roaster. This is part of a large section of the factory that houses equipment transported from an older chocolate factory in Pennsylvania. Very nostalgic.

Lovely space in the factory overlooking the chocolate enrobing room that can be used for meetings, receptions, etc.

Au revoir Cocoamoda....see you next week!

Wait...I can't leave out the yellow bike dude....