Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fun Day/Snow

It's been an interesting week as far as class goes and the weather. We had SNOW here in the Austin area!!! Here is Dom the Pom's first outing in the white stuff....he was NOT amused.

School was odd but fun today. Chef Todd left after just an hour of class as he was headed home to visit family in New Orleans. We were on our own for the most part and practiced piping with faux buttercream, prepped desserts for the luncheon today and tomorrow AND...I attemped another recipe for Madeleine's as the recipe we used in class just didn't work right at all. The results are below...and these were much better!

I have to get busy and find the perfect receipe for German chocolate cake for dear hubby's birthday tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Busy Week for Sure...

sAs we get closer and closer to the end of the program, chef is really stepping things up and having us bake, decorate, garnish several things per class. The bakeshop is abuzz with the sounds of mixers whirring, oven timers bleeping, dishes being washed and busy bakers! This week after finishing up the practical portion of the exam, we got right back into the syllabus with more French pastries, petits fours, tea cakes, etc. We are learning to make garnishes for plated desserts with things like brandy snaps (aka lace cookies):

You can cut them up or mold them while still warm into different shapes to set on top of or along side your plated dessert. Or they can be molded into little bowls that you can use to serve sorbets, ice cream, etc.

Also made this chocolate velvet cake with almonds:

We also made Financiers. I made mine in several different shaped molds to see how they would turn out

Basically, Financiers are a French dessert. They are light tea cakes, similar to sponge cake, and usually contain almond flour or almond flavoring. The basis of the cake itself is beurre noisette (brown butter), egg whites, powdered sugar and flour. Financiers are often baked in shaped molds. They really tasted great and were easy to make. I need to invest in some of the silicone molds we have been baking in. They are pricey but they last a lifetime and really are versatile.

As well, we did make dacquoise which is a nut flavored (usually hazelnut or almond) meringue type of cake used to make layered dessert cakes-- very decadent!

We also worked with chocolate a bit making garnishes and chef demonstrated some molded chocolates filled with key lime ganache.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Exam Over!!

We finished up the exam today with baking a cake, icing/decorating it, completing our petits fours and doing some small tartlettes with cut fruit, pastry cream and sugar dough crusts. My score on the written exam was 100 (!) and will have to wait until tomorrow or the next day for the results of the practical. Overall...I feel pretty darn good about it all!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Employment Updates/Externship Completion/etc...

Yes, I am now officially unemployed. UGH! Not the best time for this to happen it ever really a good time to get laid off? I am trying to put a positive spin on it though--- I have had time to actually study for school, do extra baking practice AND have finished my externship hours as I have been doubling up on them every week. does not solve the problem of not having the monetary income and that is a stressful thing on top of everything else I am juggling right now. will all work out-- it always does. That which does not kill us only makes us stronger.....right?

Let's move on to a happier subject-- COCOAMODA!! As I stated, I am finished as of this weekend with my externship hours but will continue to go out to Cocoamoda as I am learning so much from chef Ken and his crew. I truly enjoy my time out there and whatever challenges the day brings. Friday, chef Ken told me to make up a batch of pastillage (sugar type dough used for modeling decorations and such for cakes, etc) about  "about this much" (motioning about the size of about a football) and then promptly left me alone in the kitchen. I felt like he was testing me to see what I was made of. I was able to grab my box of notecards from class and get right to work. Since I had made the pastillage several times for the mardi gras cake we made for the cake competition - I felt confident in doing just what chef Ken needed. And it came out perfectly! He seemed pleased when he next came back into the kitchen and asked if I had made the pastillage and I pointed to it on the table wrapped in plastic wrap. Hooray for me!!

Chef Ken then explained that he wanted to add some dye to it and mold little roses or ribbons or ?? to put on top of the remaining rose infused truffles from Valentine's Day. So...we got to work trying out different shapes. Since these were going on top of truffles, they had to be tiny in form and this was very difficult to accomplish. I finally figured out how to make a rose out of the pastillage that was small enough to fit on a truffle:

These are about half the size of a pencil eraser. And I now need glasses....seriously!!

Testing for size by setting on top of an un-enrobed truffle. Perfect!

However, it was decided that the little roses would not stay put in transit either over to the restaurant or in shipping boxes and so the rose was nixed! It was then decided that just a simple pink ribbon of the pastillage would be placed over each truffle. This mean rolling out the dough ultra thin and cutting into uniform pieces to drape over each truffle. Time consuming, tedious and NOT FUN! But....I did my best to get the task accomplished! While doing so, Michael came in and said "you might know this gentleman." When I looked up, Chef Mannion was in front of me....the director/owner of our school! What a nice surprise. He came out to check out the facilities and meet chef Ken who promptly gave the grand tour.

The day was a very busy one as business is picking up with more and more articles being published about Cocoamoda as well as word of mouth spreading like wildfire. We had to step up chocolate production and this meant all hands on board to knock it out quickly.

Michael in fine form truffling away....(truffling is a slang term we have developed to describe our mad candy making ways!)

Trufflling, texting, dancing to techno--- talk about multi-tasking. Chef Ken and Michael are masters at it!

Never a dull moment with chef Ken and his motley crew!!

Cherry Bakewell "Tart"

Oscar loves cherry pie so I thought I would give this recipe a whirl. It's from one of my favorite bloggers and the recipe in its original form can be found here: It's in the oven now so...fingers crossed!!

Unfortunately I don't have a tart pan (hint hint for anyone making gift lists for me...HA!) so had to make do with what I do have-- glass pie pan.

A bit overdone-- was caught up in the Olympics and had to drag myself back from Vancouver to Austin!!!

Oh my's delish...and Oscar approved!

Practice for the Practical!

We are having our written test and practical for the section of the course on cakes, French pastries, etc. I decided to do a dry run for the cake on the exam which is a plain white cake that we will ice and decorate. I made the cake and iced it with chocolate Swiss buttercream. The chocolate was still a bit warm when I added it to the meringue so the icing was a bit on the runny side. After I iced the cake and put it in the fridge, it set up perfectly. Cakes came out nice -- though I don't really like the recipe-- there is no butter!! They are solid though and good for a practical. A look at my test run (first time ever piping icing so give me a break!!)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Day @ Cocoamoda

I decided to work most of the weekend at Cocoamoda leading up to Valentine's Day as it was very busy out there and I knew I would be able to experience a lot and put my hands on several tasks, read: VALUABLE experience! I was able to work on a raspberry coulis with Chef Ken (a fruit/sugar reduction used for plating desserts), meringues, different ganache fillings for the truffles including a special rose infused ganache just for Valentine's Day, etc. I was given the "fun" task of covering the truffles in 23k gold which comes in thin sheets- a very temperamental and tedious process. Here is the result of those truffles:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Only 8 Weeks Of School Left!!

I can't believe how quickly school has flown by! I am panicked and yet excited about what the future holds. We are continuing to work on French style pastries this coming week and so I should have some good pictures of things we will accomplish. The chef did a few demos with the jaconde and sponge cakes we made last week showing us different ways to use them in petite four type desserts.

Adorable, right? Yellow butter cake layered with raspberry jam, topped with piped butter cream in pink and white and then encased in chocolate ganache.

Jelly rolls with raspberry jam, chocolate bavarian filling combine to make a charlotte.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

French Pastries and Beyond

We are still working on basic cakes but have dipping into the section on French pastries which is another area I am super excited about. We have previously made pate a choux dough for cream puffs and eclairs but made it again as it is very versatile and used frequently in different French pastries. I don't really like the recipe we use in class--- it's very bland and rather eggy. This time around we made a couple of different things including Paris brest and  St. Honore. Here are pictures of St. Honore which has a puff pastry base with the pate a choux piped around the edges. After that bakes, it's filled with pastry cream, whipped cream and topped with cream puffs that have been dipped in caramelized sugar. Decadant to say the least...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Another Round of Cocoamoda

The restaurant and chocolate factory have been very busy with all of the press received lately as well as Valentine's day being just around the corner. We really cranked up production of the truffles and I helped out whereever needed. I drove out both Friday and Saturday this week so as to help them and help myself at the same time by gaining valuable knowledge watching Chef Ken's creative mind at work. Everyone seemed to be in high gear and feeling the pressure ...but being busy is a GOOD thing for a fledgling operation...a very good thing!

I arrived each day just as the sun was coming up....

Can you almost taste them? Enrobed, topped with cocoa nibs and waiting for someone to take home...

Milk & Honey ganache filled awaiting enrobing...

After enrobing in delicious chocolate and reading to go home with you!

What is Chef Ken brewing up today??? It's always a surprise with his genious at work. Kumkwats, chestnuts and simple syrup reducing on the stove top.

Crepes four at a time --  and each one perfect. I, of course, sampled for QA purposes. DELISH!

Only a small peak at the many, many truffles we produced this weekend for the burgeoning demand. Cocoamoda is on the map!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cakes Cakes Cakes

We have been working on cakes this past week in class. Sponge cakes in chocolate and yellow, carrot cake, spice cake, Sachertorte, and icing techniques. Next week we will work on more varities and continue to learn to ice and decorate them. It's been fun...and frantic as we are getting down to the wire with class lasting a mere 9 more weeks! Here are some pictures from the week...

Yellow sponge cake with buttercream icing, strawberries/pastry cream filling and chocolate shavings for decoration.

The inside...

Chocolate sponge cake, ganache icing, chocolate mousse filling and toasted almonds to decorate. Sinful!

The inside...