Thursday, September 23, 2010

Class time

Here are some pictures from out first class.
It involved learning how to work with fondant to use it as a frosting for a cake and also how to decorate with it.

Topics covered included how different coloring agents affect the fondant. For example, if you use a dry powder the fondant can achieve a marbled effect whereas if you are using a liquid gel a solid colour will be the result.

Getting the fondant to be workable usually means kneading it like bread if you are starting with a large quantity and then treating it a little like pie dough to roll it out. Remember to use something like cornstarch underneath so that it won't stick like glue to the work surface.

Here is the fondant being rolled out by one of the students. There are fancy machines (really pricey too) that can do this for you which is great if you are frosting many, many cakes but rolling it by hand works pretty darn well too.

Here are pictures of the students covering the cake and working out the folds so that the cakes have a smooth surface.

Cutting some decoration.

Fondant is a lot like playing with Play dough. You can cut shapes out, mold it into other shapes, basically just have fun playing with it.

A very small amount of water applied to the decoration and/or the frosting surface will help the decoration stick.

Decorations are applied, just needs some finishing touches and a bottom edge to give it that finished look.

Some close up cake action.

There are different varieties of fondant and several recipes to make your own as well. If you are working colour into a fondant, try doing it with a small amount of fondant first because not all fondants take colours the same way.

And here are the students with their finished cakes.

We'll be offering some more classes in the future so keep an eye on the facebook/twitter accounts for updated information or you can call the bakery as well.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Monkeying around

I am smitten with the aroma of things baking. The heady perfume of cinnamon and cardamom permeating the kitchen, the extravagant richness of caramelizing butter and sugar rolling out of the oven as I open the door to check and see if what I am making is finally done.

I don't do it nearly often enough at home anymore but I did manage to make Monkey bread last weekend.

Making it reminds me how much I enjoy baking things like this: Sticky buns, pancakes, waffles, fresh Croissants (drooling just a teensy bit here), etc.

It also reminds me that I
really do need to stop being so lazy and start doing it more often. Thus the Monkey Bread frenzy.

How can one go wrong with all of those toasted Pecans? and the sugary, buttery, caramel glaze (okay, so it wasn't as caramelized as it should have been but why quibble? It's still darn tasty :)

The pan I used is a mini Bundt pan (I love this thing almost as much as my Dutch Oven) and I found it at Goodwill for $3!!!

I have found a few others there as well so I now have like six of them plus two smaller ones.

Seriously, how can people get rid of this size pan? It's perfect for so many reasons. I never even knew that this size existed. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate my 12 cup version too (which I've also seen at Goodwill for around $3-what a steal!) but you have to have about 20 people over to your place to help you eat whatever you bake in it. The mini is much more manageable for a few people, ahem or just one if you are really, really hungry.

If you are ever looking for a pan, pot, or what have you, check out your local thrift stores especially when you live in a larger area like Portland. You can find so many treasures for such a minimal price and some really really weird stuff too.

Well, here's the recipe that I tend to play around with.

The day before:

Basic dough.
3/4 cup buttermilk
6 Tbsp Unsalted butter, very soft
3 large Eggs
2 1/4 cups AP flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
1 pkg dry yeast (can use rapid rise yeast or plain dry yeast**
1/2 tsp Salt

Monkey coat. make this the same day that you will be baking.
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
misc. spices- I play around here, sometimes rosemary, sometimes smoked chipotle powder or smoked spanish paprika-depends on what I am in the mood for.
1 batch of the basic dough
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

**If using plain dry yeast, warm up 1/2 cup of the buttermilk to around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, add yeast and let it activate for 5 min. while getting the other stuff together.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and buttermilk together. In a large mixer bowl (for a stand mixer) and using a dough hook attachment, combine on low speed, 4 cups of the flour, sugar, the yeast, and salt. Add the buttermilk mix and butter, then mix until the dough comes together-about 2 min.

Increase the speed to medium and mix the dough until it's smooth and elastic. If the dough is sticking to the bowl, slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup until it no longer sticks to the bowl.
Afterwards you may want to pull the dough out and knead by hand for a few moments, then place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

At this point I usually put the dough in the fridge and let it sit overnight. It will still raise very slowly and it develops more flavour as well. Before you use the dough the following day, let it warm up at least 30 min.
***If not refrigerating then let dough rise until doubled in size and continue with the recipe***

The following day
heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the bundt pan.

Melt the butter. Mix the Monkey coat together (You make have to make a second batch of the mix and butter).
Roll the dough into little balls, keeping the rest of the dough covered. Roll the balls into the melted butter, then into the Monkey coat. Place the balls into the bundt pan. Sprinkle remaining butter and Monkey coat over the top of the bundts, cover with plastic and let rise until doubled in size.
Bake until done, golden brown and the caramel is beginning to bubble around the edges.
Approximately 30 to 40 min.

p.s. Tomorrow morning, it's pancakes!!!!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.

A recent wedding cake that we made. The couple wanted a little something extra on the cake that you would have to search a little for before you would find it.

I like how clean and simple the cake design is. It can be dressed up with some fresh flowers or just left as it is.

Ah, I spy a little something in the corner :)

A close up of the little addition.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Musings and thoughts

It's a bit of an oxymoron... before I went to culinary school and started working in the bakery full time I used to bake and cook all the time at home (okay.... maybe just a touch of exaggeration but I swear, just a touch!).

I relished whipping up batches of brownies, chocolate chip cookies; making biscuits and cornbread (nothing better than fresh from the oven cornbread using fresh stone ground corn with a small pat of butter slowly melting over it-{okay, mouth watering starts now}). Soups, chili, and stews simmering on the stove; trying out new spices-seriously, does it get better than Smoked Spanish Paprika? Oh, or fresh Rosemary-I would love to have a field of that, let me tell you. Making treats for the dogs, I had upwards of 6 cookbooks just for pooches (also, had some for the cats but they were rather disdainful of my attempts at making treats for them-sigh).

Basically, I just loved playing around with food, the air laden with the aromas of garlic, sauteing onion, while the underlying richness of coffee scented the air.

[I do not like the taste of coffee but the aroma? It's like a drug for me-I will buy a 1/4 pound bag of beans and use it in my dresser as a sachet, mmmmmmmmm-oh, and walking into a coffee shop? It's like swimming in the essence-I could do the backstroke for hours except I have a feeling the managers and police probably would take a dim view of that.]

Then, so I wouldn't eat everything myself, I would take some to work or school, and also pass stuff on to other random people that I knew.

For me, it's not so much about making the food to eat though I enjoy that part as well (perhaps a bit too much sometimes), it's more about the fragrances that permeate my environment.

Nuts toasting in the oven, bread baking, the aromas of vanilla, chocolate, cardamom, rosemary, garlic, and thyme...

Who needs the artificial potpourri smell when those aromas are floating in the air?

I think about this sporadically, usually when I am feeling a touch maudlin.

I remember the bistro where I used to work; the local farmers would stop in with perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes, freshly dug truffles, garlic varieties that I had never heard of, random array of greens and freshly picked berries that just begged to be munched right then and there. There was so much potential sitting in front of me.
Every morning was a fresh start, figuring out how to incorporate seasonal items into the daily menus.

Now, it seems sooooooo much easier to just stop at the local New Seasons grocery store (usually somewhat healthier than the local fast food chains thank goodness :) and snag something already made from the deli case or to just cut a slice of Fudge or German Chocolate cake from the bakery to take home rather than heat up the oven.

Far fewer dishes to wash up, no scrambling for containers to store stuff in, no endless rounds of the game show "What to do with leftovers tonight?" which gets old after day three (when I cook I have a slight tendency to cook too much).

so I have extra time to do...hmmmm... (what do I do?)

In other words, I have become lazy.

Now, living in a place that has such a huge bounty of unusual and interesting foodstuffs to try, to taste, and to savor-it's almost too much of a good thing. I am overwhelmed by what is available in this area and I start to take for granted that one of the Farmer's Markets or a local New Seasons will have something already prepared if I am so inclined towards something particular.

I am working at breaking out of that habit, very slowly it seems sometimes but then I remember something one of my culinary school Chef instructors told us once when he was lecturing,
"Try something new every day".
(thank you Chef Brophy)

Whether it's a new ingredient, a new method of cooking, or heck even deciding to go rock climbing in the City of Rocks, life is meant to be experienced, not comfortably settled into a rut.

Now, I should go study my Agrippa..

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I realized something a few days ago.

[Da da dum]

When I load boxes into our vans for deliveries...

I am actually playing a gigantic game of Tetris only it's live action, 3D, and all of the pieces are white boxes of different sizes and shapes.

(adds to the level of difficulty don't you know ;)

Now all I really need to make the game complete is a cool gaming costume...

something Steampunk possibly (hmmmmmm, Steampunk baker-now That would be interesting)

or maybe something along the lines of Tron..

[Gasp...cough, cough...]


The HORROR, the suffering,
OH-The HUMANITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

No...definitely scratch that last's definitely a No.

Spandex and myself are soooooo not a good combination on sooooooooo many levels.

I think I'll stick to playing the game using my secret cake baker identity...much safer for all concerned...much, much, much safer.

[Now, where to put this game piece...]