Archive | March, 2010

Cake Girls Need Some Help!

30 Mar

One of my favorite cake shops to follow is Cake Girls in Chicago.  It was started by two sisters seven years ago and they work their butts off. They do outstanding work.  Sadly earlier this week their shop burnt down.  You can read the article here.  Everything was lost.  I don’t know what they need, but they do have a lot of orders coming up as wedding season approaches.  If they need an extra hand, I’d gladly go to Chicago to help them!  I clearly can’t speak for them as I don’t know them, but if there is anyone in the Chicago area that can reach out to them, they probably need help and a space to work.

Thoughts On The FCI

30 Mar

My trip to the French Culinary Institute was AMAZING!  The whole weekend was pretty great actually.  Last Thursday I had my official lay off meeting.  I can now really get the ball rolling on what I can do with my future, so our trip came at an optimal time.

My day at the FCI started out by sitting in on a level one class.  They were working on cakes made with liquid fat and making a carrot cake and chocolate cupcakes.  The classroom was fantastic.  The chef would demo something and all the students would scatter to work on it.  Everyone just knew right where to go and they were so organized!  They worked as partners and they were doing this strange thing as they worked, they would clean.  No dishes piled up and no one was covered in anything…very strange to me.  If you read this blog regularly, Dan often talks about how dishes and messes are handled in our kitchen.  As I sat there admiring the speed and efficiency of the students and feeling out of place something happened to make me feel right at home!   The fire alarm went off.  Now setting off the fire alarm is something I have a true knack for, not so much with baking but regular cooking.  Once I heard that alarm I was ready to fling open windows (there were none in the classroom) and start waving a hand towel under the detector.  The students on the other hand,  just kept working until the Chef said “Ok this isn’t a drill we have to go outside.”  So for twenty minutes the entire school stood outside in their nice white coats, checkered pants and white caps.  Sadly I didn’t get to see any of the final projects because shortly after the fire drill I had to move on.

The rest of my visit consisted of meeting with financial aid, career services and I had an interview with a tour of the entire facility.  All were uplifting and depressing at the same time.  The school seems awesome and well respected but just so darn expensive.  All the financial aid rep could do for me was telling me about one $20,000 scholarship, a few other web pages of scholarships  (which I either don’t qualify for or have already missed the deadline) and loans (federal and private).  Career services on the other hand was much more positive.  They gave me a lot of good ideas to get started as soon as I get into the city in July.

Then came the true selling point and the best way to a fat girl’s heart, they fed Dan and I a fantastic meal!  There is a restaurant attached to the school, L’ Ecole. The students in the classic culinary program work the restaurant as their final level.  They gave us lunch on the house and it was more than just lunch.  We ordered our appetizers, and they brought out our two plus more of things the waitress just “insisted that we must try.”  This pattern continued through the entire meal.  Every bit was so delicious we couldn’t stop putting it in our mouths.  I was so uncomfortably stuffed at the end of the meal, but it was worth it.

I’m going to apply and apply for the scholarship.  If I don’t get the scholarship, I’m not going.  I have undergraduate student loans and I just can’t fathom adding $40,000 more.  If I do get the scholarship, it would make things a little more reasonable.  I’m also going to go to Work Force NY and see what kind of unemployment educational benefits I can qualify for.  I’m sure it won’t be much but even a few thousand dollars would help.

So keep your fingers crossed for me that I get the scholarship, otherwise no white coat for me!

P.S. A special thanks to my friend Zack the most amazing host in NYC! 

Make Up Monday -Asparagus Vichyssoise

29 Mar

I really just need to stick to sweets…

Last week’s Fat Friday was Fresh Cake In A Microwave which didn’t really leave me with many ingredients to work with.  Instead of using an ingredient, I thought I would stick with the microwave theme.  I set out on a quest for a healthy treat to be made in the microwave and came across a recipe for Asparagus Vichyssoise.  It met my criteria of being able to be made in a microwave and I liked all the ingredient…little did I know that I wouldn’t like all of these ingredient all together and prepared in this way.  It is not inedible, but I don’t think I could eat a whole bowl.  Maybe you’ll feel differently, give it a try and let me know!

Asparagus Vichyssoise

What You Need:

2 pounds Fresh asparagus spears
3 1/4 cups Water, divided
2 large Potatoes — Peeled And Diced
2 teaspoons Chicken bouillon granules
3/4 cup Skim or low fat milk
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon White pepper
Lemon rind strips (optional)

Put It All Together:

Clean asparagus and cut into 1 inch pieces.

Combine asparagus with 1/4 cup water in a 3 qt. casserole.

Cover with plastic wrap and turn back one corner to vent.

Microwave on high for 5 minutes.

Let stand 3 minutes, and add remaining 3 cups of water, potatoes, and boullion granules to asparagus mixture.

Cover with plastic wrap and vent. Microwave on high for 10 minutes, stirring once. Reduce power to medium and microwave 15-18 minutes.

Let mixture cool slightly.

Pour about 1/3 of the mixture into a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

Repeat procedure with remaining asparagus mixture.

Stir in milk, salt and pepper.

Cover and chill about 8 hours.

Stir well before serving.

Garnish with lemon rind strips and enjoy! (or tolerate)

Fat Friday – Fresh Cake In A Microwave

26 Mar

As you know last weekend we went out of town to Philadelphia and NYC to visit the French Culinary Institute (blog post still to come).  Usually we make Fat Friday the weekend before it posts but because of the trip we really didn’t have time.  So we needed something quick for this week…

Fresh Cake In A Microwave is inspired by the youtube video “Making Fresh Diamonds In A Microwave” Dan and I may have to make a parody video.  Be on the look out for that!  For now we’ll just leave you with the original youtube video and the recipe.  
Like the “Fresh Diamonds In The Microwave” this cake is less than satisfying.  I would compare it to an inner city hospital cafeteria’s version of a chocolate souffle.  It is edible and quick but far from fine dining.

Fresh Cake In A Microwave

recipe from: Dizzy Dee

What you Need:

  • 4 Tablespoons cake flour
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 Egg
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 3 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 Mug
  • Pinch of powdered sugar

Put It All Together:

Mix flour, sugar and cocoa

Spoon in 1 egg

Pour in milk and oil, and mix well

Put in microwave for 3 minutes on maximum power (1000watt)

Wait until it stops rising and sets in the mug

Tip contents out of mug onto saucer

Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!

Really at a loss as to what to do for Make Up Monday but I’m sure we’ll come up with something, so check back!

Make Up Monday- Orange Garlic Chicken

22 Mar

Last week’s Fat Friday was Fun-noli’s our version of a cannoli stuffed with orange chocolate.  The star of that recipe and this one is the orange!  This week’s Make Up Monday is not a sweet treat but it is delicious and made me eager for summer with is crisp citrus flavor!  I can’t wait until it gets a little warmer and I can marinate chicken this way and cook it on the grill!  Bonus this is a pretty quick recipe and has a very unique taste

Orange Garlic Chicken

What you need:

1 pound bonless and skinnless chicken

1 medium orange

1 tablespoon of garlic (I love garlic)

1 teaspoon of tarragon leaves crushed

Dash of salt and pepper

Put it together

Zest the orange

In a bowl mix orange zest, garlic,tarragon, and salt and pepper.

Cut the orange that you zested in half and squeeze over seasoning.

Coat chicken completely and let sit for several hours or over night in the refigerator.

When ready to cook.

Set oven to 350 and bake for 30 minutes or until completely cooked

or

grill!

Serve on a bed of spinach or with other vegetables.

I hope everyone has a good week!

As you are reading this, I am probably sitting in awe at the French Culinary Institute.  I’ll report on that later this week.

Fat Friday – Fun-noli

19 Mar

We didn’t really think about what we wanted to make for Fat Friday before we went to the grocery store this week…There we sat in the kitchen going through our list of things we want to make for Fat Friday’s realizing we were missing at least one key ingredient for every one of them.  Naturally instead of getting in the car to go and get the missing ingredients we just invented a new recipe!  One of the things on our list to make for a Fat Friday is cannoli, so maybe one day we’ll get to that.  What we came up with is our own version of a cannoli that resembles it in looks but that’s it.  Our Fun-noli’s taste like a chocolate orange deep fried pie.  For coming up with this recipe on the spot we found it to be a success.  I hope you give it a try!

Fun-noli!

What you need:

  • Half a pack of phyllo dough

1 one recipe of  pie crust

  • 1/2 a cup of butter or shortening or mixture of both (I like using a little of both)
  • 1  1/2 cut of flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3-5 table spoons of ice cold water
  • Zest of three oranges separated

Chocolate buttercream

  • one cup of butter or shortening
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups of powered sugar
  • half a cup of chocolate
  • 3-5 tablespoons of milk
  • 3-5 cups of vegetable oil (depending on the size of pot you use)

Equipment

I’m sure there are a hundred better ways to fry these but this is how we did it just using items from around our home.

  • Long piece of picture frame wire
  • hollow stainless steel tube (we used our apple corer).

Put it all together:

Crush the still frozen phyllo dough into small pieces

Mix up the pie crust:

Cream the butter/shortening

Then add the flour and salt with the pastry attachment on your mixer.

Or just keep swigging the wine and throw it all in together! :)

Start to slowly add water until it forms a dough.  If it gets to moist add more flour.  If it is too dry and small amounts of shortening and water until it is what you want.  It should be a bit denser than a sugar cookie dough but still roll out very easily.

Kneed the phyllo dough into the pie crust until completely mixed

Role the dough out and cut into oval shapes

Heat oil.  If I were a true professional I would tell you what temperature to heat the oil too and how to change that when you put the pastry in.  But alas, just bring it to almost the boiling point. This takes a while and the oil will hold a temperature so don’t just jack up the heat.  Don’t let it boil but don’t let it get too cool, ok?

Feed the wire through the steel rod

Wrap the oval shaped pastry around the steel rod and secure with a little dab of water

Submerge the pastry into the oil for about one minute or until golden brown

Before you remove the pastry from the oil, tip the rod so that all the oil leaves it.

Pull up from oil and onto cooling rack

Using tongs, grip the rod and slide the wire out

Then carefully slide the pastry off the rod

cool completely

Filling

Cream the butter with the zest of two oranges

Add vanilla, sugar, and chocolate

Add milk one tablespoon at a time until completely smooth

Using a pastry bag (or zip lock with a corner cut off) squeeze the filling into the shell, one squirt in each end.

Then dip each end in remaining orange zest.


Enjoy!

I hope everyone has a good weekend!  I know I will.  I’m heading to Philly to see my family and then to NYC to look at the French Culinary Institute!  Check back on Monday to see what I come up with from this recipe for a healthy treat! 🙂

Field Trip!

17 Mar

I have been reading and working on the business plan for Sweetie Cakes and Pies!  One major hole in my plan though is that I don’t have any professional training or experience in either business or pastry arts.

I took business classes as an undergrad and I have a lot of experience with marketing and communication.  I feel very confident in analyzing a market and developing communication strategies.  Particularly with social media, but that’s what I do now.  Where I’m  lacking is things like labor relations, business law, taxes, managerial accounting, ect…  but I didn’t get into business school so I’ll be learning these things by my own research and asking for help as needed.

As far as the pastry art goes, I know I’ve got talent, but I am self taught.  I can produce some impressive and delicious cakes but where is the credibility on paper for investors?  There are a few ways to proceed.  First,  just push ahead without any formal training and fight for the product I believe in.  Second, try to get a job where I will gain hands on experience from a professional pastry chef.  Three, go to a reputable culinary school.

I have not settled on any of these options yet and  I am exploring all that is out there.  Next Monday I’ll be visiting and sitting in on a class at the French Culinary Institute in NYC!  I’m really excited about their pastry arts program.  It is six months and you attend class Monday – Friday.  The cake decorating professor is Ron Ben-Israel one of my cake idols! During the six months you learn everything from cookies and tarts to chocolates and cakes the proper french way.  Plus I would finally get to live in NYC for a bit.  I have so many friends there and I miss city life SSSSSSSSSSOOOOOOOOOOO badly.  It would also hopefully allow me the time and open some doors to get an internship in a well established cake shop in NYC.  This would take care of two of my cake credibility issues.

Sounds great right?  All of it sounds perfect until the price tag.  I understand it is a high quality education and that you have to pay for it.  I was willing to take out massive loans for business school but with the expectation that there would be a fairly immediate pay off.  I can’t say the same for pastry school.  With a price tag of $40,000 plus living expenses I am approaching with caution.

Over the next few weeks I should get my official lay off notice and I can talk more candidly with HR about the continuing education options.  There is a grant available from New York State for education of displaced workers, but I have to find out what the fine print is and if I would qualify.  If I did, I’m not sure what the amount of the grant is but I know that you get to keep your unemployment while in school and you don’t have to be looking for a job.  I’m also meeting with the financial aid office next week when I visit The French Culinary Institute.  So I’ll see how low I can get the tuition before I make any final decisions.

In the mean time any thoughts from people who have been in this position before?  I’ve read a lot of horror stories about culinary school but none about the French Culinary Institute and none specifically about pastry programs.  If you have attented the French Culinary Institute I would really apprecaite some feedback of what you thought of the program.

I’ll let everyone know what my impression was next week after I return! 🙂

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