Saturday, December 19, 2009

Brief Hiatus

The quarter came to an end this week and so there isn't going to be a whole lot to post until classes resume mid January. I'll be baking at home of course but it's mostly the same old stuff, bread, some quickbreads for breakfast, I doubt much else. Nothing very interesting or worth writing about. I may do some more posts about work but I'm not sure. I may find something interesting to post but if not, I'll begin again when classes resume.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Well I've been putting off posting about my work but I figured I should at least talk a bit about it, seeing as I'm baking... a lot. I chock it up to laziness and the fact that work itself has made my life very busy. But I don't mind it. I may like reading and video games but it gets boring fast doing that all day.

The place that I work is called Bundles of Cookies in Bethesda Maryland. They mainly do decorated cookies to order and display them in various ways, such as in boxes, tins, or even as cookie bouquets. I was really amazed the first time I went in there. The storefront is really beautiful.

My job is a baker. It's fairly simple-pretty much the same tasks day in and out but it's not really repetitive. I am responsible for preparing the dough for the decorated cookies-an almond dough that I've never heard of prior to working here, it's pretty unique to them as well as the icing. In addition, the store also sells what they call "gourmets" which are cookies of varying flavors. They are all drop cookies, while the decorated ones are cut out. At the moment there are nine varieties-Snickerdoodle, Molasses, Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut, and Oatmeal Pecan Chip. I am in charge of preparing those doughs as well as baking those cookies. I bake them every other day or as needed to sell from the store as well as fulfilling any orders for the gourmets. We have also begun doing a gingerbread cookie which I am in charge of as well.

For the moment that sums up my job. It may seem simple but it is really a lot of work. I need to keep adequate quantities of all gourmet doughs for my own tasks as well as plenty of icing and almond dough for the decorators. When a batch of dough can take 30 minutes to an hour to prepare, it can get time consuming. Especially when there are lots of orders for gourmets. For instance, last week I baked about 1200 gourmets on Monday and Tuesday alone in addition to my regular tasks for a couple very large orders, all from the same company. There were a few other orders throughout the week but none matching that. The same will of course be happening for the next week and maybe the following because of Christmas.

After Christmas it will be slowing down, but from what I gather I won't have to lose many hours as I will be getting additional tasks. Right now the main decorator bakes all of the almond cookies for the orders but after Christmas I'll be taking care of that so that she can focus only on decorating. I am already baking iced rounds, which are just plain round almond cookies that get iced, I guess to wean me into the more important job.

It is certainly a lot of work. It doesn't seem like it would be all that physically demanding but it really is. I was surprised how tired I got after the first week or two of working there. I'd like to hope that my body is getting more acclimated to a physical lifestyle. Even if it is a lot of work and I don't have much free time anymore, I am enjoying it and I'm glad that I can finally work in a place where I am getting real baking experience for my future.

12/12 - Class - More Random Stuff

Another class of various different things, it went pretty well today.

The first item that we made were hot Lemon Souffles. They were pretty simple and turned out very well. They collapsed a little since they sat a while but still tasted fine. Very strong lemon flavor.

We also finally got to finishing our sorbet from a while ago. We were going to make mango sorbet but there wasn't enough puree for our batch so we tried lime. It turns out the puree we used was ridiculously bitter. We had to melt the churned sorbet back down and add a whole lot of sugar syrup to make it even palatable. When we churned it again, it was following a group who made raspberry sorbet so it took on the raspberry color and a little bit of the flavor but it was an interesting combo. Still really sour but at least edible now.

Another item that we made was an Apple Strudel. It was a fairly simple mix of apples, raisins and cranberries mixed with sugar, cinnamon, and some other stuff. It was then mixed with phyllo dough and baked. It turned out really nice, I can't wait to try it for breakfast. We also made a Calvados Sabayon to go with it (the "theme" of this week was plated desserts but we didn't really bother, some of the components just aren't worth the effort). I didn't taste it not take any, I want to enjoy the fruit as it is, not tasting like brandy.

We also took our the Bavarians that we made yesterday. They froze completely in the ring so we torched the ring a bit to expand it and it slid right out. They came our really nice. My only concern though is that they have to be constantly chilled or they melt really fast - I don't think I used enough gelatin in the recipe.

In addition we made pate a choux (I made it so it turned out right) though my piping sucks so they didn't cook very evenly. At least I can do the recipe right though so another member of my group can pipe them for the exam. However the pastry cream was made wrong since it was left in the hands of our third group member who seems to screw up every recipe - hate to be rude but I'm not gonna let someone screw up my grades cuz they can't follow a recipe. I also practiced some piping. Even though we just learned it I think I'm doing very well. I just need to practice that and my knife cuts a little for next week's exam.

Friday, December 11, 2009

12/10-11/09 - Class - Random Stuff

Not many posts lately. Class was canceled last Saturday cuz people didn't wanna go out in a little bit of snow, totally lame. I haven't had the time or the need to bake anything at home. I was too tired to post Thursday's class so I'm just condensing it with Friday.

On Thursday we did only a couple random things. The only actual production that we made was Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce. I had never had bread pudding before. I am quite surprised how great it really tastes. Looking at the nutrition facts, it is surprisingly unhealthy but something I would gladly make again for others, if I had the ingredients. It was quite easy to make. I guess (though I don't know since I haven't had it before) that it can be either baked to a thin, runny consistency, or thick. Ours was pretty thick and I liked it that way. To the right is our bourbon sauce. It matched pretty well but I think we should have cooked a little bit more alcohol off, it was a tad overpowering.

We also attempted eclairs but they didn't come out, which sucks cuz we're being tested on them in a week.

We also practiced our piping which we'll also be tested on next week. Kinda cheesy that part of our exam is something we're learning a week before it. We need to do four different kinds of borders. The picture is the chef's example. Mine of course don't compare but I was getting the hang of it pretty quickly I think. I'm very dexterous so it's a thing I'm good at I think.

On Thursday we churned our ice cream base that was left over from last Friday-which we couldn't churn cuz Saturday's class was canceled. So we churned that on Thursday and let it freeze overnight. We divvied it up on Friday. It looks really good, it's raspberry vanilla and it looks really creamy so I guess we did it well. I'm very tempted to have it myself but I'll probably defer it-everyone already knows that ice cream is unhealthy but when you make stuff yourself you get to know exactly how unhealthy it is.

Aside from the ice cream, most of Friday's class we spent watching videos. They were of a master pastry artist doing both chocolate and sugar work. They were very interesting videos, but I wish we could have watched them at our leisure and not waste our expensive class time on it.

The only real thing we did on Friday was our Bavarian. We still had our spongecake and ladyfingers from last week. The ladyfingers are generally used to encircle the Bavarian, making a border. Our ladyfingers kinda sucked so we chose to forgo the border. The assembly itself is pretty easy but it has a lot of parts you need ready ahead of time. We had our spongecakes which we cut in half and glazed with raspberry jam. We then had to make the Bavarian Creme. It was pretty simple, all we did was make Creme Anglaise, add gelatin, and once it gets cool, incorporate it into whipped cream. We then poured it into a cake round with the sponge inside, then put the second layer of sponge on the Creme, then filled it with the rest of the Creme. We then garnished it with a few raspberries. It is freezing overnight so I'll get a picture tomorrow. Hopefully it comes out alright. If it does it'll be really pretty.

Friday, December 4, 2009

12/04/09 - Class - Tortes, Frozen Desserts, and Chocolate

Today we did a number of items and have more pictures to show than yesterday. One of the first things we did was make a base for sorbet that we'll finish tomorrow. It's pretty much simple syrup with corn syrup-we don't add flavoring till we churn it-so nothing to see. Moving on.

First off, we did a vanilla spongecake again. I was in charge of it so it turned out right. Good times.

Yesterday we had made chocolate spongecake for today's Black Forest Cake. However, the chef recommended another cake recipe which he said was very good. So we decided to go with that recipe and make those chocolate cakes. They turned out very nice.

We used those to make our Black Forest Cake. It bears a lot of resemblance to a torte in the amount that goes into it. First we had the chocolate cakes. We then had to make plain whipped cream for the inside, and Kirsch flavored whipped cream for the outside (I'm getting good at whipping cream by hand at least). We also thickened sour cherries and flavored them with Kirsch for the inside. We had some extra so we did a little design on top, though it of course fell off when we cut it. We finished it off with some crushed cookie crumbs. All in all it is very nice. The whipped cream got a tad overwhipped when we piped it-we should have underwhipped it before piping. I didn't see it as a problem though, it wasn't very overwhipped and the item at a whole came out great. I bet it is pretty strong though. I didn't try the whipped cream but the Kirsch flavor in the cherries was very powerful.

Our next item was a chocolate mousse. Rather simple. When we finished, we didn't really want to make little servings of it so we decided to put it to use. We had the two chocolate spongecakes left over since we made the new cake for the Black Forest, and so we put them to good use. We layered the two cakes with the mousse in between and on top and then finished the side with some simple buttercream that we flavored with Kirsch. It is probably gonna be super rich between the mousse and the buttercream.

The next thing we made were chocolate souffles. They were pretty interesting to make, and pretty easy too. They came out nicely. They were a tad underdone-a little soft inside, but I don't think it was a problem, the consistency was still good.

Finally, we shaped the truffle ganache we made yesterday. First we piped it into little dots, chilled it, then shaped and coated it. It's actually pretty tricky to work with. It melts very fast and the heat from your hands and the friction of rolling them only expedites the process. We had to stop and chill them again once when we were shaping because they were already melting too much, and that was only after being out for a few minutes. They came out alright though. We finished them with a variety of items-powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chopped walnuts and toasted coconut.

Surprising, didn't seem like we had a whole lot of items during class, it's only in retrospect that we did a whole lot today.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

12/03/09 - Class - Tortes, Frozen Desserts, and Chocolate

Back to class after a bit of a break. Today we did tortes, or mostly, their components.

First though we began frozen desserts, namely ice cream. We made a base for a cherry ice cream. It's chilling overnight, then tomorrow we churn it, then chill it again. A soup of ice cream base isn't very impressive, so no picture.

We also began work on truffles. Like the ice cream, it is is just a soup of ganache right now, so nothing worth seeing. Tomorrow we'll shape it and it'll be prettier.

Back to tortes. Tortes are kinda like intricate cakes. They're layered cakes, with some kinda filling, topped with an icing, usually some garnishes and other stuff on top as well, often even writing/piping and stuff. They're supposed to be pretty luxurious I guess. They have a lot of steps and a lot of components.

Today we put together a Sacher Torte. We used the chocolate genoise which we saved from a couple weeks back. Between the two rounds we filled it with apricot jam, then constructed it. We sealed the cakes with apricot glaze and chilled it, then topped it with chocolate ganache. It came out okay. Nothing that pretty, and we didn't do any piping, but it's passable.

The rest of the time was spent doing components for our later tortes. We made a chocolate spongecake for a torte tomorrow. We also made ladyfingers again since we need those for Saturday's torte. They came out better than our first try a couple weeks ago, but still weren't all that great. They were probably overwhipped again. We also made a vanilla spongecake for Saturday's torte. Unfortunately, it was a failure and had to be tossed. Too much sugar was in it, which ruined the texture. We also were going to make pate choux for practice for the exam and that screwed up too. This is why I hate working in groups. I have to give up control and rely on others. And I know which group member caused the problems for all three of these, because she was doing each failed part-mixing the pate choux, mixing the ladyfingers, and doing ingredients for the spongecake. I wish I could just do everything on my one sometimes. My other teammate is great, but I am a loner and that's how I like to work.