Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Custards and Chicago

So, as many of you have probably noticed, life in culinary school has kept me pretty busy! Maybe posting more frequently will be my new years resolution. Anyways, I wanted to post some pics of my most recent block, custards! Custards include many different types of desserts that include dairy and/or egg products for example, ice cream or the upper crust favorite -Creme Brulee. We also made a wonderful layered dessert called a Bavarian which is a chilled gelatin set dessert with a sponge base, fruit gelee and finally a fruit coulis (or sauce). The following are some of my bigger successes:
I also had a wonderful opportunity last month to spend the Thanksgiving holidays with my Friends Travis and Erin in Chicago! It was a great break from the ordinary and to see some of the sights America has to offer. We went down to the lake the day after my arrival , and this ritzy neighborhood full of gingerbread houses. We also went to a local shopping area that was holding a tree lighting ceremony and was handing out free roasted chestnuts (which Erin and I both agree are not the best choice in legumes despite the Christmas songs) and hot chocolate. Some ice sculptors were helping set the holiday mood with there toy soldiers and train sculptors that were forming before the public's eye. The whole scenery could make the grumpiest of people glad that it is now the special time of year.In addition to all this, we ventured down town to check out some of the famous architecture Chicago is known for and went to a German Christmas festival where we dined of bratwurst and other traditional holiday favorites from the Fatherland.

The last two days of my visit we had a chance to try some of the local cuisine-Old Style Chicago red hots (or hot dogs) and of course deep dish pizza! It was a wonderful trip, I got to enjoy good sights, good food, and especially good friends all the things I'm thankful for!
Chicago was such a friendly city it even sent me away with a special parting gift- 6 inches of snow and a 5 hour flight delay. Don't get me wrong, I love the snow and I even enjoyed people watching at the airport, but I am glad to be back in Texas, if only I could have taken a little snow back with me!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Just "Bearly" Made It!

So as you can tell from my lack of posting things have gotten pretty crazy! Two weekends ago my dear friends Linsday came to see me and we had a blast kayaking despite the crazy attacking geese and taking in the sights of Austin. That weekend was following by a busy week in class and work but ended nicely with a weekend in Lubbock. It was great to see all my friends and family and enjoy the cold weather for a change. Austin is still hitting the 80's so I welcomed the cool gray days that Lubbock had to offer. Although going home made me realize just how homesick I've been it was a great encouragement to see the people that care about me and their excitement for me as well.
Just before I left for Lubbock, my boss (at All in One Bake Shop) called me on friday afternoon with a great opportunity! A local group called Austin Cake Confectioners was flying in a Woman by the name of Loriane McKay from Scotland that is world famous for her edible sculptures and this group had a scholarship available for me to go to this work shope that would be the following friday!!! ( you can find videos of Mrs. McKay demos on youtube for those interested) Needless to say I was thrilled to take this opportunity! So after a great three day weekend in Lubbock and the completetion of Sweater Weather day (a mother -daughter holiday mom and I came up with when I was about 12)I headed back to a busy week in Austin. This week was particularlly busy because it was the end of my petit four block which meant a major project and final would be the upcoming friday (10/17) this also happened to be the day of the workshop that would last from 9am to 5pm and class starts at 5:30 and if you know anything about Austin getting from A to B in 30 minutes is almost impossible at this time so I was a bit nervous about how friday would play out.
The project I mentioned earlier was our biggest yet! We had to present a mock up petit four tray with descriptions of each item we had chosen to make for our final and why. On top of that we had to format this description paper as if we were writing to a client that was preparing for a banquet. This along with three days to prepare the 60 items (ten of each of the 6 items we had chosen) and a portfolio made this a very stressful week but I got through it with flying colors. I got an A on my project and Chef Emily said she really enjoyed the written portion of my paper, which is great coming from the chef responsible for the school newsletter club known as the Bleu Print. I also managed my time well enough to turn in my petit four tray 20 minutes before our time deadline and received an A on my tray as well!
I just realized that I have been telling you all about petit fours when some of you might not be familiar with the term. Allow me to explain: A petit four, which in French translates to little oven refers to pastry that is usually but not always sweet and is only one or two bites worth of food. There are many different kinds of petit fours including pecan diamonds which are a sweet pecan pie like treat and macaroons, an almond based cookie with a filling sandwiched in between two cookies. Needless to say they are delicious and beatiful to look at , but I think I have had my fill of them for a while!
Oh! I almost forgot to mention, I'm now writing an article for the school newsletter! I'm doing a review over a local restuarant called the Eastside cafe. Hopefully it will make the final cut and if it does you will be able to find the article at http://www.tca.edu/ by the end of next week! So cross your fingers for me.
Of course, I couldn't mention my great opportunity and not tell you how it went with my workshop Friday so here it goes! I arrived to the workshop on time, and met some very sweet people including Loriane and her husband ate free food and went to my final at 4:30 because we got out early .. the end.

I have never really done sculpture work but I loved it! we did two projects that day a pair of wedding bears and single bear. The single bear was supposed to just be a bear holding a flower but I was having so much fun I ended up making a little chef bear! The instructor said I showed a lot of promise and couldn't believe I had never sculpted before and I told her I couldn't believe it either and if she needed an extern, I would work for free!

So this very busy week has come to pass and I passed with it in one piece thankfully. Monday we start laminated doughs which refers to breads like crossiants and puff pastry and I'm really looking forward to it. Thanks again to all that keep up with this blog, its was so encouraging seeing some of you this last weekend and your comments are always welcome and cherished. God bless!

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Let me start off with an apology! Things have been very busy here but I'm finally able to update you on the happenings of culinary school and life in general. Last week was fast and furious, we were in the middle of bread block creating our own starters for sourdough breads and writing historical reports of the bread of our choice. I chose Challah bread (the photo on the right is a traditional star braided challah), a religious bread for the jewish faith that is traditionally eaten on Sabbath and special holidays. Most of you know this bread as the braided bread found in most bakeries. It represents the sacrificial bread that used to be offered to the priest by the commoners, but was later used in home ceramonies after some sometime in the fifthteenth century. The bread is never to be cut because this bread represents peace and harmony. Cutting the bread would represent warfare and bloodshed which would be inappropriate for such a sacred food. The bread has also come to represent the manna God gave the Jews while wondering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt. I really enjoyed reading up on this bread not only for the cultural and historical contributions it has made to the world, but to remember the importance of food in religion and how my soon to be profession help contribute to the memories of a peoples culture.
Needless to say, we sent a lot of time making these saymbolic breads. I also got a chance to make two very special cakes for my roommate Jennifer's sister Shelley. The cakes were for her Aggie Ring day and her suprise Engagement! I had a lot of fun working on them in the wee hours of the morning and I loved that I got a chance to help make her special day an edible memory!

When the weekend got here I finally got to partake in an activity I've been wanting to do since I moved here, I got to go to the down town farmers market! My friends Katy and Gemma accompanied me on this little adventure and although the market was small it was very entertaining. I purchased a fresh scone, locally made goat cheese and some Texas wild flowers amongst the general splender of local venders and knick knacks. I would highly recommend that anyone that has a chance to spend some time in a farmers market should. There is somehting about the simplicity of the whole atmosphere that makes you feel content with lifes little pleasures...like a good scone and boquet of wildflowers.

This week was just plain crazy! We finished up bread block with our usual written test, but we also had to present our bread portfolio and our own original recipe for a yeast bread. I really enjoyed this assignment because it gave me a chance to stretch my creative muscles. I Ended up making what I call a Wassail Bread with a Brown Sugar glaze! It turned out to be very festive and not to sweet just how I wanted it! Chef was also complimentary of my bread, which always makes a soon to be chefs day!I think makes a great companion to Apple Cider or hot tea and to close my entry this week the following is the recipe for my wassail bread and I hope you will enjoy it!

Wassail Bread

8oz Flour

1/4oz Dry Active Yeast

2oz Eggs

.8oz butter

3.2oz Apple Cider

.65oz Brown Sugar

.2oz Orange Zest

.2oz Shredded Apple

Pinch of Ground Cloves

1/4t Cinnamon

1/8t Nutmeg

.3oz Salt

Swirl: Glaze: One part Apple Cider, One part Dark Brown Sugar

Zest of one orange

2T of Cinnamon Sugar

1t ground red hots

Yield: 1 loaf

Instructions: Disslove Yeast in Apple Cider (Apple Cider should be warm but not hot!Combine all dry ingredients in mixer with dough hook attatchment ( or in large bowl). Add all wet ingredients; Apple Cider- Yeast mixture, eggs, orange zest, shredded apple, and butter to dry ingredients. Mix on medium speed for 10 minutes ( or knead). Dough should be wet nd sticky. Place dough in greased bowl and cover. Allow dough to double in size at room temperature. Once dough has doubled in size punch down and dust with flour to roll dough out to for a rectangle. After dough has been shaped brush with eggwash, then apply swirl ingredients: Orange zest, crushed red hots, and cinnamon sugar * Make sure to leave a clean edge around rectangles sides. Press swirl mixture lightly then roll dough tightly to form a log, pinch seam together and place dough seam side down in a greased loaf pan and allow to double in size.Meanwhile heat oven to 375 and prepare glaze in a sauce pan by combining apple cider and dark brown sugar and brown sugar has melted and glaze is hot. Take the glaze off heat and set aside. Once dough has risen, place in heated oven. Remove bread when top of bread is brown and makes a hollow sound when tapped on top. Remove from pan and immediately glaze. Cool slightly and then enjoy!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

An "Ikey" Week

Well another week has come and gone! I just finished our first week of bread block that included: ciabatta, focaccia, fougasse, milk bread, pizza, naan, pan de mie, pan de mais, and baguettes! I wasn't sure how I would feel about the bread block- so much of bread making is about being exact and having a good sense of time and attention to details, but I think over all my work speaks for itself and I have enjoyed the creativity of forming interesting shapes for the milk bread class (milk bread is basically a dinner roll dough, its very soft and tender.... mmmm). We also learned how to make yeast for breads this week! Oh yes I typed it..yeast making! It's a very interesting process that involves grapes, flour, water and lots of time.

Chef Cara went over the process of making yeast and told us that making yeast was like having a baby- we must feed it, love it, and take care of it. She then assigned our groups the task of naming our "babies". My partner and I named our yeast baby Kaisy Dimber, right now she is growing rapidly and smells like a mixture of wine and vomit... like parenting, no one said it was a pretty job but Chef assures us that it has its rewards!

We also had a bit of weather excitement with Hurricane Ike this week! Since Austin was at one point considered in the danger zone people began to prepare for the worst, grocery stores had no water or pop tarts, Austin ISD cancelled school for the afternoon on friday, evacuates were streaming in causing traffic to back up, and many places of business decided to close because of the drastic weather that was expected to hit Saturday. The 'drastic' weather we were expecting - power outtages, severe rain and wind turn out to be a cloudy day with a strong breeze. I find this a bit amusing, but it was a blessing that Austin was spared any severe weather. My heart does goes out to those in the Houston area and my prayers as well. May all of you have a safe and blessed week ahead!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A few pictures from my first week in my bread block course I thought I would share! ENJOY!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The End of The First Block!

Already the end of my first course is complete! Baking 101 finished with a smashing exam this past friday! The practical was blueberry muffins and jellyrolls, both of which I received a perfect score on! Earlier in the week, we finally got to dabble in some cake work and chocolate ganache, both of which I got noticed for. Although being noticed for my technical skills was a great boost, I wish my writing skills were on the same level, btu they'll get there. But whoever said writing in chocolate was easy, if anyone has ever said that must have been a seasoned french chef and not an American that chooses lemon curd over chocolate most days.

Everything else is going great , my job is going very well and I'm making more friends with every class gone by!

P.S. The pics featured with this post are my chocolate chiffon cake!

P.P.S Thanks to all that are keeping up with my blog and all your encouraging comments!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quick Audrey Update

For the pet lovers out there that are curious about Audrey's adjustment to city life , she's doing great! Her house mate George an aussie cross is quite smitten with her and as you can see from the picture, Audrey always has a wink and a smile ready for George. They play, eat, and sleep together all day everyday. They even enjoy swimming together at the dog parks. So we're both getting along just fine!

The First Exam...

Already another week has flown by- my roommates started back to school wednesday just as I was preparing for my first test in culinary school. Our first test like any other professional school consists of a written exam, but the difference for us is following the written exam we have a practical in which we make products that show our knowledge of the different methods chefs use in patisseries. This test covered sponge, creaming, and cut in method. These methods were demonstrated by producing not only edible but attractive almond macaroons, chocolate chip cookies, and buttermilk biscuits.

I was confident for the written portion of our exams and very at ease about the practical part. We had over three and a half hours to complete and present our products which aloud plenty of time to re-do products if necessary. As I said before I was not nervous about the exams, but the tension in the room was obvious especially for my younger classmates who just graduated from highschool. We were not allowed to talk or help anyone during any portion of the test which was difficult at times especially when I saw one of my friends chocolate chip cookie batches turn into something resembling a hockey puck, but a las I kept my mouth shut.

Over all the results for both my test were A's -a great confidence booster in deed! The next day we moved onto a very excited item called pate a choux, this is a french pastry that is cooked on the stove that is a save all in the kitchen. It can make appetizers , keep your mash potatoes creamy after freezing and thawing and is the base dough of eclairs and cream puffs. We made elcairs and swans (yes the bird) and filled them with chentilly cream and chocolate pastry cream. They were quite beautiful and I was disappointed that I have no pictures of my swans to share with you because my cameras battery died! I promise there will be plenty more photo opportunities for pastry swans to come! I did however manage to get some pictures of the scones, bicuits and quiche loraine we made earlier in the week that are featured above.

I also started my new job this week, and its just wonderful! The people I work at remind me so much of my days at my dads animal clinic and I'm catching on to the inventory system fast. My boss even gave me a free cake today that someone did not pick up. I wished I could have sent it directly to animal care clinic when I opened the box to discover a big sparklely pink pig cake! Donna Preston would have loved it just as much as my roommates love my work benefits!

So, pressing on and enjoying every minute of it!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Safest Cookie

WOW! It's hard to believe my first week of culinary school is already over! The first day of class like any, consisted of the usual hello's and short stories of peoples origins and explanations on their decision to come to culinary school including our Chef Instructor , Chef Cara who has an impressive resume that includes employers like Wolfgang Puck and the like. After the introductions were completed we dove into our first lesson on sanitation and running a clean opperation. This lesson continued for the first three days of class for all five hours of class and was happily ended on Thursday with an examination over our knowledge of running a clean kitchen ; and yes I passed the test so no worries with my food! You might be asking yourself what sanitation lessons at culinary school consist of, well basically sanition covers how to prevent and what causes food born illnesses. While this information is very necassary and perhaps a bit boring at times its also a little scary, not only are you learning about the causes of food borne illness but what it can cost you as a business owner. But of course the good always comes with some bad and thats that.
After our test Thursday night we finally got to sink our teeth (literally) into our first food course: knife skills. We had a demonstration by the talented Chef Jason on how to properly sharpen knifes, segment oranges, and chop onions. Chef Cara let us eat our oranges, which was a nice healthy alternative to all the free cheesecake and truffles we had been getting from the class next door.
I should probably mention at this point an interesting trading system at school:My class meets in the evening from 5:30 to 10:30 pm, there are of course both patisserie and culinary students that meet at this time so dinner isn't exactly an easy meal to come by. Some students pack snacks to eat during breaks but as most of us have learned dinner is not necessary if your patient. You see as patisserie students we make all the breads and sweet things that the culinary students want, while the culinary students make all the wonderful soups and meats we want. So classes trade off with eachother in a kind of bartering system so you can pretty much count on getting a decent meal every night! A good example of this would be Friday nights class. The patisserie students made peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies while the culinary students made french onion soup. Chef Cara was kind enough to provide us with some milk for the cookies and all the students had a good meal that night!
Our cookies were a big hit with the culinary students and our first taste of a real class. We watched Chef Cara demonstrate the proper method of making cookies , a particular method known as creaming method. After the demonstration,we went to work measuring ingredients by scale and mixing our cookie dough by hand. We also got a chance to practice our safety lessons by wearing latex gloves and cleaning the whole kitchen. The whole experience of Friday night, was very fast and fun- it helped re-emphasize that this was the right choice for me. So another week gone by and another to come!
On the job front I was incredibly blessed to get three job offers in the end! One was a tutoring job at school, another was an office assistant at school and the final job offer was
a sales associate position in a professional supply bake shop in Austin. I ended up taking the job as the sales associate at the bake shop and I couldn't be happier about it! I get benefits like a 25% discount on any merchandise, free classes on cake decorating ( yes my school will cover cake decorating as well but I can get extra practice and more detailed instruction in this field this way), and free lunch on Saturdays! The owners are a husband and wife team and very sweet people. In fact some of you that are familiar with the food network challanges and know of Brodwin Weber (the Gingerbread challange winner) might have seen my boss on the foodnetwork with brodwin. My boss was her assistant at the gingerbread challange you see and they are very close friends in addition to that! Work starts tomorrow and I'm very excited to see whats in store for me. My job will basically consist of me helping customers, knowing what to recommend, and the like. Everything else is coming up roses and I continue to enjoy getting to know my new roommates and city immensely. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hello Austin

Well, its been quite the marathon the last few days! After FINALLY graduating from A&M my family and I moved my belongings to Austin Texas August 9th. Since then, I have been a busy girl searching for jobs, going to a couple of interviews, organizing my stuff, and going to orientation for school. I've also managed to experience some of Austins sights in between everything. My new roommate stephanie and I took the dogs, George and Audrey (Audrey is my golden) to the dog park downtown where we witness Audrey's first attempts at deep water and swimming on monday. May I just say, as a proud mom that she's a natural! I just wish she would have stopped stealing balls the from other dogs that were swimming with her, but I guess thats just part of motherhood, proud one moment and embarassed the next! We also went to a well known restuarant called Magnolia- very good by the way, try the pot stickers next time your in town! Thursday, my other roommate Jen and I went to IKEA to pick up a few things for the house. I have never been able to actually go to an Ikea until I moved here so this was an excited moment for me! Although its an easy place to get lost in!
Oh! Did I mention I'm sharing a house with three other girls?! Well I am and their names are Jen, Krista, and Stephanie for future reference!
As far as my job search goes I have had two interviews so far. Both interviews were for jobs at my school one as a tutor and the other as a customer service representitive. Both jobs have there perks and though I have not received any concrete information on either job I feel confident that my interviews made a good impression.
And now for the best part... ORIENTATION! It was so much fun! They served us hors d'oeuvre and iced tea during the vice presidents welcome speech and the orientation presentation. This was followed by a group quiz that awarded prizes for correct answers;I won a TCA pendant. After the informational part of orientation was over we were sent to several stations to collect our books,supplies, and uniforms. For those of you that are familiar with the kitchen, this might not suprise but my tool kit (which I was expecting to be the size of a brief case) was the size a weekend trip suitcase! I have over 50 items in my kit! You talk about Christmas in July, move it to August for me! My uniform looks very sharp and even includes a pair of non-slip black shoes.

Side note: We can not wear any jewelry, perfume, or nail polish! It all makes since to me, but I was a bit suprised at nail polish to tell you the truth.

So as you can imagine I'm getting excited and a little nervous about monday, my first day of school! I can't wait to see what challanges are in store for me. On a personal note, I'm adjusting well here and finding much needed peace and serenity to make this transition easier. I was expecting this first week to be a hard one but God has blessed me with peace and a chance to get things started on a positive note. Thank you all for your on going support and prayers! Please keep me in mind this next week and pray that I receive some good news on the job front. May grace and peace be with you this week.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Let Me Introduce Myself

I'm new to the blogging experience so forgive me if my first post is lacking! Let me begin by telling you a little about myself and what I hope this blog will accomplish. My name is Kimber ( I used to go by Kim so for those of you that know me , yes your reading the correct blog!). As of August 8th I will be a recent graduate of Texas A&M University with a major in History and minor in Anthropology. During my time at A&M I was priveledged to meet so many influentical people and gain new experiences that helped mold me into the person I am today. I believe going to Texas A&M was one of many good decisions in my life and has helped influence my next move in education- to pursue a career as a pastry chef. So, as a walk across the stage of Reed Arena to close one chapter of my educational career, I will be starting another as a student at Texas Culinary Academy in Austin, Tx.
The program I will be participating in, is the baking and patisserie program. It will last for about one full calendar year and is broken into two parts. The first part is nine months and will be mainly classroom and lab (aka kitchen) work. The second part is a three month externship which is basically an apprenticeship with an established chef. My classes have titles such as : "Sugar work", "Chocolate", and "breads" to give you an idea of what I'll be learning about. I'm hoping to post weekly updates about what I'm learning, who I'm meeting, what I'm making, and life in Austin. I'll try to include pictures as often as can as well as posting information about upcoming events at my school that are open to the public such as the chili cookoff in November and the Gingerbread competition in December.
I hope that this blog will be entertaining for those of you that are curious about what I'm doing and informative about the world behind the stove so to speak. Let me also say thank you to all that have supported and prayed for me over the years about this decision and many others!