Archive for the ‘Culinary School’ Category

Holy mackerel! I can’t believe how quickly the last 2 months flew by, not to mention the 8 months before that. It’s almost November! I’m almost not a newly wed anymore. Soon I’ll be trying to keep my husband from spending a fortune on Christmas lights and decor, while simultaneously dodging as much Christmas music as possible.

It feels like only yesterday I was dreading spending 4 months worth of nights in a kitchen and now I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs. School does that to you. You get so used to running all the time trying to get everything done and then all at once everything stops and you have absolutely nothing to do and feel like a lost little puppy dog that’s suddenly not in Kansas anymore. Well, that puppy dog would probably be glad to not be in Kansas anymore so maybe that’s a bad comparison (no offense Kansas).

Anyway, all this is to say that two days ago was my last day of baking and pastry classes. Next Thursday I start my externship at Wildwood in NW Portland. I’m really excited about that as they have a great reputation, make everything in house from scratch and they also make their own bread (so I get to dabble in both worlds). After that it’s an easy 4 weeks of a food ethics class and a communications class and I’ll officially be graduated! It’s not the 4 year traditional degree some people hoped I would obtain, but I think I found my niche in life so 4 year degree be damned! =)

Our final project in the baking and pastry program was a dessert buffet. We had to make a showpiece out of either chocolate, pastillage or sugar, and then make at least 3 each of 9 different items from 3 different categories; pastry, petit four and candy. It sounded daunting at first but after completing the menu project just before, this one seemed like a breath of fresh air.

Everything that we were taught at school is traditional – meaning that it’s all about eggs and butter and moo milk and gelatin. But, since the buffet project was conceivably a small project, I decided to spend a few $$ of my own and brought in my own vegan ingredients. The pictures didn’t turn out as well as I hoped they would, but at least everything in them is vegan for a change.

The tree thing in the back is all chocolate. And all the goodies you see are: pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes, walnut chocolate chip brownies, pecan pie tartlets, pumpkin caramel petit fours, maple cheesecake bites, gingerbread cookies with maple icing, hazelnut pralines, almond cherry mendiants and espresso ganache filled truffles. Tutto vegano!!! And, thankfully, they all turned out the first time so I didn’t have to remake anything. I bought just enough Earth Balance to be able to make everything once; since that stuff’s like $6 a pound I seriously didn’t want to have to go buy some more. Now of course I’m at home, thinking of making some cupcakes, and I’m all out of Earth Balance… damn! =)

The buffet project was finished 2 days before classes ended. We spent the last day of class making goodies for the student luncheon. The luncheon is held to celebrate the completion of the culinary and pastry programs at school. During this luncheon they give us some last stitch advice on the industry and the careers we are about to embark upon, but they also give out a handful of awards. I don’t usually win things. In fact, I never win anything. Well, once I won a Madonna CD from a local radio station when I was a teeny bopper but my mother took it away from me. So, they called out a couple of awards, none of which went to me. That’s fine though, I’m not really one to get worked up about those things. But then they said there was one more award, the President’s Award. It goes to the person with a good academic record, culinary skill, leadership, etc, etc. I was kind of dazing off as that happens with me when somebody’s just talking – I don’t mean to wander but my mind just does that. And then I look up and the Chef who’s talking is looking at me. I got the award! I almost wasn’t sure it was me because I’m still not used to hearing “Amber Gray” instead of “Amber Herrington.”

So, if anyone tells you that being geeky and studious is silly, it got me $500 knocked off my tuition at school and some recognition across the board. Feels pretty good. =)

Well, I think it’s time for me to don my running gear and hit the road (I have all those pastries to work off you know). I should be back on here in a more typical frequency now that I have time to breathe, and bake, again. See you soon!

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Modeling Chocolate

Well, my kitchen is still lying dormant, patiently awaiting my return. The downside is, obviously, that I don’t have anything (of my own) to blog about. The upside is that we’ve been doing some fun stuff at school and I have some mostly pretty pictures for you to look at. And no, none of it’s vegan (you’d think Portland would be the one place where they’d have some vegan curriculum in a cooking school… but they don’t), but I’m getting some good ideas on how to veganize a lot of this stuff.

Next week we’re doing our menu project which consists of each of us designing, making and plating four desserts, one of which will be served in the dining room at the school. It’s kind of nerve racking as there’s so much to do, but it’s also a lot of fun because it’s all you and your own creativity. I should have pictures for you of my creations in a week or so.

After the menu project I’ll have about two weeks of school left, and then maybe I’ll find some time to start piddling in my own kitchen again. Until then…

Charlotte Royal

Chocolate Honey Mousse Torte

Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Whipped Dark Ganache and a White Chocolate Band

Opera Torte

Dobos Torte

Celebration Cake... it's hard piping roses in a hot room with hot buttercream

Barley and Hops Wedding Cake

Peanut Brittle

White Nougat with pistachios, candied orange peel and cranberries

Strawberry Jellies


Bread Pudding

Raspberry Mousse with Lychee Glacage

Chocolate honey mousse in a chocolate cup with a chocolate straw and a tulle cookie

Panna Cotta

Chocolate Marquise

Pistachio ice cream, chocolate cup, figs

Passionfruit sorbet, tuile cookie cone, peaches

Poached pear, flambe'd fruit, ice cream

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Bread. Lots of it. I’ve always loved bread. And luckily I’ve always had the metabolism to allow me to eat a bunch of it without it really showing. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m seriously sick of bread. Seriously.

The past two weeks of culinary school have been nothing but bread. Whole wheat bread. Potato rosemary bread. Pitas. Pane pugliese. Ciabatta. Focaccia. Pain au Levain. Sourdough. Rye bread. Pane di como. Pizza. Etc. Etc. Etc. We’ve got more bread than we know what to do with. It freezes well, thank god, but we have a tiny freezer. It’s jam packed right now.

But wait, there’s more! We’ve got baguettes, bread sticks, olive rolls, whole wheat rolls, butterbraids, pretzels, bagels and other items that I just can’t remember at the moment.

The good news is that I’ve learned a whole hell of a lot about making bread. I’ve been making my own pizza dough, pitas, tortillas and sandwich bread for quite sometime, but I’ve never had anybody show me the right way to do it, and the internet is crammed full of people telling you the wrong way to do things (not that they do this on purpose, they just don’t know any better). For example, you don’t actually “punch” your dough down. You fold it; three times actually. And recipes that tell you to “rest for 20 minutes” really aren’t guiding you in the right direction because for them it might take 20 minutes, but your kitchen might be cooler so it could take 30 minutes. And technically resting is what happens after you punch down, portion and round your dough (and you only want to rest for 10 minutes). The resting that takes place once you’ve formed your bread is called proofing.

So it’s been a wonderful learning experience. It’s also been an eye opener for me, in regards to seeing just how much you can accomplish in a small amount of time. The other night I mixed, fermented, folded, portioned, rounded, rested, formed, proofed and baked two breads, formed, proofed and baked another loaf, made three different pre-ferments (yeast starters) for bread to be made the following day, scaled out ingredients and had my dishes and work bench clean all within three hours. I was really quite tired afterward. =) But it’s great to be pressed to the limit sometimes so you can see what you are capable of. But now I’d like a vacation. I very long one. Full of mai tais and sun tan lotion.

I’m not going to write out recipes for all these breads but if you’d like one of them or need info on how the process works please feel free to email me. AND… I just might get the chance to bake something at home next week, so there’s possibly another blog post in the immediate future. =)

Until then, have a great weekend! And enjoy the sun, if your city is so kind to give you any (Portland’s being a little stingy with it… still).

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I thought I’d title a post with something other than, “Just a little bit of…” I realized I did that about 3.76 minutes after I posted the ice cream cupcake recipe, but it was too late to change things as I had already submitted my cupcake to the contest. Oh well.

I’m currently in the midst of 4 days of cooking practicals for my finals of the first term of culinary at school. In fact, by the time this posts I’ll probably be running around half crazily trying not to burn something in the kitchen. Though I actually signed up for the baking and pastry program, they make you take one term of culinary (I think just to get enough credits to substantiate a degree, but it’s been a good learning experience none the less). I do like cooking, but I like cooking veggie food. Had I known I would have to fabricate 5 chickens during my time at OCI I might have changed my mind. =) But I survived (the birds unfortunately did not). Below is a pic of our class after day 2 of finals yesterday; I’m the dorky-elf looking girl with the glasses on 3rd from the left.

Due to finals I sadly don’t have any time to bake, so I guess my blog’s on hiatus until next week. I have a little more than a week off school so I plan on getting sugary in the kitchen. Until then I’ll be dreaming of pork chops and mise en place.

Have a great week!

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