Saturday, August 27, 2011

rock me like a hurricane

chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream
This cake was for a duel 3oth birthday party that was supposed to take place today. The party had to be rescheduled because of Hurricane Irene. We were half way through decorating when our client called us and told us the party was off---HURRICANES SUCK. Anthony delivered the finished cake last night. Jen, I hope you are eating it right now even though you had to cancel your party! Cake definitely beats the pants off of emergency canned goods.

The cake was an 80's Pac-man and Ms. Pac-man theme. Graphic shapes and bold colors are a cake designer's dream, so you can imagine how excited we were to work on this cake. The hardest part of the design was attaching the dots for the maze. We played some classic 80's tunes to motivate ourselves, talked about the new season of Top Chef Just Desserts and churned those dots out.

And here's a behind-the-scenes shot of the cake photo shoot. My ever-loving and eternally patient husband Chris holds all my "backdrops" (white posterboard!) for me and adjusts them as I bark orders at him. In return, I pay him with all-he-can-eat cake scraps. Not a bad deal, really.

Friday, August 19, 2011

a retrospective

s'mores cake
Layers of chocolate cake, marshmallow filling, chocolate fudge and graham crumb, all covered in toasted marshmallow frosting and a chocolate glaze. Yessiree. You remember this cake, right? I baked this cake for a wonderful friend and former coworker who wanted something special for her wife's birthday.

there is a season
I put my notice in at Gramercy Tavern this past week. I have worked there for a year and a half now, which is a long time for me. Since it was my first official pastry job, I've decided to share a few things that I've learned from my time in a restaurant kitchen.

You better have an end game. Working in a professional restaurant kitchen is nothing like baking at home. It's dirty, back-breaking work in a harsh environment with crazy hours, pitiful pay, and, in most situations, no benefits. Know what you want before you get into the business and try to reach your goal as quickly as possible. So here's my end game. I want an ice cream truck or shop down at the Jersey Shore. To get to that goal, I needed to work in a kitchen where I would have a chance to make large batches of ice cream every day. I have accomplished that goal and I am ready to move on. In the meantime, I will be doing some freelance graphic design work in order to fund my future ice cream business. Get ready everyone.


Gordon Ramsay sucks. Why is screaming and cursing at employees acceptable in a kitchen but not acceptable in any other form of work? Screaming at an employee does not make them work better or faster. Gordon Ramsay and a good majority of restaurant chefs out there are perpetrating the kind of behavior that does not belong in the modern day kitchen. I never in my five years as a graphic designer had anyone scream and swear at me when I made a mistake. Yet you would not believe the shocking stories I've heard from kitchen coworkers. Lobsters or utensils being hurled at their heads. Violent verbal abuse anytime they messed up. This has got to stop. Very few people can do something perfectly on the first try. Most people have a learning curve and I am grateful that my boss at Gramercy Tavern, Nancy Olson, understood this. No screaming, no throwing things. Just excellent instruction with firm and patient correction when needed.

Local. Seasonal. I never understood what a real strawberry looked or tasted like until I worked at Gramercy Tavern. They get their fruit from local farms that come to the Greenmarket in Union Square. The strawberries they use are less than half the size of the Driscoll behemoths I grew up with and most folks buy at the grocery store. These tiny beauties taste sweet, slightly tart and not in the least watery. I'm not trying to be snobbish or elitist about this. Strawberries grown locally and picked in season just taste better. My goal, whenever possible, is to buy from local farms and eat only what's in season.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

peachy keen

peach sorbet
I am working on something for next week that is a wee bit more complicated, so, since I was also on vacation this week, I decided to pick something simple.

I love sorbets because I don't like fruit-flavored ice creams. Dairy has a pervasive flavor that is always skulking about in the background, interfering with the taste of the fruit. I really am becoming more of a flavor purist every day. Fruit, sugar and little acid---that's all I want. A good sorbet should taste just like eating a perfectly ripe specimen of whichever fruit I choose to use.

This is the recipe Chef uses for peach sorbet at work. She has found that cooking the fruit and letting it sit overnight not only makes it easier to puree the next day, but also intensifies the fruit flavors.

peach sorbet
3 lbs roughly chopped ripe peaches (weighed after chopping)
12 oz sugar
12 oz water
2 oz lemon juice

Bring all ingredients to a rapid boil in a large pot. Transfer to a container and let sit overnight in your refrigerator.

The next day, puree thoroughly in small batches in a blender. Strain to remove any remaining pulp. Churn in an ice cream maker and enjoy.