Posts tagged ‘career’

May 4, 2011

french macarons, conquered

Thanks so much for all your good thoughts on my new job! :D

I’m definitely excited for this opportunity. In a big way, it makes me feel a little more secure in my decision to not have gone to culinary school this year. If you haven’t read my About page, it discusses briefly that I applied to the Culinary Institute of America (the one in Napa, CA) and I was set to start this past March. It cost a lot of money to go through the application process and once I was accepted, I was THIS CLOSE to going. In the end, I couldn’t justify $100,000+ in loans (including living loans), especially since a culinary career does not guarantee $$$ as another career would, such as a medical career.

There were quite a few people that urged me to go to culinary school because they knew cooking and baking were passions of mine. Their reasoning was that if I was really passionate about it, I should go no matter how much it costs. I like and respect that train of thought, but I also think that people can follow their passions without spending unjustified buttloads of money.

In the end, I am not a culinary student and I am not more in debt than I already am! And I’m excited to start a job and continue this blog that will both help me further my culinary knowledge. I hope. :)



So since today was my last day before I start on this new job, Jeff got off of work early and we had big plans to do AWESOME things. In the end, we took a nap and pretty much just relaxed the whole day – which was pretty awesome if I do say so! We had hotdogs made with Hawaiian King rolls again! This time I used Louisiana hot links and topped it off with the last of my cilantro :(, diced white onion, my Thai pickled chili peppers, and ketchup.

Perfection!



Aaaand, as a way to celebrate my new job at a bakery, I BAKED! French Macarons seemed appropriate.

I bought the ingredients to make French Macarons a little while ago, but I’ve been putting off making them because I was SCURRED! They seemed more difficult-than-average to make, and I was a little intimidated. For my first time making French Macarons, I’m pretty darn happy with how they came out.

French Macarons are actually pretty simple. There are just quite a few steps and you really need to be precise! I used a food scale and measured in grams instead of by volume. But it’s really very simple – the main ingredients include almond meal, confectioner’s sugar, egg whites, and white sugar.



I got my almond meal from Whole Foods:



You really want your dry ingredients (almond meal and confectioner’s sugar) to be super fine, so I whirred them away in my single-serve blender.



And ran the mixture through a sifter.



You may need to use a spatula or a spoon to really get the almond meal through the sieve!



But the work is worth it, because you get a nice powdery result.



In the meantime, you combine the white sugar with a little bit of water in a small pot on low heat, and slowly set it to simmer.



And while that’s heating up, you measure out 50g of egg whites (which is basically 1.5 egg whites) and split them evenly between a large bowl and a small bowl. So there are 25g of egg whites in each bowl.



Take the bigger bowl, and whip the egg whites until peaks form!



As the sugar and water mixture starts to bubble and simmer (you want it to simmer until it gets to 224F). When it gets to 224F, SLOWLY stream the sugar/water mixture into the whipped egg whites and continue to whip. Once it’s all incorporated together, set your mixer on high and continue whipping until the mixture turns glossy and glowy and purrrtty! It reminds me of marshmallow fluff. Yum.



THEN you add the egg whites from the small bowl (remember that one?), along with this glossy mixture into the sifted dry ingredients:



At this point, you want to fold this in really well until it’s well mixed together, but not OVERMIXED.



Then you place this batter into a pastry bag…



And start piping out little circles!



Oh, a little tip – you can pipe a small dot in the corners of the parchment paper so that it doesn’t slide around!



Then you bake! (I rotated the pan a couple times while it was baking because my oven bakes pretty unevenly).



They should only brown SLIGHTLY. BARELY. I was so happy to see little feet on my naked macarons…



This is what the bottoms looked like, which I was pretty happy with.



The longer I waited after they baked, the easier it was to peel the macarons off the parchment paper. At first I tried to get them off with a spatula, but I found out quickly that they should be PEELED!



As they cooled, it was time to make the FILLING!


White chocolate chips, Blackberry preserves, and Heavy whipping cream.



I’ve made a discovery about myself recently. I think my favorite fruit is BLACKBERRIES. So juicy, so seedy, so COOL looking. And I love these Blackberry preserves because they have actual pieces of blackberries in there…

I ate that of course.



So to make the filling, you combine the white chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream in a double broiler until it gets nice and melted.



And then add the Blackberry preserves to that:



And then you have to REALLY let this cool. It was a particularly hot day here in the Bay Area and I don’t think I waited quite long enough for the mixture to thicken up, but what can I say, I’m an impatient woman!

It did thicken up considerably though-



You want the perfect amount of dollop – not too much that it oozes out of the sides, but not too little that you can’t see it!



And then sandwich it together!

Cute!



These were REALLY delicious. Comparable to Miette’s, methinks. Okay, maybe not. Actually I really don’t know. I need to get some more of Miette’s to find out. Research purposes, you know?

The only thing I’d do differently next time is get the filling THICKER.

I’m not intimidated by French Macarons anymore (remember, it’s only one “o.” Macaron, not Macaroon!). Now I’m not even afraid of frosting those cupcakes tomorrow! I can do it! Yeah!

Moving on…

If you haven’t made Macarons yet, DO IT!



French Macarons with White Chocolate Blackberry Ganache

Macaron recipe by Syrup and Tang.

Filling recipe by Jenna at Eat Live Run, who adapted it from David Levobitz.

Makes: 11 petite macarons



Ingredients: 

67g almond meal

67g confectioner’s sugar

67g granulated sugar

16g water

50g egg whites (about 1.5 egg whites)

*If you want to make more or less macarons, you can alter the recipe by taking the amount of egg whites you want to use (in this case 50g) and multiply the other ingredients, except the water, by 1.35 (in this case 67g). The water, you multiply by .33 (in this case 16g).



for the filling:

4oz white chocolate chips

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

2 T blackberry preserves



Directions:

Preheat oven to 300F. Stack 2 or 3 baking pans on top of each other. Line the top one with parchment paper.

Place granulated sugar and water in a small pot and set aside.

Measure out the egg whites and divide in half, half into a larger bowl and the other half into a smaller bowl. Set aside for now.

In a bowl, sift the almond meal and confectioner’s sugar (If you want to get the mixture super fine, spin it in a blender before sifting).

Now grab the small pot with the granulated sugar and water and place on a stove over low heat. Stir once or twice to get the sugar to dissolve but once the mixture starts simmering, leave it alone. When it starts to simmer slightly, check the temperature and continue to simmer until it gets to 224F.

While you wait for the sugar/water mixture to simmer, whip the egg whites in the larger bowl with a hand mixer or stand mixer. Whip until it gets stiff peaks – just as the sugar/water mixture gets to 224F. Once the sugar/water mixture is ready, slowly stream it into the whipped egg whites and continue to mix on low. Once it is all incorporated, set the mixer to high and continue to beat for a few minutes until the mixture is stiff and glossy.

At this point, add the egg whites in the smaller bowl into the almond meal/confectioner’s sugar mixture, then add the glossy egg white/sugar mixture on top of that. With a spatula, fold the mixture together quickly and well – until it’s well mixed together. Make sure not to OVERMIX though. The final batter should be thick, yet flowing – like lava.

Pour this batter into a piping bag and pipe out small circles about 1 1/2 inches wide. (The easiest way to do this is pipe vertically and let it naturally fall into a circle). There should be no peaks in the circles and the circles may spread slightly.

Bake for 10-12 minutes and rotate the pan midway so that there is even baking. It is done when the circles are no longer jiggly, firm to the touch, and a pale ivory color.

Let it cool completely and gently peel off the circle macaron shells and set aside.

To make the filling, combine the white chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream in a double broiler until melted together. Add the blackberry preserves. Cool completely until it thickens up considerably.

Put a small dollop of the filling in one macaron shell, and cover it with another macaron shell to sandwich it together gently. Don’t let the filling ooze out of the sides but don’t put too little either!

Enjoy! And refrigerate whatever you don’t eat…if there is any!



Nutritional Information for 1 Macaron: 95 calories, 4g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 10mg sodium, 11g carbohydrates, 0.5g fiber, 9.5g sugar, 1.5g protein

May 3, 2011

and the verdict is…

It’s been one heck of a day! I can’t believe it’s only Tuesday!

My stauge at the Cupcake bakery was scheduled for today at 9am. Because the bakery is not very close to where I live, and they asked me to come in at a time there would be high traffic, I stayed at one of my best friend’s house last night. She lives literally down the street from the bakery! I decided that if I get this job, I’ll rent out an apartment close to the bakery.

So I woke up way later than I would’ve if I had come from home, got an Iced Soy Latte from Starbucks, and drove 5 minutes to the bakery. It was nice!

My stauge today was much, much shorter than the one on Sunday. I worked directly with the owner/boss today, who is super nice and down to earth.

First she had me practice frosting cupcakes on their “reject” mini cupcakes:

This was much, much harder than I thought. Frosting cupcakes is not that hard, but frosting cupcakes exactly how they wanted it was super difficult! When the boss was showing me how they frosted their cupcakes, I thought “Alright, hand over the spatula! This should be a cinch.” =) Ehhh…not so much. None of the cupcakes up there are up to their standards.

And that’s something that I love about this cupcake bakery. They have a “Gordon Ramsay” mindset where they don’t want to send anything that’s not perfect. Love that!



They also had me practicing some of their basic designs…

The most challenging out of these was definitely the Hostess swirls – getting them uniform and straight.

I left the bakery with 2 boxes full of those “reject” cupcakes and being told that they would let me know their decision tomorrow…

But just a few hours later I got a call from them. They started out by telling me good things about me and so I was just WAITING for a “but” like “but we think we have to go with someone a little more experienced” but the “but” never came! They said, “We’d love for you to come work with us!”

And I replied, “Well, I’d love to accept!” And then came all the details which is always the fun part about starting a new job, besides getting hired of course.

My first day is on Thursday! The days I work will be Wednesday through Sundays and the hours will start at 6am and end anywhere from 1pm to 3pm, depending how busy the day is! I’m actually excited about these hours! Starting early and getting out early > Starting late and getting out late.

Thanks for all your crossed fingers (and toes!). =)



In other news, here’s what you get when you mix a Pyromaniac (Jeff) and these 2 objects…



A sad me:

Jeff had an urge to burn something with that mini torch, and so I gave him this ramekin thinking it’d be safe because it’s oven proof. I guess oven proof doesn’t mean direct fire proof? There was a sticker on the bottom of the ramekin, and Jeff burned the sticker off another ramekin and it came off really well. Not so successful this time…

Even though Jeff blew up (literally) my ramekin, I have him to thank for getting this job. I wasn’t even going to apply because I’m a huge natural pessimist and doubted I would even have a chance at the position. He urged me to apply those few weeks ago, and now look what happened. I have a new job to look forward to!

May 2, 2011

eating cupcakes, working with cupcakes?

This weekend was full of CUPCAKES. In more ways than I anticipated! I’m not complaining though – let me back up to Friday night.

A few friends and Jeff and I went to Off the Grid in San Francisco. Off the Grid is basically a CIRCLE of food trucks and gives you a huge variety of foods to choose from including Vietnamese street food, Korean tacos, empanadas, Bao buns, cupcakes, and tons more I was too overwhelmed to look at. In the middle of the circle they have live music, a beer stand, and a place to just hang out!



We got there fairly early (around 6:30pm) so the lines were considerably short at the time (it got crazy crowded later). I immediately got into line at the Cupcake truck – Cupkates – because I heard they run out of flavors throughout the night. (The amazing cupcake I ate from this day was from Cupkates!)



I got 4 flavors – (I didn’t eat them at Off the Grid – saved them for later!)

From top left, clockwise: Tiramisu (yummm), Double Vanilla (double yummm), Red Velvet (Jeff ate that one), and Salted Caramel (Jeff ate most of that one because it was a chocolate cake base).



Tiramisu was sooo absolutely delicious. From Cupkates menu: A ladyfinger crust, espresso soaked cake, topped with mascarpone frosting and chocolate shavings.



Jeff really enjoyed the Salted Caramel. From Cupkates menu: A moist chocolate cake topped with caramel buttercream and sprinkled with flaked sea salt.



and of course the cupcake that made me fall in love with Cupkates – Double Vanilla.



This is me just before purchasing the Cupkates – a HAPPY (cupcake-greedy) girl!



At Off the Grid, the most popular truck was the Korean truck – the line went pretty much across the whole Off the Grid area. My favorite thing from Off the Grid was from here – the KORITO (A korean burrito, filled with Spicy rice, bulgogi (marinated beef) and other goods. Thankfully, when we got there the line wasn’t too long!



The Korito – SO GOOD.



Among all of us, the other foods we got included Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich), Vietnamese Garlic Noodles, Empanadas, Creme Brulee from the Creme Brulee Truck, Chicken Tikka Masala burrito, and Korean tacos. There were some misses (The Banh Mi and Garlic noodles), some okays (Empanadas and Creme Brulee), some greats (Korean tacos and Chicken Tikka Masala burrito – though my friends liked this burrito more than I did), and some AWESOMES (Cupkates and the Korito).

We will surely be back again! I plan to get the Korito and also want to try the Bao Bun truck.



Anyway, Off the Grid wasn’t the end of my cupcake-filled weekend. Far from it!

About a month ago, I applied for a Cupcake Decorator position at an amazing cupcake “shop.” It’s not your typical cupcake shop where you just go in and buy a cupcake – you order and pick up! And they do custom designs so a lot of their orders include making a ton of cupcakes for baby showers, weddings, birthdays, congratulatory parties, etc! And of course they get tons of orders from people who simply love their cupcakes!

So when people come to pick up their orders, they basically walk into a cupcake kitchen with people making and decorating cupcakes instead of a typical shop with a display full of cupcakes. A lot of customers come towards closing time though, when they sell their extra cupcakes!



Here are a couple photos of their cupcakes taken from their yelp page:

Aren’t they super cute?? They have nearly 500 reviews on yelp and a 4 1/2 star status! My heart BURNED to decorate cupcakes for them! So I applied.



After sending them my resume, cover letter, and link to this blog, I just went on with my life. I really didn’t expect anything from it, especially since I didn’t have any “professional” experience with cupcakes. But WEEKS later (this past Friday) I got a phone call from them asking me to come in for an interview the next day! I was ecstatic.

I think the interview went well on Saturday because they asked me to come in for a stauge (a working interview) the next day (Sunday – yesterday!). And they gave me some cupcakes to take home after the interview!

From the top left, clockwise: Strawberry (their April month flavor), Buttercup (their Vanilla flavor), Red Velvet, and Lemon Drop. I shared them immediately with my friends – which they LOVED!



At the stauge the next day I tried their Snickerdoodle flavor and Buttercup flavor (which are now my favorites!)

The stauge went really well. I love the environment – a kitchen with music playing, filled with friendly workers! They taught me how to make the frostings and icings, and also placing the cupcakes into boxes – which is NOT as easy as it sounds! You have to be really careful to not mess up the cupcakes. I made a couple fingerprints in a couple. =( I also zested and juiced a ton of oranges for the flavor of the month – Orangesicle!

They asked me to come in for another stauge tomorrow, which they said will be a little more weighty with me actually working with the cupcakes. I’m excited and I’m crossing my fingers that I get the position! I want to do something that I love.

Please cross your fingers for me as well! =)