Saturday, December 11, 2010

My First Gingerbread House "Up"

I have been locked away over the fast few weeks working like crazy to finish my first gingerbread house. It's the "Up" house from the pixar film of the same name. I love the film, very sweet and quirky. And the house has colors and textures that looked like a heap of fun to make. I used the plans from the amazing "Themodelmaker" at I scaled the model x6, then I cut it out of paper to form a template. I then made a foam backed version so I could see where things fitted and whether I needed to make some adjustments. After that I made the gingerbread from a recipe that I thought was pretty sturdy (no eggs, or chemical learners just flour, molasses, spices, veggie shortening) - I made the recipe x 6. It was a crazy amount of dough. Then I traced the templates over the dough and cut them out. Baked the gingerbread off and then let it cool completely before I even attempted to put it together.

Slowly, and I mean seriously slowly Josh and I put the house together (over a series of 3 days) and then I made masses of sugar paste decor for the house. This is what took a ton of time, you have to color it, shape it, texturize it (if you need to) and then let it dry for two days. Then came the assembly, which was the fun bit. I used Alton Brown's Royal icing recipe which
stood the test of time (and cement-ability). and that's it.
A fun, and yet epic amount of work, but I'm pretty pleased with the results! We are auctioning off the house at work and donating the money to a charity. So hopefully it works out!

A shout out to the awesome and incredibly talented 'themodelmaker' and Don Shank who's amazing pictures I stared at for three weeks, attempting to get the details right. Just a beautiful house (see Don at:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My love affair with tomatoes

I had a ton of tomatoes this year - seriously I filled up a massive bag with them and sorted them out between the "green" bag and the "red" bag. I actually love the idea of using green tomatoes in cooking. The idea that something doesn't have to be just about the awesome flavor that comes from a beautifully ripe tomato, but that it can also be about the blandness (think eggplant) and about the texture.

I made a whole lot of green tomato salsa this year out of the green tomatoes, and as I'm far too paranoid to can tomatoes I gave the majority of the salsa away (it was pretty awesome go here: Image005/09/saving-harvest-green-tomato-relish.html for the recipe - she calls it a relish, I figure as I'm foreign and have no clue about the difference between a salsa and a relish I am hereby renaming it a salsa).

With all the lovely red ripe (sometimes VERY ripe) tomatoes I decided to slowly roast them with some garlic and onions, salt and pepper and make a simple red sauce with them. Out of this I made pizza sauce, and a simple pasta sauce. Man I love having a P-patch.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mushrooms aka mushies

It's mushroom season over here! It is amazing the variety and the amazing flavors that different mushies imbibe.

Josh and I went mushy hunting on Saturday (at a undisclosed location) and it was amazing. We went a couple of times last year but failed pretty badly at finding any edible (and tasty edible) mushies. This year however was different, we found some amazing lobster mushies (which as we are on the West coast are edible) and also some beautiful chanterelles.

Lobster mushies are actually a mushrooms being consumed by a parasite. They are incredibly bright (hence easy spotting) and really crispy mushrooms. The few I found I cooked down with a ton of butter, shallots and thyme and put them with some gruyere and a simple thyme custard for a tasty quiche. The lobsters do keep their density, they are quite a bit "toothy" and a smidge crunchy, you know they are there. Their flavor is pretty subtle, but they go up a few notches in my books simply because we went out and found them (note that we did get our mushies verified by an expert).

The chanterelles were beautiful as well, yet not half as vibrant as the lobsters. They smell floral/fruity and we noticed that when we found one - we found quite a few others. Josh is going to go hunting next week again, so maybe we'll have another bounty!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


This year we had a p-patch. Which, for those of you who don't know is a plot of land designated by someone to be a plot of land in which the public can grow things o - for people who can't have a garden. It was both a success and a disaster. We had broccoli raab, lovely red onions, tomatoes of three heirloom varieties, leeks, lovely carrots and a multitude of other things that sort of well, grew unencumbered. It's our first year, I'm sure it'll get better, as I do intend to have another p-patch next year. But, we did have a TON of tomatoes. Some rather ripe ones. So I quickly went about washing, halving and olive oiling them so that they could be slowly roasted (along with a ton of garlic and some yellow onions). I made a lovely sauce that will last through the winter months.

I'm ashamed to say I don't have picts of our P-patch, but I hope you imagine it to be a lovely jumble of plants growing like crazy!

Cripes! It's been ages! I think it's hard to gain momentum when it's been such a loooonnnggg time between posts. I have been baking (of course!). But I haven't been documenting what I bake. Here - this ends!

We had a few turbulent months that involved a couple of house moves and so I think we are fairly settled here, and so I have finally found the camera and am starting to document the whole baking thing once more.

The markets didn't work out this summer, but I do intend to try again next year, as I feel that I really want to bake food my way, in season and for only the lovely part of the year (sunny!). I did however, get a job at an awesome local chocolate shop, so I am making chocolates and learning a whole lot and in my spare time I'm playing with baking.

I'm back. I'll keep documenting what I bake, we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chef of the Day (COD)

Chef of the Day or as the kids like to call it COD is our final project at school. We have to make 6 items and present them to our 3 chefs who then judge each item as well as our table set up. The items we have to make are:
A tart
A cake
A bread
A breakfast pastry
A chocolate
A plated dessert

It was a tough call - but a fun project. I think like any obsessive person I began thinking about this project the first quarter I started at school. I wanted something
simple and clean, using good local products if possible (although as it is winter quarter - there isn't a whole lot of produce available... and I don't know how a cabbage cake would work out...)
So my menu was:

Cake - A Honey Yoghurt Baklava Cake. Last quarter I tried making this cake that had this really tart, zesty mousse on top of a muesli base. It was pretty gross actually - so savory it was basically plain yoghurt on top of muesli. So I jazzed up the mousse a bit, added fireweed honey as my invert sugar used this amazing honey flavored greek yoghurt and added more milk chocolate to the mousse, and it worked really well.
Underneath that mousse I have a praline layer (basically
hazelnut, sugar and a smidge of salt), this layer melts, creating a type of syrup, rather than a crunch to the cake. It's the layer of caramel color that you see beside the cake. Under this there is a toasted sesame bavarian layer.I simply toasted sesame seeds, roughly ground them and then steeped them in hot milk for half an hour.Then there is the final layer, a roasted walnut sponge cake with a ed honey sponge.

I was really happy with this cake - it had the tang that I wanted from the yoghurt, the richness of the honey and the warmth of the sesame seeds and walnut.

Tart - An onion tart. This is a savory tart
made with a red wine onion confit (local syrah used), with a strong and seriously ripe muenster cheese, a creme fraiche custard, thyme and potatoes. It's a pretty pungent tart, made for small slices and best eaten when slightly warm.

Bread - the miche. This was such a beautiful bread - how could I not make it?

A breakfast pastry - Simple whole wheat croissants with a preferment. I love these croissants, so buttery, slightly sweet and slightly nutty. They are also slightly larger than your normal croissant (3oz as opposed to 2.5oz) which I have to say appeals to me as well. Just what I want for breakfast.

Chocolate - This is my beehive. It's a buckwheat honey ganache filling (the honey is from a local apiary) and a liquid honey center (which is simply
buckwheat honey). It has a milk chocolate covering. For those who don't really know buckwheat honey the descriptions I get when people smell/taste it are: horse, hay, farm. It's an incredibly earthy, natural taste which pairs brilliantly well with the warmth of milk chocolate.

Plated Dessert - This is a goat cheese cheesecake made with creme fraiche. It is covered in hazelnut toffee - so it has this earthy, nutty, crunchy texture/flavor. The sauce is a caramel blood orange sauce. The sorbet is a grapefruit and Gewurtztraminer (from a local winery) sorbet and it sits atop a rosemary sucree.

So that's it.

It's been so very draining, I didn't do a whole lot of baking outside of school because I was so intent on figuring out the baked goods for school.

Sorry once again!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Future

As always I'm apologizing for being so incredibly slack with the posts of late. I have been baking (it's been the holidays how could I not) I just have been in such a rush to bake them off that I failed to take any picts of them.

It's my final quarter at school. I have to say that I'm looking forward to finishing, but am nervous about the "what do I do once I've finished?" I've decided to start my own business.

I've been working towards it for quite some time, mostly filling out forms and doing a whole lotta paper work, but once school is finished I intend to make this business my career.

I want to sell baked goods at two local farmers markets in the upcoming farmers market season (May - October). I plan on using local ingredients sourced from the vendors at the markets and making things such as fresh tarts (I love making tarts both savory and sweet), some breads, maybe some doughs (such as whole wheat croissants I don't have a sheeter so they'll all be hand rolled) and maybe some confiture (jams) as the seasons progress.

It's going to be a solo endeavor. Just me, both making and selling, and it's going to be a whole lotta work. I'm not expecting to earn a lot of money (who does as a baker right?) but enough to support my passion to bake.