Moving Forward

It has been months!
I’ve been mulling over what to post or when to post but nothing seemed that entertaining. Well over the time I’ve gathered a handful of skills and pictures to tell you about.

1- I became the pastry chef at the Bier Markt.

Their desserts are all made from scratch so I got to learn so many new recipes. To start, I had made dozens and dozens of litres of anglais mix. Out of that mix I made brulees, vanilla anglais, and coffee anglais.
Additionally there was waffles, gluten free chocolate cake, and cinnamon donuts.

2- As the pastry chef my inIMG_20151107_101526put was used often for different items; like if there was a dessert platter, or what to do for dessert samples.

During certain times I was even asked to bring in my own recipe to complete things.

 

 

3- New Years Eve was fun!

There was a special menu for New Years and my job was to get the desserts ready. From the photos above you can see Earl Gray cupcakes, chocolate dipped strawberries, zabaglione, and corn bread. Of course the corn bread was for a roast beer dinner.

4- I’ve been practicing cake decorating.

Over the past few months I’ve been practicing some decorating. This cake above I did recently. Vanilla with strawberry mousse filling. I’ve done some cupcakes, but never a whole cake and feel quite proud how well it turned out.

5- I want to become a professional pastry chef.

While working at the Bier Markt I decided I want to pursue my career in this direction and have been looking out for jobs in just baking. Turns out it’s not so easy. I’d like to go back to school but it is going to be a bit impossible for the next while, so instead I am trying to learn at home, and hopefully take some classes on decorating.

Wish me luck!

 

Quick Update

Well I haven’t done much at home. As many of you know, moving out can be taxing on the funds so our money is going more to furnishing the apartment then actually buying any supplies for my cooking goals.

On the other hand I have accomplished one of my many goals. This one being becoming an apprentice. Last Tuesday I submitted my application to be an apprentice by working under the head chef at the Bier Markt, and I am completely thrilled. Hopefully I hear something soon about what I need to do.

Honing My Skills

I apologize for how long it has taken me to return, my weeks have been very tiring.

To start, we moved to Mississauga without a hitch. Some thoughts I had on cities have changed, a little for the better and a lot for the worse. To start a tiny rant, I thought their transit system would run more smoothly, but in actuality it is more sporadic. Additionally, people either just push you out their way or say excuse me after half finished pushing you aside alreadt. The good has been the view from my apartment, how quick taxis arrive, and the ability to find a job.

For work, I am now garde manger at the Bier Markt on Queensway. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be offered the job considering I do not have a lot of experience, but they were very understanding of my enthusiasm to improve and took me on anyway. So far I have worked seven in a row and believe I am already improving to some extent. Wimpy’s helped give me the confidence to act without always second guessing myself, yet I do ask for help and advice when I am working on certain things.

The workplace is very free with their compliments to my work, such as plating the salads, but I sometimes worry that I seem to need frequent pats on the head. On the other hand, if my work was sloppy they wouldn’t hesitate to tell me since they want their guests to enjoy their meal, spread the good word, and return for more.

The team of people I work with in FOH and BOH are all very kind that I’ve seen so far. They are quick to introduce themselves and get my name, and say hello whenever we meet up that day. It really makes one feel part of the family. I feel very fortunate to be apart of the team.

Additionally there is more freedom than I expected. Yesterday I got to choose what fruit would be used to make the compote that accompanies the charcuterie board, and found out I could request different types of oysters to serve. To some that might not mean much, but to me I found it amazing.

As for the compote, I chose a peach mango mixture, with Stiegl Raddler reduced in the sauce. It is a fruity lager that helped compliment the sweetness of the fruit, but also give it a tasty kick. When I gave it a try I was actually tempted to grab another spoon for another bite. I hope the guests enjoy it along with their selection of meat and cheeses.

My further goals are to perfect my skills at my station. Today I made some mistakes during my prep by not getting some items done before service and having to quickly attempt to fix it during lunch, which in turn had my chef help and basically do the chore. I felt like an amateur but feel good now that I did not panic during the event and make it worse. I have another morning shift on Friday, so this time I plan to write down everything I need to do to keep up with service and complete it, then continue with the extras.

When I get a grip on my schedule I hope to go back to cake decorating. It’s not a cheap thing so I’ll have to wait until I get a full pay, but when I do I plan to make some pretty edibles.

Cooking Up A Job

Happy Moving Day!

I know it’s technically Canada Day, I can’t help but not feel too bothered. Today is just closed stores and loud fireworks for me while we head to Mississauga.

Any way, yes! I am cooking up a job! Sort of.

The past couple of weeks I have been sending my resume into job adverts that look interesting in helping me gain the experience I crave in cooking. I won’t go into much detail but I am hoping to be employed by the end of next week. My biggest desire would be to work somewhere I can gain Red Seal hours.

From now until an unknown date I do not have internet. It can wait but it sure makes finding the available jobs and their locations much easier.

Wish me luck. And hopefully the next time we meet I can tell you about my new culinary position.

Cute Little Pies

Well I have finished my employment at Wimpy’s.

I really am going to miss working with such a great group of people. There was days that the shift would fly by as we readied the fridges and cooked the dishes, just because we were chatting so happily. It will be a very fond memory.
Right now though I am free and felt like baking. Gathering a few ingredients with the help of my mother, and by help of my mother I mean she bought everything, I started up a quick project.

First off was mixed berry pie. I always make the dough first when I am making any sort of shell recipe, it’s great to get it prepared then chill in the fridge so the butter isn’t in too soft a state when you begin rolling it out. Next was the filling. We had grabbed mixed berries with cherries, I’ve always wanted to make a straight cherry pie with fresh cherries but they are very expensive even on sale. Anyway, using the frozen blueberry pie filling recipe from the textbook, I converted it down from needing 2000 grams of fruit to just 600. I’ve actually gotten very used to making fillings like this that require boiling the juice and thickening it with cornstarch so this process only took a few minutes to complete.
From there I mixed the thickened syrup in with the berries and popped it into the fridge to cool while I rolled out the pie dough. I had left over 6″ pie tins from Christmas, they’re very dinky, I mean these things make a two person pie. So to start I rolled out four shells with lids and proceeded to fill them with the berries, which was actually a great estimate since it was an exact fit.
My next concern after adding the lids was if I should cook the pies as long as a 9″ pie requires. I put it in the oven for the required 30 minutes and constantly checked through the glass while I rolled out shells for later use. Once the 30 minutes was up I was pleased to see it came out fine, then added a little icing sugar to the lid for decoration.


BerryPie Mixed berry pie complete.


I ended up with four of these little guys, and tried out the completed product once it had cooled down a little, I’ve burned my tongue way too many times. The pastry was flaky and soft, so I knew I hadn’t cooked it past the point that it would become hard and crunchy. Now I cannot say enough about the filling. I’m not a huge pie fan, give me cake any day. I find some fillings for pie are just too sweet, but this one came out beautifully. The berries gave the needed sweetness, but the combination of lemon juice and cherries helped add a tartness that complimented the dessert very well. I was quite pleased how it came out and proceeded to my next project.

By now my mother had come home from work and I proceeded to make cabbage rolls for supper. At Wimpy’s they had decided to make them for the Sunday special a few times just because the roast beef was losing popularity, so I asked my boss if she could show me how to make them next time and being an awesome lady she proceeded to show me the next week. It was actually a very simple recipe; cabbage, ground beef, cooked rice, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and pasta sauce.
What she had shown me and what I did this time, was boil the cabbage until the leaves were pliable to come off. And carefully using tongs take a leaf off at a time, when you come across a leaf that won’t budge, just let it simmer for a while longer until it can.
It ended up being a very quick process, and half a dozen cutely wrapped cabbage rolls later I was playing Euro Truck Simulator while they cooked in the oven for an hour. I myself am not a cabbage fan, but my mother said they tasted good and proceeded to eat three, with coleslaw..
Way too much cabbage.


CabbageRI apologize for the photo, I didn’t realize it was blurry till I uploaded it. Just don’t click for a better view.


Since I had pie shells leftover I went about making a lemon meringue pie. I’ve never done it before, not even the meringue, but felt quite confident I could pull it off.
Using the lemon filling recipe I found online I quickly went about making the pies. By now it was probably 10 p.m, but I was determined to get it done before going to bed.
Like the berry pie filling, it was a matter of boiling and thickening, the longest part was just zesting the two lemons. After the pie shells were done baking I filled them with the lemon which also was only going to make four. My assumption from now on that a recipe for one 9″ pie will make four 4″ pies.
Next came the meringue. I’ve done plenty of recipes that require constant whipping but I was quite surprised at how long it took to get the egg whites to foam to a hard peak. My mother even came over to give me some tips about when she had made meringue from scratch. Once it was finally complete with the added sugar I proceeded to spread the mixture over the pies. At first I was a little worried that the warm lemon mixture might melt the egg, but after completing one I realize it wasn’t going to happen and happily finished up.
So into the oven it went for the required ten minutes, which ended up being longer since the meringue hasn’t firmed. Once they came out I was happy to find they had a nice golden colour to them and came out fine. My mother even had one and said it tasted great.


LemonM2LemonM1


Funny enough I don’t eat any of these things, so yes, my mother is my constant tester. If my husband was here I would be forcing him to eat them too. Ever since school, baking has become more fun for me and I end up with better results. I feel the chefs have given me a better understanding of what I was doing

I imagine this will be the last food experimentation I post until I finally move. The fridge is packed full of pies and my equipment needs to get into a box.

Icing On The Cake

Cupcake to be exact.

Out of school I went straight to work. For a while it was a blast and really some great experiences, but the thing about school was I always was learning something new. With Wimpy’s the menu never changes, and for what it is that’s good, but you don’t take on any new challenges.

So back in April I decided I wanted to learn some new techniques. I’ve never been the best baker, but with school I’ve improved, additionally my icing ability was terrible! I am one of those people who would ice and end up with crumbs all over the place. At the time I didn’t care, but obviously now I do.

Back to April! I took up a Wilton unit kit, level 1.

Going through the kit I began to study cake decorating so that it may someday be handy for a few positions I am in. To start off, it teaches about the different firmness of icing and what stiffness you need for certain techniques. Currently my kit and supplies are packed away or I would go into more depth of what the items are called.

But I’ve got to say it was a really nifty lesson. If you have both the unit box and booklet (they come separately), you can learn about how to position your hands properly for the design you’re going for. Also in the box comes stencils to practice shapes on, such as leaves, dots, and stars. You simply squeeze onto the clear plastic then wipe away when done. It was extremely useful and fun to take up.

With things getting crazy, and the projects a little expensive, I haven’t been able to get through the whole book yet. Once settled I would like to give it a go once more, and possibly purchase the second unit. Who knows when I’ll need this skill but I’d rather have it in my portfolio than not try at all.

Out of all I did I only ended up with one photo. At the time I wasn’t even thinking about showing anyone but I hope you enjoy my first attempt at getting better.

Cupcake Decorating

The Wimpy’s Diner Experience

Till the day I received my job as a cook at Wimpy’s Diner, everything I did in the kitchen had been supervised. Now that might sound con straining, yet it was never like that. I went to culinary school to be looked over, to have my big mistakes corrected so that I could perfect my skills. Now finally in a restaurant as a cook I was free to put my teachings to use.

The first few days of my job were stressful for different reasons. The day I withdrew from school I began handing out my resume to every restaurant I could think of in Bowmanville. It was my ultimate goal that I would continue my education by working as a cook. Only a few hours after doing so I had an interview and schedule to start the next day with the understanding that I was being tested to see how I would work out.

With little sleep I returned to work to act on the breakfast shift. Using what I remembered from the breakfast class I had in my first year of school I dutifully worked, asked questions, and felt genuinely happy. It took a few days for me to ask my boss if I had the job and was humorously told that if I didn’t I wouldn’t have been asked to come back the second day.

And from there everything took off. Many things my chefs had taught me I brought out and used at work. Number one being that presentation was important, and would I want to eat it? Often I have had compliments from my kitchen mates and servers that the food looked delicious. I even have had compliments from guests through the server, and in person.

Other lessons have been hygiene and knowing how to keep the food in a risk free environment. Not that Wimpy’s has ever been dirty, but more of me personally keeping my shift safe. Meats cooked to the proper temperature, food stored at proper temperatures and recognizing when something has gone off when others haven’t.

Additionally, after telling my boss about the individual mousse cakes I had prepared in class, she asked me to bring some in to perhaps use in the restaurant. After bringing her three flavours (chocolate, white chocolate, and strawberry) she fell in love and asked me to prepare them for service.

These past seven months have been absolutely amazing at helping me develop my strengths in the kitchen. I am now more confident, better at planning ahead, and have been told by my general manager that she loves that I don’t panic. At school I often felt intimidated by other students as they listed off their experiences in the kitchen where I had none. Now I can fully understand what they meant and have my own stories to tell.

I feel extremely motivated to climb the ranks in my career. Currently I am not even an apprentice, but with my husband and I moving off to Mississauga I hope to get into a kitchen that will help further my skills, and eventually return to school to finish my culinary management diploma.

With boxes beginning to pile up, and items being pulled from the cupboard, there hasn’t been much opportunity to tackle any extensive recipes. My future goal is to continue following the Wilton cake decorating class and become adept with icing. I believe each talent I add to my list will help further my culinary career and bring me to my biggest goal; running my own restaurant.

Well thanks for reading my current status, once we are settled in Mississauga I am going to begin posting about my creations, and hopefully that of a kitchen I am working in. Wish me luck!

**Edit** I forgot to mention, though I left in my second year I did apply for my one year certificate. Least I got something until I return!

Executing A Lobster

Well I knew the time would come, but it seems to have come too soon. Next week in my lab we will all be taking on the task of killing a lobster.

I can’t say I am looking forward to it. When we dismantled the sheep and the pig they were already dead, I didn’t do the killing so it was easier to distance myself from the creature that still had a face. Now the crustacean will still be alive and we have a choice of two methods to do the deed.

One is to drop it into a pot of boiling water, the second is to use my knife at the back of its head. We’ve been told the knife method is the most humane so that is the way I’ll go about it but I am extremely nervous. I know as I place it on my cutting board it isn’t going to look at me tearfully and beg for its life, but it is still alive and I feel a little uncomfortable.

Welp, I guess it is something I am just going to have to get over. If I ever work in a nice kitchen that serves fresh lobster it is something I am going to have to get over, might as well learn it now in school where we are all fresh to the experience.

As for cooking lobster, this isn’t my first time.

Last term we were in groups for lab and lobster tail was one of the recipes a pair had to make. Chef said we wouldn’t actually be doing it, but the product came in so I requested to cook them as well as the recipe I was assigned. So my partner and I looked up a recipe and quickly made it along with fish and chips and it came out looking nice.


lobstertail lobstertail1


I’d fanned open the tails and since we didn’t have any little cups we had poured melted butter over the meat. We also learned that we should’ve opened the tail wider so the potential customer could see what they’ve purchased for meat even better. I’m not a fan but the rest of the class seemed to enjoy picking it apart.

Well anyways, I am counting down to lobster day, wish me luck!

The Smell Of Bread

Until I started my program I never enjoyed making bread. I made it once when I was younger and hated the flavour (turned out to be sourdough), and then my husband constantly kept making it with a bread maker we received for a wedding present, but those came out small and dense. Well today I decided I wanted to try making bread from home using what I learned from school, also fresh hot bread tastes the best!

For one, the ingredients are extremely easy for french bread. Yeast, salt, water, and bread flour. Metro doesn’t seem to sell fresh yeast so I ended up with instant yeast. Additionally, we have always had a proofer to activate the yeast so today I went with my mother’s suggestion of what she used to do which was cover the bowl with a moist cloth and put it on the oven with the heat on.

To start with I mixed the dough. Like the cookies from Thursday it was quite simple, just a matter of mixing the yeast with water and then pouring it into the salt and flour to begin kneading. The process didn’t take long since I only did half the recipe in case things didn’t turn out right.

Next I tried chef’s window test with the dough; which is taking a small ball of dough then pulling it apart till it is clear in the centre to check the gluten strands. After confirming there was strands, I think, I proceeded to let the dough rest in the bowl with a damp tea towel over top with the oven set to 400.

I was a little nervous this method may not work and maybe I had just wasted the ingredients, but about 30 minutes later I checked the dough and was surprised to find the dough had in fact grown larger.

Once the dough had doubled I then proceeded to roll out the shapes I wanted. I decided to go for a classic baguette, and then some mini ones that I could add meat to for lunches this coming week. For the baguette I weighed out 350 g, and for the mini ones 120 g. I tried to remember the tips that chef had given us to roll out nice baguettes, like once they were rolled to large rectangles fold in the left and right edge by a couple of centimeters which would help with tapering the ends when they were completely rolled.

Again I let them sit for a bit to expand and popped them into the oven. About 15 minutes later everything was finished baking and I was surprised how well they turned out.


FrenchBread2


As you can see the scouring on the top one didn’t come out wonderfully, but the bottom one looks good. Chef’s tip on folding the edges really did help making the ends look better while I was also glad to see I added the right amount of instant yeast to the mixture.


FrenchBread1


Another thing I learned is to not eat the hot bread that comes right out the oven. Apparently the yeast is still doing stuff and it is going to make your tummy feel sick after a while. Well this is why I called it food experimentation, to learn as I go.

Anyways, the recipe is simple and cheap, and making half a batch each Sunday could also supply me with sandwich supplies for the week. So if you’re feeling a little unsure whether or not to try making bread at home, remember all you need is:

875 g of warm water
45 g of fresh yeast or 17 g of instant dry yeast
1500 g of bread flour
30 g of salt

1. Mix the yeast in with the warm water, then pour it into a bowl with the flour and salt.
2. Using your hand, mixing everything together and once combined plop it onto the counter and continue kneading it for a few minutes. You’re kind of looking for a smooth texture.
3. Place the dough back into the bowl, if desired rub the top with a little oil. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and place it on an oven top on high heat. Let sit for about an hour or until doubled in size.
4. Once done roll into the shapes that you want for bread, like a baguette.
5. Again let sit until it has grown larger.
6. Bake at 400 F for about 10 minutes then continuously check until it has turned slightly golden and no longer has a doughy gray look.

Well I hope that was insightful and that you too will try making your own delicious bread.