Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sometimes God just says "Sit down, crazy!"

If you read my last post you noticed I have a dinner party tonight. Well, in the midst of my overachieving prep the kitchen sink clogs. I'm not sure how this happened because I'm VERY careful what I put down the drain: no potato peels, eggshells, citrus rinds, coffee grounds or other foreign objects that are on the "no no" list. Sometimes I think things happen because God looks down and says "STOP. You're going overboard. Who cares if you don't have tuiles for the top of your dessert? You don't have to make empanada wrappers yourself; go buy real ones at the latin market down the street. Your friends are coming to see YOU, not the food."


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Oh God! The garnish! I forgot the garnish!

Hosting a dinner party is no easy task when your friends are expecting greatness. Well, it's kinda easy because I'm willing to spend days working on it, but here's my latest delimma:

Hosting a Bunco party in two days. The theme is "New York." Dinner was easy - street foods from all over the city. But as a pastry school grad, dessert really needs to be something special. Got it! Individual New York cheesecakes with a spiced apple and caramel compote and raspberry coulis. Easy. Now, what to do for the height to make it really spectacular?

Idea #1: A red tuile cookie in the shape of an apple. Amazing, right? But stencil. Can I really cut an apple shape out of cardstock and make it look good? Yikes.

Idea #2: A great tall sugar comet or other shape. But sugar doesn't hold well, and I won't have time to make them all during the party. Plus no way to get isomalt to make sure it's foolproof.

Idea #3: A beautiful chocolate free-form garnish. Oh, wait, that requires tempering chocolate. Nevermind.

Do you see? Drama. Crisis. Mass hysteria. Why is my life so hard?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Halloween. I'm not crafty, I'm just clever.

Ah, as we enter the end of September, the fun holidays begin. Halloween, my fav, is just around the corner, followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas. A food lover's dream, and my bank account's nightmare.

This year, since the husband and I are both in new jobs, we can't exactly ask for these coveted holidays off. Halloween is typically a huge affair for us; hundreds of dollars and months of work poured into completely unique costumes that are then shown off at the West Hollywood Costume Carnival. But since I'll probably be working that evening (and he the morning after) we have decided to pour that money into decorating the house, since we actually have a house to decorate this year. The theme? The Nightmare Before Christmas, of course.

Problem #1: I'm a chef, not a seamstress. Sure I can hand-stitch what I need to when a costume requires it, or when I did theatre in college and needed to help sew someone into a costume between scenes, but to create elaborate decorations? Hmm.

Problem #2: I'm a chef, not an artist. My painting skills are limited, though what I can do is pretty nifty. So there will not be giant stand-up cutouts of Jack Skellington, but maybe I can make the "days till Xmas" clock. Hmm again.

I'll post pics as we go along, but we've both got some clever ideas to decorate the way we want, without having to enlist an army to assist.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Does a cookie count for dinner if it's the same amount of calories?

The more I'm trained on the job, the more I'm taking on. It's great, except that I'm not fast enough to be able to do things like, you know, eat. Today I had a whopping four minutes to sit down while waiting for the pastries to come out of the oven, so I grabbed what was ready in the store. We make this awesome chocolate cookie with dark and white chocolate chunks and macadamia nuts. I'm not usually a fan of chocolate cookies or white chocolate, but this sucker is gooood. And since it has about 400 calories, that's a meal, right?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The World Bursts Into Flames At 5 am

In the last five weeks, since I have been on the night shift at the bakery, I have seen three separate incidents of fire.

Incident #1: A structure fire down the street from our bakery. A strip mall burst into flames, probably because of the thrift store at the end. Nothing burns like cheap furniture and polyester.

Incident #2: A brush fire at the 91 / 605 fwy interchange. Brush fires aren't anything new here in Southern California, however this was on a wedge of grass between two freeways and a parking lot. How did this happen?

Incident #3: This morning, something large was on fire in the Cerritos area off the 91 fwy. It was far enough away on the freeway I couldn't see it, but large enough I was thankful to be away from it.

My husband tells me fires are more common at night because no one is around to see them, stop them, and report them before they completely consume whatever is around them.

I continue to be amazed at the things I find out living on the other side of the clock.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who F%&ked With My Meez?!?!?

I believe I have found a career in which my anal-retentive organizational skills are not only acceptable, but encouraged and applauded. It is also, by the way, perfectly acceptable to completely freak out if someone "moves your cheese," or in my case, my bench scraper.

Your "meez," ladies and gentleman, is your mise en place, and is your lifeline. This is your setup, your station, your mecca. Every line cook, pastry chef, baker, and decorator has their own meez, and woe unto you if you do anything to come between them and the perfect meez. Everything is in order, in the same order, so you never have to think about what you're reaching for; it's just there. Always. The fastest way to incur the wrath of anyone in the food service industry is to mess with their station.

So what happened, you ask? Nothing huge. Except I came back from my days off and bins were put back in the "wrong" order, one of the bench scrapers was missing (yes, I need two), and I couldn't find a scoring knife ANYWHERE. My question is this: what do day shift line cooks and cashiers need a bench scraper and a scoring knife for?? Certainly not anything they're intended for. When you're in the middle of panning up one set of bread, pulling another out of the proof box, and watching the bake on another set of bread, I don't have the time to go wandering around the kitchen looking for something that should be in my drawer where I left it.

People, you don't touch someone's tools. Would you walk into a mechanic's shop, pick up a tool, use it for something it's not intended for, and then put it back in a different place? Please think of us like this. We're like mechanics, if mechanics actually had to fix your car within a few hours.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Is it weird to have a drink at 6 am, and not be in Vegas?

After a full evening of sourdough breads; cinnamon raisin, honey wheat, white, rye, whole grain, asiago cheese, and sesame breads; foccacia; cibatta; various bagels, pastries, and breakfast sweets; cookies; brownies; and baguettes; I could really use a drink. It's just a little weird that it's 6 am. Do I have a screwdriver or bloody mary, to make it more socially acceptable? Am I really craving a glass of cab sav right now? Or do I just cut to the chase, take two Tylonol PM and call it a night?

The sun's coming up, so that's a nice view from our porch, but our new little beach house is on a lovely road that's perfect for riding your bike, running before work, or walking the dog. Is that really the impression I want to make to the new neighbors? "Good morning! Yes, I am drinking at 6 am in my bathrobe. Enjoy your run before work!"

Maybe I can placate them with a cinnamon roll? Ten bucks says they'll take it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Umm...I bake?

I'm never sure how to answer the following exchange with people I meet:

Them: "So what do you do?"
Me: "I'm a baker for [insert company name here]."
Them: Oh wow, that's cool! What do you do there?"
Me: "...Umm...I bake?"

I don't want to be a smart alack and answer with the above response, but I'm not sure what information they're after. Do they want a detailed list of each product we make? Or maybe a play-by-play of the proofing process and shaping of our sourdoughs? Or do we ask this question automatically because so many people have obscure job titles like "Consumer Marketing Specialist?"

I certainly can understand why people get confused with titles like the one mentioned above. But my job title is the noun of the action verb that encompasses my job. I bake. I am baking. I am a baker. I put things in ovens and they come out yummy.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Never trust a baker!

We're sleep-deprived, foot-sore perfectionists on some sort of combination of caffeine and complex carbohydrates.

It's been nine months, and no, there is no significance to the number of months it's been since I began blogging. I simply underestimated the amount of time school, work, and commuting between the two would take, leaving no time for something as trivial as blogging (that, and the sad realization I only had nine followers).

Here's the gist of what happened: School stayed the same and was fun, slightly challenging, and inspiring. Work continued to spiral out of control, culminating with me doing the job of at least two people, nothing like what I had been hired on to do in the first place, for a manager who couldn't seem to manage her personal life and brought all the emotions and attitude into work with her. After more than five years, I quit. My husband and I swallowed our pride and moved in with my parents for what was supposed to be two months, and ended up being five. I graduated at the top of my class with high honors, a crappy internship, and then landed a great job at a high volume chain bakery. We moved out of my parents' house and into our own little corner of paradise: a turn-of-the-century beach house one block from sunny Southern California's beaches.

So why resume blogging now? A few reasons. Firstly, I have thoughts. Ideas. I'm not sure if they will interest anyone except my parents and my best friend who lives across the country, but for the nine of my loyal followers, this is what's going on. Secondly, I used to be a writer. I miss it. I was good; I even stayed away from descriptive words like "good." I figure it can't hurt to get in a little bit of practice. And finally, sometimes my life is just funny. Weird, strange, sporadic, and funny.

Thanks for reading. Going forward I will assume for every follower I have, there are 50 of you reading and not following. Thanks to all 450 of you.