Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bring your father to work day and first day baking bread!!

December 29, 2010

I had a dream last night. I was in the kitchen at school. The school was deserted. It was my first day baking bread by myself. For some reason, another one of the chefs was there helping me measure out flour. Before I knew it, he was helping me put the bread in the oven. After a few dream minutes (which translate into, what - hours?), when the bread was supposed to be ready for service time at the restaurant, I realized two things. First, that I never turned on the ovens. Second, that I never ‘proofed’ the bread (the term proof refers to the amount of time you need to let the dough rise before shaping it and eventually baking it. Typically you need to proof the bread 3 times before baking it, a process that can take up to 9 hours in total. Embarrassingly enough, for the first month of learning to bake bread, I thought proofing was poofing, a term that in the Lobley family is synonymous with farting. Fart was considered a swear word in our household, so we use to have to replace it with words like poof, fluff, toot and other terms that easily could have gotten me beaten up if I used them in public. In any case, all of the notes I took on baking bread say poof instead of proof. If I cared enough about my intellectual image, I would go through my notes and correct each mistake just in case anyone ever saw it. Apparently laughing in spite of myself is much more attractive to me, so the notes will stay as is! Funnily enough, I actually discovered the proper word by accident when I was putting the bread into the proofer machine (yes, one of those exists) and had the pleasure of reading the word p-r-o-o-f-e-r spelled out nicely for my blonde self. I sighed and laughed when I saw it, thinking, “Typical, Lauren – typical!” ).

Wow, did I ever digress! Anyway, somehow (we’re still in my dream) the bread baked without the heat generated from the ON button, and it tasted and looked great despite not being poofed – I mean proofed at all!

Coincidentally (but not really), in real life, today happens to be my first day baking bread by myself! A joyous occasion, for certain. It is even more joyous because my dad is here! He flew in last night for some much needed family time, so I decided and do solemnly now declare today to be (drum roll please) – bring your father to work day (in my best game show host voice)! It’s 7am – off we go!

7 hours later...

I did it! I baked bread for the first time by myself! Success! The baguettes could have had a bit more taste, something I will rectify tomorrow (perhaps less yeast and the addition of a secret ingredient?). I also need to work on my shapes, because some of my baguettes looked like they had seen better days. As for the fruit and nut bread, it was great! Check me out below :) I feel like Kevin James in Hitch, "Once you start it, you can’t stop it!" 

Sydney - making me some crepes after a 'hard' day's work! Thanks, Sydney!

See that beige stuff on the side? That's what fresh yeast looks like. You have to keep it separate from the salt, which is on the other side of the bowl, until just before you mix it. Otherwise, the salt will kill the yeast and your bread won't rise - no bueno!

Papa Lobley - um....I don't think he's having very much fun at "Bring Your Father To Work" Day!


Weighing the dough so that each loaf is even!

Smacking the air out of the dough so it has a nice, even texture, free of air bubbles!

Rolling out the baguettes!

Putting the baguettes in the proofer!!

The fruit and nut bread, rising on the table. Check out my view of the city!!

Cutting slits in the baguettes so they look pretty!


My school! This is the restaurant downstairs where I also work sometimes.


Under those towels is San Francisco sourdough bread, rising (proofing :) )

And this is what it looks like after it's baked!

All in a day's work!

Chef Ben showing us how to flambe - Yummy!

Onward to day 2 – part deux – tomorrow!

Have a lovely day!!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?

Merry Christmas, friends!!

If you don’t know this about me, next to Thanksgiving, Christmas is my favorite holiday. Not because of the presents (although I must say, I really love getting re-stocked with the shampoo, conditioner, and other important drug store items that Santa fills my stocking with every year), but because of all the love. I’m a sucker for love at any time of year, but at Christmas, I’m even more touched by it (I even get teary eyed when James Cann in Elf starts belting out Christmas carols near the end of the movie as Santa’s sleigh flies up from behind him – he believes, people – he really believes!!! … SANTA!!!! I know him!!! - sorry - once you get me quoting Elf I can't stop - it's a problem...or is it?).

This year, I am away from my family for the holidays. I can be sad about it, but I choose not to be. I choose to look at my life and think of all the things I am grateful for: the fact that I even have a family that loves me and whom I love very much, a boyfriend who brings so much happiness, love and laughter to my life that it should be illegal, friends who I love dearly who enrich my life, light it up, and teach me new things everyday, a roof over my head, food in my fridge, the ability to go after my goals and dreams, and, well, the gift of life!

Other things that make me happy at Christmas?

The magic of hearing my favorite Christmas songs on the radio. I start listening to Christmas carols on the all Christmas radio stations in November every year, eagerly awaiting the first notes of any of these 3 songs: Stevie Wonder’s Someday at Christmas and One Little Christmas tree (every time my brother and I hear these songs, we both get really silent and teary eyed), and I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas, a new favorite. I also like All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey (I may have done a killer job lip-synching that one last night in the mirror, dancing around using my mascara as my microphone – it might have happened, just saying…).

Anyway, I had heard all of them this year except for the Hippopotamus song – until this morning. I was about to shut the radio off and head out the door when it happened. I heard the first note and knew it was the song. I plopped myself down on the floor and just listened, smiling like an idiot and singing along to it. It was a magical two and a half minutes :) My family may be in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Egypt, my boyfriend may be in New York, but I just heard the Hippopotamus song – life is grand :) Magic is all around us, people - you just have to find the eyes to see it!

So with chocolate peppermint sandwich candy cane cookies baked, and a Christmas dinner with an old friend from law school to get to, I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. May your day be filled with love and laughter, and may the magic of Christmas never stop feeding the child who will live forever inside you.

                                       One of the best Christmas gifts ever!

                  Making chocolate peppermint sandwich candy cane cookies - a holiday tradition!


Hm...maybe if I watch them bake, they will bake faster!


                                  The finished product!

The message on a reusable bag my Aunt gave me - she knows me well!! Life IS good!

Love always,


December 22, 2010

My favorite musician in L.A, Brother Sal, has a song called Broke and Busted. As I do all of his songs, I really like this one, and often find myself singing along to it, pretending I’m some great jazz singer belting it out to a pleased crowd. I never thought I was going to be able to relate to the theme of the song so much - until last night

Yesterday evening, I was finally able to meet my dearest friend, Coco, for tea at the local Starbucks. Both of us in the same broke state, and me being without cash and only with visa (I literally had pennies and nickels in my wallet, and not enough to even make $0.50), I told Coco I would treat. She didn’t argue (she often extends this very gesture to me), and chose a $0.75 cinnamon twist. I chose a $1.60 chai tea. After tax, we were looking at $2.36.

Two dollars and thirty six cents.

All I could think was, “Lauren – you don’t even have enough change to make $2.36 in your wallet??”

I turned to Coco and laughed as I urged her, “Come on, girl, get something bigger than that! I can’t charge $2.36 to my Visa….can I?” This last part was directed at our trusty barista, who informed me that I could indeed charge such a ghastly amount to my visa.

Shut the front door!

“It’s ok,” I assured our Starbucks friend, “Coco and I will be laughing about this very moment when we are sitting on our patios overlooking the ocean in Malibu 2 years from now.” We laughed. He laughed awkwardly, no doubt to be polite (and now that I think of it, maybe on account of being scared that we might rob him….lol), definitely thinking we were crazy. If he only knew.

It’s funny, and I’m laughing, but behind my smile and disbelieving laugh I feel that ugly lump forming in my throat and tears threatening to escape from my eyes as they burn them.

How did I get here?

Coco and I attempted to answer that very question, and continued with a conversation over concerns about how on earth we were both working 40 hours a week and not able to meet month’s end expenses, much less afford a cup of tea from Starbucks, or a $0.75 cinnamon stick, for that matter. This city seems to be at a standstill in terms of employment at present. Trust me. I’ve been dropping my resumes off to restaurants (the only place conducive to a full time school schedule) around the city for the past 3 months. I keep coming up empty, a state my bank account is fast approaching. I’m about to pass go and I won’t be collecting $200!

I digress. After our tête-à-tête, Coco left me at Starbucks for a meeting she had already committed to, and promised to return to get me later to whisk me away to her mom’s house for dinner. After a series of events in search for working internet and a bathroom that was actually in service, events that I can only label as the universe testing my nerves and will and that had me muttering profanities like, “Son of a nutcracker!” to myself, I ended up at a Starbucks 5 blocks away from the one where Coco had left me an hour earlier. She appeared like my knight in shining armor in her white mini cooper, complete with her beautiful mama in the backseat, and off we went to her house.

Mama Coco fed us, and we sat around and chatted about life. My favorite comment of the night was when Coco and I were recounting our having to charge $2.36 to my visa, and she said, “The funny thing is that it wasn’t like we had to charge it because we forgot our cash at home.” There was no need to finish this thought. I was already doubled over in laughter.

And that’s just it, friends. Sometimes, there is nothing left to do but laugh. When I sat down to write this entry 10 minutes ago, Coldplay’s Don’t Panic came on – that’s kind of funny, right?

Ha. Ha…ha.

Seriously, though, there is a reason I am here in Vancouver, determined (to a fault?) to acquire the knowledge I need to make my bakery the best it can be, and to be the best pastry chef I can be by learning from the best pastry chefs in town (now I feel like I’m starting to sound like an add for the army – be all you can be! They do pay for school, though…hm….just kidding).

The universe is just throwing me some curve balls to see if I can handle them – to see if I can stand the heat in the pastry kitchen or if I need to get out (you do all know that I make really corny jokes sometimes – or rather - often – right?)!!

Well bring it on, universe, because I’m IN! I’ve taped that receipt to my mirror to remind me of my goal, and I will keep it until the day I die – a silent but powerful reminder of where I came from, and how hard I worked to get to this vision: of me and Coco, sitting on my patio in Malibu, dipping our homemade cinnamon twists in our chai tea, the waves of the ocean crashing against the earth as we talk about that night at Starbucks - the night that will forever go down in history as the night that I charged $2.36 to my credit card, the night that we discovered laughing was a far better choice than crying. We will laugh so hard that we will cry…or something like that.

Yours truly (and a little broken but still standing),


*Important note to my readers:

I wrestled with the decision to post this or not, again, because I really don’t want to come across vulnerable, or that I’m in a dark place. I am vulnerable. I am not in a dark place. I’m in a challenging place for certain. It’s scary, but it’s not dark. It’s hopeful. I realize, though, that if I keep the intimate moments from you like the one outlined above, then the idea to capture my journey through pastry school would be rendered completely inauthentic.

In my first vulnerable post, I made mention of the fact that there will inevitably be bumps along the road to achieving our goals. Well, I’ve decided to share (almost) all of those bumps with you. So in addition to my authentically excited updates about libraries, pastries, school and other magical moments, expect more of me, stripped away of my “looking good” listening and speaking – raw, bare – just me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Knowledge is Power

Hello friends!

I’m sitting upright in my cozy bed in my very cozy apartment in Vancouver, computer on my lap, staring out the window in awe that Mother Nature has decided to make it sunny here today – well, at least partly cloudy. I’ll take it!!

I took a magical trip yesterday! I went to the Vancouver Public Library. Wow, I forgot how much I love libraries. All those books, all that information, all that knowledge just waiting to be learned – it’s so inspiring (reading has always been something that exhilarates me and renews me in a way I cannot quite explain)!  Before I knew it, I was traipsing through the 6 floor building, arms piled with 12 books (and as a first time borrower, I was limited to 10 – darn). It wasn’t long before I found myself sitting on the floor in front of the books about yoga, legs appropriately crossed as I read through the different titles, backpack and pile of books on either side of me. 

I left the library after an hour and a half, armed with 10 books: 5 on cooking and gluten free baking (including the story of Ace of Cakes and Duff Goldman, who I met Thursday night at an apron signing – so fun!), 2 on yoga and its origins, 1 on travel (To Timbuktu for a Haircut: A Journey Through West Africa, a book by a spirited Canadian author named Rick Antonson, who I had the pleasure of meeting last Friday), and 2 on business to help me plan Delectable You’s first bakery. I also left having been able to use the internet (something I am not equipped with in this cozy apartment – a flaw or a blessing?), where I learned of an intensive, 8 week pastry program in France – the country known to be the best in show for all things food and pastry. I’m 90% convinced I will be adding this education to my roster in 2011, and promise to keep you informed!

I also experimented with making crème caramel for the first time in my life yesterday. As the Christmas tunes belted out of my little clock radio, I warmed up sugar and realized as the red spatula started melting into the now brown caramel, leaving a trail of red plastic, that sugar gets really really hot. Oops. I managed to get caramel that was now hardening, all over my pants, shirt, Charm City Cakes apron (thanks, Duff), and floor. True to my blonde roots, and clearly not thinking, I threw the spatula contaminated batch of hot caramel into the garbage so I could start again. As you guessed (and as anyone with half a brain would have guessed), the caramel burned through the thin plastic garbage bag. Oops again. I watched it happen, realizing as I poured it that it would, and laughed at myself (I often find I’m laughing at myself – I have a lot of good material!). Oh Lauren. Hey – I’m nothing if not interesting!

In the end, the custard itself ended up tasting great, but I still need to work on the caramel and the presentation. Work in progress – just like me! Stay tuned for an update. 

Finally, in adventures with Lauren for the week, I went to the other most magical place on earth: The all you can eat chocolate buffet at The Sutton Place Hotel. Yes, friends, such a place exists, and I found it. I came, I saw, I conquered, and now I’ve banned myself from chocolate until January 30, 2011. That should give my system enough time to recover :)

I leave you now with some food for thought: a quote from To Timbuktu for a Haircut:

For each of us there are two destinies. One is the destiny you pursue. The other is the destiny that pursues you.”


Have a glorious day, friends!

Love always,


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Final week of the first quarter, and finding beauty in breakdown!

Paul McCartney is simply having a wonderful Christmas time, and as I listen to him belt out his familiar Christmas tune, I simply cannot believe I am in my final week of my first quarter of pastry school!

Among other things, I have learned how to make the 5 mother sauces that are the base for all sauces (this includes the ever famous hollandaise sauce, people!), stocks, which are considered the base of cooking period, how to truss a chicken and fabricate a cut of beef (no easy task for a vegetarian), how to poach an egg, a piece of chicken, and a piece of fish, the many things you can make in a deep fat fryer (Paula Deen would be so proud – if by some miracle you don’t know her, please google her – she is an experience not to be missed!), how to fillet a fish (yup – I filleted a whole trout, friends – head and all!) and how to braise and stew.

I’ve learned that when you pour bleach down a drain, you actually end up introducing 5 new bacteria that you then inhale – no bueno! I’ve learned that you should keep your toothbrush away from the bathroom, because when you flush that toilet, vapors (and the particles in them) spray 2 meters – perfect range for your toothbrush – yum!

I learned that Mario Batali dropped out of cooking school and learned the tricks of his trade working for 2 years in Italy, and opened his first restaurant with only $50 000!

I’ve learned how to bake bread, croissants and danishes. I’ve learned that if I don’t work out 6 times a week after sampling these dishes, my butt grows exponentially!

Over the course of the last 3 months, I’ve also learned a lot about myself. In addition to pastry school, I work 3 jobs, have started a goal setting group for students at school which I lead every other Monday night, have become a level 1 certified ski instructor with the CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance), and have 3 other food certifications including Food Safe (this means I am certified in keeping your food safe in addition to tasty) and serving it right (this means I know when to cut you off when I think you are drinking too much!).

In 2011, I will be the pastry chef at and am helping to plan an event called Dished, a culinary fundraiser that will raise funds for Imagine1day, a charitable organization that helps build schools for children in Ethiopia (more information to come), will be giving yoga and cooking lessons ($20 for yoga, $50 for the cooking class, or $60 for both), and will be the main baker of bread and pastries for the school restaurant and other campus!

Am I tired? Yes! Has this new career path been easy? No! Have I been scared? Yes! Have I broken down a few times as a result? You bet (sobbing tears – good stuff!)! Have I had to re-evaluate my goals to make sure I was still truly doing what I wanted to do? Hell yeah! (the answer was YES – I am so happy to be in pastry school, and cannot WAIT to open my bakery in Santa Monica!). Do I like to admit this vulnerable, messier side in my pursuit of my goals? Heck no! But you know what? I think it’s important that you know – even in our quest to do right by our goals, and to stay true to ourselves and our passions, there are bumps along the way. We will break down. We will need help and support, whether that comes in the form of a hug from a loved one (thanks to all you who’ve given me those), a note or e-mail or verbal word of encouragement (I don’t know if I would still be standing without those of you who have done this for me) – whatever - we need them. No man is an island. As much as I like to think I’m a hero who can handle anything, it’s much easier and nicer to not have to do it alone. The truth is, I can handle it alone, but I really don’t want to!

Marianne Williamson once said that “the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” So here’s to peeling yourself up off the floor after a sob session and almost letting fear get the better of you. For “courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” (Nelson Mandela)

Fear by my side, I can see my bakery, and I can hear the bustle of conversation and the laughter over shared pastries and hot cocoa. Bakery, here I come!

To you, friends: Thank you for your continued support and dedication, your ears, and your time. I am grateful to all of you. I wish you a glorious day! Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need anything at all!

Love always,