Thursday, January 27, 2011

The 3 A's of Awesome

I’d like to preface this entry by letting you know I am currently in the buzz of a sugar coma – I’ve just had my second helping of a home made chocolate brownie Sunday. My face is flushed, my head is spinning, my teeth might be falling out of my head, and I’ve had to undo the top button of my jeans because I can't breathe! The only part of me that’s happy right now is my inner 3 year old: she is bouncing off the walls shouting, “yeepee!”

Anyway, one of the unfortunate (or fortunate) things about becoming a pastry chef is that you really should taste everything you make. This is only unfortunate if you are addicted to sugar. I happen to be addicted to sugar. Hence, “tasting” my pastries is a problem for me. You see, I do not simply taste my pastries. Oh no, my friends. Do you remember that episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel are supposed to wrap chocolates coming down a conveyor belt, but the conveyor belt starts going so fast that they start having to shove chocolates into their shirts, hats and mouths? Hold that image in your mind. Now insert my face. Today, we made choux pastries stuffed with Chantilly cream (whipping cream whipped with sugar and vanilla), and topped with icing sugar and chocolate. I “tasted” one. One turned into 6 in a matter of minutes. I had chantilly cream all over my face, a threatening tummy ache, and yet I still wanted more! The irony is that I shoved them down my face so fast that I didn’t even really taste them! Oh dear – perhaps I should rethink this profession? Perhaps a gig as a professional pie eater would be better suited to me, because after today, you would have thought that is what I was in training for! As if that wasn’t enough, why, pray tell, did I come home and make myself 2 homemade ice cream brownie Sundays in a row? Um…

Rather than beat myself up over the ridiculous amount of sugar I’ve consumed today, I choose to see it as this: awesome. Why? Because choosing to see it any other way will not change the fact that I did it, so I may as well choose to see it in a positive light!

On that note, I watched an amazing video on Ted Talks tonight called The 3 A’s of Awesome by Neil Pasricha. A native of Toronto, he is the author of a blog called 1000 Awesome Things, a blog that lists life’s small and universal pleasures in an effort to remind us how much good we are surrounded by. The 3 A’s are Attitude, Awareness, and Authenticity. Watch it and be reminded of the things you already know about how amazing your life is, and that the power is within you to choose the positive thoughts and things that enrich your life and move it forward. 

In my sugar induced coma, something Neil said really resonated with me. He said that he loves watching 3 year olds interact with their environments because they see the world for the first time, and are awed by it. He said that in order to have a sense of awareness, all we need to do is to embrace our inner 3 year old. If I may add to that, never lose your childish enthusiasm, and things will go your way!

The best things in life aren’t things. They’re living, they’re breathing, they’re laughing (thank you, Micheal Franti). They’re shoving your face with chantilly filled pastries, eating warm brownie Sundays, and laughing until you pee a little :)

All my love,

The Lobster

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pasty school, 2nd quarter, week 2!

January 17, 2011

Oh my goodness, friends!

In the last week, I have made cinnamon buns, apple pie, 4 genoise cakes (cakes made with whipped egg whites), Italian buttercream, pastry cream, chocolate puff pastries (stuffed with pastry cream and topped with chocolate – um – heaven!), more foccacia, and more croissants. I also taught my second ever yoga class – a new project that I am SO inspired by, and simply adore! More on that another time!

This is made out of sugar, my friends!!

Chef Paul working on some white chocolate to make a rose - brilliant!

And here it is!!

Chef Paul making the leaves out of chocolate for the rose!

Chef Paul with the ribbon he crafted out of sugar - yes - sugar. No big deal !!

I was also lucky enough to be able to apprentice under an amazing pastry chef at the private club where I am a server. In 2 shifts, I scooped 264 cookies, helped put the finishing touches on 170 raspberry tarts, cracked 70 eggs to make 70 egg whites for baked Alaska, and helped plate 180 individual desserts for one sitting! I also saw how a kitchen runs when there are 180 people to feed at one time. Essentially, the kitchen is deathly quiet, and each chef has a job: one hands the plates down the line, while the subsequent chefs plate one food item each (in last night’s case, it was asparagus, red peppers, broccoli, mashed potatoes and roast beef, for a grand total of 6 people, including the person who hands out plates). I handed the plates down the line –I can’t believe I didn’t drop any! The servers line up while an expeditor hands them finished plates, at which point they scoot out to deliver them. It’s brilliant – such a well oiled machine! I had so much fun, and will be volunteering again next weekend, so stay tuned for an update.

In addition to school and apprenticing, I worked 30 hours in 4 days, and have found that pushing my body and mind this much without getting enough sleep does not work for me! As I was contemplating this through tired eyes in an obvious haze, I found myself staring at my proofing bread rising on the table on Friday morning. I thought to myself, “I should really take a cue from this rising bread.” You see, if you try to bake off your bread before it has had enough time to rise, it will crack open in all the wrong places in the oven. It won’t be able to stand the heat. You can serve it, and it’s edible, but it’s not nearly as great as it could be. It simply hasn’t had enough time to develop. Proofing bread dough is a process that simply cannot be rushed, and time to rest is the only thing that will guarantee the best possible final product. The same is true for me: if I don’t give myself enough time to relax, to rest, to rejuvenate, I will no doubt crack under the pressure, and fail to put my best foot forward. So this week, as I head into a 48 hour work week, a 15 hour school schedule, and some other volunteering projects on the side, I will take the time to rest, to practice yoga, to sleep, and to nurture my down time so I can put forth the strongest possible version of myself. Oh, and I will be looking into decreasing my crazy schedule too!!

That said, I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to be the pastry chef at a charity event called dish’ED. This event is for Imagine1Day, a local charity created by Chip Wilson of lululemon that raises money to build schools for children in Ethiopia. Well, we are one month away from this glorious event! It takes place on Saturday February 26, 2011 at Dockers. Check out the details below!

Have a lovely week, everyone!! 
Love always,


Monday, January 10, 2011

Pastry School, Quarter 2, Week 1 - Action!

Welcome to week 1 of my second quarter of pastry school!

Under the instruction of Chef Paul and Chef Mela this week, I made blueberry muffins, peanut butter cookies (add some chocolate chips in there and you’ve got my favorite cookie!), pear frangipane tart, sweet tart dough, choux paste (this is what cream puffs are made with), and buttery, gooey dinner rolls. Are you salivating? Me too!! It probably wasn’t the smartest choice to decide to cleanse my body from refined sugar and gluten this week. Talk about a good way to test your will power, but also a good way to make friends! I have some pretty thankful neighbors in my building now: I knocked on one of my neighbors’ doors the other night with a tray of a dozen peanut butter cookies and half a dozen blueberry muffins. I told them they could take it all. They looked at me in disbelief, no doubt looking to see if perhaps this was some terrible amateur, Canadian, low budget version of Punked with some blonde chick playing Ashton Kutcher. On second thought, they might have been reluctant to take baked goods from some crazed girl in slippers they had never seen before. Hm…

Anyway, I learned more fun tricks and reasons behind certain baking methods this week. Ever wonder why your muffins just don’t rise properly, or why your cookies spread too thin and don’t hold their shape? You are probably over-mixing your batter! The trick is to cream the butter and sugar together until it forms a smooth paste – this is called the creaming method. Then, add your eggs, one at a time so they are evenly incorporated. Then add your dry ingredients all together, and STOP mixing once they are just barely wet. That’s it – follow that advice and you will have great muffins and cookies every time! 

Here is an example of over-mixed, baked muffins:

And this is what they will look like if the above methods are followed properly:

I have to tell you about Chef Paul, my intro to baking instructor who you will see in the photos below. He is a third generation pastry chef from Marseilles, France. He has won so many chocolate competitions that he’s not allowed to compete anymore!!!  He apprenticed in France starting at the age of 14 and worked 12-17 hours a day, 7 days a week for 4 years making $1 a week!!!!! At 66 years of age, he has been in this business for 52 years! He is absolutely hilarious, and I know I’m going to learn a lot from him (and laugh a lot too)!

Dinner rolls before

And After:

The mise-en-place (getting everything ready to mix):

The Choux paste before baking:

And after baking:

And finally, the pear frangipane tart:

This week: more volunteering with the pastry chef at The Vancouver Club (I will tell you about that next week), more baking bread, and onward to more pastries!!

Have a lovely week!!!