Saturday, February 26, 2011

The finer things in life

Goooooooooooooood morning, friends!

What a glorious week it’s been thus far! Admittedly, I am exhausted, but it’s all in the name of pastry, and the greater goal of opening up Delectable You! It started out perfectly: I spent a few hours Monday morning flipping back and forth between two different cake shows. The best part of this is that I happened to be wearing pink flannel pajamas with cakes all over them while watching these shows. Nerdy? Quite. Amazing? Obviously! Don’t judge – you know you want some cake pajamas!

Aside from my cool digs and magical cake watching extravaganza, I have to say, something slightly disappointing happened: I was sifting through the cookbooks on my friend Chelsea’s bookshelf when I saw it: an Ina Garten Barefoot Contessa cookbook that I don’t have….wwww-hh-at? I thought I had them all!! This one is called “How Easy Is That?” and I must have it! This is a conundrum I will be rectifying very soon, don’t worry (I’m sure you were quite concerned).

On a different note, I have developed a daily habit of going to the gym and watching the Food Network as I run on the treadmill. Some might say this is a sick sort of torture, for how can you watch Cupcake Wars while simultaneously running up an imaginary hill, sweating and cursing all the while? Well, it’s not always cupcakes – Jamie Oliver has taught me some amazing things to do with fish, and Giada de Laurentis made an amazing asparagus soup with goat cheese that I’m dying to try! This habit gives me my daily dose of education and fitness at the same time – it’s brilliant! As Ina would say, “how bad can that be?” lol…I’m such a nerd…!

On the school front, this week, I made chocolate mousse cake, pana cotta, biscotti, carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese icing, brioche, cinnamon rolls, sour cream coffee cake and even experimented with sugar work for garnish!

At work, in the absence of my amazing mentor, Chef Bonnie (and with Uncle Terry serenading me with his soothing singing voice), I made vanilla ice cream for the first time all by lonesome! And it turned out amazingly well, if I don’t say so myself! I hate to ruin the secret, but it is so easy to make ice cream – I will be making it from scratch from now on. With that, I’d like to take this time to thank Ben and Jerry’s for their delicious chocolate peanut butter goodness. I’d say I will miss you, but I won’t, because I’m going to learn how to make you myself…I digress…

I also created a new recipe at work, a la Lauren: Ricotta mousse stuffed Greek donuts, topped with caramel raspberry sauce. Check out the picture below! 

In other news, Dished, the charity event I told you about a few weeks ago, is set to happen tomorrow! In the morning, I will meet with 4 other Art Institute students, some other organizers, and the sous chef from Bishops in the kitchen at AI to spend the day prepping food. Then we will head to Dockers, a cute little diner where the event will take place, around 4:30pm to set up, and let the night take us where it will. Stay tuned for pictures and an update on the event. It’s sure to be amazing!!

Well – I’m off to gallivant in this glorious sunny day. I wish you a day filled with love and laughter!



Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Hello everyone!

What an adventure these last few weeks have been! I have been rolling out pitas like a mad women (I think I might be an expert now), and perfecting my baklava making skills. I think I also may have perfected my cheesecake making abilities (for you gluten free fans, it is FLOUR-FREE!), and have figured out how to make the delectable chocolate mousse cake Chef Bonnie has perfected (also FLOUR-FREE). Glorious!

I also had the opportunity to do something I adore doing, and feel I was probably born to do: entertain!! I had a dinner party last Wednesday with some truly amazing people here in this city – old friends and new ones alike. For those of you who don’t know, hosting dinner parties is quite possible one of my top 5 favorite things to do – I love the planning, the plating, the buzz of conversation drifting from the living room, the laughter, the human connection, celebrating friends over food – everything. It’s magic. But, as usual, I digress. On the menu for the evening? Freshly baked bread (but of course!), mixed greens served with dried cranberries, red onions, avocado, and fig goat cheese in a balsamic vinaigrette, Ina Garton’s delicious turkey lasagna, and a roasted vegetable torte. Dessert was gluttonous, but would you expect anything less from a pastry chef? Lemon tarts, poppyseed danishes, apple cream cheese danishes, lemon yogurt cake (thank you again, Ina Garton – gotta love the Barefoot Contessa!), my famous chocolate chip banana bread, and toffee crème caramel. Ah – love, love love. Check us out below!

On the topic of hosting, check out this link below. Liza Utter-Pernice is an incredible woman who may just be my newest hero! A celebrated restaurateur (among other amazing things, to be sure), Liza shares her expertise and teaches people how to be great hosts. How could you not love her?

And on the topic of love, with Valentine’s Day two days behind us, love is still in the air – as it should be!

While I do appreciate this fairly new (and highly commercialized) tradition of celebrating love on one glorious day, aptly named after a Bishop in Rome named Valentine (see for the full story), I have to admit: I’m not big into the craze. I believe everyday should be treated like Valentine’s Day – we should show love to the people in our lives, ourselves, and even strangers each day!

To me, love is…

Love is my mom’s soothing voice and gentle touch when I’m feeling sick. She is the absolute best in the world at this.

Love is my father’s encouraging and perfectly timed e-mails, letting me know how proud he is of me, and cracking a “dad” joke to make me smile.

Love is my sister knowing how much I love cook books, and getting me a Gordon Ramsay cook book as a be-lated Christmas present because she knew I wanted it.

Love is my brother telling me he’s always there to protect me and love me, and knowing in my soul that he means it.

Love is my boyfriend hearing me say I like roses and tulips, and subsequently buying me 3 bouquets of them just hours later.

Love is my friend Chelsea taking time out of her day to help me move out of my apartment and into her spare bedroom, carrying my mattress up 3 flights of stairs and getting soaked in the rain, and not only not complaining about it, but laughing and positive the entire time.

If you look around you, you will see that love is in every moment. Take yesterday, for example. I stood rolling out pitas at the restaurant and the Aunt of the owner came up behind me to say hello. She is from Athens, and will be returning there next week. She told me, a little Canadian girl with absolutely no Greek roots, that my pita looked delicious. Wow – such a compliment! How can you not celebrate that moment?

Clearly, I could go on forever, so I leave you with some precious words I found on the wall in my friend’s kitchen:

The essence of life is to care,
the secret of life is to dare,
the adventure of life is to learn,
the challenge of life is to change,
the job of life is to love.

With much love,


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day Tarts!

Hello all!

I don't have much time to write today, but wanted to post a Valentine's Day dessert recipe for you for this weekend. I created it based on inspiration from some recipes I learned in school, plus from inspiration from a few of my mentors. Check it out below!

Valentine’s Day Tarts

You can interchange the raspberries in this tart with strawberries or blueberries, depending on the berries that are in season where you live.

Also, I added some plating techniques at the end that include dark chocolate. Consuming dark chocolate (at least 70%) actually mimics the feeling of falling in love – perfect for this day! How? Dark chocolate stimulates endorphin production, which in turn increases feelings of pleasure!

For the tart shell:

Pate Sucree (sweet tart)

250g butter, room temperature
100g granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs, room temperature
400g pastry flour

All purpose flour for dusting

For the filling:

3 pints of raspberries
200g granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
125ml of water, plus 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon cornstarch
A touch of cinnamon

For the plating:

1 pint of raspberries
1 bar of dark chocolate, at least 70%
A few mint leaves

For the Pate Sucree:

  • Line up 8 3-4 inch tart shell molds on a sheet pan (you can use recyclable ones made of aluminum if you don’t have real ones). Set aside.
  • Cream the butter, sugar and salt together in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed (about 3-5 minutes – until creamy). Beat in the eggs, one at a time until well incorporated. Add the pastry flour and mix until incorporated.
  • Place dough onto a floured table/counter (use all purpose or bread flour to dust the table – pastry flour with by too lumpy to work with). Knead the dough and form into a ball. Wrap with saran wrap and put it in the fridge to chill for about 20 minutes.
  • Once chilled, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick on a floured table with a rolling pin on a flat, clean surface (if you don’t have a rolling pin, just use any cylinder shaped bottle you can find).
  • Place one of your tart shell molds on top of the dough, and cut a circle around it, about 5 inches wider than the mold so it fits. Repeat this for each mold (if you run out of dough, combine the dough scraps and re-roll it out until you can fill each mold).
  • Mold your dough to each individual pie shell. Cut off the excess around each mold.
  • Dock the dough with a fork (you are essentially just making little holes in the bottom of each tart to keep the dough from rising up in the oven).
  • Cover each tart with aluminum foil to prevent shrinkage in the oven (make sure the aluminum foil is touching every surface of the dough – whatever part of the dough isn’t touching the foil will shrink during baking).
  • Bake in a 350F oven for 20 minutes, or until a nice light brown.

For the filling:

  • Place the raspberries in a bowl with the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and 125ml of water. Let chill in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes.
  • Once chilled, strain the juice out of the berries. Place the juice in a pot over medium heat until it comes to a simmer. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of water with the cornstarch, and then add this mixture to the pot. Stir until the mixture starts getting thick. As soon as it starts getting thick, remove the pot immediately from the heat (if you heat it up too much, the cornstarch will break down and the mixture will cease to be thick). Let it cool.
  • Once cool, pour mixture into each cooled tart shell.

For the plating:

  • Use a rectangular shaped plate.
  • Place one of the tarts on the left side of the plate. You can leave the tart as is, or decorate with a dollop of whipped cream, or place fresh raspberries on top.
  • In the middle of the plate, place 2-3 pieces of dark chocolate in a pile.
  • On the right side of the plate, place a few raspberries in a neat pile, and top with a mint leaf.
  • If you want to add more, you can place a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle of the plate, and place the dark chocolate pieces on top of it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Love always,

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What a difference a week makes!

Teachers come in all forms: people, things, moments that take your breath away, time.

This week, I was introduced to yet another teacher. His name is Chef Bonnie.

Chef Bonnie is the pastry chef at Nu Restaurant here in Vancouver. He has a wife and a 6 year old son back home in the Philippines. He has been in the business for 7 years, first learning the basics and perfecting them at a resort in Bermuda, and then bringing them to the team at Nu Restaurant here in Canada. 

Two weeks ago, I interviewed to be Chef Bonnie’s assistant pastry chef. After a 4 hour long, hands on interview where I assisted Chef Bonnie with the million and 1 tasks (I mean that almost literally) he had to do for both Nu restaurant and it’s sister restaurant, C, across the way, executive Chef and local celebrity Chef Rob Clark offered me the job! To digress for a very important few sentences, these restaurants are amazing for many reasons, one very notable one being that they are Ocean Wise, meaning they take great care to ensure all of their seafood comes from local, sustainable sources, and another reason being that they adhere as much as possible to the 100 mile diet. Not to mention the executive chef Robert Clark is considered the Gordan Ramsay of Vancouver and is brilliant. 


My first night was last Saturday. We did 240 covers in 3 hours. Since then, I have torched easily over 400 crème brulees, rolled out over 600 pitas, mixed 5 different types of bread dough, cut up hundreds of candied oranges for garnish, tempered chocolate to make hundreds of seashell shaped chocolates, whipped up a few batches of crème anglaise, crème brulee, oatmeal raisin cookies, gingerbread cookies, scones and baklava, and learned how to get a line ready for service. Chef Bonnie has taught me how to do all of this, and both he and Chef Clark were confident enough in my abilities to let me go it alone on Tuesday.


Yes, friends, Chef Bonnie took Tuesday off, effectively making me responsible for all things pastry that night, my fourth night on the job.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep Monday night! I went in an hour early on Tuesday to ensure I got everything done on time. It was nip and tuck, and I was working on other projects while simultaneously plating desserts during service time, but by the end of the night, I had plated 110 desserts, and everything Chef Bonnie needed prepped for the next day was done!

At the end of that 9 hour shift, as I was putting the last garnish away for the night, the sous chef asked me to plate a dessert for the executive chef, Lee Humphries, at C Restaurant. It was Chef Lee’s birthday, and I was to write happy birthday on the plate in chocolate. We hadn’t done chocolate writing in class yet. Uh oh.

Never one to back down from a challenge I know is within me to conquer, I stepped up to the plate, so to speak. Trying hard not to think about the pressure of designing a plate for arguably one of the best chef’s in Canada today, I forged ahead! Thankfully, I pulled it off (I even heard the waitress say, “Wow – that’s almost as good as if Bonnie himself had done it!”)! Phew!

I spent Wednesday and Thursday in class, baking more croissants, blueberry muffins, practicing chocolate writing (funnily enough, this was on the syllabus in pastry class not 12 hours after I did it for Chef Lee), lemon lime mousse, lemon meringue pie, pecan pie, japonais (a meringue cake), meat pie, puff pastry, Italian rosemary rolls, and of course, crème brulee.

Tonight, I plated 187 more desserts, with 250 on the bill for tomorrow. Time for bed!

Sweet dreams, everyone! Literally :)

Love always,
Your friendly pastry chef,