Livin' in the Kitchen

Archive for the ‘Culinary Experiences’ Category

Cover to Cover -“Chocolate and Vanilla”

In Chefs, Cookies, Culinary Experiences, Panna Cotta on February 6, 2013 at 5:06 am


Sometimes I have the attention span of a sugar-buzzed five year old at a birthday party. Things just tend to distract me. Which is why cooking through an entire cookbook has never seemed entirely possible to me.

But it’s on my bucketlist.

And I do love checks on my lists…

Which is why I’m currently baking through Gale Gand’s most recent pastry book, “Chocolate and Vanilla”! I’ve been interning for Gale since I was 15… she’s my pastry mama! Reading through the headnotes and the directions, I can almost hear her explaining the recipes to me.


I bake a couple of recipes out of Chocolate and Vanilla each school week. I tend to photograph the recipes the day after I make them because by the time I’m finished baking all the natural light is gone. Then I upload and post them in a photo album on Gale’s chef page called “Chocolate and Vanilla”!

22 recipes down and I’m still rolling. Come bake with me! Or come watch me bake. Either way, it’s sugar. It’s bound to be fun.


Cake Competition

In Culinary Experiences on April 30, 2012 at 3:32 am

One week ago I was scrambling… Scrambling…. Scrambling…. That’s what I tend to do when there are deadlines and cake competitions. Scramble. Which is how I wound up in foods class- the last period I had before we got on a bus for Springfield for the FCCLA cake competition- throwing dye and fondant at people. A handful of people, each had a different colored food dye, dyed fondant for me. What can I say? I’ve got a great foods class.

Unfortunately, the weather hadn’t caught on that we were working with fondant. Fondant and rain are like chocolate and water. You don’t mix them. You just don’t…. Luckily though, my three bags and cake made it safely onto the bus.

My cake competition’s category was carved fondant cakes. For the FCCLA cake competition the rules say that you must have your cake carved and covered before you get there, but nothing more…. The theme I chose to do was Jack and the Beanstalk. So I carved the book, crumb coated it, covered it in frosting. And then called in the muscle.

Having a cop/construction worker for a dad pays off…. Even when he makes an arrest on fondant night. My dad and I woke up at 6am on Thursday morning so that he could roll out my packs of fondant so that I could cover the cake.

It took a long flipping time. And even after that, I had to trip and smooth. Can you believe I still made it to school on time? I can’t….

The pages are what took up about 15 hours of time, though…. It was a true labor of love. The pages were fondant and had to be rolled out in a pasta machine. After that they had to be cut by hand into thin slices, then layered on top of eachother. I couldn’t even guess how many sheets were rolled out…. all I know is that it is possible to multi-tast. Because after Maisie and I were kicked out of the foods rooms we stayed and watched our volleyball team place, while making and stacking fondant pages at a volleyball came. Pasta machine and everything.

I would give you a picture of the final product but I recently dropped my phone one too many times… The screen has been cracked, and cracks more each time it drops. But this time it seems that I dropped the Sims cards along with it. Now I’m sim-less and picture-less:(

We know the results, hopefully, next week! I’ll let ya know.

Chicago Gourmet Food Festival and Sweet Potato Bread

In Bread, Culinary Experiences on September 26, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Life was nuts at the Chicago Gourmet Food Festival. Gale did a demo on the millenium stage with Tim Allen…. and I got to help!

Every time I looked up I saw Michelle, Sue, and Marco from Elawa farms- where we work- in the stands smiling down at us. To me the best accomplishment is being able to do what I love with people I love… and who doesn’t like to eat well along the way?

(above photo credit: the really nice guy backstage that I kept handing my camera to.)

More good news is that we ate so well that I wore my stretchy and all-glorious yoga pants the next day.

This dish was my favorite of the day. The Chicago Gourmet Food Festival really made me kick myself for not knowing more about savory food. Now not only do I not know what restaurant this came from (I forgot to take a picture of the sign) but I don’t even have a basis of an idea how to create this bite-sized deliciousness.

Last but not least is the cannoli. I say the cannoli because it is the best I have ever tasted. It is the only cannoli that has left me wanting more. Some may argue that it’s because of its size. Honestly, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but if this were a big cannoli I’m fairly certain I could polish off 2 1/2 before regret started kicking in. The best cannoli ever from: Lezza Spumoni & Desserts Inc. in Chicago.

Among all the extravagant food and all the extravagant people there is some level of simplicity that every person identifies with. Which is why I think sharing Sweet Potato Bread today is perfect. It’s simple but it can be spiced up. You can have it for breakfast with a thin coating of butter or you could have a slice with carmalized pecans, creme fresh and a sprinkle of cinnamon over the top. Wa-la! Here’s what I did:

In a large bowl mix the sugar, oil, sweet potatoes, egg, and vanilla.

Whisk together the dry ingredients, then add to the wet and stir until just combined.

Pour into (both greased and floured) one large pan and one mini-loaf pan. Bake for 75 minutes.

Wa-la! And choose what you want to do with it. Breakfasts that aren’t cereal are scare in my house while we have a surplus of desserts, so this was our on-the-go breakfast for school the next morning. Next time I make it, I think I’ll set aside half the large loaf to make a dessert, though! So delicious!

Sweet Potato Bread
Slightly adapted from Recipezaar’s Karen
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups sweet potatoes, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 325F
Mix the wet ingredients together in a large bowl by hand. In a separate bowl, whisk the dry together. Slowly stir the dry (by hand) into the wet until just combined.
Bake for 60-75 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Flavor will develop over night, so if you can hold out, wait.

Culinary Schools and Sugar Cookies

In Chicago, Cookies, Culinary Experiences on July 26, 2011 at 4:39 am

Today I visited The French Pastry school! I can’t really describe the feeling of being there better than this: I was in deep love. I am in deep love. And I will always be in deep love. During the school’s longest pastry program (6 months) students cover over 600 recipes in two different textbooks. Like I said, I’m in love. I made sugar cookies the other day and thought to myself : not a whole lot of things could light up my day more than a flower sugar cookie with sprinkles. These textbooks the exception.

Here’s the recipe I used… The reason I’m not posting it in full is because I followed it directly and just wasn’t impressed with the result. The cookies weren’t super moist and they didn’t make any further appeal by flavor. The cookies ended up serving as less of a treat I wanted to indulge in, and more of a canvas for art. I’ve yet to find my perfect royal icing recipe. I’ll keep trying. But in the mean time I can’t help but wondering; maybe it’s hidden somewhere in those 600 recipes.

Frank Lloyd Wright Dinner

In Culinary Experiences on May 26, 2011 at 5:35 am

Life is completely and totally nuts. 6 months ago I was sitting on the kitchen floor listening to country music, daydreaming while I was waiting for cakes to cool. I started baking seriously a few years ago after seeing Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes.
I fell into a routine: Bake the cake. Frost/Decorate the cake. Cut it. If people wanted one piece, I gave them two. Then I’d get to make another cake. But while the cakes were cooling and I was day dreaming, never once did I ever day dream that I’d be interning for Gale Gand, covering nuts in gold leaf at a Frank Lloyd Wright dinner 5 months later. I like to be a ‘realistic day dreamer’….. Like I said, life is nuts.

We made a huge array of things. A lot of the food was preped before we got there, so when we were at the Frank Lloyd Wright house it really wasn’t hecktic at all. I was a designated plater.

We made…

Serrano Ham, Manchego, Asparagus and Scallion grilled Cheese bites:

Roasted Baby Beet Salad with Citrus, Basil, Yarra Valley Feta and Arugula:

Seared Halibut with Spring Asparagus Sauce:

Trio of Lamb, Ras Al-Hanout dusted Chop, Muchroom crusted Loin and Braised Shortribs with a Minted Lemon Verbena Sauce and Morel, Ramp and Fingerling Potato Hash:

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Spring Rhubarb, Tarragon and Rose Water Meringue
Chocolate Cake, Salted Caramel and Gilded Pecans

I learned a lot. But there are four things that will always stick with me from this dinner:  never leave fingerprints on plates, plating isn’t that hard if you don’t fear it, it’s all about the people you’re working with, and it’s about the people you’re making happy. Being in the kitchen just felt so right, and the content still rolls through my veins as I write this post.

I got to work with Gale,

Tim Scott- corporate executive chef for Macy’s, creates the recipes and menus.

 And Amy Dearth-

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my Saturday night. I kind of wish it never ended.. the thing I’ve realized is that chefs are a little community. it’s a community I never plan on leaving.