Catching up, life, media and how I got the nickname Donut

Last I wrote here, I was preparing for my first day of pastry school. I was a little nervous, mostly at the prospect of failing at something I truly loved doing. The apprenticeship program for baking takes two years of school and condenses it into six months of training, partially because they expect you to have learned a lot from your work experience. I was enrolled in my first year training and it went great. In fact as I write this, I’m just eight days away from entering my second and third year training. That was eight months ago, so why the silence?

Well it was my plan to post once a week on what was happening with school, with lots of pictures and details into the inner workings of professional baking. The only problem was, I kind of got burnt out telling friends and family about school and I was posting stuff on instagram, so I was just going to do a big post at the end. Then the condensed nature of the course combined with a couple of real life things got the better of me. I got married, secret married, which we didn’t keep the secret for very long. One of my best ad dearest friends got married as well and since it was a real wedding it required more effort and organization.

I had tons of ideas for posts, but I was determined not to post anything until I’d actually said something about school. Only I didn’t know what to say, it had been so long. I was going to say something before Twenty-Four Hour Comic Book Day, but then because everything was so hectic in October I decided to do Inktober and Drawlloween instead. I did a few more drawing challenges, one was even Dungeons and Dragons themed, which might have made me look a bit obsessed if you didn’t know it was a themed challenge. They were simple enough, plus to participate I didn’t have to do the one thing I’d been avoiding for months and that was opening my laptop.

Some day I’ll look back and 2016 and I’ll laugh, because for me personally it was a pretty good year. This was the first time since my divorce in 2012 that I’d stabilized myself financially, I went back to school, I got married to the most amazing man I could ever imagine and other than blogging more frequently I kept most of my resolutions, however, there were a lot of horrible things that happened too. The American election caused me so much anxiety that I couldn’t bring myself to open my computer. I did everything from my cell phone and was able to keep informed, but stay away from most of negativity that seemed to be infecting the internet masses. All in all, the whole thing made me very happy to be a Canadian. Now that all of the election garbage is over (there doesn’t seem to be as much coverage now that the worst has come) it feels like I can open the computer without a barrage of internet bile filling the screen.

So here I am days from going back to school again without having really said anything about my first year. I think that I can sum up my first year of school in one story, the nickname story. From what I remember it was the second or third day of class that we put on our uniforms for the first time and got to go into our lab kitchen. We learned about and got a quick demo about each station were were going to be using over the next two months; this was all review for me except for the doughnut station. So when we got to the hopper and deep fryer, I jumped at the opportunity try out the new equipment. We made a batch of cake doughnuts that turned out really nice, but it was interrupted by an orientation that all apprentices had to attend.

On the advice of our teacher, we brought the doughnuts to the auditorium to feed the rest of our schoolmates. So along with two other classmates, I carried the tray of doughnuts through the pouring rain. For the most part they were shielded by notebooks, so they didn’t get too wet. They turned out to be a huge success and everyone ended up loving them…except for the three people that we missed, the guys from the apprenticeship board. And boy did they know that we forgot to give them their doughnuts.

Every question I asked during the assembly was met with ‘will you give us a doughnut if we answer?’, since I’d sort of made myself the ringleader of the doughnut tray. Seven weeks later everyone was getting ready for their exams and the apprenticeship board guys were back. As I was passing the gymnasium on my way to the train I ran into one of apprenticeship board members and he asked if we were bringing any doughnuts, I told him we weren’t but I could bring some if they wanted. Instead, he told me to make sure I passed my exam.

On test day the board members gave us our instructions which mainly included under no circumstances can you bring a cell phone into the exam, and of course I was grilled about not bringing doughnuts.We proceeded to the exam, which was one of the harder tests I’ve ever taken since it didn’t involve a whole lot of what we learned in school, instead more so on what we would have learned at work. As I handed my paper in one of the board members asked, “How’d the test go Donut?” to which I responded, “Pretty good.” And we decided that Donut (I like the american spelling better because it looks cuter…at least for a nickname) was a pretty good nickname. I like donuts, they’re cute, tasty and just a little bit bad for you. Plus it could have been a lot worse, I could have gotten the all popular cinnamon bun, which after years of making them is my least favourite of the baked goods. Seriously, I get really frustrated when someone or something is referred to as a cinnamon bun too good for this world. In the grand scheme of baking cinnamon buns are low brow and don’t require any real skill, doughnuts are high tech compared to cinnamon buns. Plus I think they’re gross, cheese buns on the other hand are a work of art.

So there’s school in a nutshell, not the most interesting of stories, but the experience was well worth my while and now that that’s out there, maybe I’ll get back to posting more than once every eight months.

Advertisements

Back to School at Thirty-Two

This past winter was unusually warm this year, which has lead straight into summer. Spring might have happened, but it was so fast I missed it. As a baker this means that hot dog and hamburger season has started a lot earlier than expected, before the school sliced bread glut has had a chance to die down. So work has been busier than usual for this time of year, which is good and bad. Good because even during a recession people still love our product and that makes me feel good, bad because within the next few days I’m going back to school and I love my job enough that I’m worried how they’ll hold up without me for a couple of months.

So a while back (the timeline seems hazy, looking back) I was in these two absolutely toxic relationships. This first was with my, then, husband and the second was with my job. In hindsight, the relationship with my ex always had some level of unhealthy toxicity, but the job hadn’t always been that way. At that point I’d been in the print industry for almost twelve years and I honestly thought that I was going to be in it forever. The company I worked for had really shitty upper management, whose philosophy seemed to be spend a dollar to save a dime. There was one time where the general manager made a foolish (and ill advised by everyone, including the far superior floor manager) choice that cost the company the equivalent of giving every employee a dollar raise for a year. This was all because he didn’t know what he was doing and his ego refused to listen to the people who did.

I’d had a series of amazing floor managers who not only knew what they were doing, but were great bosses and that was why I stayed. During the end of my print career my life ended up falling apart and I was fired, offered my  old job back and refused. I tried one more foray into print and it was the worst job experience of my life and the shortest I’d ever been employed. Every so often I’ll get a call from a print shop looking to hire me, either from people I used to know in the industry or an old resume that I posted online. So I guess there’s that.

Long story short, instead of doing something that I was learning to hate but was good at, I decided to try something I love, but didn’t know a thing about. Luckily for me, I picked things up fast and found that even if I was baking professionally, I still loved it. I worked through the hell of corporate bread, learned the motions and was able to land a job at a really awesome legitimate bakery (legitimate bakeries are the typically the ones that aren’t chains, if you want real bread don’t go to a grocery store or Cobs). It’s the kind of job where I actually want to better myself, thus the apprenticeship and going back to school.

See, I never went to college after high school. I took college courses for fun and a lot of courses pertaining to print, but I never actually did to college thing. I happened to fall into something I liked at seventeen and did it until I didn’t like it anymore. So here I am, thirty-two and preparing for college. I know a lot of people that went back school far older than I am now, but I’m still nervous. I’m worried at how much older I am than the other students, I’m worried about my pace (from what I’ve heard school pace is painfully slow compared to work pace and I’m not known for my patience) and on the flip-side, I’m worried about the workload(in my school handbook most of the quotes are about people failing and how much harder it is than people thought.). What if I can’t do this? What if it’s too hard? What if I’m too old to pull this off? When I say it aloud or write it down it seems silly and fickle, but when I hear it in my head it’s terrifying.

I’ve already paid my money, taken the time off of work and gotten my back to school shoes (industrial baking shoes!), so I guess I’m doing this no matter how much self doubt I have. So no matter what happens I’m glad I’m doing this, because despite what Yoda says there is a try and I’m going to try my hardest. Who knows, I might just pull this off.

 

Ice Cream Cupcakes

I haven’t posted anything food related in ages. So here’s some ice cream cupcakes I made for a friend’s birthday. 

   
 
I made everything, from the chocolate shells to the ice cream. The “cake” is vanilla ice cream and the “frosting” is mint chocolate chip. The ice cream proved to be harder to pipe than I thought. 

Chocolate Making

I spent most of December rendering and making chocolates.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/574/54033156/files/2015/01/img_2467.jpg

I’m not a fan of eating chocolate, but I love working with it. Chocolate is one of the most versatile elements that you can experiment with baking wise. When I do eat chocolate I like to eat the filled ones. I particularly like the ones filled with ganache.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/574/54033156/files/2015/01/img_2472.jpg

So when I started making my own chocolates, I knew that they’d have to be ones with filling. Using some silicone ice molds, I managed to make a series of chocolates filled with everything from ganache to caramel to meringue fillings. My favourite fillings were the ones that were based on teas, in particular my Earl Grey ganache.

I think that chocolate making might be my favourite part of baking and I love almost everything about baking. It’s challenging, messy, fun and a great opportunity to be creative.

I had so much fun doing it that I went a little crazy with the molds.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/574/54033156/files/2015/01/img_2470.jpg

I’ve got fifteen so far and a ton on the way. Next step: rendering my own chocolate from scratch.

Thoughts on baking, gluten, why fad dieters are annoying and why its silly to get upset over other peoples dietary concerns

I’m a baker. My work day consists of the production of hundreds of baked goods, which need to be both delicious and good looking. It is by far the most physically demanding job I’ve ever had, but it is also the most rewarding. Over the past year I’ve learned a lot about the complicated production of bread and the finicky nature of baking in general. Did you know that a single loaf of bread takes over an hour to make, start to finish? There’s a lot of comparison of Chefs to artists, which if you look at a high end meals is absolutely true. So if Chefs are artists then Bakers are scientists. If you think I’m full of it, try throwing together a loaf of bread or a cake together without a set recipe, it won’t turn out great. There are a lot of ratios that need to be followed and chemical reactions that need to be observed, tests that can be performed to figure out if you missed a step…but I digress.

gluten-1

So Gluten, it’s been in the news a lot over the past few years. Outside of bakers and people that suffer from coelics or a gluten intolerance (which according to my research isn’t really a thing and is medically considered un-diagnosed coeliacs, but I’ve heard doctors refer to it as that so I’m considering it a thing) , most people don’t really know what gluten in. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and is the composite of gliadin (which is the trouble maker of the pair) and glutennin, combined with starch in the endosperm of various grasses and grains. It’s what give bread it’s elasticity, helps it rise and otherwise makes it awesome. Over the past year I’ve done a lot of different kinds of baking, including vegan and gluten free. I really like it, it give me a chance to challenge what I know about baking, adding and subtracting elements of known formulas to get similar results. To this day I’ve never been able to produce or have others produce for me a gluten free bread that actually tastes good. As a baker, taking gluten out of the equation is an amazing challenge because in my opinion gluten is the best part of bread.

At least once a week, someone will come into the bakery and rage about the evils of gluten and how we’re all bad people for producing and peddling the stuff. These people do not have a gluten intolerance, coeliac disease or a wheat allergy. These people are fad dieters and they are annoying. These are not people who are trying to create a healthier lifestyle for themselves, these are bandwagoneers who will put you down for not being up on the latest misinformation. Fad dieters are the most vocal people I’ve ever met (next to extreme vegans and atheists) they will let you know what they’re not eating and why you are a fat slob for eating it. They are the reason why there seems to be so much animosity towards people who actually suffer from coeliacs.

The majority of the people that I’ve met who have an intolerance or allergy to something put a lot of time and research into what’s afflicting them and what they can and cannot be eating. It’s not a trendy label that they’ve put on, its an inhibiting imposition that they’ll have to deal with for the rest of their lives. Most of them are pretty bummed that they have to give gluten up.

Unfortunately, as is the case with most things that become trendy and buzz-worthy, they get lumped into the group of fad dieters who haven’t done their research other than what they’ve seen on the covers of poorly researched books and side articles on the internet. They are the ones who come into a bakery and lambaste the staff for not carrying a gluten free option when unless you’re a gluten free bakery, it’s not really an option.

When producing a consumable product and taking allergies or intolerance into consideration, you have be all or nothing. If you are going to make a candy product without peanuts, then you’re entire production facility needs to be peanut free. The same goes for bread, because of the dust-like nature of flour and other mixing ingredients (including gluten) there would be no way to make a loaf of bread without cross contamination. Depending on the severity of the ceoliac, a hint of gluten can cause a variety of symptoms including nausea, migraine and diarrhea, which is the last thing anyone wants to put a customer through.

There are annoying people everywhere, in every group and walk of life. Look at vegans and vegetarians, most of them are reasonable people that just have different dietary beliefs from the norm. The same can be said about people who have religious dietary restrictions. Yet, I’ll still run into the occasional vegan or vegetarian who’ll condemn you for just thinking about meat, but that doesn’t mean the rest of them are jerks. Yes the fad dieters are annoying (has anyone else had someone go over how awful gluten is while enjoying a non-gluten-free beer?) but the fad dieters have always been annoying and always will be. No one should be condemned for what they can, cannot, choose or choose not to eat. So let’s stop getting mad at the gluten, meat, peanut and so on free requests and just roll our eyes and shrug off the fad dieters, because who knows that they’ll jump on next.

Cupcake Double Feature

Here are the cupcakes I made for a dinner my parents were hosting.

20140510-132522.jpg

20140510-132550.jpg

My mom wanted something fruity, so I made a batch of raspberry lemonade cupcakes with a lemon whip topping.

My dad wanted chocolatte, so I made the chocolateiest cake I could imagine. It was double chocolate cake filled with dark, semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips, topped with chocolate ganache and chocolate whip cream…and them more chocolate chips. Fun fact: I don’t like chocolate.

Strawberry Lime Cupcakes

In honour of being able to get limes again…although at super high prices.

20140429-174028.jpg

20140429-174042.jpg

It’s a vanilla cupcake filled with strawberries and lime zest. Half of them were standard round cupcakes, while the other half were made in my new square pan. They’re topped with lime whip cream. Instead of butter I used coconut oil.