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Wowsers. What a week. Actually the past two or three weeks have all been a bit crazy, but in a good way. On my last day staging at the Italian restaurant, I helped the pastry chef make 150 or so desserts for a book signing with none other than food blogger/cookbook author extraordinaire David Lebovitz. It was a long day but overall a great first experience with making and plating large quantities of desserts. At the end of the day, I left the restaurant, took the train to the airport, then boarded a plane for Arizona. Just in time too, because Chicago had been hit with MORE snow. Sheesh.
Hello there, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I was so much better at updating this when I spent a large amount of my time sitting at home baking. I’m still baking at home whenever I get a chance, but between packing to move, working on my final project for school, my new job/stage at a restaurant in the city, and planning a dessert table menu for a charity event, my free time seems to be evaporating quickly.
And I love it. I haven’t been this busy in a long time, or as happy. I feel like I’m finally a contributing member of society again!
The most exciting thing happening is this new restaurant job, (unpaid, unfortunately, but expected). So as I recount my first real-world kitchen experience, I will share some pictures of things I’ve made in class and at home these past two weeks.
My sister Denise came home this past weekend from college. And since dorm food is often less than satisfactory, I was determined to make her a home cooked meal. Not to mention, it is so much more fun cooking for others than just for yourself.
I’d like to take a moment and talk about ciabatta. It is a pretty excellent bread. It can also be infuriating because the dough is so wet and sticky it is difficult to work with. So difficult that your first batch sort of looks deflated and you have to make another batch just to prove you can do it right, which you do. Then after sampling bread from the two batches you find they’re both quite delicious and now you have twice as much bread! At which point you forgive the ciabatta and become friends again.
But back to dinner. Although I love all sorts of food and cuisines, whenever I haven’t had Italian in a while, I crave it like crazy. It is my ultimate comfort food, and best when cooked and shared with others.
So we made homemade pasta, to go with my Nana’s famous tomato sauce recipe. We even figured out how to shape them into bowties/farfalle. It was a tremendous success.
Lastly, because a fabulous dinner is best followed by a fabulous dessert, we made a chocolate cake. The same one, in fact, that I made when I learned I could, with great effort, whip egg whites by hand.
And so, we made our cake and ate it too. Of course, my sister took dusting her cake with powdered sugar to a whole new level.
Then proceeded to eat it within the outline of the sugar. If you know Denise, you wouldn’t be surprised by this. Then again, maybe this is just what inhaling too much sugar does to your head.
I can’t spend a full day baking and NOT make bread.
In class last week our teacher raved about this bread she once had that used the spent mash (grains) leftover from the beer making process. As luck would have it, one of the girls in my class visited a brewery last weekend and went home with a gigantic tub of the stuff. She quickly became everyone’s friend when she brought it to class to share.
So those of us who wanted to got to bring home some of the pungent, (in a good, beer-y kind of way), soggy grains. You use them as you would a regular soaker, where you soak whole grains of all sorts in water before mixing into your dough so you don’t have little crunchies in your bread.
They say beer is liquid bread, and probably for many reasons, but it makes sense since both are just fermented grain. The carbon dioxide and alcohol dispelled by the yeast give beer its bubbles and fun-factor and bread its rise and flavor. And when you combine the two? Well, you get really dark, flavorful bread that will make the most excellent breakfast tomorrow.
Why, donuts of course! Or bombolini in this case, little donut holes rolled in sugar and filled with cream, jam, or nutella. Is it donut or doughnut? I never know which to use, but for the sake of brevity (in typing) I will use the former.
You should make these even if your oven isn’t broken. Even if you didn’t stupidly pour water on a hot oven door, cracking the glass window rendering the oven useless and a glass-shattering hazard. (And even if you finished baking your bread with the glass broken, risking said hazard, because you were not about to waste good dough).
Or was that just me?
I was terribly distraught when I learned my oven would not be operational for an entire week. However, I can use this week to make things that do not require an oven. Or get other things on my to do list done without getting distracted by proofing bread or baking cookies.