Friday, May 30, 2014

Updates: First Cookie Sale, Back to School, Fruit Carving

Woohoo time has gotten away from me! So much has happened, culinary-wise, since I last wrote a little over a month ago. I will do a quick run down of all the happenings since then...

It was Easter in my last post and I made all those adorable bunny cookies.  They were greatly enjoyed by family and friends. I was really pleased with how the bunnies turned out, so I wanted to make a few more in a variation, so I made the cute woodland cookies above. I used espresso powder, cinnamon, and cocoa for the coloring, and they turned out great!
The next cookie making adventure was a big one!  I decided to set up my shop for one day at Rust Belt Market. It was the day before Mother's Day, so I thought that was a good opportunity to test out the market and make my first cookie sales. I made three batches of cookies, and they were well received, especially this colorful tattoo heart design
I sold all of that design, actually! And I sold a good amount of pottery that day, too, some in Mother's Day themes that matched the cookies.  I learned a lot from this sales day and I have a better idea of how many cookies and how many different designs make sense for selling in one day (at least at this type of venue at this time of year). And that gave me some ideas about the kind of pottery I can make that will work best with the cookies. It was a very informative and fun day!
Also in the last month, I started my Cookery class, which is halfway done now. It has been an intense whirlwind! This is a continuation of learning basic cooking and kitchen techniques as a well rounded part of the Pastry program. I have been learning a ton! It is sometimes frustrating because I am likely the least experienced cook in the class, as everyone else either works in the industry or has cooked for their families for many years. I do my best to keep up, and I am trying lots of new food and learning all sorts of classic recipes. Sometimes I do question what the heck I am doing in the kitchen roasting and sauteing meats, when I just want to be decorating cakes and cookies, but I try to remind myself that this is important to the next steps and to not be so hard on myself. It is fun and challenging and exhausting all at the same time.
In this class, we are actually feeding people other than just our own class, which is quite a thrill.  It's great to see people enjoying what we have made as a class. Other students and staff come to the kitchen for lunch after every cooking session, and we are pushed to get things done well, on time, and with a nice presentation. I have been so consumed with concentrating on getting food cooked properly and on time that I have not really been able to work much on the presentation part for my dishes during class. I assisted in a wine tasting event where we made almost 300 of the small plates above. Seared scallop with cauliflower puree, beet sauce, micro greens and asparagus. I really enjoyed plating these up, but it was a really fast paced, high pressure challenge for me. Even though I was really nervous about this job, I really enjoyed it in retrospect and I am curious about working like this in the future... with small plates and fresh ingredients, artfully presented.
 One of the things that I did early in the class was work as an assistant for my chef's fruit carving class! When I first heard about this class last semester, I was super interested in taking it and seriously considering it, but it was not at the school and not a credit class, so I couldn't justify the expense. I was really excited when he asked for volunteers to assist for practical hours, so I asked to attend for the full day. I felt like it was a bargain... I got to listen in on the class for free, PLUS I got my practical hours...score! I even got some hands-on time when the class was focused on their own carvings and I carved the cantaloupe above. I was pleased with it and felt like I picked up some of the techniques pretty naturally. I have ALWAYS wanted to try this!
Chef Doug with the finished fruit carving sculpture that we did in class. See where he used my cantaloupe near the top? He did the rest of the carvings, which were gorgeous! The rest of the students seemed to enjoy themselves and did well, too. So much fun! When I got home, I immediately bought myself a set of tools, but they are rather specialized and pricey, so I gave myself a $50 budget and just got some basics. They were not at all as fancy as the tools that the students had, or Chef's fancy silver retractable Thai double edged knife that I borrowed to carve my melon in class, but it's a start.
This week in class, I struggled a bit with chicken and fish, and was having some of those doubtful feelings again. Chef Doug gave me the gift of the beautiful silver Thai knife that I loved in class to thank me for helping him all day, which was super encouraging and put me back on track with a good attitude again. I carved an apple the next morning, and I am going to look for something fun to carve this weekend when we go to Eastern Market tomorrow morning!