Fudge, The Intern (Part V): Practice Makes (Almost) Perfect

There’s only so much new stuff one can do in a bakery before it all becomes repetitive. Thus today wasn’t a day full of new lessons and surprises in baking, but a day of perfecting technique, a day of getting into the groove of things, and, of course, a day of sweets galore.

One thing I’m very proud of today?

That. My first cupcake approved by N for sale in the shop (although I was too proud of it to give away so I took it home for my mum…it didn’t quite survive the bike ride, though :/). I’ve finally (almost) got the technique down! I would say that is miles ahead of the first cupcake I frosted today…

Yeah. I’m proud to show that mess because the photo before it. At least the camera makes this cupcake look pretty.

Like I mentioned earlier, today was a day of getting into the groove of things. Cookies were mixed quicker, scooped easier; doughnut muffins were finished off with more finesse; samples and trimmings were sampled less and less frequently ( 😉 ).

I could really tell the difference of how I was baking last week versus my first day this week. Everything “flowed;” I was able to do more in less time and more efficiently. I was also given the reigns by N to really work how I (i.e. the bakery) needed, working to make I saw that we needed versus having N follow me step by step to tell me what I needed to do. That doesn’t mean that I asked a few questions along the line; I’m still learning here.

OH! Did you all know the Bourbon vanilla extract is actually called “Bourbon” because of the name of the islands off the coast of Madagascar, not because of the alcohol content in a jar of vanilla extract? Just a tidbit I learned that I thought I should share.

HEY. I was excited when I heard it, and this is my blog. 😀

Anyways, at the end of the day, I felt fulfilled as all this work was starting to become second nature, even though I only have two more days of work at the bakery (:(). However, N and fellow baker “G,” the only other guy in the bakery, said they would love to have me work more at the bakery over the summer until I go to college! I think that would be a great experience…I’ll keep you all updated as we go on.

For now, I will leave you all with a little preview of what I’m blogging about tomorrow…

Good Food (Coconut Curry Chicken and Garlic Chicken Gyoza)

What a delicious week this has been.

First off, as you all know if you have been reading along, I’ve been interning at a bakery all week where delicious pastries of all sizes and shapes abound. Goodness, have I had my fair share of test tastings and sweets during the last week.

I’ve also been cooking up some more extravagant dishes in the kitchen as of late with the free time I have away from school. This free time has been an absolute gift; not only have I found time to care of so many things on my to-do list, but I’ve had time to dive into some dishes I have been waiting to cook up.

Also, as you may also know if you have been reading along, this was prom weekend for me, meaning a great dinner — filet mignon, chicken, sweet potato souffle, creme brulee — at prom and a scrumptious breakfast with friends and Girlfriend (you can see of what breakfast I’m talking about below and in this post).

With all these sweets from the bakery and elsewhere, my sweet taste buds are starting to get a bit tired out. My saving grace? Coconut Curry Chicken and Garlic Chicken gyoza I prepared and froze about two weeks ago, ready to be steamed or pan-fried at will.

These gyoza were incredibly fun to make (and very time-consuming, but I already told you that I have lots of time on my hands nowadays) because I started with some gyoza wrappers I bought, excess coconut milk and garlic, a fridge-full of ingredients, and no recipe in hand. I have to say, these gyoza definitely turned out very well for my first time preparing them, considering I was cooking off the cuff (off the top of my, umm, chef’s hat? But I digress…). The chicken delicately poached in a combination of coconut milk and curry is just awesome and, well, who doesn’t like garlic and chicken? I mean, come on, that combination was born a winner.

Here’s to another week of deliciousness–albeit, a bit further towards the healthier side :P.

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Fudge, The Intern (Part IV): So…Much…Frosting…

Yes, I made a few batches of cookies. Yes, I made 7 dozen mini cupcakes. Those I had done before, those were simple. However, today really started with this:

One perfectly frosted cupcake. Smooth, uniform, suave, it has the signature “swoop” in the middle found on all of my bakery’s cupcakes. What follows was my first attempt at frosting a cupcake immediately before the tutorial…

…and immediately afterwards.

As you can tell from the photos, I’m obviously a master froster.

This, my friends, is what we call in the bakery world, “bad.” Frosting tools and buttercream in hand, I set off to perfect my frosting technique because, as we all know, practice makes perfect. I hope.

By my third attempt, I started to get somewhere. Everything began to smooth out just a bit, the characteristic “swoop” finally somewhat emerging.

“Keep on frosting,” I said, “Just keep on frosting. You’ll get it soon, I promise.”

It was then that I realized that I was talking to myself about frosting cupcakes and that I may or may not have been focusing way too hard on doing it. After multiple tries at frosting, scraping, and refrosting, as well as two red velvet practice cupcakes later, I finally ended up with a rough version of what we usually put out in the shop.

All the elements are there. Rough, but there. It seems that in the battle of frosting vs. Fudge, frosting had the upper hand and was victorious.

Suddenly, I heard kids’ voices over the whirring of the mixers. Suddenly, there was an influx of children in the bakery! I realized that they were all having a field trip to learn about baking and a little about the science behind it. They were all so cute and eager to know about everything that was going on; I even helped them scoop cookies :).

After a few hours of cupcakes and kids, I was done for the day. The frosting won the battle today, but I know that I’ll triumph over it next week. Even though it won the battle, I think I won in terms of the spoils of victory…Those red velvet practice cupcakes with the pink frosting? Yeah, the frosting used to be white buttercream.

Fudge, The Intern (Part III): Taste Test Round-Up

If you read my last post, you probably saw the picture above. You also probably saw that I said I’d give you the low down of everything, so here we go!

Grasshopper Bar

A 3-layer bar of brownie, mint buttercream, and chocolate ganache. This is one of my favorites; you’d think it would be heavy, but the brightness and lightness of the mint elevates the bar to a whole new level. Yum!

Boston Cream Cupcake

Vanilla cupcake with chocolate ganache and vanilla cream-custard filling. I love the bakery’s vanilla cake recipe, so I was sold before I tried it. The cream-custard filling definitely added a nice surprise to the whole package, making the cupcake even more moist.

Soda Fountain Fudge

Chocolate fudge with white chocolate chips. The fudge is definitely chocolatey, ever so slightly boozy due to the good amount of bourbon vanilla extract. I made this fudge pretty well, If I do say so myself :P. Not sure why it is called “soda fountain,” but I will find out for you all later.

Donut Muffin

If you read my last post, you can read exactly why I’m in love with this pastry. I just needed to mention it again because it’s that good.

Cranberry-Orange Scone

Even though it was a day old, it still held true to what a scone should be: buttery, flaky, tender, and ever so slightly sweet. Cranberry and orange is always a great combo, so this scone was a hit with me. It’s definitely something my mum would love.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

Exactly what you think it is, except with pecans! It tastes like childhood.

Snickerdoodle Cookie

I love the present yet not overpowering cinnamon flavor and soft, pillowy texture of this cookie. What else can I say about it? It’s just an awesome cookie.

Wow, what an overload of sweets…I think it’s time to take a rest from it all. Until tomorrow, readers!

Fudge, The Intern (Part II): Full Speed Ahead

Going in today, I thought I was about to be on full-time cookie duty, ready to learn about the other types of cookies the bakery makes on a daily basis. My thoughts were confirmed as I started a batch of oatmeal raisin and snicker doodle cookies…

…until N said, “Hey, clean everything off your workspace. Let’s do some fun stuff.” After that, I knew I was in for more than just cookie making today.

What followed was a crash course in piping frosting, something I had never done before. I’ll be the first one to admit, I was really no good at first, but I think I started to get the hang of it after doing dozens of mini cupcakes. There were four steps to this whole process, and it went a little like this:

Step 1: Arrange The Cupcakes

Each box of 12 mini cupcakes was going to contain four of each flavor cake. This step expedited the whole process.

Step 2: Frost The Cupcakes

The above is my handiwork. As you look towards the back in the picture, you can see how my piping transformed throughout. All the red velvet and vanilla mini cupcakes received a vanilla buttercream frosting while the chocolate got frosted with chocolate frosting.

Step 3: Smush The Cupcake (Into the sprinkles, that is)

Each column of cupcake was dipped into a different sprinkle, making 12 cupcakes with 11 different sprinkles per row.

Step 4: Package And Seal The Cupcakes

Now you see why the arranging step came in handy.

I finished the order just in the nick of time (the box was taken out of my hands and delivered to a customer right then and there!). Afterwards, it was off to finishing off the donut muffins, the confection that actually drew me to this bakeshop to apply for my internship. Well, not before a snack first ;).

See how the wrappers are falling off? That's a no-no for presentation, so they became duds. In the words of "L," my supervisor, "Sorry about the red velvet cupcakes I baked, I forgot to burn them."

Now, back to those donut muffins. Those yummy, yummy donut muffins. I first encountered them at my school. A friend of mine brought a batch to school one day and I was instantly hooked. You want to know why?

Imagine a donut. Got that? Alright. Make that the fluffiest cake donut you’ve ever had. Now imagine a muffin, but take out all that filler–no nuts, no blueberries, no bran, just a muffin of pure vanilla batter. Finally, imagine these two sweets had three even sweeter children–all 1/2 cake, all 1/2 muffin. Oh wait, I take that “finally” back. Finally, sprinkle some fairy dust on them. You get a little something like this:

They come in three varieties–vanilla, chocolate chip (is it a chip? More like a fleck), and mini–and yes, they do taste even better than they look. Believe me when I say that these were very hard to let slip out of the kitchen.

Next task was to check up on the fudge I made yesterday. No surprise, the fudge turned out pretty darn good; it’s like making fudge is in my blood or something.

😐

Anyways, my final two tasks were making the salted caramel brownies (the other delicious reason I applied for this internship) and the pecan bars. The salted caramel brownies were very time-consuming yet fun–there were lots of prep and measurement, including parking and fully baking the brownies with and without the caramel (a lesson in offset spatula usage).

Not the best picture, but this is the only one I have that shows you the ooey-gooeyness of it all. A better photo is forthcoming.

The pecan bars were also a blast to make because pecans are some of my favorite nuts and, well, when you combine them with butter, sugar, and shortbread…I think you get my point. I never got to take a taste of the brownies and the pecan bars today, but my memory of the salted caramel brownie from a few months back is still very strong: an intense chocolate taste offset by the sweet, almost burnt caramel flavor, all complemented by a generous sprinkling of fleur de sel and packaged in a fudgey, gooey square. One of the best brownies I’ve ever had, hands down.

Yet again, not the best photo; yet again, better photo forthcoming.

As I closed the door to the oven where my pecan bars had just left, my day at the bakery also came to a close. I learned so much from my experience there today; there really is no other way to learn baking like this than being in the thick of it, and I thank my supervisor and all the other employees I’m working for the opportunity and for putting up with a rookie like me.

Throughout the day, N let me stockpile a few odds and ends, test samples, and day-old pastries for a taste test grab bag. Don’t you worry, readers, you’ll read much more about those tomorrow. For today, however, I’ll just leave you with a little preview:

P.S.: I told you I would have a better photo of the chocolate chip cookies, and here it is! I’m a man of my word, people.