Fudge, The Intern (Part I): First Day at the Bakery

Well, readers, today was an awesome way to start off my internship at my local bakery. Within 10 minutes of entering the door, I was already measuring out and mixing ingredients for my first assignment: cookie making!

Working in a restaurant, I already know what a professional kitchen looks and feels like, but to actually be preparing food in one is just a blast. Also, baking in a professional kitchen is even that much better when what you’re making is a bunch of delectable sweet :).

Today, I made three types of cookies: Chocolate Chip, Sugar, and Reverse.

This is the only picture of the chocolate chip cookie I have right now...a better picture is on its way!

Chocolate chip cookies were my first foray into the professional baking world. With this recipe, I learned all about safety, mise en place, cookie scoops, convection ovens, all different types of ingredients…you name it, I probably learned it. Also, never drop a metal bowl full of cookie dough in a metal sink more than once in a minute; there’s no harm done to the dough, but you will be teased about it.

Great thing about making these chocolate chip cookies (and the other two recipes) is that I had to scoop and bake a test cookie to check the batter. Guess where those test cookies went?

Well, home with me, of course. Except for the chocolate chip cookie…that one was in my belly long before home. The chocolate chip cookie was irresistibly gooey and chocolatey with just the right crumb. I’m digging the recipe I used for it! It taught me a lot in my search for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe (note: I’m on my 8th batch right now, I believe).

Sugar cookies were my second batch. This time, I had gotten the hang of weighing, measuring, mixing, and baking in this kitchen, so these came out pretty well if I do say so myself ;). These cookies are bright, buttery, and light, all meshing into a near-perfect cookie.

Finally, the reverse cookie. The reverse cookie is exactly what you probably think it is: A chocolate cookie with white (and dark) chocolate chunks in the batter. It’s a riff off of the classic chocolate chip cookie of which I’m particularly fond of for its intense, dark chocolate, not-too-sweet flavor. This recipe did not disappoint; I could hardly contain myself from reaching into the oven and eating it because the aroma was so great!

Well, that’s my first day at the bakery. Tomorrow I’ll update you about my second day and about something in particular I’m looking forward to: finishing off the fudge I made today :).

A snack that one of the bakers (we'll call her "N") and I made: a mini vanilla cupcake stuffed with lemon curd and frosting. Delicious.

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Fudge in the Restaurant Business (Orange Banana Bread)

After reading this blog, you probably understand that being a full-time student takes up a lot of my life—I typically spend, including rehearsal time and extracurricular activities, 45-55 hours a week at school. Even with all that, I manage to work on the weekends at the restaurant down the street from my school as a host and cashier.

Yeah, I know, it still doesn’t even make sense to me how that all goes down, but it does, so I just roll with it.

The walnuts are just spilled around for the photo–I’m not that messy when I bake, people.

I love working in the restaurant business as a teenager. I get to develop great people skills by meeting all kinds of customers, customers ranging from the super nice and absolutely polite to the quirky crack-ups to the…well, we’ve all seen those certain kinds of patrons at restaurants, so I’ll just leave up that up to your imagination.

All jokes aside, though, my restaurant is great. My waiter, cashier, and host co-workers and I are like a big family. We’ve got the motherly waiter who always bakes and takes care of the rest of the staff, the kooky uncle-cashier who you always want to hang out with, and the rest of the clan, all ending up with me: the little kid of the whole bunch :). I think that spirit that patrons see is what keeps them coming back for more. Well, other than the scrumptious food, that is.

One side zesty orange, the other sweet and wholesome banana.

One perk of working in a restaurant? The cooks sometimes give me the old bananas from the week to take home! They’re overwhelmingly brown and black on the outside and mushy on the inside, but I think they’re beautiful. Do you know why?

Well, I can make this out of them:

This bread has your name all over it, people.

Old bananas are the best bananas to use for baking bread, I’ve found. The peels are brown and unattractive, but the inside is mostly in tact, so by no means are the bananas inedible. Since the bananas have over-ripened, I can cut down on the sugar in the recipe I use them in while replacing the lost sugar with the natural sugars that are present in the ripe bananas, making what could have been packed with empty calories into a healthy snack or part of a healthy breakfast.

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My Love-Hate Relationship with Costco (Strawberry Banana Muffins)

I love Costco. My family loves Costco. Everyone and their mother loves Costco. I’m pretty sure my dog knows full well what Costco is and loves it.

Loving Costco means two things, though. First, my family buys a lot of produce in bulk for hardly any money. Second, a lot of that produce sadly ends up going down the disposal when it gets old and moldy after we have only had a chance to use half of it. I can’t tell you how much I hate when uneaten food goes down the sink or in trash; I always think of wasted food as lost opportunities to make a dish.

The Aftermath

I’ve developed ways of combating this waste, usually by freezing the fruit we buy and steaming the heck out of a pound of baby spinach on a weekly basis (what family of three needs a pound of spinach per week, especially when I’m usually the only one that uses?). However, I think I may have found my new favorite method for my mounds of fruits: bake with them!

It is not an infrequent sight to see bananas of varying shades of yellow-brown sitting on the countertop in the kitchen, but making bread out of these bananas has never really crossed my mind (I know, how could it not have crossed my mind beforehand?). What with the newly purchased…pound (again, a pound for a family of three?)…of strawberries from Costco, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to prevent those luscious berries and, well, those not-as-luscious-looking-but-still-delicious bananas from going down the black hole that is the kitchen sink.

Don’t judge a banana by its peel, people.

The Aftermath, Pt. 2

To all my high school readers: this takes almost no time to make! Sure, this will technically takes about an hour to make, but remember that most of that time is baking time. I whipped up the batter in about 5 or 10 minutes and stuck these puppies in the oven while I was studying for Chemistry (an apt combination, Chemistry and Cooking), took them out a little while later, and had tasty homemade muffins for the rest of the week! Cooking and baking aren’t daunting tasks, guys; great food is only a bit of time and effort away!

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Hmm…What To Do With Leftover Pumpkin? (Banana-Pecan Pumpkin Bread)

Man, those pumpkin pancakes were so delicious. A week later, I’m still feeling as good as I did after I made them. Worst thing about them, though? Well, now I’ve got two Tupperware containers full of extra pumpkin. How should I use these now? In fact, what to do about the near-empty bags of seeds, banana chips, and nuts in my pantry? Now, that bag of flour also seems close to empty…as does that container of cinnamon…

And sha-BAM! It was like divine inspiration, only in the form of food.

OH. Of course. Pumpkin loaf! Not too sweet, still flavorful and decadent, spicy and delicious, and I can use the rest of the sparse ingredients I have…why didn’t I think of this before? Good thing I just discovered a bread pan during a massive kitchen reorganization. Oh, and what’s this? An electric immersion hand blender? Oh, how I love unexpected and late Hannukah gifts.

Sorry I’m keeping this post a bit short, everyone! College essays are beckoning me against my will. Soon the whole process will be over, soon everything will be officially out of my hands, and soon I will be catching up on my backlog of posts!

Little chunks of happiness in every slice!

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A Quick Breakfast for Any Teen in a Hurry (Homemade Granola and Yogurt Parfait)

I was talking with girlfriend (I’ll just call her “girlfriend” for the sake of anonymity) at school the other day, and she said, “No, I don’t really like breakfast. Well, maybe I would like it, but I don’t ever have enough time to eat it.”

W-w-wait…did I just hear that correctly?

Just to put my reaction into perspective, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Who wouldn’t want to start their day off with a stomach full of sweet fruit, piping hot eggs, or creamy oatmeal? Heck, why not all three? I understand that it’s hard for my girlfriend–along with, unfortunately, many of my peers–and I to find a time to eat somewhere during our zombiesque prowl around the house between waking up and dashing off to school in the morning, but how couldn’t one make time for it? Thankfully, I have a morning routine that leaves me exactly 5 minutes for breakfast. When I’m running on schedule, I mean. Which is hardly ever. By which I mean never.

Now, you may wondering, “How the heck do I make and eat breakfast in 5 minutes?” Technically I eat on my way to school in a Tupperware bowl (hey, I never said I was classy), so I guess I do cheat the time a little bit. However, it’s easy! My official 5-step plan for my friends’ and girlfriend’s breakfast woes that I follow every weekday breakfast is:

1) Yogurt.

2) Granola.

3) Fruit.

4) Honey.

5) Eat.

See? It’s that simple! Full of fiber, protein, vitamins (depending on the fruit), and amazing flavor to keep you going for the next few hours.

This weekend, I actually had some extra time on my hands, so I decided to make something that would benefit me in the long-term. I made a jar full of homemade granola for the week!

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