Monday, July 26, 2010

A Pearl, a Puzzle and a Plethora of Pics

Oops! I did it again. Weeks have passed since the last post, and while it fits in the 'less than six weeks' promise in June's lone post, it's still much longer than I had intended. Like most of the times before, I have no real excuse - just living life and ignoring online responsibilities. Looking back I don't know why I didn't blog (don't know why I didn't call...) sooner. If you'll forgive the abandonment and give me one more last chance, I'll try to bring you more up to date.

At the end of the last post, I hinted at some drama in the school house. We've had multiple ambulance visits, but the most recent was because an expectant student was having issues with her baby. Other visits have been for various reasons such as students passing out or having seizures. Another previous post mentioned a student threatening to cut someone, and we finally had it happen in the bakeshop. It wasn't intentional, but it still caused a ruckus. My lunch buddy was at the sink when another student walked up with knives. Before the knives ever made it into the water, the student carrying them had somehow cut the hand of my Bueno partner. This led to a profanity filled argument which led to tears for the cutter. The cutter actually left the room and never returned. She has been on an official leave of absence from the school since that day. We also had two students who dropped out and one who transferred to night classes. The student who transferred was the same student who suffers from body odor, so his transfer at the start of the Oklahoma summer heat was timed perfectly.

Moving on the the educational portion of school, we started the Chocolates & Centerpieces course after the cake class. The chocolate class started with a few days of chocolate candy making. My partner and I were assigned an orange butter ganache that was quite good. How bad can large amounts of chocolate mixed with liqueur be, right? The candy was pretty simple to make. Once the butter ganache is made, it's piped onto a dark chocolate base. When it dries the entire thing is dipped in milk chocolate.

Pieces of Orange Butter Ganache candy in the making.

The most difficult thing about working with chocolate is making sure that it is tempered properly. Tempering chocolate is basically bringing it to it's melting point (which varies based on type) over a water bath, removing it from the heat and then seeding and stirring it until it's temperature reaches somewhere in the 80s - though the temperature isn't really checked that often. The chocolate is usually tested by placing a small amount on a piece of metal to see if it sets. It is a time consuming and arm tiring project, and I don't enjoy it. Unfortunately the candy does taste good, so I've suffered through the process at home since trying them in class. The at-home version wasn't as good. When I asked the chef about the differences and had her sample the homemade version, she said that I used cheap chocolate. At the checkout counter, I hadn't found the ghirardelli to be cheap.

The rest of the chocolate class was spent on making chocolate objects and a few gumpaste and fondant items. Each student had to create a chocolate plaque using a template provided by the chef, a hat and a centerpiece. We had creative control of the hats and centerpieces. To be completely honest I had seen the hats of the previous class and thought the project in general was less than thrilling. When it came time to make our own, I wasn't excited. In the end I went for a Minnie Pearl look. Unfortunately there were quite a few students who had no clue who Minnie Pearl was. For those who may not know of Minnie, please see below.

For the centerpiece assignment, my first thought was to go with a Bueno theme, and I made it as far as the mexidip bowl before changing my mind. I had added yellow coloring to some white modeling chocolate and then chopped a few pecans and added them to the yellow mixture to look like a corn tortilla, but the chocolate was crumbly. I wasn't feeling it. In the end a friend suggested I make a Scrabble puzzle, so the bowl was scrapped and the game board started. During this time I skipped a day (or was it two?) of class and was behind on my projects. So on a very hot day a few weeks ago, I waited for the chef to leave and then smuggled a large square chunk of chocolate out of the bakeshop and raced across Tulsa praying it wouldn't melt before I got home. I used fondant, the airbrush, a liquid glaze and half the night to finish the board. The plan was to sneak it back in the school before the chef arrived, but of course I overslept. It worked out though because the class wasn't in the bakeshop when I arrived late with the game board. I took it into the bakeshop before joining the class, and nothing was ever said about it. Pics are below.

An edible version of a Minnie Pearl hat.

The white chocolate & pecan 'corn tortilla' mexidip bowl.

The Scrabble board.
(Yes, I know that allpurpose isn't a valid word, and proper names aren't allowed.)

The plaque of white, milk and dark chocolate and it's chocolate stand.

On the first Friday of the course, we had a substitute teacher who spent the day showing us how to make gumpaste flowers, and it was one of the most enjoyable and well received days we've had since January. Many of my peers and I would like to focus on custom cakes, so this was a welcome change from tempering chocolate. Unfortunately the day flew by and left us wanting more hands on training with the substitute (exciting information on her and her cake shop coming soon [and very soon...]). The substitute brought an example of an edible flower arrangement that was over two years old, but it still looked great. Without her pointing it out, I wouldn't have noticed the broken petals on one of the roses. Under her supervision and with her help, we were able to create some decent looking flowers.

The amazing edible flower display brought by the substitute as an example.

My attempt.

As far as the grades for the chocolate course go, I have no clue. The course ended about three weeks ago (yes, I'm behind on blogging, but you already knew that), and we've received no feedback on it. I find this incredibly frustrating. I've tried to come up with an explanation or an excuse to justify the delay and lack of information, but I'm at a loss - especially for a school that seems to expect so much from their students. A grade for a class before the next class ends isn't too much to ask for in my opinion. But I'm not bitter.

I'll close tonight with photographs of my peers' work from the chocolate class and a tune that is frequently sung in the bakeshop by an often barely sober but entertaining classmate (I finally told him not to call me if he's drunk or high). You have my apologies in advance, because the song is likely to get stuck in your head. Click cautiously.

This hat was my favorite.

Paula's 'In God We Trust' centerpiece was impressive.

Happy Grubbing!