After Pastry School – Baking a Bit of This and a Bit of That

My last baking posts were in early/mid July and covered some practice baking I had done over the spring and a bit of dirty baking I indulged in for beach treats.  Given the long hours I spent in the kitchen at work, the tiny size and lack of equipment in my Somerville kitchen very little baking got done this summer/early fall.  There were some projects here and there, including a few cakes I did for Wilton Cake Decorating I and II at A.C. Moore.

July

I assumed that by July I would used to a standard baking schedule, four 10 hour days. Ha!  Not so much.  Not even close. Especially given that July brought the heat and afternoon kitchen temps reached 100+. Four days working, three recovering.  The last thing I wanted to do on my days off was to be in front of an oven.  I did however know that I needed some motivation and structure around my pursuit of better cake decorating skills.  Happily enough the A.C. Moore across the way in Somerville offers Wilton cake decorating classes.  Nothing motivates me more than the idea of not getting my money’s worth.  If I’ve paid for the class, I’ll go and put in the practice time. Always admired, although never understood, those with tons of self motivation.

Here are two cakes and a few brownies I did for the buttercream basics class, along with my dirty baking ingredients and some JP Licks vanilla sharing a bowl with homemade salted caramel ice cream topped with funfetti bar crumble.

August

August was hot.  Too hot for kitchen work, IMO.  The bakery slowed down, I reduced my schedule to three days and spent more time up in Gloucester, enjoying the beach, the deck and cooler coastal temps.  Any baking was done early in the morning and as quickly as possible before doughs, buttercreams and ganaches got too soft or runny to work with.

Using the last of my freezer reserves of Pastry School scraps I made some absolutely delicious roasted tomato, thyme and goat cheese hand pies.  The same day I made raspberry lemonade shortbread bars and s’mores bars (graham layer, dark chocolate brownie, marshmallow buttercream & ganache).  When you bake you have good days and bad days.  Occasionally you have a great day.  That was one.  Only change I would make is too use a slightly less rich brownie recipe.  Up next was a recipe test for work (white chocolate apricot halawa), which was very well received at Sam’s work although not a huge hit at home.  Only other time spent in the kitchen that month was either prepping for the grill or practicing cakes.  Seemed like a lot of effort at the time, even though I did just two!  One was vanilla with a lemon soak and blueberry buttercream the other a chocolate cake with peanut butter filling and milk chocolate buttercream finished with a homemade chocolate crumble and ganache drip.

September

I love September.  A long warm farewell to summer, wonderful fall flavors, cool starry nights.  Fall has long been a busy time for me, a time of transition, and this year was no exception.  Over Labor Day we celebrated our last long weekend in the city, a few weeks later took a whirlwind mini road trip north, I finished my internship and at the end of the month we moved out of Somerville, back to Gloucester full time.

Embarrassingly little baking was done.  I freely admit we ate out and got take out almost every night, enjoying the many varied options of Somerville and Cambridge. When we were home, at either location, we were getting ready to move.  In the last week of the month I practiced/tested some cookie recipes – peanut butter with a butterscotch buttercream filling, oatmeal rum raisin with a maple rum glaze and triple chocolate chunk (white/dark/bittersweet).  The oatmeal and peanut butter were clear winners while the chocolate chunk were great but went stale too quickly.  The quirky little cake was test vanilla cake layers and milk chocolate buttercream from the freezer with a chocolate chunk cookie buttercream.  Making good use of the leftover, slightly past peak cookies from earlier that week.  In a proper kitchen nothing goes to waste.*

  • Public Service Announcement/Clarification – This does not mean that you can serve, sell or gift substandard or stale baked goods.  It is not license to use suspect, old ingredients.  If a cookie/cake/bar/pastry is fresh for x number of days, don’t think people won’t notice when they taste it days past.  They notice, they remember.  It’s gross.  Food is love should be treated as such!

Halfway through October and we’re still settling back into life in the ‘burbs.  Trying to enjoy the quiet, beautiful foliage, kitchen space and fresh air in Glosta.  Trying not to miss the amazing food, proximity to movies/music/festivals and wonderful people we left behind in the city.  Spending quite a bit of time in the kitchen but much of it is making dinner; pizza dough, soup, frittata, strata, roast chicken, and more.  Below is one of my new favorites, chicken and waffles – rosemary waffles with buttermilk tenders and an apple maple compote.   IMG_2257

Looking forward to lots of fun apple, pumpkin, maple and Halloween projects in the next few weeks.  Nothing better than a nice size kitchen, some warm spiked cider and a great recipe.

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