Happy Spring, y’all.

Hey, guess what?  I finished my externship.  A while ago.  As I mentioned earlier, my externship took place at Balthazar Bakery, which I was actually employed at before my externship even started.  It’s been about five months, and despite my ridiculous sleep schedule (if I get any sleep at all) and the multiple burn marks (or “battle scars” as cool people call them) on my arms, I love my job.  There are ups, there are downs, but there is always a learning experience.  And there is always a radio on playing pop music to sing and dance to.  Just another life lesson with Christine.

Seriously though, I really like the people I work with and I feel lucky to have started my fabulous NYC culinary career in this kitchen.  Alas, all good things must come to an end, or whatever, and this week is my last week because alas, I am too poor to commute into the city.  Alas.  How sad is that?  But!  I am still going to go on trails in the city at some restaurants!  Maybe I will find a golden opportunity there and get a local job and work all the damn time and have zero time for anything else!  I can’t wait.  I also can’t wait until I get whisked away to Puerto Rico the day after my last day of work.  So, I’m technically unemployed, but I will worry about that after my vacation.

Look, I made a croquembouche the other day for my sister-in-law’s bridal shower:

I was very happy to make this for her for the party, but, well, let’s just say this required lots of patience.  Patience that I quickly ran out of after the first two rows.  And, I also made madeleines and macaroons.  Yum.

Also, I ate three sandwiches today all before lunchtime.  One was literally the size of my face.  Just thought I’d mention that.


Last day of school.

Well, a few days after graduation, we had our official last day because of all those damn snow days we had earlier.  Because the concept of graduation means not returning to school, we basically hung out in our street clothes, ate lots of food, watched Kings of Pastry, and then each made a flower out of chocolate plastique.  Incidentally, that day was the day I learned how to properly make a rose out of some sort of sugar paste.  I had missed the class on making roses and sort of guessed how, which looked fine, but they look way better now.  Here is a rose made out of chocolate:

It’d probably look even nicer if it wasn’t, you know, brown.

And, this is what we ate in class.  I brought the bread, obviously.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

Mod 4: Lessons 93-100 and Graduation

I can hardly keep my eyes open, it’s been a very long day, but I can’t seem to fall asleep.  I just got home from my graduation celebration, and it was a great one.  My last weeks at school were devoted to the celebration cake.  From baking the cake itself to making intricate little flowers, the whole process was really frustrating and incredibly fulfilling.  Even though I changed my concept pretty much right before the cake was due, my cake came out nicely and within my simple and elegant standards that I am always so attached to.  In the end, if I had to say one thing about my cake, it would be that I’m really glad it’s over with.

So, graduation.  It was really fun and great to see my chef-instructors and our loved ones there to tell us how talented and fabulous we are.  My family and friends came and we all ate and drank and had fun.  There were dramatic goodbyes and heartfelt last words, except that’s totally a lie because we still have one make-up class next Tuesday where we will be reunited for one last time (until our 10 year reunion, of course).

My externship is going well.  The commute is really, really tough (I wake up at 2:30 AM to get there at 5) and I had worked all day up until my graduation.  One glass of wine almost knocked me out (incidentally, I later had a beer and a margarita and still stayed on my feet).  Now that school is over, I can get more than 3 hours of sleep a night, which is just fantastic.  Anyone who aspires to be and is a chef, HAS to be a little bit crazy.  This is what I’ve discovered throughout my years in the food industry.  But, all our crazy is just a testament to how passionate and driven we are.  At least that’s what I like to tell myself.

Okay, I have to sleep now.  Now that pastry school is over, I should probably change the title of the blog, or something.  But, this will now just be a blog about my externship, other culinary ventures, and maybe even recipes if I ever have the patience to put them on here.

Anyway, Happy Chinese New Year, stay warm, don’t slip on the ice caps, and eat well.

Mod 4: Lessons 87-92

These past two weeks were devoted to cake decorating.  We made a ton of buttercream and piped a million rosettes, shells, roses, etc.  While the repetition and minute detailing of it all was making me a little stir crazy, “practice makes perfect” definitely applied to these little suckers.  We practiced piping on parchment paper, Styrofoam cakes, and cupcakes.  We also made a ten inch cake, which we iced with buttercream and will cover with marzipan next week.  We also made marzipan roses, which are kind of adorable.

These classes have been more-or-less uneventful and slow paced, which is nice.  I am starting my sketches for my wedding cake, which I have a vague idea of what it’s going to look like.  Everyone is getting antsy because school is over in eight classes, and it is quite exciting and bittersweet.  After school, I begin my externship, which is going to be at Balthazar bakery in the city.  Wooooohooooo!  I’ve actually been at Balthazar for a few weeks now, and it’s been pretty great.  Lots of hard work, a ton of battle scars (I constantly hurt myself when I’m in kitchens), loads of delicious food, and a great learning environment.  The people are great, the pastries are great.  The commute is the worst (especially with this freak winter we’re having), but it’s worth it.  I mean, it’s Balthazar, you guys.  I’m going to be visiting the Englewood, NJ location soon, where all the fabulous bread is made, which, as we all know, is what I am particularly interested in, so I’m excited to see what that location is like.

I’m awfully distracted by this football game right now (who AM I?), so I’m going to end this post.  Let’s go Jets!

Mod 4: Lessons 82-86

So, it seems I have made a totally badass chocolate showpiece (that also is a candy stand and way more awesome in person) with decorative sugar pieces made out of isomalt to resemble coral.  As it turns out, I don’t hate working with isomalt (a sugar substitute).  In fact, I enjoy it!  After bringing the isomalt to a certain temperature, I separated the clear gloopy stuff into batches and colored them pretty colors and poured them over ice cubes, then dumped it out to create these whimsical and somewhat creepy pieces.  I first witnessed this trick on an episode of Cake Boss and wouldn’t shut up about it.  I think it’s the fact that the shapes of the coral were unpredictable, yet always beautiful that struck me the most.  Anyway, after pouring chocolate into molds, assembling them, and attaching some coral, this is what I came up with:

That was pretty much my week at school.  Speaking of school, I technically should be there right now, but because of this impending freak snow storm that is supposed to be happening any minute, I decided not to risk having to be stranded in the city as I often am thanks to the LIRR.  Apparently I’m not missing much anyway.  Just marzipan fruits.  After an official snow day tomorrow, I am back at school on Thursday.  I will be piping things.  It’s officially time for cake decorating.  And then, GRADUATION.

Mod 4: Lessons 76-81

After being stuck in my house for three days straight due to laziness and the freak blizzard, I am finally going to sit down and tell you about chocolate.  Not that it’s delicious and great and all that, but mostly about how much I have grown to hate it.  Okay, maybe I don’t hate it, but I strongly dislike working with chocolate.

These past two weeks, I made pretty little chocolates and truffles, which were all delicious, but tempering chocolate requires a lot of patience and keeping a close eye on the thermometer.  It’s a straightforward process, but very particular and frustrating.  We also “painted” our chocolates with pretty colors.  I decided to go abstract and smear and splatter colors into my molds because that’s just my style, and by that I mean, it’s really easy and quick to go abstract.  Much of what we made, we are saving for our graduation ceremony, which is in ONE MONTH!  I can’t even believe it.

Anyway, we made: buttercrunch, nougatine, truffles (ginger, earl grey, milk chocolate spice, and many more), bite-sized molded chocolates (with matcha green tea, praline, coffee, etc. fillings), and milk chocolate bars with a salted caramel filling.  In the end, making these suckers was worth all that tempering nonsense.

I am now on a week long school break and our practical exam is on the day we get back.  That was genius scheduling on someone’s part.  But, whatever.  Well, I hope everyone had a great holiday and ate lots of really great food.

Also, don’t get killed by an icicle!

Mod 3: Lessons 71-74

Okay, so I lied when I said I’d have more pictures this week because I took none.  Well, I took two. Here’s one:

Hey, B!

We made a ton of desserts by some famous pastry chefs this week and practiced plating, which was pretty cool.  Eating the desserts came more naturally to me than plating them, so I did more of that.  Some of the desserts we made were: chocolate peanut tarts with lemon confit, praline citrus sorbet, and peanut butter powder, Greek yogurt panna cotta with grapefruit, avocado, and basil foam (both by Chef Michael Laiskonis), raspberry mille feuille with ice wine granita and litchi sorbet (by Chef Nicole Kaplan), and lemon fromage blanc mousse with rhubarb compote, caramelized phyllo, and pine honey ice cream (by Chef Dominique Ansel).  There were others, some were just eaten and not plated, all of them were great.  My favorite desserts were the ones that included salted caramel, one of my most favorite flavor combination.

Chef Chad also made us his famous shortcake, which he warned us would blow our minds.  I do have to say, it was a pretty damn delicious shortcake.  He sliced each cake and filled it macerated berries and topped it with fresh whipped cream.  Good job, Chef Chad.

Well, that was this week, and those were the two pictures I took.  Next week, we have our practical and then we start Mod 4 with Chef Jeff, which is the cake decorating business.

Things are also getting really exciting for me outside of school, but I’ll talk more about it next week.