Wednesday, 28 February 2007
Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Monday, 26 February 2007
Well not a particularly exciting lesson today. Just a whole lot of choux puffs filled with creme chantilly, creme patisserie and chocolate creme patisserie. I did a perfectly good job with my puffs (the chef pointed out that I made them a good size! although some of the larger ones did collapse a bit because they could've been kept in the oven a minute or two longer) but really, my stomach just couldn't handle the smell of eggs and butter. This could've been to do with the fact that I was swept over with a fever whilst at work yesterday (ended up going home and sleeping for over 12 hours) and well, for the fact that it was a Monday morning and nothing really happens for me on a Monday morning (far out, the food they were serving at the cafeteria was absolutely disgusting today - I blame that on the Monday blues which most of us seem to have). And ok, I thought my fever was over when I woke up this morning but then my nose started running as I got into class (the air conditioning in the kitchen really didn't help). Fortunately the running of the nose came in bouts so I wasn't blowing my nose as I was cooking. So good day with my puffs but an awful day for myself. *fingers crossed* that tomorrow will be better.
Chocolate Eclairs tomorrow. Emily, I'll do my best to deliver your batch to you tomorrow night. Let me know whoever else is interested for either tomorrow or Wednesday. In the meantime, everyone take care and try not to get sick. Turns out I'm not the only one, J's sick too as are two of my cousins (and these are incidents just in the space of yesterday!). Really not good!
Saturday, 24 February 2007
For starters, I was definitely not a happy jan having to pay $5.60 to park for 1.5hours outside Central Station. Oh wells, I suppose I got free parking after 6 at J's workplace but really, isn't the price of parking in the city insane?! I suppose it was my fault for wanting to drive and well in the end, it got me home early enough so I could wake up for a 6.30am start this morning. I guess convenience does come at a cost. But sidetracking here, let me tell you about my afternoon tea with Mandy at Y2K on Dixon Street in Chinatown. It's just nearby the infamous Superbowl Chinese Restaurant; a rather small little place but a place that has occupied that spot for some while.
I suppose I've had a bit of history with this place. Let me set things straight, yesterday was actually the first time I sat down and ate from their menu. Previously I've met up with friends there as we've gone to assorted concerts at the Entertainment Centre but hadn't actually been there to eat. It's not my fault though; the place is like your typical Asian hangout and meeting point; you'll get your groups of friends hanging there and in many instances, not everyone actually is there to eat. So continuing my story, those closest to me will probably not forget my incessant nagging to go there to try their Puff Pastry Soy Jelly. They have it advertised on the front of their store and every time I've walked past (literally), I've nagged at whoever's next to me to go in and try out. Pretty much every time I got the same response, 'I'm not hungry, if you are, you can go eat it'. And met with this rejection, I reluctantly walked on only to be rejected many times to follow.
So yesterday, being a Friday night, I found a number of my friends to be in the city. Where I was heading to dinner later on, I happened to find Mandy who was also out for dinner herself. And there you have it, the opportunity I'd been waiting for a long time now. Off I dragged Mandy down Dixon Street and we found ourselves seated inside Y2K. It would've been around 4 in the afternoon and it turned out to be a rather nice time to visit the place; not too many people at all. A rather efficient glance at the menu saw me ordering the Puff Pastry Soy Jelly, Mandy ordered a Pudding baked in Green Apple and we had to share a Mango Pudding Milk Tea. I'll put it in the words of Mandy, it was rather disappointing and just allow me to elaborate (the photos can be slightly deceiving). The Puff Pastry Soy Jelly tasted like I thought it would but it could've been more together as a dish (rather than eating puff pastry and soy jelly quite distinctively - I would've preferred the Soy Jelly nice and hot). Mandy's baked pudding was definitely novel and gave Mandy a good time digging at the raw apple to get her money's worth but in the end, it failed to Wow! us like we thought it should've. The milk tea was alright but again, nothing special. They do have quite a selection on their menu and it's probably worth trying but honestly, I don't feel encouraged to make the trek to the city just for it. Well at least I finally got to check the place out.
J popped by as he finished work. He called us pigs but hey, trying any dessert place out (regardless of it being good or bad) always makes for a good time. Well J claims he's not a big fan of sweets so he can be a bit of a spoilsport; actually I find it hard to find girl friends that are really into sweets. It's just the way things are. So really I've got to say, thanks Mandy for the company! Lol...where are we going next?
Thursday, 22 February 2007
Some of you may be surprised but yes, I ordered that whopper of a steak sandwich that came with chips and that flat white coffee is also mine. And well, I pretty much at it all save for a few chip ends which I usually leave till last anyway (they should really ban those chip ends - all chips should be rectangular and fat; not skinny and pointy on the sides!). J had the fish and chips which was somewhat less gigantic but equally filling. J had considered ordering a salad for lunch (who's the guy here?!) but changed his mind last minute. Later on we saw the salad get delivered to a table nearby us and my god, it was huge. If I was going to eat so much salad, I'd definitely stick to my steak sandwich and chips. Anyhow, this place has the thumbs up from me; food was good and really, you get your value for money. Service was definitely friendly and attentive. Sitting amongst your city office crowd, it actually wasn't too frantic or businesslike. A lady at the next table had actually opened up a book and was casually reading and enjoying her coffee.
I find that when I get to visit a new cafe, I get ideas as to how I would potentially like to run mine when I get around to having one (fingers crossed that that will happen sometime in the future). Not only are you coordinating your food, your staff and making sure your customers are happy; it's also about offering a little haven for people to sit down by themselves or with their friends to enjoy a meal or just a quick bite; I find this place does it quite well. Having passed by this place a number of times now, it was only just today that J and I decided to pop in. I suppose one lesson I've really learnt is to try something new each day; what results can be immensely rewarding.
I guess to sum it up, it was a rather enjoyable lunch. The place doesn't offer an extensive menu or a lot of space for a big group but for just the two of us, it was perfect. I encourage you to pop by and visit; anyone who tries the chicken risotto, let me know how it is. I'm a little addicted to risotto at the moment. I cooked some on Monday night and I'm encouraged to try a few more recipes. It's a shame that it costs a fortune to order at cafes. And well, funny enough, it seems like I'm on a bit of a cafe crawl since this year started. Looking forward to bringing more stories soon!
Wednesday, 21 February 2007
I still remember back when I used to laugh at Andrew at work for eating florentines. These were things that old people ate; nuts and more nuts plus just that bit of chocolate. For awhile, I actually refused to touch these things. At most places, you'll find these for about $3.50 and frankly, wouldn't you spend this money on something else if you had a choice? Although one day, I did give it a go and since then, I've got to say that I've been converted. Out of all the ones I've tried, there are some slight variations but generally speaking, you can associate the words 'crunchy delight' with these morsels. You can't really go wrong with these things; both store-bought and supermarket-packed ones are equally crunchy. I would highly recommend everyone to head to Aldi for this particular brand which sell them petit four-sized with a mixture of various flavours. Otherwise, Kez does a rather good gluten-free florentine (the only downside being the price); I used to love getting these at the uni shops because it seemed like these were the only places that sold them.
So today I had a hand in making my own florentines and it was definitely much easier than I thought it would be. We were just saying yesterday how the classes seemed to be getting progressively harder and more complicated but making florentines was a breeze. I think half the class was making mistakes today just because we were getting bored. Lol...one of my classmates even started chopping his chocolate button by button because we had so much time. Anyways, I'm a very proud owner of 12 florentines (down to 11 now...hehe :D) and seriously, they taste really good! Does anyone know where to buy glucose syrup?
So I guess that brings me to the end of my chocolate week. I'm pretty alright with tempering chocolate. For some reason today, my chocolate set in my piping bag before I could even pipe it (rather bizarre!). My love for florentines has definitely grown and I definitely won't satisfy for less now. No more of that peanut and sultana stuff I get from cafes. Actually, does anyone know where you can get a good florentine in Sydney? I haven't really seen many around. I'll dig into mine for the time being.
Tuesday, 20 February 2007
I managed quite alright today. The chef complimented me on the shine of my chocolates; I didn't do anything fancy like some of my classmates did although should time permit, I'll have a hand at it tomorrow (I hear we'll have some time after we make florentines). My chocolates were dark chocolate filled with the assorted ganaches from yesterday; strangely enough my favourite is probably Wattleseed. I'm not quite sure what it is; my cousin tells me it's the seed of the wattle plant but anyhow, the important thing is that it tastes really good! Lol...I actually filled about half my chocolates with Wattleseed...today I managed to make 4 trays (I've been told that that could be worth up to $200!!!).
Other than that, not much else today. A bit of an early mark like yesterday and really, I'm grateful for it. Whilst my body seems to wake up punctually every morning at about 6.30am, I struggle to get through the rest of the day so it's actually a really nice feeling to get home early in the afternoon and rest. On dinner duty tonight so should probably get going on that.
Monday, 19 February 2007
So after a week of bread, it's a week of chocolate! I don't even want to remember how many chocolates I ate in the space of class today and how many dribbles of chocolate I plopped into my mouth because at the time, it seemed like the best place to put it. If you see my uniform, there's every evidence of our chocolate lesson (as I would've expected) and fortunately, I didn't leave the class today being the grubbiest of them all. Well, I did cheat a little by wearing an apron but that was after I remembered I had one in my bag. Stupid me! In a nutshell, the whole lesson was spent tempering chocolate via the addition method and the tabling method. One of the other methods which the handbook speaks of is the Microwave method. Obviously, we weren't going to be spending our lesson doing that. And well, after doing the tabling method once, I resorted to tempering the rest of my chocolate via the Addition method because it's so much easier and you lose less chocolate (basically you melt half your chocolate and add the other half chopped into it). With the tabling method, you're spreading the chocolate out on a marble slab to cool it down. Far out, that piece of marble is so heavy I don't understand why you would want to use it!
In addition to tempering chocolate, we made our ganache fillings for tomorrow but really, it was a short lesson. I've got to say that I'm still a big chocolate fanatic and I haven't been put off by a day's worth of chocolate making. Although making chocolate isn't exactly the most exciting patisserie lesson; maybe it'll be better tomorrow when we make filled chocolates. Looking around the class, you could really see some people getting quite bored. For me, I was happily chocolate-ing away and the double goodness was that all my trays of chocolate came up with a nice shine. Hmm....I can't exactly say that about everyone in the class. I think a lot of people were rushing their chocolate and not doing it properly. I suppose the annoying thing for me is that I have warm hands so every time I was picking up my chocolates, I needed to soak my hands for a little while in cold water. Oh...and my moulded chocolate chef, it's head kept coming off. Quite disturbing!
A good day but quite sleepy now. To everyone who celebrates Chinese New Year, Happy Chinese New Year to you all! I hope we all got a lot of red pockets :D
Friday, 16 February 2007
I suppose the other question that most people asked was 'What's next?' and I told everyone exactly what I've been up to and I did get a few jaws dropping. When it all came out, I was even a little shocked myself at what mischief I've managed to get myself into and the direction I've headed. I was told that I look really happy so for the time being, I think I've made some good choices. If anything, I've created some new opportunities for myself and really, it's in my power to take those opportunities further. For the time being, I think I'll just take it day by day and give myself some slack; there's no real hurry. Another 9 months on it might be a slightly different story but I've got a few things which are works in progress; you'll hear more as it all starts to happen :D
And well, today was also a day filled with cards, presents and lunch. My boss, Phil and the HR lady who's been looking after me took me to a cafe nearby our office. Had the yummiest Chicken Risotto and received an extremely nice Herringbone shirt from my boss (I think I'll wear it to my graduation - the only thing being that it needs cufflinks; erm...I think I might actually need a guy to help me out on this one. Andy?) Then when I headed into Rhodes later on, Julie (the full-time lady I work with), she bought me chocolates for Valentine's Day. Honestly, I'm incredibly grateful for all the awesome people I've had the opportunity to work with. I don't think most of us get it that lucky.
Wednesday, 14 February 2007
Happy Valentine's Day everyone! I hope everyone spent the day with something sweet and nice to remember :D For myself, I spent another day making bread and of all days, today happened to be the healthy bread; wholemeal as well as pepita (or seeded) bread. Quite a different day to yesterday; we ended up skipping lunch to get everything baked and out of the oven so we could leave half an hour before our usual finish time. I reckon I'm a bit of a master at making bread now but really, just glad that the week of bread is over (I've been told that I'm really starting to look like a panda now - do pandas eat bread??) I've been told that about 300 chocolates are on the agenda for the next week as well as one of my favourites; florentines. Next week is definitely one to look forward to. (Actually we did spend this afternoon piping chocolate...the chef insisted cause we finished too early. lol...most of us got so bored we ended up piping the chocolate into our mouthes..it was yummy!)
And well, after a week of making bread, I got to say I'm awfully amazed at how much I've achieved. It's definitely not one of Einstein's equations or some really complicated mathematical formula to further science, but just new kitchen skills for me and some new knowledge about the food I eat. I think my family has benefited greatly from the mounds of bread I've brought home every day and I've really got to thank my relo's for helping us out in that respect. It's an awfully good thing to have teenage boy cousins cause they eat bread like they eat chips. Thanks Bernard and Andrew for your compliments as well as help in eating all the bread :D
Anyway, so when I got home today, I thought I'd compare a loaf of store bought bread and one of my 500g loaves I made in class. It was crazy how big a difference there was. The store bought one was slightly heavier but size-wise, it was so much bigger and airier compared to the loaves I baked. They really rort you on ingredients for the $3.50 or so you pay for a loaf of bread. In saying that, it's not like I'm going to be kneading bread on a daily basis just to get my nice bread but man, the baking this week has really got me to think about what really goes into the baked products that we buy from outside.
So how did I spend the rest of Valentine's Day? J came over for dinner tonight and I made a Chicken and Creamy Bacon Heart Pasta for everyone. Mum managed to find this cute pack of heart pasta when she was shopping at Aldi. I'm actually quite keen on visiting Aldi some day; mum seems to always return home with all these interesting goods which I've never seen before. The shame was that the hearts started to break as I was cooking the pasta; surely not a bad omen on today? Anyhow, keeping on the theme of hearts, I managed to find these cute heart baking molds when I went shopping for a scraper for the florentines we're making next week. One of the guys in my class was complaining how we don't make muffins in our course and that prompted me to dig out one of the Donna Hay recipes for a blueberry muffin which I'd been intending to make for some time. They turned out quite well but still a bit short of how I'd like them to taste - some of the ones you buy outside seem to use rice flour which gives it that crumbly texture; think I'll try that next time.
One kitchen trick I also picked up was that Blueberry juice stains on your hands can be removed with a little bit of lemon juice. So glad for it! For those who might be using frozen blueberries in your baking, keep this one handy!
Tuesday, 13 February 2007
More bread today. This time it was making crusty and soft rolls; making us quite pushed for time in the kitchen. We finished well past our class time with the last batch of baking going into the oven at around 2.20pm. As soon as our things were out, you would've seen everyone going 'hot, hot, hot', trying to put their breads into boxes, bags or sandwiched in between towels so they could cool down. Fortunately, today's baking wasn't quite as crazy as yesterdays and I could actually carry everything in my hands. I've already had my fair share of bread rolls from yesterday and today and I got to admit, they're getting progressively better. As we made two different types of dough today, you could really taste the difference and actually make an assessment of what's good.
It seems also that I'm quite fast with kneading bread dough by hand (Chef Geraldine got us to knead one by hand and the other using the machine). Later on when I went for my first shift of work, the chef tells me that I have hot hands which are good for making bread. Now I understand why my bread seems to prove so quickly even though I put one tray of mine into the prover later than another girls. It'll be a different matter when we make chocolate next week; hot hands aren't really something you want when it comes to chocolate. *Fingers crossed that I'll be ok*. The chef I'm working with at work was laughing at me because I was getting chocolate everywhere (I was helping him out with the cupcakes that people have ordered for Valentine's Day tomorrow - to those that have bought them, I hope you enjoy them); although he does say that I'll get less messy over time.
On the whole, it's been a rather exhausting yet fulfilling day. I find that I'm absorbing skills and facts like a sponge. When the chef was going through theory in class, I was actually finding it quite easy to remember and really, it's all quite interesting. As for work, I've still got the excuse that I'm new and so it's ok to make mistakes but I guess I just really want to use this opportunity to develop all the skills that I'm learning. In the words of my good friend Andy, it's a hectic lifestyle but what have I got to lose. Fortunately I can still say that I'm young and can go about crazily following my dreams (I've been tempted to go to Paris to study Patisserie!) I've definitely met some very inspirational people over the last couple of weeks and made a whole new bunch of friends, as well as eaten so many cakes and sweets. What a life it is at the moment!
Monday, 12 February 2007
We eat it all the time; breakfast, lunch, dinner and great as a snack throughout the day. It's a rather malleable baked product in that can be converted to various other delicacies. From sticking it in the freezer to serve as toast for up to a month, you can also make French toast with it when it's gone stale, there's also baked bread pudding, bruschetta or even if you just have it as a dipper with hot soups and as an entree to dinner. Of course, it's best eaten when it first comes out of the oven; that's when it's nice and crunchy on the outside and just warm and soft on the inside. Those on the no-carb diet may object but for nutritionists worldwide, it's recognised as a good source of fibre and an essential component of a healthy diet. However, too much of it can be a problem.
Today, I came home with 10 X 520g loaves of white bread. We're making more tomorrow and the day after; so that easily adds up to 10kg of bread which I'll be potentially bringing home this week. My mum had the exact reaction which I thought she would have seeing the bread; I can't blame her. If you saw us in class today, there was literally bread littered across the kitchen; in the oven, on stove tops, on wire racks lying on the benches. Even as we started popping some of it in our mouthes, we all had an armful to take home. (Let's not forget also the breads which the chef got us to make which had various ingredients missing - just to show us what happens). It should make for an interesting week.
Making bread isn't actually that hard; it's probably something that just takes time. I realise now why mum is always reluctant to make bread at home and I would agree, it's not something you can whip up in a jiffy. I guess also, getting all the ingredients you need is difficult too. For the white bread dough today, we used things like bread fat, bread improver and fresh yeast; these probably aren't common items stocked on your supermarket shelf. Although next time I'm there, I'll see what they have. It's fun making bread; I'll always remember the banging and the sight of the steam coming out of the oven, the smell of baked bread wafting across the kitchen; as much bread as there is to put me off it, I'm still a bread girl.
The really awesome thing was that the baker in our class taught us how to make Turkish bread; it's a very similar recipe to the one for white bread dough and definitely more kitchen friendly for home cause you remove the bread fat, bread improver and sugar and in place, add some vegetable oil. When it came out of the oven, we dipped it in oil and man, it was good! It might be awhile before I try the recipe though cause this week is already quite bread-filled.
Hmm..and it might also be time for some of those push-ups which I've never been able to do. You do actually need quite a bit of hand-strength working as a baker. From working in the dough and punching it, to lifting the trays out of the oven, it's no mean feat. I'm surprised I didn't fall asleep during theory class. Out for now; my adventure continues tomorrow!
Sunday, 11 February 2007
Saturday, 10 February 2007
Yesterday morning, I spent a good 30 minutes deciding on where to go with Mandy. There's a real art to choosing a place when you're planning to catch up with a friend. Ideally, the place is central to both of you, the place provides good ambience for chatting, of course there must be good food, and well for two people who've been on holidays in the past month, it is most certainly essential that the choice is economical. After much deliberation and sorting through options suburb by suburb, we settled for Genki in Atarmon. Mandy had been a couple of times, I'd heard about it, and well, it's Jap food; you can't go to wrong with that.
You'll find Genki as you exit from Atarmon Station; next to another famous Japanese restaurant (Sushiya) and amongst various other eateries and small shops. Expect a bit of a crowd if you're planning to head there on a Friday night but otherwise 6.30pm worked out well for us. Given there were just the two of us, it was probably a lot easier for us to get a table than if you had a big group. Mandy's been a couple of times and she advises to go there early to avoid disappointment; after we sat down, we did see people queueing.
Having previously tried Sushiya in Chatswood, I was told that Genki is actually much better and cheaper. Genki serves primarily ramen so for those looking for a bit of variety, Sushiya is probably the better option. Personally, a bowl of ramen always reminds me of eating in Japan so for me, I get a lot of enjoyment from such a simple dish. I mean, there's so much variety you can get in ramen; it would actually take a little while to get to try them all. For my first time at Genki, I actually found my bowl of ramen massive. I struggled with the last strands but the place has got the ok from me. I'd be more than happy to go back and eat there again and take guests with me (I had the Negi-Miso Ramen and Mandy had the Shoyu Ramen). Justin always says that it's the soup which differentiates the good from the bad; I thought Genki did a pretty good soup base. It's hard for me to judge objectively given the two of us had pretty similar bowls of ramen. Lol...I'll post again when I go back there.
The awesome bit to it is that it's a cheap meal. For lovers of Japanese food, it's a place worthy to visit. Very accessible by public transport and plenty of parking on the side streets. Careful with the mozzies around the area; don't let them bite you! Argh, I've got itchy spots all over me!