Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Faves

I'm headed into my last weekend here in Hyde Park, NY for a while as I'm gearing up to move back to Virginia for five whole months! Smack in the middle of my program here is the externship portion. Externship is basically an 18-week long on-the-job class. We apply to them from a long list of sites approved by the Culinary Institute, and then you're on your own to get one just like a job. I'm crazy excited to be heading back to my roots in VA and it's gotten me feeling so inspired lately about so many things:

Favorite cake stand: Antique-y

I love how the different edges and colors of the plates contrast, but still seem to just fit together. This dessert stand is just so pretty and sweet, just like some of my latest dessert bar items.

Favorite Birthday Cake: Sprinkles

I found this gem on Pinterest this week and fell in love. Such a clean design but still fun and creative for a birthday. I think the reverse would be awesome too, with the number in sprinkles and white around.

Favorite Cupcake: Caramel Apple Cider

I'm starting to get SO excited about my favorite food season of the year- Fall. These cupcakes were part of a fall flavors series that I wrote a few years ago, and they're still one of my favorites. It's an apple spice cake topped with fluffy cream cheese frosting and a whiskey caramel drizzle. 

Favorite Book: Cooked by Michael Pollan

I can't put this baby down. Michael Pollan makes me wish I had majored in Anthropology in college. The guy just gets it and he goes on the craziest adventures in the name of food. Definitely recommend!

Favorite View:

This is what my backyard currently looks like. When I move back to VA for externship I will definitely miss being this close to the Hudson river's beauty.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Petite Fours

Petite Fours means 'little oven' in French, and they are bite-sized desserts traditionally served with your check after dining in a restaurant as a thank you from the chef. Much like petite gateaux, petite fours come in all shapes and flavors, look spectacular on a dessert bar, and taste delicious. There are five main categories of petite fours: Sec (dry), Frais (fresh), Deguise (disguised), Glace (glazed) and Prestige (prestigious). What I love about petite fours is that there aren't many other rules besides size. They can be anything from cookies to fondant glazed cake layers - just as long as they're pretty and bite-sized!

A few traditional types of petite fours that you can see in this picture are bi-colored macaroons that we filled with mango milk chocolate ganache, canneles (little cakes with a crispy crust but custard-y inside), coconut macarons, financiers, florentines and mondiants (chocolate drops with dried fruit and nuts). Among other things in my Individual Production Pastry class where we made all of these goodies, I learned that it is literally impossible for me to pronounce anything in "french" without an over the top Pepe le Pew accent. Oui Chef.

I'm especially a huge fan of homemade marshmallows. To give you an idea of the difference between a homemade marshmallow and a store bought jet-puffed one...I will only touch the store bought ones if they are toasted, in-between two grahams and smothered in chocolate. Homemade marshmallows, on the other hand, I want to cuddle up with and take a soft, pillow-y delicious nap on (what's even better about making marshmallows homemade, is that alcohol doesn't affect the structure formation of gelatin so you can have boozy 'mallows too ;-). They make great wedding favors, centerpiece fillers, or s'mores bar additions.

Petite Fours are a fancy little way to impress your guests and make them feel immediately special for being invited, without having to break the bank or go over the top.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Petite Gateaux

Petite gateaux, meaning 'little cake' in French is an individual serving of a layered cake, usually built in a mold and then glazed to finish. They are complexly flavored and extremely delicious. From the textures to the garnishes, these little gems were my favorite dessert that I made so far in my Individual Production Pastries class, and I think they would be perfect to sit center stage in a dessert bar at a wedding. 

This guy stands about 3" high and 2" wide. From the bottom up, the layers are hazelnut sponge cake, praline feuilletine (hazelnut crunchy goodness), creme brulee (oh yes, you heard me right), and milk chocolate mousse. We froze it and then used a spray gun (meant for paint, oops) to cover it in milk chocolate spray and create the velvety dot texture you see on the top. It's garnished with a caramelized hazelnut and two chocolate decor pieces. 

 At the end of every class, we create a display of all the desserts everyone made. The top row is my team's, and the others are all my classmates.

Just to give you a taste of the possible flavor combinations, we had raspberry and pistachio, mango and coconut, black forest, and chocolate caramel peanut butter (um...yeah). 

These little cakes are a beautiful way to fancy up your event and add a lot of color and flavor to a dessert display. I've had mini cakes on the brain lately in preparation for my sister's wedding next June, where we're plotting something similar for her big day. I'm still in the planning stage, but check out my Pinterest board to see her cake progress and check back here for all the delicious details! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Faves

Just in time for another weekend, here's a few of my favorite things that I found inspiring this gorgeous week in the Hudson Valley:

Favorite Summer Wedding Cake: The Naked Cake

There's something so crisp and summery about the way a naked cake topped with fresh cut flowers and juicy berries looks. I love this trend in general because I love seeing the colorful layers of a cake, but also because baring all in summer seems especially appropriate.

Favorite Instagram: 

Of my favorite breakfast and my favorite mag. Berries I picked from this farm last weekend, greek yogurt, museli and honey plus Bon Appetit's best restaurants edition made my morning.

Favorite Song: Burn- Ellie Goulding

This week (today!) I'm taking my 2nd term practical in pastry school and it's for all the marbles. Needed a little extra push and having this song in my head helped me through. Also Ellie Goulding is just the sh!t. This song will definitely be making it on my next wedding cake day playlist.

Favorite Quote: TJ

See above. Always persevere. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Dessert Bar

The class I'm currently taking in pastry school is called Individual Production Pastries (IPP). We make fancy, little desserts- a LOT of fancy little desserts. And as much as I love a gigantic tiered wedding cake, working on a smaller canvas in this class has been inspiring and it totally renewed my affection for dessert bars. Dessert bars offer a wide variety for guests at a wedding to choose from plus the set-up looks really elegant with the right selection of cake plates and platters. It's the easiest and most cost effective way to please everyone and still have a major wow factor. To give you an example of what I'm talking about, here's a beauty of a dessert bar featured by Southern Wedding Magazine:

A dessert bar can be any number of sweets and treats like homemade marshmallows, mini cakes and pies, donuts, cookies, bars, tarts or cupcakes. The idea is that a guest can walk up to the table, pick up a dessert and eat it off a small plate or in their hand. Smaller desserts work best, but depending on the type of event you could really make anything work. What we made in IPP is definitely more suitable for an upscale affair. In class we worked on one dessert item as a team of four, and then combined it with  four other teams' desserts to create a display at the end of every class. These desserts are from the collective effort of my whole group:

These are layered classical cakes clockwise from left: apricot pistachio opera, milk chocolate hazelnut ganache, pistachio and strawberry frasier, chocolate praline roulade and the traditional opera.

Most of these items are made from a dough called pate a choux (what you make cream puffs out of). From the top down, here's a lot of frecnch: macaron, Paris brest, St. Honore cake, banan, religiuse, solambo, macronade biscuit and eclair.

Mille fuille (Napoleon), chibouste and plum tart, yuzu lemon curd tart, chocolate apple tart and citrus tart:

These are called verrines, and they're just layered desserts you eat with a spoon (super fancy pudding cups?). From the top down: Cherry compote and panna cotta, creamscicle, chocolate peanut butter, rum spice with peaches, and tiramisu.

 I'll be going into more detail about some of my favorites coming up. Stay tuned for more dessert bar ideas!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Faves

Back at pastry school and rollin' in my next class, Individual Production Pastries. We're finally getting to experiment with garnishes, chocolate and - wait for it - LUSTER DUST, every pastry chef's sparkly best friend. All the new creative freedom has my wheels turning, and here's what I've been loving lately:

Favorite Wedding Cake: Metallic cakes

I love this new trend so much it was hard to pick just one. The metallic sheen is simple but showstopping, and I'm in love. Also...those cake plates...!!!

Favorite Birthday Cake: Candles from Miso Bakes

So fun for a birthday!

Favorite Food Trend: Dark Chocolate Almond Milk

Twice the calcium and protein of dairy milk AND I get chocolate out of the deal? You can say whatever you want, but I've convinced myself that dark chocolate almond milk is healthy.

Favorite Read: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

I ate at Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream in Nashville, TN when I was on vacation last month and it was love at first sight. When I saw she wrote a cookbook too, I could barely wait to get home to order it on Amazon. What goes better with cake than ice cream?!

Favorite Blog: 100 Layer Cake

It's a wedding and party planning blog that has sections for vendors, community members (cakelets), and DIY ideas for weddings, birthday parties, showers and more. Basically, a resource for LOTS of events that revolve around the cake, and a dream to be featured on.