Saturday, 30 July 2011

Giftmas in July

As I mentioned in my last post, Every year I work on a gingerbread project to be auctioned off at the Festival of Trees. The proceeds go to the University Hospital. I absolutely love this project. They accept offerings from anyone, any skill level is welcome to donate. I think everyone should sign up! A tree, a wreath, a cake, or gingerbread, whatever inspires you. I look at it as an opportunity to learn and stretch my myself. I start planning next years project as soon as i drop mine off!  Every year they have a theme, but I tend to just find a cool idea I want to make and that will fetch a a nice chunk of change for them. I don't think they mind my non conformity.

these are the two photos are from my introduction to the festival. I worked on Charlotte's web with two other gals in my class. there was a photo of the finished product published in the Edmonton journal, which was very exciting. the other project was shrek's marsh. I won a peoples choice award, and i was floating on air. I had enormous amounts of fun creating the disgustingly delicious marsh.
A close up of Wilbur and Charlotte. The web was quite a challenge, but i think it turned out pretty we considering my lack of experience at the time. making all the farm animals was a hoot. 
I liked playing architect, and trying to figure out a design for this funky house. of course my scale is terrible, but how cute is Gingy peeking out of the out house?!? I get better with the scale of things as I go along, and since I cant just make a normal house it seems, I have to play architect fairly often! I made the "Beware Ogre" sign out of royal icing, and painted it with food coloring, it really finished the scene.

the next year I did a favorite of many, the Simpson House. Mosty I just really wanted to make Maggie in her cute little star snowsuit. I pushed myself, and almost didn't finish this one in time. While we were delivering, Bart's tree house fell over, and the cat fell out, and Marge's head fell off. HER HEAD FELL OFF! i was freaking out. As a good baker, I had a repair kit with me. I did my best to repair the tragedy. It was humbling, and I learned alot from my mistakes. the faces of the family were abit off, which bothered me,because they are so iconic. but i had fun with it. I love Homer hanging off the roof tangled in lights. I don't have many pictures of this one though, which is too bad, there was some cool details.

  after my misadventure with the Simpsons, I wanted to do something i loved. Enter...ZIM! Invader Zim never fails to make me laugh. This was no exception. I had a blast making all the little details for this house. I knew not many people know of this amazing animation, but those who do watch it with obsession. I know i do! 
So I set the scene of Zims house, with all of its regular decor. Dib watching zim from behind the house
 GIR playing with a squirrel, Gaz hanging out. and to make it abit more christmasy i added the robot snowman from the holiday episode, and Santa's sleigh pulled by a team of mooses. I am very proud of this one.

And the piggies. I loved the piggies soooo  much. they were tucked in all over the board. 

So that brings up to last year. I made a Mario Bros themed gingerbread. Princess peach's castle surrounded by all the characters and scenery from the games. This is another favorite. I worked very hard on this one, it took more time and effort than any other, but my skills have improved. I was so proud of everything! The princess seems abit off to me, but the rest I was so very thrilled with. I stood near it while kids went by ooooohing and aaaaaahing. I was so filled with joy.  see their faces light up was the best part by far.
 I took alot of time to work on all the little details, and the supporting characters. 

Luigi was behind the castle, surrounded by the villains. there was so much going on. I really tried to make it fun, and set a scene. 

What am I going to do this year? well there is a plan. But I'm not going to tell you yet. You're  going to have to wait 8) and maybe start planning your own. you get the be a baker, and architect, a decorator, and artist, and a volunteer, all at once. try it, you might just get hooked like i did! It doesnt matter how good it looks, all you have to do is put in some love, and time. 

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Baking is Science for Hungry People.

Remember this cake, which I ever so proudly served to Miss Mander for her birthday about 4 or 5 years ago. LOL. I was so proud of it. To be fair, at the time that was the best cake I had ever made. Lately I have been doing alot of thinking about where I am now, how I got here, and where I want to be going. I know heavy stuff right?  I have been abit pensive, but overall, feeling positive. Speaking of positives, I would like to take a moment or two to talk about the NAIT baking program. I had such and amazing experience at NAIT. I want everyone to go there and take the baking program, come on its only 8 months, and if you do your apprenticeship you get grants from the government. You cant lose!!! If you cant take the whole thing at least treat yourself to a pastry boot camp!
Here I am with another project I was so proud of. My first loaf of bread. Looking at it now, I'm mortified. But i was so exuberant when I made it. You can tell I hadn't quite learned anything yet, it is a terrible loaf, but I loved it, I still love it.This humble bread symbolizes that I will never stop learning and growing as a baker, and a person. Thanks bread... you're awesome! I promise to keep learning!
We learned so much in such a short period of time. I'm glad I was older when I returned to school, and i was really focused. My instructors were beyond my expectations. There may be a teeny tiny part of me that wishes I went to SAIT, because they do more "competition" stuff, and plating. But I would never take back the time I spent at NAIT. Everyday was an opportunity for me to soak up knowledge, and practical experience from the amazing staff. As well I had a chance to learn in my own style, and challenge myself. We learned, breads, cakes, cookies, quick breads, pastry, icings, butter creams, fillings, donuts, puff dough, pies, tarts, decoration, SO MUCH! Not to mention the theory ( science behind the it) food safety, business, equipment, first aid, nutrition, and more. AMAZING. I'm getting all amped up just talking about it. I want to go learn something.
Pumpkin Pie
Black Forest Cake

Bread Art

The pumpkin pie holds a special place in my memory. The morning of the pie demo, I was quite emotional. I found out the night before that my grandpa/father (its complicated) had passed. I tried to just carry on, but my mind wandered during the demo, my teacher noticed the tears in my eyes. They called for a short break, and helped me compose myself without drawing attention. I don't know if they ever realized how much that meant to me. Beyond being great educators, they are all people I like and respect. I held things together till the end of the week, when the part time instructor came in. Poor guy had no idea what he was walking into. While i was working on this cake (below), I struggled. the marzipan tore, my fondant wasn't the right temperature, it was a disaster. I was frustrated, and I was quick to tear up again. The kind young man thought i was upset about the cake, and tried to console me. My friends told him what was going on, and we all laughed through it.  Sometimes they still tease me "Its Not The Cake...sniff sniff"     
When I started at NAIT i had little to no interest in cake decorating, it wasn't something i was familiar with. It wasn't until we started our gingerbread projects that i fell in love with the idea of making edible decorations. Some of the class volunteered to make gingerbread projects to be auctioned off at the Festival of Trees.
Being the overly ambitious person I tend to be, I decided to make my own project as well as collaborate on a group project with two other lovely ladies in my class. My solo project was Shrek's marsh, and the group project was Charlotte's  Web. My Shrek gingerbread won a peoples choice award, which really uped my self esteem. and then the group project was featured in the Edmonton journal.

After the fun I had with these projects I began to enjoy decorating alot more. I am abit unconventional.... shocking.... i know 8) I didn't care to much for the the royal icing dummy cake we made at the end of first semester.Althogh i did learn two things, I do not like flowers, tradtitional cakes or royal icing. 

there was alot more fun to have in the second semester. We had fascinating sugar and chocolate sculpture demos. I would have liked to have more time on those subjects. It was amazing to see our teacher blow molten sugar like glass, and create a beautiful bird in minutes. So inspiring, and amazing. I on the other hands made a lopsided flower my first try with pulled sugar. I hope someday to practice these techniques, and get better with them, and with chocolate tempering too.
Fougasse Bread
Yule Log
Hazelnut Cake

Carrot Cake with Marzipan Carrots

Choux Swans

LopSided Pulled Sugar Flower

Chocolate Box. Featuring ChocoPig!
As the end of the year loomed, there were some intimidating projects. I was not really interested in making a traditional fondant wedding cake covered in flowers, So I looked at the marking guide, and pushed my luck by designing a more whimsical cake. I'm pretty sure my teacher wanted to smack me, but I had way more fun with my cake than the other students. I still go a good mark, and come on.... how cute are octopi in love?

and then finally there was the last big display with our choice of bread ( i chose fougasse) petite fours, and a fondant cake of our own design. I decided to do a simple cherry blossom cake. To this day it is one of my favorite cakes I have ever made. 

Then before I knew it classes were over, and it was time for apprenticing. We were ushered off out into the world, armed with all the tools we could need to begin battling in the trenches of the baking industry. I still count some of my class mates as my closest friends. Of course much more happened during my time at NAIT, but I think you might agree that this post is long enough already.Thank you to everyone who showed me technique, patience, and knowledge. I feel like I have come a very far way in a very short period of time. I am trying to continue on in my career in a way that would make you proud.
I follow my instincts, even when they don't follow convention. I trust my morals, standing up for my beliefs. I bake from my heart, but i use my head.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Making Faces

I am happy to say, that my fondant modelling skills are improving. I have always had alot of trouble with faces. I tried a new approach this time and I think it worked pretty well 8)
I started out with a basic shape, pushing in little parts, pulling out other parts. Manipulating it to make it have the curves i needed. then I added lips and eyes, and she started to look human. the next step was to paint her to look like "Barbie" She may not look exactly like her when I'm done, but definitely one of the best faces I have sculpted.

                                                                                               After her face was done I added two colors of yellow hair to make her hair nice and big. Then I deconstructed Barbie's body and made all her pars separate so she would look like a doll. I made her legs and dress hang off the end of the cake, cause I knew they wouldn't fit, and I didn't want to make her smaller. I wanted it to be closer to real doll size.

I also made a cute girlie  lace doilie to put under her. so once everything was made i just put it all together  on the cake. Overall the project turned out fairly well. I would tweak afew things next time, but she was pretty smokin!