Saturday, May 21, 2011

Professional. Certified. Graduation!

I did it. I walked at graduation, which is something I initially had no intention of doing. When I mentioned that I didn't want to walk, my children become a little irritated with me. So, for them... I decided to just suck it up and go for it!

The most fun of the evening was getting all dressed up, getting the kids all dressed up, and introducing them to my Chef as well as the other chefs and culinary professionals at the college. My daughter ate duck rillete, only because I told her that I 'thought' it was chicken. She loved it, incidentally.

After dining and visiting with friends and classmates, I put on the my merlot colored cap and gown, and headed over to the gym for the ceremony. I walked.

Update- June 10: I received my diploma in the mail today... I'm am now "Professionally Certified" in the baking and pastry arts. I graduated with Honors, and as a member of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Graduation Menu

I may be done, but I wasn't finished. I was called in today to help with preparations for the hospitality students graduation reception. I spent the afternoon helping Chef Prater and Chef Sturmer with busy work. Chef Praer had me washing (seemingly) a ton of rice so he can make horchata. Chef Sturmer kept me busy making pumpernickel toast points and crostini.

I got a sneak peak at the menu for the reception and it just made me smile, and I have to admit, it made me really glad to be a part of the culinary school!

Graduation Reception
Culinary Arts, Pastry-Baking, F&B, Hospitality Management

~ Spiced reisling gelee' with tapioca pearls and marinated strawberries~

~ Seafood platter featuring smoked salmon, poached scallops, spicy shrimp 
with assorted toast points and pumpernickel crostini~

~Anti Pasti with Italian meats and cheeses~

~Sweetbread & mushroom terrine with duck rillette~

~Braised pork strudel~

~Roasted duck with fig mustard glaze, roasted dates, and almonds~

~Broiled teres major of beef with horseradish~

~Viennese Pastries~

Beverages, including Horchata

Oh, it's going to be a happy taste bud evening!! =)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

I'm Done, Officially!

Ahh, I'm finished. I did it.

This morning, at 7AM, I started my final practical exam for pastry school. Recipes were provided. Procedures were not, they are second nature now. The class was split, so half of us started at 7 - and had until 11 to complete our assignments. The second half started at 11:30. I was happy to be getting it over with, first thing.

We drew pieces of paper, with product names, from a hat last week. I drew "Butter Puff Pastry." Initially I had a sigh of relief, but then I remembered that with laminated doughs one little goof and the recipe won't work. It's not like something with many components that can be "masked" or fixed if something goes wrong. You get one shot, and only one shot.

The recipe I used came from our text book, Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft. From the recipe, I had to present 5 cream horns and 10 palmier cookies. My biggest worry was a time management issue because puff pastry is temperamental. Too cold - it rips. Too warm, it weeps.  Proper procedure allows a 30-60 minute resting time between each 4-fold application, after the initial butter roll-in lock. Considering it takes quite a while to bake the palmier and cream horns, to Chef's desired doneness, I needed to allow for at least 45 minutes for baking and filling, plus presentation. Do that math, it doesn't allow for 30-60 minutes resting.

While my pastry dough was resting, I took the time to make my Chantilly cream and thoroughly clean the cream horn molds. I wanted to make sure that there was no possible way the dough would get stuck.

I presented my completed tray to Chef at 10:50.

On to grading:

Time Management - 40 pts  =                40
Organization of Work Space - 20 pts =  20
Finished Product Quality - 35 pts =       35
Sanitation - 5 pts =                            5

Total possible points - 100  /               100%

Next Stop:  Graduation!!! =)

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Special Boy, his Special Olympics

My Joshua participated in his first Special Olympics regional track meet this past weekend. An amazing time was had by all... and we all got a little too much sun, too.

By the end of the day, Joshua had won 3 bronze, 3 silver, and 1 gold. This shot was taken right before his final event. I know, I know... I should have waited to he'd completed the entire day. =)

I have to say, it's been incredibly wonderful and rewarding to see him wanting to participate, wanting to socialize with the other athletes, and smiling with laughter!!  He truly is a joyful child, but his joy sometimes gets lost, deep down inside, with all the sensory "stuff" in the way. This weekend really allowed him to shine in ways other than in the world of academia, where he's already outshone the brightest stars.

My other two children greatly enjoyed the day as well, as you can clearly see for yourself. I just love this shot, it's my kids to a "T."   The girl is being a little show off, the tiny one is being goofy, and the big one is just entirely too ready for the day to be over.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gluten Free / Allergen Free Expo

Miss B and I had the wonderful opportunity to head to Chicago this past weekend for the GFAF Expo. The highlight of the trip, for us, was being able to have breakfast in the hotel restaurant without fear. I had waffles with real maple syrup, half an Udi's double chocolate muffin, and a big dish of fruit. Brenna had a bacon omlet with Udi's toast and a big old glass of OJ. It's kind of funny that just being able to eat breakfast would be such a big deal.

Miss B and her American Girl, Julie
My GF/DF waffles - and btw, they were REALLY good!
My new shopping bag, LOVE it!
Miss B posing with the expo signage.

Allergen-Free Baker's HandbookWe were able to try a wealth of new product this weekend. Some of the things we loved (new Enjoy Life products, SWIRLS cupcakes, FoodsAlive Flax crackers, Pamela's Anywhere Bars) and some things... meh, not so much. Brenna got her copy of Cybele Pascal's book Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook autographed by Cybele herself. That was pretty fun!  Brenna actually spotted Ms. Pascal in the hotel fitness center later that evening. She simply could not believe that this "mega star" was using an eliptical!

We really enjoyed the entire expo and we really only had one slight disappointment. I was hoping to meet Shauna Ahern, but she'd had a family emergency and was unable to attend. It's all good though. I'm hoping we'll get to attend again next year, perhaps even take some of the classes being offered, too!