Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Kitchen Day 2: Advanced Cookies

Tuesday in class we broke into our usual pairs and were given two recipes to complete by the end of the day. It was nice to get to do something different so everyone is not looking over each others' shoulders and fighting for the same ingredients. Brooke and I were assigned cheesecake brownies (mmm) and cinnamon cookies. I am a huge sucker for brownies. Probably my favorite dessert in the world would be a hot brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, with magic shell or hot fudge or something on top. I also love making and eating cheesecake, so needless to say I was very excited about this one. The cinnamon cookies were pretty much snicker doodles. Or at least like sugar cookies with some spices in them. I wasn't too excited about these because they didn't have chocolate in them, but they actually turned out quite well.

Here are some photos that I unceremoniously thieved from Brooke's blog. If you're reading Brooke, I hope it's okay I borrowed these, maybe I get some kind of immunity as your baking partner about photos of things we baked together! I promise, I put my digital camera in my toolbox and I'm going to make sure that I use it during our next class!

Our cheesecake brownies

Our cinnamon cookies

Our other classmates cookies:

Pinwheel Icebox Cookies

Ginger Snaps and Shortbread

Sugar Cookies

Raisin Spice Bars

Spritz Cookies

Coconut Macaroons, Russian Tea Cookies, & Mexican Wedding Cakes

Double Chocolate Macadamia Chunk Cookies

Linzer Tarts & Cornmeal Pistacio Lime Cookies

Butter Tea Cookies with Raspberry Jam

After class we lined all of the cookies up and were able to take a few of everyone's home so we had a nice variety for our families. Chef Katie said that our cinnamon cookies were one of her favorites and she at like four of them. That made Brooke and I feel happy and high five. Everyone wants to be the best and Chef's favorite. We're all in this silent competition with each other, but when it really comes down to it. I am not going to be competing with these people for jobs. I am smart and savvy and capable and I will be making my own way in the world. So I like to make the best looking products for sure, but it's really more about the learning experience. I pay attention, take notes, as an obscene amount of questions, because this is something I've always wanted to do. I wasted $25,000 and 6 months of my life to find out that this is what I should be doing. I am going to get every last little bit of knowledge out of this experience and make sure that I leave here the best baker and professional that I can possibly be. I may be annoying the crap out of the people around me as I do it, and I try to be as amiable as possible to everyone around me, but when it comes down to it, I am here for me. I am going to get everything I can out of this for myself, because I want it that badly. It feels really good to be so passionate about what I'm doing. I never thought I would feel this way again, and it is such a refreshing change. I can't wait to get back to work!

Until next time,

Julibean <3

Kitchen Day 1: Cookies!

Tuesday was our first day officially baking for ourselves in the kitchen. We had watched as Chef Katie demonstrated her procedure making chocolate chip cookies. Most cookies are made using the creaming method, which is a huge fundamental concept that we would definitely need to have perfected by the end of our first week. I've been really careful not to eat much of anything that we bake. I'd say I am painfully aware of the consequences, so I'm doing my best to keep myself in check. I'm happy to report that I lost an additional 2 pounds during my first week of classes. Maybe this pastry thing can work in favor of my health after all.

Everyone in the class made the same thing that day, chocolate chip cookies, and oatmeal raisin cookies. Brooke and my cookies came out perfect and delicious if I do say so myself. I don't have any pictures of those, but I promise I will remember to take pictures of the rest of the things I'll be baking. More to follow!

Saving the world, one cookie at a time,

Julibean <3

New Condo

Chris and I have been in search of a new home for the past few months. Until now we had really been looking too early, but planners as both of us are, we wanted to get a good idea of what kind of place, and what price range we would be looking for. We had a few main criteria for this new place:

  • It should be a condo. We decided that we were too young and had too much other stuff going on to have to deal with being responsible for the upkeep and repair of a whole house, and that we were planning on staying in the same place long enough that an apartment wouldn't be cheaper.
  • 2 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms. We wanted to be able to have a guest bedroom/office. And let's face it, the 2 of us have quite a lot of crap to fit into one place.
  • It should have a much shorter commute for Chris. Currently it is taking him a while to get to and from work. About 25 miles each way.
  • It should be close enough to a city (either Towson or Baltimore) that would have enough opportunities for me to find a job once I'm actually looking for one.
  • It had to be under $200,000 otherwise we couldn't afford the mortgage payments.
  • It had to be in a safe location, or else my mother would flip out.
  • We would prefer it to be on the first floor so it might be easier to have a dog, when that time comes.
  • We would prefer if the patio faced the back of the building into the woods, as opposed to the front of the building overlooking the parking lot.
  • We were also hoping to find something renovated, some of the older ones were quite sketchy.
So after quite a while of looking for places online, getting e-mail updates from our realtor, and doing a lot of math about our financial outlook, we finally found a place. Or may I say, Chris found a place. I haven't actually seen it, but it was the best one we had seen, it had an extra room a den of sorts, new granite counter tops, nicely renovated, 2 miles from Chris' office, 10 miles from Baltimore, first floor, facing the woods, in a nice building that locks, in a complex that we couldn't afford. It was seriously under-priced because the seller was foreclosing, so I told him to jump on it, and I'd see it afterward.

Apparently when you're dealing with a short sale like this, the bank that owns the seller's mortgage has to approve the price that we buy it at because they have to agree that it is enough to absolve the seller of his or her entire debt. So we put an offer and a deposit down. The seller accepted our offer, but we still have to wait on the bank. Supposively Bank of America takes their sweet ass time with these kinds of things, and the last one our realtor has done took the bank 10 months to close. We kind of need to close in 2 months to be sure that we get the first time home buyer's tax credit. So Chris is telling me not to get my hopes up, and that if it takes too long, we may have to get something else. But I'm still excited that we are one step closer to having a home together!

Julibean <3

Valentine's Day Weekend

After many last minute plans and decisions, I packed up the cake I had just decorated at my Wilton class and hit the road at around 10:30 p.m. I made it to Morgan’s in Philadelphia around 12:45 or 1 a.m. I dropped her friends and her off at the movie theater to see the Valentine’s Day movie and then curled up on her couch, read a little, and then went to sleep. In the morning we stopped for coffee, and I dropped Morgan off at her sister’s house in Baltimore. The snow there was terrible!!! The roads were covered in tall, bumpy ice. There was nowhere to put the snow, so people we’re trying in vain to dig their cars out. Some roads were just entirely closed because the plows hadn’t even reached there yet; it was just a 4 foot solid block of snow.

I got to Chris’ apartment around noon with my cake present in tow. I unlock the front door with my key and sitting on the front table is a huge bouquet of flowers! We had said no gifts!

Now is time for a little back story... Chris and I have been dating since November 2008 when we got together at a belated Halloween party. So we call it a little over two years at this point. Not once in that entire time had Chris ever bought me flowers. He would joke about it, say things like, “I almost got you some, but then I didn’t”, things like that. It became this big joke that we’ve been in love for two years and he’d never bought me flowers. During my fall semester and winter break of senior year at RPI, I had a humongous mental breakdown. Crying, hyperventilating, worrying, having panic attacks, just generally freaking out. I couldn’t figure out what was causing it, I seemed to be worrying about everything and nothing all at once and I couldn’t find a way to make it stop.

Chris was beyond perfect. He comforted me, quieted me, held me in his arms until I finally fell asleep, but something still wasn’t right. I began to think that maybe it was him; maybe our relationship is what had me so on edge. It could have been any number of things, senior year class load, LSAT prep, graduation uncertainty, trouble with roommates, a cappella group drama. Yet somehow, I blamed it on our relationship, convincing myself that once we broke it off, I would start to feel better. But he hung on, telling me countless times a day, it’s going to be alright, you don’t have to worry, I love you, and I know you love me, I’m not going anywhere. In a last ditch effort to convince me of his support, he came to my apartment with flowers. They were beautiful, a perfect symbol of his love for me, I put them in a plastic iced tea pitcher, jumped into his arms, and wrapped my legs around his waist. He was perfect.

Later the next day I think, I finally snapped. I couldn’t take what I was doing to him. Constantly pushing him away, doubting our relationship, doubting my love for him. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I let him go. I told him I needed to fix myself, and hopefully after some time, I’d figure things out and find my way back to him. But even that was too selfish. If I really cared enough about him, I had to let him go entirely. So he came back to me saying that it couldn’t be an indefinite period of time. If we were going to be apart, it had to be for real, so he could start to move on. So we were apart for two months.

It was the worst time of my life. Nothing has ever compared to the amount of emotional pain I was in. I was alone, miserable, panicking, depressed, not eating, not drinking anything, not getting out of bed, skipping classes, constantly sick, completely and irrevocably heartbroken. Nothing seemed to get better; parsing out the problems in my life was not as easy as I had hoped. I was hoping that if I removed one piece of my life at a time, I would be able to isolate the problem. I would never know that it wasn’t Chris until I removed him from my life. I walked around like a complete empty shell of my former self. Not laughing, not caring, crying nonstop all the time, I couldn’t breathe anymore, my parents were worried. I was looking for help at the counseling center, but nothing was really doing it for me, drugs they prescribed me didn’t seem to help. My friends told me not to call him, not to break down. I couldn’t stand it, I knew something wasn’t right. I didn’t want to be without him anymore and still my friends said no, don’t call him, move on.

So I went on spring break without him, not having spoken one word to Chris in over a month. I cruised around the Caribbean, unable to get him off of my mind. No matter how many sunsets I saw, or margaritas I drank, it was still terrible without him. Then one day as I was walking to the astronomy class that I often skipped, determined to actually make it there for the first time in weeks, I saw him. I was un-showered, undone, wearing dirty sweatpants, greasy hair, and a stained sweatshirt. This is what my life had come to. And there he was, tall, handsome, and perfect. Slightly unshaven, blue tee shirt, jeans, new leather jacket, sunglasses, carrying the bag I had given him for Christmas. My heart stopped. I had been searching campus for his face for weeks, hoping to catch a glimpse. Remembering his class schedule, and hoping to cross him on his usual path. And there he was. Finally standing in front of me.

We both said hi, unsure of what was going to happen. I don’t remember much of what else was said, but I hugged him and began to cry. It must have gone on for quite a while, because after some time it began to rain again and we moved the embrace into the hallway of the building I was supposed to be in class in. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t know if we should get back together, if it would be good for either of us. I didn’t know if he had moved on, maybe he didn’t want me anymore. Eventually we decided that it was senior year, our last few months of college, it would be a huge waste if we didn’t have fun together while we still could. So we did.

And slowly the pieces of my life fell back into place. I saw him for a night here, a night there, he invited me to a BBQ, his roommates were shocked to see me there. I could smile at him, have a nice time, and breathe deeply. And soon after that we were back together again. Me remorseful, him hurt, but both of us happy and thankful. After realizing what I had given up, and how it felt to have lost it, I know now that a love like Chris’ is very hard to come by. When I was literally pushing him, and yelling, telling him to please just let me break up with him, he stood his ground. He said this isn’t you, and I know it, and I know you love me, and that we belong together. It is something I will never give up or take for granted again as long as I live. I will marry this man, and I will become his wife in exactly 676 days, and I could not be happier.

So back to the point...the giving of flowers became a teasing and somewhat pained joke in our relationship. Chris would never buy me flowers again, because the one time he did, I broke up with him. They were like this bad omen of heartbreak for us. We also have a pretty bad track record for Valentine’s Day. The first one we spent together we had only been dating a few months, and decided to keep it small. I got him an alarm clock and a framed picture of us, probably a grand total of $25. He bought me this sexy, badass leather jacket. Not exactly an equal situation. The next Valentine’s Day we were in the midst of breaking up, and he didn’t get me anything because he saw it coming. Even though I had picked out the perfect cologne for him, I ended up choosing another one, which upon further inspection was terrible, and he hated it. Which made it better for him, because Chris said if he had liked it; it would have hurt way more. Thankfully when we were back together, for Chris’ birthday in April I got Macy’s to exchange this horrible smelling one small bottle of cologne that they didn’t even carry anymore and for which I didn’t have the receipt, for an entire gift set of the one I actually wanted him to have, with cologne, after shave, some lotion or something, and a really cute duffel bag. I win!
So it was for all of these reasons, and the fact that I told him not to spend any money (after all we are paying for a wedding and a new home this year), that I would never ever expect flowers. We aren’t even using them for our wedding really, he’s allergic, and they have this terrible connotation of, if I give you flowers you’re going to break up with me. So when I walked into the apartment and saw these on the table:

I almost cried. They were beautiful, a huge arrangement, the biggest amount of flowers I’d ever gotten from anyone. I could have done without the funny pink bear, but I knew that it just came with the flowers, and he wouldn’t have picked it out otherwise. I only have one stuffed animal I really love, and that is Quatchi! We spent the rest of the day relaxing together. We went to a belated birthday dinner with his parents and grandparents (MomMom’s birthday), had Becky, Andy, and Andrew over for dinner and a movie (I fell asleep on the couch as we watched the Hangover), and hit a few of the local bars with Amy and Cynthia. All in all a very enjoyable weekend!

I had Monday off from school as well for President’s Day so I left Chris’ early, picked up Morgan again in Baltimore, and drove back to Philly. While Morgan was in class I got to catch up with my good friend Jim. We had coffee and talked for hours. I love those times with Jim. It is so easy to talk with him about everything and anything; he is definitely one of my best friends from college, like a second brother to me. We met up with Morgan again for dinner, saw my godfather for an hour or so, and then I got back on the road.

Until next time,

Julibean <3

Wilton Course 1, Class 2

Since I am currently painfully unemployed I decided to make the cake for my 3rd Wilton class a Valentine’s Day present for the fiancĂ©. If he could eat one food for the rest of his life, it would either be steak, or peanut butter. Since I’ve never really considered making a steak flavored dessert, I went the peanut butter/chocolate route.

I started out with a chocolate fudge chocolate chip boxed cake. When you’re making a triple layer cake every week for a month and baking at school, Betty Crocker becomes your best friend. Even my pastry teacher tells us; if you’re baking for your family, and you don’t want to put in a huge amount of effort, use a boxed cake, and then make your own frosting. Boxed cakes taste fine, no one will even really know or care that it wasn’t homemade, but the frosting will knock your socks off.

Anyway, I wanted to make something a little different for Chris, since this was going to be a gift, so instead of going with the typical peanut butter and chocolate combination, I went with nutella. Mmm hazelnut and chocolate...such a delicious combination. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been smearing a little of it on my toast in the morning a few times a week. (I checked the labels; it has less calories and fat than peanut butter! So I win!) I put a nice helping of nutella in between the layers and then stirred quite a bit of it and a few dashes of cocoa powder into a batch of butter cream icing.

I spent a good amount of time frosting the outside of the cake, doing my best to make a smooth clean surface. It is definitely not as easy as it looks. Chocolate cake seems to be more prone to crumbling than other cake flavors. Even after letting my crumb coat sit in the refrigerator for a little while, it still wasn’t perfect. I used the trick my Wilton teacher taught us and took some wax paper and my fondant smoother, and rubbed lightly in circular motions until I got a smoother layer. It worked pretty well, but I think with a bit more practice I could really get the perfect surface.The class was dedicated to making a rainbow out of frosting stars. While I understood why it was helpful to learn the technique of that, I decided to do something nicer and more romantic-y. I borrowed a few heart cookie cutters from my classmate, outlined them and then filled in the heart shapes with the stars that I had learned earlier that day. Then I piped “Happy V-Day” on the cake because that’s all that would fit, but it came out pretty good anyway. I was really happy with how I performed at class that day. The stars and the script came very easily to me and I performed well without needing much teaching or correction. Thank God! I was surprised and relieved to learn that I was pretty naturally good at this, a huge load off my shoulders. It was tough having this huge dream I wanted to go after without even knowing if I was going to be capable of pulling it off or not.

I'm catching up on posts, so there will be many more to come,

Julibean <3

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