Monday, September 29, 2008

A reason to celebrate

Although I have received several inquiries in recent years for wedding cakes, this three-tiered classically elegant cake for my friend Patricia is the first request that I have accepted. The vanilla cake with lemon curd and lemon buttercream barely fit into my refrigerator and relegated my usual array of fruits, veggies, and meat (a.k.a. breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to a second-class position. Now I know with certainty that the largest cake I can currently make at home is for 100 servings.

Making the cake was the easy part even though the more simple the design, the more flawless it must be. What followed gave me chest pain. As some of you may know, I am a 100 pound weakling who has gained some muscle mass since entering professional pastry; however, cake for 100 people is heavy, its filling is heavy and the rolled fondant making it all pretty is heavy. The delivery and final assembly gave me and my normally imperturbable husband more stress than anticipated.

Moreover, to witness the cake's destruction as it laid slaughtered on the dessert buffet table caused a brief apneic spell, which eventually passed upon learning that people enjoyed the cake's lemony goodness. Nonetheless, I am proud of the final result and honoured to be even a small part of Patricia and Chris' wedding celebration.

The best part of the evening was seeing all my medical school friends together. Although I do not miss the clinical demands of medicine, I certainly miss the comradery of medical school, the result of shared stressors combined with shared successes. Despite my mixed feelings about the original path I took in life, the experience is irreplaceable simply because of the wonderful people which I met along the way. Congratulations Patricia and Chris!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Silly things: Part deux

I have a love of paper and calligraphy so when I find a special item which combines pastry with paper, it has to be mine. You may remember these.

This sweet pastel pop-up card is not for anyone in particular. It is much too pretty to write on, I think. Several tiny pre-printed notes with different messages can be slipped into the miniture mail slot.

Can you see the macarons hiding on the back shelf? My fridge is currently filled with too many egg whites so maybe macarons will make an appearance soon! You will see why I used up so many egg yolks in next week's post...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Natural selection

My friend Julie, whom I have known for 30 years, and I recently reflected on how friendships evolve and change over the years, even decades. Some grow closer, some farther, and a lucky few are circular. Various tangible or intangible circumstances in life push and pull friendships in different directions, usually in gentle imperceptible ways. If you are blessed, the foundation on which an original friendship was built is strong enough to withstand any internal or external assault; however, the mere history of a friendship is not enough to sustain one in the present or future.

Speaking of friends, I am lucky to have my good friend Erik (with a "k") return home to Vancouver after almost ten years in Edmonton. Did I just say ten years? After medical school, we both were matched to University of Alberta residency programs in 1999 but I only survived five long cold Edmonton winters. He must be much tougher than I am.

This simple dark chocolate hazelnut tart was a small house-warming gift for Erik and his family to enjoy. A pâte sucrée crust was baked with a thin layer of hazelnut cream before pouring a dark chocolate hazelnut ganache over top. I do love the initial smooth mirror-like appearance of a still warm and fluid dark chocolate ganache, which eventually dulls slightly as it sets. Welcome home!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sticking by

Candy and sweets were not a big part of my childhood. For reasons unbeknownst to me still to this day, we never went trick-or-treating on Halloween and instead, helped my mom give out candy to our friends and neighbours who would visit. We never felt deprived, however, because my sister and I were allowed to select a few items from the candy bowl and my habitual choice would be those Kraft caramel squares. Incidentally, my GUND Snuffles teddy bear was even named Caramel.

Decades later, I now can make my own soft caramels (en français, les caramels mous). They are dead easy to make and even easier to infuse with different flavours. Personally, I do not like the combination of salt and sweet and so have avoided the salted caramel trend. My tastebuds prefer caramel with fruity notes and so I frugally used some leftover blueberry purée to make blueberry caramels mous. After patiently letting them set overnight, cutting them was an exercise in restraint as I had to resist snacking on all the trimmings.

Having no dental cavities and not wishing to get any this late in life, the majority of caramels were destined for travel as gifts to a few friends, near and far. In fact, they ship well since they are not extremely temperature-sensitive, have a fairly long shelf-life, and are not delicate creatures like macarons, for example.

Meanwhile, I must find my dusty vintage GUND teddy bear...

Monday, September 1, 2008


September is here and for me, this ninth month always marks a time of potential and promise. Part of me always wants to go back to school in September, especially now because I crave some form of academic challenge. After two years of focus on professional pastry, I am feeling a bit brain dead without any opportunity to learn, analyze, and formulate new ideas in a setting where my peers have a common academic goal. Pastry kitchens are where your sweat and hands are valued more than your brain and although organization and efficiency are necessary to succeed, very often the unfortunate measure of a good pastry cook is how much overtime you will do or how many aches and pains you will endure.

Luckily, my creative pursuits at home allow a counter-balance to this academic void. For example, this baby shower cake in the form of a lion's face was a chance to translate a two-dimensional image into three-dimensional edible form. Given a wall paper sample to work from, the lion was chosen as the main subject. Inside, a traditional carrot cake with cream cheese filling was requested.

I used some creative license with the mane and snout and was worried that the lion was starting to look like a sunflower at one point; however, he turned out quite well. In retrospect, I would have built up the center of the cake so that the lion would have less of a LeFort 3 fracture flat mid-face appearance, but hindsight is 20/15, isn't it?