Monday, February 23, 2009

On learning

I just realized that this is my 101st post since the inception of my humble little blog in January 2007. It has served to document varying topics from the mundane to the intensely personal, with the new world of pastry viewed through an atypical lens acting as a backdrop to what I try to present through my writing and photography. Much of my blog focusses on my own creative output which has emerged from my home kitchen as a means of forcing myself to grow beyond what I have learned from pastry school or at work.

an Arabesque macaron, filled with a dollop of apricot jelly and white chocolate pistachio ganache

Before entering pastry school, my personal goal had been to gain enough fundamental knowledge to be able to understand the inner workings of any recipe well enough so that I would be able to modify, adapt, and troubleshoot with confidence and skill. There is nothing I hate more than doing something simply by rote and this is reflected in how I learn and study any subject, be it ophthalmology or pastry. In fact, I possess a surprisingly horrible memory for someone who can claim 14 years of university-based training. Instead, I have always relied on understanding something inside and out before having any hope of owning that knowledge.

What Eric actually wanted for Valentine's day, Arabesque macarons and pistachio ice cream
Has this goal been fulfilled? Yes, partially. Three years ago I would not have been able to pay homage to Pierre Hermé's Arabesque macaron (Eric's favourite) and successfully play with pistachio paste. I hadn't even heard of Pierre Hermé! Yet, there is so much more to learn and explore and I am not quite sure how and where to find the knowledge I seek. My insatiable appetite for learning has never ceased. I wish there was a pastry equivalent to weekly grand rounds or continuing medical education at a non-existent world-class pastry institution nearby. You would find me in the front row, notebook in hand, with coloured pens ready for action, guaranteed.

Pistachio ice cream

Friday, February 13, 2009


Roasted beet sorbet, chocolate sable breton heart - "sandwich"

This is a short post just to wish you all Happy Valentine's Day. I tried making a roasted beet sorbet sandwich with chocolate sable breton cookie hearts. Although the sorbet went a little wrong, I will stop worrying about it and enjoy their aesthetic value. Let us just say that I prefer my beets savory and alas, this preference was the root of the problem. Maybe I should just call it a granita. Metaphorically speaking, the search for perfection is fruitless anyways and ultimately, I am loved despite all my own flaws. Will you be mine?

Roasted beet sorbet, chocolate sable breton heart

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When life gives you apples...

Fresh local winter fruit is essentially non-existent in our northern climate. Imports from California, Mexico, or South America prevent me from developing scurvy through these cold months until I can indulge in Fraser Valley blueberries and Okanagan cherries once again. At the Winter Farmers Market, the fresh fruit selection includes only stored apples but there are a variety from which to choose.

Small pies, ready to freeze

My recent favourite has been the Ambrosia, a delicious eating apple, but they were unavailable and so a big bag of Honeycrisp came home instead. Unfortunately, these Honeycrisp were not so crisp and the picky apple eater in me refuses to eat a soft apple. But what a good excuse to make apple pie instead!

Funnily, I never had a home-made apple pie growing up until I made one myself in my late teens; however, I did consume my fair share of MacDonald's apple pie, those deep-fried golden bars ready to spill their molten apple innards which were replaced by the "baked" version in 1992. I remember them so well and with such disturbing fondness. Even the characteristic pillow box packaging makes me a little sentimental, thinking of the many times my sister and I would sit in the back seat of my mom's Volvo eating our MacDonald's apple pie while being shuttled between piano lessons and dance class.

Meanwhile, these Honeycrisp apple pies were assembled in small 5.5" diameter pie plates. This relieves the unavoidable urge for Eric and me to gluttonously consume an entire 9" diameter pie as fast as possible since a freshly baked pie is always yummier than leftover pie, in my opinion. Only one small pie was baked and shared à la mode while the rest patiently await their turn in the freezer. It's all about portion control, right?