Sunday, 26 February 2012


As I look back on this week I am at a loss for words. It was a pretty routine week with nothing too extravagantly special which was a welcome change.

The kitchen was quiet and I spent the week steadily making puff pastry, danishes, and petit fours. I had forgot how much of an upper body work out rolling out pastry dough was. Thanks to this week I have Popeye arms! With every turn the dough gets tougher and tougher, more ornery and stubborn. But eventually it cripples under perseverance and can be molded, stretched, and folded into deliciousness.

Thursday was a mad house at school. Another job fair tailored to seduce high school students into the glitz and glamour of the hospitality and culinary industry was set up in the cafeteria. The Pastry Arts had a booth set up where we made Cherries Jubilee for the curious masses. Cherries Jubilee is sour cherries heated up in a skillet, swimming in their own sauce with a splash of water and alcohol. Just before pouring over vanilla ice cream we light the pan on fire and watch the audience go oooo and ahhhh. Unfortunately, by the time it was my turn to man the station the alcohol had run out and the customers were few and far between. But I still got the pleasure of seeing flames jump. One of the propane table top stoves had run out of gas and my fellow classmate was changing the tank. The stoves were finicky and had a curious way of connecting the gas. My fellow classmate, to save his dignity we’ll call him Bob, was fiddling with the stove puzzled at the odd engineering. Unknown to us while he was tinkering the gas from the fresh propane can was leaking and surrounding the table in a haze of flammable air. Finally, the propane can was securely in place, locked and feeding gas into the stove. As Bob turned the stove on there was a sudden WHOOF!! Flames leaped up and engulfed the stove, table, and Bobs chef whites for little more than a second, but just long enough for me to scream in surprise and jump out of my skin. Thankfully nothing caught fire, and Bob didn’t even loose an eyebrow. Concerned conversation with Bob informed us that he hadn’t noticed the flames, and when we asked if he was burnt anywhere he looked at us like we playing a joke. “What flames?” he asked. Obviously his observation skills need some improving.

The Island itself has been in a quiet state this week. The weather has been gentle, soft blue skies with bright sunshine, and mauve clouds has been a constant smile in the sky. Every so often it would break out in laughter and shower the Island in delightful snow. As I type these words I gaze out the window and see quiet giggles of snow surrounding Charlottetown in a winter joy. I will dream of happy snow flakes tonight.

Dutch inspired Chocolate Box

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Play Dates

As I sit by my bedroom window and look out into my neighbours backyard I see their 3 children carelessly frolicking in the snow. The little girl is clad in a pink and purple snow suit, the eldest boy as green plaid coat and pants, and the littlest one, who can barely stand upright, is in a smash up of navy blue snow pants, a bright red coat, and a monster toque.

The little girl is rolling the snow into large snow balls in the hopes of making a snow man. As she finishes one she begins to make another. Her brother automatically begins to assault the snow ball, kicking it at the base, for what reason other then he is just being a boy. The little girl horrified that her creation will come to demise flings herself on the snow ball, shielding her brother’s kicks and ultimately taking a few blows herself. She whimpers and cries and pleads for him to stop. “Why are you kicking my snow ball?!” She screams in desperation, frustration, and confusion. In her mind the snow ball was just minding its own business, simply there to magically form into Frosty the Snow Man. The little boy stops his assault for a moment and says, “I don’t know, I just want to kick it.” Simple and truthful answer but still not good enough for the little girl. After taking a few more kicks from her brother her anger boils to its breaking point. She leaps off the snow ball throwing her body onto her brother and knocks him flat on his back in the snow. He starts to laugh at first and then as she stuffs snow in his face he cries out in protest.

Satisfied that she has avenged her snow ball she releases him and her brother sulks away. All the while the littlest one, who can barely move in his snow suit let alone maneuver around the precarious snow covered lawn, is content to plunk down and feast on the snow at his feet and watch his siblings squabble.

Growing bored of making snow balls they switch to sledding. There is no sledding hill within sight so they use the next best thing: the back porch steps. The sister carries the sled to the top, carefully sets it on the top stair and then shuffles until she is flying down the steps, bumping all the way down. The sled gets lodged between the third and second bottom step and shoots her through the air. She lands in a heap of giggles and snow, unharmed. Seeing how much fun her sister is having the other two scrambled to take a turn, each meeting the same fate.

Eventually their energy is burned out and they waddle into the house, with the promise of hot chocolate, out of breath, rosy cheeked, and full of smiles.

I had my own unique play date experience this past week. Tuesday landed me in the bread department once again and I made Vienna Rolls, Whole Wheat Honey Bread, and Focaccia. Each dough had turned out so beautifully, not to sticky and not to dry. I held them in my arms before placing them in separate bowls to rise and they felt like little soft bread babies.

After slipping out for breakfast with the rest of my class mates I came back to find not only had my bread rose but it was entertaining the company of 4 other breads. It looked like a little bread rising play date. As I looked at the bread thoughtfully I realized that this was a perfect metaphor for life. All bread is made up of the same basic ingredients: water, flour, salt, sugar, and fat. But throw in some thyme, maybe a dash of cinnamon or some raisins and you change the structure, flavour, colour and rising time of the bread. The bread rises, is punched down, formed, set to bench rest, and finally shaped and fitted into its mould and then baked out. It emerges from the oven with perfect texture and taste.

Like bread we all share the same basic ingredients: bones, muscles, heart, blood, organs, skin, oxygen, water, and fat. But it is the diversity of our world, the challenges we face, the lessons we learn, and how we are raised that shapes and defines us. Just as bread needs to be punched down, stretched, and formed to become the best tasting bread it can be, we need to be bumped, scraped, challenged, and be able to let rise to become flavourful humans. Just like bread comes in a variety of forms like loaves, bagels, buns, doughnuts, and baguettes we to come in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes to make up an assorted well balanced community.

As I finish off my entry for today I want to share on more play date story with you. When my alarm went off on Saturday morning I had every intention of turning it off and sleeping in until noon. I glanced out side, my eyes half open, and there before me was a winter wonderland! I sat straight up in bed. Could it be? Yet another delightful snow fall was upon me? Indeed it was true. The snow fell in soft thick flakes and covered the world in a magical bed of snow. I bounded out of bed, raced down stairs and inhaled a bowl of Lucky Charms. I was dressed and out the door in 20 minutes my camera securely pushed into my coat pocket. I stepped out into the glorious weather, with the majority of Charlottetown still asleep, I was delighted to have some quiet moments with the snow, just me, God, and my camera. We strolled through the city stopping every 3 metres to take a picture. I met some other cheerful early risers who like me had their cameras in hand and were immersing themselves in the white world around them. I spent 2 long beautiful hours meandering through the city, trudging through snow drifts, and gazing at snow covered trees. It was delightful. Exhausted and rosy cheeked I stumbled home and wrapped myself in warm fuzzies and resigned to the couch all day. Best play date ever.

                  Snow removal at its best. Yes that is a snow wall in the middle of the street.
                                     What if you have to make a left hand turn?

                                 Parmesian cheese and black pepper biscuits.

                                                 Bread rising play date.

                                                Cute little squirrel having a snowy nap.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

1, 2, 3, 4, tell me that you love me more.

This past week was full of victories and great accomplishments.

Victory number 1#
I finished my special occasion cake. After multiple sketches, an extensively planned colour pallet, and countless hours in the kitchen I finally had the joy of handing in my cake. I had all the components made in the weeks before so I just had to hunker down and awaken the inner engineer to put the cake together. I was doing great, my flowers were blossoming beautifully on the cake, the whimsical forest I had created was coming to life and the wobbly and wonderful tea cups begged to be filled with my favourite brew. And then a daisy fell over and took a pansy on the way down. It shattered a pedal, took out a leaf and toppled to the flour exploding, sending shattered pieces of fondant all over the floor. I took a breath, picked up the pieces, salvaged what I could and carried on.

Next, I moved to the tea cups. I built a sturdy tower, rotating the cups and angling them perfectly so they could support the weight of each other and of the caterpillar that rested on top of them. Things were looking up until I gently placed the caterpillar a top the colourful and creative scaffolding. The lean of the caterpillar pushed against the highest tea cup and pushed it out place, the tea cups beneath began to loose their footing and began to fall away. Not wanting to let them shatter on me a removed the caterpillar and quickly molded 6 more tea cups out of fondant. I painted them, secured them with royal icing and was back in business. The caterpillar rested peacefully and comfortably on his tea cup bed.

A few more details were added, and at last I stood back and admired my excellent craftsmanship. But the hard part was yet to come. I carefully picked up my cake and at a snails pace carried it to Chefs office. I had a long insightful chat about my cake with the Chef. We talked about it’s weaknesses, I explained my concept, Chef complimented my craftsmanship, and gave pointers on where the engineering could be stronger but was over all extremely impressed. I walked away with a smile on my face and a 7.5 out of 10 grade. I was ecstatic! My cake now sits proudly in the Lucy Maud Dinning room.

Victory #2:
I made homemade Ferro Roche’s. That’s right. The rich velvety interior texture was simply achieved by boiling cream, then adding it to butter and dark chocolate. Before dipping each morsel into melted milk chocolate I gently rolled a fresh hazelnut into the center. The finishing touch was to generously cover the top with roasted ground hazelnuts.

As the chocolate set I noticed Chef Christian eyeing them eagerly. I cleaned my station thoroughly and snapped some excellent photos of my creation. As soon as I put the camera away Chef Christian was there, his hand hovering hopefully over the truffles. We both sampled the delectable chocolate and the verdict was the same: delicious!

Victory #3
I survived chocolate rotation.

The past two weeks were over whelming with chocolate orders and special Valentine demands, not to mention I had my own special chocolate projects I wanted to accomplish. We already know the Ferro Roche’s were a smash, and I have a chocolate box that just needs to be assembled and filled with chocolates on Monday before I can completely wash my hands of chocolate for the rest of the term.

Victory #4
The weekend brought the promise of another classically terrifying Atlantic storm. Saturday was generally quiet with a gentle rhythm of continuous rain fall. As the day melted into evening and the temperature dropped the thin layer of rain that had fallen hardened into ice, and the rain turned into ice pellets. The sky opened up and hurled punishments at the gentle island for crimes were didn’t know we had committed. I tried to sleep but the freezing rain rapped against my window like an outraged loan shark demanding payment. Around 3:00am the pelting stopped but the wind picked up and snow whipped through the air. I could barley see the neighbours trees in the backyard. The city lights reflected off the blinding snow, and it looked like Charlottetown was bleeding from the heavy weather.

But when dawned slowly opened her eyes she uncovered a gentle, quiet, glowing white world. Charlottetown was generously covered under a thick quilt of snow. The roads weren’t plowed and there was no rush to get them clear. Around lunch time I joined the neighbours in digging our way out of our apartments. After robustly flinging shovel after shovel of snow into the bushes I took a brisk walk, well waddling like a self conscious penguin on fresh ice is more like it, down the road to mail some letters. Safely back in the comfort of my home I turned up the tunes, sipped a cup of tea, and read a good book. Never underestimate the power of a good snow storm. Don’t try to fight it, don’t rush out to the store and stock up canned stew. Keep the kettle boiling and dive into the left over Christmas chocolates, wrap a blanket around your shoulders and watch the snow fall. Enjoying moments like these will always bring you a victory.

                    Special occasion cake. Alice in Wonderland themed.

                                                      Ferro Roche

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Snow Day!!!

I stepped into February with bright eyes and a spring in my step. When I stepped out the door on Wednesday morning I was greeted with a thousand snow flakes descending on my cheeks and lips with soft cool kisses. The sun was gently glowing behind the veil like cloud cover and I was accompanied with snow all the way to school. Once in the locker room I began to fold into my Chef whites when the culinary student girls bounded into the locker room shrieking at window shattering volumes, “School is cancelled!!!”

Is it true? Are you sure? Who told you? When did this happen? Do we go home? Do we still have theory class? Is this for real?

Skeptical and hopeful we ran to theory class to here it from the chefs. The class room was bubbling and popping like a pot of soup simmering on the stove with excited hopeful conversation. Chef Christian came in first, he tried to hold his composure but as we gazed at him, our eyes all asking the same question, he only smiled and giggled and gave a nod. Snow day!!!!

We didn’t all tumble out of class at once though, we sat bouncing in our seats excitedly waiting for our theory class to begin so it could end, so we could all go home. With the cafeteria closed for lunch the Chefs thought it be a good idea to teach us how to make a soufflé and then for us to eat it. The chefs made a passion fruit, cheese, and chocolate soufflé. All three soufflés were delicious, each texture and flavour unique and enticing. The passion fruit was as sweet as undiluted nectar, it made my lips pucker and my face twist like a lemon. The chocolate had a mild and earthy texture and taste, it was subtle and pleasant and would go well with a robust cup of coffee. The cheese was by far my favourite. Popping with flavours of parmesan, black pepper, nutmeg, and eggs whipped into submission it was fluffy and smooth and filled my mouth like morning sunshine through a kitchen window.

With the succulent flavours still dancing around my mouth I followed the rest of my class to the locker room to change out of my whites and walk home before the storm really started to pick up. I walked home in the beautiful snow. It settled on the breast of my coat and clung to my eye lashes. I stopped at the corner of Richmond and Queen to get a candid photo of our great and brave former Prime Minister, John A McDonald as he sat, unaffected or bothered by the on slot of snow dusting his sharp top hat.

Once safely at home I celebrated the first snow day of my last year in school the only way I know how: with macaroni and tomato juice for lunch just the way my mommy makes it with dash of pepper and salt. For dessert I had two very cheerful and yummy Rainbow Chips Ahoy cookies. All afternoon I sat by the window, watching the snow fall, reading a book, and slowly nursing cup after cup of coffee. Mmmmm, snow.

When evening fell the snow flakes turned to the size of loonies and were floating down in large fluffs. Looking across the street I watched them waltz gracefully, mid air their stage and the street lamp their stage light. With soft amazed sighs I applauded their performances and wished for more.

Since that delightful snow day it has not stopped snowing. We have had continuous snow fall whether light and graceful or heavy and mean, PEI is slowly becoming more and more blanketed with my favourite precipitation.

The snow has been something for me to look forward to all week. Class has been less than sunny. I am in chocolate rotation and it has been a difficult week. Chocolate is like a water colour painting. It has a mind of its own, and if you don’t prepare for every fleck o colourful personality trait, you will end up with a mess and have to start from scratch. Tempering chocolate is not for the faint of heart. You have to be patient but quick on your toes. Once the chocolate is ready to be poured, pulled, drizzled, or piped it can’t sit around and wait for you. Your moulds have to be painted, your trays, tools, heat guns and marble slab have to be spotless, free of any water contact and ready for action. But once you fall into a rhythm with your chocolate, and whispering sweet nothings doesn’t hurt either, you will get along handsomely and the result is rich, perfect, delectable chocolate.

I did have aspirations of working on my chocolate box this week but with all the chocolate orders, Valentines demands, and countless fall backs in stubborn untempering chocolate my department is far behind our personal goals. That is one thing that really got me down this week, I was hoping that we could use this time to work on our portfolio and chocolate boxes but our duties came first. I am optimistic that this week will be better and I look forward to conquering chocolate.

Chef Richard and I shared a very special moment this week. I was showing him my blue prints, templates, and general vision for my chocolate box. I plan to make a simple rectangle box and pipe on Delft detail, tulips, wooden shoes and other iconic Dutch symbols. Along with the piped detail I am attempting to write Dutch words for chocolate and other sweet phrases around the edges. Chef read aloud the Dutch phrases and words and as he came to the last word he slipped into high German and said, “It looks very good. It will be very delicious.” I replied in high Dutch. “Thank you very much.” For that brief moment Chef could share with me a bit of his mother tongue, and I could share with him a bit of my heritage tongue. It was familiar, a taste of home.  

My weekend was extremely quiet. I took the weekends as an opportunity to catch up on some sleep, make Valentines cards, and dive into some much needed pleasure readings. Today at church we had a potluck and it was so wonderful to actually cook a meal for people. I have been making pastries for 6 months and it so refreshing to chop tomatoes, grate cheese, and add copious amounts of rosemary, oregano, marjoram, pepper, basil and parsely to a hearty bowl of pasta. Mmmmm. However, I know that as a pastry cook I have an expectation to uphold, so I came with a tray of chocolate cupcakes as well.

Apart from the odd raised voice at a particularly stubborn bowl of dark Belgium chocolate, I have had a fabulous week. I look forward to what ever challenges come my way this week. Come hell or high water, as they say, I am ready!

                            Raspberry Dark Chocolates

                              Milk Chocolate Caramels

                          John A. McDonald, chillin' like a villain in the snow.