I scored an internship at a small italian restaurant that makes everything from scratch. I was to be their pasta-maker and prep girl and basically lend a hand to whatever I wouldn't ruin. On occasion I got to make dessert specials. With only three people (including me) in the kitchen, I got to learn and see a lot.

This is meat-grinding, which makes every horror-film noise you can imagine:

Sausage-making (or in this case, salami) is really impossible to teach with a straight face.

First, you soak the casing and slide it on the hose. Really stuff it on there. When done, it looks like this:

Then, you begin to feed the meat into the machine, shoving it through with a paddle when necessary. You need a steady rhythm. On the other end, you have to hold the casing so that it slides through your hands as it fills, in such a way that it's stuffed full enough. This means a firm grip- but too tight and the casing will explode. A careful touch is needed, and an understanding of what the casing can withstand. The jokes are so obvious I can't even bring myself to make them here. No one could get through this lesson without dissolving into laughter. Especially when all my casing exploded.

For Mother's Day, the crew got in an entire lamb, which was then butchered in-house and used for various dishes. And props.

Nick and Scott play rockband:

Scott is a little lamb:


life of a pastry student

This is the pastry case at the entrance to SCCC where we hawk our wares. Usually two students man the case and others deliver their items whenever they're ready. Smart customers know to come after 1:30, when the breads start arriving. Stuff is cheap- about half the cost of store-bought goods. The coffee stand to the left has some of the most terrible espresso I've ever tasted. Ever. This is sad, because it's often the only coffee available and we get to school really, really early.

This is Student Lunch. Don't know what's in the tray? Neither does the lackey serving you! Oh, the horror and the mystery. An actual conversation:

Me: "This chicken tastes funny."
Student in lunchroom: "That's not chicken."
Me "??!?"
Student: "It's rabbit."

Also, once, a classmate of mine walked into the lunchroom with what the server said was tilapia, a kind of fish. As it turns out, it was thin slices of pork.

It should be noted that none of this stops anyone from eating.

Mixer porn: egg whites in the 20-quart mixer

This is what several pounds of butter looks like:

Second gear:


Chef James (front) and Chef Don (back).

During the bakeshop party, my classmates (and I) piled into the soon-to-be-demolished rotary oven (this is angela):

This is a cake's-eye-view:


cake rotation

SO MANY CAKES. These are roughly in the order in which they were made.

lemon-raspberry pound cake: easy to make. Very pink. A bit too sweet for me (especially with the glaze).

These cheesecakes cracked a bit, and so we got to decorate them with chocolate. Trying to do neat stripes failed me, so I went the Pollack route. One of the chefs overheard me talking about me pollack cheesecake and he called out, "you need a cigarette and a shot of whiskey, THEN you'll be doing it right!"

For a cake that gets no respect, Tiger cake is quite delicious. It's pretty easy (no one respects the easy things, eh?) -- just vanilla cake with lemon zest swirled with chocolate cake and then coated in chocolate ganache.

This next cake I tasted when someone else made it and then begged to do it during our rotation. It's a black forest cake-- a devil's food cake flavored with kirsch cherries (in the batter) and then layered and coated with kirsch buttercream. This process taught us to level cakes when slicing layers, to frost, and to make rosettes. And it tastes like heaven. I bought a whole cake.

The outside of the cake is coated in chocolate cake crumbs. This is a useful tactic if your frosting job isn't particularly spectacular. You can also use nuts.

The rosettes are topped with a kirsch cherry (we soaked the dried cherries in kirsch brandy). The frosting swirl in the middle of the cake is actually very hard to do-- you need a very steady hand.

We had made a swiss roll cake (often jellied or something and then rolled up into a log and sliced) but forgot about it in the fridge for a while. We also had some extra devil's food cake and kirsch syrup from the black forest cakes. We made some chocolate mousse and learned to layer. The white layer is the swiss cake, which we soaked with the kirsch syrup to soften it up, and the dark cake is the chocolate-cherry, and then the mousse. Getting mousse layers to be level is quite a challenge.

We decorated one cake to be sold whole (cocoa powder and bits on top) and sliced the rest for individual sale (in background).

The last project was petit-fours for the bakeshop party. This is an opera cake, but a bastardized version. It's a milk chocolate sponge, coffee buttercream, chocolate ganache, and shiny chocolate glaze. i think.

We spent an hour cutting the cake into wee pieces for party serving. It was an extremely rich cake, so the small pieces were for the best.


cookie rotation

I found cookie rotation to the be the most boring of rotations. Generally, cookie baking is about assembling the right ingredients, not overmixing, and then not forgetting that your cookies are in the oven. It's also about knowing when they're ready to come out when you're not using a timer. Some cookies have complicated assembly procedures, but I found these to be generally more trouble than they're worth.

hehe: the 'broken' cookie broke when we tried to take it off the parchment paper.

These cookies are from the first week. From left to right, they are: chocolate decadence, hazelnut butter cookies, white chocolate walnut, and gingersnap.

Despite cookie rotation having a reputation as the 'easiest' rotation, we made a million stupid mistakes the first week- forgetting to double-pan the cookies when they went in the oven so the bottoms didn't burn, forgetting that the cookies were in the oven and overbaking them, etc. There were also failed cookies-- a marscapone/honey filling for a cardamom thumbprint cookie melted all over the pan-- and cookies that no one liked (except the chef, oddly), such as the trail mix cookies below, which contained many varieties of nuts along with golden raisins.

One of the assembly-required cookies was a shortbread and chocolate shortbread checkerboard cookie. I discovered that I like shortbread dough much more than actual shortbread cookies, and in this case, the chocolate dough is less good than the plain. These cookies required that we sheet the dough out thin, trim it evenly, cut precise strips with rulers, and glue them together with water to form a checkerboard log that we could then slice cookies from. Pretty, but extremely time-consuming.

You can also take the two kinds of dough, sort of layer them, and roll them up to slice cookies off. This results in a marbled version that tastes the same and takes about one-twentieth of the time.

For the last several days of the rotation, we made a 'cookie' that was really a cake petit-four, a chocolate-orange ganache layered confection. It involved a japonais, which is like a cross between a sponge cake and a cookie, and a sponge cake, and although our skills were not quite up to the task of these slightly difficult base recipes, we were happy to have moved on from cookies and we also discovered that ganache covers a variety of sins-- especially when spiked with liquor. This was a good transition into my next-- and final-- rotation: cakes!


bread rotation

Bread rotation made me rethink my baker ambitions. I probably sound like a huge wuss, but bread rotation is rough. First quarter students do nothing but assist the second quarter students, who are responsible for doing much of the major production. There may be five products to have out by 1:30pm, and this means that often the second quarter students arrive very early. We lowly assistants were responsible for feeding the levain (the mother dough used for the quarter, or sometimes the whole year+), making starters and poolishes and levains for the next day's bread, mise-en-placing whatever ingredients were needed for the next day's bread, putting things into and taking things out of ovens, and sometimes, if we were lucky, shaping dough. Shaping dough could be a pyrrhic victory, though-- these bastards were a pain in my ass:

They are a multi-strand unusual braid where every strand is actually three. The ends are then tucked underneath to form this monkey's knot.

I didn't take many pictures during this rotation because I didn't feel responsible for anything we made, having been mostly a go-fer for the two weeks. (I did take a picture of my bread knot because I was proud of actually completing the forming process.) The pictures below are of two breads made by an advanced student. The one on the left contains coffee. While I was very excited to try this russian bread, I was not impressed with the flavor. Coffee does not belong in bread, I've decided. On the right is a sourdough.


blood orange tart

This is a variation on a completely delicious lemon curd tart that I made for a dinner party. I love blood oranges and so I wanted to see if using orange would make the tart even *more* delicious.

You can see the blood orange vodka bottle in the background- I had bought an entire bag of blood oranges at the store and was on a bit of a bloody orange bender. While I followed the process for the lemon tart precisely, substituting blood orange juice for the lemon, the tart never set properly. It was always a bit too loose, even after 24 hours, and the color... well, let's just say that the color is probably the reason no one makes these. Eggs, butter and lemon make a vibrant, appealing yellow. Eggs, butter and blood orange made a... well, sort of a pepto-salmon pinky-orange blush hue. Words do not quite suffice.

I covered the top in chocolate shavings to rescue my eyes, but still. Back to lemons it is. For all that, the flavor is okay. Not spectacular. As it turns out, I prefer the contrast of a very tart lemon with the dark chocolate. I'd have a picture of that tart-- I've made it twice with lemon now-- but once sliced, it never lasted long enough to take a picture.

I will find a way to make a blood orange and chocolate tart. Just you wait.

Blood Orange Tart, adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
1 recipe pate sucree (follows below; or use your favorite tart shell recipe)
2 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 extra large eggs
3 extra large egg yolks (I had only large eggs and so used 5 whole eggs and 3 yolks)
1 cup + 1 TBS granulated sugar (I used less; adjust to taste)
1 cup blood orange juice (or meyer lemon, or just plain lemon)
10 TBS cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream (optional)

NOTE (from Susanne Goin):
This tart should be served cold, so make it at least a few hours before serving. When you make the lemon curd, you need to stir it the entire time. For an ultra-smooth curd, I use both a whisk and a rubber spatula, alternating between the two as I stir. Start with the whisk, and as the mixture begins to get frothy, switch to the spatula (which helps to get rid of the froth), scraping the bottom and sides continuously. Remove the curd from heat and let it cool slightly before pouring it over the hardened chocolate layer. Don't cool the curd completely before pouring or it will lose its nice sheen. You can also make this tart with regular lemon juice.

- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Line the tart pan with the pate sucree. Prick the bottom with a fork and line it with coffee filters or parchment paper. Fill the lined tart shell with beans or pie weights and bake 15 minutes, until set. Take the tart out of the oven and remove the weights or beans. Return the tart to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until crust is an even golden brown. Set aside on rack to cool completely.
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium low heat. Spread the chocolate evenly on the crust, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, until the chocolate has solidified completely.
- While the crust is chilling, make the curd. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and lemon juice together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, alternating between a whisk and a spatula (or just use a whisk), until the lemon curd has thickened to the consistency of pastry cream and coats the back of a spatula/spoon.
- Remove the lemon curd from heat. Add the butter a little at a time, stirring to incorporate completely. Season with the salt.
- Let the curd cool about 8 minutes, then strain it into the prepared tart shell. Chill the tart in the refrigerator.
-Whip the cream to soft peaks and serve with the tart. (optional)

Pate Sucree
(makes enough for two tarts)

This is an easy, excellent pate sucree recipe, but you can use whatever one you like, or a store-bought crust if you're pressed for time.

1/4 cup heavy cream
2 extra-large egg yolks (I use 3 large)
2 3/4 cup + 2 TBS all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 3 TBS granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 lb unsalted butter

- Whisk the cream and eggs together in a small bowl.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and butter on medium speed until you have a coarse meal. Gradually add the cream and yolks and mix until just combined. Do not overwork the dough.
- Transfer the dough to a large work surface and bring it together with your hands to incorporate completely. Divide the dough in half, shape into 1" thick discs, and wrap one to freeze and use later. (You can also line a tart pan and freeze the whole thing that way to be even lazier later.)
- If the dough is too soft, put it in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to firm up. If it is manageable, place it on a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle a bit of flour over the top, and roll it into a 1/4" thick circle, flouring as necessary. Starting at one side, roll/wrap the dough around the rolling pin to pick it up and unroll over a 10" tart pan. Gently fit the dough loosely into the pan, lifting the edges and pressing the dough into the corners/flutes with your fingers. To remove the excess dough, roll the rolling pin over the top of the tart pan for a clean edge, or work your way around the pan, pinching off excess with your fingers.
- Chill for one hour.


blood orange vodka

I think they're the prettiest fruit of all.

In the winter, in pastry school, we used a lot of blood oranges and a lot of passionfruit. I can't stand passionfruit anymore, but I still love me some blood orange. In my culinary rotation we once infused liquors and I realized that I was never going to pay for flavored liquor again.

Vodka is very fast to infuse, especially if you're doing a hot infusion. I sliced a blood orange very thin and crammed the slices into a bottle into which I'd poured 750ml of vikingfjord vodka. You want a clean-tasting vodka, but it doesn't need to be expensive. Something really cheap will continue to taste like the plastic it came in, but you can use flavor to make it better if you're in a pinch.

I put the bottle into a pot of simmering water until the liquor reached 165 degrees. Then it was cooled and allowed to sit for as long as I was able to keep my hands off it (4 days). The longer it sits, the more the color and flavor deepen. A cold infusion (no heating at all) takes much longer (weeks) and I haven't done it to compare flavor. As it was, this vodka tasted very strongly of orange at first, with a distinct vodka finish. It would be excellent in mixed cocktails or sipped over ice, and it renders a shot a million times more palatable than plain vodka tends to be.

I repeated this process with kumquats, but the high rind to pulp/juice ratio rendered the finished product overly bitter. While it was drinkable, it was best mixed with another juice. In the future I'd stick with larger citrus so as not to incorporate too much pith.



I found the recipe!

This is obscenely easy to make, delicious, and makes the best french toast the next day. Just go make it. Right now. You have no excuses. Your friends will be impressed that you can, you know, bake! Even if you've never made bread before, this is entirely possible.

Challah (recipe from my Israeli friends Yoav and Hadar, translated from Hebrew)
NOTE: quantities are in grams.

1 kg flour (2.2lb)
25g yeast (yes, that's a lot. short rise.)
170g sugar (6 oz)
2 eggs
1 3/4 to 2 cups water
118 ml oil (4 oz)
1 TBS salt
1 egg, to wash
poppy or sesame seeds, to sprinkle

-Mix flour and yeast together with a fork or whisk.
-Add everything else (except egg for egg wash and sesame/poppy seeds)
-Mix with dough hook for 7-10 minutes until dough is smooth, shiny, and sticks to the bottom of the bowl.
oil (lightly) the top of the dough and cover (I use a towel) for one hour or until doubled.
-Divide dough into two and divide each half into thirds.
-Roll thirds into ropes and braid them (dough should be a bit sticky).
-Put each loaf onto an oiled pyrex 9 x 13 pan and let rise for 1 hour. Loaf should double in size. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with seeds.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 min.

This is the just-braided dough.
You can roll/tuck the ends of the braid under for a more polished look.