Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I'm Back!

Guess Who?
 
A hundred thousand views. Wow. This humble little blog of mine has just welcomed its 100,000th visitor. Mega. Mind Blowing. WOW.

First things first, a big ALoHa~ to everyone out there. You’re probably wondering who this is. It is I, the rum-induced, cheese-hugging, chocolate-loving nut job who started this blog back in 2010. The same gal who would update this site religiously throughout her Le Cordon Bleu Patisserie course: 3 times a week, 9 months straight, without fail. The very same gal who then, without warning, went dark, like Jack Bauer in 24. Without A Trace. A Cold Case. I watch waaay too much American television, but you get the drift.

Well I am back.


It has been just over 2 years since I completed my course and shared my last thoughts here. What happened? Life happened. Since leaving the protective confines of school, I got swept up in the tidal waves of the Real World, but one thing for sure, I never forgot about you guys.

Ever so often I would swing by for a quick peek to see if anyone was still reading this blog: I was gob-smacked to find that you awesome guys were not only coming back, you’ve been coming back 100,000 times more! Granted it’s minuscule compared to what many top bloggers get in a day, but topping the traffic charts was never my intention. This blog was my mental and emotional outlet, a chronicle of the detour my up-till-then predictable life had taken. The fact that you gave two hoots about a lost soul trying to follow her passion and find herself, has been humbling. And knowing that you are still here, is just brilliant. You guys rock!

So, I took that as a sign that it was about time I dropped you guys a note, to say a big Hello and a gratified Thank You.

I now take questions from the floored floor.

Molten Chocolate Cupcakes 
with Toffee Banana Center
  
Why didn’t you say goodbye, you cold heartless bi-

Why, thank you for your question, anonymous reader. I didn’t say goodbye coz I suck it. Loath it as much as I do sugarwork and cleaning up. And to do so was to grant this blog a finality it didn’t deserve. All this time this blog has been, and continues to serve as steady reference for many of you who are either LCB students reading up before the start of each class, potential students looking to find out more about the course, or home bakers wishing to learn out how puff pastry is made and why you shouldn’t store fondant-covered cakes in the fridge. So you see, like how the first Christmas cake has endured the test of time, I had faith that this blog would too.

Also, a curtain call on the blog that has come to represent the best time of my life and changed its course for the better, didn’t seem right. My foray into the world of baking and writing has only just begun. So I decided instead to wait till the time was right, when I’ll be back to tell you more about the road since taken.

Prinsesstårta
Swedish Princess Cake For You Awesome Guys!

How did you manage to hit 100,000 views without a single update since 2011?

I have these 3 feverishly devoted stalkers who monitor my every move, steal my dirty aprons for keepsake and visit my blog 2,000 times -  and that’s just before breakfast. *waving* Hi guys! I *heart* you too~~~!

Just kidding. I’ve been told by a couple of readers (who also happen to be LCB patisserie students) that they would swing by and read up on the relevant posts before each class to get a preview of what to expect in the day’s lesson. (Such diligence on your part, kiddos!). I guess the rest of you must just enjoy reading about my journey towards chef-dom, or at least find humor in my incessant whining about why I hate sugarwork and attempting to make sorbet in the middle of a scorching Sydney summer

Whichever category you fall under, I’m gonna play the cheesy card here (everyone gets to play the cheesy card at least once in their life) and say: Thank You to Each and Every one of youse, without whom I would never in a million years have reached 100,000 views. Heck, that’s 99,999 times more friends than I have in real life. You guys made my day.

Kiddo's Princess Birthday Cake

Are we still not allowed to tell your Mum that you quit your-

Let me stop you there. The URL is still quite a mouthful, I get that. And yes I finally broke the news to Mummy dearest coz my instincts do fail me when I least expect it to. Call it an act of good (blind/stupid) faith. Honesty is the Best Policy and all the other naïve feel good talk? Don’t buy it, coz they sure as heck did not work for me. My parents damn well nearly disowned me after my big revelation. It was only after months of proving to them that bakers don’t end up in ditches (i.e. poor and homeless struggling on minimum wage) I’ve been allowed back in the house again.

Matcha Opera
One of my early experiments & now a bestseller. :)
  
What have you been up to since you left LCB?

Long story short, I served my sentence in the industry i.e. work placement, and decided that climbing the corporate cake ladder wasn’t my thing. I wanted to work for myself, to bake what I enjoy baking, not make the same strawberry cheesecake cake 200 times over, week after week just to meet demand. So I left the 5 star hotel where I was working at, and started an online Patisserie cum Pastry School: MyPastries. You can find me at www.MyPastri.es. Yes, as in the Spanish domain dot ES. Not dot com. Not dot sg. Dot ES.

At MyPastri.es, I take online cake orders, like most interwebbing cake businesses do. More excitingly, I conduct baking classes on the weekends for anyone with a sweet tooth: Moms who want to bake simple cookies with their 5 year olds; thoughtful girlfriends planning to surprise their boyfriends with a decadent chocolate gateau; even seasonal classes for Mooncakes and Christmas cakes. We create something different in every class and have a ball while we’re at it, that’s what I love most about my classes.

Pigs In A Barrel

Anything else going on in your life?

Simon and I welcomed a new addition to our family: a dog from the SPCA whom we named Cider. We couldn’t name her Guinness after my favorite drink coz being more cider-brown than Guinness-black, it’ll just confuse her too much. She’s a mixed breed, completely mental, and we are absolutely in love with her.

Oh, we got hitched too. Not me and Cider, you dodos. SIMON. I got married to SIMON. We just celebrated our 8th month anniversary, ya’all!

Cider peering over her doggie cupcakes. 

So what now?

Unlike in LOTR (which in my, err, book, is dee best show Eh-Vah), we have not come to journey’s end. The learning continues, both for me through my clients with their unique orders each week, and through my students, as you can see from their pics here, they fare much better than I did when I was learning to bake. They must have a very good Sensei. *ahem*

Dog Biscuits

Where can we find you next?

As I have done so here, I invite you to join me on the next leg of my journey. Drop by MyPastries (www.MyPastri.es) sometime and see what I get up to. My life’s great adventure is well underway, as I continue to turn baking from dream to hobby to sweet reality.

In the meantime, this blog belongs to the ages, and will stay up as long as you lovely folks continue to visit it. So keep 'em coming guys, and spread the word: This blog is here to stay.

Xoxo
Ally

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sugarwork

Chef Luigi's Deep Sea Sugarwork

This is a particularly hard post for me to do, being the final write up of my LCB experience, which only partially exonerates my procrastination in uploading this more than 3 6 9 10 months after the fact. It was a bittersweet lesson, making sweet sugarwork on our last day of school. But it must be done and proceed we shall.

Blown Sugar Swan & Satiny Rose

Behold the above objectives of the day: impressive and intimidating-looking swans and roses. Fingers crossed I will be producing more than just burnt fingers by the end of class.

Raw Isomalt

All sugar sculptures begin life as Isomalt, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol derived from beets (nasty stuff if you ask me), often used by diabetics for their low calorie count and minimal impact on the blood sugar level. Calorific concerns aside (don't even get me started on the after effects such as flatulence and diarrheah), it is isomalt's unique malleable property which makes it more suitable for sugar work than pure sugar per se.

Boiling Colored Isomalt To 170°C - 180°C
Arresting In Ice Water To Halt Cooking Process

To get isomalt into working condition it is first melted down over very high heat, a process during which one's color of choice may be added for the desired result. The first showpiece being that of aquatic life, seaweed green and oceanic blue are applied.

"Corals" Cast In Alcohol
"Bubbles" Cast On Crumpled Greaseproof Paper

"Casting" isomalt simply means pouring it into a beaker of alcohol or onto greaseproof paper to set. In contact with the former, a chemical reaction results in gas bubbles erupting in the setting isomalt, and a coral effect is thus achieved. On the latter, a flat sheet emerges which can then be used as a base, backdrop or indeed any part of a showpiece as you see fit.

Smooth & Motif-ed

Isomalt Cast In Raw Isomalt

Melting & Fusing Isomalt Pieces Together

The ends of each piece are dipped into a pot of still hot-as-hell molten isomalt to melt before being fused together.

With the deep sea set complete, Chef Luigi proceeds to create a fish out of blown sugar, a common sugar work process also employed in the making of our beautiful swan.

Pulling (Hot!) Isomalt For Aeration, Elasticity & Sheen

Once the isomalt has been brought to temper and cast, the pulling process begins. This must be done while the isomalt is still hellishly hot and pliable, pulled and pulled again over and into itself, trapping precious air bubbles in the process. It is this progressive build up of tiny air bubbles which gives the worked isomalt its opaque, glossy sheen and improved elasticity, a prized quality in the sugar-blowing process.

Heating Sugar Pump For An Airtight Adherence To Isomalt
Pulling The End To Form The Swan's Head & Neck

A special pump is heated and fused airtight to one end of the pulled isomalt, to ensure when pumped, no air escapes and an even expansion occurs within. Next, one end of the isomalt is carefully pulled and stretched to form the neck of the swan.

Then the blowing commences. This is a controlled process, much as size and ego go, as blowing the body up too much will eventually crack the isomalt and the process will have to be repeated again.

Pumping (& Plumping) Up The Body
Cooling Down To Set

"Feathers" Made By Casting Pulled Isomalt In Leaf Molds
Fusing On Wing & Tail "Feathers"

Let's see the entire process in slow motion, shall we?

Chef Karen Pulling Isomalt 
With Her Pair Of Handy Dandy Dish Washing Gloves!

The "La Mien" Technique For Better Aeration & Sheen

Spray Painting Blown Isomalt Fish
Pulled Isomalt Coils

Once the pulled and blown isomalt has been worked into shape and enhanced with features such as feathers and tails, the finishing touches are added; in the case of our aquatic friend, it is spray painted with various colors to finally bring it to life.

Isomalt can also be worked and shaped like normal sugar, molded into leaves or twisted around a knife sharpener into coils. The possibilities are endless.

Pondering About The Wonders Of Isomalt

3 Chefs A Merry Party Makes

One More Groupie Pic

Break times are dearly cherished: the precious minutes between demo and kitchen are usually spent catching up on gossip or some last minute z's, or grabbing a bite and a quick hit of java before entering the kitchen, where theory becomes practical.

My Swan! Can't Believe I Pulled It Off

This being the last class, I decided I could either go big or go home. So rather than attempt the "easier" satin rose, I opted for the more challenging swan, and set about blowing and pulling the sugar, half convinced I wouldn't be able to pull it off - "pull" it off, get it? Bada-boom.

Hey presto, not only did I not fail miserably, I actually managed to produce a rather respectable looking bird. Not bad for a sugar novice, eh? :)

Complete With A Butt Hole :p

Chef Luigi's Kitchen Extra: Sweet, Shiny Ribbon

Pulling & Fusing Together Colored Isomalt

More Pulling For A Beautiful Sheen

Snipping Off Loops, Piling Them On

Building The Ribbon, Loop By Shiny Loop

Have You Ever Seen A Prettier Off Cut?

Sweet Centerpiece

One Last Pizza Party

Story Of My Life