Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Coffee Crunch Cake and To-Do Lists...

This was the last picture to make it into my final portfolio for school. I made the cake in class on Thursday night and then the Engineer forced me to hit SEND on Friday morning to get all the pictures off to Snapfish for printing.

It's called a coffee crunch cake--angel food cake layered with whipped cream and these coffee crunches on the outside. The crunchies were fun to make--essentially, you boil sugar until the hardcrack stage and throw in some baking powder. The sugar foams up and when it hardens, you've got this odd, honey-combed candy. A DIY crunchie bar, kinda like this one! Good stuff.

So the end-of-year countdown is on! Two and a half weeks until I'm officially done and gradumikated from culinary school!

Here's a look at my to-do list for the next few weeks:

  • Finish futzing with portfolio pictures HA! One down!
  • Put pictures in photo album and be dun wit it
  • Keep experimenting with dessert gnocci (my original recipe for one of our finals. More on this later!)
  • Make flashcards for American cuisine
  • Make flashcards for Asian cuisine
  • Memorize things
  • Bid my roommate farewell on Saturday. Sniff sniff. (Don't be too sad--she's moving back to California--where it's sunny? all the time? huh?--and also just happens to be going to Hawaii for vacation next week.)
  • Say "Hello! I love you! Hi!" to the Engineer who is MOVING IN on Saturday (wooHOO!)
  • Iron my red polka-dot dress
  • Wear said dress to my friend's wedding next week (Thumbs up, Kate and Adam!)
Additionally, I need to purchase the following:
  • A photo album
  • Photo corners
  • Teacup and saucer (for original recipe)
  • Butane cartridges for creme brulee torch (for original recipe...aren't you getting curious!)
  • Coffee grinder (cuz my roomie's taking hers with her and I am bereft)
  • Candy thermometer
  • Gelatin
  • Plants for container garden before summer is suddenly over
Totally do-able, right? I'm not going to go insane in the next two weeks, right? Heh? Who wants to taste test some dessert gnocchi?!

Friday, May 16, 2008

ZOMG, Food Nerd Books!

I've always been a bit...overenthusiastic when it comes to the science behind the dinner, but doing this weekly food science post for the Kitchn has really put me over the edge into True Nerdom. And let me tell you, my friends, it feels like home.

For the last few months, I've been almost exclusively relying on my main man Harold McGee and his book On Food and Cooking as my source for food science and chemistry. And Harold, I love you. You know I do. But I think it's time that we saw other people.

The problem with the world of food science is that there's just not that much being published on the subject. I dunno, maybe I'm weird (HA!) in that I just like to know, ya know? I love doing something in class, then figuring out why that works, and then doing it again.

(Meanwhile, emulsions STILL elude me.)

One of the things I really like about Harold McGee is that he hits that middle ground where what he says makes sense to lay people, but he's not dumbing it down at all. That's what I really try to do when I write about science and chemistry stuff. I just want us both to read the same thing and to have it make sense.

I'm really excited about this Wild Fermentation book. It talks a lot about one of my favorite topics, sourdough, but also about brewing beer, making kimchi, and other naturally fermented things.

I haven't read or watched a lot of Alton Brown, but people often mention "Oh, Alton Brown talked about that in that episode!!!!" after my posts, so I thought it was time I spent some time with the guy. Flipping through the pages, I think he also strikes that "Make Sense, Not Dumb" balance.

The other two books, What Einstein Told His Cook, are a bit of an unknown. The first book looks like a lot of stuff Harold and I have already been over. The second one looks like a book I could spend some time with.

There's one other book that I'm itching to get my hands on: Molecular Gastronomy: The Science of Taste by Herve This. The only have it on reserve at the library and I haven't had time to get to a bookstore in several months, so it remains a mystery. I have a feeling it will be a touch over my head, but nerds are nothing if not determined to understand that which eludes them. Or keel over while trying.

In other, but related, news: I've been coveting the Kindle electronic book thing from Amazon. I didn't pay it any mind, then I saw that everyone wanted it, then it went out of stock, and now I kinda want it? Does that make me bad? It did cross my mind that the whole "out of stock" thing was maybe a marketing ploy from Amazon designed to make people like me more interested, but...I still want one.

Here's the thing. I think that devices like the Kindle is really the future of publishing. It just makes sense.
Amazon has done a really great job of making an electronic product that still has a lot of the features that we love about books--ie, roughly the same size and weight as a book, 'turning' the page, a screen that can be read in the sunlight, dog-earring pages, and the like.

Amazon is also amassing a fairly substantial library of books. Even Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking is in there. For me, having my reference books in one handy electronic device would mean that I could truly go work from anywhere without constantly having to make little notes to myself to double check a book reference when I get back home.

Having my cookbooks on an electronic device like this would be awesome. It would be easy to prop it near my work station and eliminate the need for all the post-it scribbles I have fluttering all over the place.

Plus, I'm also one of those people who has to take a million books with me whenever I travel just in case.

So why am I just coveting and not buying at this point? Well, aside from the price tag, my biggest concern is about buying books. When I buy a book, I want it to really be mine. Meaning, I want it in a universal file format that can be used whether I'm using a Kindle or some other equivalent device that is lurking on the horizon. So far, it seems that Kindle books purchased through Amazon can only be used on Kindle devices.

I'll bide my time, thanks. Apple will surely be hatching something shortly. Or maybe Google will succeed in taking over the world and enforcing it's Free Information for All! act.

Anyone in my listening audience have a Kindle and want to give their two cents?

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Hello? Hello? This thing on?

Oh! Hi! Hello! So glad to see you again! I was gone for ever and ever and I've missed you!

I've been on so many adventures the past few months and I can hardly wait to tell you. There were so many moments that I've wanted to share with you, but the time? It just kept disappearing. Poof!

So here I am again. Hello! Oh, I'm so excited. I've been kinda nervous to come back. I mean, what if I post again and then end up getting all caught up with adventures again and time disappears again and...and... Plus, I hardly knew where to begin.

But all that's silly, right? Right.

So I'll begin right here. Today. It's Sunday. It's been raining all week and also very cold and it's very grumpy-making, what with it being MAY and all. Helloooo? May? Sunshine? Summer dresses? Yes, please? I bought the cutest red and white polka-dotted summer dress at H&M the other day (Dominique, I thought of you) that I was hoping to wear to my birthday dinner the other week, but it was altogether too frigid outside. Sigh.

I have one month to go on culinary school. Hooray! It's been a trip, for sure. I started putting together my portfolio of pictures tonight and was really struck by how far I've come. I don't think I'd really stopped to look at the big picture for a while. It was really affirming of, well, the past year of my life. Always nice.

I finished my internship at Cook's Illustrated about a month ago. More stories on this later, but quickly now: It was a good internship, I'm glad I did it, I learned a lot, but it also drained more energy out of me than I can possibly say. It was really intense and required a lot of...coffee. The last month I was there, I was juggling the internship, class at night, getting the hang of writing for the Kitchn, and also applying for a job at Cook's Illustrated that required a pretty intense working interview.

Nay, I did not end up getting the job. Sigh. But perhaps that was for the best, at least right now. I'm still processing it, honestly, so more on that later. On the plus side, I will have an article published in the December/January issue of Cook's Country--very exciting!

Let's see...what else? The biggest knitting accomplishment of recent times was the completion of Angelina's Scooter Scarf--check out her cute shot on Dustpan Alley. She's so kind to totally gloss over the fact that it took me TWO YEARS to finish that scarf. Two years, people. Such a shameful moment in my life as a knitter. Eeenyways, I'll have some more shots of this scarf in a later post. It turned out so nice--so much lovelier than I even imagined it would be. I love it when that happens.

I haven't been reading a whole lot, what with all the crazy adventuring and all. Nothing new to report there.

The Engineer and I are doing quite well. Fabulously, in fact. I'm totally grinning here as I write this (yup, alone...in front of my computer...at 11:00 at night...). It's been a pretty big year for the Engineer and I. You remember where we were last spring? Well, things are a bit better now.
Very better, in fact. Things are happy. Grin.

And...I think that pretty much brings us up to date, yes? It's been a big few months. I've changed in subtle ways that I'm only now beginning to understand. The seismic plates of my self drifting and reconstructing themselves. If I had to boil it down, I'd say that I've grown up a lot. If I do say so myself.

But maybe not too much, right?

More soon, dearies....