i’m burning for you…

everybody has a list of favorite things. mine includes caramel, thick and gooey caramel, and it makes no difference if it is enrobed in chocolate or drizzled over ice cream. it’s caramel and i like it. there are several desserts in this book that use caramel sauce so i decided to post the how to for those of you who might want to try it out.
good caramel sauce has a consistency that is viscous enough to coat a spoon but not clump up. it should swirl around on a plate with ease and not set immediately. it should also have some additional flavors such as cinnamon, vanilla and booze (imagine that…).
drunken caramel-the slide show
put your cream on to heat up with the butter, cinnamon and vanilla bean
set the sugar up to burn with the corn syrup (for stability) and water (to prevent scorching before all of the sugar is dissolved)
slowly but surely, the color will change from crystal clear to a light amber

and get darker

and darker

and darker still…
it will be obvious that the caramel is near 350 degrees because it will be less bubbly

and when it is finally to the proper temperature, pull it off the heat!

add your warmed cream mixture slowly, it will foam up and splatter a lot so be careful and use a whip with a long handle!
add all of the cream slowly and whisk to melt the caramel and combine the ingredients
strain the mixture to remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean
now it’s party time-get the caramel drunk so you can take advantage of it…

just another day in the neighborhood

if i had a dollar for everytime i heard someone say “oooh you work in a restaurant, that must be so much fun” we’d all be going out for a drink, my treat…some of my other favorites are, “oh you own a bakery, i bet that’s a lot of fun” (so much fun that I no longer own it…) , “you get up at what time, i could never do that” (trust me, on my days off, neither can i) and my all time fave, “how can you stay so skinny while baking all of that?” (easy, i am not interested in eating it after i have been up to my elbows in it all day) but honestly, what could be fun about this business, really??? sure you make good money, sometimes. you meet great people, most of them are anyway. you will work hard; it is a physically strenuous job that can take a lot out of you after 25 years. yet, i can’t imagine doing anything else, except winning the powerball. so today i will give you a glimpse into my life with cakes and cookies and pudding and…
first of all, i roll out of bed at 2:50am and after feeding the herd and starting the coffee, i get cleaned up and dressed. i usually drink my cup of coffee as i check the forecast and then it’s time to go. i have a long drive, 17 miles each way and to me, that is a little long. after dodging suicidal skunks, kamikazee coyotes and a bunch of dumbstruck deer, i arrive at the cafe. first thing i do is inventory what is left from the day before and decide what needs to be baked first.
today, first up is a batch of pastry cream and while the milk slowly simmers towards a full boil, i mixed up a batch of peach cobbler filling. the filling was portioned into the baking cups, topped with sweet biscuit dough and into the oven it went. after the pastry cream was finished, i moved onto wafers for banana pudding.
the wafers are the trickiest things to make. some days they just do not cooperate. eggs get whipped with sugar for a long time (yes there i go again about the long whipping, just ignore it) because they will end up with more volume the longer and slower they are whipped. after i start the machine, i quickly mix up 4 chess pies and put them into the oven with the cobblers. then it is time to lug that bowl into my little space and make the cookies.
to give you some perspective on just how big the bowl is, look at the things next to it. a grater, a 2 cup measure, a set of measuring cups and spoons. it is the smaller bowl for the machine and it weighs about 16 pounds. the large bowl is so heavy that if i have to use it, i have to have someone else, larger and stronger, move it for me.
flour gets folded into the eggs and sugar to make a batter that will be piped into little dots on sheet pans. after a sprinkle of sugar, they will be baked.
i work alone in this room, it is the store room and it is also a quiet room. there aren’t any ovens or other equipment in here with me and there aren’t any people unless they need something. after a quick trip in, they are gone again to leave me with my thoughts. because i have such a quiet room, i hear everything around me. i can hear the hvac system run its cycles, the freezer too. the radio in the kitchen provides a background and so do the voices of the cooks and the wait staff. the activity in the dishroom is noisy and so are the guys who work in there as they talk over the machine but even so, i can still hear the biscuit baker in the next room open and close the oven doors. most of the voices i listen to in my space do not speak in english and for much of my day, neither do i.
as i pipe out the cookies, i think about my next task; banana pudding needs to be made and these cookies are an important piece of that puzzle.
the trays are all lined up and ready to go. after a short trip to the biscuit room, the cookies will go into the convection oven where they will bake up quickly.

while the cookies bake, elli and i talk. we haven’t worked together for almost 2 weeks because i was on vacation and we have a lot of catching up to do. typical for a couple of women except for the broken spanglish we use to do this. actually it is more my bad spanish and her proper spanish that gets the story told. it seems strange to me when i stop and think about how much time of my day is spent not just speaking spanish, but doing so badly and still getting the point across. passing around the dictionary helps. today i learned 3 new words: chismoso(gossipy), celoso(jealous) and ambicioso(ambitious, but not in a nice way). we may not speak the same language, but we can converse and for someone who doesn’t speak english, she sure catches on to what’s happening around her…
the cookies are finished. i unload them from the oven and retreat to my little corner of the world.

while i was waiting for the cookies to finish, the cobblers finished baking too.

so did the chess pies

prep for tomorrow, separated eggs to make the task go quicker.

now it is time to make the pudding, banana pudding to be exact. the pastry cream has cooled down and the cookies are baked.

perfectly ripe bananas, peeled and sliced

in the pan, a little pastry cream, a layer of bananas and a layer of cookies. this dessert repeats itself until the pan is full.

cover the cookies with some more cream to seal out the air and keep the bananas from turning brown. to serve, it is scooped out and goes to the dining room in cups with a dollop of whipped cream and a cookie on top.
virginia, one of the waitresses, comes through the back and announces loudly, “i smell chocolate!” fresh from the oven is a pan of brownies. they will be cut up into squares tomorrow when they are cold, wrapped in plastic and sold up front.
speaking of the front, my showcase is in need of a refill so i must make some whipped cream. a half gallon of cream goes into the big bowl on the machine with some vanilla and sugar. slathered on top of some pies and piped on others, these will be displayed up front to tantalize all that pass by the case on their way in or out.
little lines of chocolate drizzle strung across the fudge pie, the last one to be decorated. off to the showcase we go…
all in a day’s work. the rack is full of things that will be served for dessert. time to head out to the garden and dig in the dirt.

missing in action

actually, i’m not missing. i’m right here at the computer, typing away as you read this. with chapter two completed, the testing part of it anyway, i am now formatting the recipes so i can send them to susan. she will edit them and then we will go over them line by line correcting any mistakes in them and rewriting them as needed. sounds like fun doesn’t it? in between my gardening and bee keeping classes, i will get to work on the next chapter.

as i format my notes into coherent recipes, it is increasingly obvious that i am a scatterbrained ditz on occasion. i make so many notes on my recipe sheets that sometimes, they are hard to follow. more than once i have discovered that i have multiple copies of the same recipe, each slightly different and just different enough to confuse me and nothing is marked “final version”. luckily, i am capable of deciphering the notes and what i send to susan looks nothing like what i have tucked into my binder.
now what shall it be, more cakes, cupcakes or ??? decisions, decisions…

now for the fun part

sorry, no photos today. why you ask, i’ll tell you why. i didn’t bake anything today. nope, not a thing. the cakes for chapter two have all been baked, they’ve been eaten too. now comes the fun part-formatting them and editing them…

what was that sound? that thunk, it was so loud. oh that. it was my head hitting the keyboard. after a long and stressful week, sitting and typing is not something i can do today. i’m heading out to the demo garden with my fellow master gardeners where we will pull weeds and plot beds for this year’s garden. and tomorrow, i will do it again but i will also spend a few hours with the beekeepers as my husband and i get ready to add bees to our own garden. after a short break to do all of the typing/editing it is on to chapter 3. rock on you crazy diamond…

weather alert

hey everyone, sorry i don’t have anything to post today. with the impending doom looming on the horizon (read that as rain/snow/ice), i have had a horrible time with the sinuses. too painful to do much since the handful of ibuprofen i choked down didn’t help at all. if the doomsday preachers are even somewhat accurate, i will be housebound for at least a day and you can be sure that i will spend a good portion of that day in the kitchen baking up a storm of my own!