Thursday, June 14, 2007


So, here is a picture of my most recent "bun", and the "oven" where she's been baking for the last 9 months! Breckan was born this morning, and both mom and baby are doing well.

Ain't she beautiful!!!! Ain't they both beautiful!!!!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sofitel Chicago Water Tower

Well, I landed my first real job in the pastry world. I've been hired to work in the pastry kitchen at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower hotel. Click here to check out the hotel.
The hotel is located in the Rush/Division area of Chicago, just off Michigan Avenue. For those of you who are not familiar with the Sofitel brand, they are a French-owned company with a modern, upscale feel. We went there for Mothers' Day brunch and had a great meal.

Being a French hotel, we do a lot of things that I've learned at the French Pastry School over the last 6 months. I started last Friday, working from right after school until about 6:00. Then I went in for a full day on Saturday, from 8:00 - 4:30. I made creme brulee, several mini pastries including chocolate tarts, fruti tarts, etc.

I also made about 500 or more peanut butter cookies. To put this into perspective, imagine a recipe that calls for 16 lbs of flour!!! And 8 lbs of sugar and 8 lbs of brown sugar! The total yield of the recipe was 54 lbs! Crazy.

Oh, one other thing you might find interesting. One of the ovens at the hotel could be considered a walk-in oven, assuming you had heat-proof shoes. :-) Literally, this oven is about the size of a small bathroom, and you wheel 2 large carts in to bake bread, etc. A little arm comes down from the ceiling, lifts the carts, and slowly spins them for even browning during cooking. It's crazy.

Well, I can tell that I haven't posted for a long time by the fact that this post is rambling all over the place. So, I'm going to put y'all out of your misery and end it here. But I'll leave it up to you, do you want to hear more about the Sofitel and what I've done, including my one f-up? Or do you want to hear about how I nailed the interview to land the job, including a response to "What makes you lose your temper?" that indicated that the only person who can cause me to lose my temper is my wife?

The next post is up to you, loyal readers. Choose your own adventure...

Reader Mail

Hello, all!

I thought it was time to answer some of the questions posted over the last few weeks. So, here we go...

Q: "Yeah, what was the trick question?

A: The instructors always tell us that the questions are straightforward and not intended to trick you. But the question on the test was a True/False along the lines of "To achieve a textured look on chocolate, spray it with cocoa butter after taking it from the cooler." It's true that you achieve that look by spraying cocoa butter onto the chocolate when it's cold, but technically you should first put the piece in the freezer, not the cooler (refridgerator.) So, to me, that's a trick question. And, I might add, the only question I got wrong on the written exam.

Q: At what temp does water boil? Let me guess, i forgot to ask at what altitude you are at????

A: Depends. If you're in the US, it boils at 212 degrees F. If you're almost anywhere else in the worldl, water boils at 100 degrees C. But, we're Americans and we're always right, and everyone else is wrong. Just like the metric system, why would anyone want to know that there's 1000 meters in a kilometer when it's so much easier to remember that there's 5280 feet in a mile???

Q: What did you do with my cousin Tim? What did you do with the periodically intoxicated, poker playing slacker we all know and love?

A: That guy is still periodically intoxicated, and still throwing cards every once in a while. But I'm not sure I qualify as a slacker anymore, with school full time, work at the bank, work at the pastry shop, and now work at the Sofitel hotel (more on that later.) I get one day off a week now (Sunday), which is when my lovely wife gets me to do all her chores for her. Why, wanna play some poker???

Q: What did you get on your test?

A: Our last test, covering Chocolate Showpieces, Sugar Showpieces, and Wedding Cakes was brutal. I'm not sure anyone felt good about the practical part of the exam. The decorated 2-tier buttercream cake was due on Day 2 (out of 3 days) and over half the class was still decorating their cake when time was up. One guy got about 3 inches of piping done on his cake, and he was the former cake decorator at Whole Foods here in Chicago. I got mine done, but I only had 15 minutes to do all of my piping, so I wasn't happy with it at all. My sugar showpiece was nice, and my chocolate piece was decent. Anyway, the bottom line is that I got a C+ on this exam!!! I've received a "C" only once before in my life, and that was in the notorious "weed-out" class Accouting 201 at Wisconsin. So, I wasn't happy at all with the test itself, nor how I did on it. Thanks for asking.

Q: Or, if you need a dose of free-wheeling chaos as an antidote to your incipient OCD, you can always come to Iowa City. Added bonus: we can keep that ADD wife of yours entertained for hours.

A: OK, so that's not really a question, so this is not really an answer. But if you can keep her entertained for hours, let me in on the secret. Especially now that she's been put on bedrest and told she can only get up to go to the bathroom. How well do you all think she's obeying doctor's orders???

Q: Why haven't you posted a blog in so long?

A: So this wasn't a posted question either, but I thought it should be, and I thought it should get a response as well. Couple reasons. One, I'm too damn tired. There, I said it. And I can almost hear you all laughing and saying "Just wait until your daughter is born!!!" B) My digital camera died during class recently, so I haven't had pics to post. One of the girls in class has been taking pics for me, but hasn't sent them yet. And it's kind of hard to bust someone's balls when they're doing you a favor. Finally, I'm too damn tired.

That's it for the first installment of Reader Mail. Thank you all for taking time to read my blog, and especially for posting your comments. Keep them coming, and I'll try to respond when I can. In the meantime, I'll get back in the swing of things with my postings. And check back here over the next couple weeks to hear about when our proverbial bun comes out of the oven. By then I'll certainly have found a way to take pictures again. See you soon!!!