Tuesday, April 12

I Know What I'm Doing

I have been a busy bee this year.

A close friend of mine underwent scoliosis surgery, so I helped carry on her online magazine Explore-Philly.com while she healed. I realized that I'm not as young as I would like to think I am and there's something else I noticed about myself. ...

When I was a teen and in my early 20s, there wasn't anything more that I wanted than a social life. Now that I'm older, my idea of a great Friday night is pizza, my Roku, and a bottle of gin.

Don't get me wrong. I had so much fun going to different events and meeting interesting people, but every night I return home exhausted by the time I had to write the story. Also I'm holding down a full time job. Promoting the social media and connecting with people made me realize that I'm nowhere near I expected to be at this point of my life.

I need to buckle down so I eliminated distractions including Facebook (my personal - not business page) and started emailing farmer markets to see if they would accept my wares. Many of the greater Philadelphia area markets are already closed to new members unbeknownst to me.

Finally one market emailed me back and sent me an application. Pending approval from a health department inspection, I'm in to sell pastries next month. 

How exciting and terrifying. I have a menu ready and need to do my cost control. I hate cost control. Is there a computer program or an app for cost control?

I am trying to avoid any potential nightmares. There are many suggestion to shoppers and visitors to Farmers Markets, but nothing out there for first time vendors. As usual I expect to make several catastrophic mistakes, so let the "What Not To Do" list begin with me. Sometimes I think my purpose in my life is to show other people what not to do.

Wednesday, February 17

Classified Brownies

A few years ago when I was a pastry chef at a small bistro in Philadelphia, my chef requested that I come up with a signature brownie. Now I can debate for awhile in what makes a good brownie, but in my opinion, it's fudgy, but not too much, kind of cakey, and definitely not dry. 


I would prefer pecans or walnuts, but I know some people would take that as a sacrilege. A brownie recipe may not sound like a big deal, but next to cookies it's my favorite American dessert. I wanted to give my customers who desired a sweet end their meal with something that rocked their taste buds.

At that time, my test subjects were the dishwashers and servers. The servers knew how much my desserts meant to me and always came back to tell me if a guest said something lovely specifically about my dessert turnout. I cooked to make the customers happy and not for reviews (which I did get phenomenal feedback there as well).

I knew I made the best brownie when a server tried it and said:

"It's like having an orgasm in my mouth!"

:: Drop Mic :: 

The kitchen dropped deadly silent and then we all erupted in laughter. She was beet red, but I left the line to hug her (it was before opening).

Now my chef was a real douche. I don't mind hard work or long hours, but this guy would wait until I came in and completed my prep to say, "I checked the books. We don't need you tonight." If he was honest and said that he didn't need me on the line (note: I also prepped for the hot side and worked the salad line if it wasn't busy on dessert), I would have been fine with it.. He didn’t think desserts were needed or that pastry chefs particularly were talented.

No, Chef Dingleberry waited until I was done so he can get the already overworked dishwashers to do the pastry line without paying them additional money. 

After several weeks of this going on, Chef D started hinting that maybe I should leave my recipes at work. This is a brownie, but I don't like it when people start getting sly and think that I'm a fool. I'm many things, but I'm not stupid.

So I left a copy of my recipes -- with the ingredients changed.

After I left that job, I went on to a bread baking position and never had an opportunity to make brownies until several years later. It's a fairly simple recipe, but with one change makes it a world of difference.

Sitting back eating a brownie with coffee makes me smile. I viewed their menu soon after I left. The brownies were no longer on the menu.

Wednesday, January 27

Recipe Revamp: Girl Scout's Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

I’m a food snob with a guilty pleasure. There are some process foods I enjoy, but for the life of me I cannot figure out why people drop their drawers for Girl Scout cookies.

It could be that I was the world’s worst Girl Scout. I think I quit after a month. It’s an organization that supports girls regardless of age, race, religious, or ethnicity. I’m all for that – I’m against the manufactured-made boxes of cookies that people are ready to trample others for.

I would rather give the Girl Scouts my $4, but I have been informed that the money doesn’t count – it’s the number of boxes sold. I wondered how I can support this organization while enhancing the product and making it fun.

Fun for me anyway, it doesn’t take much to keep me entertained.

Experiment #1 Peanut Butter Sandwich 

My opinion: They taste like Nutter Butters.
My plan: Make a cheesecake out of them.

Preheat oven to 325 F.

The Crust:

Entire box of Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies
Separate the cookie from the cream
In a food processor, grind up the cookies.
Mix in 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and 3 Tbsp melted butter for the crust.

Pour crumbs in a lined springform pan with wax or parchment paper. If you choose to make cheesecake minis, use cupcakes with a muffin tin. Place 2 Tbsp of crumb in each up. Pat down the crumbs to make a firm crust.

The Base

3 cream cheese (8oz. each) room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs room temperature
½ cup fat free sour cream room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies cream insides 

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with mixer until blended. Add peanut butter mixture. Add eggs, 1 at a time until blended. Pour over crust.
Mash up the peanut butter cream with 2 Tbsp of melted butter.
Mix on medium speed until blended.
Bake 55 min. or until center is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate cheesecake overnight or 4 hours minimum.

Peanut Brittle topping to jazz up the look.

First step, line a sheet pan with a Silpat and lightly spray with cooking spray.

1 cup sugar
20 drops of lemon juice (real lemon – not the fake crap)
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup of salted dry roast peanuts

Make caramel the dry method

Once the sugar is completely caramelized add lemon and butter. Then add the peanuts.
Pour the mixture on the pan and with an offset spatula flatten the brittle. It will harden quickly.

Once cooled take out your aggression by smashing up the brittle and sprinkling on top of the cheesecakes.

The Outcome:
No matter how you feel about Girl Scout Cookies, this is a great way to support a fantastic organization, get a sugar fix, and have fun revamping a recipe.

On a serious note, support the Girl Scouts.

Monday, January 18

Go Home Cupid, You're Drunk

The day after Christmas holiday decorations come down and the red, white, and pink colors of Valentine's Day go up. As a chronically single lady, I'm just recovering from the Christmas and New Year's Eve movies, television shows, and commercials that say: "If you are single, then you are loser."

You know they broke up January 2nd.

My coping mechanism of course is pastries and booze. At the Punk Rock Flea Market the Drunk Slut Cherries sold out so I asked my Facebook friends what other dessert can I liquor up.

Rum balls was one suggestion. Although it's a treat that already full of alcohol why segregate it to Christmas? So I took a simple rum ball recipe and placed the power of the Pastry Prophet.

Rum Balls Recipe: Food Network
2 cups finely ground cake crumbs from a leftover cake
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted, plus extra for rolling
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 to 4 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup dark rum

With non-latex gloves I crushed one layer of leftover vanilla cake into a bowl. Then added the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, walnuts, honey and rum. With a rubber spatula, blend until the entire mixture is moist.

In a quarter sheet pan, spread out the mixture in a 1/4" layer wrapped in plastic wrap and set in the freezer for 2 hours until firm. Take the unused scraps and form them into 1/2" balls. (Easily decorate them by rolling them in a mixture of 2 tablespoons powder sugar (sifted) and Dutch cocoa powder.)

When ready, I cut out heart shapes with a cookie cutter*and placed it back in the freezer. While setting again, it time to melt the chocolate.

In this case I used dark chocolate, but feel free to use the chocolate that you prefer.

Working quickly, dipped the hearts into the chocolate and shake gently to remove excess chocolate. To decorate I planned to use Valentine jimmies, but decided to strip the hearts with pink Wilton candy melts.

Eat, get drunk, and enjoy.

Sunday, January 3

Getting Over It

Two years ago, I appeared on a television cooking competition show. I usually a second-guess myself and rehash the mistakes I made no matter if they are indeed errors or not. This time (perhaps even the first time) I was on my A game. I did everything right.

Spoiler alert - I lost. The winner's cookies were under baked and the bacon in the runner-up's cookies were underdone. Mine were done perfectly. In fact, the judges had nothing negative to say and were full of compliments.

They apparently were full of something.

Well anyway I was rightly bummed about not winning. While wallowing in a sea of self pity I discounted the positives. I received a free trip to San Francisco, time to tour the city, meeting great people who worked behind the camera (more on that later), and of course, the opportunity to be on television.

How I wish it was red. My power color.
What can I say I hold grudges and beat myself up for 2 years. I was embarrassed that I lost. In my mind my defeat reaffirmed all the bullying and teasing I had to endure my entire life. It's like the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Chain of Command - Part 2". If someone tells you that you are a failure long enough, you start to feel like it's true.

To sum up: I did my best, I failed, and I felt bad for two years.

You can say I hold onto my bitterness is an understatement. It took awhile, but I finally realized something: my hurt feelings are not hurting anyone and it's not helping me move forward in my professional life.

Everyone wins and loses - even if the final judgment was complete bullshit.

Although it's going slow and steady, people are finding me and I'm gathering a following. I did well at Sugar Rush and at last December's Punk Rock Flea Market.

Before I left San Francisco, I asked the television crew team to sign my apron. I loved how they were all passionate about their jobs to make the whole show work. Although they were not the host or in a spotlight as a contestant they made everything run like a well oiled machine. Also, I think they were amused with my childlike amazement.

Standing next to the host was intentional.

It's long overdue, but I framed the apron to remind me that I did try my best. No did not win, but guess what?

Wait for it...

I went the distance

On second thought. I like the yellow. My producer had everyone sign it in a red marker.

Okay now it's so time learn, move on, and allow myself to shine.

Sunday, December 27

Hello? Is It Me You're Looking For?

It's been an entire year since I posted an entry. I know every time I disappear, I promise that I will be more consistent.

I'm easily distracted.

That said I have accomplished so much in 2015 although not as much as I should have. I'm still working on my business and presented pastries for the first time at The Punk Rock Flea Market,  dating (that is another blog entry for another day), writing for Explore-Philly and Explore-New Jersey, and still holding it down in the corporate world.

The thing I missed the most is blogging here and writing in my private journal. I've been active on other social media platforms, but neglected announcing my adventures here.

So let's run down my adventures of 2015:

  1. Writer for Explore Philly and Explore New Jersey
  2. Visited Galveston and Austin Texas
  3. Tasted the magic of Whataburger
  4. Contributed (not that much) to the Bring Back MST3K Kickstarter
  5. Became a vendor to the R5 Punk Rock Flea Market (and made bank!)
  6. Discovered the magnificent wisdom of Buzzfeed's Matt Bellassai
  7. Watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  8. Made French Macarons correctly (this is a big deal for me)
  9. Retired the weave
  10. Temple Football kicked some major ass this season
  11. Saw Culture Club in concert (don't judge me - I love them)
  12. Went to my first Diner En Blanc
  13. Bought a new car. Good-bye Lil' Nickel
  14. Saw the legalization of gay marriage. I'm so happy for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Don't invite me to your wedding, but I will more than happy to make your wedding cake and petit fours!

Not an exciting year, but not a bad one either.

Here's to a slightly more interesting 2016.

Monday, March 23

Sugar Rushed

Or blog apparently. These long gaps must stop, but when I have a chance to breathe all I want to do is sleep ... or watch Netflix.

Although I haven't logged in my time like I promised I would, I wasn't goofing off watching Lifetime movies and eating nachos.

This Monday I had a wonderful opportunity to be a vendor at the 2nd Annual Sugar Rush: A fundraiser to benefit Spark Philadelphia. As much as I make fun of parents and their offspring, I do want to help kids succeed. Since I have little patience for young humans, I am happy to do what I can otherwise.

I figured the other vendors would present the latest trends of desserts such as cupcakes and macaroons. I wanted to give something I'm really proud of: mini pies.

Considering that I am an army of one, I decided to forgo sleep and work non stop on 4 types of pies.

I may be exhausted, but I made people happy with sugar and carbs. That's all I need.