Saturday, May 15, 2010

Welcome to hard labor, Orlando.


The timing couldn't be more perfect! Orlando comes on the scene at the very moment I decide to undergo an expansion in my catering business: home baked goods as the norm.

I bought myself quite a large free standing freezer and readied it to be packed full with all sorts of muffins, cakes and cookies for easy access. When catering for smaller functions, it isn't always possible or smart business to bake one batch of brownies to serve as the dessert after a lunch break, as well as it is not cost effective to order one dozen from my local baker. Solution: freezing a ton before hand.

I thought involving Orlando would be a great way to break the ice, get her in the kitchen, show her what goes where and see her in action. Poor thing, I almost killed her. It was her first exposure to "quantity". Oh sure, the quality was there too but if I was going to plug that energy sucking machine into the wall, it was going to have to be worth it. I'd be damned if we didn't have enough baked goods to feed an army of photographers, their assistants and those hungry hair and make-up types. So we toiled about 8 hours away.


It was also about experimenting... what freezes well and what doesn't. We decided on carrot cake, lemon bars, mixed berry cheesecake bars, two types of scones and brownies. We managed to do everything except the brownies. I challenged Orlando to a "Brownie-Off" ( I'm sure to get my booty kicked) and this needs time and maybe a judge or two.




We had fun. Since we both are into taking photos of food and the entire process, we were jumping between stirring the mix and aiming the camera. It was a dizzying combination that had us doing lots of laughing.

More or less, I had Orlando over for a play date. (and the freezer project is on it's way...)


Her name is Orlando.

I have to introduce you to someone... her name is Orlando. She is 16 years old and is very interested in baking, to put it mildly. She came to me by way of her Mother, a contact I had made quite a few years back- the accomplished Sophie Lovell.

Out of the blue one day I received an email from Sophie telling me that her daughter would like to get some experience in the cooking/catering department and would like to spend the summer helping out around Feast. I did what anyone would do and immediately checked out this youngsters Facebook page. I was sold.

16 years old? It was hard to believe. The photos she had taken of her creations were better than most I've seen... and the creations! Let's not overlook those: sweetly decorated tiny cookies, creamy, billowy, playful cakes, cupcakes of perfection! This and more is on her group page, Projekt Puderzucker. One can see the girl is obsessed with baking, photography, cookbooks.. and friends. There are little clues everywhere that Orlando shows love for those she loves with her baking.

Around this time I got a request for a "special cake" by a client, one that looks a lot like the cake in the main photo of this blog. I don't need to tell you again of my frail baking abilities so I of course needed a professional. Or not? Orlando... could she?

Well, as you can see here, Orlando rose to the occasion- above and beyond, in my opinion. I'd like to mention that this is the first cake the girl had ever done in this fashion. And it was tasty too. I am again reminded that a good challenge helps us breakdown our own barriers, giving way to wondrous possibilities.

Orlando, a baking prodigy? The proof is in the pudding, cake, cookie....


Sunday, May 2, 2010

You say holiday, I say vacation.


I was raised calling it vacation. We would pack up our station wagon with the faux wood panel siding and vacate to somewhere that took days to get to. All six of us piled in and we had our unofficial assigned places. Mine was in the very back with the flip-up, booth style seats that faced each other. A bonus was the electric rear window that lowered for some fresh exhaust as we motored along. Thanks to all the summer football camps that my Dad worked at across the country, we managed to visit quite a few States, even if a lot of it was seen from the inside of the wagon.

These days, don't ask me how, I've begun to call it holiday. That's what all the Brits and Euros call it and it just rubbed off I guess. Madonna called it a holiday way back when and she is American and also from Michigan so I have to wonder how it happened to her? I still make myself say vacation from time to time: never forget where you came from.

The point is, I got out of Berlin for one whole week and it was lovely. I went to my little, cheap, on the beach, pre-season Ibiza hideaway. I brought my own coffee because theirs isn't so good and I basically did nothing all week except bed to beach to bed again. A much needed respite away from event planning and cooking.

If I lived in Arizona I'd definitely get pulled over for proof of citizenship because I am now nice and brown. I guess I would be pulled over pre- tan as well, for that matter. I digress... anyway, I spent many hours in the sun catching up on some reading. There was the terrible book I bought at Tegel before boarding, the entire April issue of Vanity Fair, two of my favorite food mags and one of those miniature versions of Elle for good measure.

It's those two food magazines that I want to tell you about. They get delivered to me (a huge treat in itself) and when I'm busy they often are neglected, sometimes only a quick leaf through. BUT when I'm on... vacation... they are savored front to back.

La Cucina Italiana, a subscription that my Mom gives me yearly, keeps me connected to the real stuff. These recipes are authentic. The features about Italy are informative and capture that Italian magic. I believe the magazine got a makeover a couple of years ago and is really beautifully laid out with nice photography and without any pretension. I get a lot of inspiration from this magazine and so should you.

The other is Cook's Illustrated. I have to admit, I was slow on the uptake with this magazine, the majority of it is in black and white, for god's sake. Finally, by unseen forces that are working for the greatest good, I was given a subscription from a close friend's Mother. As a self taught cook, I cannot tell you how helpful it is. Everything You Wanted to Know About Cooking but Were Afraid to Ask... a better title in my opinion. In this May & June edition alone you get the low down on the three types of Miso, a trick for perfectly charred, seared tuna steaks,three ways to skin a clove of garlic, the recipe for the ultimate chocolate cupcake (and believe me, they wouldn't throw that term around loosely), the perfect boiled egg, how to "map" your broiler, a vinegar fly trap and a delicious sounding empanada recipe that is explained in so much detail, even an Arizona State Trooper couldn't get it wrong. (couldn't resist)


Me and my Mother,1971. Somewhere on the way to California.
Photo: Alberto Fracassa