My Dream Job

It has been over 2 months since my last post.  So much has happened.  So much that I have been afraid to talk about because I was convinced that acknowledging it might make it disappear.  I have felt so unworthy of announcing I finally have my dream job.  I have so many talented and dedicated friends that do exactly what I have been doing, some for much longer.  We share what we love about food and cooking, posting it into the unknown ether of the internet, hoping to connect with like souls.  We do it because we are obsessed.  Not for book deals, or cooking shows.  Yes, those are dreams we all share and cheer for when someone we love achieves but know that it’s like taking up basketball to reach the NBA, fun to think about but not entirely practical.

In January 2012, I lost my job of 12 years that I was very good at but had no passion for.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the majority of people work a job that may not fulfill their hearts desire but may fund it.    That in itself is a blessing.  Knowing what makes your heart sing is the first half of the answer.  Finding a way to do it is the second.  A very, very small minority find a way to fund the first half with the second.

I have been blogging for almost 3 years now.  That came about as a failure to my dream of becoming a pastry chef.  I loved pastry school and the years I spent trying to make a living at it.  The truth of being a chef is that it is for the young and the broke.  My knees betrayed me and my bank account could not keep up with the mortgage and car payments.  I would have done better to spend a couple of years on the road after school working at the best gigs I could wrangle working for free but I was too settled in Austin.  I went back to work for the company I had been at before my stab at the culinary world and started to blog as an outlet for all I had learned and all I had met.

There have always been more culinary events in Austin, than I could ever hope to afford to attend.  I also have a love for volunteering that makes me more comfortable behind the scenes anyway, so I spent additional spare time as a volunteer at the Central Market Cooking School, La Dolce Vita, and the Hill Country Wine and Food Festival now the Austin Food and Wine Fest to name a few pouring wine, taking tickets, doing dishes, and on a few lucky occasions, working with some amazing chefs both local and national.  I was not angling to further a career, I was just being a food dork and looking for others who could relate.  Not all of my Facebook friends understand what seeing Martin Yan debone a chicken in 18 seconds in person meant.

“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

This quote from first century philosopher Seneca or Oprah Winfrey, take your pick, is my favorite.  My passion led to my preparation which led to my opportunity.  My pastry chef dreams led to my blogging which led to my association with Austin Food Bloggers Alliance, which led to my employment by Cooking Planit.  When I lost my job in January in this age of recession one of my friends recommended I write down my dream job and I remember responding, “What’s the point?  Nobody is going to pay me to bake from my kitchen.”  Yet here I sit in August 2012 and that is pretty much my job  description.  I am truly blessed.

Now that being said, there have been lots of learning opportunities and surprises with this dream gig.  I have been writing recipes for years on my blog and in conjunction with partners like Greenling who has been so generous in supporting my community and my passion.  I am limited on some of the details I can share right now about the Cooking Planit job but basically I am writing and photographing dessert recipes from my kitchen.  The way I have to compile this information is more formal than what I am used to.  I thought I would be knocking out a dozen recipes a week at least.  I am used to writing recipes and baking professionally  but applying these skills to what is essentially writing an online cookbook for a website is profoundly more challenging.  And exciting.

Today I had a “fail” day in the kitchen.  We are having a launch party on Wednesday August 29, 2012 for Cooking Planit and I insisted on doing some small dessert bites for the party.  Partly because my friends that are attending would expect it and partly to hopefully impress the Executive Chef at Cooking Planit, Emily Wilson.  She is the genius behind the plethora of savory chef-tested recipes that Cooking Planit is launching with and she told me that Tiramisu is one of her favorite desserts.  I had visions of knocking out 80 of these or so in a small serving version as an impressive verification of my sweet to her savory.  Of course, today the mixture both curdled and proved to thick for the ISO canister I planned to use to whip out 80 servings.  But also I am learning to embrace the failures as of more value to users.  I can find a million recipes for Tiramisu.  How to prevent/fix a mistake is the most valuable contribution I can have to a recipe that has so many variables.  Hopefully my fails will help our users build on the collective culinary skills.

I have another day to fix mistakes and hopefully wow my friends and new coworkers.  I could not wait another day to claim what I have wanted most.  I am a pastry chef.  My “overnight success” has taken years of training, preparation, volunteering, wanting, and dreaming and if only for one brief and shining moment, I am doing what my heart wants most to earn a living.  I am sharing a passion and knowledge of pastry and baking with others.  May every one of you find and embrace your passion as well.

 

Central Market Passport France

Central Market threw a lovely soiree last week at the French Legation to celebrate their love of all thing French.  Today, May 9th, kicks off their in store celebration Passport France through May 22.  Cooking demos, cheese, wine, and pastry specials will rule the aisles in a Francophile’s dream.  I am rushing over to the bakery tomorrow to pick up some more of the Kouign Amann pastries I sampled at the Legation.  These deeply caramelized cakes of butter and sugar are all the rage in Paris right now.  At $4.99 for 4, I think I will be drinking cafe au lait and dreaming of the Left Bank soon.

Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Poundcake

This recipe came as a result of my favorite kind of dining, guerrilla dinner party.  Picture it, an assortment of Austin hipsters are hanging out on a porch in Buda.  And I know they are hipsters, myself included, because they would be really pissed to find out someone was trying to define their coolness with something as bourgeois as a label.   They are drinking Lone Stars in truly vintage t shirts that some might pay a fortune for but I know for a fact came from the bar one used to work at as a gimme from the beer company and another was actually purchased at the Fishbone concert in the 80’s and it looks washed and worn because it has been.  At least they are not fake hipsters.

Anyway, said hipsters on the porch happen to be a couple of miles from one of the best meat markets around that also functions as a Mexican market/gas station.  I know exactly how to get there but I am not sure of the address.  I just know all the roads you turn on start with RR or FM.  The boys bring back 5 gorgeous New York Strips for less than $5 each, a suitcase of Natty Light, and more Lone Star. 

I  brought a beautiful box of produce leftover from the chef demo tent at the Wine and Food Fest, so Michelle and I start making sides with the vibrant purple cabbage and sweet, fresh corn.  But we need something for dessert.  I had given Michelle an autographed copy of The Essential Baker by Carol Bloom who I had the great pleasure to work with at the Central Market Cooking School a while back.  Michelle had made the cornmeal pound cake before and thought she might just have the ingredients to make it.  Lucky for us she did!

I added the blueberries to the batter instead of the compote that Ms. Bloom used and  kicked up the tartness with a fabulous lemony glaze that sent us in to a puckery heaven with the crunch of the cornmeal crust.  This cake is a wonderful cross between cornbread and blueberry muffins.  Enjoy!

Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Poundcake

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup frozen or fresh blueberries-  if you use frozen, do not thaw or your batter will turn purple

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups cake flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Glaze
zest (optional but adds a wonderfully tart texture) and juice of 4 lemons, approximately 1/4 cup

1 cup confectioners sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 8 1/2 inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon butter.
  2. Place the 12 tablespoons butter in large bowl and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and cream together. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing and scraping in between each egg addition.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, powder, salt, and cornmeal. Add to the butter mixture in 3 stages, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Add the lemon zest and juice.  Fold in blueberries.  Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. It should be very thick, so spread it evenly throughout the pan. Bake 45 minutes, until the cake is light golden on top and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out slightly moist.
  5. Combine lemon juice and confectioners sugar.  Let cake cool about 10 minutes and pour 1/2 of glaze over cake.  Let sit for another 15-20 minutes and pour over rest of glaze over cake.

* if you do not have cake flour, use 1 TBS less of all pupose flour.

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