Thursday, September 20, 2012

Putting it out there in the universe...

I am so lucky to have such a wonderful kitchen to work in with Just Call Us. I love the spaciousness, equipment, the ergonomics and the fact that there is a calendar where I know who will be there and when, and whenever there is a scheduling conflict I generally know way ahead of time. Julie and Phil manage the place wonderfully, nothing gets past them, so the kitchen is always taken care of, and any problems are addressed promptly. I also love meeting all the other people who work there and hearing about their products and learning from them.  Many of the amazing opportunities that have come my way are because of Julie and the people in the kitchen.

As always, there are downsides.

The place can get extremely warm, which can be troublesome for my cakes. The shared fridge is a worry too, I always have to wrap my cakes up to avoid smells, and the dampness of a walk in fridge plays havoc with fondant.

So I'm just imagining what my perfect kitchen would be like for fun!

-I would ideally be working there from 8-4 Tuesday-Saturday
-It would be in a convenient location to my house, and for deliveries and collection
-The rent would be affordable (!!)

The kitchen would be equipped with:
-large and medium sized Hobart mixers (50 and 30 qt?)
-speed racks filled with sheet pans
-convection oven
-large area for washing dishes and rack for drying
-stove with a couple of burners
-plenty of storage space for pans and dry goods, cake decorating equipment
-lots of cold storage space for frostings and fillings
-reach in dry fridge for finished cakes
-plenty of bench space, a wooden butchers block would be wonderful for doughs.
-freezer space -reach in dry fridge space for finished cakes
-an air conditioned area for decorating on hot summer days
-nice seating area for consults

Of course this is my dream for the future, my current arrangement is wonderful, I am still in school so I cant plan for anything until after December!  Once that comes along, maybe I should start looking for a partner to share a small space?  Or I'll see how the new space at the Public Market is coming along...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Crack crackers

We're embarking on week 2 of my bread class, and Chef James says we are sure to put on about 8lb.  I can well believe it!  So far we have baked zucchini bread, pumpkin muffins, cranberry scones with a honey orange glaze, beignets, white country bread, and these delicious crackers!

They were much easier to make than I thought, so I'm happy to make these any time I need to provide a little snack.

Cheddar Crackers  james foran
10oz AP flour
1tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
6oz butter, chilled and cubed
6oz grated cheddar
6 tablespoons cold water

Oven temp 325f convection.

Mix the salt, pepper and mustard into the flour, rub in the butter and then add the cheddar.  Mix the iced water in then form a patty and chill for at least 30 minutes.  Roll out as thin as you can, then cut, either with a cutter or a pizza wheel.  Spray with water, then sprinkle with spices and salt.  I used paprika.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until slightly browned.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A visit to Suzie's Farm

One of the things on my list when I gave up my job was that I wanted to become more connected with my food, and I wanted to tour some farms.  I finally had a chance to do this, thanks to the wonderful San Diego Foodbloggers network.  It was a wonderful morning out at the border in Chula Vista at Suzie's Farm.

Here is the entrance to their planned corn maze, which is also going to have a wedding in the center, how romantic!

The farm was filled with a bounty of incredible produce and beautiful flowers.  Suzies farm offers farm tours for anyone who would like to come, its just $10 and you get to bring a bag and fill it up!  I think they would start to get suspicious if you were to come every week, I think part of their goal as a farm is to educate the public on sustainable farming and the danger of heirloom breeds dying out.

We were all particularly captivated by this heirloom variety of tomatoes, which were actually black!  I was a bit put off by the similarity to deadly nightshade, which is actually a relative of the tomato.  

The tomatoes are ripe when they get a red bottom, I picked a few out of curiosity, and they were delicious tomatoes, tangy and sweet at the same time, I'd love to get these again!
I was also surprised to see an okra plant for the first time, what a pretty flower they have, along with a lovely red stalk. We werent allowed near these, Wholefoods have first dibs on them!

My friend Kristen came along, here she is picking some peppers.  I'm ashamed to admit I cant remember which pepper is which!  I know some were spicy and some werent, and some were 'roulette' peppers as they were sweet peppers which had been planted next to spicy peppers so some had been pollinated by the spicy peppers and some by sweet, you just didnt know what you were going to get!!

We all fell in love with the chickens, who were running around a penned area and generally causing chaos.  There were so many breeds.  Look at all the different colors of eggs they produce!  I love the thought of getting my own hens, but I don't think thats on the agenda for the moment, my poor husband would probably wind up having to help take care of them.
Here is one of the workers loading up some peppers, I guess they must work 7 days there, its a hard life running a farm...
Here is a quick salad I threw together when I got home, mozzarella, persian cucumbers and some of the wonderful tomatoes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Food bloggers bake sale!

The food bloggers bake sale is coming up again!  Lots of amazing baked goods will be on sale at Great News Cooking School on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach.

I'm so excited to be involved again!  I'm bringing lots of cupcakes, of various flavors that I'm baking during that weekend.  I'm also bringing macarons, my new favorite little treat, they are fickle but fun!

I'm also offering a raffle prize of either a cake, or a dessert buffet to serve up to 50 people.  I hope you'll enter the raffle!!  Here's a little dessert buffet I did recently

Looking forward to seeing people down there, I hope I manage to make it down there for at least a few minutes.

Here is the website to learn more...

I gather you are able to pre-order treats too, please either email me(jennywennycakes at gmail dot com), or visit the website to find out more!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cake competitions, the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful!

I thought I'd share some thoughts on cake competitions.  As I mentioned, I had an impromptu trip back to the uk, so time got crunched severely.  I had high hopes for my competition cake.

I decided to 'go big or go home' and enter the grand wedding cake competition.  It required 4 tiers, they must be different shapes and heights.  The cake was to be based upon a song.  I decided on 'an english country garden' and set about making some flowers.

I knew grandma needed to be acknowledged, so the second tier was violets (her real name) with one white violet on the back for her.  I also made daffodils, roses, lily of the valley, ivy, gentian.  I wanted to do so much more, but didn't have time, with just one day to do what I could to enter a cake.  I thought as it was a wedding cake, it would be fun to have a gnome bride and groom, since they were mentioned in the song.

I knew straight away I wouldn't win anything, this is nowhere near the standard of the other entries, but I thought it important that I enter something, as the cake club would have empty spaces where cakes were supposed to be.

I was very disappointed to be 'called out' later by a member of the cake club for submitting a cake that wasn't quite up to scratch.  I know its catty, but this is my space, and I wanted to share how traumatizing the cake world can be.  I'm very lucky that this has been one of my only nasty experiences.  It really knocked the stuffing out of me, I was so embarrassed to be entering a sub-standard cake to the competition, and for being called out.  It was particularly difficult since none of the people had mentioned anything when I brought the cake, which would have been the appropriate time.  I'm just getting my mojo back, but I felt this should be a cautionary tale for anyone who gets into this kind of thing.  Competitions can be hard core and a world that should be full of sweetness and sugar can often be very sour at times.

Also, its very easy to take constant complements from well meaning family and friends and start to think that you are some kind of amazing genius.  I think its good to be reminded of ones place, I make little cakes, I try my best to make sure they are made with the best ingredients and taste wonderful, I love to make them pretty, but I'm not a prizewinning 'cake artist'.

Onto happier things, there were lots of other wonderful entries in the competition, I'm embarrassed that I forgot to get a photo, but congratulations to my dear friend, Jaqueline Butler for her wonderful spring entry, and her first prize rosette!

 Here's a lovely example of string work from my super talented friend, Chanisa.

A stunning succulent (I'd love to get a lesson!) and amazing piece of artwork from the lovely Sugarlump Cakery.

Another lovely piece of art from Hey there cupcake.  I love her unusual technique of using rice paper as a decoration, to produce etherial flowers and a beautiful canvas for patterns.

Here are a few other cakes that caught my eye, there were lots of stunning pieces, but here are a few highlights.  Some of the lighting was bad, so it was difficult to get great pictures of everything, and I missed out some wonderful artwork, but it was amazing to see what is possible with sugar!  And it was great to raise so much money for the Ronald Macdonald house, where families with children in hospital can stay so that they can be close by.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Goodbye Grandma

Grandma's Cake
I recently had a very sad journey back home to say goodbye to my dear grandma, Joyce Doughty.  Here she is blowing out the candles on her 90th birthday cake, watched carefully by her first great grandchild.

She was a true inspiration to me, a woman who brought sunshine into everyones lives that she touched, right up until her last days in the hospital.

The journey to celebrate her life became a joyful one, we were able to remember the vibrant and busy woman who fitted an unbelievable amount of stuff into her days.  From her younger days attending university when that wasn't quite the done thing, being evacuated out to Wales.  She then started a job with the London School of Hygeine and Tropical Medicine, who assigned her to the Gambia where she met my grandfather.

It was wonderful to hear stories of her work as a nutritionist, her books, her students and how many people she taught and kept in correspondence with over the years.

It was also great to remember the political woman, the person who delivered leaflets for the labor party, who was a member of the communist party at some point and had to tell a little white lie every time she came over to see me!

We had several wonderful holidays here in the west, along the california coast, and I promised I'd take her to the grand canyon.  We did it in style in a helicopter, she was the only one brave enough to take the front seat, me, my mum and my aunt were way too scared!!

She also was very creative, but wouldn't admit it, she did wonderful wood carvings, I have a green man smiling down on me from the back door that she carved as a wedding gift for me, and we all have birthday cards that she painted.

At the funeral I was able to make a small tribute based on the input of friends and family, and it was wonderful to read all the wonderful things that people said, about how welcoming her home was, about how caring she was, about her cooking, how hard it was to keep up with her on walks, and her travel.

Since this is a food blog, maybe I should focus on the food, which was a great part of grandmas life, she always worried about my nutrition as a vegetarian, one memorable meal she made for me was a peanut butter lasagna which my husband was also able to enjoy!  All the grandchildren remember her wonderful breakfasts, especially the eggy bread.  She made a yummy rice pudding, and wonderful shortbread caramel bars.  I found her old recipe cards, so I hope to replicate those soon.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jennywennycakes open house!

I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm having a little open house next Saturday to showcase some of the things I bake for my customers.  I'm getting lots of enquiries from recently engaged couples, so I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to show people what I do.

If you're free then I'd love to see you!  Stop by anytime between around 12-2pm to sample cakes, cookies and cupcakes with a cup of tea or coffee!

I'm also looking for people to share my kitchen space.  Just call us is a great place to start a small catering business, there is everything you might need in a commercial kitchen.  I'm specifically interested in people to share on Saturdays, and maybe Friday afternoons.