18 September 2014

Northern California Seaside Adventures

Did you know that I'm back in California?

If you didn't... well, I am! The day after I finished up at Bonnie Gordon College I hopped on a plane and flew straight back to Northern California.  I've been soaking up the blue skies and warm weather, and just unwinding after a very full on and stressful four months of study. 

The good thing about being back here is the time to relax. The bad thing? Minimal internet access again! It's really not good for maintaining regular blog posts - gosh darn it!

I've been here for 2 weeks now, and while I admit I've spent a lot of it reading books and obsessively playing Roller Coaster Tycoon, I have been on a few small adventures.

A week and a half ago we spent a weekend doing 'beachy' things. I'm definitely not your typical 'Aussie Beach Bum', but I must admit I have been missing the beach during my time away from home. Once upon a time back in my Tumblr blogging days, I'd seen a post about a place called "Glass Beach" where instead of sand, the beach was covered in smooth glass pebbles. I wanted to see it desperately! 

I have someone who follows me around and takes photos when I'm not looking - true story!

We packed some snacks and headed North in an old pick up truck, with me bouncing excitedly in my seat. Four hours later the excitement had lessened slightly... I didn't realise it was such a long drive!

The drive itself was beautiful though, with so many trees giving us a much needed break from the heat of the sun. 

Eventually we made it and... well, I guess I was a little disappointed. It was nice, and there was some glass... but I think my imagination had built it up to be something it really wasn't. Oh well - we still had loads of fun climbing rocks!

The glass pebbles at Glass Beach - much smaller than expected!

On Sunday to continue with our 'beach vibes', we took a much shorter drive to Half Moon Bay. What a cute little tourist town!

On the way back we stopped to take in the sights, and get some fish & chips for lunch! As always, the wind around these parts makes it a bit chilly but thankfully the California sun was shining down on us kindly! 

Fish & Chips at Half Moon Bay
My beach cravings haven't quite been solved, but this will get me by until I get home in October and can go walking on the beach every day if I want to! Although, I'll probably not want to the second that I have the ability to. You know how it is... you always want what you can't have! 



12 September 2014

Toronto Tourist Travels - A recap!

I've been out of Toronto for over a fortnight now. Do I miss it? Absolutely.  

It's definitely difficult to leave a place when you've just grown accustomed to it. The strange unpredictable weather. The amazing public transport. The college. The friends. 

I think it is definitely a city that will hold a place in my heart. I don't think I'd be able to live there permanently (I never even experienced winter!), but what I did experience was incredible.


During the last few weeks of my Diploma Programme at Bonnie Gordon College, I realised that I'd been so busy studying that I'd hardly seen the usual "tourist spots" of the city. I quickly purchased a "CityPASS" and off I went, adventuring around the city on buses, subways and street cars to reach each destination. 

The first stop on my list was the zoo. I ventured to the Toronto Zoo on a Monday public holiday and spent most of the day there. It was definitely my favourite of all the sights, and I couldn't wait to see a Polar Bear! Unfortunately, neither could anyone else so I wasn't able to get any photos. 

Unsurprisingly, the flamingos were one of my favourites. There were just so many of them! 

Flamingos at the Toronto Zoo
I had a lot of fun that day, even though it took me two buses, the subway & almost 2 hours to travel each way!

The following weekend I came down rather ill, but I pushed through to visit the CN Tower and Casa Loma!

The base of the CN Tower, Toronto, Canada

The CN Tower was very busy, despite my getting there rather early in the morning! I think this must have been a 'slow' time however, since the trip to the top was a rather quick process. The amount of security before going to the top was slightly alarming, although I suppose when I thought about it, I probably felt safer having it there. I guess this 'small town gal' isn't used to such heavy security as what they have in North America. 

CN Tower, Toronto, Canada
The trip back down to the bottom of the tower was surprisingly the part that took the longest! It was an attraction that I rather enjoyed, but not one you can spend a lot of time at.

Casa Loma on the other hand - you could spend hours there! I wish I hadn't been so ill so that I could have spent more time exploring through this old castle, and then through the beautiful gardens.

At Casa Loma, Toronto, Canada

My favourite part was definitely the stunning grounds, which I wish I'd had more time to explore. Coming in a close second however, was the underground tunnel. Dark, creepy, and so full of history!

Underground Tunnel at Casa Loma, Toronto, Canada

With only 2 locations left on my "CityPASS", my next point of interest was the Royal Ontario Museum, or 'ROM' as it's called by the locals. I rushed down there after college and spent a couple of hours in the museum before it closed for the evening.

This is another tourist attraction that I wish I'd had more time to spend at. I admit I was surprised by the high entry fee, having been used to the museum back home in Adelaide being free, but when I discovered the size of the museum it made a bit more sense.

At the Royal Ontario Museum

There was actually so many exhibits, with so much to learn, that I could really only skim the surface of it all. If I'd had the time, I would have loved to return and spend a whole day there.

My favourite part though? Definitely the dinosaurs!

Rawr! T-Rex at the Royal Ontario Museum

The last tourist attraction on my "CityPASS" was the Ontario Science Centre. I'm sure it is probably a great place to see but I felt like science centres are the sort of thing you need to do with friends. Interacting with displays alone? Probably not so much fun...

I gave it a miss and called it a day for my Toronto tourist adventures!


3 September 2014

Week 16: Final Exams & Soda Shop Dessert Table at Bonnie Gordon College

FINALS!!!! AAAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

First term exams were scary.
Mid term exams were terrifying.
Finals are a whole different thing altogether! *flails outrageously*

The final week at Bonnie Gordon College came and went so very quickly. Surprisingly, for most part I stayed quite calm. I think it was the fact that I knew in a few days I'd be relaxing in the California sun - there's just something about the lure of blue skies and In-N-Out burger that calms me like nothing else!

Our final exam was once again split into a practical, a theory exam, and theory assignment. Our practical was to present a dessert (or sweets... to-mah-to, to-may-to) table of any theme we chose - yippee!

Our only stipulations were in what we had to present. The centrepiece was to be a two tier celebration cake. We also had to present 12 eclairs, 12 marshmallows, 12 frangipane tarts, and 12 sugar cookies. Strangely, we'd never made sugar cookies during our course (or decorated them for that matter), so that was something brand new!

I really struggled for inspiration on this one - I think my brain was already switching to 'heading home' mode. My homesickness levels were reaching new highs and all I could think about was holidays, and then going home. Eventually I settled on a theme that I knew would be a little tricky to source props for, but one that was very "me".

Without further ado... here is my "Soda Shop" themed dessert table!

Full view of the Soda Shop Dessert Table


Ice Cream Cone Sugar Cookies and "Milkshake" Eclairs

"Milkshake" Eclairs - Vanilla Pastry Cream filling dipped in Chocolate Ganache

Mini Frangipane Tarts with Swiss Meringue Buttercream Swirl

Ice Cream Cone Sugar Cookies

 


I actually ended up having so much fun with this exam! Some of my classmates joked that it looked like my "personality threw up on the table". Of course, these same classmates called me a unicorn on a regular basis, so I'm unsure of the legitimacy of these comments.

My only "freak out" happened when it came time to decorate the sugar cookies. Having never made this recipe before, I had no idea that the type of dough we were using would not expand, but shrink in the oven. Shrink?! I've never had sugar cookies do that before! My plan of simply using the same cookie cutter to cut out some fondant to decorate the top was ruined and I had to frantically cut out the fondant by hand - needless to say, they're far from perfect and nothing how I intended them to look.

Still, I'm pretty proud of how the table turned out as a whole!


31 August 2014

Week 15: Wedding Cake Week at Bonnie Gordon College

To say I was excited about Wedding Cake week would be an understatement. I had been looking forward to this week since before I started my four month Diploma Programme!

If you haven't picked up on it by now, I'll lay it out for you: cake decorating is my favourite thing EVER! Sure, baking has it's place, but cake decorating will always have a very tight grip on my heart.

So a whole 5 days of no baking, just decorating? Heaven!

Our wedding cake was an unmarked assignment, but we were given a fake client and a brief of what they wanted. After getting a "male garden and landscape designer" client during my first term exam, I was really hoping for something a bit more girly and I was not disappointed!

My clients were having a "small" 70 person wedding at the National Ballet, and their guests would be sitting through a performance of Romeo & Juliet. They were having a dessert table, and wanted their wedding cake to match their colour scheme of blush pink, peach, mint green and sea foam blue. The only design stipulation was that they wanted it to feel "romantic".

If you've seen any of my work, you would have noticed that my designs tend to be more on the clean cut, simple side of cake decorating. I guess I'm just not generally a "fussy" person, and although this theme could have been taken in a direction full of ruffles, bows, and a garden of flowers, I really wanted to keep in my own style.




Watercolour painted cakes are a current trend that I am absolutely loving in the industry at the moment. I'm big on pastel colours, and the beautiful ombre effects that you can get with the watercolour painting just make me so happy. When I found out I would be working with pastel colours, I knew I wanted to start painting. I'd never done it before, and neither had any of the teachers in the school at the time, so I just made it up as I went along! Luckily it worked out!

I love cakes that have small, unexpected details that you may not even notice until you really look at them up close. The tiny piped hearts were that for me; simple, delicate and oh so cute.


Flowers also came into play with some peach roses, a pink feature fantasy flower with gold and pearl centre button, sea foam blue berries and mint coloured leaves. Gum paste flowers are definitely a new skill I've learnt at Bonnie Gordon College that I'm really enjoying and looking forward to expanding on.



The full cake. Photos just don't really do it justice - or maybe it's just my photography that doesn't! The colours just seemed to pop more in real life while being softer at the same time, and the details such as the piping and gold crimped edges were far more enticing.

My photography has definitely improved this year, but I still have a long way to go.

This was our last big assignment before final exams, and what a fun one to finish the course on!


29 August 2014

Bonus class: Wafer Paper Flowers with Susan Trianos

The Diploma Programme that I was taking (yep, was - that's right, I have now finished!) at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts was a very intense 16 week programme.

There was a lot of studying to do, physically draining days, and assignments & reading that needed to be completed out of hours. It was exhausting. It was also incredible.

So on those precious weekends that I had to relax, and recover, and take in some tourist sights of Toronto, what do I do? Sign up for an extra class of course!

Bonnie Gordon College recently launched a range of "short and sweet classes", and this particular class on Wafer Paper Blooms taught by the incredible Susan Trianos was just 3 hours!

Susan Trianos teaching Wafer Paper Blooms at Bonnie Gordon College

Never heard of Susan Trianos? I admit, before coming to Canada I hadn't either. Shame on me though, for Susan has been in the industry for over 25 years and has many achievements to her name.

More importantly though, Susan is an incredible teacher and oh so lovely!

During the short 3 hour class she taught us about the benefits of using wafer paper for cake flowers as opposed to gum paste (easier, quicker, cheaper, lighter!), along with the downsides (too much water = disaster), and how to use the medium.

We learnt 3 types of flowers during this short class, including simple hydrangeas, ranunculus and a rose.

Wafer Paper Ranunculus, Hydrangeas & Rose taught by Susan Trianos

Unfortunately for me I was coming down with a dreadful cold this particular weekend, so as enjoyable as the class was I was glad it only lasted 3 hours! It also allowed me the rest of the day to do whatever I pleased - in this case, stay in bed with soup. There's just something so enjoyable about a short class, especially after the usual long days of the Diploma Programme.

I cannot wait to use these techniques on a cake in the future, and practise more wafer paper flowers!




25 August 2014

Bonnie Gordon College Week 14: Bread Week!

Oh boy - bread week. Just the name sounds delicious. It was delicious.

Multigrain Bread

I wouldn't go as far as saying it was the most fun week at Bonnie Gordon College, but it was pretty up there! Not everybody likes desserts (shock horror!), but everybodyyyy likes bread.

I don't normally eat a lot of the stuff, but it is pretty much my favourite food in the world. I could eat it all day every day... and being a poor student, I did! Free food? Heck yes!

Unsurprisingly, I also gained a couple of kilo's during this week.

Mini Croissants

There was literally so much bread I gave some of it away, and froze the rest... I've only just finished eating my freezer stash now, 2 weeks later.

So what did we make during this wonderful, amazing, fabulous week of bread?

It was actually a very interesting week because the breads had to be made in different stages. We were working on so many different types at once that even I forgot what we were making sometimes! One minute we would be making a "Poolish starter" for a baguette, the next we'd be making a "soaker" for multigrain bread, and then we'd be whipping up some croissant dough! Crazy times!

Chocolate Croissant

During the week we made the following;

  • Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf
  • Ciabatta
  • Pita Bread
  • Baguettes
  • Multigrain bread
  • Brioche
  • Danish Pastries
  • Croissants & Chocolate Croissants

Some students also made some cinnamon buns, but I passed and stuck with chocolate filled brioche. Mmm-mmm!

Chocolate Filled Brioche

Doesn't it all look so delicious? If every week was bread week I think I'd have to roll myself home!

We had instructor Michael Smith for bread week, and as always his very calm approach to teaching made it an incredibly enjoyable experience. I can't wait to get back into a kitchen and make these delicious breads again!



16 August 2014

Pies, Tarts & Choux Pastry at Bonnie Gordon College

After Haute Couture cakes finished up recently, we were thrown into four days of pastry.

First up was pies & tarts with instructor Charmain Baan.

Having never worked with pastry before (except for pulling sheets of puff out of the freezer!), this was all new and a bit overwhelming at first. It ended up not being as difficult as I expected, and turned out to be a very enjoyable week. An added bonus in pastry week, was that we got to make a quiche - and eat it for lunch! Mmm-mmm!

Don't tell my mother this but this was pretty much my first "home-cooked" meal since I'd left Australia in March! Oops!

My favourite mini project for the week were these tiny bite-sized chocolate tarts. They were both adorable and delicious! I think I ate at least a dozen of them in one sitting. Double oops!


Bite-Size Chocolate Tarts

There was something satisfying about making pastry from scratch, although I'm not sure I would bother with home made puff pastry in future. I know it tastes better, but geeze - at what cost?! So much rolling, and turning, and waiting, and rolling, and turning, and waiting! Exhausting.

The week also introduced me to the Canadian specialty of Butter Tarts. I'd heard a lot about these little treats that were apparently terribly bad for you, yet deliciously worth it.

Canadian specialty - Butter Tarts

I wasn't convinced at first, but after 2 or 3 I began to come around and understand the enjoyment. Still, in future I think I'll stick to the chocolate tarts. That's where my heart truly belongs.

After pies and tarts wrapped up, it was onto Choux Pastry with Michael Smith. I admit I was a little terrified, but Michael is such a calm teacher that it was all okay.

We got to play around with profiteroles, pastry cream & caramel and created these cute little french desserts called "Gateau St. Honoré".

French dessert "Gateau St. Honoré"

But of course, the show stoppers for choux pastry are the decorated eclairs that you see all over the Bonnie Gordon College advertising! It's no wonder, when they're so pretty and so delicious!


Pastry cream filled eclairs

All in all, I think pastry week was a success! I'd really like to play around with the eclairs some more and try some different decorating techniques with them. I'd also like to make more chocolate tarts. Lots and LOTS of chocolate tarts.




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