Sunday, May 31, 2009

Daring Bakers May: Strudel!!

Okay. So here it goes.

I know I have been missing from my blog for quite some time. I also have not left as many comments on your blogs. For this, I apologise. I'm there, always, but these days time seem to be getting shorter for me, and before I knew it, it's already time for bed.

Now, I've kept the reason for this under wraps for a few months---except from a couple of fellow bloggers, mainly because I did not want to jinx my chances, and I did not know how things are going to pan out. A few months ago, I left the hospitality industry completely. The hours just do not agree with me anymore, and with restaurants closing down/cutting back on staff due to the economic recession, even if I had managed to get a job at a restaurant somewhere, it would mean that I would have to work longer hours for lower pay. Not that I am afraid of hard work, mind you, but I had to make a choice between a job in patisserie, and seeing J on a regular basis (we don't live together) and keeping the relationship together. I chose the latter.

Besides, working to recreate other people's visions and ideas has never been what I saw myself doing in my future. I have always wanted to do my own thing in patisserie, even right from the start. But I had no idea it was going to have to happen right now.

When a door closes, another one opens. I have no passion for my day job, and I don't see myself being at it for very long. So I toyed with the idea of having my own little venture, just as a daydream at first, and then evolving into something that I could almost see in front of me. And best of all, I could actually see myself very clearly in that dream.

And so, I did all the necessary research and came up with a decision. I am going to have my own business. It is only something that I will do on the side-- working from my home kitchen, selling once a week at the weekend markets, making small but high-quality batches using the best locally-sourced ingredients-- but which I hope to expand into something a lot more.

Now, I am far from being the most experienced pastry chef around, and some of you might start to think: who does she think she is, attempting something like this when she's only had a couple of years of experience in the food industry?

Well, you know what, I thought that too at first. But now I trust the feeling in my gut a lot more. And I believe that if you have an idea of what you want, if you could see how it would work, that maybe you don't get it right the first time, but you will get there eventually. Much like cooking and baking, no?

And so I spent a fair amount of time researching this and that, testing recipes, and getting my kitchen registered. Yes, you actually have to register your kitchen with your local council here in Australia if you want to operate from home, and get the health inspector to come check it. Among the requirements are 3 sinks (one for hand-washing, one for rinsing and one for sanitising, and I haven't even gotten to the food prep sink yet), which I passed with flying colours thanks to the Smeg dishwasher that came with the apartment; non-permeable surfaces (no wood), and separate equipment for home and business. I have never been more thankful of my contemporary kitchen, and instantly dismissed all former thoughts of having a rustic looking, cozy one instead.

And so she came on Wednesday, the same day of this month's DB challenge posting---which half explains why I couldn't post until now, and I'll explain the other half later, because I insist that no one uses the kitchen for the whole day for anything at all. J, who came to help me whip the apartment into shape, had to settle with microwave soup for lunch, girlfriend-of-the-year that I am.

And she passed it!! So $700 later ($500 of which I will pay tomorrow), my kitchen will be fully registered for a year. Yup, you read that one right, I have to do this every year. And I thought home-based businesses are supposed to cost nothing at all to set up.

So this would mean that from now on I would be eligible to sell my products at any markets across Victoria---after the application of a Temporary Events Permit to whatever council the market is under, of course, but that is another story---and that I can legally make stuff to sell from my home kitchen!! Woohoo!!

It may not sound like a big deal, but I really need to work from home in to make any minimal profits at all, and since renting a kitchen space would cost around $60/hour, let's just say that I am over the moon that my kitchen's been approved.

After the health inspector's visit, I had a 3kg order of biscotti to do for 6 people, my first 'big' one so far. I know it sounds like nothing compared to the quantities a commercial kitchen produce on a daily basis, but I had to do all 3kg of it on my little bench-top stand mixer, using only 2 oven trays (I have yet to purchase more equipment). Now since we all know that biscotti are baked twice, the whole thing took me quite some time to finish.

In the end I got to making the strudel on Sunday, and since we are approaching winter in the Southern Hemisphere, I wanted to make it rich, warm, and comforting. Like a good boyfriend.

One of the things I love about the cold weather is the variety of seasonal produce that results from it. Chestnuts, a rarity in the tropics, were going for a cheap $8/kg at the farmers' markets. I thought back to just a few weeks ago when they were twice that, and I just had to buy them. I bought a few varieties of apples too---Braeburn, Granny Smith and Red Splendour---since they were in season, and since I was very much mesmerised by Erica Bauermeister's addictive and wonderful book 'The School of Essential Ingredients'. If you haven't read it, please, run out and get a copy now, for I have never read anything better.

So, after much digression, I chose to make two fillings for my strudel: Apple and Chestnuts; and Apple, Sultanas and Almonds. But instead of putting the apple cubes in the dough raw, I decided to saute them in butter and brown sugar until caramelised but are still firm enough to keep their shapes during the 30 minute baking time.

I still cannot make up my mind which filling I like better, so I guess I'll just have to keep trying.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caf├ęs of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Late Daring Bakers Post

Nope, no strudel here today.

For a VERY good reason though. For real this time. But check back over the weekend, and I will have one for you. And a good news.