Tis the Season: Gingerbread

 Tuesday, December 11, 2012

All the cardboard templates
For the past few weeks, my sous chef Kristen and I have eaten, slept and breathed gingerbread. I had the big idea way back in the summer to do a gingerbread display for the restaurant, and as it got closer, my plans for it got bigger. When I told Kristen we would be replicating 9 casinos of the Atlantic City boardwalk, I think she wanted to hit me and/or quit.

Home Depot

A gingerbread house of any sort is a major undertaking. One consisting of 9 detailed houses is setting yourself up for an impossible mission. But my motto has always been "go big or go home," so that's what we did. Some time around Thanksgiving, I started by carefully measuring and cutting out cardboard templates to use to model and cut the actual gingerbread pieces. While I was doing that, Kristen was making 30 pounds of gingerbread that we'd all roll out (a major work out) and cut into the house pieces for later assembly.

Even with everything labeled carefully, we had 2 mystery pieces

Each piece was painstakingly iced after consulting many pictures of how each casino looked and even driving by some of them. I really need to tip my hat to Kristen; she is a phenomenally talented decorator, and a lot of the more intricate work was done by her. I was definitely the architect of this project and she was the artist.

Airbrushing Revel
Trump Plaza

Assembly turned out to be much easier than we were expecting. Because the templates had been carefully constructed, the pieces fit together almost perfectly. I had gone to Home Depot to have boards custom cut to fit on our display table so we could assemble the houses on the boards in the back and fit them onto the table in pieces. Finishing up all the small details seemed like it would never end, but sometime last night around midnight, we were ready to move the house to the front of the restaurant.

I'm pretty proud of the end result. I think our hard work definitely shows in it, and it feels good to finally be done with it (with some slight maintenance that will likely be required). If you're in the NJ area, stop by and check it out!


A Pastry Chef's Thanksgiving

 Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey Dinner #1, mostly pie
One of the worst parts of working in a restaurant is having to work the holidays. Since I've started professionally baking, I've always been at restaurants that were open 365 days a year. The first year I had to work on Christmas, I bawled my eyes out in the walk-in refrigerator. Thinking about how my family was opening presents and listening to Christmas carols while I worked brunch service (something that would make anyone want to cry regardless of it being a holiday...) was just too much for me, and I had a tiny meltdown. Fortunately, one of my coworkers found me, gave me a hug, and told me to get my ass back upstairs to work. Since then, I've toughened up considerably and working the holidays has become a slight annoyance, but nothing that will cause tears. I've come to view my coworkers as a family, albeit a very, very dysfunctional family and spending the holidays with these people now feels almost normal to me.

It was also one of our chef's mom's birthdays
This Thanksgiving was the first holiday our restaurant was opened for, and it sort of caught me by surprise. With the whole month of trying to transition to an entirely new dessert menu, the hurricane, and my birthday, I kind of forgot about Thanksgiving. I was trying to cram too much into that week, and while everything got done, there were stressful moments. Like when I showed up on Thursday to realize that not only did we have just one working oven (which has been the case for a few weeks now), pastry would need to share it with all the turkey-roasting. And we were opening for dinner service four hours earlier. So all the bread, turkeys, assorted side dishes, and desserts needed to come out of one oven in about half the time we normally have. No sweat, right? Um, cue the tears in the walk-in....Almost.

Pastry's contribution for family meal
The chef/cook team cobbled together a "family meal" for our staff- the term used for the pre-shift meals a lot of restaurants have for employees. I made a couple apple crisps (one of my favorite things to bake, using the same recipe I learned in preschool, no joke) and pecan pies. Kristen, my sous chef, and I sat down to quickly eat some turkey, but weren't really into the side dishes. What amazes me about Thanksgiving is how every family has a roster of side dishes that is particular and unique to them, and every family thinks others makes the exact same sides. For instance, I wrongly believed every family had Stovetop stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, and canned cranberry sauce. Whoever prepared our family meal thought the standards are brussel sprouts, collard greens, and mashed sweet potatoes. And maybe they're onto something...Those mashed sweet potatoes were delicious.


Feeling relatively unsatisfied though, we begged a friend to stop at Wawa on his way to work and bring us a turkey bowl. For those of you unfamiliar with Wawa, you're missing out. It's pretty much the best convenience store you can imagine, but better. Turkey bowls were delivered and consumed, ovens were cleared, and things were looking up.

About an hour later, a server misfired a dinner, so Kristen and I ended up with a turkey dinner for 4, making that our third turkey meal in under three hours. Which made this day maybe the best Thanksgiving ever by some people's standards. We sold a lot of desserts, had some fun, and at the end, went out for some beers.

Pecan Pie Bread Pudding with Maple Bourbon Ice Cream
Thursday also marked the end of my 1 month trial period, and I'm happy to say it went well and my promotion to executive pastry chef is now official. That is definitely something big to be thankful for. I'm excited about the month to come. Holiday season is one of the best baking seasons, and this year will be no different. Stay tuned for a giant gingerbread display that Kristen and I are putting together. It's going to be epic. Or a major fail. We shall see...


Birthday Cake!

 Monday, November 19, 2012

For the past four years, I've really wanted a Wall-E cake. Unfortunately, I'm usually the one who makes the birthday cakes, and I frequently make my own birthday cake. I swear this is not as sad as it sounds.

Sometimes it's sad to cut a cake this nice

This year, my birthday (November 17 kind of took me by surprise. I've been so busy with working and the new menu that I almost forgot it was coming up. I think it crossed my mind to make cupcakes for my coworkers, but things got hectic and I totally forgot.

Kristen with the Wall-E eye post cutting

I was totally surprised when my pastry cook and friend Kristen showed up with a Wall-E cake on Saturday for me. Kristen is a really talented cake artist, and she's made some cool things for us at the restaurant. This one really "took the cake" though. The level of detail was incredible, and it looked so much like Wall-E. It was probably the coolest birthday cake I've ever had (sorry Mom!).

We cut it up before service and it was easily enough Funfetti cake to feed the entire restaurant staff. That amount of sugar probably is what got most of us through an insanely busy Saturday night service.


Menu Process: Revisions, Revisions, Revisions

 Sunday, November 11, 2012

I'm a total perfectionist. I think to be a pastry chef, you have to be extremely type A. There are so many painstaking aspects of this job. Hours of spreading tuiles (those delicate cookies used as garnish), measuring and cutting cakes with no slice deviating in size from the rest, delicately forming sugar flowers to decorate cakes with. When I set out to develop my new menu for the restaurant, the process was especially intense.

Assembling the tarts
I had presented my menu tasting, but only had a week to put that together. In the weekend following the tasting, I worked pretty relentlessly with our corporate chef, Chris, to perfect three of the desserts to ready them for the menu. All were close, but needed slight tweaking on plating and garnishes to make them better. We did this in addition to a busy weekend of dinner service, and at the end of it, I was exhausted, but it was well-worth it seeing how much they improved. I wish I had before and after pictures, but when I was in NYC doing the tasting it was too frantic to take pictures.

Apple Tart
The first of the three is a caramel apple tart. To do something that simple, each component needs to be perfect. I paired the tart with a cider caramel, cinnamon ice cream, and a candy apple chip. The chip is particularly interesting to me. It started out as a candied apple peel and evolved to this chip. To make it, I cook the apple slices in a candy apple simple syrup, partially dehydrate them, and then flash fry them. The resulting chip is crunchy, sweet, and apple-y.

Trying the cheesecake with different sauces

The second is a pumpkin spice cheesecake. It's definitely that time of year when everyone wants to eat and drink pumpkin everything. The cheesecake is enrobed in a gingersnap shell and served with a toasted marshmallow sauce and creme fraiche sorbet.

AC Car Bomb

The last has proven to be the restaurant's most popular of the new ones, the AC Car Bomb (dessert name courtesy of Chef Marc). It's a chocolate bread pudding (made with chocolate brioche we make in-house) with Guinness ice cream, a banana Jameson butterscotch and bruleed bananas. Chef Marc is known for his banana Jameson, Jameson whiskey that is mixed with sliced bananas, set aside to macerate for a period of time, strained and then served. The resulting whiskey is not overtly banana-ish, but the bananas filter the rough edges of the Jameson and give it a smooth feel. I'm not big on brown liquors, and I even like to drink the banana Jameson straight. What I love about the Car Bomb dessert is how nicely all the flavors play off each other. Each component is good on its own, but together they're even better. The sauce comes in a shot glass and is poured table side.

Cracker Jack Sundae
Tonight we debuted a fourth new dessert to the menu, a Cracker Jack Sundae. It's popcorn ice cream (we make all our ice cream in house as well), caramel sauce, caramel popcorn, peanut brittle and vanilla bean whipped cream. I like being able to play around with traditional "American" sweets and presenting them in a new or different way that people aren't expecting. The popcorn ice cream is definitely a surprise to most people. It's a flavor you've had many times before, but in a different form.

There's just one more dessert that needs to be worked on before it hits the menu, a candy bar cake. Then I have some specials I'm working on, holiday menu items, and some holiday-related projects.


The Making of a Menu Tasting

 Saturday, October 27, 2012

For any of of you who noticed I haven't posted in a while, my apologies. It was a super busy week, and I'm really excited to share the details of it. My boss Mallory, the executive pastry chef, decided last week that she would not be returning to the restaurant after her maternity leave. I am really sad to see Mallory go - we had a lot of fun working together and she's the one who pulled me into this crazy restaurant opening. I'm so happy for her and her husband Joe though that they'll be welcoming baby Grace really shortly.

So many lists
6 new ice cream bases alone
I was planning on covering as pastry chef during Mal's maternity leave, but with the position now open, I was asked to put together a menu tasting for Chef Marc (as in, the Iron Chef ) in order to "try out" for the job. Menu tastings are standard in the industry, and I've done a couple before, but this one was way more intense. First of all, instead of just a couple items, I would be presenting an entire menu, and second, I only had a week to put it together. Pastry is complicated. For every dessert, there might be 5-8 components to the plate. Sauces, garnishes, ice creams, etc. For six desserts, I needed to make 30 different items. I made list upon list and was beyond organized and prepared. And then on last Monday, our corporate chef, Chris, called me to ask if it would be possible to do my tasting three days earlier than it was supposed to be... In New York. American Cut is down in Atlantic City, so this would entail packing up all my stuff and driving it up to the city (no joke, the driving was probably the most daunting aspect. I'm a city girl through and through and this is the first time in the past 10 years almost that I've had to have a car). Working in a kitchen, you learn to roll with the punches, so I said sure no prob and immediately reworked all my lists.

Candy Bar Cake
Caramel Apple Tarts & Chocolate Bread Pudding
The day before the tasting, I packed up all of my baking, put my ice creams on dry ice, and carefully loaded everything into my car.  I drove up to my parents house, spent the night there and finished some last minute baking the next morning. Everything got reloaded into my car, and I was NYC-bound. Driving into the city went smoothly, surprisingly, and I was at the restaurant in no time, unpacking car and setting up for the tasting. Presentation was supposed to start at 4:30 pm, and at 4:27 pm, I walked upstairs (the prep kitchen is in the basement) to find the restaurant filled with smoke. Turns out there was a little fire. It was quickly put out, but the restaurant definitely got a little chaotic for a while. The way I tell the story, Chef Marc pulled a pan of FIRE out of the oven with his bare hands. Okay, so maybe he used side towels, but still, impressive. A Kind of crazy. Tasting was pushed back, and I sort of just awkwardly and nervously waited in the basement kitchen. About an hour and a half later, we finally got started, and the presentation itself is sort of a blur. That's when I stopped taking pictures; you'll have to use your imagination.

Plating Diagrams
I presented one dish at a time, dropping one off and immediately starting to plate the next. Poor Chef Marc - this tasting contained probably a week's worth of sugar crammed into 40 minutes. Even I would have a hard time digesting that much dessert, and I eat cookie dough for breakfast. Like five times a week, at least. After what felt like the longest day ever, it was over, and I headed downstairs to clean up, get changed, and wait for feedback.

A quick note on Chef Marc... He is pretty much the nicest person I've ever worked for. I'm not just saying that because he's my boss and can potentially be reading this blog (if that's the case, Hey Chef!), but because it's genuinely true. He cares about people in a way that is rare in this industry, and is really invested in the people who work for him. Anyway, so he and I sit down to review the menu tasting, and he had really positive things to say and also some very helpful comments.

In the end, the tasting went really well, and I was offered the opportunity to try out the position. We're going to do a four week trial period, and assuming the transition goes smoothly, it will be made official after the month. I'm already a week into it, and everything's been great so far - new menu items debuting, smooth services, and a great exchange of ideas between me and my team.

Honestly, I probably can't even explain how excited and happy this all has made me. This is a goal I've worked extraordinarily hard for over the past few years, and it's incredibly rewarding to see all of that effort come to fruition. There were so many times over the course of this where I could have doubted why I was pursuing this career (and I believe many of my friends & family did after seeing me give up my nights, weekends, holidays, and comfortable paychecks, just to name a few things). Even when it was incredibly trying - working three side jobs just to supplement my measly cook's income in NYC - I remained focused and dedicated, and it feels so, so good to have that manifest into something great. I am so excited about what lies ahead.
Out celebrating with Marc's corporate chefs, Phet & Chris


This Week in Pictures

 Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The past two posts didn't have any pictures so I figured this post would be all photos from the past week. This week was jam-packed.

Giant Carrots
Caramel Popcorn
My workstation, a big mess

Baby Shower Cake

Not breakfast, just ingredients for new recipes
So many new ice cream recipes


A Pastry Career Lowlight

 Tuesday, October 9, 2012

So, this is going to be another post without pictures of things you can eat. I really apologize about that. But it's an important story (okay, maybe only to me), and I think a little enlightening to what life is like in a kitchen.

There's two components to working in pastry at a restaurant: production and service. Production is the actual baking, and generally the more fun part, while service is the actual plating of the desserts when customers order them. Any pastry chef who says working service doesn't suck sometimes is lying to you. It can be fun and a big adrenaline rush, but mostly it's taking you away from what you'd rather be doing, the actual baking and creating.

Lately I've been working weeknight services by myself, and I've prided myself on setting up the station for a smooth service and having easy, stress-free nights. Last night was slower for pastry at the restaurant, and I mistakenly thought tonight was going to be the same. I intended to try out a couple new recipes during the dinner shift, and had three quarters of my workspace occupied with ingredients, equipment, and a general mess. All of a sudden, tickets started ringing in. I shoved everything to the side as best I could, and started making desserts. It was going alright until I reached up to grab a plate and knocked down a pint container of powdered gelatin. The gelatin spilled all over me, my station, and my mise en place (all of the things I needed to make the desserts). All the mise was garbage at that point, needing to hastily be replaced with what I had back up or what I needed to make on the fly (meaning, right NOW).

As tickets continued to ring in, I scrambled to scrape up all the gelatin, which stuck to the station almost immediately. My blood pressure started rising, and I started to sweat a little. The sweat "activated" the gelatin, causing it to stick to my skin and form a weird crust that was almost impossible to scrub off. The whole situation was comically frustrating. Who else does this happen to?? Not long ago, a non-food industry friend emailed me and said when discussing me and my job with her teacher friends, they were all "oohing and ahhing" and saying how glamorous it must be. She compared the reaction to as if she said her friend was Jennifer Lopez. Tonight was about as glamorous as it gets, covered in a caking of animal proteins. I bet J Lo does not have to deal with that.


Life of a Pastry Chef: Inside Look #1

 Tuesday, October 2, 2012

True fact: I had a milkshake for breakfast today. I tried to go the normal route and get coffee and a bagel from Dunkin' Donuts, but when I pulled in, every parking spot was filled, and I said f*** it, I'm having a McDonald's milkshake. I rarely eat fast food, but I do frequently eat dessert for breakfast. I'm living every kid's dream.

When most people hear I work at a restaurant, their first reaction is usually something along the lines of "Wow! You must eat so much good food!" While this is occasionally the case, mostly it's not. Don't get me wrong - if I wanted to eat, mostly I could. But I'm usually too busy, too tired, or too lazy to find something for myself to eat and get through the day on handfuls of chocolate chips, bites of cookies, and the odd potato chip (they're part of a raw fish dish we serve as an appetizer). Sugar is in abundance in my part of the kitchen, and it doesn't always lead to the healthiest diet. Did I mention the pastry kitchen is right next to the barista station? There was a day where all I ate was marshmallows and 4 shots of espresso. Definitely didn't sleep that night! On my days off, I make a concerted attempted to eat "real" foods and balance my sugar intake for the week.


Fall Baking & The Best Pie Crust

 Monday, October 1, 2012

For me, the ultimate baking season is Fall. I know a lot of people are awed by summer's bounty of fruits, and while I love fruit, I think most of them stand alone better than they do incorporated into a dessert. Fall fruits and flavors, however, beg to be made into a crisp, a cobbler, or pie. And that's just three of the very many options. There's also something about the cool Autumn air that makes me crave dessert. By December every year, I suffer from apple fatigue, but for the next couple of months, I'll be keeping my refrigerator stocked with cider and happily be churning out pumpkin cakes, apple crisp, and pear sorbet.

In order to lure me home a few days ago, my mom bought some different apple varieties and invited me up to bake something, have my laundry done, and eat some home-cooked food. Having subsisted on candy bars and accumulated a small mountain of laundry over the past week, I gladly took up the offer. When I got home, I found three different types of apples, including one I've never tried before, Calville Blanc d'Hiver, a French type of apples similar to a Granny Smith. There were also Empire (red, crunchy and sweet) and Honeycrisp (one of my favorites to eat). When I make apple pies or tarts, I like to use two to three different types of apples to give it a more depth and roundness of flavors. If you're stuck with the typical grocery store selection of apples, you can't go wrong with Granny Smiths, a solid choice for baking due to their firmness and tartness, and something sweeter like a Gala or Pink Lady.

I've been testing out fall menu items at the restaurant, but this was my first time this season baking at home, and I wanted to keep it simple to really showcase the flavors of the apples. I decided on a caramel apple tart. I threw together some pie dough, put it in the refrigerator to rest, and got to work peeling and cutting apples. Having a mandoline made slicing all the apples for the top of the tart super fast, and the rest of the apples I just cut into a small/medium dice. I made a quick caramel sauce (any recipe would work here) and tossed the diced apples into it. Once the dough chilled for about an hour, I rolled it out, lined my tart pan and placed it in the freezer to rest (chilling the dough after handling it allows for a more tender finished product). After about 20 minutes, I pulled it out, docked the dough, and blind baked it until it was a light golden color. Then I filled it with the caramel apples, and carefully layered the apple slices on top. The tart went back in the oven to finish baking until the crust was golden. Pretty simple, but really delicious.

The key to these simple tarts and pies is a really awesome pie crust. I don't know what it is about this dough, but it's so easy to end up with a dry, flavorless, or tough crust. Over the years, I've worked out what I think is the ultimate recipe and tricks to keep your crust tender, flaky, and full of flavor. The first key is to work with cold ingredients. Your butter, shortening and water should all be ice cold (but not frozen). You also don't want to handle the dough too much - it should come together quickly. I use a food processor, but you could also use a KitchenAid or do it by hand. And like I said earlier, you want to give the dough plenty of time to chill to relax the glutens (here comes my inner baking nerd...) that develop from mixing. So without further ado, here is my favorite recipe for pie crust.

Pie Crust
Makes enough for a double crust pie

2 1/2 c (11.25 oz) all purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 c (6 oz) butter, cold, cut into pieces
4 Tbsp Crisco, cold
6-8 Tbsp ice water
  • Blend butter and shortening into the dry ingredients using a food processor, KitchenAid, or pastry blender until butter pieces are the size of a pea.
  • Add the water and mix just until dough comes together.
  • Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.


Mallory's Wedding Cake

 Monday, September 24, 2012

This past weekend, Mallory, the executive pastry chef at our restaurant, got married. When I first met Mal back in April, she told me she was planning her wedding for the fall and I decided I was going to make her wedding cake. The thing about pastry chefs is most of us are crazy, type-A personalities. A lot make their own wedding cakes, something that is insane given how stressful planning a wedding can be on its own. I remember reading somewhere that one cake designer made 5 separate cakes for her own wedding. After much persuasion on my part, Mal agreed to relinquish control to me.

 Tiny detail work

The wedding was a super-small event, with just the bride and groom's immediate families in attendance. We decided to do a two-tier cake (chocolate and vanilla). I had the idea to decorate the cake with pale pink, white and ivory fondant ribbon roses, and Mal loved the design I had in mind. On Friday, I baked and iced the cakes, made my fondant, covered the cakes, and formed all the roses. When I first started making fondant-covered cakes, I used to buy fondant. It almost always had this terrible taste and weird smell. My cake-decorating unit at the French Culinary Institute included  Colette Peter's fondant recipe, and now I always use this. It's incredibly easy to make, rolls out beautifully and just tastes like sugar. I've included the recipe at the bottom of this post.

Saturday, all I had left to do was assemble the tiers and attach the flowers. I arrived to work and found Mallory with the cakes in front of her, ready to finish it herself. So much for relinquishing control...Typical pastry chef behavior! I forced her to step away from the cake and quickly finished it before she could jump in again.

Colette Peter's Rolled Fondant Recipe
makes enough to cover 2 8" cakes

2 pounds powdered sugar + extra for kneading
1/4 c cold water
1 Tbsp powdered gelatin
1/2 c light corn syrup
1 1/2 Tbsp glycerine (Wilton makes this and it can be found at craft stores)

  • Put all powdered sugar in bowl of stand mixer.
  • Combine gelatin with cold water. Allow to soften about 5 minutes. 
  • Heat the gelatin, stirring until it is dissolved and clear. 
  • Add the corn syrup and glucose.
  • With the mixer running (paddle attachment), add the gelatin mixture.
  • Mix until well blended, scrape out fondant and knead until stiff. Add more powdered sugar if mixture is sticky.
  • Form into a ball and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.
  • Rest fondant 8 hours before using (I'm usually in a rush and skip this step without too many problems).


Ultimate Birthday Cake

 Thursday, September 20, 2012

My family has a lot of birthdays in the month of September. Within a week period, my mom, my aunt and my grandmother all celebrate their birthday. And then 6 years ago, my sister had to throw her boyfriend Joe into the mix with the same birthday week. So it always feels like I'm baking a birthday cake a day in September. I have a catalog in my mind of all my friends and family's favorite kind of cake so I can prepare it for their birthday, but whenever I'm uncertain, I fall back on my favorite: vanilla buttermilk cake with vanilla frosting. It's simple, but classic.

When I was a kid, the best thing for me was to sit in my grandmother's kitchen, watching her make the cakes for various occasions. The cake itself was always prepared from a box (I wasn't introduced to truly "from scratch" baking until I started exploring that on my own), but the frosting was her own recipe. After patiently watching her frost the cake, my brother and I would be each granted one beater blade to lick clean and induce a sugar frenzy. That buttercream was and still is the perfect birthday cake frosting: sweet without being cloying, homey, and delicious. My grandmother taught me the trick to it years ago, a bit of cream cheese and a pinch of salt. Both cut the sweetness without altering the flavor.
Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Raspberry Filling
Vanilla Buttermilk Cake
makes 2 9" cake layers or 24 cupcakes

2 sticks (8 oz) butter, room temp
2 c (15 oz) sugar
5 eggs room temp
3 c (13.5 oz) all purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 c buttermilk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract + 1 vanilla bean, scraped (optional)
  • Using a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes
  • Add eggs, one at a time, until well-incorporated.
  • Whisk together the dry ingredients.
  • Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the dry (3 additions of dry, 2 of wet), being careful not to overmix. Scrape down your bowl between each addition.
  • Portion into Pam-sprayed cake pans, bake at 350 degrees until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Vanilla Frosting

3 sticks (12 oz) butter, softened
1/4 c (2 oz) cream cheese, softened
2 lbs powdered sugar (use the Domino brand, trust me)
pinch salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
  • With a mixer, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and salt. 
  • Slowly add all of the powdered sugar, mixing well before each addition.
  • If the frosting is too stiff, you can add a tablespoon of milk at a time to reach the desired consistency. 
  • Add vanilla extract. Beat on high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy.


Welcome to Bake Life Sweet!

 Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hello and welcome to Bake Life Sweet! I'm Tara, a professional pastry chef living out my dream of baking delicious things and getting paid to do it. So, how did I end up here? I've always had a passion for baking and was one of the very few teenagers I knew with my own KitchenAid mixer, preferring to bring the baked goods to the team sports events than participating in the sports themselves. When it came time to pick a career at age 18 (why we encourage teenagers to make major life decisions is a mystery to me, but that's a whole other topic of conversation), becoming a chef wasn't in my realm of possibilities, and I decided I was going to become an International Businesswoman. Whatever that was, I would figure out, but it sounded pretty good as I filled out my college applications. I set off to school at Boston University, graduated with a degree in Business Administration and all the while continued baking. At BU, I was known for hosting a weekly dinner party where I'd gather all my friends, cook all day (usually extremely hungover from the weekend), and made sure to always include a dessert. 
In the kitchen
After graduation, I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do as a career, but knew I had to just do something, and followed my friends into the world of New York City advertising. It was a good job, but I didn't feel any real satisfaction from it, and I found myself baking with increasing frequency, devouring cookbooks and reading every related blog I came across. I even started my own blog, Cupcake Obsessed, as an outlet for my two interests - baking and writing. Eventually it became glaringly obvious that I wanted out of advertising, and I knew that I had to try my hand at a baking career. I enrolled at the French Culinary Institute, pushing myself to work full time, attend classes, and intern at Locanda Verde, a NYC restaurant with the phenomenally talented pastry chef, Karen DeMasco. A rough nine months for sure, but an incredibly worthwhile experience. After graduating from FCI, I worked in NYC restaurants for two years before a job opportunity brought me down to where I currently am, in Atlantic City, NJ, working as pastry sous chef in a really exciting and dynamic restaurant kitchen.

Whew, so hopefully you got through all that and now we can get to the fun part - the baking! My vision for this blog is for it to be a place for me to share some favorite recipes and provide an inside peek at the world of a professional chef. Not long after culinary school graduation, I had the words "Make Life Sweet" tattooed on my wrist, a constant reminder for me it's a privilege to be able to do what I do and to savor every minute of it. So this is Bake Life Sweet, a place where I get to share that with everyone else. Enjoy!