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Alive, Well, Refreshed

I know it has been just SO long since I have posted…I apologize.

I truly thought that over the course of our August vacation I would be able to write a few blog posts, catch you up on the more pressing matters, and return to the American shores free of any guilt that I was carrying in regards to my blog and inconsistent posts.

Apparently that was not the case!

Two days into the vacation, we discovered that spending three minutes on the internet cost as much as a creamy cannoli and a cappuccino.  Forgetaboutit (I’m throwing my fist up in the air here, as I was taught by my Italian/Australian tour guide).

Anyway, please, PLEASE forgive me, both for my lack of vacation posting and my lack of general posting. Let’s take a look at where we’ve been over the last few weeks…

OUR FIRST MARKET!

We went to our first few markets at the beginning of August and were extremely successful!   We spent Tuesdays at Canterbury Village in Lake Orion, and Wednesdays at Silverbell & Bald Mountain (for all of you who are familiar with the area).  Our display turned out great, the customers were very happy, and I was ecstatic to learn that people actually liked what I was making!

I couldn’t have done it without my trusty assistant Sammy who, for those of you who don’t know, is really great at scooping cookie dough, cutting labels, stamping bags, and making change! My mom has been extremely helpful as well–she spent several hours cutting out shortbread cookies, insistent that they be just perfect.  Not exactly efficient, but I do so appreciate the perfectionist in her.  We are set for more market in the upcoming weeks, and I DO plan on updating my blog more frequently, so you’ll be hearing all about them!

CAKES & THINGS

We had a lot of orders for great cakes during the end of July and beginning of August, and though I spent the better part of two weeks guzzling coffee, running around and cheering like a maniac, then almost instantly sleeping mouth open on the counter only to arise to the sound of a timer buzzing in my ear (that might be a dramatization), the cakes turned out great! My biggest challenge, I would say, was the Toy Story cake–mainly because it needed to be transported 300 miles to Chicago after being assembled.  It made it without any problems whatsoever, and everyone (especially me) was very pleased.

 



 

EUROPA

As I mentioned earlier, we spent a few weeks in Europe with my family and had a wonderful time.  Two weeks in Tuscany will do nothing for you if not make you gain a few pounds and make you insistent upon learning Italian.  A few of my favorite experiences from the trip are documented below.

We took a Red Eye flight from Detroit to Rome, and neither Sammy nor I slept too much on the plane, but by the time we arrived in Rome it was mid-day.  We were (I was) insistent upon staying up all day so that we could adjust to the time change, so we spent the day at the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon.  My family came and went, and Sammy and I were still going strong.  We decided to head to a little cafe for a Peroni and a cappuccino.  Sitting directly outside of the Pantheon, admiring the people and the views, was picturesque and surreal, and made me remember what I love so much about the European culture and being.

Heading to Barcelona was exciting for me, because I hadn’t been to Spain since I lived there three years ago.  We took a bus tour of the city because it was the most efficient way to see all of the highlights.  To be honest with you, seeing La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s Masterpiece Cathedral, wasn’t a top priority to me.  I had seen it countless times when I was living in Spain, and I knew exactly what it looked like.  If I didn’t, I could look at one of the seven books I purchased over the course of my time there, close my eyes, and remember being there.  They have been building that church for over 100 years, and it was impossible that they had made any changes over the last three years.  I would have rather gone to get tapas.  Well, I was wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Driving up to the Cathedral, even seeing it from a few blocks away, it took my breath away.  The size, the detail, the massive arches and buttresses and flying grapes (yes, flying grapes, in all colors and sizes)…it’s simply jaw dropping.  The line wrapped around the entire building, and again I said “well, I’ve seen it…but I’ll definitely wait if everyone else wants to.”  And again, I was wrong.  Walking into the Cathedral, I was stopped in my tracks.  the sheer size of the structure is enough to shock you, but the architecture is exquisite, the details are stunning, and around every corner you find another hidden something that you can’t believe was part of Gaudi’s design.  The colors, and lack of colors, the contrast of styles.  It’s just amazing.  The most interesting thing to me was actually being able to see the changes that had occurred over the last three years.  Here are two pictures–one from August 2008, and one from August 2011.  The last time I visited in 2008, the inside of the Cathedral was full of scaffolding.  There was no dome, no color, barely anything!  It was incredible.

I borrowed this shot from here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pexcornel/2892528099/in/photostream/

Tunisia was a totally different experience for me.  I’ve never been to Africa, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a country that recently overthrew their government. When we got off the boat, we were greeted by camels, and offered a ride, which we politely declined (until a few hours later…).  I won’t bore you with the details, because I think I just did so with La Sagrada Familia, but basically we were taken to these Roman Baths that were uncovered in the 1970s and were from around 40AD.  They were so well built and the structure was just remarkable.  We learned about the baths being used and the fluidity of the baths and wow…they were pretty intelligent.  I wish it hadn’t been 95 degrees, and I wish the people on the boat hadn’t told us that we needed to wear pants and closed toed shoes.  I probably would have been able to pay better attention.  I think I was suffering from heat stroke.

So, that’s what has been going on in my neck of the woods!  The next two weeks are ALL about getting the website up and running (and of course, baking and Farmer’s Markets), so hopefully it won’t be too long now!

Have a great weekend everyone!

(By the way, for those of you who are avid Teaspoon readers and know the troubles I have been having with finding my way around Michigan, I still haven’t gotten a haircut and never went back to the gym that I impulsively joined two months ago.  Oops.)

Happy Tuesday everyone!  It has been a crazy week here in Michigan–trying to unpack and organize my life, unpacking and organizing the new kitchen, and realizing I need so many new things to be able to work in that space!  Oh the joys of (sort of) owning a business.

Last Friday a great friend of mine, Tracey from Artful Memories, came to the kitchen and captured some incredible shots of a few products that will appear on the new menu!  Check out her amazing talent–she makes me look good!

I’ll be back soon with more pictures of baked goods, and some actual posts to get you excited–promise, promise!  In the mean time, here’s a plug to check us out on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/loveandbuttercream

We’re back!  Beans and I are officially Michiganders once again, and talk about a stressful week!  Packing, schlepping, hauling, driving, (pity parties, sobbing) arriving, unpacking, unpacking, unpacking, furniture moving, unpacking, unpacking. You get the picture.

But now we’re nearly unpacked, with the exception of a few things that still need to be placed in their appropriate new homes, and it’s fair to say that our new life is finally coming together.

I do feel like I was dropped into the middle of a foreign land, and have no idea how to get anywhere or how to do anything.  Most importantly I don’t know where to get my hair cut.  Yesterday I went outside and impulsively joined a gym because I saw it out my window and, despite knowing nothing about it, decided it was better than the alternative of never being able to find another gym or worse, finding another gym but never again finding my way to the gym.  I understand that this issue is counterintuitive–that I went from “big city livin'” to something that, well, isn’t.  On top of that, I lived (kind of) in this area for the first 18 years of my life.  I suppose I just haven’t found my landmarks yet and because of that, I’m feeling a little lost.  Hopefully over the next few weeks I’ll get my act together and feel like I’m back home.  Until then I’m just a visitor in my own city, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless like me, you need a hair cut.

A few quick anecdotes about the last few weeks before I leave you for the day–there’s much to be done in the unpacking and Love & Buttercream worlds!

1. Graduation!

Graduation Picture (I'm in the back to the right--hard to miss with the red hair!)

Graduation from the French Pastry School took place on June 18th (hooray)!  It was a great event, beautifully produced and simply delicious in every aspect.  The students spent the week prior preparing the Grand Buffet, a sort of welcome/thank you/woo-hoo ceremony for family and friends to attend post-graduation.  My class was in charge of cakes, chocolates, and a chocolate sculpture.  The highlight of this event was the end–not because it was over, but because about 20 minutes before things shut down, take-home boxes were handed out and we were able to take any leftovers home, making Sammy one happy man (especially when we learned we could take more than one box and yes, the Pate and full loaves of bread were fair game).

2.  Chicago Bucket List

Jackie and I made a spontaneous bucket list last Friday of things we needed to accomplish in Chicago before I moved.  We created this list around 9:00pm on Friday night and accomplished everything on the list (except for one thing…) by 3:30am on Saturday Morning.  A few notable items on the list include:

  • Take a picture with Beans (common practice at our house)
  • Go to a BYOB
  • Play Photo Hunt
  • Sing Karaoke
  • Go to River Shannon (the bar downstairs), drink a 312, play giant Jenga, and buy a t-shirt (we added “sleep in matching t-shirts” after we purchased these shirts)
  • Split a Chicago Dog (we didn’t really want to do this but we felt obligated, hence the split)
  • Go to Green City Market
  • Drink a Killer Margarita
  • Ride in a Cab
  • Go to a 4am bar after 2am
Things were added throughout the night, but everything was accomplished.  It was an awesome night and a great way to say goodbye to the city.
We realized the following day that we accomplished our entire list EXCEPT for perhaps our easiest challenge: pop the bottle of champagne that we have been saving for this very occasion.  We had decided it would be a great Mimosa mix, but two days later, the champagne was still there.  We enjoyed it on my last night with Sammy and some homemade macarons that really needed to be eaten before I left.

3.  Green Tea & White Chocolate Mousse Tart with Woodland Strawberries, then an Empty House Rustic Tart

I was scheduled to move on Wednesday, and Saturday afternoon was meeting up with some friends for a little dinner party.  I felt the need to bake something, but looked around my kitchen to determine my ingredient selection was insanely limited, and my utensil selection even more so.  I was dealing with paper plates, one mini-spatula, a few spoons, one mini-mixing bowl, and a cereal bowl.  Awesome.  I purchased some amazing Woodland Strawberries from Green City Market that morning, deciding that there was going to be some way for me to use them in the next three days, so I determined that these were going to be my “ingredient one.”  Happiness struck again when I discovered that my box with a few baking pans was still within reach, and my cute little tart pan was smiling at me, begging to be used.  Hooray–step two!  I had made some shortbread cookies earlier in the week, and kept the scraps, as any normal person does, so created a crust out of those.  And finally, what sane person who is lacking ingredients doesn’t feel complete without the random Matcha and white chocolate floating around the house.  Score!  Opening up one box to reach some gelatin and running to the store to pick up some whipping cream, a beautiful Green Tea & White Chocolate Mousse Tart came to be.  The shortbread crust married perfectly, and the Woodland Strawberries added the perfect tartness (no pun intended).  I was shocked at how easily this tart came to be, despite my lack of everything.  And then on Tuesday, things got even more desperate…

The day before my move boxes were packed, kitchen was completely empty, and all I could think about was baking.  Seriously? Now?  I had on hand at this point: one sheet tray, two butter knives, two plastic forks, one spoon.  The refrigerator had been cleared out, the spices were packed, the pantry had been cleared, and all that remained were a few granola bars, a few packets of oatmeal, and some prunes (seriously, I love prunes).  I had cleared out the freezer a few days prior, and knew there were only a few things left inside, but when I opened it and remembered the frozen tart cherries, I got a little sad.  There was no way I was letting those babies go to waste–I had to do something.  Conveniently, I had some tart dough frozen from a few months before (one of the other things you couldn’t pry from my dead, lifeless fingers), and remember those instant oatmeal packets?  Thaw dough, mix cinnamon/brown sugar oatmeal with tart cherries (obviously mixed in a plastic bag), push out dough with fingers, pour in cherries, wrap dough around cherries…boom. Cherry Tart, or something of the sort.  45 minutes later we had a delicious dessert that surprised all of us and effectively left us with zero clean up.  I would say that this little tart was a good way to leave my apartment–a slight smell of cherry and a regression to my two-years-ago baking capabilities.

4.  Photo Shoot!

I really wanted this to be the #1 story of the day, but I tried to save it because I feel a little guilty taking over with all of this exciting Love & Buttercream news…deal with it, I guess!  The photo shoot that we did for Love & Buttercream was AMAZING! Justin and Rebecca did a fabulous job helping to make my baked goods look incredible, and Jackie of course was the best assistant, as always.  Here’s one of my favorite shots of the day– my Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches with Cream Cheese Buttercream.

I’ll be posting more soon, and they will all be featured on the website which is looking amazing–I can’t wait for all of you to see it!

5.  Beans

No story here, just a few quick pictures of her being a terror at the old house, and here at the new loft.

Have a great week everyone!

 

 

We Have Arrived.

I hope you enjoyed the teaser that I offered up yesterday–I found it only appropriate that after a bit of talk and rumblings of what’s to come, I coquet with you a little longer.

An announcement has been due here for quite some time, and I feel a little guilty that I haven’t shared it with you sooner.  You see, I’ve been getting all of my affairs in order– speaking with those close to me, stating life altering yeses and nos, and even shedding a few tears, happy and sad.  This news that I share brings with it excitement and hope and promise and nervousness and challenge and change.  But overall it brings a sort of jump-up-and-down giddiness that I can’t quite explain.

I’ve been trying for the last twenty four years six months to determine what it is I really want to do with my life– where I want to end up, what I’m really meant to be and surprisingly, because I never knew that it would make such a difference, WHERE I want this yet-to-be-determined-but-still-amazingly-awesome life to take place.

I’ve known for longer than I can remember that baking is my passion, that it is what I want to do regardless of the scale or shape or form that it may present itself in.  That’s why I started this blog, and that’s why I quit a job that I loved so much to go to pastry school and wear a toque, oversized khaki pants, and Danskos everyday.  I needed to fulfill that itch that wouldn’t stop itching.  Baking is an escape for me–a form of self-expression, motivation, and passion that makes me feel complete and conveniently provides an end result that people enjoy feasting on.

So, after this long journey to Determiney, I’ve decided that it is time to dive into the pool.

Many people may say that it’s too soon, that I still have a lot to learn.  My rebuttal?  You’re totally and completely right.  I do have a lot to learn–I still have flaws, I still have imperfections, I still have times where I feel utterly and completely clueless.  But doesn’t everyone?  You never know what can happen, unless you just dive in and get wet.

With this highly prophetic introduction, which was not meant to be highly prophetic, but merely a way to state my cause, I’d like to announce the start of my something new.

As of July, I will be the official owner of and head baker at Love & Buttercream.  Love & Buttercream will be based in Oakland, Michigan which means (wipe the tears), I will be relocating.  It’s a bittersweet end to an incredible two years in the best city in the world.  It comes though, with the promise of an amazing future and a bright and promising dream that I have for all that I know Love & Buttercream can be.

Love & Buttercream (I still grin each time I say it) is currently being built from the ground up–every little detail worked out and piece of the puzzle aligned.  It is quite a task and has required several cups of coffee (per day), but we are making progress and I am loving every minute of it.

Love & Buttercream will be focused on classic baked goods with a twist, and nostalgic favorites reinvented, which I suppose you can gather from reading the last two years of blog posts.  We will source locally whenever possible, work sustainably and seasonably whenever doable, and be the best local small bakery business we can be.

What all of this means for the future of Teaspoon is yet to be determined.  I have loved what Teaspoon has become, and would enjoy nothing more than to see it continue to grow and prosper.  Love & Buttercream though, will be a fully functioning company, and that means it will have it’s own fully functioning blog (run by me, of course!  You can’t escape that easily!).  I will keep you updated with the ebb and flow of L&B and the blog world, and hope that you will bear with me as I become a bakery owner and set sail on a new and exciting adventure.  I am beyond thrilled with my decision to begin this trip, and hope that you will all join me at Love & Buttercream, be it in person or on the web.  If you’re in Michigan, look for Love & Buttercream at markets and events starting in July and August.  If you’re not at markets and events, visit our website (which is coming soon–and I’ll let you know when it comes)and our Facebook page!

Thank you, truly and deeply, for making Teaspoon what it has become, and for giving me the courage and the confidence to grow myself and my business one Bundt at a time.  I couldn’t do it without the support of all of my friends and family, as well as you stranger-readers out there.  Thank you for getting me to where I am, and thank you for laying the crumbs to lead me on my next journey.

Love (& Buttercream),

Brooke

Chocolate Weeks

There was a lot of chocolate making going on over the last few weeks, which left me with very few clean aprons and very little desire to ever own a chocolate shop.  Though I definitely appreciate and give credit and praise to anyone who loves and works with that greasy and delicious brown goo, it is a wild beast and is messy, messy, messy.  It is also amazingly delicious.

Favorite treat? Pistachio ganache bonbons.  Favorite moment?  an homage to Lucille Ball as I manned the chocolate belt and actually did end up taking a few and shoving them in my mouth.

Lauren tempering our chocolate

Speed it up a little!

Swiss Rochers

Caramelized Hazelnut Trio & Gianduja

Rum Truffles

Packaged Butter Masses

Peanut Butter, Earl Grey, Creamy from Normandy, & Columbian Chocolates

Pistachio Bonbon, Passion Fruit Bonbon, & Royaltine

 

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