I’ve committed a grave sin. I know this surprises none of you…you know, the fact that I sinned and all. You’re like, “What else is new?”
But, alas, I had to confess. I have not posted a blog for 13 days. That is the longest stretch I’ve ever gone without posting and I am here to BEG for patience and forgiveness from my readers!
I was immersed in a challenge that required precise focus. In fact, it required so much preciseness and focus that I had to use measuring cups and spoons-gasp! This challenge involved seven pounds of butter, 15 pounds of flour, 8 pounds of sugar, 5 grocery bags of fruit, and a hell of a lot of huevos-both the kind you buy at the grocery store and a BIG set of my own, if you know what I mean!
I applied and was chosen to participate in the Harmons Grocery Store Sliced Competition in the dessert round!
When I told my friends this news…I saw a few raised eyebrows. I heard some quips like, “but you don’t do desserts!” Nope…I don’t do desserts. They’ve always been a mystery to me. I’d rather have a savory bite of food any day. I can pass up the sweetest treat with no issue. Give me salt and meat fat…it’s who I am.
There were over 100 entries and 15 people were selected, five for the dessert round. It was a contest modeled after the show, “Chopped” on Food Network, which of course involves a basket of four mystery ingredients. We would walk in, find out what our ingredients were and cook for 2 and a half hours. It was so exciting and terrifying!
So, what did I do for the last 13 days? I immersed myself in the art of desserts. I learned things that were only conundrums for me before-how does a custard come together, how do you know how much baking powder goes into a cake, how do you poach a pear, make a chocolate sauce, make citrus curd from scratch? I baked my little heart out for days and I learned so much!
I learned how to make a chocolate torte:
I learned how to make an apple tarte tatin:
And an almond pithiviers:
And tons of other stuff…most of which escaped my brain the minute I was in that kitchen!
When I was done practicing, even my husband was sick of sweets. That tells you how many confections were born in my kitchen this week!
Here’s the thing. I didn’t win. I had virtually no thought at all that I would. See, I had only a very small base from which to work. I knew how to make a few things like French pastry cream, a blueberry pie, and maybe another confection or two, like my doughnuts. But I really knew nothing else about dessert.
Some people would ask why I’d do this considering all that I didn’t know. But that’s an answer that comes really easy to me. I love to cook because I love to learn. I love to unwrap mysteries, I love to solve problems, I love to create pretty things. It’s all about the journey to me, and this was my dessert journey.
I believe the reason I’ve been successful at cooking, the blog, and the recipe contests, is because I’m determined and I’m not afraid to fail. I know I’m not always going to be the best, but that is no excuse not to try. That’s what learning to cook has taught me. It’s taught me lessons about life in general and made me stronger, bolder, and more willing to put myself out there for the world. I am so thankful for any opportunity I get to take my cooking to a new level.
Somebody dropped out of the entrée competition and I was asked if I wanted to take their place, but I asked to stay where I was in the competition. The little voice in my head was yelling at me as I said this, but I knew this was my time to try something new, even though I felt it would cost me the win. That’s how much I enjoy the process of discovery in cooking. I’d rather lose and learn something, than win all the time and say stagnant.
I ended up making a pots de crème, a Napolean, and a galette. We had to use papaya, butterscotch candies, thyme, and snicker doodle cookies. Nothing too horrifying. What ended up getting me was exactly what I thought would be my demise…sugar art. I knew I could only focus on taste and that I had no pastry chef skills to pull out of my arsenal. Somebody made sugar art out of the butterscotch candies and put it on top of a beautiful Ile de Flottante type of dessert. It was fancy schmancy, and it deserved to win. The girl had mad skills. Mine was tasty, but it was too sweet and lacked fineness…even I could see that. That is not something you can learn in ten days of practice.
So, my response to that is, I just have more to learn and more room to grow.
I met a lot of new friends, I got to cook in a big beautiful kitchen, invite my family and friends out for a night of fun. I got to meet other food bloggers, some amazing chefs like Chef Aaaron from Harmons and Chef Bryan Woolley from Channel Two news.
And lo and behold, I found out I can make a great pie crust which got lots of compliments!
I had a great time being out there participating in something in my community.
It turns out that Harmons is a real supporter of food bloggers and that there may be some opportunity for me to work with them in other capacities related to the blog. That would be amazing!
So, I’ll be taking a few days off from cooking this week. I need a rest. Next Saturday there are more contest entries to prep and I’ll be working on my cookbook which I’ll be blogging more about soon. For now, I’m going to cuddle up with some frozen pizza and spend the day in my pajamas, because I am so tired!
Thanks again Harmons Grocery for the wonderful time. And thanks to my friends and family who came out and cheered me on!