Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Arizona Mission Trip - Part III

Some of you know that I recently came back from a mission trip from Arizona. We stayed on the Tohono O'odham reservation in Sells partnering with a missionary couple who live right on the reservation.

Among many of the blessings I've received one thing I was able to take away this year was something unique to the Tohono O'odham Native Americans.  It's called Saguaro Syrup made from the flower that blossoms on the Saguaro cacti.  

Taken from http://ablogtoread.com

Making the syrup is not only a crazy long process but it's not done by a lot of people anymore.  The lovely lady who made it, Liz, told us very briefly about the process which starts with her waking up at around 3 or 4 in the morning to drive out to Tucson (which is about an hour away from Sells) to harvest the fruit.  Here is a bit more detailed description of the fruit and the processing of it.

Taken from http://arizona-cactus.com/

The fruit is harvest using this really long wooden tool.  The Saguaro cacti are pretty tall so it's not a matter of simply picking the fruit off.
Taken from http://amazingarizona.com
If I remember correctly, after the fruit is harvested, Liz takes the fruit mashes it and boils it with water for about a few hours.  Then she strains it and boils the remaining liquid for a few more hours until it becomes a syrup. 

Because this old tradition is becoming more and more sparse Liz charges about $40 for a pint.  That's right... A PINT.  And that's a cheaper price.  A local gift shop sells it for $10 an ounce.... AN OUNCE.  But because of the recession, they've lowered it down to $8.  Yeah.. pretty insane.  Liz was kind enough to let some of us have it for $25.  My first thought when a friend talked about buying it to help support Liz (who was going through some financial difficulty) was, "OooOoOooooH!!!  Maybe I can make cupcakes or cookies out of it!!"

Seguaro Syrup 2

One pint is not nearly enough to be experimenting with, let me just tell you right now.  It's over if you mess up even once.  So you can imagine the stress I was under to not only create something absolutely delicious but also not screw up in the process.

Me and Liz 

Let me spare you the suspense.. I messed up... TWICE!!! And now I don't have any more of the syrup to try again.  

More on my attempts at making the first ever Saguaro Cupcakes next time.  Sorry to break up the flow but my room is still a huge mess and the house is under constant fixing.  Thanks for understanding!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In Transition

It feels like it's been forever since I last posted.  

Our family in transition right now.  This is what my room looked like last night:

So you can imagine why I haven't been blogging let a lone having time to bake.  I forgot how hard it is to move.  The good news is that the kitchen is much, much bigger in our new home so I will be back pumping out more desserts than you can handle!  But in the meantime, please be patient with me!  

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Arizona Mission Trip - Part II

 A big chunk of the activities we did in Arizona during the VBS (Vacation Bible School) is to put on fun skits that will not only grab the attention of the kiddies but also teach them a fundamental element of the Bible and God.

Each of us were in charge of a skit.  One guess to what the subject was for mine...

That's right... dessert!!!

The skit was actually about a Master Pastry Chef (played by me) and her two apprentices.

Pastry Chef Skit
(I'm handing them big chunks of chocolate. We were pretending during this practice but made some out of butcher paper.)
The Master Pastry Chef was the chef of a world famous chocolate bakery and she hand selected two apprentices to take under her wing.  I even brought my chefs coats and the hats I used to wear when I was in culinary school.  Oh man, wearing that jacket in the 104 degree weather was NOT fun.  But I think the kids got a kick out of it.

The apprentices get three tasks: 

1. Chop a HUGE bar of chocolate into little itty bitty pieces.
2. Melt all the chocolate chopped the previous day.
3. Make a beautiful chocolate cake.

After each task, the Master says that if they have any questions or need help that she's available. 

Each step of the way both apprentices mess up but one always goes back to the Master to ask questions and the other tries to figure it out herself.  In the end the apprentice who always goes to the Master to ask questions makes the most gorgeous chocolate cake!  

Fake Chocolate Cake 2

While the other...

April's Cake

The moral of the story?  God is like the Master Pastry Chef, He gives us certain tasks to do but He never tells us we have to do it alone.  In fact, when we go to Him for help or with questions He often equips us to do more than we ever thought possible.

It was a fun skit.  We had some great actors!

But those roses/flowers.. man it took forever!!!

Paper Flowers

We had to paint butcher paper, cut the paper, then make them one by one.  It's almost as labor intensive as sugar roses!  But it looked so beautiful!  Another team mate and I worked really hard on it and we were very proud of it.

Master Pastry Chef and her Apprentices

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Arizona Mission Trip - Part I

Ahh.. lovely Southern California.  It's definitely home sweet home to me.

We flew in last night from the crazy hot state of Arizona.  As much as I was excited to leave the weather behind, it was just the opposite feeling of leaving the people there.  There's one particular teen that I will miss dearly.

A small group of us (all women and all who are my very close friends) went to a small city called Sells that's about 1 hour outside of Tucson.  The Native Americans that live there are of the Tohono O'odham nation.  For the past 10 years or so our church has been sending a team out each summer to do what's called a VBS, Vacation Bible School, where we sing songs, do skits with messages from the Bible at it's core, and crafts.

Arizona had some of the most beautiful sunsets and skies I've ever seen.  

Four Clouds

I'm sure California has beautiful clouds but there's too many things off in the horizon that get in the way.  The sunset was absolutely gorgeous.  Right as it sets all of the orange and reds get reflected onto the clouds and it seriously looks like something out of a painting. 

One of the ladies, Annette, from the church where we held our VBS took us out to lunch at the town's only shopping center.  There was a new cafe called the Desert Rain Cafe that opened up that was serving the traditional Tohono O'odham meal.


Traditional Native American Dish

The soup dish reminded me a lot of what Korean's call bori cha, which is barely tea.  Sometimes it's made with roasted corn and this soup had pretty much exactly the same flavor.  One of the side dishes was cholla buds.

Cholla Buds

Here's a bit more information on the buds and also a some recipes from the Tohono O'odham Community Action website.

I had never had anything like it.  The taste of it is hard to describe but all in all it was a meal I was really glad to have tried.  A lot of one's culture can be found in the food and it's always fun to partake in it.

For the most part we had to do our own cooking which was actually kind of fun.  None of us are gifted cooks but we ate very well. =D

Friday, August 6, 2010

See Ya Later CA... Hello AZ!!


In less than 6 hours I will be waking up to catch an early flight to the extremely HOT state of Arizona.  I'm very fortunate to be going with four of my dearest friends.  It's going to be extremely hard.. I know by experience.. but I know it'll be a great time of sharing God's abundant love with those of the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Cutters 3

I'll be gone for a week so, sadly, no posts while I'm gone.  But don't stay away too long.. I'll be back in a jiffy posting in no time at all.  ;)


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Techniques: Sugar Roses

 Roses 2

This past Sunday I had made about 70 cupcakes for the Cupcake Camp OC.  As a decoration for the Red Velvet I decided to make some roses.

Let me start off by saying that roses... are extremely time consuming and at times, a real pain in the ass to make.  BUT, once you've finished and you look at them all together... it makes you VERY proud.  You know you've done a great job when people keep saying that they can't believe they're made of sugar and just how real they really look.

Unfortunately, all of the process to this as well as making of the cupcake liners was done in a hurry, if at all.  So, I apologize for the messy hands, stuff in the background, or anything else that may be a distraction from this "this is how I do roses" segment.

First, gum paste.  I was in a hurry so I bought Wilton's Gum Paste from Michael's.    The VERY first thing you have to do is make the buds.  Ideally, you'd have all the same color for the bud as well as the petals but I used white.

I took about 3 grams of gum paste and rolled it into a ball.
Bud 2

Then I formed it into a cone using my fingertips.
Bud 3

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cupcake Camp OC - Cupcakes for the Masses


Today was Orange County's CupcakeCamp.

With 4 hours of sleep I managed to make 35 Red Velvet Cupcakes, 30 Coconut Cupcakes, 3 lbs of cream cheese icing, 70 hand made cupcake liners with logos, and 30 sugar roses in less than 24 hours.

Ok.. some of that is a fib.

I prepped the roses a week ago and made 15 the day before then finished off the last 15 yesterday.  But the rest of it's true.

It's becoming painfully aware to me just how much of a procrastinator I really am.  Grant it, I started making the roses a couple of days ago as opposed to just yesterday but I always end up killing myself by putting things off till the last minute.  I guess I can cut myself some slack considering my plate has been unusually full for the past couple of months or so.

Yellow Rose 2

I wasn't really sure what to expect when I got there today.  Trying to find my way around and finding a place to set up was a bit challenging but eventually I settled into a table where I laid all my cupcakes out in neat rows.

Yellow Rose 3

I felt really good about what I made.  It was actually really cool to see people come up to them and take photos.