Gosh, I've been bad at this whole food blogging thing! Sorry I was absent for a while again. Life has been a little crazy. I feel like I say that once a month. As you probably know, I applied to be on The Great American Baking Show. That happened about 2 weeks ago and a bunch of crazy stuff has happened since then. Once I sent in my application, I took a deep breath and waited like 2 seconds. The next day I got a phone call that lead to another phone call, which then lead to a semi awkward facetime interview, and then all of a sudden I was preparing to do down to Los Angeles to audition in person. Holy cow! My little anxious heart was going to explode. So that's why I've been a little quite on the blog.
For the LA auditions I needed to bring a highly decorated bake, a pastry, and a loaf of bread following their super basic recipe. I had one week to figure out what I was going to make, practice each a few times, and figure out how the hell I was going to be able to bake all these thing at the right time so that they still taste good after a 7 hour drive to LA. Oh, and like still work a real full time job and deal with life all at the same time. I decided to a make a tahini layer cake filled with plum jam, covered in vanilla swiss meringue buttercream, and topped with matcha macarons and baked meringues for my decorated bake. There was a lot going on. For my pastry I made an oolong tea pastel de nata or egg tart if you're more familiar with the egg tarts you find at dim sum. The only component I've ever made before was the plum jam... and the bread sort of. So I was really pushing myself with this challenge.
Last week felt like Hell Week, which is what we would call the last week leading up to final reviews in architecture school. It's as awful as the name alludes to. We would stay up all night, eat a lot of vending machine ice cream sandwiches, occasionally suffer an x-acto knife injury, and design something eventually. I didn't really sleep, at least not peacefully. Did I mention that I'm an anxious person? I burned myself pretty bad on a 450 degree dutch oven while practicing my bread. I was being dumb and had a margarita that night... so don't drink and handle hot metal. But that bread was the best bread I've ever made! So that's something! It was a week of many many failures and a few successes. By the end of the week I was feeling somewhat confident in my bakes.
It had finally struck 6pm on Thursday and I was quietly packing up my things to head home and bake for the rest of the night. But my coworkers noticed and gave me a sweet little send off and cheered me on for the weekend. It was a great little boost that I needed : ) I headed home and baked for what felt like days. I slept for maybe 3 hours, got up at 3am to bake some more. Then all of a sudden it was 9am and I had a pretty cake, some egg tarts, and a b+ loaf of bread to transport down to LA. Thankfully Reuben also took the day off to be my personal driver, so I didn't have to be a zombie baker and a zombie driver at the same time. I thought I could sleep on the driver down there, but nope! I was a little too anxious to allow my mind to shut off. I just had no idea how this judging process was going to go. The unknown makes me nervous sometimes. I imagined that the judging would be like how my architecture critiques would go. I would stand up there, present my process and reasoning behind each bake and discuss their praises and critiques. That I felt comfortable with. But that's not really how it went down.
The judging took place in the ballroom of the hotel the production company got us a room at, which was super convenient. Reuben and I arrived at the hotel about an hour before my tasting slot. So I had a little bit of time to calm down and make myself look like a presentable adult person. I carefully gripped my bakes and brought them down to the ballroom. The room was filled with who I assumed were producers, one of whom I recognized from facetiming and chatting on the phone with all week. Hi, Matt! They placed my bakes on a big Cheesecake Factory scale platter and carried them into another mysterious room. I guess I wasn't going to be in the room as they were tasting. Reuben and I waited outside for about 10 minutes until they were ready to bring me in. There were 2 people in there- baking experts. They told me that overall my bakes were really beautiful. I had a minimal but impactful style that was refreshing to see. That's a good comment, right?!! I was feeling good. Then they told me that the tahini in the cake was a little too savory and that the oolong tea turned my custard a little grey. Ugh, not good. But overall they said that everything tasted good. Cool. The second half of the session was them asking me if I've made x,y, and z. Have I made a 3 tiered wedding cake? NO. Have you made puff pastry from scratch before? NO. Have you croissants? NO. Have you made a mirror glaze? NO. I did say yes to a few things, but about 75% of the things they asked about I had never made before.
There was a knock on the door and my audition was over. It all happened so fast. I walked out, met up with Reuben, and we were directed to just hang around the hotel a little bit until the judges decided if I was going on to the last and final round of the audition, which would be a technical bake the next day. So we went to the hotel bar. I ordered a white wine and we watching the first 5 minutes of the incredibly disappointing game 4 of the NBA finals. I got a call on my phone from Matt, my producer, and he told me that I was not going through to the next round. I had only been at the hotel for less than 2 hours and already my weird baking journey was over. I teared up just a little bit, but held it together because I was sitting at the bar of a hotel surrounded by strangers. By this point I was mentally and physically exhausted. But my sadness quickly dissipated. I realized that I did it. I put myself into this weird and challenging scenario and followed it through. I felt proud of myself. And I felt a sense of relief honestly. I felt like throughout the entire audition process I was pushing myself into this mold that I didn't really fit into. I'm not really baker. I would never say that I'm a baker. I enjoy baking and love experimenting with my bakes. But I'm really a cook. I love chopping vegetables and eating noodles to much.
Plus we now had the whole weekend in LA to just hang out! The production company paid for our hotel all weekend, so I pretty much worked really hard all week for a free hotel in LA. It was great! We found some great beer bars and some really really amazing food. The hotel was in Glendale, Ca, which has the largest Armenian community in the US. So we got to experience some top notch Armenian food. If you're in LA, you must try Mini Kabob in Glendale, it's sooooooo good! The Chef also had a taco pop up at Smorgasburg, so we decided to stay a little longer on Sunday and stop by for some free tacos and all the other crazy food you can find there. It was so much fun! I wish San Francisco had one too!
This whole experience ended up being really wonderful, and I have absolutely no regrets doing it. Thanks to all of you who were cheering me on throughout the whole process and sent sweet words to me when I told you I didn't make it through. Thank you to my friends for being there for me and not getting annoyed of me as I was live texting the whole experience. And the biggest thank you to Reuben! Seriously, what a guy. He has to deal with the not so fun side of the experience. Everyone else just gets to say, "You can do it!" and cheer. But Reuben had to handle the many times I broke down from stress and dramatic moments. Like when I burned my hand and cried all night. I get sort of mean when I get grumpy. But thankfully Reuben still loves me after this who experience. He's so kind and patient with me. Really could not have done this whole thing without him by my side.
So this story really has nothing to do with popsicles! But I've been meaning to share this recipe for like a month now... I got a little busy obviously. This recipe is super simple, super fresh, and really visually appealing if you're into geometric color blocks like me : ) I hope you enjoy them and have a great week!