A Table of Mothers

Mother’s Day…it is a special day, the one day out of the entire year that is set aside to honor our mothers. Although, we do our best to honor our mothers each and every day…this one particular day is dedicated to it. Whether it be your mother, your grandmother, your stepmother, your aunt, or your mother-in-law as well as someone who has acted as a mother towards you and any other mother that you know; all apply to this sentimental holiday. I thought a lot about who to write about today. And the truth is that I have been surrounded by women for my entire life. I was raised by a single parent and lived with my grandmother, I also have two sisters. My life has been nothing short of always being estrogen filled which houses many crazy and awesome memories.

I have been so blessed with the maternal figures in my life, I remember when I was younger, I used to be babysat along with my baby sister by a neighbor who was always a joy to be around. She’d always play games with us and listen to our dramatic stories of the things that we occurring in our lives as we blurted out whatever kid ramble that was important to us at the time. Alternatively, I remember how my grandmother would allow us to go shopping with her and we would always have a one toy limit. In which we could go to the store and pick out one toy that we really wanted…to be able for it to be purchased to take home with us. My mother would have us meet our grandmother at the train station when she would be on her way home from work. It was only a short distance from home but there was a park/playground that was not too far from it where we would play every day either on the swings or the slide until our grandmother met up with us. Then, we would all walk home together. When I was halfway through college, my sisters and I started having monthly lunches with our aunt. It was a great time to have a good date between our hectic schedule to catch up with each other about the daily happenings of our lives as well as enjoying delicious food together. My late boyfriend’s mom has even taken me under her wing as we talk or see each other all the time and has even taken me out clubbing which was actually a lot of fun besides my initial nervousness. We had a bunch of laughs and drinks. All of these women have greatly impacted my life; they have helped mold me into the person that I am today. I appreciate each and every one of them for being a part of my life and putting up with me as well as my antics. It is an absolute pleasure to be a part of their lives as I navigate this world a little more independently each day. I look to them for guidance, support, and constant love.

a plate of cookies

Image by: Tablespoon

With my aspirations of being a pastry chef, every one of them has encouraged me and stood by me as I continue to pursue my dreams…even as I try to discover what those dreams are. I have given back to them in both big and small gestures…sometimes with something as simple as a dessert. This has been a favorite among them and it is the apple pie cookie. It has a long assembling process but is utterly delicious, it has dulce de leche as well as a cinnamon sugar topping on the crust.

Coffee Break

The summer weather is slowly settling in and we are starting to get a taste of what summer will be like aside from all the pollen that is creating havoc on everyone’s immune system. Every time that I leave home, a cough or a sneeze isn’t too far from occurring but other than that, I am enjoying this beautiful weather…a frequent cool breeze and the amazing feel of being sun-kissed by the warm heat of this weather is getting me a tad bit excited for the summer. It is as if I can already hear the sounds of Mister Softee’s ice cream truck and reminisce of the aromas of the beach as well as the fragrant smell of barbeques…that is what summer is to me. And I am so ready to welcome it. I am stoked for all that comes with summer memories.

Being that City Tech is located in the Downtown Brooklyn area, it is the host to many coffee shops. I love coffee and summer only makes the need for coffee more precedent. If I cannot have my coffee whether hot or iced, I am just not myself in the summer heat. It is sort of like those Snickers’ commercials where they describe that you are not you when you’re hungry…so you can have a Snicker. Yeah, that is me without coffee in the summer. Coffee is one of those things that comfort you…in the winter time, it is nice to have to as a hand warmer and it is great to help warm up your practically frozen body as it melts you from the inside out as well as in the summer, when it cools you from the sweat-pooled days of summer that houses way too many heat waves. Everyone knows based on my previous posts that I have a true love for frozen desserts, whether it be ice cream, sorbet, gelato, or frozen yogurt. I am always psyched to have this category of desserts because I find it to be very delicious. I absolutely love anything frozen. So, regardless of the ever-changing weather switching between summer and spring or your crazy college schedule, if you are ever in the mood for coffee, ice cream, frozen yogurt with an array of topping options, and acai smoothie bowls. Then, I have the perfect place for you.

It is called the Brooklyn Beanery which is located along Court Street literally right across the street from the movie theater which makes for the perfect afternoon place to hang out as it has a café feel integrated within the outlay of the establishment. There is a small and intimate seating area but it sells an assortment of ice cream which is supplied by Hershey’s brand which is breathtakingly delicious as well as frozen yogurt that is on a flavor rotation aside from the traditional flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and original. But there is a huge counter dedicated only to toppings for your frozen yogurt that varies from fresh fruits like blueberries, mangoes, and strawberries to candy like m&m’s, fruity pebbles cereal, mochi, or cheesecake bites. This place also has many prepared coffee selections, it is a small shop which can easily be overlooked but you will not regret stopping in for a treat. The prices are affordable and it usually doesn’t get very busy so there is a place to sit down and get away from the hectic schedule that is life if for only a few minutes.

 

A Letter to You

a sunset overlooking a boardwalk

Image by: Cal

Dear You,

I am writing this letter to you as April is National Letter Writing Month so it’s fitting.I know that you are struggling with piles and piles of homework as you slowly prepare yourself for the upcoming end of the semester with finals. Let me start off by saying thank you for reading. I want you to know that you as my readers, mean the absolute world to me. Having someone reading the words that I carefully pieced together to make a written masterpiece, an art piece…a way to somehow make sense of this crazy puzzle of life.

I can only hope that as you read my posts, no matter which one that it inspires you…that it gives you hope to be better…to always strive for success. I so often in life have wanted to quit on my dreams…to fold my cards in this game of life poker. Life is so unpredictable, the events that occur each day are often unknown or unexpected because nothing in life is ever fully guaranteed. And we must all deal with the cards that we have been dealt. I want to be able to offer hope to all those who have decided to take time out of their days to read my posts. I am optimistic that I can be a symbol of strength to help you through the daily struggles that you may be facing. I have challenged myself to be as honest as possible by sharing my personal journey. I know what it is like to question your self-worth…to frequently ponder what my meaning is in this world. I know how it feels to not fit in and to evoke the sense of being a pariah in all areas of your life

Though I graduated from college, there are a lot of necessary things that college didn’t educate me with and these are just day-to-day instances that readily occur. College doesn’t tell you how to get placed with the right job for you, ways to choose a job, finding a passion that you truly care about and wish to spend your life pursuing, or how to conquer the unforeseen circumstances that life brings you. Life is a difficult thing to persevere through at times, believe me, I can understand that. But upon finding my passion for baking, I have come to understand the meaning of purpose. We all have a purpose in this world and most of the time, we wonder what that purpose is and why our lives are meaningful in this world. We frequently question our value but I knew that I loved to make others happy by way of having a delicious pastry as well as educating others to become bakers themselves. And perhaps, that is my purpose in life…to bring happiness to others by way of my desserts. I enjoy baking so much for a variety of reasons, it is a very fulfilling experience but it has a special value to me. I have baked many desserts for celebrational purposes as well as for recreational fun but either way, it helps me to relax and remain calm from the chaos that is life. It relieves my stress and reminds me of the talents that I have hidden within me regardless of the difficult days that I have endured.

Remember this when you are battling through a rough day, that you are strong…that you have the power within you to be happy and to be successful. No matter what comes your way in this crazy rollercoaster of life, you have the opportunity to write your own story and you are always the hero. No one is as heroic as you in your life story as you are the one seeing the chances that you take and being brave enough to pursue your dreams. If you always dream big and strive to achieve your goals then you are your own hero because you continued to be successful for yourself.

Nothing Without a Woman or a Girl

a woman working in a kitchen

Image by: Jeff Rosenberg

Being a woman has been seen as a weakness for years. It is a badge of honor that comes with many exclusions. Personally, I have faced a lot of adversities in my life and unfortunately being a woman was one of them. In this society, women are viewed as weaker than their male counterparts and are usually placed in “easier” job profession. My whole childhood was surrounded by a fellowship of women. I grew up in a household in which my family entirely consisted of women; my mother, my grandmother, and my two sisters. I was always raised to be independent and to not feel the need to accept the opinions of others. This enabled me to create my own goals outside of what was often presented to me by worldly views. So many women have paved a way for the world in which we live in today, one that is not perfect or completely accepting of the roles that women can have in the job force but one that has greatly improved on this subject over the years. In the culinary field alone, we have so many amazing women who have made it possible to normalize the idea of a woman being in the kitchen cooking or baking on a restaurant quality scale, not simply in the confines of her family’s kitchen. Some names range from Julia Childs, Martha Stewart, Pati Jinich, and Lidia Bastianich.

Being in a profession as a pastry chef, it is a career path that is generally chosen by women. There is this unspoken assumption in the culinary and confectionery world that readily explains that culinary because it is more grueling or is often thought to require more effort is a male-dominated occupation while confectionary is for women since it requires precision, intricacy, and elegance. I do not believe in the power of gender roles as it can be too overwhelming in trying to deeply read into what society views as what is acceptable based on gender. Everyone should be able to do as they please and follow their dreams according to their own goals and dreams not directly stemming from the society’s point of gender norms.

a cake covered in rainbow sprinkles

Image by: Butter & Scotch

There is a bar and bakery hybrid restaurant located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn that is centered around women empowerment. Butter & Scotch is an establishment that is own and operated by women. Though the staff isn’t all women, it does evoke a sense of female leadership as the owners of this bar/bakery are women in a profession of bartending and baking that combines the occupation of pastry arts that is more female-dominated by gender norms and the career of bartending that is more androcentric. It has all the fun of ordering a slice of cake or pie while also offering the opportunity to enjoy an alcoholic beverage to accompany the amazing selection of desserts. This one of a kind restaurant also donates one dollar from each cocktail to Planned Parenthood to benefit women’s health. It is truly a haven for the empowerment of women and to change the view of the restaurant world in terms of a woman’s place in it. So I say a toast to all the women out there, and a Happy Women’s History Month!

 

 

 

A Birthday Slice of Cheesecake

a birthday balloon in the sky

Image by: Becca

Family…it is the one thing in this world that we are born into or given in this world. But along the way we are allowed to choose our families by the people that we naturally connect with as well as the people who readily understand us. We are essentially given two families in the world, the ones that we are naturally a part of and the one that we create for ourselves…the one that we choose. Regardless of this, it is always important to be family-oriented…in terms of spending time with the people that you love and those that love you. It is something truly special about creating memories with loved ones because these are times that will be cherished forever. There are events and specific times in life that we want to share with other people such as anniversaries, sporting events, birthdays, et cetera. This past weekend was my older sister’s birthday and my family spent most of the time planning out the festivities that we would indulge in to celebrate this special birthday.

We were so torn on what activities to partake in for the entire family to enjoy as well as the birthday girl. My family rarely has time where we can all get together as a whole to spend time together but for big events such as graduations or birthdays, we somehow manage to find a way to compromise busy schedules in order to be available for the events. Still, we had a fun-filled weekend of going to the movies, visiting a local bakery for dessert, opening birthday presents, playing glow-in-the-dark miniature golf, and going to dinner as a family.

My older sister, Amanda, absolutely loves cheesecake so it is almost a tradition to treat her to a visit to Cheesecake Factory in order to celebrate her birthday accordingly. But that is not always the case as we almost always seem to have some time of car trouble around the time of her birthday that prevents us from being able to travel to Long Island to her favorite restaurant. This year, thankfully, our family car was operating greatly which gave us the opportunity to throw her the best birthday possible.

an individual cheesecake on a decorated plate with fruit

Image by: Reggie Lam

There are many versions of cheesecake, both sweet and savory. But there are many variations of cheesecakes, the French cheesecake that usually uses  Neufchâtel cheese which is creamier and tarty as well as the Italian cheesecake that uses ricotta cheese or mascarpone cheese which results in a drier texture of cheesecake. But my all-time favorite, as well as my older sister, is the New York-style cheesecake which uses sour cream in the batter which has a tangy but rich texture and flavor which is absolutely delicious. Cheesecake has become such a centrical part of celebrating her birthday and I hope that it was just as special this year.

Born to Stand Out

a colorful vegetarian dish

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

I’m assuming here, but I believe that everyone at some stage of their lives has felt like an outsider or been bullied because they were different. The word, “normal,” is tantalizing as it is, represents something that society views as a standard or status quo. The truth is that everyone’s aspect of what is normal varies from person to person. It can be very difficult to truly pinpoint the characteristics of what normality is in a human form. I am sure that as you are reading this that something has come to mind…a groundbreaking moment in your life where you felt like a pariah, a defining moment of your life where you realized that you are different from everyone else. Sure, there are times when we all fit in…such as being in college, where every single person that you encounter is seeking the same educational experience as you regardless of personal matters.

Do you remember the difficult moments in life when you felt as if your entire world was destroyed because you didn’t fit in…no matter how hard you tried, you just didn’t belong? Or the times that your parent would say something empowering to you in order to encourage that you are special…that being different is the most unique and special thing about you? I have never had either one of my parents be that driving force in reinforcing my self-esteem. They never readily saw the struggles that I faced or offered any support through the instances where I relied on them the most. I have never felt that I belonged anywhere…a place I once called home was simply a location of residence and nothing more. I have been ridiculed so often in my life that I have no recollection of where I felt that I fit in. I was the epitome of being different. And, at the age of ten, I realized it. I was a rarity…there were not a lot of other ten year olds-at least none that I knew- that were homeschooled, multiracial vegetarians who was being raised by an overly strict single parent (but was still allowed to have a dyed streak of bright pink hair) in a purely matriarch household.

a bowl of ice cream and cookies

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

I suppose what I am trying to say is everyone is special…each person is one of a kind. You were born to stand out. For so much of my life, I attempted to distance myself from going against the social norms but I am beginning to understand the value of simply being me. I want so badly to be successful in this world…in my life…in the lives of those that I have become a part of so heavily. I want to stand out…I want to be recognized for the differences that I possess from others. I utilize my familiarity of being different to help me be a better baker and pastry chef. And it helped me especially in situations where my uniqueness was celebrated. I remember when I took a lab course for my major of hospitality management which was The Art of Vegetarian Cuisine…it was amazing to realize that though my life may have been very different than my peers, I could still be accepted by way of the knowledge that it has given me along the way. Unlike many of my peers, I was able to directly understand the class as well as the vast variety of ingredients being used as it reminded me of my childhood. As a chef, it evoked my expansive palate by way of the culinary experiences that I’ve been lucky enough to have despite being different.

I Want Candy

the economy candy marquee

Image by: Sabrina Vasquez

Do you remember how easy life was when you were a kid? How even though life may have seemed difficult then, it is even more complicated now? I miss that life. I miss the simplicity of life without worries or stress. As a child, the only thing that I worried about was school but as I got older, it became more about what my career goals were, who I am as a person, and making a mark in the world. It is exhausting to become so engulfed in what the future holds,  and in discovering what your place will be in that timeline.

Life is a roller coaster of emotions and the hectic scheduling of college does little to lessen those ever-changing emotions.If anything, it intensifies them. I believed that once my tedious routine naturally reached a lull, that my life would become calmer. But having graduated, my life has not necessarily gotten any more relaxed; I have simply completed the academic educational process but there is still so much that overwhelms me. But, I am realizing that life is something that you fight for each and every day in order to reach the life that you want to live, a life that you wish to pursue. Life should be about enjoyment and fulfillment… that is what we all are seeking in this world; it is what we all deserve. Life comes with its natural hardships but it is about always trying to connect to positivity in order to fully seek happiness.

candy for sale on a table inside economy candy

Image by: Sabrina Vasquez

There is a candy shop named Economy Candy which is located in lower Manhattan, just over the Williamsburg Bridge. This was only my third time coming to this shop but it always feels the same as the first. I swear that I transported wavelengths and millions of dimensions into a small child again. Seeing the array of candy and antique games, it allowed me to forget all my worries at once. I began to feel the simplicity of life again…no matter who you are and the tragic moments or struggles that you have endured, there were still small moments in which those faded away in order for complete serenity to take place. This shop brought those small positive moments back to life for me. I was overcome by the feeling of amusement. Most of us have a positive connection to certain candies that remind us of happier times in our childhood and that is what this shop did for me. There were chocolate candy bars of all varieties that you can purchase either individually or by the pound. There is even a nook in the back of the store where you can purchase individual popular flavors of jellybeans as well as individual colors of M&M’s. The staff is amazing in making sure that you find the candy that you intended to purchase as well as answering any impending questions that you may have or giving advice on certain candies that may pique your interest, based on your favorite candies. The store also carries a large selection of dried fruits aside from all the other sweet treats.

a lever to a jelly belly vendor

Image by: Sabrina Vasquez

green M&M's in a vendor

Image by: Sabrina Vasquez

This is definitely a place that I would recommend anyone to visit as it enables you to be able to be a kid all over again. My experience at Economy Candy is one that I will never forget…it was the most memorable time and it also satisfied my sweet tooth with all the candy that I devoured.

a retro toy for balloon modeling on a shelf

Image by: Sabrina Vasquez

Comment below on what are your favorite candies from positive childhood experiences.

Love is a Sweet Surrender

What is love? Is it an emotion or an action? Why is it both amazing and yet painful? Love is the most natural thing in life…before we even realize it or have the knowledge of what love is, we have already loved. We have already experienced the greatest part of life itself. When we are born, we don’t choose to love…we aren’t mentally capable of being taught how to love either, it simply occurs naturally. We don’t pick who loves us or have any choice in it, it just is. I believe that love is both an emotion and an action as you feel the strong feelings that you have towards that person but you also continue to show your love by saying, “I love you” or by other displays of affection.

This weekend, I was forced into a family outing which I usually am not the biggest fan of, as some of the members of my family do not readily understand me. So there we were, driving around Long Island, looking for something to do or somewhere to eat. I was in a daze, my earbuds were shoved deep into my ears before the music imploded into them, drowning out a world that I desperately needed a short vacation from, if only for the duration of a single song. Then, we drove past a bakery. This was a bakery that I had wanted to visit for some time. I asked if we could pull over so we could go and check it out. It had this big draping awning that read, “Home of the Crannoli”. That was literally the entire reason that I wanted to step into this bakery at all… to try this confectionery masterpiece…to be transported into a sugar-filled trance…to be overwhelmed with the goodness of another food hybrid. The crannoli was the perfect cross between a cannoli, donut, and a croissant.

As I savored this majestic dessert, it was everything that I expected it to be and more. It had a crisp and flaky shell of a croissant that was delicately shaped like a doughnut but had the richness of the cream to make it the most balanced dessert. It was perfection. But I suppose I am missing my point. I was reminiscing about love and its meaningful qualities. I could easily say that I experienced love when I took my very first bite into my crannoli but that is not quite the point that I am trying to make. You see, we have all loved someone…someone who has impacted our lives greatly…someone who has loved us back unconditionally. I remember what that was like to love someone so much that it became my whole world. It made me a better person. When you lose someone that you love so completely, it is the most painful thing ever. So when I saw this particular bakery, it appealed to me beyond my amusement of its famous crannoli but the actual name of the bakery. The bakery was named Sweet Surrender Bake House. And that was it. That is what love is…a sweet surrender. Love can be painful, beautiful, fulfilling, and tumultuous but it is all worth it. Love is simply surrendering to your feelings in order to be a part of someone else’s world, their life, or their future. Love is the greatest sacrifice because there is no limit to it and that is an experience that I will never regret…that I could never fathom forgetting. Love, in its truest form, endures forever regardless of the circumstances. Love is a sweet surrender.

My Life is a Bakery

book with empty cup of coffee

Image by: Sofia Oliveira

Welcome back to all the students of City Tech…it is truly an honor to have the opportunity to return as a blogger for Openlab’s The Buzz despite being a graduate of the college. I hope that everyone is excited to become so busy with classes, tests, and homework that you barely have time for a social life. But honestly, I hope that everyone has a successful semester and is proud of themselves for getting another semester started, getting closer to their goal of graduation. I thought a lot about what I wanted my first post to be about…what I wanted to discuss. As always, food is what motivates me, it is the one thing that I never cease to have a passion for. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t have an appreciation for food and its innovation in our world. When I write my posts, I tend to battle with myself: a debate on what is appropriate to write or discuss especially when it is personally affecting my life. I wonder if being honest about my personal struggles is helpful to others or too humiliating to put on such a public forum. The truth is, no matter who you are, we all face our own specific struggles on the day-to-day basis.

From my experience and having graduated college, it has honestly been the most difficult time for me. It is the first time in my life where academics don’t play a central role in my life. I don’t have to worry about homework assignments, midterms, finals, or attending six classes. And yet, I have no clear idea of what I want to do with my life now. A ton has occurred in my life that has forever changed me into a different person. I have dealt with loss and faced both depression as well as anxiety. I quit baking because it didn’t bring me as much joy as it once did. I wanted happiness but I felt guilty for it.

The month of January was a big turning point for me as I was able to hang out with my sister Sabrina more often without her stressful and tedious college schedule. She is my confidant, my best friend. I honestly don’t know where I would be without her. She has seen me in both my best and worst moments. I love her. She has helped to guide me through my depression as she motivated me to maintain a social life and by getting me out of the house. We were able to embark on many adventures during her break from school. One of my favorite places to go with her is Mia’s Bakery which is located not too far from the college. It has a café within a bakery where you can sit down peacefully while enjoying the amazing drinks and pastries that they offer. It has been the host place for many deep conversations that we have divulged.

a decorated plate of pie and a mug filled with green tea

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

The last time that we went there, we enjoyed ourselves as always: laughing, exchanging secrets, and carrying on about the current situations in our lives. I had the banana cream pie and a matcha latte…both were utterly delicious. I cannot merely put into words the richness and creaminess of the pie while the matcha perfectly offset the sweetness of the dessert. Sabrina thoroughly enjoyed her strawberry marble cheesecake and a vanilla macchiato. It is times like these that I live for…the simple togetherness of people and enjoying each other’s company.

The World of Cupcakes

Cupcakes stacked on a tier stand

Image by: Bren Alanis

Cupcakes. There is not much to say about cupcakes when defining them as their name gives away the true necessary reasoning of its existence. It is essentially a miniature version of a cake for an individualized portion that can be served without the hassle of slicing a cake. This ensures the same portion for each person as the sizing of the cupcakes is always the same instead of the varying comparison of cake slices. Hence the coined name of the cupcake…a cake that is shaped like a cup. While cupcakes are the kryptonite to pastry chefs like Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes (you know, the star of Ace of Cakes and many other Food Network television programs), they are innovative creations.There are still varying sizes of cupcakes between the standard size, jumbo size, and miniature size…they all serve the same purpose. Somehow, the world has become so widely in love with all things in miniature versions which is why cupcakes became so trendy as they were viewed as miniature versions of cakes. It is amazing to see the many creations that can be made from such a small dessert of cupcakes.

Food hybrids are still taking both the culinary and confectionary worlds by storm as it allows for two individual foods to be paired together in order to create an entirely new food item. This is what occurred with the cronut which was the pairing of the croissant and the doughnut as well as the pizza cone which is the conjoined duo of the fixings in a pizza slice wrapped in a cone to have the appearance of an ice cream cone. Cupcakes have somehow become a part of this trend especially since it challenges chefs to not only create a food hybrid with a cupcake but to produce a hybrid on a smaller scale to fit the size of a cupcake as well.

There are amazing cupcake hybrids that the dessert world has to offer…one being the flan cupcake. Flan is a spongy caramelized custard that has a syrupy caramel. This is then made into a miniature version and topped onto a cupcake in lieu of frosting.

a small flan on top of a cupcake

Image by: Alma

Another being the crème brulee cupcake which consists of the cupcake center being hulled out to then be filled with a custard filling. Instead of being frosted with traditional frosting, it is topped with the custard before having sugar sprinkled over it then it is blowtorched to get the beautiful caramelized bruleed finish.

a cupcake with a caramelized topping

Image by: beantownbaker

Lastly, there is the croquembouche cupcake which is based off of the famous French dessert which consists of cream puffs that are precisely layered in order to compile into a cone shaped that is then bound together with threads of caramel. This is a dessert that is readily made for special events such as for weddings. This is a complex dessert to replicate onto a cupcake because it must be made on such a miniature scale in which there are miniature cream puffs that are stacked into a very small cone that can fit into the parameters of the cupcake itself before being decorated accordingly with the hot caramel.

a small tower of mini cream puffs on a cupcake

Image by: cupcakegalore

Comment below on dessert hybrids that you would like to be created on a cupcake.