29 April 2009

cram time

metalworkspace03its cram time! I devoted all my time this semester to life (jobs, baking, etc.) and now that things are set, the focus is back on school. but I can only concentrate on one one thing at a time, and right now its metals. photo is almost done with, ind study is in my head (slightly stressed about completing that), french and chinese are OK, but metals is where i’m at right now mentally.

above is what approximately 900 USD of silver looks like. it blows my mind  how a few thin sheets of it is worth (money wise) more than any single item I have. Camera didn’t cost that much, laptop didn’t either, my car definitely did, but that doesn’t really count. the important lesson is this: apply for grants/fellowships/scholarships/etc – there is a lot of money out there hidden away, you just have to find it and apply for it! and now I am free to experiment and explore without the burden of cost.


kiwiring one of the fruit rings i made for my last crit – it’s a set of about 10 rings, but here is a small preview of what they are basically like.


metalworkspace01 i’ve taken over way too many desks, but it’s a necessity!


preview of things to come!

by next thursday, they’ll be transformed into something beautiful. and that will be the END OF UNDERGRAD! In one week!

26 April 2009

macarons and kolaches

macaron03despite not having any experience in the food industry…

kolache01 despite never attending a culinary school either…

macaron06 and despite the fact that i can only be around until mid-september…

kolache02 …I still got a job might get a job (edit as of 5/2/09) as an entry level pastry assistant.

macaron04YEP! It’s true. Passion, love, work, effort, being nice, detail, etc. etc. etc. is all it takes. There is never one route to a goal – all it takes is to figure out what works for you.

kolache03I absolutely can’t wait to start. But now, with summer roommate, summer housing, and summer job all taken care of, I can finally put 100% of my energy back into school. Last two weeks, hurray! It will be crazy but so wonderful.

macaron05 I was asked to bring in some samples of my work, and I chose pairs that represented my biggest loves in life. France and Asia. Sweet and Savory. Pastries and Breads. Strawberries and Green Onion. macarons and taiwanese style kolaches.

kolache04 the next year of my life is going to be so exciting.

edit 5/2/09 – don’t have a job just yet, got too excited.

PS: attention to detail definitely helped. for example:

1. i called the company beforehand and asked for the recruiter’s name, and addressed my application to him

2. the recruiter mentioned his wife was gluten intolerant, so i made macarons which are naturally gluten-free

3. i brought my samples in disposable strawberry containers and paper bags so they was no issue of me wanting to keep my container and forcing them to find a way to store the stuff.

4. i made some vegetarian bread as well just in case so I would not alienate any non-meat eaters.

5. i made finger food so there was no need to bring out silverware.

6. i was honest and did not lie. i told them upfront that I was going to be leaving, and that I had no professional experience 0r culinary school education. this way there will be no surprises later on. and they still were willing to hire me!

so be aware. and think about how you can make things smoother and more convenient. listening and paying attention can work wonders.

PPS: more details later since i was only verbally hired, when there is some pen to paper action I will share more :)

PPPS: for the macarons, the pink filling is strawberry almond buttercream, and the brown is hazelnut cocoa almond buttercream. for the kolaches, it’s the taiwanese chewy sweet bread topped with mayonnaise, ketchup, and green onion wrapped around an italian sausage.

24 April 2009

a treasure from the library

applewalnuttart01 look what I found at the library! well… sort of. it is none other than the tarte aux pommes au lait d’amande douce by Pierre Hermé. Or in English, apple tart with… sweet almond milk? That’s a literal translation, please forgive my poor translation!

pierrepclbook01you see, a few months ago, around february, on a whim I typed in “perre herme” for a search at our library’s catalog. and… there was a result. a most beautiful result. Secrets Gourmands. It’s an amazing book for the photos alone – they are backlit and extremely dramatic. They’re made in a way that they redefine what a pastry is without taking away its essence.

pierrepclbook02I keep renewing the book because I don’t want to give it up. Just look at this pitiful card. Nobody has checked out this book since 1999! That is a a shame. And I know once I return it (when I graduate and I’m gone, not a moment earlier!), it’ll sit there for probably another ten more years until someone finds it. So if you happen to go to UT Austin, take advantage of the fact that our library has such a beautiful book, and go find it and obsess over it like I did!

applewalnuttart02 The lovely ingredients which you will need:

1 sweet pie crust

1kg apples de saison (in season)

40g orgeat syrup veritable (genuine)

100g seedless green grapes

30g pine nuts

30g chopped walnuts

40g granulated sugar

40g butter

powdered sugar, as needed

He specifies apples in season. Yes… I know I made this in the spring, when they aren’t… but I just love apples too much! There goes my eco points.

applewalnuttart03 He also specifies genuine orgeat syrup. My first question was, what the heck is orgeat? Thank goodness for google. Apparantly it’s an almond syrup of sugar, almonds, and water that is most well known for being in Mai-Tais. Off to the alcohol store, where I promptly found it. Except I don’t consider it “genuine” because the first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. Sorry Mr. Hermé, but it’s a little hard in Texas to find good stuff... But don’t worry, I will look again when I come to France!

applewalnuttart04 Ingredients all prepped up. (and yes, I accidently ground instead of chopped my walnuts. oh well.)


Recipe Adapted from Secrets Gourmands by Pierre Hermé.

1. Peel and chop half of your apples into cubes of 5-7 mm. I slacked and just used the mandoline and made some strips, but they worked out fine.

2. Melt your butter in a pan, then add the apples and granulated sugar on a high temperature for 3 minutes or until they are soft.

3. Take it off the fire and add in your grapes, pine nuts, and walnuts. Mix it up, let it cool, cover, and refrigerate it until needed.

4. Prebake your piecrust until nice and brown. Do it your way, or if you curious about Mr. Herme’s method: roll out your tart crust, line your tart pan with it, then place a sheet of parchment paper on top and fill it with apricot pits or dried beans and bake for 15 min a 350F degree oven.

5. Add in the filling, and top with grated apples.

6. Bake in a preheated 350F oven.

7. When finished, sprinkle with powdered sugar. And eat. So, so, delicious!

applewalnuttart08 applewalnuttart09

20 April 2009

quinoa + beets + onions


i have a new love. solely because it makes everything beautiful. the beet.

can you believe I'd never really had beets before? i know for sure my mother has never used it in cooking, and its not so common in American cuisine either. i bought some beets a while ago to dry them out, but I had some extra sitting in my fridge.

today was also the first day I used quinoa – i’ve got too many vegan and vegetarian friends who talk about it a lot, and I impulsively decided to get some today because I needed to do something with my beets before they went bad.

and i had no idea how easy it was to make quinoa! i threw it into a pan, dumped in some water, put in some chopped beets and onions, and waited… and voila! Dinner. Somewhat tasteless because i didn’t add any salt or spices, but I kind of like it super simple.

fox Lately photography has been dominating my life. I had my first commercial job, which was photographing vintage purses! An absolute pleasure.

And I’ve also been venturing past offices and into the homes of collectors. And I was able to photograph a lovely fox collection. Still need to decide where I am taking this project.

2 weeks until the end of school…! until I am free to pursue my interests full force without the awkward chunk of time that school takes up…! Oooh, do I have plans! I can’t wait to share them when they are more concrete.

15 April 2009

taiwanese sweet breads

I may be going to France, but I definitely, definitely have not forgotten about Taiwan! My heart longs for it every day, for my family and friends, but also because… I just love the bread. I covered some savory breads a while ago, and now here is a short introduction to some of their sibling, the sweet breads!

these breads are often eaten for breakfast or for a snack, you'll rarely see anyone munching on these for a real meal or at night. though in my case, i'd happily munch any day, any time!

and a side note, the ingredient list were just copied down from whatever was on the tag when I bought the bread. they are pretty inaccurate as they leave out a ton of stuff that I know for sure is in the bread, so think of them more as guidelines. I suppose the laws over there are not so stringent as the US ones for ingredient lists!


奶酪麵包 / nai3 lao4 mian4 bao1 / cheese bread / pain fromage


麵粉 / mian4 fen 3 / flour / la farine

雞蛋 / ji1 dan4 / egg / les œufs

鮮 奶 / xian1 nai3 / fresh milk / le lait frais

奶油 / nai3 you2 / butter / le beurre

糖 / tang2 / sugar / le sucre


Unlike Western breads, where if they have the word “cheese” in the title, the cheese dominates the bread and there is no way you’d miss it. However, in Asian bread, just because this bread has the word cheese it, doesn’t mean you may realize it! It’s used subtly because the Taiwanese are not so crazy about cheese. This bread has a very light cheese stuffing in the middle, and I’m not entirely sure what it’s made of. As for the topping, they had a bit of crunch to them, and I’m going to assume they’re cheese related as well.


26NT = .78USD = .58EURO


菠蘿麵包 / bo1 luo2 mian4 bao1 / pineapple bread / pain aux ananes


麵粉 / mian4 fen3 / flour / la farine

菠蘿包 / bo1 luo2 bao1 / pineapple “skin” / la peau d’ananes

雞蛋 / ji1 dan4 / egg / les œufs

乳酪粉 / ru3 lao4 fen3 / cheese powder / poudre du fromage


The standard! You will see this bread everywhere in Taiwan, each one tasting and looking slightly different because each bakery has their own little secrets. It may be called pineapple bread, but it has nothing taste-wise to do with it. Because of it’s crusty golden color and criss cross pattern on top, it slightly resembles a pineapple, so the name just stuck. It’s composed of a soft chewy bread made of eggs, flour, milk, and butter and topped with a skin that is crunchier and more cookie-like made of sugar, butter, flower, vanilla extract, milk, and eggs. Sometimes you might even find it with a sweet filling, but you never know.

price: (I bought a mini bolo bread)

12NT = .36USD = .27EURO



黑芝麻麵包 / hei1 zhi1 ma2 mian4 bao1 / black sesame seed bread / pain aux graines de sésame noire


麵粉 / mian4 fen 3 / flour / la farine

雞蛋 / ji1 dan4 / egg / les œufs

鮮 奶 / xian1 nai3 / fresh milk / le lait frais

奶油 / nai3 you2 / butter / le beurre

黑芝麻餡 / hei1 zhi1 ma2 xian4 / black sesame seed stuffing


A soft and chewy bread with sesame paste spread throughout. So good. Sesame paste and coconut paste are the peanut butters of the asian world, they’re pretty common and people often use it spread simply on a piece of a toast. So of course it would find itself mixed in with lots of bread as well! I think it just gives this bread a lovely pop of unexpected color and contrast.


20NT = .59USD = .45EURO



香蔥肉鬆蛋糕棒 / xiang1 cong1 rou4 song1 dan4 gao1 bang4 / green onion cake stick / bâton à l’oignon vert


香蔥 / xiang1 cong1 / green onion / oignon vert

肉鬆 / rou4 song1 / pork floss / ?

沙拉醬 / sha1 la1 jiang4 / mayonnaise / mayonnaise

白芝麻 / bai2 zhi1 ma2 xian4 / white sesame seeds


A sweet cake. With some savory. Even I am not sure how to approach this one. It’s a rolled cake, like your typical Swiss rolls. Except it has green onion, pork floss, and sesame seeds baked into it. And then it has a super thin layer of light sweet mayonnaise. It didn’t taste bad, but I think it takes some adjusting to if you are coming in with Western taste buds since we are trained to think that cakes are sweet only. How I love the Taiwanese for making up such interesting and different breads!


35NT = 1.04USD = .78EURO

and a bonus that wasn’t part of the original set:


My grandma bought this, so I’ve no idea what it’s called. But it is a normal piece of that delicious chewy Taiwanese bread that has that “pineapple skin” on top twhich I talked about in the 2nd bread for this post. And it is also sprinkled with black sesame seeds, which is nearly always an indicator that there is a filling, and that filling is almost always red bean. So there’s a sweet red bean paste stuffed inside this odd shaped bread.

11 April 2009

the cupcake and the egg


my heart is beating again.

i hope i can share happy news about it later.

but for now, please enjoy this cupcake. and a large egg for comparison’s sake.

ps: anybody from austin should recognize that cupcake

10 April 2009

photography projects

I'm driving myself mad with all these photography things I want and need to do. I’m writing them down so they are nice and organized or else my mind is going to go crazy. so here goes:

1. People’s bookshelves and the things on them beyond books. How what we place on our bookshelves reflects who we are.

2. Library circulation desks and how personalities of current and past employees and patrons are left behind through the collection of toys and object that build up.

3A. The semi-private and public offices of my professors. After all, that’s where I spend a lot of my time, but it is also where some of the most important conversations I have happen – this is where stories get shared, advice is given, and encouragement is wished upon. This is where I really get to know the professors.


-3B. The semi-private and public offices of my professors and the little personal shrines that build up through their collections. THEN photograph the truly private collections – at their own homes. (! prof is most intrigued by this one. And it is the most challenging.)

4. Continue fresh and dried series, but head into veggies, meats, and leafy greens. (last priority since it isn’t school)

edit: 4/20, forgot about this one:

5. Document everything American for my future students. Signs, people, anything - to erase the cowboy image that I'm pretty sure the French have of Texas!

I’ll leave you with some shots at a baking supply shop in Taiwan to give this post some random visuals.

taiwanbakingsupply02 i actually am not so fond of the whisk. i’m much more loyal to the spatula. i could write a whole post about why i love my spatula. in fact, i think i will one day…

taiwanbakingsupply01 gorgeous baking cups. and CHEAP. why does america have such low packaging standards?? appearances DO matter. i actually do have a post about american bakery packaging brewing in my mind. later though.

fresh and dried: kiwis







09 April 2009

grad school plans

emphasis on plans. minimum 5 years later. i want a break from school, I need some life experiences doing things! but i already have many ideas for what I want to research for grad school.

oh yes, i forgot to mention, as of right now, i don’t want to go to grad school for art. mainly because those programs are aimed at people who want to teach art a college level or are serious conceptual artists who are truly making art. There are a few people at my school right now that are like that, and I know for sure I’m not like that. I'm not a very conceptual person, i prefer to focus on form and design, and I don’t feel as if the contemporary art world direction is right for me. It doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about it, only that my interests don’t match up with the graduate programs. and plus, the art related things i do like to do, i don’t feel as if i need school as much as I would need it for linguistics. but perhaps the more realistic reason is that i'm just a little bit tired of art school and would like a change. remember, i prefer small bites of everything over one big bite of one thing.

My interest in languages goes very well with many linguistics programs. Plus they still bring in my passion for art and food.

Topics I enjoy and would perhaps pursue:

1. How the choice of words we use reflect who we are as a person. (this may not be the correct title, but its all I can think of at the moment.) For example, in our photography class, my professor, Lawrence McFarland, became very passionate about the difference between shooting a photo, taking a photo, and making a photo. In the end, the same thing happens: a new photo exists.

Shooting a photo implies the photographer is forceful, rude, invasive, and harsh. Shooting is for guns and weapons. When you shoot a photo, its aligning yourself with those objects of destruction. And that is not what photography should be about.

Taking a photo implies you know nothing about what you are doing. You’re just mindlessly pushing the button. Harmless, but no real thinking involved.

However, when you make a photo, you are thinking about what you are trying to communicate. You are creating something in the form of a photograph. There’s a level of skill and thought involved here that the other terms can’t imply.

Another example is from p. 116 of teach yourself linguistics by Jean Aitchison. (I know, i know, i’m a huge dork for reading this book willingly, but I always regretted not taking a linguistics class in college). She (or he?) talks about these 3 phrases:

I should be grateful if you would make less noise.

Please be quiet.

Shut up!

All three of those end in the same result: a person making less noise, but the way you request it makes all the difference. And plus it tells you a lot about the personality of the person making the request.

2. How new words are formed related to culture and food. (again, a terrible title, but I'm not too concerned with naming my topics yet)

Let’s start with the Chinese word “餅” pronounced “bing3”

This character is used in the words:

cookie, 餅乾, “bing3 gan1”, “biscuit”

deep-fried pancake, 油餅, “you2 bing3”, “crêpes chinoises aux oignons”

moon cake, 月餅, “yue4 bing3”, “gâteau de lune”

In other words, there is absolutely no way to translate bing3 concisely. It is anything that is round and flat made from a dough. However, just look at the huge variations in english and french:

A cookie in America is always sweet. A “bing3” can be savory! It can be baked, fried, dried, etc. It can even be a flat bread (for the deep-fried pancake). However, although it is widely accepted to call it a pancake, it actually is a flat bread! Yet you could absolutely not call it a type of bread in Chinese. And yet it is not a pancake, because pancakes use a batter, and this uses a dough. And in French, they call it a crepe, but a crepe is also from a batter and much thinner than the bing3. And a moon cake is most definitely not a cake. You also could not call it a cake back in Chinese. It’s a bing3. The word “cake” in Chinese is completely different

See how 1 word is so confusing? But so fascinating to me.

Another example is “fry.” There are 4 ways to say “fry” in Chinese. However, only one word exists in English for “fry.” And so when Chinese food started to trickle over to the western world, new words were created (and old words adapted) in English to help differentiate between the Chinese definitions of “fry.” Stir-fry, pan-fry, deep fry, and sauté.

3. Ancient phrases that people have adapted to contemporary times. I love how the essence of a phrase never loses it’s meaning regardless of the centuries that pass. And I think it would be nice to study those changes. In Chinese we study a lot of proverbs, and the majority of them are from ancient classical chinese culture, where it was all about emperors and conquering lands and what not. However, the lessons of these proverbs continue as people have updated the context into situations that are of today’s times. The timelessness of them is what makes me so attracted to them.

My current French prof brought up anthropology today when I mentioned language, culture, and food. I hadn’t even considered that topic because I thought I was going into the sociolinguistic realm. But who knows. I’ve got many years to figure out what exactly I want to do!

08 April 2009

creamy apple tart


On to the sweet pie crusts! I love love how easy tarts and quiches are to make (as long as you made the crust a long time ago and it’s in the freezer). They always look complicated to me, but now I know they are definitely not!

Recipe from foodbeam

3 big apples, peeled and sliced (however I only had 2 small ones.)
125ml heavy whipping cream
2 eggs
20g granulated sugar

I peeled and sliced the apples the dumb way. As in, I forgot to peel the apple first, so then I got circle cookie cutters and cut out circles to get rid of the peal. Remember, peel first, then slice! I prebaked the curst, then layered my apples on the crust. Mixed together the cream, eggs, and sugar and poured it over the sliced apples. Baked for about 20 min in a 350F oven.

appletart02 Since the apples are not “melt in your mouth apples”, they retain a slightly crunchy texture that goes perfectly against the cream.


Lately I've been baking at night, where I’ve  no more daylight. But with a hungry roommate, plus a hungry me, there’s no point in waiting until the next day for the sake of getting a nice shot outside. I’d rather make a whole new tart then not eat something for the sake of a silly photo!

07 April 2009

rings sneak peek and french and other ramblings

rings01 dried fruit rings

rings02 the pear ring

All those shots of dried fruit that I have been posting have not been for photography’s sake only. All the fruit, besides being eaten, are being turned into rings for metals. The photographing of them was a side thing, but it’s turning into its own project as well. playing with several ideas: 1. non permanence of jewelry and art in general, 2. food without the use of preservatives, 3. design wise, finding an original shape without destroying the inherent strength of the dried fruit, 4. a friend brought this up, femininity… feminism… this goes deep! that’s not my intent, but if the work makes others think of that, then i should consider it

Let’s talk French! yay!

The post below – that was the longest continuous French paragraph I’ve written. And I can’t wait until I can write something that long without getting a headache. Already, I am referring to wordreference less and less.

Of course i can’t talk when I am excited/happy/nervous in English. Imagine me in French. Imagine me attempting to talk to my French professor this morning in French about getting into the assistantship program. Uh huh, it was embarrassing.

BUT! I think there’s something else to it as well. During the summer, I had absolutely no problem speaking French because I knew very few structures, so everything came out very simple. Passé composé , imparfait, and present were about the only ones I used. And a voudrais every now and then to be polite. But I could form sentences fast in my head because the structures were short and sweet.

Now, I know so much more, and so it takes me a lot longer to formulate my sentences before I can say them. So although its part nervousness that makes me suck at talking, its also because I’m running through 7 or 8 tenses in my head. But it’s getting better. I’m going to speak fluidly eventually, and I know I’ll get plenty of practice!

I no longer feel embarrassed or uneasy about skipping so many French classes, because, I’ve proved that I belong where I am. I worked to catch up, and I’ve got the grades as well as a job in France to prove it! I’ve got one last crazy detail thing I’m doing, but I’ll talk about that later.

Let’s see where I go from here.. 4 weeks until the last day of class!