Terranea Blog

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A Pastry Chef in November

Written by Mark Clear, Assistant Pastry Chef, Terranea Resort

It’s the most wonderful, and stressful, time of the year. Halloween is passed and we need to plan for Christmas.  Thanksgiving may come first, but to many Christmas starts the day after. With the change of seasons come the changing of menus and daily displays.  It’s time to add gallons and gallons of hot apple cider and hot Chocolate to the production list. Putting in orders for pie tins, and fighting suppliers to get quality pumpkin and spices before they give it to our competitors.  Thanksgiving is a very coveted meal, and a second string pumpkin pie will just not do.

All of the staff have now been trained on the new winter menus. The recipes mastered to perfection.  All seven restaurants are satisfied with apple pecan cheesecakes, peppermint bark and rich chocolate bundt cakes.  The gingerbread men have taken over by force.  Then pencil hits paper as we have to draw out our plan for a gingerbread house.  Not a house, but THE house.  Feelings of excitement accompanied by anxiety.   Every year it gets a little bigger, a little taller and it has to be better than last year.  After the plans are made we start making the dough. Rolling out each sheet to the perfect thickness and cutting out all the tiles.  If you don’t do it just right then they will never line up on the house. 

Like all the years past the question comes up, “How many pieces should I cut Chef?”  I have a job that requires me to be good at math.  Let’s see, it’s about six feet tall and four feet wide.  Don’t forget the guest house, the tile floors, and the ceiling tiles.  Let’s see, carry the one, “I’m not sure. Just make the fifty-pound batch, cut them all out and we will see how far that gets us.” Three batches later, I think we have enough.  Royal icing, frosting, glue, and snow are all the same thing.  Just powdered sugar and water.  Simple enough.  You have to make sure you get it just right.  A little too much water and all your tiles slide right off the walls. A little too much sugar and nothing sticks and you can’t feel your hands after piping. A week later you have a house fully covered in thousands of tiles. 

Time for a quick vacation from the gingerbread house.  A lot of my attention has been focused on this house and I have to get up to date on my outlets.  Are the menus still perfected?   Is stock being rotated properly?  Is everything fresh?  Has anyone fallen a bit behind because of the gingerbread house?  Beautiful, we are still a well-oiled machine. A quick tune up and we are off and running again.

Time for the pretty things.  Time to take this drab brown house and make it look as good as it smells.  More pencil to paper. Picking sizes and shapes. We have to make a game plan. Apparently, the hardest part is explaining the image in my head to the staff whose hands have to make it into a reality, keeping each individual's abilities in mind.  Now that our imaginations are on the same page, here it comes again, “How many of each chef?”  I am really good at answering this question normally.  Then I say “four hundred” and I get that look that says “I hate you” but the words I hear are “yes, Chef”.  Step one, make all the pieces out of gingerbread. Step two, decorate all the green frosting and let it dry. Step 3, add lots of color. With about a seven hundred handmade decorations it’s time to decorate the house.

After checking my emails, the fabulous marketing team wants to get involved.  They want pictures and videos and blogs.  I love what I do and when someone offers to take professional pictures of it and their goal is to take that love and help build it in your heart, I have to say yes.  Three days of emails later we have all the details figured out.  It has been decided that we will put all the decorations on in one day, and we can make an awesome timelapse.  I know that a timelapse camera speeds things up in the end, but that was a lot of work that happened in 18 seconds! Watch it here:


The deadline has come.  Everything has gone to plan except that darn model train that won’t go. The backup train is on the way.  The gingerbread house made it onto the display table without catastrophe.  The red ropes are up to keep away all the little (and big) hands away, which never works.  Somewhere in there, Thanksgiving happened and my wife hasn’t left me. It's December first and all I have left to do is make sure that it all stays in one piece for the next month.  Backup decorations are on standby for when the inevitable happens.  You just can’t put up something big, colorful, and edible up without someone getting a taste.  Breath.  The house is done.  Now all you have to do is the fifteen hundred cookies for the tree lighting ceremony in three days.  I have survived another November. Best one yet. 

To make your own Terranea Gingerbread:

1 lb. Butter

1 lb. Sugar, granulated

8 oz. Honey

8 oz. Molasses

2 Eggs

3 lb. Bread Flour

1/4t Salt

1/4t Baking Powder

1/4t Baking Soda

1t Clove, ground

1t Nutmeg, ground

1T Ginger, ground

2T Cinnamon, ground

Cream butter and sugar. Add honey. Add eggs. Add dry ingredients. Bake at 350°F. Makes approx. 30 cookies.


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