Today was the second of my two adult cooking classes. This was the candy installment, and we made three kinds of marshmallow, two kinds of toffee, and a batch of carmel corn in a space of three hours. Everyone went home with bundles of treats and recipes.
This is my last cooking class of the year, but I'm planning a repeat of this candy class for January. I'm really enjoying the baking/cooking classes, both the adults and the kid versions.
There is an idea for a kid class (after the new year) that is simmering in my brain. It would cover planning a meal, as well as making it. I want to introduce the ideas of ordering or organizing, of figuring out what order you need to make the pieces that make up the meal.
Last weekend, I had a date with Julia. The girls went out with Big E and Grand M to harvest pumpkins at a friend's farm. And I made Beef Bourguignon with Julia Child.
I met Julia once, when I was about Sweetheart G's age. It was in a corner store, and she was larger than life. Tall, vibrant, and that voice. And so kind. I said, "You're Julia Child. My mom loves you." To which she said, "Tell your Mom I love her, too."
Julia's TV shows ranked as must-see material in our house, along side M.A.S.H. or the Muppet Show. I found this today. I tell you, I miss her.
The Boeuf was lovely, just as Julia said it would be.
This was the last of the scheduled classes, but I have ideas for more and a plan for another set in August. In the future, I would not set three classes back to back. Those of us who did all three were a bit tired on this last day.
We started our day with a quick buttermilk biscuit recipe. I figured we needed something to sample our jam on.
And then we washed, cut, and mashed our berries. We double checked our set-up, and started jammin'.
By far, I talked the most in this class, and my hand outs where the wordiest. This was also the only project where I stressed the need for an adult to be present.
Our local berries were tasty! Much taste testing was done, and each student left with two half pints of strawberry and two of raspberry.
I really enjoyed creating and teaching these classes.
As full energy as the lessons were, (and each one was three hours of go-go-go) I wasn't tired at the end of each day. And best of all, I was able to spend time with Sweetheart G and her friends.
In our second day of recipes revolving around eggs, we made Choux Pastry. I've always found choux to be an magical dough. The ingredients are so simple (boiling water, flour, salt, sugar, eggs and butter), but you mix it on the stove, and when it bakes it forms these mysteriously hollow shells. What must that French pastry chef have though when he first discovered this?
What makes choux pastry even better is how forgiving it is.
Each student had their own pastry bag full of warm dough to work their own baking sheets. It was quite satisfying to watch the improvement in piping skills as the baking sheets rotated through the oven and cooling cycle to be refilled.
While the puffs cooled we worked on our folding technique.
Whipped cream was folded into lemon curd and pastry cream to form our fillings. The lemon cream was too soft in the warm kitchen, so we only filled puffs that were eaten immediately.
We had cooked two versions of pastry cream the previous day, one with flour and one with cornstarch. We were careful to keep the two creams separate so we could compare the final product.
More pastry bags and tips were brought out and the girls (it was an all girl class this day) worked on filling each puff. And then, with a simple ganache (bittersweet chocolate chips and hot cream) to top the puffs, they were ready for sampling.
On our second day of baking class, the recipes included meringues, lemon curd, and pastry cream. We started with a lot of practice separating eggs. We talked about yolks and whites, fat and protein, and how eggs can add richness, hold air or provide lift depending on how they are used.
This class had only three students, so we worked more as a group than in teams. Everyone still had a chance for hands-on practice. The egg whites were mixed until firm and glossy, and then we tested their doneness...
with the Julia Child, "But can you hold it over your head?" Test. To Sweetheart G's relief it passed. While the mounds of meringues baked, we cooked up lemon curd and the pastry cream on top of the stove. The two recipes made a good contrast of indirect (on a double boiler) and direct (on the heat) cooking. Half of the curd went home with them with some fresh fruit for pavlovas.
The remaining curd and pastry cream was reserved for the next day's class.
The day of our project, the girls and I made a second batch of dough. The girls mixed and kneaded, and then we swapped the fresh dough for the risen batch.
Then, the girls rolled and shaped the dough into bagel shapes.
I have to say that this thick, sturdy dough is perfect for working with smaller children. The dough was firm and slightly tacky, but required no additional flour to roll and shape.
When it came time to boiling and baking the bagels, I did most of the hot work. (I was going to let the girls do more hands on stuff, but Big E nixed it.)
Best of all, the bagels were really tasty!
I have to also add that I am still overcoming my own Yeast driven anxiety (what if I kill it!?), and that Reinhart's recipes had the perfect balance of wordy instruction and photos for me. The thoroughness of his instruction meant that I was willing to make this recipe with children without pretesting it first (which in my world, says a lot!).
Last week, in between the flash of the last day of school, and the avalanche of food at Big E's birthday dinner, I taught my first baking class. This was the first of four baking classes for children aged ten and up.
This particular class included lunch, so we began our session with making dough for tortillas. This class covered measuring techniques, ingredients, the why and the how behind baking soda versus baking powder.
It was a really fun day. I borrowed a friend's gorgeous kitchen for this lesson, which was quite a luxury. I think future classes will take place in my own, more modest kitchen. It was a bit of a shock when I realized just how much stuff I use when I cook. And it makes my head hurt a little when I think of how many more things I will need when the next three classes take place.
The class ended with our baking up a ton of chocolate chip cookies: two different recipes, two different brown sugars, and two different grades of chocolate.
The next set of classes, a two day class, will cover a variety of egg based recipes. We'll make lemon curd, pastry cream, meringues, choux pastry, chocolate ganache, and whip cream. We'll talk about shining peaks, folding, piping, and there will be a whole bunch of egg separating. It should be a good time.
Then there is a stand alone class where we'll make and can jam. The berries have finally begun in earnest, and I'm looking forward to cooking them up and sampling the product on fresh buttermilk biscuits. (Yes, we'll be making biscuits, too.)