Cooking Class Update

–Suzy Wittman

Last week our Spring Term Cooking Class met for the first time, and was charged with the task of creating bread for our orientation outing.  Armed with recipes and packets of yeast, nine brave students worked to create individually-crafted loaves of cinnamon-raisin bread, apple-walnut bread, and whole-wheat dinner rolls.  Despite some past baking experience among class members, there was much to be learned.  When I first asked what substances the yeast would need in order to be active, students answered with ideas ranging from “air,” to “Don’t you have to hit it?”

Rolling out dough for the braided loaf

Working in pairs, students proceeded to proof yeast, mix ingredients, and practice kneading.  Some groups found that simple lessons, including the distinction between a tablespoon and a teaspoon or between sugar and salt DO matter — tremendously! Eventually each group set its creation out to rise, and then transported them carefully in their laps to our retreat site, where the process continued as we punched down, braided, and baked the products. Tasting their work as it emerged from the ovens, students declared varying levels of success.  Taste aside, my goal was for students to understand the process, chemistry, and attention to detail that goes into a good loaf of bread; I believe that most of the kids now have that understanding. What I didn’t expect to enjoy so much was the experience of watching students take pride in their work, which they surely did. As Julia Child reminds us in her series The French Chef, we are living “The Good Loaf”.

This week our class visited the Health Department, where students watched an informational video and earned their Food Handler’s Permits, enabling them to help out with food preparations for our FolkLIKE festival in May.  Next week we will be working with Mataio Gillis of Ciao Thyme Catering to learn knife skills and how to choose the right knife for the job.  The coming weeks will also include a pastry class and an international lunch series prepared by students!

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