Archive for the ‘the Classroom’ Category

Seven Layer Yum Pie from Culinary Arts

January 30, 2012

My students must create a recipe, demonstrate it in front of the class, and serve it nicely, for one of their final semester projects. This is one of those projects…..

Imagine soft, caramelish chocolate chip cookie dough for the base, about 1 inch high

next comes rich fudge, the creamiest fudge ever made with dark chocolate, on top of the cookie dough, about 1 inch high

then comes a layer of Reese’s Peanut butter cups, stacked 2 high on top, remember to take them out of their little papers!

now, take a package of dark chocolate instant pudding mix and whip it with 1 cup of milk to make a very thick, rich pudding and spread this over the peanut butter cups

whew! next layer on Oreos, Sammie and Lydia used double stuffed, but apparently you can use mint, peanut butter, sugar free, vanilla, what ever you like, and these can be stacked 2 high as well, if you wish

for the top, whip 1 cup of cream until stiff, whip in a bit of sugar and vanilla, then slather that over the cookie

it wouldn’t be finished without the cherry on top….as many as you like, read the ingredient label before eating!

then for that mountain look and texture you may crumble 2 oreos over the top and this completes the 7 Layer Yum Pie…..or mountain, complete with glaciers, boulders, snow and …..chocolate. Nice job chefs!


Culinary Arts Students Working

May 5, 2011

Welcome back to our Culinary Arts room.  I want to tell you about the great students I have this semester. There is a nice mix of young men and women.  I find that each student has a talent for some aspect of cooking/baking. they all are beginning to pay attention to the details. Several of the lesson plans hone in on those important details.I ask the questions – what kind of visual details make a food appear more delectable, seductive (yes), palatable? What is the nature of a proper, stunning garnish?

today we played with cream puffs, opening them up carefully, filling so that the filling showed in an attractive way, and decorating with a variety of sauces and added fillings, even playing with viscosity for a particular effect. I made a standard ganache with part kept warm for drizzling and the other room temp for scooping. We made a caramel sauce and set up the same kind of viscosity for that. My caramel sauce formula is 2 parts sugar to 1 part cream to 1/2 part unsalted butter, with a pinch or two of salt added at the end. After all the stuffing and drizzling we plated our sweet jewels for the camera.

Here is a picture of students working:

Now I know some folks would   be worried about working with bare hands on food that will be served right away with out cooking. My students are going to eat all of these themselves! or perhaps share with friends (: My feeling on the matter of bare hands is that as long as we are keeping a very clean station, our hands are washed often, then it is important to handle foods, make good communication and understanding with and about our foods. Barriers do get in the way of this. There are always special circumstances. We take that into account.

Here are some more photos:

We used a black tablecloth for a back drop and don’t you think a doily always makes food look more refined, special? Mothers Day is this Sunday and I encourage everyone to make whipped cream filled cream puffs for mom or grandma.

Bringing in the New Year

January 13, 2010

This post is part wrap up of the culinary class at our school brunch just before Christmas, thoughts about the new year and Twelfth Night, and special gifts and great ideas.

the last day of school before the holiday break brings our Christmas Brunch, all students come, the meal and festivities are free. We usually serve ham, cinnamon rolls, a huge array of fresh fruits, hot cocoa, milk, and juices. We usually give out mini candy canes to the elementary, and there is a bunch of card giving from the older grades. Our superintendent usually gives out presents to all staff. In the past we have received fuzzy vests or jackets with the school logo. This year we received stadium blankets for those cold football and soccer games. My students usually spend the morning with the kitchen staff cutting up fruit, icing cinnamon rolls and serving on the line. they seem to really enjoy this kind of holiday “work”. Have you noticed that teenagers tend to not want to be placed in a setting where they have to “serve” their peers? This time of year that changes in a big way for most of my class. but they wouldn’t do this every day.

One of my students in Creative Foods gave me some paperwhite bulbs for Christmas. It is really special to receive gifts from teenagers. That doesn’t happen for me very often. I am too tough! Here are the paperwhites! Thank you so much B.G.

One of our last projects for completing the first semester of Culinary Arts is the demonstration benchmark. Each student picks a recipe, works up a shopping list, and then demonstrates the item in front of peers, talking as they work, giving out the recipe, which the students must write down as though they are going to make the item from what they write down. The students add interesting bits of history or culture or family lore that are pertinent to the recipe. They can make almost anything they want: time and cost are the main factors, and the recipe needs a certain level of complication.

Here is one students yummy ricotta cheese, garlic, parsley and basil dip plus his homemade sweet potato and russet potato chips. He did an excellent job using a mandoline and keeping the oil at the correct temperature.

As Twelfth Night approached I did some writing for friends. I like to think of Twelfth Night, the night the Magi came to find baby Jesus, as a time to reflect on how at any given moment we can decide that the world can change for us, or that the world is changing and that we can be part of a new way of being and living. So I channel these prompts or favors, or fortunes, perhaps they are even instructions……I never know. These are printed on colored paper and wrapped with a bit of ribbon. Each friend can pick one. I believe we pick the right one always. Here are a few of the “instructions”….

Expect clarity 2010

Expect greater understanding of yourself and others this year. Relationships will flourish if you simply spend more time with those you treasure. Your color is sky blue. Hike to a mountain lake and jump in to restore your vision. Take a nap under an azure quilt with faith and make a life long friend. when doubt complains be kind.

If confusion follows you around for long buy a sketchbook and draw your feet every day until they walk off the page.

How to live with faith in 2010

Remember that faith is different than dogma and needs no rules or laws to have effect. Faith is best friends with understanding and vision who are waiting to meet you. Your color is pure silver because silver shimmers in the presence of faith. Wear silver rings. Light candles in silver candlesticks. Take believing in what you see and know to a deeper level. Please do not confuse faith with naivety.

You are The serpent in 2010

You are constantly changing to meet the needs of situations and people. This year your work and play involves constancy with your ideals, love and family. You will find that what please you pleases all. Your color is the deep green of moss. Your sound is the wind rushing through the tall douglas fir. Climb the tree and build your dreaming house there. Wisdom will meet you there.

Oh, lucky one! Courage is coming to meet you in 2010. Perhaps you should take that first aid class. You have already prepared yourself by learning how to pray and committing to staying in one place, growing roots. You will become very comfortable with a certain helpful solitude. Please do not confuse this with loneliness for you are far from that malady. You will be attracted to red spray paint and big felt tip pens. Be sure to wear red socks…….and lipstick!

Ride with joy in 2010

This is the year for you to gather all the gratitude you have been feeling and cash it in for the pay off called joy. Joy shows up when your heart is brimming over. This makes you cousin to songbirds and second graders. This is the year for dancing lessons and yellow pillows, scarves and cars. You are younger than you think. Joy is contagious so share it, especially with those who haven’t caught on about gratitude.

so which one would you pick?

The Last Croquembouche….Probably

December 13, 2009

The Croquembouche Project

December 12, 2009

Well this week has been thrilling in the Culinary Arts room, or perhaps it could be called the Croquembouche Factory. Yesterday all but 4 students of a total of 32 have finished their tower of chocolate drenched cream puffs, filled with whipped cream…..with variation on the traditional shape. We had some cream puff bowls filled with whipped cream, some bumps, some logs. The fondant project went from leaves and holly berries to sharks, skate boarding figures, huge roses, the grinch, penguins, bears, soccer balls, doves, and a purple snake.

This is a great project providing practice in very specific recipe following, speed, and creativity. Some parts of the plan I insist they follow, some parts I ask them to imagine their favorite animals, colors, something about their life that they might reveal to the world.

The speed part is always troublesome for me…..we only have 55 minutes each day. One for fondant work, or maybe a bit more the next day when we make the pate choux and squeeze the little puppies out. I usually finish up the baking….and who tell me, who teaches their children to finish dishes and dry them, put them away? None from what I can tell. Sorry guys but you are falling down on some simple skills. And who knows about scrubbing the sink out once in a while so that killer bacteria doesn’t crawl up the sides and attack an unsuspecting teenager in a really bad movie? OK, this is about creativity and the holiday spirit……I enjoy the thought of all these beautiful-in-their-own-way Croquembouches , puffs filled, assembled, decorated on the third day…..going out into the world to parents, if  they get that far, or eaten on the bus on the way home despite the no-eating rules set by the Transportation Manager.

All this from butter, eggs, flour, cream, and some sugar and chocolate. What could possibly be more thrilling than pastry work during the holidays I ask?

Christmas Cookies……The Sprinkles Overload Lesson

December 6, 2009

For the last couple of years I have been purchasing my sprinkles for cookies from Market Spice in the Pike Place Market. They have the large size and a wonderful range of colors. And the retail price is very good. I usually get about $80 worth for all the events we make cookies for. I like to buy things from India Tree but they have a big minimum price for shipping. I used their decorative beads, sugars and snow flakes, etc. when I owned my own bakery. I miss making the star cookies with pale blue icing and big white crystals….Or the angels with pale yellow and blue.

Last night was the Tree Lighting ceremony in LaConner. I couldn’t be there because of a prior commitment to read poems….but the cookies were a big hit with the kids. Here are some of them, just finished and waiting to dry for packing.

Somehow that little teddy bear cookie seems appropriate, slightly out of focus as though reeling from too much sugar, not sure what the decorator’s intent was with that last big button of red. We had fun and you can tell. And at this point in the semester we are looking for fun. Just wait for the Croquembouches coming next week. WoooHoooo!

Culinary Arts Cookie Decorating for the Community Tree Lighting December 5

December 4, 2009

Once again we are baking and decorating sugar cookies for the LaConner Community Tree Lighting on December 5, down at the waterfront park. We have also baked off some Seven Layer Bars, those walnut, coconut, chocolate, butterscotch, drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, gooooey, bars.

Did you know that a can of sweetened condensed milk….that little can, has about 1500 calories? I used to know some serious long distance and time kayakers who packed these in their boats and put it in their coffee and on graham crackers to keep up their energy on long trips.

My favorite place to purchase holiday sprinkles is the Market Spice store in the Pike Place Market. They have great big sprinkles in great colors. Of course, once there it is just a few steps to Delaurenti’s and the cheese counter…….oh for a slice of delice de Bourgoyne or a 3 year old pecorino.

So, perhaps later I will take some pictures of the cookies. Here are the fabulous, community-minded culinary artists at work…..

How We Learn Opening The Pathway to Critical Thinking

November 11, 2009

I haven’t been thinking too much about what to write here for the last month. So much extra work and school activities….you must remember how much drama and excitement pervades the halls during homecoming week. And mid quarter grades, conferences, and the dinner Culinary Arts students cook for staff during conferences…Whew. The spaghetti sauce has been cleaned out of the burners and off the walls.

And I have been thinking. One of my favorite quotes, one I take to heart every day whether I can practice it in tough moments or not, is:

“When people ask about it I say my religion is kindness.” The Dali Lama

So everyday I attempt to meet my students, my world, with kindness in my heart, and kind words from my mouth. Now, sometimes I do have to convey a disappointing bit of news, or ask some difficult questions, state some uncomfortable facts. I can still fulfill these in ways that are honestly understanding and supportive. When the fear of failure is allowed to fade into the background just a bit, the curiosity and risk taking can begin to emerge out of the mental fog.

I think we have to realize that many students come from a home where there is so much scrutiny over grades and behavior that we are a possible small ray of hope for relief…or at least a view into another world where judgment is not so harsh….in fact I am beginning to formulate a new definition of what real true judgment would be a world that operated out of only kindness. Many teenagers are left to their own growing up….parents are too busy or assume that they are smart enough now, or are just too tired to do the potential or on-going battle they see out there with their kids. Some might not care.

One quality that must be present at all times is a sense of calm despite the emotional or mental storm that students can bring into the class room. This is a wonderful practice that I recommend highly.

I don’t care so much about the outcome of some of our class experiments, or the reviews, or answers to questions. The real value is in the process, they are attempting, thinking, possibly inspired. Inspiration is a very good place to get to. Everything else might fall into place once true inspiration is felt. Then thinking becomes more important.

more later. thanks for reading. let me know what you think.


Culinary Arts….Pear Galettes

October 17, 2009

Today my students made pear galettes to sell at our stand at the pumpkin farm. This is one of my favorite autumn desserts. There is real progress being made with the pastry crust. We’ve got a couple of potential bakers here. One helpful trick is upping the ratio of butter to flour a little bit. Then, a slightly over worked dough is not dry or tough. We also add a bit of sugar to the pastry and make sure it is chilled for 30 minutes before rolling out.

Crust for 4 Galettes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/8 t. salt

1 t. sugar

1/4 lb. unsalted butter, cold

3-4 T. ice water

Mix the flour, salt and sugar. Cut up the cold butter in 10-12 pieces and work into the flour with a pastry blender.

Sprinkle the water, about 3 T. onto the flour mixture. Toss with a fork to mix water in. No stirring or mashing please.

Scoop dough together into ball. If it doesn’t hold, add that last Tablespoon of water and fluff it abit more. It should come together like a John Lennon song. Press into disk, chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, find your pears…..maybe they are outside on the little table by the porch….maybe they are the ones you canned a month ago…maybe they are some canned from the store…these do work, but the texture is not quite the same…and there is not a darn thing like a fresh pear, or fresh anything….am I right? of course. this is my world.

Peel, core, and slice 2 pears into 1/2 inch slices, have some sugar and cinnamon, maybe fresh grated nutmeg, you know that will be good.

For nuts, my favorite is a filbert. Do not try to convince me these are hazelnuts. I know they are in the same family….but you have to admit there is a hint of peanut flavor to the back of your tongue with a hazelnut and filberts are just plain toasty! Nutty! The woods in November tasty.

Pecans would be nice. Or walnuts too. So, 1/4 cup, toasted and chopped.

Take the dough out, turn the oven on 400 degrees. Divide dough into 4 ping pong size balls. Gently roll out to a 5 inch round with a tiny bit of flour. Place 4 pieces of pear in center, sprinkle with a bit of sugar, a bit of nutmeg or cinnamon, or both, and pleat the edges up around the pear, in a circle, leaving a space in the middle where the pear shows through. Brush the pastry with a bit of milk or half and half. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar and some of the chopped filberts.  Bake for 20-25 minutes on a baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Take out, cool and serve with something creamy and vanilla flavored. You will think of something.



So, I was discussing the word “macabre” with my students today and I found this photo of a halloween decoration which illustrates the word very well I think. Slightly scary, slightly odd, and strangely beautiful.


What do you think?

Culinary Arts Class Baking In October

October 5, 2009

Here are a few pictures of little works of art baked by my students.

IMG_0178these were ginger molasses cookies baked for the parent open house. there are several students who have a natural inclination for decorating. We used royal icing for the tops.

IMG_0179these are a cross between apple galettes and apple dumplings…..we used granny smith apples right now, and will move on to jonagolds in a week or so. We use a pie crust recipe with a few pinches of sugar added. We sell these at our stand at the pumpkin patch.

IMG_0188All the proceeds from the stand go to purchasing chef coats for everyone and some great field trips to Seattle restaurants and food purveyors. Ever try a hot caramel apple cider with whipped cream top? You can get them from our stand. Plus pumpkin cream cheese muffins, our signature ginger molasses pumpkin cookies with scary decorations.