Sunday, February 28, 2010

Globe Trotting Made Easy

How would you like the opportunity to travel the world?  What if I told you that we can send you on a globe trotting adventure that consists of up to 16 very unique destinations all in one evening.  We plan to have your senses tingling from all the pleasures you will experience.  The plan is You will see each culture's beauty,  discover tempting aromas, taste and drink in their flavors, and feel like their most honored guest.  

Chef Bob's Ice carving- COOL!

Welcome to Tasters Guild 2010 brought to you by the Great Lakes Culinary Institute and also with an abundant amount of support from the local community and businesses.  Prepare to experience an evening filled with delicious food fare from all over the world prepared by the culinary students, a luscious wine selection from 12 different local vintners, and a chance to enter your name in favorite silent auction items or place an exciting bid during the live auction too.  It is our hope that you have a fabulous evening while you are with us and that you will truly feel like you have experienced an authentic journey through some of the worlds most celebrated cuisines.

A picture of the main lobby floor and some of the teams- mine is to the left top corner

This is where I invested a large amount of my energies the past few weeks.  Into an event that has given me, as a culinary student a first hand opportunity to practice critical skills that are very important to the industry I will be apart of very soon.  It all began with choosing our country that we would like to represent- I choose India!!  Thankfully I had the ability to work with two of my wonderful friends from last semester, Ray and Mike!  The first day of school we learned about this event and I specifically remember looking at Ray and telling him in all seriousness "We are going to Win this thing. just trust me!"  By "Win" I was referring to the First place prize that would be given to the booth that puts on the most authentic display of their country and their cuisine.  First prize is an honorary Chef's coat with "Tasters Guild 2010" embroidered on the arm.  You could also receive a coat if you were one of the top ten donation getter's for the silent auction too. (I am still waiting to find out if I am one, I did pretty well with bringing in donations)

Prepping in the kitchen- me and the boys!

Together the three of us developed a plan to really show off what we were capable of doing.  Ray kept saying he really wanted to "amaze people with the flavors."  So when we went to the kitchen to test our recipes we paid very close attention to getting exactly what we wanted with our food.  We did our research on the country and all the intricate details that would help us have an edge on the day of the event.  We left no detail undone.  We paid very close attention to how the booth needed to be set-up and on the day of the event we felt very confident about what we were doing.

Team India's Booth before we set up the food

 It needs to be said that the guidance and direction from our teachers, Chef Coburn and Chef Fred was a very big part of our success too.  The help from classmates when it came to putting together our samosas was extremely helpful too.  Overall the teamwork among all the students was amazing.  Up until the end, all that mattered is that together as a school we could deliver an amazing and  memorable event for our guests.  Truly, we would have been happy for whatever team won, since we know everyone worked so hard.

My team member Mike- the grill master!

Ray- working hard to make sure those skewers were perfect!

Me and my Samosas are deep fried and ready to go!

When the judges came to our booth we were so excited.  This is what we had prepared for- once they came to see us we went right into action-  We very enthusiastically answered all of their questions about our food and the country we were representing.  Overall after they left we felt like we did well, but there wasn't much time to lament about it since 15 minutes later the first guest arrived.

Our booth from an elevated perspective

"Welcome to India and the darjeeling Market!!"  We never slowed down ever!  For over an hour and a half we served our food to the our guests "The world travelers" until we were completely out of Samosas and almost out of the rest of our tasting items too.  It was amazingly fun and everyone who visited us seemed very pleased- we even had people who came back for seconds!  Here is what we served:

Vegetable Samosas

Grilled Naan Bread with a Chutney Trio "
-Podina Chatni- a spicy mint based chutney
-Sweet Mango Ginger Chutney
-Savory Onion Chutney

Coconut Basmati Rice with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts

Chicken Tikka Masala with a lime spritz

Then all the students were asked to enter the main ballroom for a program that began with the College president speaking and then Chef Fred Laughlin (GLCI director) took the stage to address everyone and hand out over $32,000 dollars  of scholarships.  It was a little nerve racking waiting to see if he would call my name too- since so many of my friends and classmates were recipients already.  I actually started to realize he was calling the names out in alphabetical order so that when he got to Schmidt, I knew the next name had to me if it ever was meant to be.

When Chef Fred called my name I wanted to cry, I felt so honored to be apart of the group on the stage.  It is the first scholarship I have ever been awarded- It is a huge blessing!

Me and Chef Fred Laughlin- The Culinary School director

To top off the entire incredible night we were having, next Mickey Cannon addressed the audience from the podium to give the awards away to the top three booths for the night.  Cajun Creole received third place honors- this was my friends Kelsi and Geoff's team and I was so excited for them!  Coming in at second, one of the advanced baking classes took the prize.  This left 1st place the final team to be announced.  I had seen all the booths that evening and so many of them were worthy of this spot, I really didn't know if we had done enough, and then Mickey started to talk about the enthusiasm that the top team had and how it takes this kind of mentality to be in the business like he is...  I have to admit that when he announced "Team India" as the winning team I went into a daze.  All that hard work and planning paid off, we had done it!!  What a proud moment, and one that I will never forget.

Celebrating with Ray and Kelsi- my original team in first semester Pro Cook class.  We each received a scholarship!  

My Husband Tod, my Mom, Dad and Sister, and my best friend Ranae and her husband Bob were all there to support me that night and I am so thankful for each of their support.  The majority of my thankfulness has to go to Ray and Mike though.  Together we worked to do our best, we accomplished what we intended to do- WE DID IT!

Tasters Guild 2010 ~ Team INDIA ~ One AMAZING night for ALL

I am exactly where I am supposed to be and loving it!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Got Schooled :)

She was completely insistent that she was in charge of plating the food.  "Keep your hands off and don't tell me how to do it" -she bellowed at me as I watched her narrow her focus to the first plate in the row.  As I watched her create her masterpiece, it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut and my hands off the one plate that was not within her peripheral vision.  "This is normally my job", I was thinking, and as much as I am a subscriber to equal opportunity, my instincts kept pushing me to butt in, make a suggestion, tell her to just go sit down and let me finish.... but this time I would not.

My girl Lauren Abigail

I mean, what kind of Mother am I?  I should be proud of my sweet baby girl taking the initiative to apply herself in a craft that she has witnessed me practice for all 8 years of her life.  The fact is that for all that I stated above, I was actually beaming with pride on the outside.  It was these maternal instincts that were fiercely pushing me to want to lend a hand, help my baby with the concept-  She actually produced something so totally fun and surprising that I am glad I kept my hands to myself after all.  It is moments like this that I find myself being the student, my daughter schooling me in accepting the inevitable fact that she is growing up.  I finally can see the full circle now- like when I used to think that my own Mom didn't know anything relevant to the "Real World".  When we become parents we get so used to leading the way for our children that we forget sometimes to just take a step back and watch these beautiful beings express themselves and blossom into the amazing individuals they were born to be!  Good job Miss Lauren- I loved my Plate tonight! xoxo

Love Always,  Your Mama

Pancake Faces made with Raspberries by Lauren A. Sheffer :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesdays Top Ten- Things To Remember when you are a 1st Year Culinary Student Making Bread

I was being very patient...  
I really wanted Chef Fred to give my team the opportunity to bake some bread.
The way our kitchen lab time works is that there are 16 students, 8 teams, 2 students each.  In the beginning of every class we are given a production sheet that outlines at least two items each group will be working on for that day.  Chef tries to give each group the opportunity to work on different items each lab.  That way we can mark off the different competencies from our skills checklist.  What is nice about each group doing different recipes is the opportunity to see and taste a lot of different products.  It also gives Chef Fred the chance to do different demonstrations too.  If one group is doing a sauce, he call the students over to watch how it should be properly assembled.  If we are learning about how to use a pastry bag to dispense a decorative spritz cookie, Chef will demonstrate this skill and then let each of us come up and try it.  It is a very nice way to get a lot of baking exposure in one class period.

Last week Our lab sheet finally said  "Bread!!"

All of the book knowledge I had practiced for quizzes and our first exam would finally be put to use.  The specific steps I had practiced, studied, imagined myself performing, and also watched other groups carry out- it was finally our turn!

Here are the Top Ten steps we use in class and that you need to know and adhere to, they are the "Production stages".  It is important to follow these to produce a hearty, and most delicious loaf or baguette of bread, yeast bread to be specific. First things First:

1.  "Mise En Place"-  This means make sure you have all your ingredients available and any tools necessary to complete your recipe.  This is very important since you don't want to get halfway through your recipe and find out you are missing an ingredient or be unprepared to scrap the bowl because you didn't get everything you needed before you started.  Time is always of the essence.

Pan Rustique dough- it starts out like pancake batter, but very quickly turns into a beautiful dough

2.  "Scaling the Ingredients"- and you better check them twice too!  Especially in the baking kitchen where we are mixing 9 and 12 lb batters.  It would be a sickening shame to mess it up because of an error in the amounts of ingredients.  

3. "Mixing and Kneading the Dough" - This is important to moisten the ingredients and develop the wheat gluten.  If you don't do enough your dough will simply not turn out right- there is a way to test if your dough is ready for the next stage- it is called the:

4. "The Windowpane Test" - This is a great way to check and see if your dough is ready for the next stage.  Tear a small piece of dough and slowly stretch it between your fingers to make a semi-transparent "window".  The dough is ready if it stretches without breaking and has a smooth appearance.

Windowpane Test

5.  "Fermenting the Dough" -Let it rise, Let it rise!  This is the dough's chance to create flavor and texture.  The temperature of your room is important to the rate of rise, as well as the temp of the dough and the certain ingredients you are using too.

6.  "Punching Down the Dough" - This is your opportunity to give your dough some relief or as we say in class "De-Gas" and let all that CO2 the fermentation process created escape into the atmosphere.

7.  "Portion your Dough"- Depending on how much dough you have made this is the time to cut it into the set amounts.  In class this could be 14 pieces for Baguettes, or 10 pieces for Boules.  At home I find I am usually portioning a recipe into 2 or 3 loaves.

8.  "Rounding and Making up or Shaping the portions"- You spin your dough right round, right round- like a record baby right round, right round :)  Rounding it into a ball- this may be your time to shape it too.

These are our Baguettes after shaping them- we put them in the clothes on baking boards to proof first.

9.  "Proofing"- At school we have a proof box that we can put our shaped doughs into to get ready to be baked.  It has a set humidity and temp of about 70-85 degrees.  The dough is in the proof box until it "feels" ready to go.  We are learning to sense when they are ready by touch.  You want your dough to have a light springiness - not too tough, not too soft.  At least I think that is the case- I am still learning about this one.

This is our classroom deck oven- A most beautiful machine that produces the most beautiful breads

10. "The Grand Finale ~  Baking and Cooling" - This is show time, all the steps have been applied, you followed the rules, you are ready to see the doughs of your labor expand and develop into the most wonderful masterpiece.

We dock the bread by cutting shallow lines into the tops

We transfer the proofed loaves onto trays that will then be used to transfer the bread onto the bare rack of the deck oven

We wait for the bread to bake

And Voila!!!

Bread- Glorious Bread!

The cooling rack

We finally had our chance to make bread
There is nothing I would have rather do instead
I am totally in love with this newly learned process
When I make bread at home, no longer will I have to guess!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday's Plate- Tour of the Past Two Weeks

Filling your plate with beautiful food
Its what I love to do.
It’s all about the taste.
May you clean your plate and leave nothing to waste.

Garlic Shrimp Dish from Spain Week in World Cuisine Class

Samosas I made at home to practice for our India Table at Tasters's Guild.
These have sweet potato and green peas in them.

Mike and Ray- my teammates working on a Soup we made for Spain week.

The finished product- "Sopa de Ajo"- A Garlic Soup

A cool trick for when you are rising dough that i learned from Ray- put the dough in your bowl- cover with saran wrap, then draw a circle over it to size it.  This way when the dough rises you have the original size to compare it to- Thanks Ray!

"A Spanish Omelette"  OMGoodness this was so good!
Potatoes, Onion, Egg and Salt and Pepper- that is all!  So simple and yet so delicious!
Spain week was a lot of fun!

We began enriched doughs in Intro to Baking- these are a take on cinnamon buns,
 but with a cherry filling.

Here are the Birthday treats that we made for Lauren's class- "Cupcake Cones"
I remember these when I was little!

Then we had to make a treat for Valentines day party in Lauren's class.  These were really fun to make.

The troop!

My Own quick concoction- "Great Northern Beans and Greens" I used Swiss Chard and 
it made for a nice combination.

This is me with my bag of baked goods making a delivery to my Mom after Baking class.  That bag is full of breads, cookies and brownies!  Yum!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Learning IS Fun! Especially when it involves FOOD too!

Festival of Food

I took the weight from my feet and seated myself into the first chair I could find, and closest to the front of the class.  Within thirty seconds I had already struck up a conversation with the women sitting next to me.  We were talking as quickly as possible, excitedly trying to fit in as much as we could before the speaker would begin his presentation.  Its easy to make a new friend when you start out with something in common.  We were ready to learn, and it was a topic that we both were particularly interested in too:

  BREAD- Specifically- Stone milled, 100% organic, naturally leavened, Whole Grain, Pleasanton Brick Oven Bread.  My grin spread from ear to ear, as I began to drink in every single word that was being spoken from the front of the room.  Our presenter, the owner of this beautiful bakery, Gerard delivered an awesome hour's worth of history, science, experience and inspirational insights into his world as the proprietor of his exclusive bakery concept that actually hails from over 5000 years ago.  After listening to Gerard I was even more convinced that I want a brick oven in my own backyard.  For now I have no problem continuing to visit Pleasanton on a weekly basis, and I have an even better understanding at what a great deal I am really getting when I buy their bread.  

You won't find a $2.50 loaf of bread at Pleasanton, thank goodness.  The quality of each and every ingredient that goes into their bread is worth every cent- with most loaves starting at $4.95 and going up from there.  They buy their heritage grains from an organic grain farm near Lansing and their "mother" is over 18 years old.  The beauty of this bread is the natural leavening process that does not use any type of yeast.  The formula is Flour and water- THATS IT!  There is a lot more to the story, but I would encourage you to go into the store and ask.  Gerard and his staff love to share what they are doing, and there is a real charm about the store that resides in the old State Hospital Fire Station behind building 50.  If you don't live in or near Traverse City, you can look them up online too- they ship all around the US now- and their bread will never mold since there is no yeast.  How cool is that!!!  Oh and it tastes amazing too- my favorite is their Village Rye and Cinnamon Raisin- Mmmmm Yum!
Here is their Link- Check them out!

They also sell Grissini- or "breadsticks" - Cranberry Pecan and Cheddar Herb- Pleasanton's grains are milled through a certain process that helps them to be more easily digested too- Most people who have a gluten intolerance are actually able to eat their breads because of this.

Now this was only the first of 4 classes that i took at the NMC Exteneded Education's Festival of Foods this past Saturday.  I also attended "Naturally Sassy Sauces and Spreads with the owners of "The Redheads" products and Kejara's Bridge in Lake Leelanau.  My third class was "Oils and Vinegars: Not just for dipping" with Nick- a second year student at the Culinary school.  If was fun to attend his class since I hope to be in his same spot very soon- teaching my own specialty classes.  He put Vinegar on Ice Cream!!  It was tastefully phenomenal!   My final class was with Anne from Leelanau Cheese company, "Cheese, Glorious Cheese" where we learned all about cheese making.  Something I am interested in for my own farm someday.  Once again very inspirational. There were 12 other classes that were offered that day which made it very hard to choose.  Since I signed up the day before I did have a tougher time choosing from what was left, but overall I am very happy with the classes I attended.

What I noticed all day long was the classes that were offered (-16 total, 4 per hour-) were all offering people a chance to be exposed to new ideas, exploration of how to update their recipe books, and above all the origins of food products.  I believe that this is such a great way for the community to come together, an opportunity for learning, sharing, and networking too.  I look forward to getting more and more involved in programs like this as I further my experience as a culinary student.  I encourage all of you to look into the extended education programs offered through your local community college, not just culinary, but in whatever medium you are interested in.  I walked away from Saturday's program with all kinds of inspiration.  I am Feeling completely empowered as I continue to take the steps towards reaching my goals as a compassionate contributer to my community and beyond.

**A Stellar View will begin to emerge when you take the time to nurture your heart and mind with opportunities to learn and share with other people.  We can make a significant and healthful difference in our communities and beyond when we work together.  Thank you to our community college- NMC for putting together such a wonderful and educational event!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Optimistic Oatmeal

February 19, 2010 - "This morning has been the BEST ever- Brisk air, the fields covered in snowy sparkly diamond blankets as they reflect the sun and all its bold warmth- I feel extremely blessed to be exactly where I am right now."

It is amazing what a gift life becomes when you step out and make a conscious decision to enjoy every single moment.  There wasn't necessarily anything particularly special about the start of my day today.   I started with the familiar motions of getting out of bed, letting the dog out and preparing breakfast for my babes.  There are so many things that need to be done around the house, the laundry chores especially and there is always homework for my classes too.   Its all simply endless, but what I have learned is that this is never going to change.  I am quite sure there will never be a morning that I will wake up to find that there is nothing that needs to be done.  So with that exception being acknowledged, I always decide to just roll with what the day has in store for me.  

I will begin my day with the tasks that are a priority and I will always pay attention along the way by keeping my heart and mind open to all the little ways that I can be thankful.  Sometimes it is something as simple as noticing and then thanking the creator for a beautiful sunrise.  I will share with you what Some of  My own personal favorite moments are, and I encourage you to think about your own------


When my husband calls me for no particular reason I find my heart just brims with happiness.  He is such an amazing blessing to my life and I am so thankful for our family and home we have built together.

When I get a surprise phone call from a close friend.   -Or-  Unexpectantly make a new friend. 

 I truly enjoy meeting up with a loved one that I haven't seen in a while.  Experiences with people are something I treasure and find extremely wonderful.  

When my children give me a humongous hug after being dropped off at the bus stop- I sometimes feel like I could cry- tears of joy of course!.   It helps me understand my purpose here on earth in a way that is crystal clear.

A sweet smile from a gracious driver who allowed me to turn out onto the busy traffic filled street always makes me smile. 

The opportunity to work in my kitchen and use my creative abilities, lets just say I love the special skills I have been able to practice in Culinary school.  I love that I am going to school and preparing a way towards my future career.  I can't wait to help people discover their own cooking abilities when I become a teacher- their are already doors opening for me in my dream career- its all so exciting.  To be able to work in a field that is so rewarding, its amazing!

So what does this have to do with Oatmeal you ask?  A friend asked me today where I get all my enthusiasm, where do i buy my "Optimistic Oatmeal?"  I don't know for sure, except to say that  it must have been on sale because I have a lot of it, a surplus actually.  I would love to share some with all of you if you would like.  Its really easy to make once you have practiced the preparation technique for a while.  All it really takes is some special attention to the small details.  A moment to see that its really not all as complicated as we sometimes make it out to be.  

Recipe Instructions-
-Open up your heart! 

-Mix it Up! Don't be afraid to try all the flavors life has to offer.

-Greet the Unexpected as if it is the next big thing you have always been waiting   for and never really knew you needed.

-Take a heaping spoonful - of life that is- and savor every glorious bite.

-Leave no room for bitterness and sour flavors.  Fill up on only the best, on ONLY exactly what you want.  In other words choose to do what makes you happy and find a way to say so long to anything that stops you from achieving your dreams.  Anything is possible, but you have to have faith and believe that you deserve it before it will be served.  God Bless my friends- now go out and enjoy a Stellar day!

Stellar wishes,


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tasty Thai Thursday- Recipe Book Fun :)

This Foodlover's  Ultimate Valentine is not a box of Chocolates.  I'm not very responsible with twenty different secret flavors hidden in shiny chocolate capsules.  I've actually been known to take a bite out of every single mystery morsel and then throw out the other halves.  This is to keep myself from feeling extreme guilt of clearing the heart shaped tray solely on my own.  This enormously beautiful Recipe Book was my valentines day gift from my handsome hubby and two lovely babes.  They were so excited to surprise me with it.  This book is like an epic- its chock full of amazingly simple and completely delicious cooking methods for all of the earth's green and growing harvests.  In the short time that I have been its new master I have made some pretty great food out of this book.  The most recent creation happened this evening when I got home late from school and picking up the kids.  I wanted to get something on the table quickly and I wanted it to be something special at the same time. The truth is that I had really tried hard to abstain from taste testing during Intro to Baking class during the afternoon and for once I was truly hungry for a real dinner.  

It was 37 degrees outside today and our February"heat wave" reminded me of the summer's bounty that I had squirreled away into my deep freezer.  Fresh Frozen sweet corn I had purchased from a farm down the road last August was calling my name as I pulled into my garage.  I had a confident feeling that my new recipe treasury would have some instruction for my sacred summer"golden nuggets."

Thai Corn Cakes with a Fresh Tomato Cilantro Salsa

Here is what I found, here is what we enjoyed together as a family- at the dinner table, at a reasonable time- not too late- and the amount of food- it was just right!  Tonight I chose to make Thai CornCakes from "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman.  This book is a phenomenal resource of formulas for making healthy and delicious meals.  I am excited to explore more of what this book has to offer and I will be happy to share the great ones with you to all along the way.

Thai Corn Cakes

2 eggs separated
salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped scallion
1 teaspoon of minced fresh jalapeno
2 cups of fresh corn or thawed fresh frozen
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3-4 tbsp butter or a neutral oil.

In a large bowl combine egg yolks, pinch salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, scallion, jalapeno, corn, soy sauce, and flour; mix well.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Put butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Fold egg whites into the corn mixture.  Once the oil/butter is hot drop the corn batter into the pan in dollops.

Cook until nicely brown on one side and flip- about 3-5 minutes.  Keep warm in oven while the rest are cooking.  Serve immediately with fresh salsa.

(Recipe from "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman page 291)

Here is a picture of the Lemon Quinoa Spinach Salad I made this week on Tuesday from the same book- Yum!  I added Cranberries on my own and it really made the flavors pop.

Quinoa Salad with Lemon, Spinach, and Poppy Seeds

2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
10 oz Fresh spinach chopped
1 cup Dried Cranberries ( my own addition)
1/4 cup poppy seeds
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup of lemon vinaigrette

Lemon Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
black pepper
1/4 cup of finely minced red onion
1 tsp sugar or honey

Toss the salad ingredients without the vinaigrette.  Spoon the dressing over the salad and toss.  Enjoy!

(Recipe from "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman page 83, 537)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuesdays Top Ten- Favorite FoodLover Quotes and Verse

School is super busy this week- Lots of Homework and Event Planning so here is something kind of fun and quick- These are only ten of many of my favorites and once again in no particular order.  Enjoy!

1.  "Forget love- I'd rather Fall in Chocolate"- unknown

2.  "I Cook with Wine, Sometimes I even Add it to the Food" ~W.C. Fields

3."Find Something you are Passionate about and keep Tremendously  
     Interested in It." ~Julia Childs

4.  "Food is apart of our way of celebrating Life.  The ingredients will change, because we are becoming more aware everyday.  That means there is still such a possibility of Discovery with Food."  -Piero Selvaggio

5.  "Going to the Market is more important 
     than going to a 
     Fancy Restaurant." ~Barbara Tropp

6.  "You know we fixate on the food so much itself: 'Oh, the Ultimate Brownie or the       ultimate this or that- Well, let me tell you something- Its all poop in about 12 hours, Okay?" - Alton Brown

7.  "We May Live without friends; 
        We may live without Books; 
             But the Civilized Man Cannot Live Without Cooks" 
                  ~ Meredith Owen

8.  "Tell me what you Eat, And I will tell You what you Are." - Brillat Savarin

9. But the Fruit of the spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self control; against such things there is no law. -Galatians 5:22-23

10.  "When you Stand up for what you believe in, 
         with Grace and Humility, 
          incredible things can happen." 
             ~Colleen Patrick Goodreau

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Monday's Plate- Or Should I say Bowl :)

Intro to Baking Class has been quite an adventure so far.... quite basically though- I love it!  Every single class has had its successes and also some challenges too.  I tend to be a very focused little lady when it comes to production time in the kitchen.  Being the people pleaser that I am- I like to present flawless products of my hard work.  Together with my class partner Rye, we both pay very close attention to the recipes, ask Chef Fred lots of questions and do our best to simply show our competence in each assigned task.  Each week we go into the bakery with every intention of creating delicious results that look good too.  So far we have developed a significant number of "high-five" goodies, but there have been a few not so proud moments too. These are the wonderful ways "Team 8" is demonstrating to the class what your products should NOT look like:

-Flattened Biscuits- I already can't remember why this happened- I guess I blocked it from my memories it was so traumatic- though they did taste good!

"Flat Biscuits" vs. "What the should look like"

-There was A Muffins episode where the batter exploded from the cups with a lava oozing appearance over the side- The oven temp somehow had been turned down 50 degrees cooler which was determined to be the culprit.

-Scones with dried cherries that were good for the most part- but we didn't chop up the dried cherries enough so they didn't distribute through the dough all the way.- Minor issue

Cherry Scones- The dried cherries were in the freezer and hard to chop- next time get the cherries out sooner to thaw a little

-Coffee Cake that thankfully "did" release from the pan, but gave us an awful scare when Chef Fred initially tried to release it and it didn't budge.  (We didn't put parchment on the bottom of the pan, but thankfully Rye greased the pan good enough that it did finally release)

In the pan- before Chef Fred found out we did not parchment paper the bottom.

And then the Oatmeal Cookies....

These were supposed to be simple.  We "Mise en placed" our ingredients.  This means we gathered up all the components for the recipe and also the tools we would need to complete the recipe directions.  We creamed the butter and sugar flawlessly, and incorporated the remaining ingredients according to the directions and then put the dough into the walk-in cooler until the next class when we would have more time to bake them off.  In our minds we believed everything went according to plan, until we put the portioned cookie dough into the oven and set the timer during the next class.  Being the attentive students that we are we took a look at our cookie sheets turning in the roller rack oven after about 4-5 minutes.  Our expectation was to see a slight rise in the dough and the beginning of a spherical cookie that would be setting up and ready to brown.

Here is what we saw happen in the oven....

Instead what we witnessed was a catastrophic melting mess, and our beautiful oatmeal cookie batter spreading out over the entire pan surface into a carmelized heap.  WHAT HAPPENED!  Since Rye and I take a lot of pride in our work this was ultimately very embarrassing.  All we wanted to do was get those trays cleared into the garbage as soon as possible.  Ah, but Chef Fred discovered our blunder and together we tried to figure out what went wrong.  Did the batter get over mixed?  Was the batter too warm before baking?  Did we measure an ingredient wrong?  The mystery continued on into a third class day when we baked off the rest of the dough and banked on the mishap being warm dough.  We really were hopeful this was the case but to our dismay the dough once again flattened out and completely disappointed us for a second time.  

Only a Mother could love these ugly things at first impression, ah but the taste, now that is a different and very yummy attribute!

The difference is this time we took it a little easier and just reminded ourselves this is why we are students.  We are here to learn from our mistakes.  Take it as a lesson in learning and move on, oh and enjoy a moment of humility- just have fun with it!  The problem was most likely a measuring issue on the oatmeal- which also lended itself to some additional fun, a class inside joke.  Our cookies were the "lesser of two weavils."

Left side represents what our cookies were supposed to look like- Oh LOOK its cookie Monster behind me!

The funny thing is, the finished disaster actually tasted GOOD!  A very rich carmel flavored result that had a nice crunchy texture.  Everyone in the class decided it would taste good in an ice cream preparation.  I took it home and made a batch of homemade ice cream with the Oatmeal Flat Cookies mixed in.  My son Riley who is one of my reliable taste tester had this to say about the concoction:

"My Tongue Tasters are Dancing Mama!"  

Needless to say, He loved it!  So did the rest of the family.  I only wish we truly knew what went wrong so I could recreate those flat cookies. They could be a signature item in my creative arsenal someday- only if I can get my baking partner to sign off on it.  

Chef Fred during the end of the production looking at everyone's results and giving us his professional critique.

Chef Fred says that I should not worry about these trials and tribulations in my baking practice.  I think as long as I pay attention and learn from some of these unexpected outcomes, then I am on the right track to mastering the art of Baking.  The oatmeal cookie error did make a nice BOWL of ice cream.  I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow brings....