TGA- Fin

Posted: March 22, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, The Great Adventure | 2 Comments »

The last two days of our baking adventure were all about a bake sale.  The kids had wanted to do a bake sale, and then when everything went down in Japan, it fit perfectly to raise money for the cause.  So Thursday was our bake and prep day, and the kids did great.  I basically left everything up to them, just to see if they could do it, and for the most part they did.  They baked brownies, chocolate chip cookies, muffins, meringues, and decorated cakes.  Although some of the kids were getting a little testy and thought that rather than focus on their own work, it would be funny just to screw with other people’s food.  It was a little disappointing to see some of the negativity and immaturity showing through, but it had been a long two weeks for all of us, so I tried to cut them some slack. 

Even though there weren’t a ton of people on campus, our bake sale on Friday raised about $100 which I have decided to match, so total we are donating $204 to Japanese Relief. 

It has been a tremendously long two weeks, and there are definitely things that I will do very differently next year, but overall it was a really good experience and I think (hope) that the kids enjoyed it.  Now if you’ll excuse me I have to sort through an absurd amount of kitchen stuff and figure out what the hell to do with it…


TGA- Field Trips and Cake.

Posted: March 21, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, The Great Adventure | No Comments »

I’ve decided to combine days for the next two posts so this will combine days 2 and 3 of this week.  Tuesday we went on a little field trip to Boston to visit a cupcake shop called KickAss Cupcakes.  I originally rented a vehicle that could carry all of us, however the night before we were supposed to go, I got a call from the rental place saying they woudln’t have a vehicle for me.  Panick Attack.  I made those reservations weeks ago and they didn’t know they weren’t going to have something until the night before?!  Not OK.  Luckily I was able to get something through another company at the last minute. 

So Tuesday morning we loaded up and got on the road.  Up to that point the kids had been talking about how excited they were and what they were going to get, but the second we walked into the place they all just shut their mouths and stayed silent.  Are you kidding me?!  I drove an hour for them to act like it didn’t matter.  Awesome.  So after dragging questions out of them and walking them around town for a while ( we hit up a bread bakery too) we headed back to campus.  The plan was to make some cakes and pop them in the fridge overnight so we could work on decorating the next day.  I had three groups that wanted to make chocolate cake and one group that wanted to make confetti cake.  So when we got back I was giving dual instructions, which got a little confusing, but in the end worked out.  With the kids half listening and me giving two sets of instructions at once the kitchen sort of became a culinary “Who’s on First”.  But we got through it and ended up with four cakes, which we let cool and stored until the next day.  I let the kids go for the day while the cakes were cooling, and as I finished up in the kitchen I noticed that some of the cakes might not be that great for decorating in the first round.  So I spent the night and most of the morning baking some cakes that we could learn to decorate on.  So when everyone got to the kitchen on Wednesday we were ready to go.  I taught them all I know about  frosting and cutting (not much at all, but I totally faked it).  The kids cakes turned out wonderful, although some of them might want to contemplate the idea that less is more.  I believe the highlight of the day was watching one of the kids frost his cake, cover it in chocolate chips, then frost is AGAIN….and then make a face out of every topping possible including sour skittles.  The picture below was taken about halfway through the decorating process.  In the end he had glasses, a unibrow, etc…pretty much everything but teeth.

The rest of the kids took a more simplistic approach, but I think they all came out really well! 

  

I didn’t try all of them, because there is only so much cake one can eat without dying, but I brought them to the dining hall and they all got very good reviews.

Two more days until the end of the adventure…I think I can I think I can I think I can…


The Great Adventure- Cakes of Cheese.

Posted: March 17, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, The Great Adventure | No Comments »

We kicked off a new week today and we all came back well rested from the weekend and ready to go.  Since we were all pretty fresh, I thought we could work on something a little more involved.  So we worked on cheesecake in the morning.  First we made the crusts and then while those baked, we worked on the filling. 

First they creamed together 20 oz of cream cheese with 1-1/2 cups of sugar.  They they added 5 eggs and 2 egg yolks.  Teaching them to separate eggs was interested.  I showed them how to use the shells to separate, but also how to use their hand, which I find easier.  None of them was willing to touch a raw egg though….wimps. 

After they added the eggs and mixed, they put in 1/4 c of sour cream, 1 Tbsp lemon zest, and 1-1/2 tsp of vanilla.  Once everything was mixed together, they poured the filling into the cooled crusts and put the oven at 450 for 15 minutes, after 15 min, turn the oven down to 225  and bake for 1 hour 15min.  Once baked, they cooled them in the oven with the door open for about 30 min.  They turned out amazingly well!  Especially considering it was their first attempt. Only one cracked, but I think that was because it was toward the back of the oven where it was hotter. 

During some of our down time I also taught them how to make chocolate ganache and caramel sauce, both of which were delicious. 

Since we had to use 2 egg yolks, everyone had 2 egg whites left over after making the cheesecake.  Rather than throwing them out, I decided to use them to make meringue cookies.  So after they were done cleaning the kitchen, we went back to the mixers and put on the whisk attachments.  both egg whites went into the bowl and were beaten until they were frothy.  Then we added 2/3 C of sugar slowly, while beating the eggs.  Once they added about half the sugar, they added 1 tsp vanilla.  Then they kept adding the sugar until it was all incorporated and the meringue was shiny and tight (holds its shape well).  Once that was done, they folded in about a cup of chocolate chips, and dropped spoonfuls onto a parchment covered cookie sheet.  These will not spread when they bake, so you don’t have to worry too much about spacing them. 

My grandmother used to call these forgotten cookies, because of the way they are baked.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Once it gets to temperature, put the cookies in and turn the oven OFF.  Leave the cookies in the oven undisturbed for at least 2 hours.  You can literally put them in and then forget them (hence the ‘forgotten cookie’ name).  The kids were hesitant to try these because they are a little different, but once they tried them, most couldn’t stop eating them. 

I took everything to the dining hall after we were done and both the cake and cookies got rave reviews.  They did really well today, so it was a great way to kick off the week!


TGA- Day Five…wrapping up the first week

Posted: March 13, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, The Great Adventure | No Comments »

Today we were all running a little sluggish.  Its easy to think of these two weeks as a way to ease into spring break, but the fact of the matter is, it is hard work!  Its a totally different kind of teaching for me, and the kids, who are used to sitting for 6 hours a day in class, are now up and about all day.  I also wasn’t feeling so hot, so I figured we would just take it easy.  We started with muffins, and for the first time the kids were allowed to explore the wonders of stand mixers.  Up until now, most of the stuff we’ve been doing hasn’t really lent itself to mixers, and they have been antsy about using them.  Although I think that has more to do with their desire to put as little effort into anything as possible. 

I have been having them work in partners for a couple of different reasons, but mainly because we don’t have the equipment for eight kids to be doing their own thing.  So two groups made blueberry muffins, and the other two groups made chocolate chip.  One of the groups also wanted to add cinnamon to their chocolate chip muffins, and it worked out really well. For muffins I find it best to put all the ‘wet’ ingredients into the mixer and then add the ‘dry’ ingredients. 

First put 1/2 C unsalted butter, two eggs, 1/2 cup of milk and 2/3 C sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and set it to about medium until the ingredients are all blended together.  In a separate bowl, whisk (or if you are my students “wheesk”) together 2 cups flour, 2tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt.  With the mixer running, slowly add the dry ingredients until they are all in the batter.  Mix just until all the dry ingredients are incorporated, but the batter will not be smooth.  Thats ok.  Fold in about 1-1/2 cups of whatever you are adding (chocolate chips, fruit, etc…) .  If you want to add cinnamon or any other spice, be sure that you only add about 1 tsp because a little bit goes a long way.    Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes.    Since I wasn’t feeling well, I didn’t get a chance to try them, but the kids certainly went to town on them, and they looked great!

After the muffins were done and we had cleaned up a little we got to work on some chocolate chip cookies.  We worked with a pretty standard cookie recipe, because no matter what recipe you use, the secret to great cookies is to undercook them just enough to keep them soft and melty.  Even if you have someone who wants to make giant cookie…

I’ve been bringing all our stuff up to the dining hall for everyone to enjoy, and we’ve been getting great reviews!  I’m very proud of my group for working so hard this week, and I’m excited to see what they will do next week.


TGA- Day Four. Pizza and Bagels!

Posted: March 12, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, The Great Adventure | No Comments »

I might have been a bad girlfriend today…I texted boy to tell him that we were making pizza and bagels today and as I pressed send,  it occurred to me that those are two of his favorite things. I might as well have told him we were brewing beer and making hot wings.  My bad…

Anyway.  Today was a pretty good day.  We started out by making our pizza dough and while that was rising we  made our bagel dough and ran to the grocery store to get our pizza toppings.  Turns out taking 8 teenagers to the grocery store is a bit crazier than you might imagine.  Here are the highlights: 1. Broken jar of pasta sauce.  2. Kids calling me mommy and asking for ridiculous things.  3.  Strange looks from the women who work there.  4.  A three minute conversation about why mini pepperoni might not be a good idea.

Once we got back from the store we punched the dough, and cut it into two pieces.  While the dough was resting, we punched down the bagel dough and shaped it (into a bagel shape, for those of you who aren’t following closely).  We set those to rise and got to work on our pizzas.  Rolling out the dough was a challenge for some, but that is to be expected.  Its hard to roll dough out evenly when you aren’t used to it, and the dough was pretty elastic.  I think some of the kids are starting to realize just how much patience baking takes sometimes.  Once the dough was rolled out, we topped it and baked it.  Some of the kids were a little over zealous with their toppings, but I was impressed that they listened to me and none of them went TOO crazy and ended up with a structurally unsound pizza. 

After lunch (aka watching the kids stuff themselves with pizza and try to pass out on the floor), we went to work on the bagels.  Some of them (all of them)  had a little too much time to rise so a couple of the kids re shaped them and made them smaller while I boiled them.    We finished cleaning up while they were baking and by the time they came out of the oven it was time to go, but I set them aside for breakfast the next day…they look pretty good!

Pizza: 

1-1/2 C warm water

2-1/4 tsp (one .25 oz envelope) of active dry yeast

4-1/2 to 5 C flour

1-1/2 tsp salt

Mix together the water sugar and yeast and let sit at least 5 minutes until it is foamy, then add the flour and salt and mix until dough forms.  Knead on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and stretches like elastic.  It shouldn’t be sticky at all.  Put it ina greased bowl and let it rise for about an hour.  Punch it down and cut it into 2 or 3 equal pieces (depending on how big/thin you want your crust) and cover it  loosely with plastic wrap to let it rest for about 30-60 minutes.  Roll out, top and bake at 400 for about 15-20 minutes.  In order to prevent sticking, you can coat the baking sheet in yellow corn meal. 

Bagels:

2 cups warm water

1/2 oz (2 envelopes, or 4-1/2 tsp) of yeast

3Tbsp sugar

5-6 C flour

2 tsp salt

This is basically the same process as the pizza dough:  let yeast, water, sugar get foamy and mix in dry ingredients. Knead,  let rise to double, punch down, shape and let rise again.  When its time to bake set the oven to 400.  In a large pot bring about 12 cups of water to a boil with 1 Tbsp sugar.  Boil the bagels for about 30 seconds on each side before you put them on a greased (or cornmealed*) cookie sheet.  Bake for 5 minutes, flip them and then bake them for another 30 minutes.  Surprisingly these were easier than I expected, and they came out pretty well. 

All in all a good day in the kitchen.  Stay tuned for more adventures!

*if “facebooked” is a word then I can use “cornmealed”…so there


TGA- Day Three

Posted: March 10, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, The Great Adventure | 1 Comment »

Today truly was an adventure.  The plan for the day was to work on making bread, and at the (joking) request of a couple students I thought it might be interesting to try our hand at making matzo.  Here is the schedule I had in my head:  1. Use the leftover pie crust to make empanadas.  2. Make bread dough and set to rise.  3. While dough is rising, make matzo.  4. Punch down bread, shape it and bake it.  5.  Clean while waiting for bread.  6.  Pull out bread to cool while we finish cleaning.  Done. 

Now, for those of you that don’t know much about teaching, or life, here is a little tip.  NOTHING works out like you plan.  Here is how the day really went:

1. Make empanadas for the kids (success!)  2. Make bread dough and set to rise (here is where I start to get some hope that this will go according to plan…my mistake)  3. Send a kid to get matzo meal because I’m a dumbass and forgot to get it at the store.  4.  Follow the recipe for matzo, and find that it does not work.  5.  Experiment for a while to see if anything makes it better.  6.  Nothing does.  7.  Bake matzo anyway just to see what happens then check the bread.  8.  Discover that bread has not risen AT ALL.  9.  Try to work with the bread anyway to see what happens (you know, the matzo method).  10.  End the day with some DISGUSTING matzo and some delicious, but very dense bread. 

Bread:

1 -1/3 C warm water

1 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp butter

4 rounded cups flour

1 tsp active dry yeast

Dissolve salt and sugar into water and add yeast.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes until the mixture gets frothy.  Then add the butter to the mixture and slowly add flour about 1/2 cup at a time until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and work the dough with your hands, adding more flour as you go.  Knead the bread until it is no longer sticky and is very elastic.  Form dough into a ball and put in a greased bowl.  Cover and place in a warm dark place to rise, hopefully, until it is double in size and looks a little spongy (about an hour).  I always proof my bread in a closed( and off) oven with a pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven.  Punch the dough down and form into a loaf.  Let it rise again for about 30 minutes, then bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  You will know the bread is done when it is brown on top and sounds hollow when you tap it with your finger. 

You can also make it into rolls if you use a muffin tin.  Cut the dough into  small pieces, roll them into balls, dip them in melted butter and put three in a muffin cup.  Bake for 15-20 minutes. 

Matzo:

Don’t.   Just don’t….  Its totally worth it to buy the box on this one. 

Although the kids did have fun with the dough and ended up making  their very own “Wilson” out of their left over matzo dough…

My life has never been so interesting…


The Great Adventure- Day Two

Posted: March 9, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, The Great Adventure | No Comments »

PIE!  While our biscuits didn’t turn out the way we expected (totally my fault), making biscuits did give me a nice segue into making pie crust.  Its basically the same thing: cut butter into flour and add liquid.  So we started out making our crusts with the end goal of making three pies: apple, chocolate chip, and sugar cream.  I’m pretty sure by the end of the day the kids were totally over the process of cutting butter into flour since its a giant pain in the tuchas without a food processor.  But they did a fantastic job and we made a total of 10 pie crusts and made 9 pies.  We made one apple pie as a group, because thats what we had enough apples for and then four pies of the other two.  

The apple pie turned out really well, although I think some of the kids prefered to eat the precooked apples more than the pie itself.  Not that I blame them, I do the same thing.  We started by peeling and coring eight apples, which was pretty amusing for me.  I’m surprised at how many kids aren’t comfortable using a knife, even to cut an apple.  I guess its a good thing that they aren’t well versed in weaponry, but it was still a little surprising.  After the apples were prepped we added a cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour, 1 tsp of cinnamon, a pinch of salt and a pinch of nutmeg.  Everyone did well rolling out their crust, although tomorrow I think we are going to have a discussion about over-flowering.  We set the crust in the pie pan, tossed in the apples, topped with a second crust and voila!  Ten minutes at 450 and 40 minutes at 350 and we had a fully baked apple pie. 

     

While that was baking/cooling, we got started with the chocolate chip pie and sugar cream pie.  Both of these are single crust pies, but neither are blind baked.  

Chocolate Chip Pie: 

1 cup each flour, sugar and brown sugar. 

2 eggs 

1 stick of butter 

1 cup of chocolate chips coarsely chopped. 

Bake 325 for an hour.  Some of the kids got a little overzealous with the chocolate chips.  If you add a couple extra, no big deal, but if you add a whole extra cup, it really starts to mess with the structural integrity of the pie.  Unfortunately we are still having trouble with one of our ovens, so these got a little too cooked and I forgot to bring foil to prevent the crust from over baking.  We still ate the ones that weren’t too overcooked and they tasted pretty good.  

A little toasty...But delicious!

 

The sugar cream was pretty easy, just mix together 1 1/3 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1 cup cream, 3/4 cup milk and pour it into the unbaked pie crust.  Dot with small pieces of butter and sprinkle with nutmeg.  Bake for 10 minutes at 450 and 30 minutes at 350.  These came out looking great and I’m excited for the kids to try them.  This pie is very sweet and creamy, so its normally served with a less sweet whipped cream. All in all a good day.  Day three will begin by using the left over pie scraps to make BBQ chicken empanadas with some pie for dessert.


The Great Adventure -Day One

Posted: March 7, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, The Great Adventure, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Sometimes you have to go outside your comfort zone.  Today I not only left my comfort zone, but rather, I was launched headfirst out of it.  As some of you know, I started a new job this year and as part of my job, I am responsible for planning a 2 week experiential learning class each year.  This year, I am teaching a class of 8 kids about baking.  We have rented a kitchen, I have ordered a ridiculous amount of flour, sugar, eggs, butter, etc… and I have gone shopping for tons and tons of kitchen equipment (which, by the way, was probably some of the most fun I’ve ever had…even at IKEA on a Saturday).  Up until yesterday all that was left to do was actually teach it.  That’s where the problem came in, because once I actually sat down for a second and thought about the adventure I was about embark upon, I freaked out.  I don’t know if it was the stress of getting everything ready AND getting my exams/grades/comments together, or if I just really never fully thought about it as a real thing, but all my insecurities came out last night.  And they didn’t just make a quick appearance and then peace out, they came in full force with tents, hiking gear and coolers of food to last them through the long, cold winter. What if I forgot something?  What if they hated it and I couldn’t make baking fun?  What. If. I. Forgot. How. To. BAKE?!  Obviously failure is not the end of the world, but seeing as this is my first foray into anything like this, I think I am justified in a little freak out.  Luckily I got through today without tanking epically.  Here’s how the day went:

I took two trips over to the kitchen to bring all of our stuff and at 8:45 I was in the kitchen, ready to go.  The kids were supposed to be there at 9.  At 9am, I had one kid. Everyone else rolled in around 9:10-9:15 ish, saying that they had gotten lost.  Apparently I was not as explicit in my directions as I should have been, but eventually everyone found their way down and we were set to go. 

Before we could really do anything we had to get set up, get acquainted with the kitchen and wash all the new stuff.  I always like to wash new stuff before I use it, especially after wandering around the stores and seeing a little kid sneeze and then pick up a cutting board…you never know what that stuff has been through before you get it.  So we spent the morning doing dishes and getting the equipment set up. 

Then we got started with biscuits.  We needed a few things so we ran to the grocery next door.  Then the kids broke into pairs and we got started.  We went over various techniques and tips, like keep your butter very cold and how to cut butter into your dry ingredients even though it can take forever.  We rolled out our dough, cut it and baked it.  As I was trying the first round, I was starting to bask in the overall success that was our first day (I wasn’t a total failure!!).  But something tasted a little off.  I figured it was just the oven (its from the 3rd century) and didn’t give it another thought.  Some of the biscuits were overcooked because the ovens run pretty hot…like 75 degrees off, but overall they came out great and the kids did really well. 

After lunch, we went for another attempt on the biscuits, this time without my direct instruction.  The kids kind of went off course, wanting to try various things like putting unsweetened cocoa powder in, but I figured there was nothing wrong with trying new things.  Some of them came out pretty good, like the cheddar cheese biscuits and the brown sugar biscuits, others were… interesting.  No matter how many biscuits I tried though, something still seemed off and I was really starting to worry about if the ovens were going to make all of our food taste a little off. 

The kids got the kitchen all clean and I sent them on their way, and it wasn’t until I was packing up for the day that I realised why everything tasted different.  Trader Joes baking soda comes in a can just like the baking powder that I use.  We were supposed to be using a Tbsp of baking powder, but instead we were using baking soda.  AAANNNDDD….I’m dumb.  I can’t believe I didn’t notice that!  I haven’t told the kids yet, but I’ll tell them tomorrow and we can try our biscuits again, this time with the right ingredient…

So it wasn’t perfect, but overall it was a pretty good day.  I’ve got a great group of kids and I think we’re going to be able to do some fun stuff in the next two weeks. 

Here is the recipe we used:

2 cups flour

1tsp sugar

1tsp salt

1Tbsp baking POWDER

1 stick of butter

3/4 of a cup of milk (give or take)

Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes.  They are pretty easy, if you can read labels……



Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.