Day 1, Murphy's Law and Muffins

Yesterday was my first cooking class, ever; Baking and Pastry I. My morning was, well, not what I had expected, which I whined about on Wicked Good Dinner. Murphy’s Law has certainly played a significant role this semester.

I spent quite a bit of time researching rolling briefcases. We had not received a materials list, and the bookstore swore there was no such thing as a “baking kit,” (they also had the wrong book listed for purchase). I wanted to be prepared for anything, which meant I needed to bring everything with me. I settled on a computer briefcase on wheels from the office supply store, which neatly packed away all of my cooking goodies.

I was nervous about lugging this stuff with me – it was a classic high school case of “will I fit in?” I didn’t want to look like an idiot – I’m old enough to be the mother of most of my classmates (although I thankfully do not look it). Much to my relief, most everyone had a similar suitcase with them and I didn’t look like an idiot.

In fact, just the opposite. Lecture began and I started blurting out answers to every question about mixing methods, flour, gluten. I honestly do not know where this spew of information came from – I didn’t realize how much I actually knew about baking.

OK, so mission 1 accomplished – classmates do not think I’m an idiot, and they all seem to believe I’m in my early 30’s. Perfect!

Class rules made me laugh: no fighting, no swearing, you must be classically dressed, and you are not allowed to wear black pants or a baseball cap. Of course, I had on black pants (trying to avoid buying clown pants as long as possible). Whatev. “Boy who talks too much” and “Cat pee girl” are both in my class…(told you!)

We broke up into groups to begin baking. I’m paired with R (male) and TR (female). Both seem confident and competent and I was happy about the mix – we were assigned to make muffins. We all looked at each other and asked, “Is this your first time in the kitchen?”

Chef unleashed the herd and we selected a work station. We just stood there, the three of us, in silence. None of us knew where anything was, and Chef didn’t seem to care to give us a tour. Benefit of the doubt, I chalked it up to Chef wanting us to be good problem solvers and leaders.

I knew where the food was, at the very least, so R and TR followed me into the pantry area. It was a clunky process, but we eventually gathered all ingredients. And, about 30 minutes later, we had all of the bowls, whisks and prep surfaces ready to go. Yeah, it took us that long to find everything.

No one in the class followed food safety, which I thought was funny. No one washed hands before prepping. No one cleaned work surfaces. No one wore gloves. Not even Chef.

I’m used to working in food competition mode, so I’m prepping like a crazy person, barking out orders, taking charge. I realized I needed to back it up a bit, be less intense and less of an instructor – more team, less me. So, I eased off. But in doing so, realized nothing was getting done. R and TR were still feeling a little lost, running around in circles. They eventually separated to the prep table in front of us and started measuring the dry ingredients while I continued to prep wet ingredients.

We made it through the process, baked off the muffins without burning them, and plated for photos, viewing and tasting. The class prepared a variety of quick breads: muffins, biscuits and cakes – of which, I could only taste three of the 9 items because of my food allergies.

Overall, the class kicked butt. Everyone did a great job, no one burned anything, and everything I tasted was spot on. I was really impressed.

Chef, however, didn’t taste a thing, “Oh, I don’t eat that stuff ever. If I tasted everything the students made, I’d be as big as a house!” I thought, “What?? Aren’t you going to critique our hard work??” I wanted to know how my crumb consistency was, how the muffin tasted (because I couldn’t taste it myself…it had vegetable oil, nuts and coconut in it).

Team gathered after we were done. We high-fived each other and gave accolades. I suggested we break up the ingredient list next time, be responsible for prepping what we gather, then once the mise is done, meet up to combine ingredients. Agreed.

R and TR invited me out for a beer after class, which I guess is a good sign they didn’t think I was overbearing and a control freak (I am indeed both). I politely declined – as much as I wanted to celebrate, I wanted even more to get home to my little one and give her a great big hug because Mommy made muffins at school and was pretty darn proud.

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            Lackawanna College is the premier, private, accredited two-year college serving the people of northeastern Pennsylvania. With a focus on keeping higher education affordable and accessible to our immediate community, Lackawanna draws 80 percent of its student population right from our own region.

            With a main campus situated in downtown Scranton, Lackawanna’s expanding footprint also includes satellite centers in Hawley, Hazleton, New Milford, and Towanda.