I’m nearly finished with my first month of community culinary school.
I spend my mornings in salad lab. Those who arrive earlier rather than later get to pick first from the daily production sheet which specifies what is to be made and in what quantities. Second-year students take turns determining the school’s weekly breakfast and lunch menus. Some of our tasks remain the same each day, while recipes for salads and sandwiches vary. During the first two weeks, everyone attended classes, and we were practically fighting over responsibilities. Time has seemed to separate the wheat from the chaff. We’re noticing who attends class regularly and who pulls their own weight, thus developing a mutual respect.
I find it humorous and horrifying that our ServSafe textbook for the sanitation certification course has to specifically instruct that one should not vomit into food.
During the first week of class, I carelessly left my favorite knife in the kitchen and found it had disappeared upon my return. I sounded off a knife-alert that remained unanswered, despite the fact that it had been engraved with my initials. Yesterday, I was reunited with my Santoku when I found one at an unattended work station. I cleaned the knife with the intention of putting it back where I found it, until I noticed my initials. They were unmistakably carved into the knife and, hence, I reclaimed it as its rightful owner. I still have no idea whose work station it was. And, though, I want to give that individual the benefit of the doubt, I can’t. For no one mentioned a single word about missing a knife. Plus, they let it develop some water stains. Lesson learned. I will never lose sight of my knives.
This week, I attended my first food show. As students, we were assigned to attend the Food Services of America Food Show. Nothing could prepare me for the abundance of food samples. Whole slices of pizza. Silver platters of fried shrimp of all sizes. Fried chicken strips. Chicken nuggets, chicken poppers, and tempura chicken bites. Whole breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, macaroni and cheeses. And then there were the desserts. I passed on pre-made cookies, slices of pie, and cakes. The food show managers were gracious to allow students to attend, though the vendors paid us little mind. They were more interested in peddling their wares to potential customers. I indulged in a peach slushy and found solace in the beer/wine garden. As fun as the event was, it made me wonder how many restaurants don’t cook their own food. Then, I wondered why I wondered why I felt like my expectations that restaurants actually cook their own food were too high.
On a final culinary school note, our two instructors are like super people. They arrive at school well before we show up at 6:45 a.m. They supervise at least six kitchen lab groups, simultaneously. After clean-up, they roll right into lectures and somehow manage to be interesting and engaging. They act like they love their job and genuinely care about the well-being of their students. On days when kitchen mishaps abound, they proceed with kindness and a sense of humor. They demonstrate patience to seemingly no end, though they are sticklers about personal hygiene and not bashful about asking students to re-do sloppy plate presentations or dishes that just don’t taste quite right.
Last week, one of the culinary instructors shared bucketfuls of apples from his backyard. I took as many as I could carry and daydreamed about creating fall apple desserts when I was supposed to be paying attention in class. One of the cookbooks I salvaged from my late mother’s collection revolves around apples. I’ve been waiting to explore this spiral-bound church cookbook since I brought it home this past summer. Although the book contains recipes of popular, apple-centric recipes like pies and cakes, it also contains the less familiar such as apple custards, puddings, candies, and the following, apple cream.
We’ve been enjoying this baked apple cream dessert. The bottom layer tastes like a warmly spiced, caramel apple-pie filling.
The top layer becomes fluffy like cake and tastes a little bit like custard. I suppose you could serve it with ice cream or whipped cream, but we were satisfied scraping it directly from pan to bowl.Baked Apple Cream
Adapted from Kathy Johnson’s recipe in the Apple Cook Book published by Keene United Methodist Church, Keene, OH, 1979
6 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 good pinch of salt
1 pinch of ground cloves
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix the apple slices with the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cloves. Place into the bottom of a greased pan. The original recipe calls for a 9X9X2 pan. I used a small, rectangular glass dish.
- Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in one egg until the mixture has lightness.
- Sift the flour and baking powder into the wet mixture. Add the salt. Fold gently until just combined.
- Spread the batter as evenly as possible over the apple mixture. Bake for about 1/2 hour or until the top begins to turn golden brown.
- Mix the cream with vanilla extract. Pour evenly over the top of the baked apple dish.
- Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.