Monday, October 22, 2007

Day of the Genoise, and other culinary adventures

My culinary education has been flying by faster than creme anglaise curdles (fast, I learned). At the same time, we do so much every day, it seems like years ago that I made peanut butter cookies in my first kitchen class. This past weekend marked the end of my basics class, which touches on a little of everything and drills in ingredient functions, a good handful of science, and some basic kitchen habits such as knife skills, sanitation, and "mis en place" (= everything in its place, or scaling and gathering ingredients and equipment before production). I'm fascinated by the science behind it all; there are so many more variables than I had imagined, and the more I learn, the more I have to hand it to the guys who first figured this stuff out and developed the formulas we use today (You may be raising an eyebrow at my use of the word 'formula.' At school we don't use the word 'recipe'--personally, I think it's just evidence of physics-envy. Psychology suffered from this too.).
I know you're all waiting for some good kitchen disaster stories, but alas, I don't have anything terribly entertaining yet (knock on wood). I do have some battle wounds, though. Last Monday was the infamous day of the genoise, when baking and pastry students are said to reconsider their education here at SCI. Reason being: we make our genoise (sponge cake) by hand, which entails about 30 minutes of vigorously whisking whole eggs. Whisking sounds like fun work, and actually is fun work . . .for about 6 minutes. After that, the joking stops, faces begin to turn a bit red, and you begin to think that now would be a good time to learn to become ambidextrous. It felt a little like boot camp, with the chef hovering over our shoulders yelling "faster. Harder. FASTER. HARDER." I emerged with some pretty brutal blisters, but we all survived the ordeal in the end.
One thing I'm learning here is that there are no superstars and no dunces. While I may smooth a cake with experience and finesse, I can turn out a pretty pitiful looking baguette. And the boy who can't pipe a decent strassburger cookie to save his life seems to have quite the knack for cooking smooth custards. The skills are so varied here, it keeps everyone from getting too discouraged or big-headed, and we end up helping each other out a lot, which is really nice.
I'm loving my ward here. We have some great people and a plethora of fun activities. The YSA are really strong in this area, as is the institute program, so there's always something interesting going on, whether it's visiting a Muslim mosque, carving pumpkins, or going to a luau. I've been lucky to make some close friends fast here, the atmosphere is so friendly.
In short, life is good. The sky is blue, the church is true, blowing sugar can be hot, and eating cake can be fattening. True doctrine.

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