My experience in a real cooking class has been limited to home economics in high school. Over the years I’ve been at a recipe demonstration by a Pampered Chef sales representative, a lesson given at the Payson Bashas’ by Gerardo Moceri of Gerardo’s Italian Bistro, and a workshop Gary Bedsworth gave as part of the Women’s Wellness Forum. None of these was a hands-on experience, just watch and learn and sample the finished product.
A few months ago when Library Director Terry Morris gave a class on Mexican cooking, I did a story, but did not go to the class. But part of the story was the announcement there would be additional classes. I decided I was going check out the next class in person.
So, on Aug. 4 I participated in my first real cooking class in close to 40 years. I loved it!
The theme was Comfort Foods. The menu included artisan bread with herbed butters, fruity spinach salad, wild mushroom soup, tortellini soup, chicken noodle soup and chicken potpie. The class was very hands-on and topped off by eating a lot of delicious food that was relatively simple to prepare.
Rosemeri Barabe taught the portion of the class on the artisan bread. The recipe comes from the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois; their Web site is www.artisanbreadinfive.com.
There is no kneading involved and the ingredients go together quickly; the greatest amount of time is that required for the rise. It takes about two hours to rise and another hour to 90 minutes to rest before baking. After the first rise, the dough can be refrigerated for up to two weeks and used as needed, or frozen.
The salad, soups and potpie required a lot of chopping, but in a cooking class there are lots of hands to help with that. The chicken was a rotisserie bird from the deli counter, the noodles were ready-made Reames Frozen Egg Noodles and the crust for the potpie was a ready-made puff pastry — I was amazed at how much puff was in the pastry.
Boule – Artisan Free-Form Loaf
3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees)
1 tablespoon granulated yeast (1-1/2 packets)
1 tablespoon kosher or other coarse salt
6-1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour (half can be bread flour), measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
Combine all of the ingredients in a 5-quart bowl or lidded food container. Stir all together with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Cover, but not tightly as gasses need to escape. Let rise for about 2 hours. Refrigerate and use when desired. Dough will last about two weeks or can be frozen for later use.
Barabe said an electric mixer — even with batter hooks — should not be used because it will toughen the dough.
To make the bread, sprinkle the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour — this is wet dough and flouring it makes it easier to handle. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound piece of dough and gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Place the shaped ball on parchment paper sprinkled liberally with corn meal (or on a similarly prepared pizza peel) and let rest for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone or cast iron griddle or skillet and an old roasting pan. Just before putting the dough into the oven, slash across the dough about halfway through every two inches or so the length of the loaf. Slide dough onto the hot baking stone or into the skillet and add a cup of very hot water to the roasting pan. Close the oven door quickly and bake about 25 minutes, then let cool before slicing.
This is not a dough that can be made in a bread making machine, in fact Barabe said when she found the recipe, she got rid of her bread making machine. She said the dough is very versatile and recommends visiting the Web site to see the various bread and bread products that can be made with it.
The herbed butters for the bread were made with fresh herbs (rosemary and chives) and softened butter. The herbs were given a fine chop and then mixed with the softened butter. The butter was then molded by hand into logs, about 5 inches long and 1-1/2 inches in diameter, wrapped in clinging plastic and frozen until ready to serve with the bread.
Morris offered the following tips before she started her portion of the class:
• Take a recipe that sounds good to you and taste and mix the ingredients in your mind. If an ingredient doesn’t seem to mix with the other flavors well, don’t use it. Use something else. If an ingredient is not something you like, don’t use it either, put in something that you like.
• Read the recipe carefully. If a measurement seems excessive (for example 4 tablespoons), it probably is. This is especially true with spices; start out sparingly.
• Create your own recipe using ingredients you love; add your own special touch.
• Taste, taste, taste as you go.
• Never be afraid to experiment.
When the library presents the cooking classes, there are two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The classes are limited to 12 people and cost $15.
The first soup recipe Morris “did” was done before the afternoon class began. She said the tortellini soup is one of the great comfort foods she makes, and it is one of the easiest. It is basically toss stuff in a pot, simmer it for 30 minutes, add the tortellini and cook another 10 minutes. She makes it in a crock-pot and lets the ingredients simmer all day, adding the tortellini when she comes home and has a wholesome, hot meal with hardly any effort.
4 cups water
1 large box beef broth
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, quartered
4 ounces white button mushrooms, quartered
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1, 8-ounce box/bag tortellini (choose the flavor, it is in the refrigerated or freezer section)
4 ounces diced prosciutto
1 can cannellini beans
1 small bag frozen, chopped spinach
Salt and pepper to taste (either sea salt or kosher salt and fresh ground pepper)
Pinch of fresh, grated nutmeg
Splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
Put all ingredients, except tortellini, in a soup, stock or crock-pot. Bring to a boil. Turn to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add tortellini and cook for 10 minutes, add balsamic vinegar if desired. Serves eight.
Participants in the cooking class got into the action as the Fruity Spinach Salad was prepared.
Fruity Spinach Salad
1 large bag spinach
2 cups strawberries, quartered
2 cups blueberries (if available)
2 green onions, diced
2 cups mozzarella cheese, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing, used sparingly
Can add cubed cooked chicken or cooked shrimp to make a complete meal.
Combine vegetables, fruit and cheese. Season with salt and pepper, then lightly dress with vinaigrette.
“Most of us use too much dressing on our salads. We should only have about two tablespoons (on a serving), otherwise all we taste is the dressing and not the salad,” Morris said.
Cream of mushroom soup is a staple in many a kitchen, used in all kinds of casseroles and diluted and heated up for a quick lunch on a cold day. Try this Wild Mushroom Soup on that cold day instead — with some of the Artisan Bread — and you may never open one of those red and white cans again.
The wild mushrooms can be found in the produce section of your grocery store. To clean fresh mushrooms, just lightly brush with a barely damp cloth.
Wild Mushroom Soup
2 cups fresh mushrooms (combine portabella, crimini and button)
8 ounces dried wild mushrooms (morel, oyster and shitake)
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 leeks, finely diced
2 shallots, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1-1/4 quarts beef stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Sprig of fresh thyme, to garnish
Put dried mushrooms in wine and leave to soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Lift out of the liquid and squeeze to remove as much of the soaking liquid as possible. Strain all the liquid and reserve to use later. Finely chop the rehydrated wild mushrooms.
Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan until foaming. Add the leeks, shallots and garlic and cook slowly for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft, but not colored.
Chop or slice the fresh mushrooms and add to the pan. Stir over medium heat for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the beef stock and bring to a boil. Add the rehydrated mushrooms, the soaking liquid, dried thyme, salt and pepper. Lower the heat and half cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour about three-quarters of the soup into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Return the soup to the pan and add the cream. Heat through, checking consistency and adding more stock or water if it becomes too thick.
If you don’t want a creamed soup, just add water or white wine instead or more beef stock to create a mushroom broth, Morris said.
It is not necessary to purée the soup either, leaving the contents together will create a heartier soup.
Chicken Noodle Soup
4 slices of bacon or prosciutto, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced (or use the peeled baby carrots and cut them in half)
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups assorted mushrooms, sliced
2 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
3 chicken breasts or 1 breast and 2 thighs or ? rotisserie chicken
Salt and pepper to taste (Kosher salt; coarse ground pepper)
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 bag egg noodles (Reames, in freezer section)
In a large soup pot, lightly cover the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Sauté raw chicken 2 or 3 minutes on each side (if a rotisserie chicken is used, remove skin and shred meat from bones).
Remove sautéed chicken from pot and add bacon (prosciutto), vegetables (except peas), garlic and mushrooms. Sauté until bacon is done. Add chicken broth, water and chicken to pot. Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes. Add frozen peas and egg noodles. Cook on medium heat for another 30 minutes or until noodles are done. To make a thicker broth, mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with a little water and add to broth. Bring to a boil and when broth is consistency desired soup is done.
The recipe for the chicken noodle soup is used for the pie filling, except cooked small red or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in half, are used instead of the noodles and the broth should be thickened.
A box of puff pastry is used for the crust, which is found in the freezer section. Follow directions for thawing the pastry.
Make the potpies in individual serving bowls or ramekins or in a large casserole dish. If using individual serving bowls or ramekins, cut pastry the size of the container, with a little extra around the edges for crimping to the bowl.
Place filling in container, slightly below top of dish. Cover dish with puff pastry, gently pressing pastry to sides of dish. Place container on cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Crust should be golden brown.
The next cooking class at the library is planned for Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. The recipes to be featured include: bread puddings, both sweet and savory; four different kinds of hors d’oeuvres; quiche; and mocktails. The theme is Holiday Fare. A Mardi Gras themed class is planned in February and Italian Cooking is on the schedule for May.
To learn more about the classes and the books to be read in conjunction with them, call the library at (928) 474-9260 or e-mail email@example.com.