Lessons 39-41: Inspiration at the Table

The one thing that always struck me when I started working at ICE in Career Services was the motivation and inspiration that brought the students to the Culinary Arts or Pastry & Baking Arts programs.

I ask the question to students at the very start, “What inspired you to come to culinary school?” One after another, students share stories from their childhood, from watching their grandmother cook when they were only four years old to standing next to their father as they put together the secret recipe for that tomato sauce.

Just today, I had one student share passionately how what she remembers from growing up was what happened around the dinner table — the stories, the laughter, the family and friends and the food. For her, coming to culinary school gave her the opportunity to create the food that was part of this wonderful childhood experience. For me, growing up, the dinner table was also a very significant aspect of my family life.

It was where we shared the stories of our days, as we shared in our meal, together. Looking back, there are quite a few staples that sat on that table — apple pie in autumn, pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, and those delicious premade Pillsbury Dough Boy biscuits on those oh so special nights. I was actually in the supermarket the other night deciding on which cheese to purchase when I looked over to my left and saw those very same Pillsbury biscuits. You know, the ones that come with perforated dough in a long roll and all you have to do is tear and bake. I laughed. Those biscuits were something I looked forward to so much.

The whole process of seeing that mound of dough, scaling it into its perfectly perforated segments and shaping it into a biscuit, was just as exhilarating as the smell of them baking and the taste of that buttery goodness with my dinner. I would have never thought I could make those biscuits from scratch, but this past week I did. In addition to preparing pies and biscuits, we also made scones (another one of my favorites) and some other pies that I think I'm going to start making for the upcoming holiday season! We were also introduced to the third classic dough — pâte sablée. This dough is great because it’s completely patchable.

When you’re just starting out, it’s been quite challenging to roll out dough thin without creating holes. We then were able to work on our creativity — choosing shapes for our tartelettes and mixing buttercream and ganache with colors to accent our design. But tartelettes aren't the only thing you can make with pâte sablée. I brought home some of that patchable dough to freeze and save for making cookies at Christmastime to share with my family as we catch up at the dinner table. Next up: laminate doughs, puff pastry and strudel.

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