The first day was, as I expected, chaotic. It was also really fun and beyond exciting to finally start school, but it was first and foremost a kind of trial-by-fire situation.
Once we’d changed into our uniforms and figured out how to tie our neckerchiefs—thanks, seasoned students for helping us!—we were ushered down to our kitchen, where tool sets and handouts were neatly awaiting us at our stations. When we eventually unzipped the bags to inspect them, it was like unlocking a treasure chest. I felt like an anthropologist going through some distant civilization’s tools, trying to figure out what this one was for, where that one went. I knew we’d get to use them all eventually, but it took everything in me not to dump everything out on the table and start figuring it all out on my own.
It’s no surprise, then, that I was a little bummed when we took out the basic stuff I already knew how to use so we could start prepping our recipes for day one. The program I’m in has us in the kitchen and baking from the very beginning, in what I think is an attempt to get us comfortable in a professional kitchen and really immerse us in pastry (not literally, although that sounds like fun, too). On one hand, I absolutely love this. “Here’s a recipe, here’s how you do this, now do it yourself!” YES! I am a professional-in-training and I’m going to make all the cookies by myself now with big grown-up equipment in a REAL kitchen, let’s do this!
On the other hand, “wait, why do you do it this way, what if you did it another way, what is the scientific reason we use this flour, what purpose do the eggs serve, can I sub out X for Y, etc. etc.?” The truth is, while there was a lot of instruction going on, there just wasn’t time for all of the details as we were starting out in the program. Just jump in and start swimming! Those who know me know my interest in things, when I’m really interested, can border on obsession, so I want to know all the things immediately, and I have to keep reminding myself, “in good time, you’ll get there, just master the small stuff now.”
Which brings us to cookies. Now, that’s not to say that cookies are small stuff, although yes, they can be pretty diminutive. But technically speaking, a lot of cookies are pretty simple to make and hard to mess up unless you forget an ingredient or are just plain negligent, and this is probably why we’re starting with them as the first unit in school.
First off, we have Diamants (French for “diamonds”), which get their name from the sparkly sugar they’re rolled in. We made ours using the creaming method (beating butter and sugar together until light and fluffy), a pretty common method for cookies—if you’ve ever made chocolate chip cookies with the recipe from the back of the bag, you’ve done this. The dough gets rolled into a log, rolled in sugar, and then sliced and baked. Pretty simple, right? They come out buttery and golden with just the softest crisp, and they are absolute heaven. Everyone in my office told me to take them away so they wouldn’t eat them all (and trust me, it’s easy to grab a handful of these to munch on with some coffee or tea). Here’s a recipe I found for them if you’re interested in making them yourself. (Tip: make sure that dough is really nice and chilled before you cut it! If you notice the log flattening out a bit on one side, roll it over and start cutting from a different side to help even it out a bit.)
The other cookies from day one are Lunettes (French for “glasses”—are you sensing a theme here?). These are a similar butter-based cookie and very similar to Linzer cookies, but with a hint of spice, and obviously some extra sweet filling in the middle. We got to practice rolling out and cutting dough into shapes, which seems like a fairly basic task, but is actually harder than it looks when you’re making an effort to have everything be uniform. I was also really surprised by how well these held up after a few days. I was saving them for someone and was worried they’d get stale, or the powdered sugar would get soaked up into them, but to my surprise they were just as tasty on the third day as they were when they came out of the oven! This recipe is pretty simple and easy to follow, if you want to give it a shot—I would just suggest not actually kneading the dough (I’ll get to why in another post) when it’s time to gather it all together into a ball/disk (and it will definitely be easier to roll out if you chill it in a disk rather than a ball).
All in all, the first day was a nice transition into starting school. I know things are going to pick up fast, but I think I’m up to it. Really looking forward to learning more and (obviously) getting some more cookies in the oven, so stay tuned!