Monday was the final night of the 3015 Trinity Groves Cooking School and I ate three desserts for dinner. We made éclairs, crème brûlée and a lemon tart with shortbread crust, which I’m pretty sure beats the bowl of Rice Chex and almond milk you threw down.
After the team huddle, we started on the shortbread crust for the tart since it needed time to assemble, chill, bake and then cool. Basically this is just a giant shortbread cookie that is topped with a tangy and sweet lemon curd. If you get a bag full of soul-crushing dry lemons, microwave them for a few seconds to loosen them up before you break your fingers trying to release the juice. It’s a good tip and works.
We popped the crusts into the fridge to cool down a bit then baked them until the room smelled of toasted butter and rainbows. This is a very easy dessert in that you can quickly make the curd portion days before your event and it stores just fine in the refrigerator next to your old jar of olives. We loved this summer dish and you could substitute orange or lime in the recipe if lemon isn’t your thing.
Next up we prepared the pate a choux, which is French for “really ugly dough”. This is the pastry part of the ubiquitous éclair. Fun thing is, you can use this simple recipe to dress up savory items like the lowly chicken salad. You bake this pastry for a few minutes then reduce the heat and let it dry out for about 20 minutes more. It creates a lovely shell that beats the hell out of, God forbid, the Ritz crackers you were thinking about using. For this class the pastry was for making éclairs and the filling was heavy cream and a box of vanilla pudding mix. Assuredly, using packets of pudding is not classic technique, but it was good and simple enough for the home cook.
Whisking together the crème brûlee was a cinch, but it takes some experience to see when it’s cooked through. Too little time and it’s just a creamy, warm liquid. Too much and it’s sweet, baked eggs. Chef Mike said you want a little “Jiggle in the Middle” (NOT the latest Will Smith beat) and sides that are set. Of course, the best thing about crème brûlée is you get to torch the sugared top. If you don’t have a kitchen torch, simply dig out that rusty, stainless steel spoon you keep hidden and heat the back over an open flame and press onto the sugar to scorch. This works better than broiling in the oven since the broil will cook the eggs too much.
This Basics Cooking Class will be offered by 3015 Trinity Groves about four times a year. Classes met once a week for six weeks and covers everything from stocks to frying. Trinity Groves also hosts many other cooking classes, corporate team building events and parties. It was fun, laid-back and full of little tips that make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Chef Mike Johnson is a profane hoot and it was nice occasionally visiting with Chef Sharon Van Meter. Keep an eye out on the schedule – it’s a great way to learn and make a few new friends.
Trinity Groves 3015 Cooking Basics, Mondays 6-9 pm