Culinary School Chronicles: The End Of A Semester

Within the last two weeks, I finished my first semester in culinary school, spent a weekend in Seattle, and traveled with Jake back to the Twin Cities to spend the holidays with our families.

Class wrapped up a couple of weeks ago and I spent my last mornings in baking lab. I remember making chocolate chip cookies, soft dinner rolls, Italian-style flat bread, and oceans upon sheet pans of Florentines shaped into little bowls. These lacy cookies taste more like candy, than cookies, since they contain butter, sugar, oats, and finely chopped almonds. The ingredients are melted into a batter and cooked until thick. Then, it’s dropped onto sheet pans and baked, where it melts into thin circles and caramelizes.

The Florentine fun begins once they are removed from the oven. Cook them too little, and they will crumble. Cook them too long, and they will crack. When they are pulled form the oven, the Florentines transform from molten hot to stiff as a board. The trick is to remove them from the pan and shape them at just the right moment. If you remove them from the pan too early, they will droop apart and if you remove them too late, they’ll be too stiff to shape. Despite our most earnest efforts, there were lots of broken Florentines.

Bowls of broken Florentine bowls. The first pieces we tried were heavenly like manna. Bowl breakage was followed by small nibbles. By the end of class, I never wanted to see a Florentine again. I completely ruined myself for Florentines and the thought of them still makes me nauseous. For the duration of that week, we garnished many desserts with shards of broken Florentines and I avoided every single one of them. The next week, Florentines made another appearance on our productions sheet. This time, shaped like cannoli shells. I let someone else do the honors and was unable to take even a bite.

This pistachio-crusted cheesecakes flecked with citrus zest received kudos and recipe requests from my classmates. I don’t often seek out cheesecake, but this version tasted refreshingly light. I will post my adaption when I get back to Fargo. It’s worth the wait.

A highlight during our last week of class manifested as a free steak dinner cooked and served by the faculty and staff. We were treated to a real, grilled steak accompanied by french fries, bread, salad, and ice cream. It was kind of fantastic. Except for the fact that I accidentally stood in the well-done line.

Then, on the last day of class, we were summoned to field day at 7 a.m. The second-year students divided the first year class and gave us cleaning assignments. These were kept strictly confidential until the big reveal on field day. It felt like culinary karma. Come late every day and leave early? You might get to clean a cooler. Or spend some time in the freezer. Do you come to class, but leave for hour-long smoke breaks or spend the mornings wandering around pestering other students? Have fun scraping the grills and cleaning the ovens.

I made out OK. This time.

After a lunch break, we took our final ServSafe test, which I just found out I passed. And two finals later, we said goodbye until next semester.

Currently, my husband and I are back in the Twin Cities spending the holiday week with our families.  We haven’t spent this many consecutive days in Minneapolis-St. Paul since we moved to Fargo. My culinary bucket list is long and already began with a trip to Broders’ Cucina Italiana for our favorite Eggplant Special Pizza. Yes. This tastes like home. 

Jake and I wish you all the very best as we celebrate Christmas this holiday week. I have a lot of ideas for posts to write and recipes to try during my break from class and work, but until then. . .

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