Archive for the ‘Cooking Class’ Category

As some of you know, I decided to conquer bread making during my sabbatical.

Where I started.

I’m still working on it, BUT, things have improved.

Due to some good advice from Luke, a professional baker and friend of my sister, I have successfully baked a wheat bread loaf with a rounded top and I hope (fingers-crossed) to bake our weekly bread from now on. Once again food connects us all! Thank you Luke.

I also took several classes at the Culinary Center of Kansas City. These classes helped me connect the baking dots and took away some of the mystery when it comes to yeast and all-things-bready.

Next up: baguette and croissants, (if the baking gods are willing!)

Here are some images of my breads in various stages.

Bread rising in my homemade proofing box.

An old world wheel loaf.

In class: How did my brain get in that bowl?


Fancy-pants Rustic Fougasse bread Baking Class with Eileen Usovics

Learning at the Culinary Center of K.C. with Chef Cody Hogan

Ta-da! Homemade Happy Bread!


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Here are my comfort foods: noodles, fried chicken, wonton soup, hot coco with saltines  and mint chip ice cream.

Two of these foods are because of my grandma (can you guess which?)

Because I am an old school cook I wanted to learn how to cut up a whole chicken and the best reference for this is the only woman I know who’s actually killed chickens, my grandma.

No, I did not end this chicken’s life, the farmers at Campo Lindo did that for me, but I did spend a whole morning learning the country art of carving a chicken and my grandma’s special recipe for frying it up! Not only was this good food for the soul, grandma time is just good for my heart (the fried parts included).

Cutting up the chicken…

Soaking it in buttermilk. Not for too long, 15-20 minutes maybe.


Frying the chicken

I had totally forgotten about sorghum butter. It’s a thick molasses combined with butter that my grandma loves on her biscuits and perfect with fried chicken. I hadn’t tasted it since I was a kid.

Grandma gave our chicken a thumbs up…

…and so did my tummy!

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Originally, I was supposed to attend The Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival during my trip to Boston, but alas, it was canceled until next year. Luckily a Vegetarian Festival was going on the same weekend, so I decided to attend that instead.

I printed directions.

I found out the details.

I figured out the subway map.

I blame everything on Sam Adams.

The Sam Adams brewery was only 2 subway stops away from the festival. The plan– be there when the brewery opened and take the first free tour of the day then go to the veg festival. Mom and dad opted out and went to the JFK Presidential Library instead, so John and I were on our own.


After a crazy trip that involved a lost cabbie and no MTA, we reached the brewery just in time for the tour.

Not only do you get a free Sam Adams glass to take home, you also get a free tasting.

They teach you how to test the quality of beer while sampling their seasonal brews.

1)    Look: Is the beer clear? Swirl it around. Can you see your fingers behind it? If it’s murky, don’t drink it. You’ve got some bad brew my friend.

2)    Smell: I can’t remember what I am supposed to be smelling, but it’s important.

3)    Taste: Don’t sip it. Take a good gulp so it fills your mouth. You don’t want to just taste it with the tip of your tongue.

4)    Chew: This sounds weird, but it really works. Chomp your gulp of beer a little, this helps your whole mouth taste it and opens up the flavors.

Sam Adams is a friendly place that focuses on innovation, craft and bringing people together. I loved how they had us pass the pitchers round, pouring beer for each other and sharing our brief time together at communal tables. They even had free postage paid post cards to send to friends in the lobby! Great idea.

After a trip to the gift shop John and I hopped on the subway. Now here’s something you don’t know about me, once I’ve had one beer (and those were small glasses at the brewery) I really want another one. A snap decision was made. Ditch the veg fest and head to the countries oldest tavern, The Bell in Hand.

As if to question my judgment the train loaded up with a people who had been to the Vegetarian Festival, despite their tempting seed packets, I was fully committed to beer.

It turned out to be a very wise choice.

For some reason the staff all had on Christmas costumes for Halloween.

Santa was bar tending.

The Bell in Hand is on a corner across the street from The Union Oyster House. As we ate lunch we had a perfect view of Boston students participating in a Halloween costume beer crawl. It turned into an afternoon of great people watching, great food, and yes, more great Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer.

Hot Lobster Roll—SO good, so Boston. I can still taste the butter.

In Harry Potter Terms, Sam Adams was my Felix Fluciosus that day. Thank you, Mr. Adams.

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This girl can make a pies from scratch and that’ s no lie.

But bread — now, that is a pot of a different color.

I’ve been struggling with bread baking for about a year. It takes me two cookbooks to try and bake a loaf of bread.

So when the opportunity to spend 6 months focused on food came my way, I told myself, “Steph, this is it. You’ve got to get this bread baking thing figured out.”

My plan — take almost every bread baking class the Culinary of Kansas City offers and bake, and bake, and bake until  this mystery is solved.

So Sunday, Sept 12 my official quest began with The Fundamentals of Baking, taught by Chef T.J. Stack. The recipes: Italian loaf, Hard Rolls, and Cinnamon Rolls.

Sitting at my table, as luck would have it, were two sisters. It did not take long before they were telling me about Aunt Dot’s recipe for cinnamon rolls and their mother’s missing bread machine.

Cooking classes are filled with people on a mission. One sister wanted to learn the hard rolls for dinner parties, the other to replace her the Christmas cookies she gives away with cinnamon rolls. Another woman wanted to learn the secret of how to make the cinnamon rolls flaky so she could bake them just the way her teenage son likes them.  All 20 of us swapped food stories, drank wine (this was a no knives class) and watched Chef T.J. do things with dough we had never even pondered. He had some great tales about the best restaurants in K.C. He told us all about  a soul food kitchen that he still pines for, the family friends who introduced it to him, and the wonderful owner who used newspaper to absorb grease from her fried chicken.

What did I learn that night– that my passion for dough is just as deep as my passion for words and that being around other hopeful cooks was just the inspiration and support I needed.

Now my bread on the other hand, well, it  just proved that more lessons are in order.

Chef T.J.’s amazing dough! I am still in awe. It’s alive!

The classes pre-baked dinner rolls.

The Culinary Center — the sisters are on the far away right!

Have you ever taking a cooking class? Who did you take it with? Tell me your story!

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