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“read the recipe”

There is a lot of frustration in being a cooking teacher to young ones. But luckily, there is reward to. The frustration comes in many forms and I shall share with you just two examples from the last 5 weeks of summer classes. Heck, these occur every year and have for the past 15 years of kids classes!

  1. Telling the same child for 3 or 4 days in a row to “read the recipe” over and over and over again. This occurs when he/she asks for the umpteenth time, “What do I do next?” or “When to I stir in the peppers?” or “How much milk do I need?” or “How long does this have to bake?” or “Does this onion need to be cut up?” My answer to each of these questions is, “Please go back and read the recipe and then you may ask me again -if you can’t find the answer to that question.”  OK, honestly, that’s what I say the first 2 or 3 times, then I just say, “Read the recipe.”
  2. Turning around to find 2 students measuring and dumping all the items called for in the recipe’s ingredient list directly into the standing mixer/skillet/saucepan/food processor/whatever, without reading any of the “procedure” portion of the recipe. For example- from the recipe below the instructions read: Cream butter and 1/2 cup of the sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer, when the mixture is light and fluffy,  beat in the egg yolk, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract and the almond extract. Mix in flour and 1/2 cup of the almonds to form dough… but when I turn around what do I see in the bowl of the standing mixer? An unmixed pile of butter, all 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, the egg yolk (broken and running all over the place – of course), all 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, almond extract, and all 3/4 cup almonds… with a block of cream cheese hanging in mid air and about to be dropped in, as well. Mind you, I do explain, time and time again, what “divided” means in the ingredient list and that you must “read the recipe” – never just dump everything in.

So where is the reward in that, you ask? Believe me, there is plenty! Like when students’ eyes become wide with wonder at exactly what yeast can do to a little flour and water. Or how runny slimy egg whites whip into beautiful puffy fluffy clouds. And when their little eyes are filling with tears from the harsh sting of slicing an onion and they are just hating that onion – but then as they are sautéing that same onion in olive oil, and it fills the kitchen with that wonderful comforting smell, they smile and know something delicious will follow. Later, as they sit down in the dining rooms and are served all they have made, they eat and enjoy it with such pride of accomplishment.

And finally, on that last day of class, when that one student who I’ve repeated my mantra to all week long – gets through an entire recipe without one question and we both suddenly realize that they have “read the recipe”! That is most certainly the very best part of my week!

Almond Fruit Tart

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1  1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted and divided
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
Fresh fruit of your choice; such as berries, banana slices, apricot slices, and/or kiwi slices
1/4 cup apricot jam
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream the butter and 1/2 cup of the sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer, when the mixture is light and fluffy, beat in the egg yolk, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract and the almond extract.

Mix in the flour and 1/2 cup of the almonds to form dough.  Press into the bottom and up the sides of an 11-inch tart pan. Prick dough gently on the bottom with a fork.  Bake until golden, about 15 – 18 minutes.  Set aside on a rack to cool.

Beat cream cheese and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until smooth.  Beat in amaretto and the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Spread cream cheese mixture onto bottom of cooled tart shell.  Chill until firm, at least 45 minutes.

Top filling with fruit in a decorative pattern.

Whisk the apricot jam and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted.  Cool slightly; brush apricot glaze onto fruit. Sprinkle tart with the remaining 1/4 cup almonds and chill until ready to slice into wedges and serve.

10  to 12 servings


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