~ Every aspiring cook’s dream: a culinary vacation. A week away to learn, learn, learn! And eat! My week at Sullivan University’s Baking and Pastry Camp was bursting at the seams with food and friends … and techniques and recipes that I can’t wait to share with all of you, back here at THK. It’s ok to drool a little while I tell you all about it … ~
Hey guys! It’s Amy! (As you probably guessed by the “hey guys,” because, as I am very much aware, that is a greeting I most definitely overuse.)
I’m back again to tell you about a great adventure I had this summer … a culinary adventure, to be more specific. And a pretty tasty one, at that! 😉
As any high schooler in any grade above freshman (and possibly even some unlucky freshmen) will tell you, households comprising one or more teenagers will never find themselves short on bonfire fuel. This, dear friends, is due to a veritable deluge of college flyers and mailings and pamphlets that begins as soon as an unsuspecting high schooler checks the innocuous-seeming box on the back of any standardized test (think SAT, ACT, PSAT, AP tests …), confirming that they would like to receive more information from colleges.
And receive you will!
I’ve gotten brochures from countless colleges which I’d never even heard of before! But mixed in among the numerous “this college is the right fit for you, __Amy__!” type of advertisements (complete with photos of a few smiling students, a helpful professor, and the sprawling lawns of campus), I’ve also gotten some really nice brochures on the fantastic summer programs offered by various colleges.
And so, this June, I found myself on the way to a Baking & Pastry Arts Camp. (After Sullivan University down in Louisville, Kentucky, found out I’d been taking a culinary class in high school, and slapped my name on their “she no doubt wants to learn more culinary stuff!” mailing list.)
To be clear, I was not headed down to Louisville to learn how to bake healthy things.
I went to this camp to learn how to bake classic, yummy things that I could health-ify back home. In other words, I wanted to learn all the basic rules of “typical” baking – before I tried to break them and reinvent them in more nutritious ways! I was going to spend a week having fun, honing techniques, and probably overdosing on sugar.
I hoped I would come back with a whole lot of new skills and ideas in my back pocket (and maybe a few cupcakes, too 😉 )
As it turned out, I came back with all of that – plus some fantastic new friends!
I’m not sure I can stress enough how much genuine fun I had with them on this trip … not I’m-learning-new-skills fun, or this-will-be-cool-to-know-later fun … but real, actual, this-is-a-good-time fun!
In the evenings after class, we had field trips and parties, and even Color Wars (yes – my friends and I were on Team Green!).
Plus, as it turned out, most of my new friends were already super-talented bakers!
A good portion of the kids at camp actually go to career-track high schools. As in, they go to school … and cook things … every day. How neat is that? Tons of the amazing people I got to meet were already on track to becoming incredible professional bakers. (And when you see one them some day, in a chef’s coat at some ultra-famous New York bakery, just remember … I knew her!)
In fact, when my roommate and I teamed up with another girl we’d met the first day at camp, the three of us managed to scrape a win in the Cupcake Wars competition (another of the great events the fantastic camp staff had dreamed up). We even pulled ahead to clinch the win over the kids in the Advanced Pastry program!
If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to brag about my AWESOME friends and the AWESOME cupcakes we made together!
Rich, moist raspberry cake, filled with the BEST lemon curd I’ve ever tasted (which my roommate just … whipped up … ya know … from scratch, in a few minutes), and topped with this incredible, decadently thick-yet-fluffy white chocolate buttercream. Plus a fresh raspberry and some little white chocolate swirlies (That’s the technical term. Yes it is. Don’t look it up; I’m trustworthy.).
And, if you’ll indulge me for another moment … I was so excited to decorate the cupcakes, because it has always kind of been an ambition of mine to have a decent justification to try making chocolate swirlies. Possibly I watch too many baking competitions on Food Network.
Anyway, the cupcakes ended up looking and tasting amazing (dare I say … winning?) and you can bet I’m already looking for a healthier application of this magnificent flavor combo!
And that’s not all the decorating I got to do!
We all got to assemble and decorate our very own strawberry cream cakes – and for pretty much my first try ever at decorating a whole cake, I was proud of the outcome!
When Ty and I were younger, my mom would always decorate the most adorable birthday cakes for us, and I’ve always wanted to learn to do that someday, too!
While I’m not sure this first attempt was quite on par with some of the masterpieces mom created (think: wintery wonderland, complete with a frozen lake, igloo, and of course, fondant penguins) it was certainly a fun first shot!
Next on my list of super-great stuff I got to try my hand at baking: traditional Bavarian pretzels!
Remember MaryBeth, who guest posted here on our site a while back, sharing stories of her new life in Germany (along with her Garlic Lime Shrimp Tacos)? Well, I was soooo excited to have her try one of the pretzels we made, since I figured she would be a pretty good judge of how authentic they really were, having lived in Germany the past few years.
While we’re not sure the methods we used were entirely correct, traditionally, MB (who happened to be back “home,” visiting Ohio) seemed to think they tasted pretty darn good! And I’ll take that!
Then, there were cookies and pizzas, fougasse and brioche breads, cinnamon rolls and bavarians and these pretty (and shut.the.door.delicious!) white chocolate-lemon cream puffs …
Alright, alright. That’s a lot of baking, I know – and that’s barely scratching the surface of all the cool stuff I got to make!
I won’t bore you with details of every pastry I baked up, but let me just share one more thing. As soon as I saw that we were making banana-chocolate chip muffins, I thought, yay! Kind of healthy!
While they didn’t turn out to be quite as clean as I was expecting (you can fit a lot of sugar and butter in a seemingly-innocuous batch of muffins!), they were super tasty and super easy! If I were you, I’d be on the lookout for a THK-style spinoff, coming soon! 😉 (And in the meantime, go bake the Healthy Hawaiian Banana Bread my mom created this summer. It’s awesome!)
Speaking of which – I can’t wait to share with you guys all the great methods and techniques I learned at camp! I’ve got loads of ideas for my Crash Course Cooking instructional posts!
And so many ideas for yummy (healthier!) new recipes, too!
It’ll probably take quite a bit of experimenting in the kitchen (and quite a few messy countertops) to twist some of these treats into power food my runner’s body will appreciate – but keep your eyes open for some new, healthy recipes with old, fancy French names! 😉
And, in the meantime … keep breaking those eggs!