Written by Sarah Hamilton.
Photos by CSFTW, Joshua Bousel, and Vicky Wasik.
We’ve started baking this week and I couldn’t be more thrilled. As a self proclaimed sugar addict, baking has always just made me happy. I feel like baking is my love language. If someone feels sad or heartbroken, if someone needs a friend, if someone did something worth celebrating, if I’m proud of my kids, the way I show them I love them is always to bake. And after watching shows like The Great British Baking Show religiously, baking is essentially why I came to culinary school. But I’ve discovered on my journey through school that everything is a little harder than I thought it would be. It is not all white tents and British accents and bless her, Mary Berry’s sugar coated judgements.
Our first go at baking starts off with biscuits, and I think they are the perfect way to start – we are in Texas after all. And my husband’s favorite breakfast is biscuits and gravy. If I learn to cook anything in culinary school, it had better be biscuits. I watch chef’s demo and start to work. Keep the butter cold. Cut the butter into the flour, but not too much. Mix in the liquid, but not too much. Roll out, cut, chill, bake. I look eagerly into the oven to see how they are baking, imagining a perfectly risen, puffy, flaky, golden biscuit. Instead, the oven is a horror show. The butter has just melted out and is pooling at the bottoms of the short, sad, soul-crushing biscuits.
Before I came to culinary school I totally thought that I was a pretty great cook. Turns out I just had some pretty great recipes that I got good at making. The longer I’m in school, the more terrible I feel about my skill level. But like any skill, I think practice makes perfect. So I go home that night and try to make the biscuits again. And just when I think that my biscuits can’t get any worse, this new batch of biscuit dreams sinks into the depths of despair.
The next day I stay after class determined to get help on the biscuits. The baking goddess chef shows me how to do the biscuit method, and it is like a lightbulb clicks in my head. Ok, I think I can do this now. I get my chance in the next class as we are asked to bake scones. We are allowed to flavor them however we want, and it is fun to be creative with the flavors. But I’m laser focused on technique today. I am going to get these right if it kills me. I don’t even need a Paul Hollywood handshake scone, just a puffy, edible scone will do. I choose lemon poppyseed, and I painstakingly follow the chef’s instructions. The dough feels better in my hands, and I optimistically put them into the oven.
This first week in baking has taught me persistence above everything else. I’ve learned that despite my love for it, I’m not actually that good at baking. We made a lemon curd that the chef told us that no one had ever gotten wrong. I really wish he hadn’t said that. Because somehow, I found a way. The lemon juice and sugar on the sides of my pan started to burn and as quickly as I could rotate my whisk, the burnt sugar infected the entire pan. But I tried again, using a rubber spatula this time and it came out perfectly.
So maybe I’m not naturally that good. But I am persistent and I will get it right eventually. I peek in the oven again to see how my scones are fairing. Hopefully better than the lemon curd or biscuits.
Beautiful. They are absolutely gorgeous, properly risen, speckled with poppyseed, tangy lemon goodness. I gingerly drizzle the icing on top and I think that Mary Berry herself would be proud. It may not have come easy, but it makes the success all the sweeter. I love to bake and it gives me joy, and I think that is the point of all of this anyway. No white tent needed.