Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Baking Classes and Pink Stoves


I had a whole post prepared for my mid-week commitment to this blog but during the proof-reading stage I got to wondering if I’d written about some of the same stuff in the past. So off I went to my “search this blog” feature and sure enough I’d already told the story about the house my husband bought just before we met that came with a pink kitchen stove and how he promptly hauled it off to the dump after his buddies teased him about having a bachelor pad with a pink stove---it was 1970 and guys didn’t do pink back in those days. I’d only seen that decked out GE one time but it was memorable and worth a second mention. For any new readers, though, I should say that he never replaced that stove the entire time he lived there. If his kitchen didn’t have a coffee pot and a door going out to his garage he wouldn’t have known the house even had a room that was supposedly used to prepare and eat food in. 

I haven’t spent a lot of time in kitchens over my lifetime either and with the “search this blog” feature I discovered that I’ve also written about how when I was a teenager my mom would stress out over my lack of interest in learning to cook. Whenever the subject came up I was like a parrot repeating, “If you can read, you can learn to cook. When I need to learn, I will.” Later on in my twenties when I still wasn’t married with a few kids to feed, I switched to saying, “I’m looking for a man who can cook or has the money to eat out all the time.” I found the latter. 

Our senior hall offers a lot of cooking classes and you’d think they wouldn’t be popular, given the fact that most of my peers have spent a life time cooking for families. I don’t take many of those classes but this week’s class on baking caught my eye. It was taught by a Le Cordon Bleu Paris trained pastry chef and I took it mostly because you get to eat what is demonstrated. The class was billed as one that would teach us how to make easy desserts for our holiday buffets from “rich, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cakes with dark chocolate ganache to nutritious dried fruit/nut/chocolate clusters.” Heck, I had to ask Alexa what a ganache is; that’s how little I know my way around the world of baking. By the time the registration was closed they had filled up four baking classes of twenty-five each with a waiting list should anyone cancel. The senior hall recently bought a 5 x 12 foot, special overhead mirror for the cooking area so everyone can see inside the pans or bowls so it’s safe to say the cooking classes will remain on the calendar for a long time to come. 

The pastry chef who taught this class had been an emergency room doctor for twenty years before deciding to give it all up and go to Paris, France and Florence, Italy to get a degree in baking. I learned a lot like the fact that my kitchen is woefully understand stocked with gear and gadgets if I truly were interest in doing some baking. I don’t have the silicone tiny molds used for making bite-sized cakes, for example, or the bowl scrappers that she said are her favorite baking tools---she has five. And did you know that those silicone molds need to sit on wire racks placed on top of cookie sheets during the baking? (The wire racks helps to circulate the warm air around the molds for a more even baking.) We also learned tips for piping batter in the molds and why using a water bath is preferable for melting chocolate over doing it in a microwave. I also don’t have a food scale; it seems that professionals all weigh ingredients rather than measure. Good to know. 

I learned that chocolate ganache is to die-for and is made of heavy, boiled cream poured into soften chocolate---in a ratio of one part to one part for a medium weigh ganache. She gave us a chart that I lost on the way out of the building that broke down all the kinds of ganaches you can make by using different types of chocolate and ratios to the cream. But probably the most useful tip I learned is that she always sets her oven timer for half the time called for on a recipe at which point she turns the stuff in the oven---front to back and side to side. And for the remainder of the time she might turn the heat up or down depending on if the tops are browning too slow or fast in relationship to how the insides are baking. Many factors like the humidity in the air or the moisture of ingredients (like in fruits) can factor into baking times so you should expect to tweak the baking time for each batch of anything, even if you’d made it a million times. 

She asked for suggestions for future baking classes we’d like to see and I put in a request for one on scones and biscotti. Before this class I’d already decided I want to teach myself how to make them on days when I get snowed in this winter. My mom would be proud I'm taking an interest, finally, and if my old stove pukes out I might even consider getting a pink one. I hear retro is a hot trend right now. ©

29 comments:

  1. Wow! You learned a lot. I'm a person who cooks because she needs to, not because she loves to. I'm so happy that H has gotten interested in cooking.

    I think about a chocolate cake with ganache from time to time, but I've never made one. I should try it.

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    1. I'm going to treat cooking or baking sometime like a treat to kill a winter day when I can't go any place. I'm tried of knitting and reading to kill time and you can only clean so much because it drives me batty.

      We had a couple of guys in the class. H would have loved it. She gave out a LOT of technique tips, better than on the Food Network.

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    2. I just got a terrific cook book ... Small Batch Baking. PERFECT for one or two servings. So far, I haven't purchased anything special except a can opener that leaves smooth edged. It's perfect to make something for the boys (or all four of them) and not leave anything for me! (There is also a chocolate version!)

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    3. I don't have that book but it was mentioned in a class I took on cooking for one that was taught down at the senior hall. the classes always focus on one thing like 'spices' or 'beans' or 'soups.' All very popular.

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  2. That pink stove looks like a toy! So cute.
    I can cook and bake, but I really need to be In The Mood. Baking especially is Worky. You can't improvise as much, as you undoubtedly found out, and the precision of it calls for more concentration than I have to give on many days.

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    1. That's a real stove that's been restored to it's former glory and is like the one I remember my husband threw out. But it was 1970 and those pink stoves were popular in the '50s so I'm pretty sure it didn't look that good.

      The precision of baking appeals to me more than the seat-of-your pants, intuitive approach that most good cooks take with other food.

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  3. Oh would I have loved this. This is so in my wheel house. I was a big baker before I was diagnosed with celiac. Cake is my favorite food group or was that is. I did not know that about the silicone molds have to sit on a rack. Could be why I have issues when using mine and therefore quit using them. Biscotti is easy to make. Scones I am not a fan of eating so I never tried to bake them. But biscotti is another story. Eat them, made them and ate them. :-) Those I don't share...tee hee

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    1. She explained a lot about the different kinds of flours and which ones people with celiac can tolerate. I think she's going to do a whole baking class on that theme. Bread flour is the worst, cake flours less dense than bread and all-purpose and the easiest tolerate of the wheat flours. The cakes she made only had a 1/2 cup of cake flour for a huge batch. She said you can make them with even less. I guess you can still enjoy baking if you have celiac.

      I buy biscotti and scones from time to time but never tried making them.

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  4. My Dad did all the cooking when I was young and I just thought it was a man's job like mowing the lawn. Marriage was a shock for me but I finally learned to cook something the family dog wouldn't turn his nose up at.
    You got some great baking tips.

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    1. That was unusual back in your dad's era, I think. My dad was like my husband, didn't learn to do anything in the kitchen until after my mom died.

      We learned a lot of tips I didn't share. worth the $10 it cost to take the class.

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  5. Now that was a great cooking class! I'm going to suggest to my senior center! I've only taken one cooking class and I just loved it (vegan of all things!). More expensive and I learned a lot also.

    I do not have a sweet tooth UNTIL it comes to home made cookies and treats .....

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    1. I took a stir-fry class from a fancy place---won the $50 class at an auction. God, was that good experience! There are a lot of private chefs around who will do classes. Even the health department taught a class on how to cook with good nutrition in mind.

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  6. I don't like to cook. (I think I'm the only person I know who has to dust the range top of my stove because of lack of use.) I do like to bake, though. I've improved my skill set considerably from when my 7th grade Home Ec teacher, Miss Elwell, told me the tunnels in my muffins were so large "you could drive a truck through them." Now I bake mainly pumpkin pies for the holidays. Last year I did Christmas cookies too, but ended up eating most of them myself so I think I'll skip that load of calories this go 'round.

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    1. My stove doesn't get any used either. My microwave is a different story.

      Tunnels in your muffins would make it fun for kids to play with their food.

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  7. If you have Netflix, you should consider watching the Great British Baking Show. It's a lot of fun to watch other people bake actually, especially when they have cool accents and are so nice to each other. I hope you'll post about your baking experience--and show us a photo.

    Sheila

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    1. I Don't have Netflix (that I know of) but a quick google search says it's on PBS. I used to watch a lot of cooking on the Food Network so I know what you mean about it being fun to watch other people bake/cook.

      Oh, trust me. If I get snowed in and start baking I'll post about it. Anything is fair game for blog fodder then. LOL

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  8. that stove, restored, would fetch a pretty penny these days, for sure!

    I'm not a big ganache fan. I just don't much care for the texture. It seems like chocolate-light to me. LOL Good for you, for taking some (pretty advanced!!) cooking classes now, though!

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    1. She said that ganache is what is used in the center of a lot of candies and cakes and I thought it was great. I liked the texture and contrast with the richer chocolate cakes it was on. I wish I hadn't lost the recipes she handed out.

      If money were no object I'd like the retro appliances. But I'd get tired of them quickly so I'd have to have money to replace them sooner than neutrals.

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  9. I have been baking bread for many years. I like knowing the science of cooking (understanding how different ingredients react with each other) but I am not a very precise baker. With bread, I add the flour until it’s enogh! I do measure cakes but I’m not that precise. And I don’t like baking cookies or muffins: it’s too labor intensive with the clean-up!
    I have tried, over the years, to make the perfect chocolate mousse. I like it and it is not something you can get in local supermarkets so I have experimented. The experimenting itself is fun!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. You would have liked her idea for cutting down on clean up when she bakes cookies and muffins. She plans her various batched in a certain order so she can use the same bowls, spoons and whisks etc without cleaning them in between. Lightest, vanillas first to darker chocolates.

      I can see why experimenting would be fun, especially if you have someone to serve it to afterward. I like mousse too but I doubt I've ever had good mousse...just the kind you get in boxes.

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  10. I totally enjoyed this blog even though I still have no knowledge of how to create chocolate ganache & chocolate mousse, I almost spelled mouse. LOL. I've already enjoyed cooking and baking but not the things that scare me. Well have a great day Jean.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. I did the same thing with mouse, mousse. LOL

      Making a ganache looks simple enough that even I could do it. You melt the chocolate over a water bath---she used a stainless steel bowl over a pan of boiling water. While that was going on she boiled the heavy cream. Then she took pan of chocolate and poured it into the cream and used a whisk to blend them. The only thing that can go wrong is if you don't remember to wipe the bottom of the chocolate bowl off before holding it over the cream so that water drips into the mix.

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    2. Thank you Jean. I'll have to try and then after I'll inform you how I made out. By the way, What do use with the ganache? Stupid me. Sorry about that Jean.

      Cruisin Paul

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    3. You're the one who likes to cook and bake and you're asking me, who doesn't cook and rarely bakes? LOL Ganaches, from what I gather, are used like icings, drizzles, fillings and frostings for cakes and other baked goods.

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    4. WOW! I didn't know that was what garnache was was doing all my life in baking. I did it many times but didn't know gananche. It must have been my Italian not knowing that word. Is it French, ganache? LOL See ya my friend.

      Cruisin Paul

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  11. Cooking class sounds like a lot of fun and I LOVE that pink stove. Reminds me of my mom's first stove in the home we grew up in - wasn't pink but had all of those drawers. Was an older appliance (which they bought used) and cooked and baked like a dream.

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    1. People used to be able to repair those old stoves when a burner went out and they lasted forever. Now, some of the news ones would take a tech degree to run.

      I live cooking classes, gives me an appreciation for how much work goes into good food. I just don't like doing anything creative that disappears soon after I make it.

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  12. That sounds like fun! I'm thinking of taking a cooking class on Sunday but haven't signed up yet so it might be full. I love stuff like that!

    Don't worry about reposting things you may have done long ago. Those of us who are new will probably never have heard them and the old timers will probably have forgotten or love to be reminded!

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    1. I kind of thought after I rewrote half this blog, that I didn't need to. If I didn't remember writing about the stove, etc., then what were the changes someone else would remember reading it once.

      I'll bet you could teach cooking classes...at least teach classes on setting a great table.

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