C3 and I took four days of baking classes at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont. The class focused on pastries including principles and tons of practice with hands-on preparation of 10 different desserts including blintz pastry dough, tender white cake with swiss meringue buttercream, almond dacquoise, pate a choux, pastry cream, turnovers, blueberry and peach pie, Florentine bars, lemon bundt cake, linzer torte, and chocolate ganache.
In addition to us attending from the Lone Star State, we were joined by fourteen other bakers from Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Vermont, and Illinois. Each day our two instructors, most of them trained in a culinary institute with years of experience at King Arthur, guided us through a demonstration of preparing the dessert, followed by each of us trying to replicate it with their assistance and technical expertise.
We learned several baker’s secrets. One of our teachers was originally from Newton, Kansas, my dad’s home town, and she learned to bake the Mennonite way before training in the kitchens of King Arthur. Always a small world when we travel.
The facility at King Arthur is top-notch and each of us had a metal table space equipped with scale, Kitchen Aid mixer, bowls, scraper, bench knife, spoons, and more. We were trained the first day to measure in grams instead of ounces or cups using a scale and a beaker for accuracy and the best results. One of the assistants kept our dishes and pans clean for us which was such a treat not to have to do dishes while we were baking. Not a reality when we came back home!
The amount of butter used in these recipes is arresting but with advice from the instructors we learned ways to modify the recipes to accommodate dietary restrictions like those who may be lactose intolerant or just wanting to reduce the calorie content. It was challenging to figure out how to modify the recipe, substitute alternative ingredients and still make a proper dessert.
Between baking classes, C3 and I explored southern Vermont hiking trails, the quaint little villages, we were especially fond of Woodstock, dined at a great restaurant in Rutland called Roots, please try their appetizer called Vt Cider Braised Pork Belly with grilled watermelon, jalepeno-honey vinaigrette and pickles. We soothed in the cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels. We drove by dairy farms, corn fields, mountain streams, well-tended gardens, berry crops, wild flowers and so many beautiful perennials just blooming for us to admire. Writers and story tellers like Howard Frank Mosher refer to Vermont as God’s Kingdom. C3 and I learned why.
Get a little closer to nature and try your hand at baking. Here is one of the recipes I especially enjoyed and want to share with you.
- 113 grams of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 57 grams sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg (cold or room temperature)
- 43 grams honey
- 43 grams unsalted butter
- 128 grams sugar
- 113 grams heavy cream (cold or room temperature)
- 113 grams sliced almonds
- 57 grams dried cranberries
- 7 grams all purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 9×13 inch pan with pan spray.
- In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle, cream together butter, sugar and salt until it looks like sand.
- Add the egg and vanilla (it will look a little gloppy)
- Add the flour and stir until combined (turn up your mixer to 5 speed)
- Press mixture into the prepared pan.
- Prick bottom with a fork – the steam will escape from the butter.
- Chill 30 minutes before baking. Don’t skip this step!
- Bake for 10 minutes until just set but not taking color.
- Remove from oven, set aside, and reduce oven to 325.
For the topping
- In a sauce pan, boil the honey, butter, sugar and cream over medium heat until lightly golden brown, about 240 degrees. Use a candy thermometer for best results.
- Remove from heat and stir in almonds, cranberries and flour (mix together before adding to sugar mixture)
- Spread the cooked mixture on top of the par-baked crust
- Bake until the almonds are well browned and the topping is bubbling (about 12 minutes).
Allow to cool, invert the pan releasing the bars and cut into diamond pattern. So pretty and yummy good.