Seasonal Fruit Dessert Class

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Rachel and I took Shuna Lydon's Seasonal Fruit Dessert Class this past Sunday. My very first "cooking" class, and I was really inspired. I am interested (and hope I can do this for myself) to take a variety of cooking classes, say once a quarter. I love food (duh!), and I love cooking for others. But I hack together menus from my cookbooks without an in-depth understanding and appreciation of all that there is.

Shuna is a "fruit inspired" pastry chef who has worked at many Bay Area restaurants including Chez Panisse and French Laundry. I didn't have much expectations as I was just happy to get to my first cooking class - something I've been interested in doing for years. But Shuna was a great teacher. We didn't just sit there with a recipe watching step 1, 2, 3. She clearly loves to teach and shared stories, tidbits of information about the chemistry of cooking, and anecdotes about her experiences at restaurants. She also understands her fruit. I loved how she talked about needing to appreciate the nature (spirit) of the fruit you are working with, and in general respecting any food you are preparing. She talked about how the desserts we were working on essentially required a minipulation of the ingredients to do things they normally don't. Like with making egg white proteins be strong enough to make a pavlova, it's key that the egg whites start at room temperature so the proteins are in as a relaxed state as they ever will be before you start your manipulation."Excited" proteins will behave differently. Makes sense, yet still fascinating.

I actually don't know her work that well. I do sense she definitely has that extra special insight about how food and fruits "behave."

Case in point: we worked with rhubarb...which is hard to cook, can look ugly, and is tart. She discovered ways to cook it deliciously without cooking it to death (deep frying it in a sugar syrup at just the right temperature so you cook a protective exterior that allows the rhubarb to cook without dissovling into mush and maintains the beautiful red color). This was after much much hard work, and she was the only one on her team to figure it out. That's dedication.

At the end, we got to eat all the desserts. Pavlova which you could add macerated strawberries and whip cream. Or the sugar fried rhubarb. There was cornmeal fruit cake, delicious rhubarb crisp with rosemary (rosemary was a nice touch that shined through), goat yoghurt pannacotta, and ice cream.


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