Wednesday, July 6, 2011

pain d'epi

Just as June ended, I was still reaping the benefits of a lovely Christmas gift from Miguel — cooking classes at the Whole Foods Culinary Center. I went to a class called Basic Breads: Baguettes and Ficelles last weekend. And I made this!

(It's supposed to resemble a wheat stalk.)

The first of three cooking classes was a demo followed by a lunch much fancier than I would normally have on a weekday: panzanella with chicken sausage, garlicky shrimp with arugula pesto over orzo and a slice of lemon pine nut tart. Yum. I took good notes on toasting croutons, an idea for a Texas-style pesto (with cilantro, pecans and jalapeno) and this mondegreen that seemingly everyone in the class misheard during some coaching on the tart: "Get ready, because this involves a lot of whiskey!" Turns out, the instructor had said the filling needs a good deal of whisking. I believe we should be open to both.

My notes on class No. 2 — where I wore an apron and learned hands-on about French cooking Lyon-style — contain this similar bit of marginalia quoting, as it happened, the same instructor: "Quiche — it's based on a cuss word." I was prepared to nerd out over some amusingly raunchy French idiom, but once again, we'd all misheard him. Custard, he'd said. Well, sure.

The bread class was more straightforward. I kneaded while listening to tips on feeding starters called pâte fermentée and poolish that give breads their flavor. And I continued kneading while a brick of Irish butter was set out and we were told about the happy, happy cows it came from. I did a lot of kneading.

Perhaps the best thing I learned was how to give a baguette that fancy leafy look above, in which case it's called pain d'epi. This site describes the technique with step-by-step photos. All you need is scissors!