If our cooking class with Chef Michael Bortz was any more rowdy and energetic, you’d swear you were at a basketball game, not baking in a kitchen.
Bortz, owner of City Bakery, and Chef Liz Buchanan, general manager, provided a fast-paced and light-hearted class experience to 10 participants in the kitchen at Café Options last Wednesday night. The theme: Thanksgiving desserts. The kitchen was packed with people and the sweet aromas of pumpkin pie, pecan pie and raspberry tart.
Before participants even arrived, Bortz unloaded his truck, and it seemed like he had packed his entire bakery into it! Pies, pie pans, rolling pins, processors, boxes of ingredients and tools — anything Bortz and Buchanan thought the class participants would need, they brought along. In a flash, the truck emptied and the two chefs, along with student sous chef Shannon, a Café Options employee, began to set up for the class.
In addition to the tools they would need for the class, Bortz and Buchanan brought along goodie bags they had put together for participants. Each bag included a packet about the recipes students would create in the class and a fresh loaf of bread, courtesy of City Bakery. But the chefs weren’t done yet. They also had entire coffee cakes to send home with our cooking class students.
If participants didn’t have enough sugar in their systems by the time the class was over, they certainly would once they got home and had more City Bakery goodies.
A class devoted to Thanksgiving desserts had to start with the base of the three pies: the crust. Buchanan rolled out some dough while Bortz explained all the nitty gritty details of her technique. Plenty of flour was involved, but not too much as to make the dough harden. Then, participants had the chance to roll out their own dough and try to use Buchanan’s technique of putting the flattened dough into a pie pan: wrapping it gently around the rolling pin, and rolling it out along the top of the pan.
Needless to say, participants had some trouble rolling like the experts, but it made for tons of laughter and a great learning experience.
While the pie crusts were baking, Bortz talked a bit about his own kitchen at City Bakery, astounding participants when he motioned with his arms to show just how huge the bakery ovens are. Buchanan also described what her typical day looks like — a day that begins at 2 a.m. to start on bread production! Participants also asked Buchanan, an Air Force veteran and former Farsi linguist, about her time with the military, and which she thought was tougher: the Air Force or baking.
To cap the class, Bortz dazzled participants by creating a specialty coffee concoction: his Flaming Coffee. After that, guests sat down to dessert, trying three of City Bakery’s sweet Thanksgiving treats.