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Into the Fire–Inside a Texas culinary school

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Ever wanted to deep-six your boring career and do something totally different, like go to culinary school? San Antonian Chris Dunn did just that–he signed up for the chef’s program at the Center for Foods of the Americas, completed his certificate, and blogged about the whole thing. Since the school just got written up in Gourmet (see previous blog post from today, below), I thought it would be fun to reprint one of his diary entries from “Into the Fire.” The blog appeared this spring on the San Antonio Express News Web site, MySA.com. Here goes:
Day 112 April 19, 2007

Rising (by not Rising) to the Occasion

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in front of an oven, anxiously peered into the window, and willed a loaf of bread to rise like a country preacher lifting his hands toward heaven, exhorting his flock to “rise as the invitation is offered.”

Actually, I probably looked more like a bowler trying to salvage a gutter ball by physically moving in the opposite direction the ball (in this case a loaf of bread, but similar in weight to a bowling ball) was going (south), all to no avail.

So it was with particular relief today when my teammate and I were given the task of making Sardinian Flatbread. In order to be successful, all we had to do was produce a bread that makes pancakes look like the Swiss Alps. That’s my kind of bread baking.

We mixed semolina, which is durum wheat pasta flour, and all purpose flour together, then added water, salt, olive oil, dried oregano, basil, and thyme, and made a stiff dough. After letting it rest for a few minutes, we divided the dough into pieces and ran them through successively smaller settings on a hand crank pasta machine until we had sheets of dough that were thin enough to read through.

Teammate Phillip San Miguel carefully brushed the sheets with olive oil and dusted them with coarse salt. We placed them on trays and into an extremely hot oven. When one side began to color, we turned the bread sheets over, repeated the olive oil and coarse salt treatment, and returned the bread to the oven until it was golden brown.

Once cooled and broken into irregularly shaped pieces, our Sardinian Flatbread turned into shatteringly crisp, savory crackers.

Instead of making bread where we prayed for something to Happen and it didn’t, we made bread where we prayed for Nothing to happen, and it did. It was an example of Rising, by not Rising, to the Occasion. (From Chris Dunn)

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