mike kostyo

I know food.

day eight - pies and tarts

Note: For six weeks, July 5 - August 11, I will be enrolled in the culinary arts cooking and pastry/baking certificate programs at Boston University. Cooking is Monday and Tuesday, baking is Wednesday and Thursday. We have to keep a daily journal of the experience, so I'll be blogging about the class every day.

When we first started these classes and the end results would turn out differently for each individual or group, it was always heralded as one of those interesting facts of cooking: "Isn't that something? The same recipe, but each group got different results!" The differences were simply a product of our individuality.

Now it's more like, "Stop doing that." Because really, if you cook in a restaurant, you can't have things turning out differently all of the time. The chef and customer don't think it's an adorable symptom of the human tapestry that this piece of chicken tastes like it has a nice basil sauce on top and that one tastes like pepper stew when they ordered the same thing.

So last night we all made chess pie, and we might as well have made different recipes. But, and I'm not trying to pawn responsibility off, it's these devil ovens we have. If the chefs are gently encouraging about everything we do, the ovens seem to be actively working against us. As I said before, they have two settings: high and off. And that's if you can get them to high; sometimes they prefer off. Sometimes they prefer off in the middle of cooking. We have oven thermometers in each oven because the temperature dial on the outside is a decoration. It doesn't help that they each say "Vulcan" on them in angry letters.

So our pie didn't really cook at all. It was a sugary pie soup underneath a layer of cracked bergs on top that would gently crash into one another when we moved the pie around the kitchen. One group's pie was overdone on top but barely set underneath. Another group's tasted delicious but was also underdone. The final group had a wonderful consistency but it didn't seem to taste like lemon. It was our first big cooking failure.

The apple galettes, on the other hand, all turned out beautifully because we cooked them in the convection oven. I thought they were equally delicious, but Chef Schiarappa said one was more buttery than the others. They always taste the same to me unless mine is the favorite, then it's like, "This one does taste a bit better, now that you mention it."

Oh, and we also called the police on a drunk guy wandering around the various classrooms yelling at the cleaning staff who, it later turned out, was enrolled in another class in the building.

A third of the way down! Four weeks to go! On Monday: eggs.