Baking Soda Bread with CityLab Students
Last week, I was privileged to watch the students in CityLab’s Culinary Exploratory Course bake banana bread under the watchful eye of instructor Chef Ramzy. This week, I was even more excited to watch them bake soda bread, as it’s a favorite of mine.
This was the final week of the Culinary Exploratory Course, the culmination of a semester of learning the basics of culinary and kitchen skills. Throughout the course, students have learned to make simple, nutritious dishes – mac and cheese, scones, brownies, and now – soda bread.
When I entered the RevereTV studio kitchen, the students, Chef Ramzy, and Nicholas Blaisdell, teacher, were already circled around the workspace in the middle of the kitchen area. Chef Ramzy was explaining the science of adding buttermilk and enforcing that, in this recipe, the butter must be kept cold.
Chef Ramzy had a finished loaf sitting on the counter, giving students a sneak peek into what their final product would look like. Chef Ramzy likes to use raisins, but, unsurprisingly, the students decided to leave them out. Raisins are an acquired taste.
Just like last week, the students were rapt as they watched Chef Ramzy’s clever hands measure ingredients, flour his hands, and create a well inside his flour in which to pour his buttermilk. It’s easy to lose yourself watching him work, sans recipe.
However, because the chef gave a complete demonstration and the students were clearly fascinated by the show before them, they were quite capable of working independently of the recipe, although they each had one in front of them, just in case.
Students worked in groups of two to complete the task ahead of them. The dough in this recipe is quite sticky, so flour was everywhere, including fronts of shirts as well as coating the work surface.
Baking is a tricky culinary skill, more chemistry than instinct, and it was impressive to see that students didn’t confuse baking powder for baking soda or free-pour sugar into their mixtures. It’s clear that this experience has left an impression on participating students, and that they are eager to impress both their teacher and the chef. They also clearly enjoyed themselves, as they mixed batter and flipped dough onto baking pans, ready to go in the oven.
While their bread baked, they sat back and relaxed. The relationship between Mr. Blaisdell and his students is relaxed, and the comradery between them is apparent. Whether cooking or kicking back, the students were all happy enjoying this experience.
Makerspace Students Design Oceanic Robots
On February 14, CityLab Period Six Makerspace students traveled to the aquarium. The challenge was to create a prototype of a robot inspired by these creatures.
A Makerspace is a collaborative environment, located in schools, libraries, or another private or public facility. A Makerspace gives students an opportunity to walk in with an idea, and walk out with a completed project.
The students studied a variety of animals, imagining ways in which the mechanics of these animals could translate into a robot that could, eventually, help to alleviate some form of plastic pollution. Their prototype was meant to mimic the movements of one of the animals they studied to help collect or filter plastic from the ocean.
Students were able to get up close to animals like stingrays and sharks. They also had an opportunity to study animals like turtles, octopi, penguins, stingrays, starfish, and various species of fish.
Students’ Experiences at RevereTV’s Kitchen
Delicious smells began wafting from the kitchen area of RevereTV as students from CityLab’s Culinary Exploratory Course worked with experienced instructor Chef Ramzy to learn how to prepare basic, nutritious, and delicious dishes – including chocolate chip scones, banana bread, brownies, and mac and cheese.
Every Wednesday, students are given hands-on experiences in RevereTV studio’s professional kitchen under the guidance of Chef Ramzy. Students develop measuring, mixing, baking, sauteing, and other skills. They also learn about safety and sanitation.
On Wednesday, March 22, we visited Revere TV to watch students in the Culinary Exploratory Course make banana bread with either walnuts or chocolate chips. Students gathered around Chef Ramzy to watch his demonstration, paying close attention as the chef melted butter, mashed bananas, and carefully measured dry ingredients. The students were enthralled while watching the professional chef use his well-honed skills to measure, pour, and mix the batter.
Students then split into two groups. Each group worked seamlessly, splitting tasks like mashing bananas, ensuring the dry ingredients were measured properly, and carefully pouring the prepared batter into pans, ready to go in the oven.
Students were filmed during the process, from Chef Ramzy’s preparation to wrap-up interviews while waiting for their dishes to come out of the oven.
After careful instruction from Chef Ramzy, students in the Culinary Exploration Course will finish the course with a strong foundation in the art of cooking and be able to prepare various meals at home with confidence, and you can too!