Photo by Jim
Miller/Zammer Hospitality Institute
Caterer and Cape Cod Community College baking teacher Carol Williams, center, makes crêpes with her students for their midterm exam - a brunch for 12.

Baking student Tiffany Provencher made this Chocolate Ganache Cake twice for practice, to ensure it would be right for the midterm brunch.

Arnold Miller Photos
Cape Cod Times
A vase of flowers provides an artistic backdrop for Quiche Lorraine, Spinach Quiche and Apricot and Chicken Crêpes, prepared by baking students at Cape Cod Community College's Zammer Hospitality Institute.

Arnold Miller Photos
Cape Cod Times
Guest Marion "Marty" Martin, the first U.S. woman to become a certified pastry chef chats with Tiffany Provencher, far left, and two of her classmates.

Baking Bits

Learn to make a good yeast bread dough by hand - it's the base for focaccia and other treats.

Measure everything precisely. Professionals weigh ingredients, although most home cooks use a measuring cup.

Invest in a thermometer so you don't have to guess if the bread is done on the inside.

Mise en place: Have all ingredients ready because timing matters.

In a rush? Put dough on top of a warm oven to speed rising.

Looks count: With quiches, pies, breads and cakes, it's a good idea to cut one piece and display it standing up so the bottom - not side - is on the plate.

64 Minutes until brunch
by Gwnn Friss, Staff Writer, The Cape Cod Times

Cape Cod Community baking students
make a meal - on time- for their midterm exam

West Barnstable - "These cakes are ready, Tom, get some baking tissue and I'll show you to do."  "Katie, can you please make a braid out of that dough?" "Jonathan, these are fabulous. Put one banana bread out hole and slice up another and make a design with slices." "Regina, I put the focaccia up here on the oven so be ready in five or 10 minutes."

It is 9:56 a.m. at the Cape Cod Community College's Zammer Hospitality Institute and caterer Carol Williams is doing one of the most challenging jobs in cooking, making sure all the food comes out together for 11 a.m. brunch.  Williams is owner of Carol Williams catering and La Petite Maison in Osterville.  Today, she has an additional job. She's is grading the 13 bakers who weave around the open kitchen and dining room space.  They are students in her baking 1 class at Cape Cod community College. This brunch for a dozen - including local chefs and college president Kathleen Schatzberg - is their midterm exam.

"When I first told them this would be their midterm they were so excited," says Williams. She's a hands-on teacher who is started each of the semester's six classes by having the Baking 1 students make their own pound of versatile yeast dough. It is 10:02 a.m. and Williams calls for everyone's attention. "We're just about on time, according to the schedule we make for ourselves," she says, tapping the refrigerator where the plan is taped

Although William's students are working toward a two-year culinary arts degree and may be transferring for two more years at a four year cooking school - this last hour of prep before brunch also holds lessons for any home cook, who plans to entertain.

Lesson number one: Make a realistic plan, assign each person a specific job that he or she knows how to do, write down a schedule.

Lesson number two: Turn the cake over, Tom Moran, 19, of Falmouth, who is making the Fruit and Corn Cake, has placed the top layer with the flat side up, so it looks neat and professional. "Come over on this side and watch what I'm doing," Williams says to Moran as she smooths the buttery, creamy frosting onto the banana cake.

It is 10:22 a.m. and Williams, tall and spare, is poised at the juncture of dining room and kitchen, pivoting as she takes in what needs doing next.

Lesson number three: Plan ahead to the point of picking out which food will go in which dish. Strips of paper torn from a notebook, with recipe names written on them, rest on empty glass dishes or in baskets: spinach quiche, blueberry muffins, chicken and apricot crepes, yeast bread and rolls. The strips are crumpled and discarded as foods take their place.  "Peter is your sauce great?  Do you have your plate ready?"

Lesson number four: Be prepared. Peter Vonstelzer, 21, of Dennis is making chicken and apricot crepes. He's worked at a few restaurants and has a rudimentary knowledge of yeast breads when class started, but some concepts are totally new. He never knew about "mise en place," the practice of setting out everything a recipe calls for an ahead of time to ensure you don't burn the butter will searching for the salt.  "It's all being graded," Williams said, having noted who came in at 7:30 a.m. for the 8 a.m. class. "Everything: planning the meal, the schedule, the preparation, presentation, serving, all of it."

Lesson number five: Looks count. As if on cue, Williams' colleague from her catering business, Lu Murray, shows up to help with the presentation. With a half-dozen students gathered around her, she pulls single stems from bunches of fresh flowers and lays them on the table in an unusual arrangement that does not use a vase.  The huge sunflowers in a vase would block the guest faces, but lying flat, they add a harvesty warmth to the table's starched white linen.  Murray advises students to use groupings of odd numbers - one, three or five - for the main blooms with fillers  tucked around. "You've got to kind of eyeball it," Murray says, "You've got to be quick because there's a lot to do and you have to get your food out on time."

Lesson number six: Practice, practice, practice.  Tiffany Provencher, 19, a Townsend resident staying in Barnstable because the Cape's community college has a culinary program, asks Williams about garnishing her Butter Cake with Chocolate Ganache. The cake really is hers, since she's made it three times in preparation for today. "Most of this - and I've told them over and over again is repetition; making until it gets beaten into your head and your hands," Williams says.

Lesson number seven: Learn the basics  Regina MacDonald, 37, of Sagamore beach is in charge of the rosemary focaccia. "It's very different from what you do at home.  Everything is volume in this class. You weigh everything. Getting these basic dough making techniques down was critical.  Now I can make bread without using my KitchenAid mixer," says McDonnell, who runs the before-school care program at Ella F. Hoxie Elementary School in Sagamore. Pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming a chef, MacDonald had planned to attend Johnson and Wales University, but decided to do the two first years closer to home to save time and money.

Provencher, with one hand on the handle and the other on the top of the blade of a large knife begins delicately chopping almonds to press into the side of the cake. She chops across the cutting board in one direction and turns the knife to a right angle and chops again for find and uniform crumbs.

Lesson number eight: Be neat and ready when company arrives.
It is 10:44 a.m. and Williams reminds students to check their aprons. "If they're dirty, turn them around so the clean side faces out." she tells the students, who are all dressed in white toques and chefs' jackets with black-and-white checked pants. Williams is one minute early on this, according to the schedule. But it's not a minute too soon, as guests are beginning to arrive.  

Williams hugs retired Cape Cod Community College teacher Marion "Marty" Martin, exclaiming, "Everyone! This was my teacher.  This is the cake decorator I told you about - the first woman in the country become a certified pastry chef." Next to arrive is Michael Bereau, executive chef at White Cliffs Country Club in Plymouth, who often serves to judge at the International Culinary Olympics. Caterer Olive Chase, owner of the The Casual Gourmet in Centerville, finds a seat next to Schatzberg, as other chefs arrive. "This is just so nice for them to come for the students so they can see we can all work together," Williams says of the visiting chefs.

It is 11 a.m. For the first time in three hours, Williams is standing still, looking at the buffet, where students in clean aprons are serving, and looking beyond them to the open kitchen, where every stainless steel surface gleams

"You've done an amazing job," Williams breathes to the students within earshot.  "You should be beyond proud."

Using their textbook, On Baking: A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals" by Sarah R. Labensky. Priscilla Martell and Eddy Van Damme, as a guide.  Williams and her students adapted these recipes for the brunch.

Corn Muffins
2 Eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup blueberries, if desired

Whisk eggs oil and milk in a small bowl to blend. Mix all dry ingredients in medium bowl.
Pour egg mix into dry mixture into dry ingredients and blend just until moistened. It is very important to never overmix. Add blueberries, if desired.  Scoop into greased muffin tin, bake at 425° for 25 to 30 minutes until golden. Makes one dozen.

Variation: Corn and Fruit Cake

Add 1 cup diced banana to corn muffin recipe. Bake for approximately 20 minutes in the 2 8-inch round cake pans that have been greased and floured. Cool completely and frost with banana frosting.

Banana Frosting
1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
2 bananas not to ripe
1 1/2 to 2 pounds confectioners' sugar

Mash bananas. Place in mixing bowl with butter.  Mix until smooth. Gradually add sugar until a spreadable consistency is reached. Frost cake and garnish with additional sliced bananas.

Banana Bread
3 ripe bananas
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Dash salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Mash bananas until smooth, add sugar egg and oil. Mix in dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips or knots.  Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 325° for 60 minutes.  

Herb and Onion Focaccia
4 cups flour (King Arthur All-purpose Flour is best)
Additional flour for kneading
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dried herbs (mixture of basil, oregano, and chives
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 packet of active dry yeast according to directions
2 to 2 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup olive or vegetable oil

Place flour, salt and dried herbs in a four quart mixing bowl. Add yeast to flour mix.  Gradually add warm water, start with one cup, stir in with a wooden spoon. Continuing adding water until flour is completely moistened.  You may not need all 2 1/2 cups. Stir until dough forms a ball. The dough should be soft and pull away from the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon or time until the desired consistency is reached.

Turn the dough out onto a flat surface, lightly covered with flour. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes until the surface appear smooth. Lightly dust the dough with flour and return to the mixing bowl.  Cover with a piece of oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm area for one hour.

Remove plastic from dough and punch dough to release gasses. Place dough on a floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to form a 9 x 11 inch rectangle. Place dough on oiled baking sheet. Brush the top of the dough with a thin coat of vegetable or olive oil. Sprinkle chopped onion on top of dough. Course salt may also be sprinkled on if desired. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes. Bake in preheated 375° oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.  

Additional oil may be brushed on during baking if surface looks dry. Cool on a rack when removed from oven.

Carol Williams
Box 812, Osterville, MA 02655
 508 965-9598
Email Us at:

Home      Cooking Classes    Links