Early October Woody and I travelled to Denver, Colorado for my second Craftsy on-line baking class. It was an intense four days with a terrific team but I couldn't have done it without Woody, who knows my recipes backwards and forwards. Here I'm pouring tempered chocolate into silicone molds to form small blocks for making chocolate curls. Presenting the chocolate chocolate pecan tart. After a 10 hour day of filming, we celebrated by having dinner with our Denver friend and Alpha Baker par excellence Jenn Knitty Baker who took all these photos.
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Craftsy produces and sells state-of-the art on-line instructional video classes. To date, the company offers over 600 course listings covering all manner of crafts--not only cooking and baking. I was delighted to receive an invitation from the acquisitions editor, Denise Mickelsen, with whom I had worked when she was senior editor at Fine Cooking Magazine. The Craftsy studios are located in Denver, CO, known as the mile high city. This meant inevitable high altitude adjustments for baking. Fortunately, Jenn "Knitty Baker," one of our accomplished Alpha Bakers (the group that is baking their way through The Baking Bible) lives in Denver. She agreed to test all 9 of the cookie recipes and comment on any adjustments that would be required. In addition, Woody and I made a batch of each of the cookies and carefully packed them to bring with us. Making all the recipes gave us a chance to go over notes and tips I wanted to offer for each cookie. Also, even with adjustments, I knew that there would be some differences in the baked cookie, for example, when it is necessary to lower the baking soda; due to the lower pressure of higher altitude, the cookie will brown less. The Curtis Hotel was our home base for the week. It was conveniently situated within walking distance of The Ice House building where the studio for our Craftsy video taping sessions were we taped my class. It was also close to several excellent restaurants. We were pleased that Denver's weather forecast promised to be mostly sunny with temperatures in the 60's compared to our -14 degree F reception last November. For our first evening, Denise invited us to dinner at The Kitchen. I felt right at home because on the shelf of the open kitchen was my Baking Bible. We all enjoyed the excellent food and exchange of food world stories. As true foodies, we all enthusiastically shared our entrees and dessert. Our four-day Craftsy video taping session started with a day of orientation. The morning was spent with Jared Mahler, my instructional producer, going over the cookie lessons with us and, Victoria Perkins, our assistant prep person and stylist. Jared and Victoria were glad that we had brought all of the cookies so that they could see what each recipe looked like, as well as having them on hand incase a freshly-baked recipe did not turn out as expected. In the afternoon, we mis en place'd all of the recipes with adjustments as per Jen's notes, while Jared and his crew set up their equipment.
For dinner, we went to the EDGE restaurant and bar that was recommended by our airport limousine driver. After we ate our dinner of buffalo rib eye, we talked to pastry chef Ryan Schmitt. He enticed us to come for a return visit by showing us one of the Japanese Wagyu A-5 beef filets that had just arrived from Japan. The Wagyu on the left is the Colorado Wagyu which is less marbled. The first day of taping began the next morning. Our Lemon Jammies cookie recipe was my first lesson which was chosen as an ideal vehicle to give general tips and recommendations on mixing cookies as well as for presenting the specifics for rolled cookies. I also invited Jen to visit us at the studio in the afternoon. While I was discussing and performing my lessons with Jared, Jen helped Woody make the Rollie Pollie dough which was needed for the last day of taping, and took some excellent photos. Dinner was at a superb Italian restaurant: Osteria Marco, recommended by Victoria. We shared the best burrata I've ever tasted outside of Italy. The server explained that it is made fresh daily at the restaurant. Thursday, day 3, was our longest day (10 hours) as we taped 4 cookie recipes including the Luxury Oatmeal, Praline Meringue Ice Cream Sandwich, My Favorite Chocolate Chip, and the Pepparkakor. The Craftsy staff sampled all the cookies and most of all enjoyed the Praline Meringue sandwiches made with dulce de leche ice cream. Dinner was a return to the EDGE for us to share a rare dining experience: the A-5, 5 ounce Wagyu filet mignon and cauliflower gratin on the side. The chef also offered us a dish of the best shrimp I have ever eaten, which were poached in chardonnay and accompanied by snow crab claws. I've had wagyu beef in the past but this was truly the most amazing ever. It was buttery tender but with a beefy flavor. Chris, the extraordinarily knowledgeable server, explained that the Colorado wagyu was more grassy. Pastry chef Ryan came out to see us again with a dessert of his signature donuts with Vietnamese coffee custard sauce and chocolate nibs, and Chris offered us an exquisite Antigua dessert wine that had notes of butterscotch, citrus, and pine. We also brought along an assortment of the cookies we had baked for the taping. Ryan gave us a tour of the kitchen with its impressive pecan wood-burning grill on which all the meat except for the wagyu is grilled (the wagyu is cooked on a hot stone to preserve it's full flavor). We also visited Ryan's well-appointed pastry kitchen and met some of the staff who were busily sampling our cookies. When I asked him what kind of chocolate he uses (it was that delicious) he said Belgian and pulled out this bag of De Zaan. Friday, our final day of taping, was a marathon of pastry and cake-type cookies. My first session was on Rollie Pollies made with my favorite flaky cream cheese pie crust scraps. My new pie kit had launched a mere 3 days before at the International Housewares Show in Chicago--just in time to have it for the taping. The exceptional non-stick surface of the rolling pin and dough mat made rolling out the dough a dream. While I was making the Rollie Pollies, Woody was kneading the dough and forming the mini-tart shells for the Pecan Pielets--the only recipe not from The Baking Bible. My final cookie lesson was on cake-type cookies featuring my Chocolate Sweetheart Madeleines and Molasses Cakelets. Denise came to visit and we discussed possibilities for another baking class. Taping 7 cooking lessons in 2-1/2 days (preceded by months of organzing and planning) was an intense experience requiring much focus. All we did during the rest of the time was eat and sleep and were thoroughly exhausted by the end. That said, I was so glad to have this opportunity to showcase and share my work. I could not have done it without the help of Woody who also knew each recipe inside and out! Thanks to Craftsy's incredibly organized and professional staff, the class will be a highly effective educational tool. It will be available online at Craftsy.com in May and the link will be posted on the blog. Woody and I look forward to the next Craftsy teaching experience. Photo credit: Jenn "Knitty Baker" and Woody Wolston