Teaching students to give back is a quality lesson worth teaching.
By Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE
I recently finished listening to, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Arthur Pirisig. A major theme of the book is the author drove himself insane – literally – trying to define quality. I teach one day a week at the San Mateo County jail in California. One day after I finished the book, a student in jail made snickerdoodles. Not knowing anything about the book or that I had listened to it, he said, “Quality in life is a perfect snickerdoodle.”
At this time of year, I think the definition of quality includes looking for ways to make life a little better for others, and in doing so, making each of us a better person. It is the season of giving, and it is part of our job as instructors to make our students better participants in our schools, our communities, our nation and our world. So, let’s show them how they can do this with the quality of the snickerdoodle.
Before I give you a couple of cookie recipes, let’s talk a bit more about sharing. In our local jail the inmates receive cookies as their holiday present. A local organization, the Service League of San Mateo County, has cookies made or donated and wraps them for the inmates for opening on the morning of December 25th. Several years ago they came to me and said they were very short on donations and could my students help. In four days we made over 3,000 cookies. This is a yearly project now and, given our advanced notice, we can produce anywhere from 7,000 to 12,000 cookies.
This cookie project is very important for my students for several reasons. From a professional cooking perspective, it teaches them mass production baking, team work and coordinating between teams for the common goal of all. Also, each day I assign one student the role of kitchen supervisor to manage everyone and cookie production. Just as important are the project’s soft skills. My students learn no matter what their life’s status or circumstance, they can use their cooking talents to make the world a little bit better. (My students already know the secret ingredient in every dish is love. I say to them, “When cooking, don’t serve anything unless you would serve it to your grandmother and say, ‘Grandmother, I made this for you with love and I am proud of what I made.’”)
I realize cooking extremely large numbers of cookies might not be an option for you. But your students could always make small batches and deliver them to homeless shelters, senior care facilities, or someplace else where a little holiday treat would be greatly appreciated.
Below are two of my students’ most favorite cookie recipes for our yearly cookie project. The snickerdoodle recipe yields about 20. The Chocolate White Chocolate Chip recipe yields about 250 plus.
Have a great holiday break and in January I will do a follow-up on my article of January 2016 about Losing Weight as a Culinary Instructor. The article will be on the very hot topic of mindful eating.
(Editor’s Note: Click here to read about Chef Weiner receiving the prestigious Antonin Carême Medal Award.)
Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE
Yield: About 20 cookies
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. or convection oven to 300 degrees.
Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl.
With a handheld or standing mixer, beat together the shortening and butter. Add the 1 1/2 cups sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and blend until smooth.
Mix the 3 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon in a small tray. Roll the dough, by hand, into balls (about 1 1/2-inches diameter). Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar. Flatten the balls into 1/2-inch thick disks, spacing them evenly on unlined cookie sheets. Bake until light brown, but still moist in the center, about 8 to 10 minutes. Check cookies after about six minutes, and rotate them in the oven when you check them.
Cool fully on a rack before wrapping.
Chocolate White Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE
Yield: approximately 250 to 300 depending on scoop size
6 pounds flour
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
5 pounds unsalted butter softened (not melted)
5 1/2 pounds granulated sugar
4 1/4 pounds brown sugar
20 large eggs beaten
10 tablespoons vanilla extract
5 cups unsweetened cocoa
11 cups chocolate chips, preferably white
Preheat regular oven to 375 degrees F, or convection to 325 degrees. In a bowl sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. In the work bowl for the large mixer beat the butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla and cocoa at low speed for three minutes. In four batches, add the mixture of flour/salt/baking soda into the mixing bowl being sure to stop the mixer each time that an addition is made. After each addition mix for one minute at low speed. After all the flour has been added and mixed, add the chocolate chips in three batches, mixing for 30 seconds at low speed between each batch.
Using a scoop, measure uniform size cookies and place on a parchment lined baking sheet two inches apart. Bake for about 5 minutes and then rotate and return to bake. Check again in three more minutes. Cookies are done when they turn to a darker brown around the edge.
Cool thoroughly before wrapping.
Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE, teaches a 20-week Introduction to Cooking program for JobTrain on the San Francisco Peninsula, and is a frequent presenter at CAFÉ events throughout the nation.