During Amanda Broder's stone-fruit baking class at Food last Sunday, the pastry chef gently kneaded pie dough and encouraged the ten ladies seated along the black concrete bar opposite her, "If my great great great grandmother, who was probably illiterate, and had no plumbing or electricity can do this, then you can do it too."
Baking classes at Food, West Pico's neighborhood market/café, are like hanging out at your girlfriend's place while she shows you her kitchen secrets. Broder's Sunday tutorials cover all things buttery and sweet, and her casually cheeky jokes and frequent evocation of that somewhat mythic grandmother seem to help diminish some of the rigid perfectionism people often associate with baking.
Although Broder has trained in some of the city's top kitchens (Campanile, Grace, Josie), attendees benefit most from her emphasis on baking (and mistaking) at home, where conditions are usually less ideal than in a fully-stocked restaurant kitchen (though still probably far better than those of her dough-savvy progenitor).
A fervent subscriber to the "make it work" mentality, Broder says, "It's okay if you don't have one of these," referring to her shiny KitchenAid stand mixer, as she combines the sugar, salt, and baking powder for her Basque cornmeal torte. "That's what children are for."
Before, during, and between bouts of mixing and measuring, Broder seamlessly weaves together the practical tips (how to cut a perfectly circular cake pan liner out of parchment paper) with personal tips (the importance of getting to know the people selling your fruit at the farmer's market), and (very) personal stories. The ladies in attendance are similarly encouraged to interject questions and tips, and gab, but the focus remains on baking.
"Which grade maple syrup is best for baking?" "What's the difference between baking soda and baking powder?" and, "Oh my God, then what happened?," are all asked and answered with equal excitement.
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The class is mostly demonstrative, and that seems to suit its fashionable attendees nicely. With hands covered in pie dough (she likes to get dirty), Broder asks, "Does anyone want to get their hands in this?" and only two of the women say yes.
This class format also allows her to maximize the material covered. During the two-hour class, the ladies learn how to make six of the café's most delicious pastries while laughing, sipping, tasting, and nobody ruins their manicure.
Attendees leave Broder's baking class with a perfect slice of everything that Food is known for -- in addition to a recipe book and a neatly-packaged goodie box filled with yummy samples, and a bunch of new girlfriends who are excited share what their baking know-how.
For information about upcoming baking classes, visit Food's website food-la.com, call or stop by.