You're in your kitchen, whipping up a batch of caramel. You swirl the pan , watching it bubble and work its way towards the perfect shade of golden brown. But all of a sudden the caramel goes from golden to gross, turning black and violently smoking. Whether the fire alarm goes off is beside the point: all you're left with is a scorched pan and the wonder of where you went wrong. For the answer, you might try a hands-on baking class with Kristin Feuer, owner of Bakelab and instructor of its Sweet Saturdays Baking Series.
Feuer, formerly a pastry cook at Providence and baker at Clementine, opened Bakelab to give the world a glimpse behind the "art meets science" curtain of baking. While her bakery specializes in modern interpretations of favorite desserts -- think chocolate-dipped S'mores, sugar-coated peanut butter cookie sandwiches and every kid's favorite, the coconut snowball -- Feuer is inspired to share the basics behind baking: to demystify the science behind caramel, cheesecake, and even her signature chocolate chip cookies.
Feuer says she started Bakelab's Sweet Saturdays Baking Series because, "when people ask me questions, they're not about what kind of maple syrup to use in a bacon cupcake, they're about the fundamental issues of baking: why did my cake fall, why does my caramel burn so fast, why did my cheesecake crack, stuff like that. There's so much craziness out there right now with altering flavors and modernizing things, but it's having those basic skills that will make your baking great."
So far, she has shared the secrets to making Bakelab's cookies in her Cookie Party Class, showed home bakers how to master the art of piping and flooding in her Royal Icing Class, and on August 7 and 21, will discuss the science behind homemade S'mores. Why S'mores? Feuer says the class, "which on the surface is about dipping things in chocolate and a love for nostalgia, is really about how to make marshmallow and graham cracker, two things about which people actually look me right in the eye and say, in total seriousness, 'I didn't know you could make that yourself.'"
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Bakelab's physical lab is a commercial kitchen located near LAX, complete with beaker flower vases, personalized aprons with Feuer's hand-drawn graphics and, come weekends, individual work stations where students of all experience levels can learn firsthand why their homemade caramel went up in flames. "Answering 'why' is so important to me," says Feuer. "I want to give people the building blocks to start figuring things out for themselves because it is endlessly satisfying, and generates more curiosity and more love and appreciation for baking."
While Bakelab's S'mores' classes mark the end of the Bakelab's Sweet Saturdays Summer Series, Feuer has finalized her fall schedule, which includes the art of homemade cookies (September 11), custards (September 25), caramel (October 9) and cheesecake (October 23). Classes start at $45/student; review the schedule and sign up here or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Just make sure to arrive early, as Feuer always has Bakelab cookies and bottles of ice cold milk set up for students.
Bakelab: 705 Vesta Street, Inglewood; (310) 330-9055.
Christie Bishop also blogs for PardonMyCrumbs.com.