Sugar Glider Kitchen: The Place to Learn to Bake

I perform a trick when I teach pies at my little baking school, Sugar Glider Kitchen. I do it after the class has made the perfect pie crust and I’ve left their future flaky perfection to chill in my bakery refrigerator.  I roll out my dough and start cutting it into strips. I weave the dough together, stopping now and again when a student needs to see the pattern again. Once the pattern is set, I execute a slight of hand. Voila. A perfect lattice sitting upon a jewel toned pile of berries in a blind baked bottom crust as if by magic. There have been gasps in the past when I’ve done it. It’s the pastry version of whipping a tablecloth from a beautifully set dining scene with nary a bobble. Perhaps not so dramatic but certainly more delicious. None of this trickery matters, however, if once you bake the pie it isn’t delicious.

That’s why the first part of my Perfect Pie class I take the time to explain, demonstrate, and encourage my students to get their hands dirty so that they can experience what a great pie dough feels like because it’s never “easy as pie,” is it? For some, pie dough is a baking albatross. It comes out tough or crumbly. Soggy or dry. Students have come to me, shame-faced, and admitted that they buy their pie crusts because it’s too painful to take the time to make it from scratch and have it all go wrong.

Easy to ignore a camera in the face when I'm making a lattice.

I take the time to explain that a great dough doesn’t necessarily behave like you think it should. Not at the beginning, anyway. It won’t look perfect and smooth. In fact, it often looks a little dry and what I call “shaggy.”

“Squeeze it,” I encourage.  I take it between my fingers to demonstrate.

Students, hard at work, making croissant.

“If it holds together when you squeeze it, you’re good. No more water.”

The reactions vary from disbelief to incredulity. That mess I’m calling pie dough cannot be, in fact, pie dough. But it is. And it’s a great pie dough. Flaky and tender. Don’t get me wrong. There are a few steps you have to take to transform the mess from shaggy to perfect but walking students through the process is my favorite part of the job. Better than executing the perfect lattice, in fact. But why not learn to do both? I’ll teach you how. In fact, I'll teach you how to make croissant and eclair and all manner of wonderful baked goodness. I'll be here waiting for you in Vermont when you're ready.

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