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The bootcamp offers lessons that go way beyond simple measuring and preparation. Participants learn the art of yeast activation, creating the process by which donuts get that fluffy, airy texture. In the course, participants also learn the process of making a sweet batter, rolling and cutting dough, deep-frying and using a pastry bag (uh…fun) and the all important task of glaze preparation.
Through the course of the day, you create doughs for both cake- and raised-style fried dough delights. There are delicate (and delicious) beignets; rich and dense apple fritters, jam-filled berry bombs (a yeast raised variety with a strawberry glaze) and sour cream cake donuts with vanilla bean icing and pecan streusel; samples of which, you get to take home as spoils of victory in your culinary learning experience.
Participants are grouped in small, intimate teams, about 4 per work station. And make no mistake, these bootcamps are hands-on. Chef Tara leads participants through every phase of the donut making process, but from the making of the dough to frying the donuts to glazing every product, students get their hands “dirty” every step of the way.
Morning activities focus on dough making techniques. All of the doughs for each of the course’s recipes are prepared meticulously illustrating the techniques necessary to produce quality textures and tastes for a rich culinary experience.
Group lunch is presented at mid-day, giving participants a chance to mix and mingle while fueling up for the afternoon’s endeavors. And then comes the frying. Chef Tara insists getting (and keeping) the oil at just the right temperature is key. Achieving that gorgeous golden color is the goal, but ensuring the donut is perfectly cooked all the way through is also a must. “Maintaining a consistent temperature is imperative for achieving the perfect fried donut,” said Arnaud.
Once the donuts are fried, its time to glaze and fill. And that may be the most entertaining part of the bootcamp. Seeing the finished product materialize before your eyes gives you the confidence you need to take your donut making to the next level. And that’s what the Donut Bootcamp is all about, insists Arnaud.
“This is definitely a class for home cooks. And getting to the place where you are confident in your skills is what we are here to help you achieve.”
Of course, if donut making isn’t your particular cup of tea, The Chopping Block has a wide slate of courses from which to select your first culinary learning experience. From Spanish tapas to blue ribbon baking to grilling classes and even wine (yes, they even have a class on wine), there is absolutely something for every taste and persuasion. And for those that wish to avoid the hands-on experience, one of the school's fun demonstrations is a wonderful alternative.
No one can argue there aren’t a host of benefits to a great culinary experience, but when that experience begins with learning, those benefits multiply incalculably. And easing your way into culinary learning with a course at Chicago’s The Chopping Block offers not only a fast-track to learning, but delicious bites to boot.
Visit The Chopping Block online at thechoppingblock.com for their current roster of courses, workshops and demonstrations and get started with your culinary arts learning today.
Chef Tara Arnaud and The Chopping Block team prepare for a cooking class at their Merchandise Mart location (photo by Patrick Curranl).
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
The Chopping Block’s Donut Bootcamp Offers an Inviting Option for Easing Your Way into Culinary Learning
By David Carmichael
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Students of The Chopping Block's Donut Bootcamp learn the art of mixing dough for some of the delicious donuts ranging from sour cream cake donuts, to beignets to apple fritters (photo by David Carmichael).
The first of Clef Notes Journal’s ongoing series exploring the ways Chicago arts lovers can step beyond the audience and pursue arts and culture learning.
Who doesn’t love a good donut? A morning staple for offices near and far, the donut elevates your standard cup of joe with an endorphin-inducing rush all its own. But can it be classified as a true culinary work of art? Spend 8 hours in The Chopping Block’s intensive Donut Bootcamp and you’ll never ask that question again. Chicago’s premier culinary school for home cooks, The Chopping Block packs a wealth of learning and artistry in one of its most popular courses. It’s just one of an array of culinary bootcamps, workshops and classes the school presents eager participants each day in their two Chicago locations (Merchandise Mart and Lincoln Square). Blending textures, tastes and visual creativity, donut making is not just an art, however; its science.
Chef Tara Arnaud, who teaches the course, insists measuring is paramount. “You can’t just eyeball it,” she told me. “It’s chemistry. It really is.” That’s why measuring ingredients to recipe specifications is key to achieving the taste and texture you’re looking for in a perfect donut. And there are a host of varieties to choose from.