For information about parent-child cooking classes, contact Bend Park & Recreation District at 541-389-7275 or www.bendparksandrec.org.
Inside Bend Senior Center’s industrial kitchen, 10 bakers — novice and experienced alike — donned their aprons and rolled up their sleeves. For the next two hours, they would dive head-long into “Introduction to Basic French Macarons: A Class for Parents & Children.”
The macaron is a deceptively complicated little meringue cookie sandwich despite its clean, simple lines. These mother-daughter — and one mother-son — duos were in good, if floury, hands, however. Instructor Abby Rowland was more than capable of leading them through the various steps of macaron making, including mixing and folding (a technique that allows for plenty of fluffiness), and piping and footing (or beveling technique). On this day, the class would choose between two ganaches: dark chocolate or strawberry and white chocolate.
In April 2015, Rowland opened Queen Bee Bakery, an operation dedicated to the ornate and fluffy treat. This class in not as in-depth as the “More, more, more, macarons” class, which Rowland also teaches in dedication to the Italian macaron method.
Rowland makes her gluten-free French macarons — the bedrock of her bakery — with a base of almond flour, egg whites and sugar, three to four times a week in the same Bend Senior Center kitchen where she teaches her classes.
This is her first time teaching parents and children together; she has summer plans for more.
Bend Park & Recreation District started the parent and children cooking classes in winter-spring 2016. Bend park district program coordinator Brenda Chilcott said they decided to test run “Intro to French Macarons for Parents & Children” because adults had asked that children be allowed to attend.
The classes filled up fast.
Two more classes scheduled for summer sessions have already been booked solid. Chilcott said if enough people register and get put on a waiting list, Bend park district may add additional classes for the parents and their children.
Rowland said, “So many positive interactions can happen around food. Introducing kids to baking or cooking at an early age equips them with familial recipes, which she equates to heirlooms. “There is a heritage that comes with food.”
Julie Craig and her son Jack took a table close to Rowland’s. Her macarons were the first they’d ever eaten. The mother and son are her nextdoor neighbors. The Craigs were instant converts. “They’re the best,” Jack said.
The 9-year-old was the most inquisitive of the students. He apparently likes to cook. He helps make dinner at home on Sundays. “It feels nice,” he said. Jack likes the kitchen aromas and to eat, too. On his ninth birthday, he and his mom baked his cake together.
His mother has an ulterior motive. “We’re trying to make him a good (future) boyfriend or husband, one who knows his way around the kitchen,” she said with a grin.
Standing in the back of the kitchen, Holland Rhodes, 10, said she hadn’t heard of macarons until she watched the movie, “Grace Stirs up Success.” Following Rowland’s demonstration, the Rhodes slowly sprinkled the sugar into the bowl of dough and sped up a stand-up mixer. Then they began folding the meringue, a technique that introduces air into the mix, allowing it to achieve its fluffiness and a beveled edge, or a foot.
“You’ll know you’re done when the dough runs off the whisker. It should be thick like molten lava. Although I’ve never seen molten lava except in YouTube videos,” Rowland told the class.
“I’m a geologist, so I like ‘molten lava,’” Rhodes said. A college-level professor of the rock science, Rhodes was, in this moment, the eager student.
Once the mix was properly folded, it was time to ladle the macaron batter into conical piping bags and distribute doughy coins onto a couple of baking pans.
The Rhodes bake together on occasion. So far, their most ambitious project has been a double-layer white cake with real fudge icing. When Holland and her mother bake together, the young girl uses their one-on-one time to talk.
Holland likes mixing the batter; her mother said she takes precise measurements. That said, they were having a hard time with the piping bag. Irregular shapes of dough covered their baking pan. Holland covered them with sprinkles.
“Baking is like an art to me. When you start out, it doesn’t look like much. Then you add the coloring and it turns out looking really good,” Holland said. “It’s a painting you can eat, basically.”
Rowland helped each parent-child pair ease their tray of dough into the oven. She said it’s common to set the oven too hot, which cracks the cookies’ surface and makes the edges separate.
“Sounds like plate tectonics!” Elizabeth said.
“Yes! I love it,” Rowland said.
A chocolaty vision
Celia Solis and Kat Moriarty, 14, another mother-daughter duo, worked and conversed quietly in the corner of the kitchen. The eighth-grader enjoys whipping up cakes from scratch — not from a box. She hopes to attend culinary school because she dreams of becoming a chocolatier.
“I want to go to culinary school in France or Italy and you can pay for it,” Kat declared while teasing her mother, who responded by rolling her eyes. Kat previously took a Christmas cookie class offered by Bend Park & Recreation, although they’ve never made macarons before. Kat said her interest in the kitchen was piqued by the “Top Chef” episodes she watched with her father. They have matching aprons labeled Big Chef and Little Chef. Kat checked all the “excellent” boxes on the class evaluation card each student was handed to fill out. She said she liked Rowland’s casual instruction.
Cookies on the rise
Rowland’s French Macarons, which she has sold at farmer’s markets and festivals to much fanfare, bought a food cart a week ago. Once she secures a permit, Rowland plans to vend a few times a week — she doesn’t yet know exactly where. Rowland wants to connect with the community outside of festivals and farmers markets. The cart will be available for rent for weddings and events. She also offers in-home private lessons. “They’re great for girls’ nights,” she said.
They’re available for order on her website www.queenbeebaking.com, and the industrious baker will also offer a French Macaron subscription as of June 1. It will allow people to sign up for — or gift — 3-, 6- or 12-month macaron subscriptions. Ten cookies, two each of five flavors, will be shipped monthly. Flavors will follow the seasons.
As the class wound to a close, Jack stood waiting for his mom to return from the oven with the cookie pan. The had barely cooled when Jack popped one in is mouth.
“It’s super good!” he said through a mouthful.
— Reporter 541-617-7816, firstname.lastname@example.org