Chef on Call
Doing Their Bake-Sale Best
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
We all know that Girl Scouts are whizzes at selling cookies, but the members of Cadette/Senior Girl Scout Troop 4445 were not content to stop there. They wanted to hone their baking skills as well.
Last spring, Charlotte Goldman, sisters Katie and Meghan Quinn, Lena Goldweber, Mariana Robertson and Danielle Kloke planted trees and built a garden at Camp Tuckerman, a Girl Scout day camp in Rockville. The project earned them a Silver Award, which the Girl Scouts of the USA bestows on Scouts who have fulfilled a 40-hour community service commitment. But it also left the group in debt; their parents had fronted the girls $300 and were calling in the loan.
Demonstrating their resourcefulness, the girls sent this e-mail to Chef on Call: "We want to have different items that one wouldn't expect to see at a bake sale. And we would like the help of your chef with that."
They hit the jackpot. Pastry chefs Josh Short, Mary Lee Montfort and Raeanne Hytone, along with bake-sale expert and former Journal Newspapers food editor Jane Mengenhauser, showed up at the Bethesda home of Charlotte's parents, Connie Cantrell and Steve Goldman.
Cantrell, 47, deserves an award of her own. With three children, a job that takes her out of town often and an excitable poodle named George, she still finds time to be the girls' troop leader.
In the planning stages, I kept in mind what Cantrell had told me about her Scouts: They are artistically inclined and love to cook. Mariana, 14, once prepared multi-hued petits fours for a mother-daughter tea and has aspirations to be a pastry chef in Paris. Danielle, 14, has been baking since she was 4 and makes cookies with a baseball theme as gifts for friends. Charlotte, 14, took classes at L'Academie de Cuisine. No ordinary cooking tutorial would do for these accomplished students, all high school freshmen except for Meghan, 16, who is a sophomore.
The lesson began at noon on a Friday last month, when four of the six girls had a half-day off from Walt Whitman High School. I called them to order in the living room, where Mengenhauser then gave them tips on how to make the most of their bake sale, emphasizing that they choose a location with plenty of foot traffic.
No worries there; the sale was held Saturday, smack dab in the middle of the Bethesda Row Arts Festival.
The three chefs came well equipped. The affable and big-brotherly Short is the executive pastry chef at Buzz bakery in Alexandria. He began by showing the girls how to fill some of his already-baked cupcakes with chocolate sauce and how to top them with satiny buttercream and fuzzy fabric bumblebees to resemble the samples he had brought as post-production treats.
"Those don't look legal!" gushed Lena, 14, as she spied the finished ones. Short refocused her attention by handing her a pastry bag of fluff.
"Squeeze! Squeeze! Squeeze!" he implored as he guided her through the technique. "You start from the outside edge and bring the white frosting to the center, like a daisy. Then we'll use the pink to pipe on dots and cover any mistakes." Danielle took over the project and produced a perfect cupcake in seconds.
All of the girls were at ease in the kitchen. Per Short's instructions, two took turns rolling out disks of p¿te bris¿e to make deep-dish pie crusts while two others assembled its apple filling. Soon it was brushed with an egg wash, sprinkled with sugar and popped in the oven.