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High school students bring baker's hats to Cinderella's ball

Stefanie Spack seemed destined to be a doctor, breezing through the University of South Florida programs in biomedical science and physics and public health. She had worked three years with plastic surgeons, and in the middle of medical school interviews, she said, "I realized I wanted to make cupcakes.''

"That's odd,'' I said when she told me that story.

"My mother thought so, too,'' she replied.

She had always enjoyed cooking with her mom, a banker in Tampa. "She loved savory; I did desserts.''

But this, clearly, was more than a passing fancy. Once she determined her passion, she enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Miami, which is how she came to be standing in her chef's hat in the kitchen at the Academy of Culinary Arts at Land O'Lakes High on Thursday night, high-fiving three of her students.

"We did it!'' hollered Amanda Zito, who teamed with fellow seniors Bailey Bryant and Kyle Kangeter to bring a championship to Fivay High in Hudson. This had nothing to do with athletics or the Brain Bowl, but rather impressing judges with baking prowess and imagination.

I happened to be one of those judges, although hardly as qualified as the five chefs on the panel. They can talk about food as a science, identify subtle ingredients. I just know what I like, and of the desserts prepared by five culinary arts teams, Fivay's "Bippity Boppity Boo'' blew me away.

Perfect score — 50 points based on taste, presentation, degree of difficulty and how the dessert relates to a Cinderella theme.

Why the theme, you ask? Because this competition, the third annual, was designed to select the dessert that will be served at the Pasco Education Foundation's signature fundraiser, the Cinderella Ball, on March 9 at Heritage Springs.

Equally important, it showcases the Pasco school district's commitment to career academies, technical education programs offered at all the upper level schools designed to give students specific training and marketable skills. In a few weeks, for instance, a new automotive service center will make its debut at Wesley Chapel High.

But Thursday night, culinary arts held the spotlight. Students from Marchman, Anclote, Wiregrass Ranch, Land O'Lakes and Fivay prepared their sweet concoctions, having already defeated baking teams at their schools. This kept the finals manageable, compared to last year when we had to sample 12 desserts and nearly fell into sugar shock.

The Fivay team edged the runners-up from Anclote, who made an amazing combination of pecan pie, cheesecake filling, lemon curd and toffee and chocolate bark. This dessert matched Fivay's pumpkin spice cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and vanilla bean glaze, but lacked the Cinderella theme element. The Fivay team featured a Fairy Godmother's wand (white chocolate) on the plate, sending out waves toward the pumpkin and its four wheels made of orange lace tuile. (Yes, I admit, I had to ask for a definition of tuile — and how to spell it.)

Friday morning I called Spack (actually, Spack-Adams since November, when she married guitarist Joel Adams) to learn more about her program. She taught biology last year at Land O'Lakes High and moved to Fivay to take over culinary arts and help prepare the school for a hospitality and tourism academy.

She has already made a big impact. Recently, Spack-Adams, 26, secured a sponsor for the school's culinary program. Chick-fil-A at the Gulf View Square mall will help students learn how to interview, provide customer service and be reliable employees.

Last Thanksgiving, her students cooked dinner for homeless folks staying at the ROPE Center. And just before Christmas, they created an 8- by 10-foot gingerbread village and put it on display at the school for two weeks. "I had students stay late at night because they were so excited to work on it,'' Spack-Adams said. "I felt the same.''

.the winner

Cinderella's Favorite Dessert

Here is the award-winning recipe for the Cinderella's Favorite Dessert competition from the culinary students

at Fivay High School.

Bippity Boppity Boo Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

For the Orange Lace Tuile

(These will make the carriage wheels.)

1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup orange juice

1 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift and combine sugar and flour in bowl; mix in orange juice.

Add melted butter until thoroughly combined.

Pipe onto parchment paper; bake until dark orange.

Remove from oven and immediately press with desired forms; when cooled, break off unwanted edges.

For the cupcakes

3/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs

1 cup homemade or store-bought pumpkin puree

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a stand mixer, combine butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy and light.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until fully combined.

Get out two medium-sized bowls. In one, combine the puree, buttermilk and vanilla. In the other, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice.

Combine all wet ingredients together in a bowl and slowly mix in the dry ingredients.

Pour batter into small bundt pans 3/4 full and bake for 12 minutes.

For the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Beat together cream cheese, butter, cinnamon, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add half the powdered sugar and beat until mixed well. Then gradually add the remaining powdered sugar until you reach a spreading consistency.

For the Vanilla Bean Glaze

(This will go on top of the frosting.)

1 whole vanilla bean

1/2 cup whole milk, more if needed

5 cups powered sugar

Dash of salt

Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the caviar.

Stir the caviar into the milk. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Mix the powdered sugar and salt with the vanilla milk, adding more powdered sugar or milk if necessary to get the right consistency.

Stir or whisk until completely smooth.

Source: Fivay High School baking team

High school students bring baker's hats to Cinderella's ball 01/18/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 9:01pm]
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