Like a surprising number of Americans, Jane Woellhof remembers going to school in a setting quite unlike the ones most kids think of (or see on television) today. Her school was one building with one room, with several grades learning side by side and, at least every once in a while, no other students at all.
As director-at-large of a group called Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools, Woellhof works throughout the year to keep that memory alive, to keep the people who share it in touch with each other – and to keep the beloved old buildings maintained in a way they can be used as venues for special events.
On Sunday March 3, this particular group of Friends will gather for class and a festive meal at the Culinary Adventure Cooking School created by Fischer & Wieser. The cooking school is located within the historic Das Peach Haus.
“These little schoolhouses were often built on land donated by parents and built by parents and the community,” Woellhof explains. “They have endured in our history, memory and heart. They came from the people. Parents wanted children educated for a better life. The historic schoolhouse is really a symbol of who we are and what we stand for as Americans. They were a place for community, education and neighboring, the things we want to preserve in our community today.”
The two-hour, four-course dinner cooking class is part of the ongoing Fischer & Wieser series Cooking for a Cause. All proceeds from this event, and a portion of purchases in the retail store, will be donated to Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools.
A dozen schools, with names like Cave Creek, Pecan Creek, Luckenbach and Willow City, are included in the properties maintained by the Friends, most built in the late 1800s but a few as late as 1936. Sometimes even those old buildings replaced schools built even earlier, an effort by the county to bring education within reach of kids growing up on farms and ranches as Fredericksburg spread both its wings and its population.
Limited space is available for the special Friends cooking class, which begins at 5 p.m. The menu is: Tuscan white beans and greens soup, Mandarin orange pecan green salad with poppyseed dressing, grilled beef tenderloin steaks with Tex-Mex potatoes au gratin and pepper jelly green beans, and chocolate-covered cherry brownies with vanilla ice cream.
Those interested can book the class on the calendar under Cooking School on Fischer & Weiser’s website www.jelly.com.
CHOCOLATE-COVERED CHERRY BROWNIE
If you, like me, have always loved the special taste of chocolate-covered cherries – yes, the kind that show up in a box, often around Valentine’s Day – then you are sure to love these brownies. Many of the same flavors are in place. And though we don’t often do this, you can make them even more “adult” by adding a splash of cognac or Grand Marnier.
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons for buttering the baking dish
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ jar Fischer & Wieser’s Almond Cherry Jubilee Jam
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish with 1 teaspoon butter. Cut a piece of parchment paper in a strip to line the bottom and 2 sides of the dish. Butter the paper with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon butter and set aside. Place the unsweetened chocolate and 8 tablespoons butter in a medium heat-proof bowl that fits comfortably over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of water. Place the double-boiler over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the chocolate and butter are just barely melted.
Remove the bowl from the heat and continue to stir for 1 minute to cool slightly. The mixture should be warm to the touch, not hot. Using a hand-held mixer, beat the sugar, vanilla and salt into the chocolate mixture until smooth. Add the eggs and yolk all at once and beat until fully incorporated and smooth. Fold in the flour and semisweet chocolate chips with a silicone spatula until just barely combined. Stir in the jam.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake on the middle rack until just set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting into 16 small pieces. Serve with ice cream and additional heated jam. Serves 8-10.