Warm chocolate cake and a teaching moment

During our lunch break at teacher training today, several of us went to Balthazar Bakery to get something to eat.  It’s been a pretty hectic few weeks, and I saw a chocolate donut on display that was just calling my name.  I decided to treat myself, but lo!  The display donut was the last one they had, and it wasn’t for sale.  Woe is me!

A “Virtuous Meal”

Flash forward to after dinner.  We had leftover provençal zucchini, kale and spinach tart, complete with homemade whole wheat yeasted olive oil pastry dough that I had made the other day.  It was what Guy and I like to call a Virtuous Meal.  Listen, people, there wasn’t even any butter in that tart, and it was de.li.cious.  (Never mind about the Gruyere!)  After dinner we were both feeling like something sweet, especially since I had been thwarted in my efforts to treat myself earlier.

Divide and conquer

We decided to make little individual ramekins of warm chocolate cake – you know, the kind where the center is slightly underdone and still runny?  Mmm.  It’s surprisingly easy and quick to make these if you have the right equipment (most importantly, ramekins) and the ingredients on hand (there are only five ingredients anyway).  We decided to divide and conquer to make the process go a little faster, and I asked Guy if he would melt the butter and chocolate together while I separated the eggs and beat them with the sugar.  I noticed that he had half a stick of butter in one large chunk in a bowl, about to go into the microwave.

A teaching moment

“Wait!” I said.  ”The butter will melt quicker and more uniformly if you cut it up into smaller chunks.”  Oh, he said, and proceeded to cut the butter.  I got distracted doing something else, and next thing I knew, I saw the bowl again, with the butter completely melted and a gigantic hunk of chocolate floating in it.  Perhaps you have inferred (Sutra 1.7) that the same principle about smaller pieces melting faster would apply to the chocolate as well.  I said as much to Guy, and as he worked on belatedly cutting the chocolate in its slightly melty state, I realized I had found myself in a teaching moment.  A teaching moment for myself, of course – not for Guy, who was only following instructions.  I realized that if Guy didn’t know how to handle the chocolate, it was because I had not been clear or specific enough in my explanation.

When we do practice teaching in class, it can be challenging to know whether our instructions make sense because our “students” are fellow teachers-in-training and sort of auto-correct their own poses regardless of what the practice teacher says.  This was a situation where I was, in some capacity at least, teaching someone how to do something and it was obvious that I had left important information out.  It was pretty cool just to notice that and make a mental note for next time.

And in case you were wondering, the chocolate cakes turned out yummy regardless of how evenly the chocolate melted!