AMS Students Learned to Make Baklava

Guest Chef Visits Navigators

Some of the students in the Alliance Middle School Navigators program had a special treat when they learned how to make baklava from the head chef and manager of Papa Gyros.

Seth Trissel visited the class taught by Caitlyn Wagner-Ryan, an academic tutor at AMS, on Monday, Nov. 12. The students were excited to make and, of course, eat the flaky, Greek dessert Trissel likens to a dessert lasagna.

“It’s very delicate, that’s why it’s so difficult to make,” Trissel said, explaining how to make the Baklava to the students.

The students only had a short time to make and bake the baklava, so they had to work fast by reading the directions and working together in teams to get the task done. Baklava is a simple dessert, but it’s tricky to make. The directions required the teams to lay down layers of filo dough, a very thin pastry dough that allows the dessert to have its signature flaky crust, followed by layers of butter and a mixture of nuts.

“We have to move very quickly,” Trissel told the students. “The dough is so thin it almost melts when you touch it.”

Once the teams finished the layers, they used a pizza cutter to cut the baklava in triangles before placing it in the oven to bake. Once it was finished, the students drizzled a syrup over top that gave the baklava its sticky consistency and sweet taste.

The students were so excited to try the dessert they made, they couldn’t even wait. While their dessert was baking, they sampled the baklava Wagner-Ryan had made beforehand.

Each week the cooking class meets on Monday and Wednesday to learn how to prepare different recipes. Wagner-Ryan chooses recipes that can be completed in the short period of time they have during the Navigators session. If all goes well and the students work together and follow the directions, they are able to complete each of the recipes with ease.

“The goal is if they follow the directions, they should be able to eat what they make too,” Wagner-Ryan said.

She had the idea to invite Trissel to the class after meeting him at Papa Gyros, a restaurant she and her husband frequent every week. Trissel was happy to come in and help the students make the traditional Greek dessert.

He encouraged the students to learn everything they can during the classes they elect to take through the Navigators program because it can help them as they get older and start thinking about their futures.

“Developing a skill and developing a trade is going to help you when you grow up and start looking for a job,” Trissel explained.

The Navigators program is a great opportunity to students at AMS to experience new activities, such as cooking. The program gives the students the chance to work on their homework right after school and have fun during the activities they choose to take following the study tables.