The Pastry School Diaries: Style Like You Mean it

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

 

I have about a month left of classes before I have to start focusing on my final cake design. I’ve said this over and over, but one of the biggest takeaways I’ve discovered from enrolling in pastry school is that my level of patience for intricate designs and desserts is not very high. I definitely have more of a rustic, homemade-looking style. While I originally thought this wouldn’t help me succeed as a cake decorator, I now know that this will set me apart as an artist. I can incorporate my true style, talents and taste to make a cake I am genuinely proud of—perfect or not. Here are some cakes that have inspired me and my personal style.

 

photo credit: Baked

This simply frosted cake with a signature swirl and gorgeous ombre roses from Baked NYC

photo credit: @bk_floral_delight

These incredibly realistic-looking roses in muted correlating colors by Brooklyn Floral Delight

photo credit: Grace Rasmus

The “naked cake” look perfected by Momofuku Milk Bar

Check back in the upcoming weeks for progress on my cake design skills, plus truffle and candy making galore!


7 Romantic Recipes to Cook with Your Sweetie

While going out for a romantic dinner can be delightful, there’s something about cooking dinner with your honey at home that feels a lot more intimate. Try something different this Valentine’s Day and spend the day cozying up in the kitchen. It is a long weekend, after all!

 

Start the day off with heart-shaped Spiced Pastry Bites

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The Pastry School Diaries: When Appearance Matters

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

 

It’s hard to believe I’m three-quarters of the way through with pastry school, but as we near the end, it is becoming more and more apparent to me how important the visual appearance of each dessert really is. Everybody knows, you eat with your eyes first, but at home when I bake for my friends and family, I rarely receive feedback about the appearance. However, in a professional kitchen, the way a dessert looks is just as—if not more—important as the way it tastes.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m far from perfecting the art of a layered celebration cake, but the past few lessons have shown me the importance of patience, practice, advance planning and creativity when it comes to crafting a styled dessert. Even in something as simple and rustic as a tray of cookies has incredible potential to be beautiful.

 

We’ve also worked on more advanced techniques, like making molding chocolate, wrapping it around a cake and forming it into ribbons to adorn the top. (We got to experiment with extra-fancy gold dust, too)

 

I had to execute more patience and handiwork than usual to get these ribbons to look effortlessly placed, yet perfectly formed.

And then there’s the art of the plated dessert: crafting a restaurant-worthy dish with multiple components, garnishes, flavors, textures and colors. Each element was made ahead of time, and then placed out on a table for our creativity to run wild.

The components of this dessert include: a chocolate mousse bombe sitting on top of a shortbread cookie, coated in chocolate sauce, caramelized banana, vanilla bean ice cream, chopped roasted hazelnuts and a painting of hot fudge on the plate. Each of my classmates’ plates looked completely different, which was fun to see everyone’s different creative styles.

I’m definitely enjoying seeing my progress as not only as a baker but also as an artist. I can’t wait to even further explore my personal creative style—stay tuned!


Our 6 Favorite Store-bought Salsas Perfect for Game Day

These delicious dips will have you dancing in the end zone! They beat out almost 200 other products to earn a spot in your Super Bowl spread.

 

Best Mild: Frontera Roasted Tomato Salsa

Celeb chef Rick Bayless’s smoky salsa has a trio of tomatoes (fire-roasted whole, juice and paste). OJ adds sweet citrus notes. ($3.99 for 16 oz.)

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7 Cozy Breakfasts to Keep You Warm

Its only fitting that February is National Hot Breakfast Month, given the plummeting temperatures and general desire of coziness. Bundle up with these 7 recipes that are guaranteed to warm you from the inside out. Whether you’ve got 10 minutes before work or an entire lazy Sunday, you can start your day off on a warm and hearty note.

Mushroom & Bacon Oatmeal

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6 Updated Recipes Perfect for Your Superbowl Party

With just one week until game day, it’s time to get serious about your snacking situation (because we all know, the best part about the whole event is the food). Rather than call for pizza or thaw some frozen pigs in a blanket, step up your finger food game this year with fun recipes with a bit of a twist. Say, “buh-bye” to Buffalo wings and “see you later” to spinach dip: these unique bites are so much better.

 

Thai Peanut Chicken Wings

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The Pastry School Diaries: Putting My Skills to the Test

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

 

As each week comes to an end, I get closer and closer not only to finishing pastry school classes but also beginning the next part of my pastry career: the externship. I remember thinking to myself a few months ago, “okay, I’ll start seriously considering externship locations in 2016.” Well, 2016 has quickly approached and it’s time to start getting serious.

 

The first place I visited that got me thinking about my externship: Oddfellows Ice Cream Co.

 
As I’m laying out my options, a lot of considerations are running through my head, such as location, type of venue, schedule and primary products produced. I’m mainly looking into specialty bakeries and ice cream shops, and shying away from places like big restaurants, bread-focused bakeries and locations in Brooklyn (sorry Brooklyn, I still love you). I’ve heard both horror and success stories from externship experiences, and I want to make sure I fall into the latter category.

 

Maybe I’ll be making Nutella Milk Bread and Frozen S’mores at Dominique Ansel Bakery!

 

Frosting cupcakes at Buttercup Bake Shop would be fun, too

 

Baking and filling cookies for ice cream sandwiches at The Good Batch would be a dream

 

In an ideal externship world, I am rolling cookies, frosting cupcakes, churning ice cream and maybe even testing some new recipes out, all while ensuring my pants still fit. It’s going to be a very exciting—albeit, very busy!—few months come April, but I can’t wait to get my hands dirty.

 

Then again, there’s always Momofuku Milk Bar!

 

Hey, New Yorkers: what are your favorite bakeries in the city? Any externship suggestions? Leave them in the comment section below!

 


Six More Ways to Put a Smile on Your Face

Each Monday in January, we’re sharing a number of science-backed tips guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Here are more things you can easily do (today, tomorrow, next week or next month!) to find your happy place.

 

Prepare Yourself

Is there anything better than knowing dinner is ready as the workday ends? Cooking meals in advance—then storing or freezing them for later—may improve your mood, according to Amit Sood, M.D., author of The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness. “Given our compressed lifestyles, we are seldom able to cook a hot meal each day,” says Dr. Sood. “Planning the week’s meals and preparing them as a family means you aren’t stressing out about what you will be cooking as the clock turns closer to 5 p.m.”

Get the recipe: Spicy Pork & Butternut Squash Stew

 

Feel Amazed

When was the last time you said something was awesome and meant it literally? Awe—the kind you experience while taking in an incredible natural vista or an artistic masterpiece—is such a strongly positive emotion that it not only makes your soul soar, but may also make your body healthier. In a 2015 study, researchers found a link between feelings of wonder and amazement, and lower levels of harmful, inflammation-inducing molecules. Other emotions, like contentment and pride, also were found to confer benefits, but awe took the top spot. The researchers noted that awe makes you feel connected with others (a happiness- maker in itself). So when an opportunity to experience something that will make you gasp and say “Wow!” arises, take it!

 

Cry Your Eyes Out

Don’t hold back the tears. There really is something to the idea of a good cry. Folks who were shown tear-jerker movies and got all choked up reported better moods an hour and a half post waterworks than they’d experienced before the screenings. The non-criers, on the other hand, reported no mood changes at all after the flicks. The theory is that feeling a little down, even if the feeling isn’t rooted in anything in the real world, leads to feeling better once the emotional event has passed. So queue up a classic heart-wrencher like Terms of Endearment or Forrest Gump, or any movie that tugs at your heartstrings. We promise, the happiness you feel will be worth the box of tissues you go through.

 

Make Small Talk

That old adage about not talking to strangers? Forget it now that you’re an adult. In a University of Chicago study, commuters who shot the breeze with  seat mates they didn’t know reported a more enjoyable ride than those who kept to themselves. More surprising yet: Participants who reported longer conversations, in which they learned more about their fellow commuters, said they had a more pleasant trip than those whose chats were shorter. In another study, researchers in British Columbia sent subjects to Starbucks and asked some of them to chat up the barista who took their order. The conversationalists reported feeling more joyful than the silent sippers. Talk about the gift of gab!

 

Spread the Wealth

Spending even a small amount of your hard- earned cash on someone else, by giving a gift or donating to charity, can make you feel truly rich. “When giving money to others, an individual experiences happiness from the successful performance of her moral duties, a feeling that’s also been described as ‘human flourishing,’” says Lalin Anik, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

 

Learn Something

Feeling blah? It might be time to pick up a new skill you’re excited about. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D., says that being completely focused on a creative activity (a state he calls “flow”) elevates satisfaction levels. His theory is that people feel a heightened sense of awareness during these experiences—they are intensely absorbed, feel alert, are in effortless control and can lose track of time and place, all of which leave them feeling energized and excited.

Flex your kitchen muscles with these brand-new how-to cookbooks.

The Magic of Spice Blends: A Guide to the Art, Science, and Lore of Combining Flavors, by Aliza Green, $25

Making Dough: Recipes and Ratios for Perfect Pastries, by Russell van Kraayenburg, $25

Fermentation & Home Brewing, by Jessica Childs and Eric Childs, $25

For all of our happiness tips, click here.


The Pastry School Diaries: Whisky Business

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

 

When I began pastry school, I knew I was going to collect an extensive amount of information about the art of baking. From the importance of precisely weighing out each ingredient, to the exact technique of rolling a French baguette, to tips and tricks to perfectly frosting a three-layer cake, my curiosity has peaked every step of the way. What I hadn’t thought about, however, was taking all these skills and applying them practically, in a business.

 

My class’s petit fours. We concentrated very hard on making every cake the same exact size with the same exact design.

 
I wouldn’t go as far to say that I’ll walk out of the pastry program with an advanced understanding of how to run a bakery, but I’m definitely picking up some tidbits on what makes a bakery successful. For example, I never really paid attention to the way I cut a cake or tray of brownies, but when selling such a product, it is important to make sure every piece is exactly the same dimensions. Any piping work should look identical, all sides and surfaces should be completely flat, no crumbs in the frosting(!!!) and always use rubber gloves when handling a cooked product are just a few of the reminders that have become second nature to me.

 

Grenoblois, walnut cake with walnut buttercream and walnut ganache, and Symphonie, hazelnut cake with praline buttercream and chocolate ganache. We measured out 2” x 3” rectangles before slicing into the full cakes. 

 

Sour cherry chocolate crumb cake, attempted to cut into even shapes

 

I’ll be the first to admit it, I have yet to master the art of identical perfection, but I know it will come over time. Practice makes perfect, right?

 

Check back next week for more pastry tips!


Our 6 Ooiest, Gooiest, Cheesiest Recipes

Although we never need a reason to eat more cheese, today we’ll make sure of it— it’s National Cheese Lovers’ Day! And although we’d never turn down a plain old wedge of cheddar or Parmesan, a holiday this special deserves a decadent meal. Here are some of our best and cheesiest recipes you can make any time of the day (or year!).

 

Queso Dip Mac ‘n’ Cheese

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