Food

The Pastry School Diaries: Tricks of the Trade

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! 

 

Going into pastry school, I knew certain things would change about my perception of baking: I’ve grown a greater understanding behind the science of it, I’ve grown a greater appreciation for the true art form that it is and I’ve definitely developed a level of creativity when it comes to pairing flavors, textures and recipes. One element I didn’t think about, however, was how being in school would change my style of baking, from prep to clean-up.

I’ve gone from being a “measure as you go, use as many bowls as possible and follow specific instructions” baker to a “measure your ingredients before, use specific tools and bowls and trust your instinct” baker in just 8 short months. Let me explain:

In class, we have established a pretty regular routine: we arrive, set up our stations, our chef instructor talks a little about what we’ll be making (she may even demonstrate depending on the level of difficulty) and then we get to work. We read through the recipe, talk through who will be doing what (since we work in teams of two) gather and measure all of our ingredients and start baking. Having your mise en place, or “everything in place,” is by far the most efficient way of baking and cooking. For example, I’ve learned how much easier it is to whisk a measured amount of sugar into egg whites while the mixer is running, than it is to let the mixer run, measure out the sugar and risk over-whipping. I’ve exercised this technique at home, almost to an obsessive-compulsive level. I truly cannot bake or cook without my mise en place anymore.

Another habit I’ve picked up from school is truly learning to trust my gut. I must admit, I grew up baking from boxed cake mixes and pre-made cookie doughs, following the step-by-step instructions to the tee. While I know how important it is for measurements to be exact, ingredients to be added in a specific order and oven temperatures to be accurate, I’ve gained the confidence to stray away from the rules. Whether it’s adding an extra spice, extract or liqueur to my batter, swapping in hazelnuts for almonds in a crumb topping or leaving that loaf of bread in the oven for a few minutes longer to develop that crunchy, charred crust (like in the photo above), I take pride in my creative decisions. I’ve even developed some of my own recipes, based on riffs on what I’ve learned in class.

 

Chai-spiced palmiers—I created the spice combination myself!

A super rich coffee glaze and chocolate drizzle over homemade doughnuts

Finally, my kitchen tool collection has vastly expanded, and I cannot fathom the idea of baking anymore without the following:

Small offset spatula—from icing cupcakes to letting chocolate set, this tool comes in handy for everything

Digital instant-read thermometer—when the temperature matters to the exact degree (sugar syrup, tempered chocolate), this baby is my BFF

Scale—weighing your ingredients is far more accurate than measuring them in cups and spoons

Bench scraper—it looks like it belongs in a hardware store more than a kitchen, but my bench scraper helps me slice butter, bread dough and blocks of chocolate…not to mention, it’s great at scraping off crumbs and messes from my countertop!

 

 

What are your best baking habits? Check back next week for more sweet advice!

6 Twists on Gremolata

Gremolata might sound fancy, but the Italian herb mix is simply fresh parsley, garlic and lemon zest finely chopped together—kind of like pesto and even easier to make. The fragrant condiment is traditionally sprinkled on rich osso buco, aka braised veal shanks, but it can brighten up all kinds of dishes, from pasta to fish to roast chicken. You can start with our classic recipe, or try these fun riffs. They’re an easy way to add a fresh zing to all kinds of dishes—even sweet ones.

 

Try classic gremolata on Garlic Chicken with Red Onion & Toasted Bread

 

Green-olata

Chop it up

Lime zest

Cilantro

Minced jalapeño

Sprinkle it on

Tacos, guacamole or any Tex-Mex dish

 

Gremolata Piccata

Chop it up

Orange zest

Chopped capers

Minced basil

Sprinkle it on

Grilled fish, roasted vegetables, grilled chicken breasts

 

The Californian

Chop it up

Meyer lemon zest

Minced radish

Minced chives

Sprinkle it on

Deviled eggs, seared steak, salad greens

 

Main Squeeze

Chop it up

Orange zest

Minced green olives

Minced garlic

Sprinkle it on

Roasted cauliflower, couscous, chicken cutlets

 

Dessert-olata

Chop it up

Grapefruit zest

Minced crystallized ginger

Minced mint

Sprinkle it on

Toasted pound cake, lemon sorbet, Greek yogurt

The Pastry School Diaries: Confessions of a Chocoholic

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! 

After the past few lessons about making chocolate confections, I will never look at a chocolate bar, truffle or bonbon the same way.

The art of making chocolate is one that requires patience, expertise and creativity. Once melted over a double boiler (to prevent burning), you need to constantly watch over chocolate like it is your most prized possession—it can’t get too thick, too thin, too hot or too cold. Just a few degrees off and your chocolate becomes dull or does not set.

We started off easy with mendiants, which are rounds of melted chocolate that are piped onto a baking sheet and topped with a variety of dried fruits, nuts, spices and other flavorings.

 

We then moved on to rolling truffles. We made a wide assortment, from maple-bourbon, to green tea, to caramel to strawberry.

 

 

Finally, we learned how to make and fill bonbons, which was the most time consuming and temperamental process out of them all. The results were gorgeous, though.

 

 

I’ve enjoyed learning about chocolates because of all the different flavor possibilities: you can add so many different sweet, savory, spicy and tangy ingredients to your product—chocolate really is like an blank canvas.

 

I want to know: What’s your dream chocolate combination?

 

Check back next week for more sweet tales!

The Pastry School Diaries: Get in Shape!

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! 

 

Our final unit (eeek!) of classes is all about the finer side to pastry arts: sugar molding, chocolate work and cake decorating. While I definitely consider my baking style to be on the rustic (read: imperfect) side, I’ve very much enjoyed learning about these techniques so far.

 

We started out learning how to make sugar showpieces. You know, those things you see on cooking competitions, that when the chefs move them from their table to the judging station your heart pounds in anxiety that they’re going to drop the whole thing.

 

 

Despite their name, these “sugar” showpieces are actually made out of isomalt, an almost-as-sweet sugar substitute that is resistant to humidity and crystallization, two very important factors when it comes to making one of these. We simply melted the isomalt on the stove, added edible paint and poured it into large silicone molds. Once the shapes were hard enough to pop out of the molds, you can use a small amount of melted isomalt to fasten the pieces together, or a blow torch works, as well. We had creative liberty in how we colored and assembled our pieces, and as stressful as the process seems, it was really quite fun.

 

Next, we learned the process behind making chocolates from bean to bar. Creative Director Michael Laisksonis has become our school’s master chocolatier, importing beans from all over the world and scratch-making his very own chocolate. The process is a long one and a labor of love, but the final product is completely worth it.

 

A brief, visual representation of the bean-to-bar process

Now that I’ve gained an appreciation for the art of chocolate making, find out what happens when I try my hand at rolling and filling truffles next week!

Make Wolfgang Puck’s Oscars Menu at Home!

The celebs may have a busy day night ahead of them come Academy Awards time, but celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck will be even busier. Every year, his team caters the official Oscars after-party, the Governors Ball. And while the party may be exclusive to the stars and VIPs of Hollywood, you can recreate a lot of the dishes at home! So grab your favorite spot on the couch, turn on the red carpet pre-show and nosh your heart out. Here’s a peek at the dishes on Wolfgang’s menu this year, plus our easy ways to make them yourself:

 

Governors Ball menu item: Root Vegetable Chips

Our version: Baked Veggie Chips

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Chrissy Teigen’s Artichoke, Spinach & Buffalo Chicken Dip is What Snack Time Dreams are Made of

We said it in our March issue and we’ll say it again—Chrissy Teigen’s got some serious cooking cred!

The model, TV host and mom-to-be can now add cookbook author to her resume, with her newest release of Cravings.

We got a sneak peek of the book and we promise that every page will have your mouth drooling and your stomach rumbling.

To give you a little taste of Teigen’s recipe repertoire, consider making her Stretchy Artichoke, Spinach, and Buffalo Chicken Dip for your next party. Teigen promises, “every single bite is the heaven we hope exists.”

SERVES 6 to 8

PREP TIME: 20 mintutes

TOTAL TIME: 3 hours 30 minutes

for the CHICKEN

1⁄2 cup Cholula hot sauce

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, melted and slightly cooled

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

 

for the DIP

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (see Note)

2 (14.5-ounce) cans water-packed artichoke hearts, drained, squeezed dry (see Note), and chopped

1 cup mayonnaise

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

3⁄4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano or 1½ teaspoons dried

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup blue cheese crumbles

Spiced Pita Chips (recipe follows), for serving

 

MARINATE AND COOK THE CHICKEN: 

In a medium bowl, combine the hot sauce, melted butter, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken, toss to coat, cover, and marinate for 2 hours at room temp or up to 8 hours, refrigerated.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, place on a baking sheet, and bake until just cooked through, 14 to 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, shred with your hands or 2 forks into bite-size chunks. Leave the oven on for the dip.

 

MAKE THE DIP:

Coat an oval ceramic 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray or butter.

In a large bowl, mix together the spinach, artichokes, mayo, mozzarella, Parm, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir in the shredded chicken. Spread the dip into the baking dish and dot with the blue cheese.

Bake until golden and bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve with the pita chips.

note: To really get the extra liquid out of the spinach and artichokes, pile them in the center of a big clean kitchen towel and roll up the towel. Twist the ends toward each other and keep twisting until you’ve wrung out as much liquid as humanly possible!

 

spiced PITA CHIPS

MAKES 32 CHIPS/ SERVES 6 TO 8

PREP TIME: 5 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 30 minutes

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons olive oil

1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin

1⁄2 teaspoon paprika

1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 pitas, cut into 8 wedges each

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, olive oil, cayenne, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Add the pita wedges and toss gently to coat. Spread in a single layer on 2 baking sheets and bake, tossing once, until the wedges are browned and crisp at the edges, but still very slightly soft in the center (the chips will harden as they cool), 10 to 15 minutes (depending on thickness of pita). Note: If you like a crunchier chip, bake for a few more minutes, until there is no softness in the center.

Cool completely before serving.

 

Reprinted from Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat. Copyright © 2016 by Chrissy Teigen. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Aubrie Pick. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers,  an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

11 Reasons to Embrace Citrus Season

You may not think of winter as the most vibrant of seasons when it comes to produce, but citrus is sweeter and juicier than ever. Cozy up to these bright dishes with pops of lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit. Cold and flu season, who??

Lemon-Pistachio Cheese Ball

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The Pastry School Diaries: The Foodie Flame that Never Fades

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! 

 

While spending 12 hours a week in a kitchen may sound tedious to some people, there are some weeks when those 12 hours of class don’t even feel like enough! I’ve always enjoyed cooking meals at home and baking for friends and family member, so even though I can barely find time to scramble eggs these days, I’ve been making a conscious effort to sneak in some personal time in my kitchen on weekends and non-school nights.

 

When I started school I was nervous that I would lose interest in even setting foot in my kitchen after a long week of work and class. However, that was absolutely not the case. I wanted to use this week’s blog post to promise anyone considering enrolling in culinary or pastry school that your recreational culinary interest will not be lost. When you love something as much as I love cooking and baking, you find time in your life for it—no matter what. And although not every night is a Michelin-quality production (or even something I’d serve to loved ones), I know my passion has not faded. Here’s what I’m up to while at home.

 

Utilizing my pizza dough forming skills to make a white pizza with mushrooms and kale

I made a pear gallette using my school’s recipe for pie dough

Learning how to temper chocolate came in handy to dip these strawberries!

Everyone loves a good homemade snack mix

Chocolate-espresso puddings with homemade vanilla whipped cream. Yum!

Check back next week for more sweet adventures!

How to Make a Coconutty Bunny Cake

When Rachael and her older sister, Maria, were growing up in Upstate New York, Easter was full of sweet surprises. Their grandfather would arrive bearing 4-foot-tall hollow chocolate eggs filled with Italian Easter candies. Dozens of family and friends would gather at their house for a ham or lamb feast prepared by their mom, Elsa, followed by a fun dessert, like this adorable bunny cake. These days, Maria is the family baker. She’s made pony, lizard and ladybug cakes for her kids’ birthday parties, but the bunny cake, which she learned to make alongside her mom, is still her favorite. “It feels like home,” she says. “It’s familiar and comforting and reminds me of all of those good times.”

 

Photography by Will Styer. Food styling by Maria Del Mar Sacasa. Prop styling by Sarah Guido-Laakso

 

 

Coconutty Bunny Cake

Serves 12

Prep 25 min

Bake 30 min

Assembly 30 min

 

Cake

3 3/4 cups cake flour

2 1/2 cups sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature

2 sticks butter, melted and cooled slightly

9 large egg yolks

5 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

4 large egg whites

3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

 

Frosting

3 sticks butter, at room temperature

5 3⁄4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1⁄4 cup whole milk, plus more as needed

1 tbsp. plus 11⁄2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

 

1. Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven; preheat to 350° for light pans and 325° for dark pans. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, 2 cups sugar, the baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, butter, yolks, oil and vanilla. (If you really like coconut flavor, use 1 tsp. coconut extract and 1 tsp. vanilla extract.)

3. In a medium bowl using an electric mixer on high, beat the egg whites until very soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar; beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

4. Using an electric mixer on medium, gradually beat the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture just to blend. Using a rubber spatula, fold half the egg-white mixture into the batter until almost blended. Fold in the remaining egg-white mixture and the sprinkles. Divide the batter among the pans.

5. Bake the cakes, switching the pans between the top and bottom racks halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in the pans on a wire rack, about 15 minutes. If needed, run a thin knife around the edges of the pans to release the cakes, then invert onto the rack and let cool completely.

6. For the frosting, in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing to blend between additions. Beat in 1/4 cup milk and the vanilla. Increase the speed to medium-high; beat, adding milk by the tablespoon if too thick, until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Assemble and frost the cake as shown here.

 

It’s Pizza Week!

Have you gotten your March issue of Rachael Ray Every Day yet? We’ve got exclusive pizza recipes from Rachael’s newest cookbook, Everyone is Italian on Sunday, and we want to celebrate! All week we’ll be sharing Rachael’s best pizza recipes and tips—both old and new—from making perfectly crisp dough in just one hour(!!!) to fun ways to turn pizza ingredients into a brand new meal.

 

Get the recipe for Rach’s Capricciosa Pizza + get the entire pizza story here!

Plus, we want you to join in on the fun! If you make any pizza-related recipe this week, take a picture and tag it on Instagram with #RRPizzaWeek. We’ll be regramming our faves all week long! Boun Appetito!