The Pastry School Diaries: Patience is a Virtue

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! 

To this day, I am continually asked the question, “why pastry—why not culinary?” My go-to response is something along the lines of, “I’ve always wanted to delve deeper into the world of pastry arts. Since there is such a science behind it, I know I would benefit and learn more at pastry school than at culinary school. Besides, I don’t have the patience to learn how to chiffonade basil, dice an onion or poach an egg—I do that all the time at home already!”

 

Want to know what else I don’t have the patience for? Building, frosting and decorating a perfect cake.

 

We’ve transitioned from baking rustic desserts like crumb cake and muffins to more detail-oriented techniques: using a serrated knife to create a perfectly flat and round cake; Frosting in even layers that conceal any cake or crumbs; Piping perfect shells and rosettes around the edges to make a bakery-quality confection. As I’m getting my first taste (figuratively and literally!) of what our final project will be (creating a three-tiered celebration cake), I’m truly beginning to understand that patience is a virtue. Every step must be taken in a slow, methodical manner—you absolutely cannot rush the process. If you slice off too much of your cake, there’s not much you can do to remedy it, and while frosting can be spread and piped over again, there’s no hope in getting those little stray crumbs out (a cake baker’s worst nightmare).

 

So as I’m learning from my mistakes and trying new things, I’m thankful for this opportunity of trial and error. Am I set out to be the next Duff Goldman? Probably not. But I’m looking forward to seeing my skills in the cake department improve.

 

Check back next week for more pastry school fun!


More Tips for Happiness

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.

 

Make Your Meal Happy

Yes, you can eat to your heart’s content! “The largest factor that you control in terms of your happiness is at the end of your fork,” says Drew Ramsey, M.D., a psychiatrist and author of The Happiness Diet and the upcoming book Eat Complete. This feel-good recipe uses seven of his favorite mood-boosting ingredients.

Get the recipe: Pan-Seared Salmon with Miso Watercress Pesto & Lentil-Black Rice Salad
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The Pastry School Diaries: A New Year of Baking Adventures

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! 

 

Want a surefire way to get on dessert duty for all of the winter holidays? Just tell your family you’re enrolled in pastry school!

 

The pressure was on this holiday season, as I was juggling learning new techniques in class with showing off my best baking skills while at home. I got to show off my pie crust capabilities, puff pastry proficiency and cheesecake finesse over Thanksgiving and Christmas, and in between learned about chiffon and angel food cakes, tortes, layered ganache cakes, petit fours and more buttercream frosting than a childhood birthday party on steroids. I’ve discovered the differences between baking cakes with full eggs versus only whites, solid fats like butter versus liquid fats like oil, baking powder versus omitting it and even how the addition of cocoa powder yields a very different product than a cake without it. We’ve whipped, folded, poured, sliced, frosted and piped more cakes than I even thought was possible, and we’re only halfway done!

 

Needless to say, the world of cakes is bigger than I ever imagined, but I’m very much enjoying learning about it. Here’s just a taste of the confections I’ve created thus far.

 

Cinnamon Chiffon Cake

Lemon sponge cake with vanilla buttercream and raspberry preserves

Chocolate ganache cake with coffee buttercream

Vanilla cake with blueberry mousse and blueberry glaze

Check back next week for more cake intel!


5 Hearty Winter Soups You’d Never Guess Were Good for You

If maintaining a healthy diet is part of your new years resolution, you are not alone. During comfort food season, it can feel like a real challenge to maintain your goals, but these five soup recipes are here to save the day. They’re rich and decadent without ruining your waistline, and they’re all so unique, you could make them all without going into soup overload. Now that’s a resolution worth sticking to!

Thai Chicken Soup

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Your Happiest Year Yet!

We live for the moments that put smiles on our faces: the soul-gratifying bite of a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie, the joy of accomplishing a big goal, the warmth of a sunbeam on our skin. Experiences like these produce not only emotional but also physical reactions: They spur the release of chemicals, like serotonin or endorphins, that make us feel happy, even euphoric. Of course not all your days can be filled with unicorns and rainbows, but turning a frown, you know, the other direction is actually pretty easy. Try these bliss-making moves, all backed by science, and check back next week for more—We’re sharing a new set of tips every Monday in January. Your happy place is closer than you think!

 

Eat More Chocolate

The countless reports of dark chocolate’s health benefits have been food for the soul for a lot of us. And here’s one more: The American Chemical Society’s Journal of Proteome Research reported that when people who suffered from stress were given small amounts of dark chocolate daily, their levels of the stress hormone cortisol were lower after two weeks. Ain’t life sweet?

Get the recipe: Ruth Reichl’s Hot Fudge to Soothe Your Soul

 

Become a Morning Person

It doesn’t matter what side of the bed you wake up on, it’s when you wake up that matters. Turns out, early birds have a sunnier disposition than night owls, according to research from the University of Toronto, because they’re more in sync with daylight hours (humans are diurnal, as compared with nocturnal). So if you’re not the sort to leap out of bed, adjust your internal clock by moving up your bedtime incrementally, by about 15 minutes every few nights. And shut down electronics two to three hours before you hit the hay. Your internal clock will adjust and, before you know it, you’ll wake up all smiles.

 

Break up with Your DVR

You may think you enjoy your nightly TV fix more if you start watching a show late so you can fast- forward through the ads. But commercial breaks actually enhance your enjoyment. “We are wired to chase and desire,” says Emma Seppälä, Ph.D., author of the upcoming book The Happiness Track. “If you keep delaying, you increase your longing to see the rest of the show.” That season finale just got a lot more riveting!

 

Extend Those Arms

A big ol’ bear hug is a surefire way to get that warm, fuzzy feeling (or give it to someone else), and research shows that an affectionate squeeze also bestows a host
of other positive effects. A hug, just like holding hands or having sex, spurs the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone.” And Swedish researchers have suggested that after an embrace, “thoughts of the hugging may put the individual in a more positive mood.” What’s more, a simple clinch has physiological benefits—for instance, lowered blood pressure and an increase in endorphins, which strengthens the immune system. And who wouldn’t be happy about that?

 

Say Yes to Cheese

If melty grilled cheese sandwiches and nachos dripping with queso have taught us anything, it’s that cheese is serious comfort food. Even science says so! Emerging research has shown that during digestion, the protein casein in cow’s milk (the milk used in cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano and other favorites) may produce casomorphins, which can have a slight opiate-like effect on some cheese-eaters—in other words, the lucky ones.


Our 5 Most Popular Recipes of 2015

This past year has definitely been a delicious one, full of soul-satisfying burgers, amazing 30-minute meals, easy dinners, boozy brunches and sweet treats. But the recipes that stuck out the most are some of our all-time classics. Here are the top 5 recipes our readers loved the most this year on RachaelRayMag.com—did any of your favorites make the list?

 

Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole

 
 

Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia

 
 

Slow-Cooker Chicken & Dumplings

 
 

Eggs in Clouds

 
 




Grilled Sweet-and-Sticky Chicken Thighs with Asparagus and Harissa


Bar Basics: Know Your Bubbles!

Champagne, cava and prosecco all sparkle, but they’re not the same. Get to know them a little better with this handy cheat sheet.

 

Champagne

Hometown

The Champagne region in northern France

Best traits

Can be toasty and dry (i.e. not sweet); available in a range of colors, from light golden to pink

Perfect date

A special occasion. Champagne uses high-quality grapes and takes longer to age, so it’s often the most expensive of the three. Save it for the times when you really want to celebrate.

 

Cava

Hometown

The Catalonia region in northeast Spain

Best traits

Earthier, fruitier and often less expensive than Champagne

Perfect date

A weekend party with friends. The crowd-pleasing flavor and budget-friendly price makes this sparkling wine great for a group. And who says you have to start the party with bubbles? Spaniards sometimes serve cava after a meal.

 

Prosecco

Hometown

The Veneto region in northeast Italy

Best traits

Light, crisp and apple-y; usually the sweetest and least expensive of the three sparklers

Perfect date

A leisurely Sunday brunch. You can sip prosecco on its own, and it also makes a great cocktail mixer. Thanks to its super-affordable price and low alcohol, bottomless mimosas can be had by all!

 

No matter which bubbly you choose, you can whip up a killer cocktail for your New Years Eve party. Here are some of our faves:

Cranberry-Cava Sparklers

 
 

Double Orange Spritz

 
 

Pomegranate Lava Lamp


5 Festive Recipes to Ring in the New Year

New Years Eve is so close we can taste it–literally! We’re planning a stellar menu of finger foods and festive eats that our guests are sure to love. These recipes are easy to make, fun to eat and, most importantly, only require one hand, leaving that other hand wide open for a cocktail or glass of bubbly. We’ll drink to that!

 

Roast Beef Crostini with Arugula Mayo

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Christmas Appetizer Hack: Puff Pastry

Between decorating the tree, crafting the perfect cocktail and making sure the roast doesn’t burn, Christmas entertaining can be stressful. One part that shouldn’t feel like a chore is making a crowd-pleasing appetizer. This introduction to your party should mimic the vibe: welcoming, easy-going and of course, delicious. And when it comes to making an appetizer that meets all three requirements on top of being a cinch to throw together, our secret weapon is store-bought puff pastry. We love it for its versatility, ease to work with and quick cooking time. These five savory (and one sweet!) puff pastry apps will make you want to have a Christmas party every day of the year!

 

Asparagus in a Blanket

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5 Festive Holiday Roasts

Whether you’re gearing up for Christmas dinner or you’re just hosting friends for the holidays, there’s no better way to wow your crowd than by serving a roast. Stick to classic holiday flavors or change it up with spices, glazes and even veggies. No matter which dish suits your fancy, it’s guaranteed to steal the holiday spotlight!

 

Cuban-Style Pork Roast

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