Inside Our Test Kitchen: Fake your own Bundt pan

So you want to bake some monkey bread or a Bundt cake, but don’t have the right kind of pan? You can create a makeshift one using what you already have in your kitchen. Piece of cake!

If you have a springform pan: Place a greased pint-size ovenproof jar (like a Mason or Bell jar) right side up in the center of the pan. Add the batter or dough and bake. Let cool about 10 minutes; remove the jar.

No springform? No problem! Two 9- or 10-inch cake pans will also work, but you’ll end up with two thinner Bundt cakes. Grease two small ramekins and put them upside down in the centers of the pans. Keep in mind that these cakes will cook more quickly, so start checking them sooner.

Ready to give it a go? Try these recipes!

Cinnamon-Bun Fun Monkey Bread Read more

Go For Gold! 10 Golden Recipes for the Olympics

Summer 2016 is here, which means it’s finally Olympic season! There’s nothing like getting so engrossed in a race, match or gymnastics routine that you end up burning dinner on the stovetop… oh wait, does that only happen to me? Sure, we could all try to eat like Olympic athletes this time of year in solidarity with Team USA — superfood cereal, anyone? — but here’s something a little more fun to try: 10 golden recipes! That’s right; mashed potatoes, pizza, cake and more are all fair game here. And we threw in some bonus silver and bronze cocktails, because those are pretty great, too.

Golden Tomato Soup

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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!

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!


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!

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!

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!

The Pastry School Diaries: Saying Goodbye to Gluten

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 gluten intolerance and its awareness grows, I’ve become more and more grateful that my body allows me to eat whatever I want. Being so invested in food, cooking and baking, I can’t imagine the struggle that 18 million Americans go through being sensitive or intolerant to gluten. For 12 hours a week, I am completely immersed in flour, doughs, cakes and tarts—a celiac’s worst nightmare. But this week, we explored the (wider than I expected) world of gluten-free baking.
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The Pastry School Diaries: Around the World in One Class

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! 


My taste buds traveled to the American South and across the pond all in the same day, as we learned how to make biscuits and scones. I had no idea I would enjoy making these doughs as much as I did, but after learning how simple, versatile and surprisingly stress-relieving the technique is, I already have plans to try it at home.


Want to know the differences between scone dough and biscuit dough? For both doughs, you combine your dry ingredients in a bowl, add your cold butter and work it down with your hands into small pieces. This can take quite a while, but the motion and texture of it feels like you’re in an edible zen garden. Very relaxing after a long day! Next, add your liquid and work the dough until it is just combined.

When making scones, you use the mealy dough method, while biscuits use the flaky dough method. The mealy method means that while breaking down the butter into the dry ingredients, you need to keep working it until there is no butter apparent. In the flaky method, you only have to work the butter down until it is the size of a hazelnut.

Scones typically contain sugar and other sweet ingredients like dried fruit or chocolate, while biscuits are typically savory.

Biscuits with sharp cheddar cheese and chives

The traditional biscuit shape is round while scones are made triangular by forming large discs and slicing wedges before baking.


Scones are known to be served with clotted cream, jam and tea, while biscuits can be served with butter, honey and ham.

Scones with cornmeal, lemon zest and dried cherries

Both are equally delicious and easy to make. It just depends on what part of the world you want to be in!

Stay tuned for more sweet dough lessons next week!

The Pastry School Diaries: It’s the Season for Layers

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! 


Remember last week when I told you we prepped the dough for croissants and danishes? Well, the day finally arrived when we got to roll out, form, fill, bake–and devour–the finished product. These two pastries are definitely a labor of love. They are made from a laminate dough, which is dough that has been covered with a layer of butter, folded over itself, rolled out and repeated twice more. This process forms paper-thin alternating layers of dough and butter, resulting in that sinfully delicious, flaky texture that we have known to associate with French pastries. What makes a danish different from a croissant is two key ingredients: eggs, which create a more cake-like texture, and cardamom, a popular spice in Scandinavian baking.


Almond croissants


What I liked about making croissants and danishes is the variety and liberty we had in both shape and filling. We made four types of croissant: plain, almond, chocolate and ham and cheese. For the danishes, fillings included pastry cream, frangipane (an almond filling), various fruits, a ricotta-raisin mixture and pureed prunes. We had a variety of shapes to experiment with as well.


Ham & cheese croissant

Braided Danish filled with ricotta, raisins and poached pineapple


A variety of bear claw, pinwheel and envelope Danishes


I’m not sure I would try my hand at making these at home quite yet, but I’m glad I learned the process. If you do, however, have the desire, time and, most importantly, counter space to try making laminate dough at home, here are my “things they only tell you in pastry school” tips:

1. When making, folding and rolling out your dough, keep everything as cold as possible. The butter cannot melt, or else you won’t get those beautiful air pockets that we all know and love about croissants.

2. Use a ruler to measure out the dough. Each pastry should be roughly the same exact size, which allows for uniform baking time (and no fighting over the biggest one!).

3. When working with liquid fillings, don’t overdo it. The filling is just going to spill out during baking.

4. When working with solid fillings, like ham and cheese, you can go a little heavier. Because no one wants a ham-less ham and cheese croissant.

5. Be sure to egg wash the ends of your dough. Seal it tightly so your filling doesn’t fall out and your pastry maintains its shape.

6. Got leftovers? Wrap them in a layer of plastic wrap, followed by a layer of tinfoil and stick them in the freezer. They will thaw looking as perfect as they did when they were hot out of the oven!

Check back next week for more baking tips!