The Pastry School Diaries: Bake It ‘Til You Make It

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


As if recovering from Labor Day weekend wasn’t a feat of its own, I was promptly greeted Tuesday night by my first of four pastry school final exams. Luckily, I spent the long weekend practicing my creme anglaise and souffle skills, prepared to (hopefully) nail the recipes when put to the test.
This is the first time I’ve had to study for a test since college, and although that was only two and a half years ago, I knew my study skills were a little rusty. I’ll spare you the details of the written exam itself and skip right to the final result: an A! I am not usually one who performs well under pressure, and admittedly, I didn’t perform my best– the creme anglaise was slightly undercooked and my souffles looked less than perfect. But being put to the test for the first time by myself (we always work in teams of 2 during class) showed me the importance of having confidence in the kitchen. I kept doubting myself, and it was apparent in my work. Luckily, my souffles were perfectly cooked and still tasted delicious, so I was only penalized for presentation. For anyone interested in trying their hand at souffle at home, here are my personal tips to making it successfully:
1. Find a recipe that calls for as little liquid as possible. The more liquid, the harder it is to keep the souffle light and fluffy.

2. Gently fold in your egg whites just until they are incorporated. Over mixing the batter is a surefire way result in a cracked souffle.

3. Fill your ramekins alllllll the way to the tippy top. This way, your souffle can begin to rise above the ramekin, and you won’t have to worry about the vessel interfering with the batter.

4. Try not to open the oven to check on your souffles. Doing so interrupts the heat distribution and lets cold air in.

5. When all else fails, it’ll still taste good. Like my exam proved, even though they didn’t look the prettiest, I still received a good grade for the taste and degree of doneness.


Before I mentally prepare for Module 2, which includes breads and pastry doughs, I’ll share some of my favorite lessons and recipes from Module 1:


One of the first things we ever made, blueberry muffins


The most delicious apple crumbles


Dacquoise, layers of almond cookies and meringue frosting


And a class field trip to Odd Fellows Ice Cream Co., which included a sampling of every flavor on the menu and this cornbread sundae. Yum-O!

Check back next week for another dessert adventure!

The Pastry School Diaries: A Choux In!

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


I was 16 the first time I ever made pate a choux, the dough used to make cream puffs and eclairs. I remember so vividly standing over the stove, boiling milk, butter and sugar, adding flour and vigorously stirring the pot until a cohesive dough formed, and then ruining all of my hard work by cracking eggs directly into the hot pot and scrambling them into the dough. My mom compared the consistency to that of matzoh balls, gave me her typical “I told you so” spiel about impatiently ignoring the directions and told me to start over.


When I found out we were going to make pate a choux in class, I was excited to have another chance to work on my technique. The procedure we were taught was exactly the same–except for one crucial detail, a word that gets used almost every day in the pastry kitchen: tempering. To temper something means to either increase or decrease the temperature of it, which is quite easy given the proper ingredients and instruction. T0 temper choux dough, slowly pour beaten eggs into the pot where your butter-milk-flour mixture has cooked and stir it continuously until the mixture is cool enough (it feels warm to the touch but not scalding) to dump the remaining eggs in. Scrambling the eggs in my dough could have been easily avoided had I just tempered it first. Lesson learned.



In class I wound up with a beautifully soft and smooth choux dough, ready to be piped, baked, filled and eaten. I couldn’t wait to share photos of my successful desserts with my mom: cream puffs stuffed with homemade ice cream, also known as profiteroles (pictured above), and one of my proudest accomplishments, croquembouche, a tower of cream puffs filled with pastry cream and held together by caramel sauce (pictured below).



You can see I’ve come a long way from my matzoh ball-like choux days– this was one sweet feat!


Check back next Friday for another delicious adventure!

America’s Best Snow Cones

One of your favorite childhood fixtures has officially grown up: Snow cones are now appearing at restaurants, bars and food trucks–complete with local ingredients, artisanal syrups and the occasional splash of booze. Time to explore the next ice age!

Brabo Restaurant in Arlington, VA, serves up the kickin’ Old Town Ginger snow cone, a refreshing blend of kaffir lime vodka, ginger beer syrup, mint liqueur and ice chunks, all of it topped with lime zest and chili flakes.


At the Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls shop in New Orleans, the specialty is made with light-as-air shaved ice (versus the ground kind you’re used to) and crowned with house-made syrups such as watermelon-jalapeño and cardamom cream.


Kauai’s Uncle’s Shave Ice serves up shave snow, a Hawaiian take on a Taiwanese treat that starts as a frozen block of water, milk and syrup (try the Asia-inspired lychee or dried plum), then gets shaved into creamy ribbons.


 Sno con Amor at L.A.’s Hollywood Farmers’ Market fancies up raspados (Mexico’s answer to the snow cone, served in a cup) with handmade syrups. Two faves: lime-mint and grapefruit juice with vanilla bean.


In true Bay Area style, Oakland’s Skylite Snowballs makes nearly everything from scratch with local farm fare. The result? Seasonal syrups–from pluot to lemon-ginger–poured over crunchy ice and served from a truck.



By Jenna Scatena

How to Make the Very Best Chocolate Pudding

We love a good chocolate pudding and we know you do too: it’s one of our most popular chocolate desserts ever! In honor of National Chocolate Pudding Day (that’s today!) we’re sharing an updated version of the classic dessert. It’s warm and luscious and just sweet enough. You’re going to want to make extras!



Warm Chocolate Pudding



1/2 cup plus 2 tsp. sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

Pinch salt

3 cups milk

2 egg yolks

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Whipped cream, for serving


In saucepan, whisk 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in milk and yolks over medium heat. Stir in chocolate. Simmer, whisking, until melted. Divide pudding among ramekins; let cool slightly. Top with cream.


If you’re looking for something more out-of-the-box, try our slow-cooker version or our Amaretto-spiked version.

The Easiest Biscuit Topping You’ll Ever Make

We’re so happy it’s National Biscuit Day– biscuits are the perfect food to eat for every meal! When it’s time for dessert, make a cobbler. Top it off with this simple and delicious biscuit topping that can be made two different ways: it can be rolled and cut into shapes or, even easier, turned into rustic drop biscuits. The difference? Just a few tablespoons of cream.

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Our 4 Favorite Italian Comfort Food Recipes

A bubbly, warm, saucy Italian dish on a cold, winter night? Now that’s amore! Save the caprese salads and basil pesto for the summer–this winter, we want the hearty baked dishes, crunchy baguettes and creamy desserts that Italy is known for. So take your pick at a cheesy, sausage-laden pizza bread, a rich and smoky sauteed chicken or a creamy, gooey, this-is-what-dreams-are-made-of baked pasta dish. Finish it off with a riff on Tiramisu and you’ve got yourself an Italian grandmother’s hug for your taste buds.


Three-Cheese Bread Pizza with Kale & Sausage

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How to Make an Edible Christmas Tree

This tabletop display sparkles with decorations you can eat: doughnut holes!


How to: poke the bottom portion of an S-shaped ornament hook into a plain doughnut hole; repeat with additional hooks and holes. Melt one package of chocolate chips or mini Candy Melts according to directions, then roll doughnut holes in the melted candy and coat in sanding sugar. Let dry on parchment until hard, about 15 minutes, then thread a Life Savers candy onto the hook to rest flat on top. Hang ornaments on a tabletop tree and, when dinner’s done, let guests help themselves to dessert!



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The One Thing You Need to Make this Weekend

As the last weekend of National Ice Cream Month approaches (we know, we’re tearing up a little bit over here, too) there’s no better way to send off the sweetest time of year than by whipping up some homemade ice cream! Brrrrr-illiant, no? So whether you like chocolate, vanilla or something fruity, it’s time to schedule a date this weekend with the coolest kitchen accessory: your ice cream maker!


Triple Chocolate Crunch Ice Cream


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What to Make This Weekend: Mixed Berry Lattice Cobbler

A summer dessert that’s just as beautiful to look at as it is to eat? Easy. A beautiful and delicious summer dessert that’s also healthy? Not so much. But have no fear! Our Guilt-Free Summer Fruit Dessert Booklet from our July/August issue is here to save the day. While many of the desserts require just a few ingredients and minutes to put together, this show-stopping dessert is worth a weekend in the kitchen: Mixed Berry Lattice Cobbler.



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Grilled Desserts

It wouldn’t be a proper Grilling Week without being able to have a 3-course meal made entirely on the grill. Now that we’ve given you some great side dish options, it’s time to explore the sweeter side of grilling: desserts! Here are some of our favorite grilled dessert recipes that really capture the essence of summer desserts:


Ginger-Peach Ice Cream in Grilled Peach Cups


Grilled Gingerbread S’mores Cake


“Yellow Flag” Dessert Skewers


Grilled Nectarine-Bourbon Ice Cream


Related Links

Grilling Weeknight Menu Planner

Grilled Veggies

Our Top Grilling Tips