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!

Our 7 Best Cookie Swap Recipes

There’s nothing better than a gathering of friends and family for an indulgent afternoon of treat trading. But you don’t have to be a professional baker or aspiring Dominique Ansel to win “most popular” at your cookie swap–no matter your baking style, taste or level of experience, we’ve got the perfect recipe for for you. Happy holidays!


If you’re looking to make a traditional dessert a little more exciting: Red Velvet Crinkles

Read more

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!



Related Links

Our 6 Favorite Homemade Food Gifts

How to Make a Snack Stadium

The Best Christmas Cocktails

4 Delicious Twists on Thanksgiving Turkey

This is the bird you dream about: juicy meat, crispy, golden skin and rich, delicious gravy to pour on top. Our simple, foolproof recipe gives you all that, plus three flavor combos to choose from–so you can try a new one next year!



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Mix it up for Memorial Day

When we think of Memorial Day, one of the first things that comes to mind is a smoking hot grill and all the delicious foods that are searing away. But we’re not just talking about hot dogs and hamburgers; did you know you can grill leafy greens, desserts and even cheese? This year, instead of sticking to the classics, we’ll be grilling up some of the wackiest, wildest recipes that are sure to leave an impression– both on the food and on our guests! Did you know you can grill….


Coleslaw and even Caesar Salad?


Fruit and cheese like Haloumi, watermelon and stone fruit?


Forget burgers! You can grill meatballs instead


Don’t forget to save room for dessert, like grilled doughnuts or pound cake!


Happy Memorial Day, everyone!


Related Links

Throw a Pizza Party… on the Grill!

Turn Up Your Taco Night

Fast Idea Friday: Bacon Cheese Sliders


St. Patrick’s Day Done Right!

If you’re channeling your inner Irish this weekend, don’t stop with the “Kiss me, I’m Irish” tee and pint of Guinness. A true St. Patrick’s Day isn’t complete without a hearty menu full of flavor (and booze) that’ll make you feel like you’re in the homeland. We’re taking classic Irish flavors and St. Pat’s traditions and transforming ‘em into delicious dishes that you’ll definitely want to eat more than once a year. The best part? They’re super simple, so you’ll have plenty to time to join in all of the festive fun. Happy St. Patty’s Day!

Corned Beef Melts with Sweet and Sour Onions and Wilted Cabbage


Guinness Float


Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup


Bailey’s Coffee Cake

More Holiday Menus

Mardi Gras

Three King’s Day

New Years

#TrendingTuesday: Mardi Gras

You may not be roaming Bourbon street, sipping on hurricanes and munching on beignets, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still embrace the New Orleans-famous holiday of Mardi Gras. It’s Fat Tuesday, people, and you should be celebrating. Whether you’re looking for a snack native to the Bayou or a full blown Big Easy dinner, we’ve got the perfect recipes to suit your fancy. So dig out your beads and masks and get cooking, y’all!


Shrimp & Grits


Battered Okra Bites


Chicken Andouille & Shrimp Jambalaya




More #trending Topics


Do the Dip

Bacon-Wrapped Anything

Happy Three Kings Day!

Not ready for the holiday season to be over? You’re in luck! Today is Three Kings Day! This traditional Mexican and Latin American holiday celebrates the day the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem. A traditional King Cake is baked, and a small plastic doll is hidden inside to symbolize baby Jesus. ABC’s The Chew’s Evette Rios shared her fabulous Cream Cheese King Cake with us, and we’ve pulled a few other sweet treats that can help you enjoy one last celebration.


Cream Cheese King Cake

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Healthy Holiday Lunch with Top Chef Richard Blais

During the winter months, it can be hard to maintain a healthy diet while still indulging in all of our favorite holiday treats. Top Chef Richard Blais and Alli hosted a luncheon at the Andaz Hotel to show that eating well during the holidays is manageable, without sacrificing on flavor and your favorite holiday recipes. Chef Blais has recently lost over 60 pounds by maintaining an active lifestyle and balanced diet, and his demonstration proved that you don’t have to be a top chef to eat and cook healthfully.

Chef Blais shared some helpful tips on how to avoid gaining weight during the holidays as he prepared a healthy and fantastic lunch. He started with a raw beet salad with jicama, apple & mustard dressing, explaining that the term “salad” shouldn’t sound boring: it shouldn’t signify just leafy greens, but rather “any combination of fruits and vegetables, tossed in a flavorful vinaigrette.” Blais also shared a tip that’s all too familiar to Rachael Ray readers, that your vegetable stems are just as delicious to eat and fun to cook with as the vegetables themselves.



Next, Chef Blais moved on to a beautiful rack of lamb with date syrup and Swiss chard. He wanted to make something alternative to the traditional turkey, while staying true to holiday flavors. He explained how to add flavor without adding fat, by incorporating spices and herbs to make a dish more savory. He also shared how to liven up a dish with an element of citrus, but if you’re looking to get a citrus flavor without the acidity of an actual orange, lemon or lime, adding the zest will do the trick.



Finally, Chef Blais demonstrated how using a whipped cream canister can cut calories by adding volume to desserts, and thus helping with portion control. He made a whipped buttermilk and Greek yogurt parfait with lavender honey, clementines and puffed rice cereal, and shared how adding flavors we normally associate with sweet (such as vanilla, cinnamon and lavender) without adding an actual sweet element is a great way to add flavor without making a dish unhealthy, too.


It was a truly inspiring and delicious afternoon with Chef Richard Blais that left me feeling full and satisfied without that lingering holiday guilt. I hope to use some of his helpful tips in my own cooking all year round!


Related Links

10 Ways to Use a Whisk with Duff Goldman

8 Italian Sauce Recipes with Lidia Bastianich

Buddy Valastro’s Easy Gnocchi Recipe

12 Days of Cookies Day 1: Buttery Holiday Cookies

Christmas time is upon us, and what better way to count down the days than with cookies? Over the next three weeks, we’ll be sharing 16 different cookie recipes. The best part? They all start with the same base dough, so you can mix and match flavors as you please! Holiday baking just got a whole lot easier.



For our inaugural #RRcookiecountdown post, we’re sharing the recipe for our Buttery Holiday Cookie dough that’ll be the base for the rest of your doughs. But don’t worry–if you want to stop here, the dough is just as delicious by itself or covered in frosting!


Buttery Holiday Cookies

2 sticks butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium until pale and fluffy, 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Beat in the yolks and vanilla until just combined.

2. In a medium bowl,  whisk the flour and salt, then combine with the butter mixture on low speed until just incorporated.

3. Halve the dough, flatten into disks, wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour.

4. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies, transfer to cookie sheets and chill 15 minutes.

5. Bake at 350 degrees until golden, 17 to 20 minutes. Cool cookies on racks. Decorate with Easy Icing and sprinkles.

Easy Icing

In a medium bowl, stir 2 cups confectioners’ sugar with 3 tbsp. whole milk and 3 tbsp. melted butter. Thin with a few drops of water to desired consistency.


Be sure to check out our Holiday Cookies Pinterest Board for enough recipes to last throughout the new year! We’ll be pinning and instagramming all season long.

Related Links

Our Most Popular Holiday Cookies

Stuffed Holiday Cookies

Christmas Cookie Recipes