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!
You don’t need to buy a cocktail muddler to make smashing good drinks. Chances are, you have a tool that can crush herbs already on hand. Three to try: the handle of a wooden spoon or spatula (the fatter the better), the handle of an ice cream scoop or the flat end of a tapered rolling pin. Now that you’ve got the gear, here’s how to use it (like in our brand new Cucumber-Basil Smash!):
1. Place the ingredients you want to muddle (usually fresh herbs and sugar) in the bottom of a pint glass, shaker or sturdy pitcher (for big batches).
2. Using the muddler, press down on the mixture in the bottom of the glass and gently twist. Stop as soon as the herbs release their aromatic oils. (You’ll smell ‘em!) And go easy with the squishing! The idea is to release the fragrance of the herbs without ripping the leaves, which can unleash bitter chlorophyll into your cocktail.
Here are some more cocktail ideas for you to muddle up!
In our brand new March issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray, our Food Editor, Katie Barreira goes on a culinary journey to discover the ultimate recipe for scrambled eggs. She consults 12 of the world’s most renowned chefs for the best advice, from how high to heat the pan, to the perfect scrambling technique. Here are their results:
Wally Joe (chef, partner and general manager of ACRE restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee)
In an 8-inch nonstick pan, melt ½ tbsp. butter over medium-low heat. Crack 3 eggs into the pan and wait for them to set just slightly. Season with salt and pepper, then stir the eggs with a silicone spatula until they’re soft, creamy and not entirely cooked through, about 2 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk 3 large eggs until foamy. In a round-bottomed chef’s pan, melt about 2 tbsp. butter over medium-low heat. Add the eggs and whisk constantly until they start to cook, then switch to a silicone spatula. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Add a pat of butter and season with salt and pepper.
In a bowl, use a whisk, handheld mixer or immersion blender to whip 4 eggs until uniformly mixed and pale yellow in color. In a double boiler, melt 1 tbsp. butter. Add the eggs and ¼ to ½ tsp. salt. Using a silicone spatula, stir gently and continuously for 30 seconds. Then stir every few seconds until the first curds form, about 1 minute. Lift and fold the curds into the liquid egg in the bottom of the pan. Continue to fold and stir until the eggs are about two-thirds cooked, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the top pan and stir until the curds appear to be sauced by the runny egg.
Anne Burrell (host of Worst Cooks in America on Food Network and is a best-selling author. Her second cookbook, Own Your Kitchen, was published in 2013)
In a bowl, using a fork, beat 4 eggs with 4 tsp. water and a healthy pinch of salt until it’s a homogeneous mixture. In a nonstick skillet, heat 2 tsp. EVOO over medium-low heat. Add the eggs and cook slowly, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula. Cook until eggs are no longer runny but still really soft.
In a bowl, whisk 4 eggs with an honest pinch of salt. Add 2 tbsp. butter to a cold 8-inch nonstick skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until the butter foams but doesn’t brown, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and, using a wooden spatula, gently stir the eggs for about 30 seconds, making sure to scrape the edges and the bottom of the pan; this will ensure that the eggs do not cook too quickly from direct contact with the hot skillet. Then gently fold the eggs, creating big, soft curds. When the eggs are halfway cooked, about 1 minute, turn off the heat (this will prevent the eggs from overcooking and keep them moist), and continue folding until eggs are done to your liking. The total cook time should be 2 to 3 minutes.
Marc Murphy (chef-owner of Benchmarc Restaurants, which include Kingside, Landmarc and Ditch Plains in New York City, and he has appeared regularly as a judge on Chopped, Iron Chef America and other culinary shows)
In a bowl, season 6 eggs with 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper and a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan cheese. Whisk until the whites and yolks are just blended. In a nonstick skillet, heat 2 tbsp. butter over low. Add the eggs to the skillet and, using a silicone spatula continuously stir eggs until just set, 4 to 6 minutes. About 1 minute before eggs are done, remove from heat so they don’t get too dry, and keep stirring for about 20 seconds.
Gordon Ramsay (Michelin-starred chef and owner of restaurants around the globe. He has five top-rated television shows that air in more than 200 countries and is the author of 27 books, including his autobiography, Roasting in Hell’s Kitchen)
Curious how the tough-talking Ramsay whips up his perfect scrambled eggs? Watch him in action right here.
Watch how our magazine’s leading lady scrambles up her flavor-packed eggs!
Michael Mina (award-winning chef and founder of the Mina Group, which has more than 20 restaurants across the United States)
In a bowl, whisk together 8 eggs. Add the eggs to the top of a double boiler set over boiling water. Use a silicone spatula to gently stir the eggs. Don’t be too aggressive—you want to let the eggs form into small curds as they cook. (You can add all sorts of fun ingredients during this stage, such as crème fraïche, chives, cheese, etc.). Cook the eggs until they’re soft and very moist, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and season with sea salt and pepper.
Frank McMahon (chef of Hank’s Seafood Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina)
In a bowl, whisk 6 eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, combine 2 tbsp. unsalted butter and 2 or 3 oz. whole milk over medium heat. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and immediately add the eggs, stirring to combine. As the eggs begin to set, use a silicone spatula to gently push the mixture back and forth using a snowplow-like motion to form fluffy egg mounds. Just before the eggs are completely set, remove the skillet from the heat. (The eggs will continue to cook off the heat.)
Elizabeth Falkner (James Beard Award–nominee and executive chef at Corvo Bianco in New York City. Her second cookbook, Cooking Off the Clock, was published in 2012)
In a bowl, whisk 4 eggs, a pinch salt and 2 tbsp. heavy cream. Heat an 8- or 10-inch nonstick skillet over high for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 1 tbsp. butter and immediately turn the heat down to low. Add the eggs to the skillet and cook, stirring with a silicone spatula for 15 to 20 seconds. Add 1 tbsp. butter, a few cranks of pepper and another pinch salt. Continue to cook for about 20 seconds, until the eggs are still runny, but are setting up on the edges. Remove from the heat and stir the eggs for another few seconds.
Ludo Lefebvre (chef and owner of awarding-winning restaurant Trois Mec in Los Angeles)
In a bowl, beat 4 eggs. Season with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan, melt ½ tbsp. butter over low heat. Add the eggs and, using a wooden spatula, stir constantly, using a figure-eight motion, until the eggs start to get a little thick, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tbsp. cold butter and stir until melted. (This will stop the cooking and add extra creaminess to the eggs.)
Lately, we’ve been giving you lots of reasons to enjoy a nice, juicy orange, lemon or grapefruit (it is citrus season, after all). But how do we make those fruit segments look so darn beautiful? You, too, can upgrade your fruit salads, cocktails and desserts by cutting your oranges and grapefruits into pretty segments (“supremes” in chef lingo). Here’s how:
1. Prep It
Cut a small slice off the top and bottom, exposing some of the flesh. Stand the fruit up on one flat side.
2. Pare It
Cut from top to bottom along the curve of the fruit, removing the peel and bitter white pith.
3. Section It
Over a bowl, make a slice on each side of each segment along the membrane and use the knife blade to life out the freed fruit wedge.
4. Use It
in tons of delicious recipes, like the ones below!
To make a light, fluffy grain salad, you need cooled cooked grains. But letting them chill out in the pot or strainer will leave you with a clumpy, gummy mess. The solution is as close as your cupboard. Grab a baking sheet and save your salad this way:
1. Transfer drained, just-cooked grains to a rimmed baking sheet.
2. Using a spatula, spread the grains in an even layer. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes for 4 cups of grains. (For even quicker cooling, stick the pan in the refrigerator; it’ll take half the time.)
3. Use the cooled grains in all sorts of salads and side dishes, like our brand new Spinach Salad with Beets, Quinoa & Goat Cheese.
More quinoa recipes…
|When a recipe like our Red Velvet Meltcakes (pictured left) calls for beating heavy cream or egg whites, it will often mention soft or stiff peaks. How do you tell what’s what? You can see where you stand by just lifting up the beaters.|
- Soft Peaks will be thick but still droopy and are perfect for dollop-friendly whipped cream.
- Stiff Peaks will stick up straight from the beaters and are what you’re looking for when making meringue.