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!
“I was surprised to learn how Daniel Holzman, executive chef at the Meatball Shop in NYC, cooks his signature lamb meatballs: He lines the meatballs up, slightly touching, in a baking dish. When testing his recipe I compared his baking method with two others: browning them in a skillet and braising them in sauce. Daniel won, hands down. The tight rows ensure perfectly shaped balls and they develop a nicely browned crust in the oven. Plus, make-ahead is a snap. Cover the cooked meatballs with foil and refrigerate them for up to three days. To reheat, just pop the covered dish into a 300° oven for 20 minutes. This is how I’m cooking my meatballs from now on!”
–Katie Barreira, Senior Test Kitchen Associate
I drink iced coffee all yearlong, even when there’s snow on the ground. But buying iced coffee on the daily can get expensive, so I’ve taken to making my own coffee–cold brew, to be specific. So what the heck is cold-brew coffee, anyway? Well folks, pay attention, because I’m about to show you the way. (Oh, and since you don’t need electricity for this method, you can thank me the next time the power goes out and you can still get your caffeine fix!)
So what’s the difference?
Cold-brew coffee is made by steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in room temperature or cold (ie. no heat here!) water over a long period of time and straining the liquid to create a concentrate. As no heat is applied, the bitter flavor components of the bean are not released, producing a less astringent and less acidic coffee that some even describe as sweet.
How do you make it?
All you need for pretty vegetable ribbons is a peeler. Oh, and vegetables: Zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, parsnips, cucumbers–basically any vegetable that has the shape to become long strips is a good candidate.
1. Trim the ends and peel the vegetable if needed.
2. Peel the flesh lengthwise, using a little pressure to make 1 ⁄16 -inch-thick ribbons (thin enough to fold nicely but thick enough not to break).
3. Blanch, if desired (cook for about 1 minute in boiling salted water, then rinse with cold water). But raw is nice, too!
Add vegetable ribbons to pastas or turn them into a salad like in the recipes below.
Get the recipes:
Mild, oniony leeks are delicious in everything from savory tarts to potato soup. The only problem? The veggie’s many layers can trap a lot of grit–something you don’t want to crunch down on during dinner. To get them really clean, give this quick and easy method a shot.
Don’t have a double boiler, don’t worry–you can still cook citrus curds, custards and puddings! Just channel your inner “crafty cook” and make this do-it-yourself double boiler with items you already have on hand.
Step 1: Simmer a few inches of water in a saucepan.
Step 2: Stack a metal or glass bowl on top of a saucepan, making sure the bowl fits snugly.
What’s inside won’t burn or stick because the steam from the simmering water will heat the bowl gently and evenly. Just make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.
Try the DIY double boiler out with these Lemon Daisy Cookies!
The invisible battery-boosters built into these accessories let you off your leash (um, power cord) so you can roam if you want to. –Morgan Gibson
Powerbag Sling’s compact backpack can juice as many as four devices at once. When the bag isn’t in use and needs to be charged, you plug it in with a power cord. $140, mypowerbag.com
Rach’s newest obsession, Everpurse’s kicked-up clutch, revs your phone while you tackle your busy day. The secret: a magnetic pad that recharges the bag. $189 and up, everpurse.com
Talk, text and stay powered all at the same time with Mophie’s sleek, rubberized Juice Pack Plus. Once you’ve charged it via USB port, the case keeps your iPhone’s tank full. $100, mophie.com
Photography by Levi Brown
A perfectly browned sear on everything from steak to stew meat creates a flavorful crust and juicy interior. Just follow these four easy searing commandments.
Commandment #1: Thou shalt pat the meat dry.
If excess moisture (aside from butter, oil or fat) is present, the meat will steam, not sear.
Commandment #2: Thou shalt get the pan hot.
Intense heat creates the tasty, burnished crust you’re looking for.
Commandment #3: Thou shalt be patient.
Hands off–and we mean it! If the meat isn’t touching the hot pan
(because you keep moving it), it won’t brown properly.
Commandment #4: Thou shalt take turns.
(Illustrations by Claudia Pearson)
To achieve a uniform sear, each side of the meat needs equal attention. However, try to keep flipping of the meat to a minimum as it will dry and toughen the meat.
|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.