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Chef Michelle Doll Olson (Pastry Arts’04)

By Sara Medlicott,
ICC Librarian

A class with Chef Instructor and ICC Alum Michelle Doll Olson might feel a little like you stepped into a comedy club with a two pastry minimum. Perhaps that’s due to her background at Stella Alder Conservatory and Upright Citizens Brigade.

The self proclaimed “98% ham” has a way with words and she will absolutely keep you awake after the sugar crash. Chef Michelle moved to New York with the intention of modeling and acting. Luckily for us here at ICC her “startled look” wasn’t in demand. She found herself managing the Creative Services department at Sesame Street and from there went on to work with modeling agencies, Corporate Identity Design and Branding.

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All the while though, Chef Michelle was baking. She started young, teaching herself and yet it never occurred to her to be a chef until her late 20s. An illicit cable hook up inherited with her apartment introduced her to Food Network’s original programming from the 90s. Particular favorites were Dean Jacques Torres’ Pastry Circus and Gale Grand’s Sweet Dreams. “I simply HAD to learn how to do what they were doing,” said Chef Michelle, “Once I dipped my toe in, I was hooked.” Little did she know, after completing the ICC night pastry program in 2004 she herself would be featured on Food Network first winning a throw down with ICC Alum Bobby Flay and later participating in other challenges and appearances.

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Chef Michelle loves teaching here for the camaraderie with other instructors and students, “We continue to learn something new every day and that just deepens our understanding of the pastry world.” It’s hard for her to pick a favorite class to teach, but she does really enjoy the cake classes. Said Chef Michelle, “The students are so hungry for knowledge! (No pun intended!) They get so excited and it’s infectious… speaking of infectious I also like teaching sanitation because I’m probably a little weird.”

When she isn’t teaching, Chef Michelle keeps busy with Michelle Doll Makes (previously Michelle Doll Cakes.) While her main focus now is on teaching, she does still occasionally do cakes for friends and family. Last year, she was able to do a cake for Vogue! Chef Michelle also developed a class for Craftsy called Smart Baking Substitutions. After her father was diagnosed with diabetes, she was inspired to do more for her family and for people wanting to make healthier choices. She develops healthy alternatives without taking the fun out of baking. Chef Michelle would eventually love to do a cookbook on the topic. Or a cookbook on her nomadic upbringing as a self proclaimed Army brat.

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The first cookbook to inspire Chef Michelle was Larousse Gastronomique. “The crazy depth of knowledge was exciting,” she said, “and it looked super cool on my bedside table.”

Before starting pastry school, she bought a copy of Bo Friberg’s The Professional Pastry Chef, “It scared the heck out of me. Would I really learn all these new crazy words and techniques? Now it’s like the back of my hand, splattered with chocolate.”

Some of her current favorite books are Dan Barber’s 3rd Plate and What to Eat by Marion Nestle. Said Chef Michelle, “We, as chefs, need to be conscious of not just the quality of our ingredients, but where they come from, are the farmers treated fairly? Is it responsibly farmed? What kind of carbon footprint is it leaving behind and finally how nutritious is it? I’ve definitely fallen down the rabbit hole and am doing as much as I can to decode what’s happening so I can make clear informed decisions. Sounds easier than it is.”

There you have it, comiedienne, artiste, sanitation enthusiast and food justice advocate; Chef Instructor Michelle does it all with a smile!

More about Chef Michelle:

Website // Instagram // Facebook // Video Interview

This feature contains an ad link.

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Library Notes // Bread Baking

By Sara Medlicott,
ICC Librarian

Anyone who has been to International Culinary Center knows of the famous bread rack. For new staff and students it’s almost mystical: at 3pm each day freshly baked goods from the bread class are available to take. If you’ve visited the school, we may have sent you home with a baguette or another treat. Needless to say, Chef Johnson is revered as the magician behind the rack.

To create your own yeast magic you can sign up for the Art of International Bread Baking program or to give it a try on your own with Chef Johnson’s top recommendations of bread books.

Bread Baking Books New York Culinary Library

For beginners

Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman. This classic text on bread gives an excellent overview of not just recipes but techniques with clear and easy to follow diagrams. Over 100 recipes cover everything from Baguettes to Whey bread, and the appendixes contain detailed instructions for more complex processes. Hemelman even covers 10 methods for braiding Challah! This book provides a detailed overview of everything from the world of bread.

Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish. Ken Forkish originally worked in tech, but after 20 years he knew it was not his true calling, so he trained at multiple schools and opened Ken’s Artisan Bakery in 2001. Forkish provided excellent step by step illustrated guides for both bread and pizza. The process photos make it easy for beginners to follow along and understand technique. The pizza section includes not only dough but creative topping ideas such as golden beet and duck breast and sweet potato and pear.

Technical Aspects

Bread Science by Emily Buehler. If you are more interested in the science behind the loaf, check out the work of Emily Buehler. She applies her PhD in Chemistry to artisanal bread baking describing such crucial processes as fermentation, yeast, gluten and gas retention. As Chef Johnson says, “It doesn’t teach you how to make bread, it helps you understand how bread is made”.

The Taste of Bread by Raymond Calvel. This book also details the science behind the loaves including taste, crust and fermentation in all types of bread. Calvels dives into a great amount of detail and this book would be best for intermediate to advanced bakers or those with a strong understanding of scientific principles.

Bread Baking Class

Wood Fired Oven Baking

From the Wood-Fired Oven by Richard Miscovish. This beautiful book covers everything you need to know about wood-fired baking, even the steps for how to simulate it if you don’t have access to a wood fired oven. The recipes and techniques included are not exclusively for bread, but it is also covered.

The Bread Builders by Daniel Wing. The Bread Builders is more specific to baking bread in a wood fired oven. This book includes not only the ingredients and procedures but also instructions for how to build your own wood fired oven and examples from various bakeries. If you are ready to go all in than this is the book for you!

Advanced

Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach by Michel Suas. This text is for when you have exhausted the others. For the advanced baker, Suas provides extensive details on bread and pastry. This book includes formulas for almost every type of bread you can imagine and encyclopedia details on everything bread and pastry.

Guinness Cake Recipe

Guinness Cake Recipe

By Chef Jansen Chan
ICC Director of Pastry Arts

Yields: 9” three layered cake

Guinness Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups All-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking powder
  • ½ tsp. Baking soda
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • 4 oz. (1 stick) Butter, unsalted, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups Sugar
  • 3 Eggs, large
  • 10 oz. Guinness

Procedure

  1. Prepare a 9” cake pan by greasing and flouring the sides. Place a parchment circle on the bottom, if desired. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs, scraping occasionally to prevent lumping.
  4. When thoroughly mixed, add the dry ingredients, alternating with the Guinness, in small batches. Mix until evenly combined.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake in a 350 F oven for 45-50 mins., or until springy to the touch. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 mins. before unmolding onto a cooling rack. Remove parchment circle, if used. Allow cake to fully cool.
  6. Before frosting, slice the cake into three even layers.

Light Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Cream
  • 8 oz. Bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz. Guinness

Procedure

  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. In a heavy pot, bring cream to a boil and pour immediately, over the chocolate. Let sit for 5 mins.
  2. With a whisk, starting in the center, quickly stir together, increasing the size of your stirring as the ganache forms. Add the Guinness and stir to combine.
  3. Place plastic wrap on the surface directly, to prevent a skin from forming. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. The next day, whip the ganache until it is thick and stiff.
  5. Divide the amount into three and spread the portions between the Guinness cake layers and on top.

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Michelin 2016 announced star recipients

Michelin, the Paris-based publisher of gastronomic guides, has released its annual list of starred ratings for New York City, San Francisco and Chicago restaurants. The guide’s reviewers (commonly called “inspectors”) anonymously award restaurants with either one star, two stars, or three stars. The stars are awarded as follows:

  • One star: A good place to stop on your journey, indicating a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard.
  • Two stars: A restaurant worth a detour, indicating excellent cuisine and skillfully and carefully crafted dishes of outstanding quality
  • Three stars: A restaurant worth a special journey, indicating exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients.

Congratulations to all the Michelin 2016 winners! We’re excited to congratulate the following ICC’s alumni and faculty who made us incredibly proud this year:

Three Stars (“Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”)

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Manresa // David Kinch

320 Village Ln.
Los Gatos, CA

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Saison // Josh Skenes

178 Townsend St.
San Francisco, CA

Two Stars (“Excellent cuisine, worth a detour”)

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Momofuku Ko // David Chang

8 Extra Pl.
New York, NY

One Star (“A very good restaurant in its category”)

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Blue Hill // Dan Barber

75 Washington Pl.
New York, NY

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Sepia // Andrew Zimmerman

123 N. Jefferson St.
Chicago, IL

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Public // Dan Rafalin

210 Elizabeth St.
New York, NY

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Meadowsweet // Polo Dobkin

149 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY

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Food as art (and architecture): Top 10 pastry feats by Jansen Chan

ICC’s Director of Pastry Arts Jansen Chan engineers a marshmallow ski lift, hangs 4,000 cream puffs upside down and makes cookies strut down a fashion runway. He loves a good challenge.

Originally from Northern California, Jansen Chan began his career as an architect, but quickly found himself unfulfilled by the slow pace with which construction projects took shape. Heeding a lifelong love of baking, he moved to Paris and earned a pâtisserie diploma, then mastered the craft of baking and pastry, progressively getting jobs in more and more prestigious San Francisco, Las Vegas and New York City restaurants. His desserts have been featured in high-profile media including Food Network, Food & Wine and Art Culinaire. He joined The International Culinary Center as Director of Pastry Arts in 2012.

Find out where the ambitious and passionate pastry architect finds his inspiration and channels his creativity:

Was there anything that you thought you wanted to do before you found yourself in pastry?

JC: Architecture will always be my first love. It was apparent that I had a drive for both pastry and design in my youth. In my free time as a kid, I grew up playing LEGO, while watching Saturday morning cooking shows on PBS. The two concepts probably fused because I really have found myself doing the same thing as an adult.

I chose architecture as my first profession mostly because it was a feasible career path, and I really enjoyed the creativity in design. Being an architect taught me discipline in processes and critical thinking for artistic challenges. But luckily, my passion for baking and pastry only grew deeper and I found myself dedicating all my energy to it. Going to culinary school and working in diverse kitchens cemented my life in pastry.

How do you come up with ideas?

JC: Ideas are a mix of inspiration and natural conditions. Inspiration comes from all walks of life: a museum piece, a design on a fabric, or even a mention of a word – and creates a chain-reaction of possibilities in my head. This is tempered by the parameters of reality, which isn’t necessarily bad. By understanding the medium (chocolate, sugar, etc.) and the physical conditions and limitations, I can create a dialogue with the idea to develop something unique. Generally, I find ideas that challenge me most attractive because a little bit of fear is a good thing.

What is your most memorable project?

JC: Every big project creates memories. The season finale of Food Network’s Halloween Wars, Season One, had the added pressure of being on TV and the marathon effort of filming two weeks of challenges; those were outside conditions and not actually part of the project.

A more recent memorable project was probably the Upside-down Croquembouche for the L’Occitane store. The concept was to do a modern spin on a French classic. The Croquembouche, which is a pyramid of cream puffs held together by caramel, is a classic French celebration cake. I wanted to create a life-size (six feet!) version, that hung upside down and lit up from within.

The project required precise engineering (a light foam core infrastructure that held lights), 4,000 cream puffs, hot caramel, hundreds of sugar paste leaves and a pastillage base (er, rather crown) – all to be held by two high-strength clear wires. The scariest part was that the entire showpiece was put together in a traditional conical form, only to be flipped upside-down onsite and latched on to a ceiling hook. Surprisingly, the flip was quick and painless – due much to good planning and helpful chef and student assistants.

How have your desserts evolved over the years, and who or what had the most influence on you?

JC: When I first started cooking and learning about baking and pastries, I was obsessed with the individual components of the plate. I wanted to learn each technique and each recipe, whether it be a decoration or a baked product.

Turns out, the harder part was the composition of the plate. I took time for me to understand that creating a dynamic and visually interesting dessert is where the true challenge lies. Mastering techniques is a requirement, no doubt, but the most irresistable dishes are the ones that go beyond that and take a diner for an experience.

All of my chefs that I have worked for have taught me something that has aided to being the chef I am today. The last pastry chef that I worked for, Sandro Micheli, gave me the discipline and confidence to be my own pastry chef.

Do you think creativity is a natural talent, or is it something anyone can learn?

JC: I think creativity is not learned, but rather cultivated from within. Everybody has some creative talent. It may come in different forms – some are less visual and more conceptual. Most adults don’t develop their creative side enough because they have less opportunities to exercise that part of them. People assume creativity is one thing, when in reality, it can be anything that you produce, construct, generate, foster, or imagine, and then share. One of our big goals for the ICC Pastry Arts program is to help students tap into their own creativity.

What are you currently working on?

JC: My latest scheme is to create a beautiful pastillage showpiece that also functions as a marble run. Rather than merely suggest movement in this artistic piece, an actual marble will run from top to bottom within the showpiece. This will make for an engaging and interactive showpiece that clearly demonstrates how engineering and sugar can come together.

Right now, my inspiration is to connect with the audience. I found it challenging in this time of technology to hold the attention of an average person. A simple way to do this is to have an approachable and relatable aspect that connects with the audience. Another project I’m fascinated by is deep-fried wedding cake… more to come!

[Update: see Jansen’s Sugar Marble Run on YouTube]

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10 inspiring, dynamic and creative pastry constructions by ICC Director of Pastry Arts Jansen Chan

Upside-down Croquembouche (L’Occitane Project 2014)

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Chocolate Eiffel Tower (Food Network Challenge – Chocolate Landmarks 2008)

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Gingerbread Street Scene (ICC Dec. 2013) w/ Moving Streetcar

Gingerbread Lighthouse 2010 (Oceana, Dec 2010)

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Gingerbread Ski Chalet 2014 (ICC Dec 2014)

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Cookie Couture (ICC Feb. 2015)

Adler Wedding Cake (Sept 2011)

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Photo by Tina Doshi/KSD Weddings

Chocolate Custard Brownie Dessert (Oceana, 2008-2012)

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Photo by Paul Johnson/Oceana

Fruit and Vegetable Empire State Building (March 2014)

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Gingerbread House (Food Network Halloween Wars, Episode One, Season One)

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Photo via Food Network
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What Happens When Science and Food Get Married?

You see things outside the culinary box. Chef Herve Malivert, Director of Food Technology at the International Culinary Center, took students and alums through a tour of simple modern gastronomy even the home cook can conquer. That is, if you can get your hands on some liquid nitrogen.

1. Faux Noodles 

As I watched Chef Herve transform oil and water into a “noodle,” all I could do was scratch my head. How could he even get oil and water to emulsify when the two are intrinsically polar opposites? This was the first magic trick Chef Herve pulled out of his hat during his food technology demonstration, and it involved the help of a chemical called methyl cellulose. Adding less than 1 percent of methyl cellulose will allow the oil and water to emulsify into a mayo-like consistency. He used this concoction to add another dimension to consommé, a clear soup. Using a squeeze bottle, he piped tiny strips of the emulsion into the soup, which solidified when it came in contact with the hot liquid. The noodle resembled the texture of soft Udon.

2. Coca Cola Caviar?

Transforming any liquid into a tiny, pearl of jelly is an interesting way to add a pop–literally!–of flavor to a dish. Chef Herve took the popular soda, Coca Cola, added 1 percent agar, a gelling agent, to it and dripped the soda into a water bath containing 5 to 8 percent lactate, which solidified the Coke into little balls of caviar. Only bathe the caviar in this solution for a minute–the longer it’s submerge, the denser the gel will become.

3. Instant Ice Cream

Want to really impress your friends? Invest in some liquid nitrogen, whip up a creme anglaise, and shower your custard with liquid nitrogen to make a quick batch of ice cream. Pour the creme anglaise–a mixture of eggs, sugar, and cream–into a stand mixer. While on a low speed, add the liquid nitrogen. You’ll use about a 50:50 ratio of creme anglaise to liquid nitrogen, but you can eyeball the process. Once the ice cream comes to the right consistency, stop adding nitrogen. Top with caviar!

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Jacques Pepin’s Secrets to Eggs

In culinary school, you spend an entire day just on eggs. That’s how important they are. Before you try to impress a chef about your knowledge of sous-vide cooking, you have to master the basics. And to help the students at the International Culinary Center nail them down, the school invited the master himself, Jacques Pepin, to demo every possible egg preparation. He made them look easy. Really easy. But with years of practice, that’s what happens. We flagged five of his most memorable tips.

1. Crack your eggs on a flat surface. The simplest part of an egg dish is cracking the shell, but I bet you’re probably guilty of cracking it on the edge of a counter or bowl, right? Well, don’t. You’re more likely to end up with pieces of the shell inside your dish.

2. Poaching eggs? Fresher eggs are better. The older the eggs, the more the whites will tend to spread in the water. A dash of vinegar will help corral the web-like whites, but stick to fresh eggs for an easier attempt.

3. Butter is the key to a smooth omelet. French omelets should be perfectly smooth and beautifully yellow, and there are three keys to nailing this down: a) Practice, duh; b) A very hot, non-stick pan; c) don’t drown the pan in unsalted butter or else your omelet will be wrinkly (1 tablespoon butter is enough for a 6 to 8-inch pan).

4. Whisk your scrambled eggs.
When making scrambled eggs, it’s best to have the smallest possible curd during cooking. To achieve this, use a whisk and constantly whisk during cooking. Reserve a 1/4 cup of your egg mixture, and when the rest of the eggs are starting to set in the pan, pull off the heat and add the raw eggs. That way, you’ll guarantee that you won’t end up with rubbery, overcooked eggs.

5. Think outside of the pan. One of the most delicious (and easiest) ways to prepare eggs is to use a ramekin: Butter the ramekin, season it, and line it with whatever ingredients you have a hankering for (think: herbs, ham, tomatoes). Then, crack an egg on top and place the ramekin in a large saucepan filled a quarter way with water. Cover and let boil until the whites are set, but the yolk is still runny, about 4 minutes.