Italian Experience: A day in the life

By Lauren Fuschillo, ICC Italian Culinary Arts student.
(Read Part 3 here)

5:00AM – Alarm goes off, hit snooze and pretend its the weekend and like I’ve got all the time in the world.

5:15AM – Hit snooze again.

5:30AM – 3rd alarm and I remember that nope, it’s not the weekend. Stretch and grab a banana as I begin to get dressed.

5:43AM – Laces tied and earbuds in; I go for a light jog around the farm by my Colorno apartment. The sun is rising and its absolutely gorgeous. It’s going to be a great day.

international_culinary_center_italy

6:33AM – Time to get dressed and ready for class. Throw a few stride spot wipes into my bag because, more often than not, I wind up with sauce splatters on my white chef jacket. Take a quick shower and opt out of post-shower moisturizer because I’ll probably sweat like hell in the kitchen all day.

7:02AM – I’M EARLY! Sit outside for a quick cigarette and espresso as I think about the day’s schedule. It’s going to be busy and interesting. I know, the cigarette is unhealthy, especially after that jog, but I’m really cutting back!

7:15AM – Walk to school and pass that farm again, then a little old church and a small brooke that runs through town and alongside the castle, my school.

7:33AM – Hit the lockers and suit up! Time to meet my classmates in the courtyard for our morning espresso. (Italian coffee – you are a beautiful thing)

7:55AM – I grab a cutting board, a few trays and some bowls before I lay out my chefs knife, maybe a pairing knife and a spoon and fork. Yes, a spoon and fork. Man, I love the simple tools they use in Italy!

italian_cuisine_class

8:00AM – Here we go. Chef Bruno Ruffini, a really cool dude and an amazing chef and teacher, calls us up for the demo’s for today’s recipes. I check out the chef’s mise en place and get excited. I see a ricer and potatoes. The freshly cracked eggs join in on the potato fun. Then the flour is mixed in… And then Chef Bruno casually yet elegantly throws flour on a great wooden board.….’YESSSSS! WE’RE MAKING PASTA AND GNOCCHI’ shouts my inner voice. I love making any kind of pasta, and so, I’m happy as a clam…or in today’s case, a little ball of gnocchi.

9:31AM – We’ve finished watching today’s demos and now it’s time to start the fun. My boyfriend and I divvy up the list of ingredients we’ve got to get in order to set up our mise en place. (Oops, I forgot to mention. Yes! I’ve got a boyfriend in class! We met at ICC after he mentioned he’s fluent in Italian and I asked for extra help. The rest is history and yes, he looks great in a chef jacket.)

9:56AM – We’re elbows deep in flour and rolling out the dough for macaroni alla chitarra. Chitarra means guitar and it’s a particular pasta cutter that we use by rolling out dough to cut strands of pasta… and it’s a great arm workout. We work some magic in the pan and create a beautiful sauce that we add our new fresh pasta.

10:04AM – We present our dishes to Chef to receive a critique. Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re bad if they’re under/over seasoned or poorly made. For this dish we hear words of praise – “Bellissimo, Brava Lauren! Perfecto Giuseppe!” I high five my boyfriend and now we’re on our way back to our station to tackle more pasta.

italian_cuisine_school

11:55PM – With 3 great dishes down, we start assembling the dough for the gnocchi and by this hour I’ve got flour all over my blue apron. But so what if I get a disapproving look or two?! I’m having a blast! How many people get to say they’re making fresh pasta in their school that is an old castle…in Italy…with their boyfriend? I don’t have that answer but I can tell you that I am psyched and very lucky to be one of them. We roll the dough onto little gnocchi boards forming those adorable little ridges and then we start our emulsions. I plop those babies in the boiling salted water for a quick swim and then we add them to dance in our pans with butter and sage.

12:30PM – Another presentation with Chef. My emulsion was a little over seasoned but the shape was perfect, still tasted delicious and the emulsion DID NOT break. A broken emulsion is like a sin at culinary school and I’m so glad that I aced that again.

italian_school_gnocchi

12:37PM – My classmates and I scrub down our stations to the point that they sparkle like diamonds!

1:05PM – Even though they’re serving risotto milanese and an amazing duck in the school restaurant, I opt out of lunch since I scarfed down all of my gnocchi as if it was my last meal. My friend Marianne and I decide to grab coffee and maybe a pastry or two in the school’s courtyard. We sit in the garden, laugh at any of our flubs from the morning and chat about where she went the weekend before.

2:00PM – Wine class. Each bottle is opened by a student, as there is a specific way to present, open and pour wine for the paying customer. We learn about the region it originates from, the producer, vineyard and the grape itself. It’s quite interesting. Then we swirl, smell, taste and either drink or spit. I have a low tolerance for alcohol, so I take turns between the two. Matteo Pessina is our teacher and this man knows EVERYTHING about wine. We learn how to read the bottles properly and in the correct order. Something I would have never known how to do properly had I not been in this class.

3:05PM – After running around the kitchen all morning and tasting wines, we’re growing a little tired and Matteo allows an espresso break.

3:20 – 4:00PM – We continue to open, read labels, review the region and grapes, swirl, smell and taste.

4:03PM – History of Italian Cuisine with Michele Crippa commences. In this class we learn about the 9 different culinary regions in Italy. Yes, there are way more regions than 9 but that’s how many culinary regions we will study. So, for the next two hours we learn about Apulia (Puglia) which is a region that I’m visiting one weekend and very much interested in for my stage. That being said, I’m on the edge of my seat as he talks about the different produce, fresh shellfish and culinary history of this beautiful region. Shocker: its on the water and is full of white sandy beaches.

5:56PM – The lesson is over and just about everyone raises their hand to ask for travel suggestions in this region, my hand being one of them. Alberobello, Oristano, Vieste Lecce, Ostuni, Monopoli are a few places Michele mentions. All equally rich in beauty, culture, delicious food and history. Well, now I have a jam packed itinerary for my weekend in Apulia!

culinary_center_nyc_california_italy

6:25PM – Most of my friends hang up their whites, I stuff mine in my bag because, again, it’s full of splatters and it can’t be reused tomorrow. That’s alright, I don’t mind doing laundry. A few of my friends and I, some of the original crew from ICC, decide to do taco night. Some of the boys go to the pub to relax from the day and some of us run to the COOP (local supermarket) to pick up a few fixings for our Mexican-themed family dinner.

7:17PM – It’s time to either nap, go to the gym, call our families back home, clean our apartments or in my case, work on a blog post. I sit on the balcony and look out to the community pool. ‘Damn!’ I think. It just closed. Oh well, one less distraction. I throw in a load of laundry and then have some time alone. I type my heart away for you and sip on my favorite drink, succo di arancia rossa.

8:59PM – Marianne and I are seasoning the chicken, sautéing some peppers and doing a bunch of prep work. Mikey is on guacamole and frying up the fish. Andrea is working on caramelized onions, a vinaigrette for salad and we’re all setting the table. Upstairs, Giuseppe, Jason and Michael are making salsa, beef for the tacos, and fresh tortillas. It smells delicious and the music is blasting. Looks like we’ve all got the same ‘happy place’.

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10:30PM – Mangiamo! Naturally, there are way more dishes than we planned and enough to feed double the amount of people. We toast, we laugh, we pass plate after plate, share stories and assemble taco after taco; we feast.

11:34PM – Clean up time. Rather than throw everything in the dish washer we each take a job and make the place sparkle just like our stations in our kitchen classroom.

Midnight – It’s 6PM in New York and I speak to my family, tell them about the day I just had, how I miss them so much and hear about what’s going on in their lives at home. Even though I am having the time of my life learning about the thing I love most, I miss them and I hope they visit soon. I tear up a bit and then my brother says something funny, allowing me to end our conversation with a great big smile.

12:29AM – We have Italian Language class with Zoe at 8AM and it’s about time I get to sleep. I wash my face and brush my teeth, iron a freshly cleaned chef jacket; and then lay there more exhausted than I’ve ever been in my life but probably the happiest I’ve ever felt.

Play with your food: 4th of July Popsicles

By Nick Wuest,
ICC Pastry Arts student
(read more about Nick)

Summer is awesome. America is awesome. Popsicles are awesome. Everything is awesome!

For real, who doesn’t love popsicles? When offered they may tell you “oh no, I don’t like grape” (it’s awful) or “eh, I don’t like cherry” (door’s over there) but “I don’t like popsicles?” I’ve never heard it.

They’re perfect on a summer day and easy. So easy I couldn’t resist making them difficult. And what better way to do that than to feature an ingredient that doesn’t freeze? Cocktails, like popsicles, don’t leave a lot of room for ingredients – you only have a small amount of space to create a story of flavors. A well-crafted cocktail is the product of much experimentation and a deep understanding of how different flavors interact.

So you make a list. Break it down into liquor type, sweeteners, and additives. I like the visual guide of drawing a line from left to right to form a drink/pop. You don’t have to do it this way but with so many possibilities an outline helps.

Popsicle cocktail Outline

Here’s how this particular entry is going to work: there isn’t really any actual cooking involved with making most cocktails or popsicles. Each flavor will list the ingredients and a description of how those flavors come together. Each one uses a good amount of simple syrup as its base and primary sweetener. Freezing diminishes sweetness so what may taste unbearably sweet as a liquid will become much more balanced when frozen. Strong, assertive liqueurs work best since there is only a small amount in each batch.

Finally, the most important and finite ingredient for making any sort of frozen dessert is time. You simply can’t have enough of it. You have to freeze the liquid in the molds, then remove them and allow them to set in their packaging, then let them set again before serving. There are methods and equipment to do all of this much faster (industrial freezers, liquid nitrogen, etc), resulting in a much more consistent product, but those are not all that accessible for home cooking. So for my purposes and yours I’ll keep it old school and do it the hard way.

As far as credit where it’s due, a great deal of my knowledge and appreciation for mixing drinks comes from Death & Co. The bar and the book are master classes in building a drink from its ingredients to its name.

Special Equipment

  • Citrus Juicer –I use the KitchenAid attachment
  • Popsicle Molds – I like the Norpro 3oz molds
  • Time – hope you’ve got a lot of it
  • Simple Syrup – bring 1:1 sugar and water to boil (don’t stir) to dissolve sugar, cool

Margarita cocktail popsicle

“RICKY SPANISH”

This is more or less a classic margarita with an extra boost of citrus from some fresh squeezed orange juice. It was one of the easier recipes to develop since tequila is so assertive and retains so much flavor after mixing and freezing that I didn’t need to worry much over the mix being too alcoholic to freeze solid. The name is homage to Roger the Alien (from American Dad) and one of his more nefarious alter egos.

Yield – about 500mL

  • 177mL simple syrup
  • 118mL water
  • 118mL lime juice
  • 59mL fresh orange juice
  • 22mL tequila blanco
  • 1 ½ tsp agave nectar

Stir all to combine. Fill molds and freeze overnight.

Coconut Peach liqueur popsicle

“JECHT SHOT”

The Jecht Shot is one of the first drinks my friends and I came up with years ago using what ingredients we had on hand that day. In this embarrassing case those ingredients were Peach Snapple and coconut rum, and its name comes from a video game! That’s a hella lame drink so I gave it the 2.0 treatment. White tea is less bitter when frozen so I like it more than black. Massenez is a brand of brilliantly crafted liqueurs that retain nearly their entire flavor when frozen and are so strong a tiny bit will do the job.

Yield – about 562mL

  • 296mL white tea
  • 177mL simple syrup
  • 30mL Massenez Crème de Peche (peach liqueur)
  • 60mL lemon juice
  • 15mL coconut rum

Stir all to combine. Fill molds and freeze overnight.

Gin Basil Popsicle

“GIN LIZZY”

When a friend (the “Liz” in “Gin Lizzy”) asked me to create a gin drink she’d like I was lost for a little while because I hated gin. That is until I learned how to use it. In this case less is definitely more. Lots of herbal notes from the gin, boosted just a tiny bit by some basil syrup, and balanced out by lots of lemon and simple syrup make for a pretty interesting popsicle.

Yield – about 500mL

  • 177mL simple syrup
  • 118mL water
  • 118mL lemon juice
  • 59mL basil syrup (simple syrup cooked with fresh – washed – basil leaves)
  • 22mL gin

Stir all to combine. Fill molds and freeze overnight.

Wine Mint Blackberry Popsicle

“GYPSY DANGER”

Gypsy is the product of two years of work. Since I only make a new batch of flavors once a year for the 4th of July I try to create a popsicle using wine and it seems the third time is a charm. If it’s not an issue of imbalanced flavor the popsicle doesn’t freeze or the mixture separates. It’s always something and as of now I don’t know enough about the chemistry of wine to approach the problems the way I would a broken cake. This time it worked and I’m certainly not going to fight it.

The result is an interesting journey of flavors starting off very sweet and finishing with a dry and refreshing hint of mint. As for the name, it came from a focus group (a bunch of friends destroying a batch of pops and their cocktail inspiration). It’s from Pacific Rim, a great movie in its own right, but we picked it mostly because it sounded cool. Given the verbiage you can probably tell this is my favorite result this year. I mean check out how cool it looks! It’s even brighter and more marbled in person.

Yield – about 500mL

  • 133mL simple syrup
  • 133mL mint syrup (simple syrup boiled with mint leaves)
  • 177mL water
  • 44mL dry white wine
  • 22mL Massenez Crème de Mure (blackberry liqueur)
  • dash of vanilla extract

Stir all to combine. Fill molds and freeze overnight.

I give you the 4th of July Class of 2015 Popsicles. As I’m writing this I have twenty pops in my freezer at home to finish for a party that’s one day away and twenty more in a freezer at the ICC to hand out to my class.

I really hope you enjoyed reading this. This annual project and the excitement of everyone getting to try the results mean the world to me given the time and work that go into it. Make them for yourself and please, please play with the recipes. Make your list of components and build your own. It’s as easy (or difficult) as you make it.

Stay hungry.

Nick
Blog // Instagram

Italian Experience: The Big Change

By Lauren Fuschillo, ICC Italian Culinary Arts student.
(Read Part 2 here)

Last Friday, June 19th, was a big day for me – as it marks the biggest turning point in my life.

Exactly one year ago I decided to stop existing – and to start living.

I decided to make a change. I chose to stop hesitating out of fear of failure and to just go for it, head on, whatever “it” may be. I chose to do things I was afraid of, step outside my comfort zone and dive right in – to life. I decided that no longer would I seek the approval, or even the reassurance of everyone else; that I would just trust myself and to go with my gut. I decided to make my life what I, Lauren, want it to be.

Italian culinary experience -- ICC

I did this after going through what was the hardest time in my life. I ended my engagement, was sick in the hospital for a bit, ended a lot of friendships, lost my job and found myself in an ugly depression. But then someone extended a helping hand and I experienced a random act of kindness. It made me realize my problems weren’t that bad. People had it much worse and I, too, should lend a helping had of my own; I should pay it forward and deliver random acts of kindness too. That day (the big day) I applied for two volunteer missions that would bring me to Abu Dhabi, South Africa, Thailand and Bali. I raised over 8K and planned the trip of a lifetime that would last a little over three months. Anyway, I was living. Finally living and being who I’m meant to be.

Italian Culinary School International Culinary Center

Before I left, which was October 14th, 2014, I started wondering what I’d come home to; what I would do next when I would return in 2015. I was sitting on my sisters bed, helping her unpack from a recent trip to California when she said “you’ve always wanted to go to culinary school. Right now you’re doing things you want to do. Why not go to culinary school and continue on this path of being determined to be your true self.” My little sister is so wise! I figured “why not continue to do things I truly want to do? I wake up to live the hell out of life and why not keep doing that?!” That’s when I applied to ICC’s Italian Culinary Arts Program.

Fast forward about 10 months and I’m still living by that mantra and experiencing so much.

Italian Culinary Experience

At ALMA, we’re applying and advancing the knowledge, techniques and culinary secrets we learned at ICC. We’re perfecting our rhythm in the kitchen and, no doubt, getting a truer sense of exactly how Italian cuisine is meant to be, how things originated, are meant to be served and how we’re supposed to enjoy them.

As I watch one of my best friends, who is also my classmate, Jason Lopez, plate and put the final touches on what is the most perfectly delicious risotto, I realize that he must have had that big day too. Like me, something drove him to decide to go to culinary school, travel to Italy to study Italian culinary arts and expand his food knowledge and palette…something that drove him to be this great.

I share this with you because it’s an honor to work alongside him as well as have his friendship. I share this with you because this experience wouldn’t be the same without his presence.

I feel so fortunate to be able to say that I feel that way about all 9 members of our little family from ICC. I share this with you because I’d love for you, the readers, to get to know these amazing people who are rockstar future chefs, and hear about some of their journeys too! I’ll be featuring one classmate a week and some of his or her culinary school and traveling experiences.

Until next time, ciao!

Italian Experience: A Labor of Love

By Lauren Fuschillo, ICC Italian Culinary Arts student.
(Read Part 1 here)

The sky was a bright blue and the sun was shining. My espresso-hot and my cigarette-lit. I sat there and, in my head, ran through what I imagined my first day to be like. It involved a lot of nerves, some sweat and plenty of note taking. But as I entered the castle (yes, it is an actual castle – read about that later in another post) I was whisked away into what is now my reality.

We reviewed all the routine procedures, met the faculty and chefs, were fitted for uniforms, etc. We toured the classrooms, demo rooms and kitchens – all beautiful and grand! In the middle of it all there’s an adorable little cafe serving up delicious espresso for the students and faculty all day long. Pinch me?

However, I was still nervous as I approached the classroom door where my classmates and I would become better acquainted with our new chef instructors as they did a demonstration.

Chef Magada and Chef Ruffini decided to change up the program. They felt that rather than do a demo, it was best we just keep it casual; have a little “chat” as Chef Ruffini put it.

We were asked to introduce ourselves and share the thing we were most excited to learn. I guess it was a trigger. The anxiety of any shortcomings, self doubt or flubs from New York started to rise in my chest like they did the night before while I read that manual. Any of the insecurities I had in the kitchen formed into a golf ball that was now stuck at the bottom of my throat. My turn was coming up and I’d have to introduce myself to the chefs and tell them what excites me most about furthering my education. Was it perfecting my knife skills; working on my satisfactory-at-best taillage? Maybe I should mention that from time to time I have trouble following recipes because I’d rather eyeball measurements? That golf ball wasn’t moving and I was two moments away from having to share what I needed to work on most.

ICC Italian course Alma

Then there was a moment of clarity. Screw it, I’m here to be a sponge! I should not have self doubt but only self confidence. I made it here thus far, and on my own accord.

I’m paraphrasing but it went something like this “I could say I want to focus on technique but that’s a lie. I want to learn it all. I want to soak up everything that you’re here to offer us.” That’s how I feel. Why focus on one area? Why limit myself? Why not perfect it all? At least that’s the plan.

ICC Italian program

Italian Cuisine is best described the way our chefs described it that day. It is a labor of love. It’s not about measuring grams or meticulously dicing a carrot. Sure, the technique is expected and should be there. However, the cuisine is about passion and it’s centered around the feelings that go behind every ingredient carefully chosen for every recipe that creates that perfect bite – every time.

It’s not about how fast you are or that you can just get through the recipe without missing some organized step… The Italian chefs didn’t really seem to view that as success. Success was crafting a beautiful emulsification with your fresh garganelli and accompanying it with a smile. It is about putting thought to action and appreciating each and everything you’re doing; paying attention to the little details that bring forth happiness. They said we should “have fun” and “love” as we’re working behind our creations, as it transfers into our dishes and THAT is success.

International Culinary Center Italian program

All I could think was “Oh my god, I am home.” I am not fast. Rather than use proper measurements – I use the “eyeball, taste and then add” approach. I should probably be more meticulous about technique and I should always follow what I learned for Serve Safe. But, heck, I’ve got passion. I already do this with love. That’s how I’ve always cooked.

In NY I would sometimes try to alter my cooking style and force myself to strictly follow the recipe. But that’s not me. Any time I did that my dish fell short and its taste was flat. It was when I was having fun, cooking from my heart… or when I was appreciating the ingredients for the dish I was preparing that it showcased my skill and talent at best.

So, yes. If that is how these chefs think, cook and expect us to cook then I am “home”. Finally, I can cook the way I enjoy to cook, with love.

But that’s all I can share for now because I still have to work on my satisfactory-at-best taillage.

Lauren

Library Notes // Foraged Flavor

By Sara Medlicott,
ICC Librarian

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to see Tama Wong speak last week and I learned enough to realize how much more there is to learn. Tama is the author of Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in your Backyard or Farmer’s Market, the forager for Daniel and incredibly knowledgeable. Her book is fantastic, co written with Eddy Leroux, the chef de cuisine at Daniel, the book is part field guide and part cookbook. It is also available in the library!

Tama opened her talk with the concept of stewardship and how important that is for foragers. There is a huge spectrum from abundant to endangered plants and it’s important that foragers understand what they are picking and what will happen to the plant population.

Tama focuses her foraging on plants which are not declining or indigenous, but for those of us who are not as knowledgeable as she; each ingredient listed in her book is classified into categories based on availability. Red category plants should be planted and picked only in your garden; they are specialist and conservative native plants. Yellow category can be harvested on a limited basis; they are considered generalist native plants. Green category plants are safe to forage without limits; they are naturalized and invasive plants.

Tama-Wong-forager

We have a plant problem. Almost all landscapes in the mid Atlantic are being taken over by “green category” invasive plants. Most of this didn’t happen through a natural ecological process – they were largely brought over from Europe and Asia. All of this is creating a monoculture. If we can adapt our expectations and forage responsibly, this can contribute to minimizing the problem.

Unfortunately, diners and chefs have come to expect certain types of trendy wild foods, so those populations are declining. One example is ramps. It is such a common menu item, I was shocked to hear from Tama that they are a specialized indigenous plant which takes 7 years to mature – yes, 7 years! In fact, in Montreal they are completely endangered and the harvesting of ramps has been banned. While Daniel no longer serves them and Tama advises strongly against it, she said a more responsible way to harvest them is to trim just the tops of ramps and not pull out the bulbs.

foraged-edibles_blog

All of which comes back to managing expectations of consistency and access. If we can learn to eat with the ecosystem, we will be able to solve some of these plant problems and if Foraged Flavor is any indication, the food will still be satisfying and nourishing. An example Tama gave was that people have come to expect ramps in the spring, but what we can eat every year should and will change. The expectation needs to evolve into something wild and delicious and it’s our responsibility from a culinary perspective to introduce diners to new ways of eating.

If you’d like to know more about Tama Wong, check out her TedTalk.

To read further about foraging and wild plants, stop by the library! Here are a few recommended books from Tama and myself:

  • Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in your Backyard or Farmer’s Market by Tama Matsuoka Wong with Eddy Leroux
  • Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson
  • The Mushroom Hunters by Langdon Cook
  • Foraging and Feasting by Dina Falconi
  • The Wild Table by Connie Green

forager_books

Be sure to follow the library on Twitter @intlcullibrary where you will see updates when everything new arrives!

Play With Your Food: Simple the Hard Way

By Nick Wuest,
ICC Pastry Arts student
(read more about Nick)

Birthday cakes are cool but do you know what’s even cooler? A billion birthday cakes.

If you can’t already tell I have a penchant for complicating simple tasks.

Some friends had birthdays recently that I wanted to celebrate since I sold my soul to James Beard and haven’t seen them in a while. So being a student of Pastry Arts I volunteered to make dessert and that obviously had to be birthday cake. And since I’m still more child than adult I wanted to make something silly.

Silly, irreverent, hands on. These are the words you’ll get used to seeing around here. “Play With Your Food” doesn’t just apply to me having fun making things. Like I mentioned in my last post eating should be an experience for all of the senses. I cut my teeth in BBQ and grilling (yes, they are very different things we’ll talk about later) so I’m real big on eating with my hands. Seriously, pick up your food (wash your hands first!) and bite it like you’re the only person in the room. Of course I’m exaggerating here and understand that decorum should prevail through most plates.

This is not one of them.

This particular creation uses two recipes that are not my own so I must credit Thomas Keller’s Devils Food Cake from Bouchon Bakery and Christina Tosi’s (an ICC alum and recent James Beard Award winner) frosting from Momofuku Milk Bar.

*A quick note on how to read these posts. I list the recipes in the order they should be prepared. If there’s an overlap from a passive task like creaming butter and sugar there’s no reason you can’t start prepping another task.*

Special Equipment:

  • Metric Scale
  • Stand mixer with both whisk and paddle
  • 2 ½” round cookie cutter
  • Piping bags with #1/2 plain, #3/4 plain, and #3 star tips

Devils Food Cake

devils food cake

Ingredients: (this is a double batch – halve it to make a single sheet or ~12 cupcakes)

  • 202g all purpose (AP) flour
  • 62g unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 112g eggs (should be 2 eggs – an egg weighs about 50g)
  • 252g sugar
  • 4g vanilla paste (this is actually vanilla seeds suspended in bourbon syrup – yeah.)
  • 172g mayonnaise
  • 210g water, room temperature

Preheat oven to 325F and set 2 racks around the middle of the oven.
Line 2 full sheet pans with parchment paper, spray them with non-stick spray and set aside.
Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder into a bowl, whisk in salt. Set aside.

Whisk egg, sugar, and vanilla paste in mixer at low to combine then increase to medium and whip for ~5min until thick and pale. Scrape bowl and whip another for ~5min until mixture falls from the whisk in a slow dissolving ribbon. Add mayo and whip to just combine. Fold the flour mix and water into the mixer bowl with a spatula in 2 batches to form a smooth batter.

Divide the batter between the two sheet pans and spread it into even layers about 1/4” thick. It probably won’t reach the edges of the pan, which is totally fine.

Bake each cake for 5min then rotate the pans and switch their shelves. Bake for another 5-7 min or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean with a little crumb on it. Cool the cakes in their pans on a rack. Once they are close to room temperature wrap them up and place them in the freezer (don’t stack them) for at least 3 hours or up to 3 weeks.

Frosting

This frosting is awesome. Depending on its temperature it can be used to spread, pipe large amounts, or even do fine designs. Mess around with it while you have some and you’ll see what I mean. I modified this from the original recipe in that I use vanilla paste instead of imitation vanilla, which I find to be too weirdly sweet. I also don’t measure my vanilla when I use it and go mostly by eye/smell/taste so what I’ve put below is a lowball guess to start you with.

Ingredients: (this is also a double batch since it’s used in every area of assembly)

  • 210g unsalted butter, room temp
  • 90g vegetable shortening
  • 116g cream cheese, room temp
  • 4 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 ½ Tbsp vanilla paste
  • 310g powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Beat the butter, shortening, and cream cheese in the mixer with a paddle at medium-high until smooth and fluffy ~3-4min.

Scrape bowl, turn the mixer to low and slowly stream in the corn syrup and vanilla paste then beat at medium-high until silky and glossy ~3min.

Scrape the bowl and add the sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon juice to just combine. Taste it here and add more vanilla if you’d like (I like).

Once you’re happy with the flavor crank it to medium-high and beat until it’s very white and smooth ~4min. Store chilled in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

Bourbon Sugar

bourbon sugar recipe

Make it, try it, and put it on everything.

Ingredients:

  • ½ C raw sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp bourbon

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Spread on a parchment lined pan and dry in a 150 degree oven for ~3 hours or until dried. Cool and break up back into its original form. Keep in an air-tight container at room temp for up to 2 months.

Assembly

birthday cakes recipe

Cut out shapes from frozen cake sheets, in this case 39 2 ½ inch rounds. Chill the cut rounds until they’re needed and save the scraps (seriously, if you throw them out that’s just messed up).

Remove the frosting from the fridge and work it over with a spoon or fork to make it more malleable. Remove ~1/3 of the frosting to a smaller bowl and mix it with food coloring to the desired hue. Place this bowl back in the fridge. Fill a #3 or #4 plain piping bag with ~1/2C of the white frosting and chill the rest.

Assemble the cakes by piping a layer of frosting on a round, placing another on top, piping a second layer, topping it with another round, and finishing with your best piped layer on top. Work fast, the icing will get slick as it warms and the cake rounds may begin to slide. If you feel you’re not working fast enough then take a break and chill everything for 20-30min before doing more.

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Once the cakes are assembled work the colored frosting until it’s malleable. Use 2/3 of it to fill a #3 star tip bag. Fill a #1 or #2 plain tip bag with the remaining 1/3. Using the plain tip letter the center of each cake with your message then pipe a border of stars around the top of the cake. Carefully sprinkle the star border with the bourbon sugar making sure to keep as much of it off of the white area as possible.

Keep the cakes chilled and serve them cold.

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These are a lot of fun to make and, since the components keep so well, they can be made over a pretty long time or in a few hours like I did. They’re great for practicing several piping techniques and the frosting is so cooperative you can really be mindful of the work you’re doing and adjust your form as you go along. Up close and in person it was clear that from “H” to the second “P” I was still figuring most of it out and by the time I got to the “B” things really clicked. You’ll probably notice that the “Y” is gross. That’s because I tried to frost them all around but decided against it. Like any mistake I make that little cake will haunt me forever.

So how do they taste? I’ve learned the best way to tell how well you’ve done with a dish is to listen to the room when you serve it. Do you know what you’re listening for? Nothing. Complete silence. You can probably guess what I heard when I handed these out. Find a reason to make these cakes and I promise you’ll start making them just to celebrate the day of the week.

Thanks for reading everyone. I’ll be back soon with something to beat the heat of a New York City summer.

Stay hungry,

Nick
Blog // Instagram

Italian Experience: The Blue Aprons Abroad

By Lauren Fuschillo, ICC Italian Culinary Arts student.

“Travel converters – check, passport – check , knives – check” I say as I’m packing up for my new journey. I leave in two days and I’m preparing to travel east for my next adventure.

My name is Lauren Fuschillo and I wear a blue apron…meaning I’m a current student in the Italian Culinary Program. Prior to attending the International Culinary Center, I was a publicist and marketing consultant that has thought about arriving at this moment ever since walking into the LVMH Tower, on the first day at my first job – over eight years ago. Although a long road to get here, the wait was well worth it. The Italian program is beyond what I ever imagined it to be.

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In the last two and a half months I’ve had the pleasure of meeting nine amazing individuals, each a major success story in their own right. Every one of them unique and courageous. They’ve put their lives on hold to follow their passion; a passion we share. Never for a moment do I dare to discredit the other programs at the esteemed ICC. However, passion is what I believe is centered at the heart of Italian Cuisine and our very program. Passion is what brought us here, it is what motivates us when we put our knives out on boards each morning and what guides us through each and every recipe and lesson we’ve completed thus far.

We’ve been so fortunate to study under and learn from two incredible masters of their crafts. Stefania Calabrese for Italian Language and Culture and Chef Guido Magnaguagno for Italian Culinary Arts. It is without doubt that I say they are the two most influential teachers I’ve ever had, two of the most influential people in my life. Their knowledge of culture and language; and cuisine and technique has greatly expanded all of our education. Their equally consistent passion has driven our minds and souls to the place we are now and prepared us for the journey we’re about to embark on.

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Gratitude fills my heart as I pack my knives, my passport and those travel converters. Excitement engulfs my thoughts as my mind races – thinking and daydreaming about all the adventures I’ll experience while spending the next six and a half months in Italy with the nine members of my new chosen family. We’re Chef Guido’s “soldiers” and here we go, we’re getting on the plane to cook our hearts out and own every second that this world can give.

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Stay tuned to the ICC blog and instagram account to follow our adventures in Italy. You can also visit my personal travel blog to read about all my crazy adventures, travel mishaps and what travel has done for me.

Welcome to the Library!

By Sara Medlicott,
ICC Librarian

Maybe you have heard a thing or two about the ICC Library, or perhaps you have passed me by and peeked into my aquarium. It’s a great space with a fantastic selection of resources and a knowledgeable librarian to assist you. The glass walls of the room give us a lot of light, so it’s a perfect place to study and meet up with classmates or relax after class. If you’re wondering, yes, food is allowed in the culinary library.

There are computers available for use as well as a copier, scanner and fax machine. All services are free for students, staff and alumni. Our collection contains over 5,000 volumes, over 1,000 DVDs and 20 magazine subscriptions. Staff and students can check out up to 7 books or DVDs at a time.

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So, which books, DVDs and magazines do we have? Our unique collection exists to support the ICC curriculum, meaning you can find just about anything relating to culinary, pastry and wine studies. We have cookbooks of course but we also have chef memoirs and biographies, food history, food writing and books to support your career search or if you’d like to start a small business. I rotate featured titles depending on the season and which events are coming up.

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Currently, I have the James Beard award winners displayed in the library. I also have a shelf featuring staff picks which changes monthly, so take a look and see which books inspire our chefs and administrators. I always feature new books on a cart in the front of the library. Check out the library blog to see specific titles highlighted, or search our catalogue for the entire collection.

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Our DVDs include documentaries; TV shows and feature films but also every chef demo that has taken place in the amphitheater. If you are a big fan of a particular chef, definitely look through our DVD catalogue, you may find some very rare footage that can’t be seen elsewhere. If you missed a class or were confused about a particular technique you learned there, we have those on DVD as well. We subscribe to the New York Times and all major food and wine magazines as well as a few smaller ones. These need to stay in the library, but stop by to take a look when new issues arrive.

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Now you are probably wondering the same thing people ask me all the time. What does a culinary librarian do?

I was trained in library science and I have worked in many different kinds of libraries but I have to say hands down this is my favorite. I’m a home cook and food lover and I bring that passion to work. I’m here to provide reference, with an in depth knowledge of the collection to help you track down a recipe or history of a wine region.

I can also offer book recommendations if you are looking for some leisure reading or if you would like to increase your knowledge base on a particular topic. I also love to do research; don’t hesitate to come to me if you need assistance in that realm. While a librarian will never play favorites, I have had some interesting research questions here including the history of curry, the different categories of petit fours and the background on seafood sausage.

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So, if you haven’t come to visit yet, please stop by and take a look around.

Be sure to follow the library on Twitter @intlcullibrary where you will see updates when everything new arrives!

Play with your food: The Frozen S’more

By Nick Wuest,
ICC Pastry Arts student
(read more about Nick)

Something I’ve learned in my life is that the one thing more popular than S’mores is the idea of S’mores. I’ve seen it more times than I can count; someone brings the ingredients, that intrepid individual maybe even gets a few made, but before long everyone is forgoing the toasting and just snacking on grahams, marshmallows, and chocolate. Let’s face it after cramming your face full of BBQ and beer they’re a hassle.

I set out to simplify the S’more with an incredibly convoluted process…you heard me. So in honor of Memorial Day Weekend – the unofficial official start of BBQ season (aka the best season) – here is The Frozen S’more.

Special Equipment:

  • Metric kitchen scale
  • Glass or enamel casserole dish
  • Two-bowl ice bath
  • Ice cream maker/machine
  • Stand mixer w/ paddle attachment
  • Tamis (drum sieve)
  • Chinois (cone strainer)
  • 2.5 – 3″ round cookie cutter – I used a mason jar lid
  • Silicone baking mats
  • Small food chopper or food processor

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Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream

For the uninitiated making custard can be tough because of its extreme sensitivity to temperature. Be sure to have everything ready, otherwise known as mise en place, to facilitate a more fluid transition between steps.

  • 175g mini marshmallows
  • 150g egg yolks
  • 166g raw sugar
  • 1 Cup whole milk
  • 2 Cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • heavy pinch of salt

Broil marshmallows in casserole dish at 350, stirring each time the top begins to brown, until the entire mixture is an even golden brown. As the mixture begins to appear mostly browned begin warming the milk, cream, and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat to just below a simmer. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl to thicken. Remove the marshmallow from the oven and give it a stir. Pour the hot milk/cream into a spouted container and gently whisk it into the eggs to temper them (make sure not to go too fast to avoid curdling the yolks). Strain the egg-cream mixture through the tamis into a larger saucepan. Add the marshmallow paste. There may be hard clumps of toasted marshmallow initially; they will dissolve for the most part. Cook the custard gently over medium heat (set up a bowl in an ice bath around here), stirring briskly to break up the marshmallow, until steaming and thick enough to coat a wooden spoon (a clear will remain if you run your finger through the coat). Strain the custard through the chinois into the ice bath, stir in a heavy pinch of salt and cool until warm. Chill 7-24 hours (this custard is so front loaded with sugar that there are no complex flavors like vanilla that need to bloom overnight).

Process in an ice cream machine and spread in a pan lined heavily with plastic wrap. Wrap it all up and press it mostly even. Freeze until hard enough to cut out with cookie cutter.

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Triple Chocolate Cookies

I’m wandering in the Guy Fieri zone with these and if the results weren’t so delicious I’d hate myself a lot more. The marshmallow ice cream is potent so I wanted a cookie rich enough to not get buried under it. Cocoa powder and two types of chocolate did the job. Just make a dentist appointment now and save yourself the trouble.

  • 190g all purpose flour
  • 48g unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2.3g baking soda
  • 3g kosher salt
  • 134g dark brown sugar
  • 104g sugar
  • 12g unsulfered molasses
  • 167g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 60g eggs
  • 110g 70% cacao chocolate, chopped roughly into 3/8″ pcs
  • 110g semi-sweet chocolate chips

Sift flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda into a large bowl, whisk in salt. Stir sugars and molasses together in a small bowl. Strain chocolate chunks to remove tiny pieces, mix chunks with the chips.

Cream butter in stand mixer with paddle at medium-low until soft peaks just begin to form. Mix in the sugar/molasses until fluffy, scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Add eggs at low to just combine, scrape bowl. Add flour mix in 2 batches at low, scraping bowl each time. Add chocolate and pulse to combine. Scrape and stir by hand one final time. Chill dough 20 minutes.

Heat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper. Spoon rough ~1″ balls spaced 2″ apart onto sheets. Bake 14-16 minutes. The cookies are so dark and so gooey you won’t be able to tell by sight or a toothpick test that they are done. At around the 15-minute mark you will however smell it. Just trust yourself, when they smell done they’re done. Cool cookies in pan on a wire rack until they’re warm then remove them from the pan and cool them completely on the rack.

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Graham Crumble

  • 9 graham crackers, broken up
  • 5 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 3 Tbsp sugar

Heat oven to 350.

Chop crackers in food processor until mostly fine. Add butter and sugar and process to incorporate. Pour evenly into small pan. Bake 15-18 minutes until browned and fragrant. Let cool. Pound into mostly fine crumble in plastic bag, return to small baking pan for assembly.

Assembly

Select two cookies of similar size. Cut out an ice cream round and gently form it onto one cookie. Place the second on top. Sprinkle the graham crumble along the rim.

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This is a great project to take on for practicing fine temperature control and sharp mise en place, which are especially important in pastry arts. It is not however great for practicing self control around food and I apologize in advance for the amount of sandwiches you will eat but hey “no retreat, no regrets”.

Stay hungry,

Nick

This recipe was originally published on Fill Your Plate.

Play with your food!

Big things often have small beginnings – a little spark that becomes a blaze (I’m a Springsteen fan get used to it). If you’re ever lucky enough to experience that don’t ignore it. Keep your eyes up because it can be anything from buying a cheap grill at a yard sale to biting into a perfect macaron.

My name is Nick Wuest and I can’t stop playing with my food.

My journey to this very exciting point in my life is long, sad, elating, and just plain weird so I’ll keep it brief. After depression fueled eating problems had me too scared to eat anything not prepared by my own hands I found myself cooking more and more. Lo and behold the more I did it the better I felt. For the first time ever I was actually really good at something! Cooking became my outlet for all of the negative energy I had in me. It was perfect. I could focus all of my obsessive tendencies on learning about what I was making down to the chemical level and exhaust myself physically and mentally in the process.

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As I healed I found myself learning more and more that food has a power. It’s so much more than just a necessary part of life. It’s a tool to bring people together, to cheer someone up, to transport a person’s senses somewhere else. To put it simply food is magical.

It’s that magic I’m searching for when I say I can’t stop playing with food. I’ve picked a career that requires both extreme levels of devotion and sacrifice. I harbor no illusions that this will be easy, but I also believe it should never stop being fun.

I worried about holding onto that mentality after starting Pastry Arts at The ICC right up until I met John Davis and he gave me a tour of the school. As soon as I met him and the students and faculty I felt…home, a feeling that was only reinforced by my chef-instructor Chef Tom Jones. That same excitement is so palpable and infectious I’m glad it’s unique to The ICC because if college was like this I’d be a brilliant historian stuck in a library somewhere instead of working five days a week in a kitchen where I belong.

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So I was thrilled when I was approached to write for the school. Food is about a shared experience (secret recipes are lame) and I’m honored to be able to do that with students and faculty new and old. My hope is for these posts to be as educational as they are entertaining much like the food I like to cook.

Nick
Blog // Instagram

Check out my Frozen S’more recipe.