The Importance of Tasting

By Kaitlin Wayne

ICC Student, Professional Pastry Arts

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In the individual desserts unit of Level 2 Professional Pastry Arts, we focused on making custards – such as crème brulee (my all time favorite), crème caramel, ice creams, sorbets, cheesecake, molten cake, and donuts.

Part of our class time is dedicated to “degustation,”or tasting. While this may sound like we all just sit around the kitchen and eat ice cream, there is far more to it than that. We are not learning how to eat; we are learning how to literally taste. This distinction is essential. When I taste something, I don’t just think to myself, “Mmm this is delicious!” I think more critically about what I am eating, the layers of flavor, the texture, and the overall balance.

Take vanilla ice cream, for example. Here are some things that you should be looking for in a successful plate with vanilla ice cream: Is the ice cream smooth on the palate? You should not feel any icy patches or grainy textures and there should be a strong vanilla flavor. These mistakes can often result when the temperature of the ice cream is abused by leaving it out, letting it melt slightly, and then returning it to the freezer. As for the overall plate and pairing with the ice cream, look for contrast in color and flavor. This is very important in terms of balance. For example, rather than plating my quenelle of white ice cream with a creamy-colored and similarly-flavored crème anglaise, I might pair it with a rich, dark chocolate sauce.

I can see how being able to taste a dessert and ask yourself questions like this will help you to grow as a chef. I am a strong believer in the fact that culinary and pastry arts are the only professions where you truly use all five of your senses at once. By learning to dissect every component of a plate and identify the elements that make up a truly successful dessert, I can already tell that going out to eat will  never be the same again!

Mastering a Chocolate Candy Stand

By Kaitlin Wayne
Student,  Professional Culinary Arts

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When I first came to tour the International Culinary Center, I was completely impressed with all the beautiful displays of chocolate formed into all shapes and sizes. So, when the chocolate unit finally came around in my Professional Pastry Arts course, I must say I was nervous to take on this daunting task. How was I ever going to make a structure made of chocolate, strong enough to hold a vessel filled with chocolate confections? Designing and planning soon became my best friends. I was nervous and unsure of my ideas until I began to put them on paper and work out the kinks. Using all of the chocolate techniques we had learned in class, I was able to put those skills to work to create something I ended up being very happy with.

The most important part of chocolate work is tempering. Tempering, tempering, tempering. This process involves cooling and agitating the chocolate to precise temperatures to produce stable beta crystals. You can tell when chocolate has been properly tempered by its “snap,” shine, smooth texture and whether it sets quickly. (Insider tip: A digitial thermometer is your best way to ensure proper temperatures when tempering chocolate.) Now, once you have achieved getting your chocolate in temper, you can begin building your masterpiece. Some of the techniques I used included cutting the chocolate into my desired shapes – like leaves, a flower and a log. I also piped the chocolate into a disk for the milk chocolate portion of the flower, and used a paring knife to create the white chocolate petals.

While this was a stressful task at times, the end product was worth it! To be able to stand back and look at the work you have done knowing that you overcame what was once such an intimidating task is extremely rewarding. As pastry chefs, often we have to take on challenges that can be laced with pressure and difficulty, but we get through them only to push ourselves further the next time around.

Learn more about Professional Pastry Arts.

Dean Emily Luchetti’s Mocha Zabaglione Trifle

Cake

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Large Pinch salt
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Whip the egg yolks and sugar in an electric mixer on high speed until thick. Reduce to low speed and add the water. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Again, whip on high speed until thick. Reduce to low speed and add the dry ingredients.

Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold them into the batter. Spread the batter onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet, measuring approximately 11 by 16 inches with 1 inch sides.

Bake the cake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Remove the cake from the pan by running a knife around the inside edge of the pan. Invert the pan on the work surface and carefully peel off the parchment paper.

Zabaglione Cream

  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup Marsala
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, Marsala, and salt in a stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Whisk continually until thick like mayonnaise, about 3 minutes. Place the bowl over an ice bath and cool to room temperature. Whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold the cream into the Marsala mixture. Refrigerate.

To assemble the trifle:

  • 1 1/2 cups strong coffee, room temperature
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • Cut the cake into quarters. Cut each quarter in half horizontally.

Spread about 1 cup of zabaglione cream in the bottom of a 2 1/2 quart bowl. Cut pieces of cake to fit in a single layer over the cream. Using a pastry brush, brush the cake with about 1/3 cup of the coffee. Repeat layering cream and coffee soaked cake until the cake and zabaglione is used up, finishing with the zabaglione on top. Finely chop the chocolate or grind it in a food processor. Refrigerate the trifle for two hours or overnight before serving.

The cake can be made up to two days before you assemble the trifle. Store it wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature. The zabaglione can be made a day in advance. The zabaglione can be made a day before you serve it.

Learn more about studying at ICC in New York or Californiawww.culinarycenter.com

A Tale of Two Waffles

Once upon a time, there were two waffles… One originated in Brussels while the other one was born in Liege. And they lived happy ever after! Come on now, this is no fairy tale! Well at least not THAT type of fairy tale. As you may (or may not) know Belgium produces quite an array of products enjoyed worldwide. This small country, roughly the size of Maryland, is famous for its chocolate, its beers, its delicate pastries, its cuisine, its casinos, its world famous racetrack at Spa Francorchamps, the Ardennes and Bastogne (where 4 star General Patton engaged in the battle of the Bulge)… the list goes on and on. But, nothing else quite compares to its unique one-of-a-kind “gaufre” – or as we know it here in the United States – the Belgian waffle.

Belgians are surely proud of their waffles. Pancakes are considered everyday food (for breakfast or as a snack), but waffles are a serious business; they are much more special. I remember looking forward to this one waffle shop as a child, where I would stop for a “gaufre Liégeoise” on my way home from elementary school. Around 4 o’clock, when school ended, the smell of sweet, lightly caramelized sugar would filled the air.  There was no way I would pass on the opportunity to savor such a delight. Even though I stopped almost everyday at the same time, the merchant always asked if I wanted it hot, warm or lukewarm. Warm it was, for me at least. Nothing can, or will, ever compare to that soothing feeling of comfort.  To this day, whenever I have a chance to travel home, I make it a point to visit this unique waffle shop. Although faces and surroundings have changed a bit, the waffle shop and the quality of the product remain the same.

In Belgium, the waffle iron is almost as beloved as the waffle itself. From its original heavy cast iron form to the most sophisticated electric version, pretty much every Belgian household owns a waffle iron of some kind. Some waffle irons are passed on from generation to generation. Mind you, this item is a must on every bride-to-be’s gift registry.  In several museums, and even in some homes, a magnificent collection of waffle irons can be found. Some made of beautifully forged silver or copper that date as far back as the 13th century. Many are fashioned with elaborate patterned grids and produce the most beautiful waffles. Over the centuries, these delectable treats have inspired poets and tempted royalties alike – such as French King Francois, who adored his waffles prepared hot off a silver iron. However, waffles were never meant to be enjoyed by royalty, famous people or inspired personages alone – they are indeed for everyone!

There are hundreds of waffle recipes from all over Belgium, often passed from one generation to the next. Most of the waffles are made with yeast, creating lighter, crustier waffles than the waffles made with baking powder typically found here in the U.S. Belgian waffles first came to the U.S. when they were introduced during the 1960’s World’s fair. I find it hard to believe that despite the variety of easy-to-use and readily available electric waffle irons today, waffles in the U.S. remain mostly a breakfast food item. Try to offer waffles during your next party or family get together, as a meal! Serve them with an array of toppings – from fresh fruit, to ice ream, hot Belgian chocolate, crème chantilly, butter, syrup, Nutella or jam! I usually invite friends of family members to visit in the late afternoon and seduce them with the enticing smells of freshly brewed coffee, coco and baking waffles. No one (to date) has ever been able to resist this happy feast. Keep the waffle iron in sight or in the dining room and make it part of the fun. Your imagination and creativity are really the limit!

Please enjoy the following recipes. Both have been tested over time. Do not rush the process. “Take care of the recipe. Pay attention to all steps and details. The finished product will take care of you!”

Bon appétit,

Chef Alain V. De Coster CEC, CCA, BMCA

ICC Chef-Instructor, Professional Culinary Arts

Gaufre de Liège:

These waffles are little more time consuming to make but the end result is definitely worth the effort. Two separate batters are prepared and ultimately mixed together for a deliciously sweet and crunchy waffle. Please do not forget to preheat your waffle iron.

Batter 1:

  • 1 ¼ oz fresh cake yeast (or 2 ½ packages of dry yeast)
  • ¼ cup warm water (about 100° F)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup of milk, warmed to 100° F

Batter 2:

  • 9 tbsp unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
  • Pinch of slat
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • ½ pearl sugar (or ¾ cup crushed sugar cubes)

To proceed:

Prepare batter 1: In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with 1 tbsp of the flour and the sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes or so. Sift the remaining flour into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture, egg and milk. Using a wooden spoon mix well until smooth, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until the batter has roughly doubled in volume.

Meanwhile prepare batter 2: in a medium size bowl mix the butter, flour, salt, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon (if using), granulate sugar and pearl sugar until a paste is obtained. Using your hands work batter 2 into batter 1 until well blended. Shape the obtained dough into roughly 10 even sized balls approximately 2 ½ to 3 oz each. Flatten each ball slightly until a disk type shape is obtained. Dust lightly with flour.

Bake in a medium hot waffle iron. Do not let the iron become too hot or the sugar will burn! Bake until waffles are golden brown but still lightly soft, for about 3 to 4 minutes. Serve the waffles lukewarm or cooled to room temperature on a rack. Sugar waffles will keep well for several days in an airtight container, if you manage to have any left over!

NB: Crushed sugar cubes can be substituted fro the sugar pearls. Using a rolling pin crush 1 cup of cubed sugar into small pieces, approximately the size of a sunflower seed. Don’t worry about making them the same size!

Gaufre de Bruxelles:

The following recipe is for a satisfying stack of waffles. It will make about 40 delicious waffles. For a smaller group, simply divide the recipe to yield what is needed. These waffles can be frozen when needed. Leftover waffles can be used as next day’s breakfast by simply reheating them in your waffle iron for a minute or so.

  • 2 oz fresh cake yeast or 4 packages active dry yeast
  • 6 cups of milk, warmed to 100° F
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
  • 12 tbsp margarine, melted and cooled to lukewarm
  • 1 cup vanilla sugar or 1 cup sugar + 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 cups all purpose flour
  • 6 large egg whites, beaten to soft peak

To proceed:

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of the lukewarm milk. In a large, deep mixing bowl (the dough will double or triple in volume), whisk the egg yolks with ½ cup of the remaining milk, the melted butter and margarine. Add the yeast mixture, sugar and the salt. Gradually add the flour to the batter by sifting it in. Alternate additions of flour with the remaining 4 ½ cups of milk. Stir with a wooden spoon after each addition. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Cover with a clean towel and transfer to a warm area. Let the batter rise for 1 hour or so. The batter, as noted, will double or even triple in volume pending the ambient temperature you let it rise at. While this process takes place, ample time should be on hand to warm the waffles iron to proper temperature, brew coffee, set the tables and get ready yourself for a great feast. Check the better from time to time as to not let it erupt over the bowl you placed it in. Should it be rising to fast, simply stir it once or twice. The easiest way to get the batter onto the waffle iron is to transfer it into a water pitcher and pour it directly onto the hot waffle iron. Look Mom, no mess! Serve the hot waffles at once, letting your guests decide which topping is best for them. Should you whish to refrigerate these delicate waffles, allow them to cool before storing.

Advice for International Students: Friendships

I didn’t know anybody in NYC before making this leap towards my dream of becoming a professional pastry chef. Naturally, I was a bit nervous making the move from Toronto, but was excited more than anything. My first week or so was a bit lonely, and initially making friends was a slow process. Although everyone in my class was extremely friendly, spending time together outside of class was not really mentioned. However, after a couple weeks we all got more comfortable together and made plans outside of the kitchen. Now, I have made some close friends whom I can see having long lasting friendships with.

 

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!

The Meatball Shop’s Keys to Success

Michael Chernow, the restaurateur behind The Meatball Shop, wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do with his life. In high school he was a jazz tubist. (No really.)  Then he spent two years at Hunter College before realizing it wasn’t a good fit. So he left for California, chasing the dream so many others had before him: to become an actor. That fizzled.

He quickly returned to New York City, where he landed a front-of-house job at Frank, an iconic lower east side Italian spot. It’s there that things started to click.

“I learned I had a passion for people,” says Chernow. “If you stick me in a room of people, I’ll learn how to acclimate.”

Chernow spent years at Frank learning the restaurant business and building up a team of people who believed in his potential. When he was ready to pitch his own restaurant concept, he already had financial and mental supporters. That was his first smart move.

His second? Going into business with his best friend, Daniel Holzman, which he admits doesn’t always work out for everyone.

“Everybody’s an asshole,” Chernow says, pointing to specific people in the crowd and laughing. “But I’d rather be in business with an asshole that I trust than one who will screw me over.”

But he started a restaurant with with a friend who spent years at Le Bernardin. Cue tasty food.

The first problem they ran into was deciding on a concept. Chernow put himself through the culinary and restaurant management programs at the International Culinary Center, where he developed an idea for an artisanal cheeseburger joint that won him an award at school. But, it didn’t win over his best friend, who wanted to create a Byzantine tasting menu. (“A What?” was basically this crowd’s reaction.)

Their ideas didn’t mesh well. However, they knew their restaurant would be located in the Lower East Side, so they studied their demographic – drunk, budding adults partying until 4 a.m. They saw an audience who needed fast, cheap food at ungodly hours. So they settled on the idea of meatballs. Smart move number three: Matching their restaurant concept to the location and demographic.

When Chernow enrolled in the restaurant management program at the Culinary Center, he learned how to write a business plan and open his own restaurant, a template he used for The Meatball Shop. (Smart move number four.)

“You need a business plan. If you don’t have one it’s like driving across country without a map,” explains Chernow.

It took about a month for Holzman and Chernow to customize Chernow’s original business plan for The Meatball Shop. Chernow stresses the importance of the executive summary and the financials.

“Investors aren’t interested in details. They want to read a strong executive summary, which should only be a page, and then your financials. If those two match up, maybe they’ll sign up.”

One of the keys to Chernow’s success was building a key team of investors during his earlier career at Frank.

“Seventy-five percent of our original investors are from Frank,” says Chernow. “Our first meeting was with three investors, and we walked away with $75,000. From there it was no turning back.”

It took $390,000 to get the restaurant up and running. They opened in 2010 with 30 employees and no management costs. Today they have 400 employees and soon-to-be five restaurants.

“Public relations is a huge element in business, and our PR agency took a risk on us. They saw how hard we worked and believed in our food,” says Chernow. “That was over 3 years ago, and yesterday I was on The Today Show.”

It was over fancy cocktails that Chernow divulged all these secrets to his alma mater’s crowd. He was the first guinea pig in the new series, “Drinks with Dorothy,” a networking series where successful food industry leaders will share how they made it in an often unforgiving industry.

The event made a splash, especially after Chernow told us to stick around because he brought a sampling of his favorite meatballs. There’s really no better way to network, is there?

The Best Olympics Ever? One Revolved Around Cookies

Imagine this: A room filled with 11 different types of cookies, a panel of feisty celebrity judges, and a band of students hoping for gold. Cue: The International Culinary Center’s first annual Cookie Olympics. And things got a little kookie at this cookie competition. Let me explain.

The national anthem was supposed to kick off the events, but a mishap in sound department resulted in “O Canada!” blasting from the speakers. No one seemed to notice until a young kid behind me asked the very astute question: Why is Canada’s anthem playing?

Alan Richman, the sometimes salty critic and one of the guest judges, teased, “Can we grade the sound?”

The event was then proceeded with the lighting of the torch—or the blowtorch in this culinary sporting—err…eating—event. The torch carrier made a loop around the darkened room, and came full circle to emblaze three Sterno burners (the ones used for chafing dishes at catered functions).  Let the games begin.

The judges were poised to judge each of the 11 cookies (each from a different country) on flavor, texture, difficulty of technique, presentation and ease of eating. The first-prize winner would be treated to a free dinner at the school’s restaurant, L’Ecole, and have their recipe and cookie featured on the restaurant’s menu.

 


Contestants and Judges

When the singing and pyrotechnics were finished, the eating began. Tasked to test their taste buds was the row of famed judges:

Kierin Baldwin, executive pastry chef at The Dutch
Dan Kluger, executive chef at ABC Kitchen
Johnny Iuzzini, JamesBeard award winner, “Outstanding Pastry Chef”
Alan Richman, Dean of Food Journalism at The International Culinary Center
Christina Tosi, Founder/owner of Momofuku Milk Bar

The judges ate cookies from Canada, China, Bangladesh, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine, Russia, India, America, Jamaica, and France. Milk and champagne fueled them through this massive sugar rush.

“Punch up the flavors,” and “Add a little more salt,” were Chef Baldwin’s repeat comments every time she tasted a cookie.

The judges loved the savory cookie entries like India’s Chana Masala shortbread, which was made with chickpea flour and topped with a ginger and sundried tomato jam. It made me wince, but the judges loved the spicy topping.

One of the crowd favorites was America’s Fred Flintstone cookie, which was a glorified chocolate chip cookie with a Cocoa Pebbles brittle baked in. Chef Iuzzini noted that if the student coated the cereal with a caramel, and let it dry before mixing it into the cookie batter, the brittle would’ve maintained its crunch rather than becoming soggy and chewy. (I still would’ve eaten a dozen of these in one sitting.)

 


Bojena Lotina cutting her Dulcetto Baz cookies

The ultimate winner was Russia’s Dulcetto Baz cookie, which was kind of an enigma if you didn’t have a recipe in front of you. Bojena Lotina, an International Culinary Center culinary student, took home both the gold and the “Fan Favorite” award.

“It makes no sense to me, but I love it,” was Richman’s first reaction to this dense dulce de leche cookie, which was studded with shortbread bits.

The second and third prize winners were the Indian Chana Masala cookie and the Jamaican spice cookie, respectively.

The event had a palatable amount of kitsch, and the students were genuinely excited to bake their original cookie recipes to a crew of talented bakers. It was safe to say that everyone left the event with a sugar high and a few good tips for perfecting a great cookie:

Using nuts? Toast them to extract more flavor. –Johnny Iuzzini

Add salt to make the flavors pop. – Kierin Balwin

Need more structure in a cookie? Add more flour. –Johnny Iuzzini

Your cookie name should match the cookie’s flavors. Making a cherry and green tea cookie? Both elements should be prominent in the cookie. –Dan Kluger

Grad Lands His Dream Job Working for José Andrés

Carlos Castera admits that he used to go to José Andrés’ restaurant, Jaleo, and dream about being in the kitchen. Back then he was working as a union representative, but in his free time he’d be at home replicating the meals he’d eat at restaurants.

And if Carlos didn’t end up at the International Culinary Center as a Spanish Culinary Arts student, he may have had a lot of “what if” thoughts stuck in his head right now:

What if I never won that scholarship to attend the Spanish Culinary Arts program?

What if I never got to meet Chef José during my classes?

What if I never got the chance to go to the school’s career fair and meet with Jose Andres’ team and apply for the sous-chef training program?

What if I never went to Spain and trailed Chef José to his favorite restaurants and farms?

Luckily, Carlos had the opportunity to go to school, practice classic tapas dishes, and travel around Spain to learn the origin of the cuisine. And now he can say he is part of the management team at Jaleo—his dream job.

He scored a three-month training program within Chef José’s ThinkFood Group, which sets Carlos up for a sous-chef position once he completes the program next month.

“I’m living the dream. I can say I’m management,” he admits. “The other day I went to grab ice, and I ran into José who asked how I was doing and wanted to check in on me. Then, in the middle of the restaurant, he gave me a hug.”

Carlos describes his culinary adventure as a big puzzle. The culinary principles and techniques he learned in class have been put to use over 100 times in the restaurant; and when he plates a piece of jamón he refers back to his trip to Spain.

 

“In Spain, I learned about the products I now work with. A lot of people just see jamón, but I see the whole process,” says Carlos. “It’s a big puzzle and now I’m putting it together.”