By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

Long before we turned on the lights — and all of the machines — in the ICE Chocolate Lab, I began formulating a mission statement of sorts. In addition to exploring the fundamentals of chocolate-making and sharing that knowledge with our students, I also wanted to create a space that fostered a sense of community beyond our four walls. Over the years, we’ve opened up the lab to chocolate and pastry professionals of all stripes, not to mention scores of guests who just love tasting our efforts. As we’ve learned to make better chocolate, we’ve also added our own voice to conversations within the industry. This February, we’re taking advantage of our unique venue to promote the exchange of ideas with our inaugural chocolate symposium, Roots of Cacao.

Test Roasting Cocoa Bean Samples

Roasting Cocoa Bean Samples

I’m excited to announce that the ICE Chocolate Lab will host a one-day series of demonstrations, tastings and panel discussions on Sunday, February 4th. The title, Roots of Cacao, evokes not only the rich cultural history of chocolate, but also the growers and origins responsible for supplying their precious harvest. We can also trace the journey from cacao bean to finished chocolate bar by exploring the many flavors hidden within and the processes that unleash them. As much as chocolate reflects tradition, its evolution is also dependent upon innovation. While we ponder the complex path that chocolate has taken, we must also address the opportunities and obligations to foster a sustainable future.

To help us navigate these varied topics, we’ve enlisted a roster of expert presenters to share their knowledge — from industry insiders and academics, to pastry chefs and passionate connoisseurs. Featured presenters include Bill Yosses, founder of Perfect Pie Company and former White House pastry chef; Maricel Presilla, restaurateur and author of “The New Taste of Chocolate;” Clay Gordon, author of “Discover Chocolate;” and Roger Rodriguez, pastry chef and partner of Cacao Prieto (also an ICE alum!). Together, we’ll discuss how post-harvest processes at the origin lay the groundwork for the flavors in a finished chocolate bar, and how a pastry chef might harness those flavors in a finished dessert. We’ll explore the emerging culture of “craft” chocolate and how the industry is addressing sustainability on a larger scale. Attendees will taste the spectrum of chocolate’s expressions, from artful modern confections to the alluring drink our ancestors enjoyed. I, for one, am looking forward to all of the information and inspiration on tap. In the coming weeks I’ll share more about the presenters with further details on their sessions.

Laiskonis_Chocolates_Hazelnut

Chef Laiskonis’ Hazelnut Chocolates

Roots of Cacao symposium is open to the general public and the sessions have been designed to be accessible to all, no matter one’s knowledge of or experience with chocolate. I would recommend it to anyone who’s curious to learn more about the roots of our favorite confection. Plus, the more we understand where chocolate comes from and how it’s made, the more we appreciate those efforts. But a word of warning: as someone who has taken the deep dive myself, I often say that the more we learn about chocolate, the more we realize what we don’t know! Hope to see you there.

Space is limited — register today for Roots of Cacao.

 Want to take a deep dive into Pastry Arts? Learn more about ICE’s career training programs.

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By Jeff Yoskowitz—Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

Every year since I can remember, my extended family has journeyed to my cousin’s house in Irvington, New York for a Chanukah celebration. My father, when he was alive, would enter their home, immediately tie on an apron, grab a bowl of latke mix and start frying potato latkes by the hundreds. It would take him hours, but he loved every minute of it.

jelly doughnutsIt was a special time for me, and I always ate too much of the iconic fried foods prepared for the celebration. When desserts were served, there were always fried doughnuts — usually jelly-filled — that I ate, regardless of how full I was. Over the years, it came as no surprise that I took charge of dessert, making jelly-filled doughnuts of all kinds. One of my favorite variations to make is this recipe, where the doughnuts are filled with the jelly before you fry them. There really is no comparison to eating a fresh, warm doughnut infused with a warm fruit preserve.

Sufganiyot (Israeli Jelly Doughnuts)

 

Ingredients:

64g sugar
7g active dry yeast
170g milk (warmed to 100°F)
385g all purpose flour
58g butter (melted and cooled)
7g salt
150g whole eggs
fruit preserves, as needed
confectioner’s sugar, as needed

Preparation:

  • Mix sugar, yeast and milk the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer and whisk to combine. With the paddle attachment, add remaining ingredients (except fruit preserves and confectioner’s sugar) and mix for 5-8 minutes on medium speed to achieve smooth dough.
  • Cover dough and let rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
  • Roll dough out to about 1/2″ thick and cut out circles with a 2” or 3” dough cutter.
  • Place about a teaspoonful of preserves in the center of each circle. Brush the preserves with water to moisten.
  • Bring the ends of the dough over the preserves and pinch the dough together to seal it completely.
  • Place the doughnuts, seam side down, on a floured surface. Cover with a floured towel, and let rest for about 20 minutes.
  • Deep fry at 350°F (about 90 seconds on each side, until golden brown). Test one doughnut first to ensure proper frying time and oil temperature.
  • Set doughnuts on a rack to dry and cool slightly, then sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Want to study with Chef Jeff? Learn more about ICE’s School of Pastry & Baking Arts.

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By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

If I were to ask you to describe the physical characteristics of chocolate, chances are you might think of a dark, shiny and brittle bar that slowly melts in the mouth. Perhaps you might immediately associate its rich flavor baked into a brownie or concealed within a creamy bonbon. You wouldn’t be wrong, of course, as chocolate has found its way into countless applications — a sweet shape shifter that pairs perfectly with our favorite flavors. That hasn’t always been the case. For much of its history, chocolate wasn’t something we would eat out of hand or find in a dessert recipe.

Hot Chocolate

Aztec woman pouring chocolate

An Aztec Woman Pouring Chocolate

The modern chocolate bar didn’t emerge until the mid-1800s, when technology and inventiveness converged. When Casparus van Houten developed the cocoa butter press in the 1820s, he was originally after the pressed solids — the cocoa butter (the fat that makes up over 50 percent of a cocoa bean) was merely a by-product. It would be many years before a chocolate maker (most likely the Fry family in England) would come up with the idea to add some of that extra cocoa butter back into ground cocoa beans and sugar. At this point, chocolate began to resemble what we think of today, and its texture and flavor would evolve further as the industrial revolution continued in the decades to follow. Before that breakthrough? When one mentioned chocolate, they were really referring to a beverage.

We can trace the history of chocolate back thousands of years to the Olmec, Mayan and Aztec cultures of present-day Mexico and Central America. These early chocolate makers cultivated the cacao tree, ultimately rendering the seeds of its fruit (the bean) into a drink. What these cultures enjoyed, however, bore little resemblance to a package of Swiss Miss. For starters, it wasn’t served hot, and most likely unsweetened, rather made with water and flavored with spices and flowers, then made frothy by repeatedly pouring from one vessel into another. The beans themselves were of great value and a significant staple crop, though most historians suggest that it was only enjoyed by a few, and not necessarily a part of the average person’s diet, rather used primarily for medicinal and ceremonial uses. Most culinary applications — even savory mole — appeared much later.

After the Spanish conquered the birthplace of chocolate in the 1500s, it would undergo further changes as it made its way to European drinkers. The first to adapt the Aztec beverage were likely the missionaries tasked with “converting” the indigenous people. By the time chocolate took hold back in Spain, it would evolve into something recognizable today — served warm, sweetened and whipped to a froth using a wooden molinillo. It remained, however, a treat for nobility, as it slowly spread throughout Europe. This growing taste for chocolate, which would become a beverage on par with tea or coffee, also led to its cultivation in European colonies in tropical zones throughout the world. For two centuries, its popularity surged but remained something not to eat, but to drink.

Huylers Bean-to-Cup Chocolate Trade Card

Huylers Bean-to-Cup Chocolate Trade Card

When van Houten sought to remove cocoa butter from the preparation, his goal was to make a lighter beverage, with much of its fat removed — what many at the time referred to as digestible cocoa. Soon after, digestible cocoa became increasingly accessible to a wider audience, taken in the morning or in the afternoon as a pick-me-up. Chocolate would also be touted for various health benefits and considered a gentler alternative to its cousin, coffee. As chocolate culture progressed, it did of course find its way into bar form (and then confections and baked goods) in the mid-1800s. By the turn of the 20th century, cocoa and chocolate were firmly embedded into our daily regimen. My own research into chocolate history has led to some interesting discoveries: colorful Victorian-era cocoa tins decorated with imagery of cacao pods, and even references to “bean-to-cup,” foreshadowing the “bean-to-bar” term we now use more than a hundred years later.

All of this research of chocolate’s history has renewed my own interest in its drinkable form. I’ve been studying both ancient recipes and its more familiar adaptations. As the weather turns, I can’t think of a better way to warm up than with a frothy cup of hot chocolate, while quietly considering the complex journey this magical bean has made over the centuries. Below, my favorite modern recipe, inspired by Mexican-style chocolate prepared today, is deep in chocolate flavor with subtle accents of unrefined sugar, warm spices and a touch of heat from dried smoked chile.

 

Hot Chocolate
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

1 quart (950 grams) whole milk
¼ cup (60 grams) heavy cream
1 cup (200 grams) grated panela, piloncillo, or light brown sugar
½ teaspoon (2 grams) salt
2 sticks whole cinnamon
2 pieces whole star anise
½ teaspoon (2 grams) powdered chipotle morita (or to taste)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
7 ounces (200 grams) dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Preparation:

  • Combine the milk, cream, sugar, salt, spices, and the vanilla bean in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and hold at a bare simmer, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.
  • Whisk in the chopped chocolate and continue to simmer an additional five minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and the whole spices. Blend well with an immersion blender to create a froth and serve immediately.

Want to get in the chocolate lab with Chef Michael? Learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

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By Jenny McCoy — Pastry & Baking Arts Chef-Instructor

A small slice of my career as a pastry chef has been dedicated to introducing bakers to the flavor combination of pumpkin and chocolate. Some of you may have already tasted the duo — if you are one of those people, congratulations and please consider adding some chocolate chips to your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. However, if you have not had the experience of chocolate and pumpkin combined, stop your holiday baking plans now and redirect your attention to this post immediately. Your Thanksgiving is about to get so much better.

pumpkin bars

Roasted pumpkin, whether made from scratch or canned, has a slightly sweet and very earthy flavor. If you mix this quintessential fall flavor with chocolate, which can either emphasize or contrast the flavor of pumpkin, something magical happens. When I’m interested in a strong contrast of flavor, I pair pumpkin with dark chocolate, which has an intense flavor and a bitter quality that juxtaposes nicely with the sweet, mellow flavor of pumpkin. When I prefer to accentuate the sweetness of pumpkin and make it the star in my baking, I combine it with milk chocolate because together they both highlight their sweetness and milder flavors. (Pro tip: Play around in the kitchen with both combinations to see which you like best.)

In the case of my recipe for Pumpkin Nutella Bars, I’ve taken chocolate and pumpkin one step further in the direction of deliciousness by adding Nutella. While Nutella is made with cocoa powder (which is dark and bitter), it is also mixed with a fair amount of sugar and milk, so it really has a flavor profile closer to milk chocolate. And the addition of roasted hazelnuts cannot be beat.

I can’t wait to hear what you think of these Pumpkin Nutella Bars, and be sure to share any other fun pumpkin and chocolate baking ideas you have this holiday season!

pumpkin nutella barsPumpkin Nutella Bars
Servings: makes 16 servings

Ingredients:

Pumpkin Bar Batter

Nonstick cooking spray
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg
¾ cup pumpkin puree

For the filling

1 jar (13 ounces) Nutella

Pumpkin Seed Streusel Topping:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted

Preparation:

First, make and bake the Pumpkin Bar Batter

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9”x13” baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a bowl, stir the flour, baking soda, salt and spices, and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg and vanilla. Mix the batter until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and slowly alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the pumpkin puree, while mixing on low speed. Mix until the batter is smooth and evenly combined. Transfer the pumpkin batter to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes.

While the Pumpkin Bars are baking, make the Pumpkin Seed Streusel

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin seeds, sugars, salt and spices. Slowly drizzle the melted butter into the bowl, while tossing the dry ingredients constantly, and mix until just crumbly. Set aside until ready to use.
  • Remove the pan of pumpkin bars from the oven and drop the oven temperature to 325°F. Let bars cool for 15 minutes.

Time to fill, top and bake the bars

  • Carefully spread the Nutella over the entire surface area of the warm baked bars. (If the Nutella melts a bit and sinks into the batter, that’s OK. Use a bamboo skewer or even a toothpick to create a marbled look.)
  • Sprinkle the Pumpkin Seed Streusel evenly over the top of the Nutella, and bake until the streusel is light golden brown and a wooden toothpick or cake tester comes out clean when inserted in center of the bar, about 30 minutes. Cool the bars in the pan for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Master baking for all seasons — learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

 

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At ICE, we make it our mission to help students find their culinary voice — that creative drive within each of us that determines how we express ourselves through food. Whether it’s a career training program, a recreational course in pie crusts or a special event featuring handmade pasta, we’ll give you the tools to hone your culinary creativity. Join us as we ask some of today’s leading food industry pros to share their culinary voice.

Duff Goldman’s slogan is simple: If you can dream it, we can create it. Whether it’s a lifelike Betty White cake or a multi-tiered, hand-painted wedding cake (with or without lasers), the pastry chef and owner of the Baltimore-based, wildly popular Charm City Cakes bakery and star of Food Network’s Ace of Cakes is up for any confectionary challenge. We asked Duff to share his culinary voice with us, and his response should come as little surprise to anyone who’s seen his creations: “I really like to make people smile; I like to make them laugh; and I always like to make them think.” Watch the video and find out more about Duff Goldman’s unique culinary voice.

Find your culinary voice with ICE — learn more about our career training programs.

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