By Michael Laiskonis

Much of my day-to-day work at ICE — in its kitchens and in the Chocolate Lab — revolves around unraveling the inner workings of ingredients, recipes and the finished preparations that result. This is an important aspect that all cooks consider on some level. Whether seeking to create inventive new dishes or perfect the classics, a pinch of food science will always help us achieve our goals. As a pastry chef, one might say that I’m already hard-wired to think a bit deeper about the composition and function of ingredients. I like to say that the primary difference between a pastry chef and his or her savory counterpart is that success often relies upon some measure of predicting the future. While a soup can be tasted and tweaked from start to finish, you can’t take a cake out of the oven halfway through the bake to add a bit more leavener. Cakes aside, it was my quest to better understand ice cream several years ago that led me down the path toward a more precise understanding of the many ingredients and processes a pastry chef seeks to master.

coffee ice cream

Coffee Ice Cream

The words “food” and “science” no doubt conjure images of lab coats and beakers, or perhaps they evoke notions of “modernist” dishes with avant-garde flair. Yet on a far more practical level, every act of cooking involves countless physical or chemical reactions that rely on time, temperature and the composition of ingredients. Accordingly, we can all benefit from a bit of simple kitchen chemistry. Not only does such insight lead to better cooking skills, but it also helps us fix mistakes when they inevitably arise. Though often a skill elusive to most cooks, a better understanding of these reactions can indeed lead to new creations. For me, it also became a new lens through which to view every ingredient and recipe I set out to execute. Eventually, this way of thinking ultimately arms a cook with the ability to write a recipe from scratch, rather than merely rely on or follow someone else’s recipe.

My deep dive into ice cream on a technical level — through complex textbooks and scientific papers as well as working directly with a noted food scientist — greatly improved the quality of the ice cream I began to make. With just a grasp of dairy composition, the properties of various sugars, freeze point depression and the physical mechanics of freezing, I am able to fine-tune a recipe to make a finished product with optimal flavor and texture. Milk itself, what for many is simply a ubiquitous ingredient used without much thought, suddenly becomes a fascinating substance when broken down into its constituent parts. Its water, fat, proteins and sugar play important and specific roles — not only in frozen desserts, but in every preparation it is used. And suddenly that knowledge base expands to other products derived from milk — cream, butter, cultured products and cheeses — and the myriad ways they function in our recipes.

Whipped Cream

Whipped Cream, Soft Peak

I am lucky to share these specific insights with every student enrolled in the Pastry & Baking Arts program at ICE. During a guest lecture that I conduct in the early days of the students’ journey, I break down dozens of dairy products based on their composition and function. We taste them all in order to identify their similarities and their differences. We conduct whipped cream exercises, in which I encourage students to imagine themselves shrunk down to the size of a tiny milk fat particle, to better understand how liquid cream transforms into a light fluffy foam and then, eventually, into butter. We make soft caramels, which demonstrate the effects of Maillard reactions, the dark and delicious result of milk proteins, lactose and heat. Though I present a mountain of technical data on dairy products, the numbers and charts aren’t what’s important. The real goal is simply to get students thinking about their ingredients in this new light, along with a better understanding of the cause-and-effect of our cooking methods. This mindfulness can then be applied to anything — eggs, flour, sugar, chocolate, fruit and more.

So, yes, I am a certified dairy nerd, and a few times each year I get to bring these obsessions to a wider audience with single subject classes that zero in on milk, eggs, ice cream and more general aspects of baking “technology.” Just in time for warmer temperatures, I will deconstruct frozen desserts in Introduction to Ice Cream and Sorbet Technology this week, followed by Composition and Structure: The Humble Complexity of Milk in June. Later in the summer, I take on other vital aspects of food science and pastry applications with A Hydrocolloids Primer, Baking and Pastry Technology and Composition and Structure: A Scientific Approach to Cooking. Happy cooking — and learning!

Take your understanding of baking to the next level — click here for more information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts. program

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

December 2016

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

June 2016

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011

December 2010

November 2010

October 2010

September 2010

August 2010

July 2010

June 2010

May 2010

April 2010

March 2010

February 2010

January 2010

December 2009

November 2009

October 2009

By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

The act of cooking is, at its heart, a solitary one. Of course, a restaurant kitchen requires coordinated effort and teamwork — many hands executing and assembling tiny parts of a greater whole. Each brief task in isolation, however, is a personal communion of skill and ingredient. Each step of mis en place presents an opportunity to contemplate, and a challenge to refine and better understand what we do.

Dough

My cooking career began at a tiny bakery in the outlying suburbs of Detroit almost 25 years ago. What started as “just a job” quickly became a compulsion: in cooking I found the satisfaction of manual labor and making something from nothing. Before long, I was offered an overnight baking position. At first, I merely worked my way down a checklist of standard items to mix and bake: a trio of basic breads, some viennoisserie and coffee cakes, muffins and cookies, and then the delicate chiffon layers that comprised the buttercream- and fondant-coated birthday and wedding cakes. I worked hard and I got better, and I took on more and more responsibility. Eventually, if the cases were full at 7:00 am when the shop opened, I pretty much had free rein to bake as I pleased during these solo shifts.

I often began each evening just as the bakery locked its front door at 6:00pm, and I rarely left before 8:00am the following morning. It was the first job I’d ever had where I didn’t watch the clock (and, come to think of it, I haven’t had one since). I found a nightly groove, a rhythm fueled by black coffee and a tape deck blaring the likes of Superchunk and Sonic Youth. As a former art student, I instantly recognized the meditative shift into right-brain mode, where intense concentration makes one oblivious to external stimuli and the linear passage of time. My time-sensitive dough, and not the clock, set my schedule, as items cycled in and out of the ovens.

Fresh Baked Bread

Though the bakery was well off the beaten path I filled its shelves and cases with lofty ambition, as if the sign outside bore the names of Parisian pastry temples Poilâne, Fauchon or Lenôtre. I was naïve, for sure, but driven. It felt as if I’d entered a kind of undergraduate phase of pastry study, and an ever-growing library of books became my syllabus. Among them, a multi-volume set of professional French pastry books; it was a good thing I ate virtually all my meals at work; each of those six volumes set me back nearly one hundred dollars — a sizable bite out of my paycheck back then. These books were already outdated to some degree even then, but the classics never die. I methodically worked my way through each, from brioche, fougasse and pain de siegle, to pâte brisée, pâte feuilleté and pâte à choux. I continually refined my baguettes, croissants and genoise. I also took liberties in experimenting with my own creations, many of which ended up not in the front of the shop, but in the dumpster out back. I compensated for my lack of formal training by challenging myself to learn at least one new product each day.

My nights at the bakery resembled the quiet, creative solitude I’d enjoyed while working many hours alone in the dark room in the days before digital photography. Prior to cooking, much of my time was devoted to photography, developing strips of black and white film, manipulating prints in all manner of ways. The mixing, shaping and proofing of dough is not unlike developing a negative, cropping an image and adjusting exposure. Bread goes into a hot oven to fully transform into its full potential, just as a sheet of light-sensitive paper in a bath of chemicals slowly reveals the image burned onto it. I often compare pastry with photography — highly technical to some degree, though what ends up on the plate or within the frame could perhaps be called “art.”

Today, my work in the Chocolate Lab and pastry kitchens at ICE takes on a similar solitary aspect. With several projects on my plate at any given time, my daily prep list follows no linear rhyme or reason. There are fewer deadlines now, but surprisingly, a whole lot of dishes to clean afterward. No longer confined to the schedule and structure of a restaurant kitchen, I now find those quiet hours where I can think one thought through to its completion. And I still enjoy the hours flying by, alone with my mis en place and my own thoughts. But the results nowadays go beyond personal gratification — the fruits of this solitary refinement now feed the minds of hungry students.

Refine your craft in the kitchen classrooms of ICE — click here for more information on our Pastry & Baking Arts programs. 

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

December 2016

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

June 2016

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011

December 2010

November 2010

October 2010

September 2010

August 2010

July 2010

June 2010

May 2010

April 2010

March 2010

February 2010

January 2010

December 2009

November 2009

October 2009

A native of Toulouse, France, Chef Eric Bertoia has a resume that boasts a host of impressive hotels and restaurants on both the old and new continent, among them the Ritz Hotel Escoffier in Paris and Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group restaurants. Today, as technician pastry chef of Paris Gourmet, he shares his expertise with professional pastry chefs across the country. In anticipation of his upcoming CAPS course at ICE on April 30thEntremets and Plated Desserts, we asked Chef Eric a few questions about his current role, his experience working for Daniel Boulud and his recommended food destinations.

Chef Eric Bertoia

Can you tell us a little bit about Paris Gourmet?

Established in 1983, Paris Gourmet is a leading specialty food importer and distributor of gourmet and pastry ingredients from all over the world.

The Paris Gourmet Education Center conducts continuing education classes for chefs and restaurant staff, and researches and develops products in pursuit of quality and innovation. Paris Gourmet is also extremely active in trade events and chef competitions.

What do you do in your role as “technician pastry chef” at Paris Gourmet?

At Paris Gourmet, we have an education center and test kitchen. We have classes for groups and one-on-one classes for professional pastry chefs working in hotels, casinos, restaurants and catering. As technician pastry chef, my primary focus is teaching these chefs how to use our products and demonstrating techniques. We conduct demonstrations in our kitchen and all over the United States, and very often work with restaurants and hotels to change their menus. Every month we have new products with which we create and test new recipes. We also host the annual U.S. Pastry Competition and lend support and advise Pastry Team USA for the Pastry World Cup in Lyon.

Tell us about your experience working for Chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurant group, Dinex Group.

I was the corporate pastry chef for Dinex Group, managing and supervising the pastry departments of 15 restaurants and the two retail stores. I was overseeing operations in New York, Palm Beach, Miami, Las Vegas, Montreal, Toronto, London and Singapore. Every restaurant in the Dinex Group has a unique concept: bistro, brasserie, gastronomic, Mediterranean, plus catering. As corporate pastry chef, I was rotating between each site and was responsible for creating menus for launching new locations — organizing the department, training pastry chefs and staff and explaining the company’s expectations.

What do you miss most about working in restaurants full-time?

What I miss the most is that all the restaurants had a different level or theme of gastronomy, from the bistro to the retail store. The task of creating a concept and menu for each made it challenging.

Eric Cake Ice 4 1

What do you find to be one of the biggest challenges when teaching techniques on plated desserts versus other types of desserts?

One of the biggest challenges is to maintain consistency, in terms of plating, aesthetic, texture, temperature and, most importantly, taste. An emphasis on the freshness of ingredients is another important point in my classes.

Can you offer some food destination recommendations for our students and readers?

In New York, the bakery products are all well done, from viennoiserie to bread. Minneapolis has the classic American comfort foods and it offers global cuisine like Greek and Vietnamese, plus high-quality pastry shops like Patisserie 46. Lima, Peru — amazing seafood, quinoa, beef and others specialty products. Berlin, Germany — here you can find great local restaurants and Turkish/Middle Eastern cuisine. In Singapore, you can find Chinese, Malaysian and Indian food that’s representative of the ethnic diversity of the local population, as well as European and American cuisine.

Don’t miss the opportunity to perfect your plated desserts with Chef Eric – click here to register today!

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

December 2016

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

June 2016

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011

December 2010

November 2010

October 2010

September 2010

August 2010

July 2010

June 2010

May 2010

April 2010

March 2010

February 2010

January 2010

December 2009

November 2009

October 2009

“Once you’ve tasted this Irish soda bread, you’ll never buy a loaf from the bakery again,” says ICE Chef Instructor Sarah Chaminade. Members of the ICE team, who had the chance to sample the goods, would happily concur — that this is truly the best Irish soda bread recipe. But what exactly is soda bread? According to Chef Sarah, “Some say it resembles more of a scone than bread since it doesn’t contain any yeast. You can find hundreds of different recipes — some include caraway seeds and others even add eggs. If you ask true Irish lads or lasses, they’ll tell you soda bread must have only four ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk.” Baked with caraway seeds, currants and even a shot of whiskey, Chef Sarah’s recipe departs from the original yet still captures the essence of this classic Irish goody. With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, there’s no better time to master Irish soda bread. 

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:

4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 cup dried currants
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, or combine 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice for every cup of milk
1/4 cup Irish whiskey
Flour for kneading

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix on low speed to combine. Raise the speed to medium low and add the butter, a piece or two at a time, until all of the butter has been incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. This will take 4-5 minutes.
  • Add the caraway seeds, honey, orange zest, currants and, finally, the buttermilk and whiskey. Mix until just combined.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead a few times to smooth the mixture into a round loaf and transfer to a nonstick baking sheet. Make a cross hatch design (just breaking the skin of the dough) on top of the loaf with a knife and sprinkle with a bit of flour.
  • Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the loaf is set and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let the bread cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Learn to bake like a pro with Chef Sarah — click here for information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

December 2016

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

June 2016

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011

December 2010

November 2010

October 2010

September 2010

August 2010

July 2010

June 2010

May 2010

April 2010

March 2010

February 2010

January 2010

December 2009

November 2009

October 2009

This St. Patrick’s Day, try your hand at an Irish-inspired sweet — no baking involved! Chef Sarah Chaminade shares her boozy take on cheesecake, with a buttery, chocolate cookie crust and a creamy filling accented by Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Baileys_Cheesecake_edited_300dpi-1

No-Bake Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake
Yield: One (nine-inch) or four (four-inch) cakes

Ingredients:

200 grams chocolate wafer cookies
100 grams unsalted butter, melted
200 grams heavy cream
150 grams Bailey’s Irish Cream
10 grams powdered gelatin
500 grams cream cheese, softened at room temperature
150 grams sugar
50 dark chocolate pearls

bailey's cheesecake

Preparation:

  • Process the chocolate wafer cookies in a food processor until they resemble fine crumbs.
  • Transfer crumbs into a large mixing bowl and stir in melted butter. Mix until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of a parchment-lined cake pan or ring molds, and place them in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or with an electric hand mixer, whip the heavy cream to medium peaks and set aside in your refrigerator.
  • In a medium bowl, add the Bailey’s Irish Cream and sprinkle the gelatin over. Set aside for two to three minutes.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Over a double boiler or in a microwave, heat the gelatin-Bailey’s mixture slowly until gelatin is dissolved and liquid is smooth. While still warm, pour the gelatin mixture into the stand mixer bowl with the cream cheese mixture and mix together at low speed until combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the whipped cream, reserving a small amount of whipped cream for decoration (see next step).
  • Fill your prepared cake pan or molds with filling to the top. Using a piping bag filled with reserved whipped cream, pipe rosettes of whipped cream around the edges of the cake and top with chocolate pearls.
  • Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least four hours or preferably overnight before serving.

bailey's cheesecake

Master baking with Chef Sarah in ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program — click here for information. 

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

December 2016

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

June 2016

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011

December 2010

November 2010

October 2010

September 2010

August 2010

July 2010