By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

While it’s back-to-school season for most, class is always in session at ICE. More to the point, cooks are perpetual students for whom the learning never ends, no matter our level of skill or experience. Ideas and inspiration that fill our social media feeds are at our fingertips 24 hours a day, but I still rely on — and often prefer — books and magazines. The autumn publishing season also means a shelf-load of new releases. Below are a few of those just-published books I am looking forward to, as well as one or two that I’m finally catching up on.

Image courtesy of Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream

Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream: The Art and Science of the Scoop
By Dane Cree

Summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean ice cream season is. Dana Cree’s book is a revelation on two fronts — in addition to creative frozen dessert recipes, it was one of the first books of its kind to make accessible the technical approach to ice cream that professionals employ. A well-traveled pastry chef, Dana presents the material much in the same way she approaches high-end plated desserts: serious, but with a playful ease.

BraveTart

BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts
By Stella Parks

When I first started reading Stella’s BraveTart blog several years ago, I knew it would lead to a book. She approaches sweet traditions and preparations not just through the eyes of a cook, but rather an investigative journalist, always digging deeper to tell a story or to better understand the complex chemistry of the pastry kitchen. If baking perfection is built simply on the sum of many well-executed steps, the attention to detail in Stella’s book gives cooks of all skill levels essential building blocks for classic American desserts and beyond. Be sure to check out her work as contributor to Serious Eats.

Megan Giller

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution: The Origins, the Makers, and the Mind-Blowing Flavors
By Megan Giller

As a cook, I often think about how the discovery of a new ingredient or technique is able to radically redirect one’s career path. Certainly, I never set out to make chocolate, but since we created the Chocolate Lab two years ago, I think about chocolate for most of my waking moments. For Megan Giller, a sartorial moment with a fruity, complex bar made from Madagascar cocoa beans created an obsession that led to a blog, and then this book. While covering the basics of chocolate from origin to processing to tasting, she also takes on the task of documenting the dynamic “craft” chocolate scene in real time. I liked the idea so much, that when asked, I wrote the foreword. I will also join Megan for a discussion and tasting here in NYC next month. Also of interest is a new release from our friends at Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco, Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S’more.

Bread Wine Chocolate

Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love
By Simran Sethi

Just as important as acquiring recipes and technique, a deeper understanding of the complex culture of our foodways is also valuable to cooks. Released last year, Simran’s book explores our relationship with nature through the lens of products we might take for granted. Her perspective on chocolate has also led to my favorite podcast of the year, the Slow Melt, which tackles issues big and small, in addition to insightful interviews with the most influential of today’s “craft” chocolate-makers.

Fou de Patisserie

Fou de Patisserie
http://www.foudepatisserie.com/

This time last summer, I had just returned, inspired and energized, from a quick three-day tour of the Paris haute patisserie scene. Few resources capture the trends of the moment better than the French magazine, Fou de Patisserie. Each issue (virtually ad-free) is jam-packed with recipes and ideas from pastry legends and rising stars alike, including Philippe Conticini, Christophe Felder, Cedric Grolet and Cyril Lignac. In addition to publishing, the magazine also runs a shop in Paris — part pop-up, part fancy pastry exhibit — featuring the work of a rotating line-up of pastry chefs. On the topic of pastry magazines, one can’t forget what may be the most exciting resource, So Good, the hefty haute patisserie magazine of international scope.

Modernist Bread

Modernist Bread: The Art and Science
By Nathan Myhrvold, Francisco Migoya

After the release of the mammoth multi-volume set of Modernist Cuisine several years ago, the question on everyone’s mind was: “What will Nathan Myhrvold do next?” To the surprise of many, The Cooking Lab, which is home to Modernist Cuisine, immediately took on the subject of bread – its traditions and pathways toward innovation. Talented pastry chef Francisco Migoya led the effort, which resulted in a new set of books that actually rivals the first in size (and weight). Ahead of its October release, Francisco visited ICE last month to offer a sneak preview of the book, over three years in the making. From what I’ve seen thus far, all I can say is that the project will become a defining resource for bread bakers for years to come.

What are you reading this fall? Let us know in the comments! 

Take your pastry practice to the next level — learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

By Jenny McCoy — Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

As the Fourth of July approaches and we eagerly anticipate colorful firework displays and backyard barbecues, why not celebrate with a red, white and blue sprinkle-covered confetti cake? This delicious lemon-almond cake, filled with fresh strawberries and blueberries and layered with cream cheese icing, is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Before you begin, here are my favorite pro tips for success:

  • Use some shortening to make the cake a brighter white, which also makes it easier to color. If you prefer butter, you can substitute the shortening with more butter.
  • Be sure to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl as you add the ingredients to your cake batter. This will ensure your batter is buttery smooth.
  • If you want to customize the results, your cake batter can be flavored with a variety of extracts. One of my favorite combinations is vanilla and coconut extracts. Alternatively, if you prefer a plain vanilla cake, replace the almond extract with an additional one teaspoon vanilla extract, for a total of two teaspoons.
  • I love to use a cardboard cake round to invert my cakes from the pans. It gives them a sturdy surface to fall on, which prevents the cake layers from tearing. Ask your local bakery for a few or cut out some rounds from a cardboard box.
  • Don’t have a cake turntable? Not to worry! My favorite kitchen hack is to use the plate and wheel from a microwave to layer and frost my cakes.
  • Instead of worrying about your cake layers sliding around as you frost the top and sides of the cake, try this trick — use a long bamboo skewer to hold everything in place.
  • A flat, metal bench scraper (more often used for cutting bread dough) makes for amazingly straight sides on your frosted cake. If you don’t have a bench scraper, use a metal icing spatula, like the one featured in the video.
  • Don’t worry about having a perfectly frosted cake for this recipe. As long as it’s relatively smooth, once it’s covered in sprinkles, it will be a showstopper no matter what!

One last trick: to make sure the cakes don’t stick to the pan, cut parchment paper into a circle to line your round cake pan. Here’s how:

Remember how you used to make paper snowflakes from folded paper in elementary school? Well, that same technique will now serve you well as an adult. If you enjoy baking cakes, that is.

For a round cake pan, simply fold a piece of parchment paper in half three times to make a triangular wedge of paper (kind of like a slice of cake—what a coincidence!). Turn your cake pan upside down and place the tip of the paper wedge directly in the center of the pan. Trim the wider edge of the paper wedge to the length of the radius of the pan, or the very edge of the cake pan. Unfold and voila! A circle of parchment paper to perfectly line the inside of your round cake pan. Check out this video on ICE’s Instagram feed to see how it’s done.

July Fourth-fetti Cake
Makes one three-layer cake

For the Cakes:
Makes 3

Ingredients:

2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, softened
½ cup (4 ounces) shortening
3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg whites
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Red food coloring
Blue food coloring
3-4 tablespoons red, white and blue sprinkles

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly spray three eight-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, egg whites, almond extract and vanilla extract, and mix until smooth.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and stir together. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Add the milk and mix until combined. Add the remaining half of the dry ingredients, followed by the buttermilk and mix until well combined and smooth.
  • Divide the batter evenly between three bowls and add blue food coloring to one bowl and red food coloring to the second bowl, mixing in and adding coloring in drops as necessary until the desired color is reached. Add sprinkles to the third bowl and stir until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the three prepared cake pans and bake until very light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for five minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.

 

For the Lemon-Almond Simple Syrup:
Makes ½ cup

Ingredients:

½ cup simple syrup
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract

Preparation:

  • Combine the simple syrup, vanilla extract and lemon extract and refrigerate until ready to use.

 

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
Makes 6 cups

Ingredients:

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (16 ounces) cream cheese
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until soft and very smooth. Add the cream cheese and mix until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar and salt and mix until fully combined. Add the vanilla extract and whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days.

 

To assemble the cake:

Ingredients:

1 blue cake layer
1 sprinkle cake layer
1 red cake layer
½ cup Lemon-Almond Simple Syrup (recipe above)
6 cups Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe above)
1 cup blueberries
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups red, white and blue sprinkles, to decorate

Preparation:

  • Slice the tops off the cake layers to create a flat surface. Place the blue cake layer on top of an eight-inch round of cardboard. Use a pastry brush to lightly soak the blue cake layer with the simple syrup. Spread about one cup of the frosting on the blue cake layer and cover with fresh blueberries. Top with the sprinkled white cake layer and repeat by soaking the cake layer with simple syrup and covering with one cup of frosting, and top with the fresh strawberries. Place the red cake layer on top. Frost the tops and sides of the cake with the remaining four cups of frosting. Freeze cake for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Place the sprinkles in a large bowl. Hold the cake over a rimmed baking sheet and gently cover the sides and tops of the cake with the sprinkles by pressing them against the frosting and allowing the excess to fall back onto the tray. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to two days. If refrigerated before serving, let cake stand at room temperature for one to two hours before serving.

Want to learn how to make tasty desserts like a pro? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

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

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. 


By Gabby Guarino,
Student, Culinary Arts ’17 

Gabby is a student in ICE’s Culinary Arts program and our newest student blogger. She’s been cooking since before she was allowed to use the stove — making “soup” by using hot water from the sink to “boil” pasta and then throwing in some spices. Before culinary school, she received a bachelor’s degree in communications and human resources management from Rutgers University. She worked in marketing for a stint before launching her blog, “The Semi-Healthy Foodie,” and in October 2016, she finally decided to pursue her dream of going to culinary school and enrolled at ICE. For her first blog post, she takes us through a daunting pastry lesson: Danish dough. 

GabG_1

Tackling Danish dough was one of the most challenging things I’ve had to take on in culinary school so far. When I think of a Danish, I think of buttery, flaky crust with a cheese or fruit filling. I think of the beautiful layers and the soft, chewy dough. Before culinary school, I casually enjoyed a Danish now and again, not thinking much of it. Now that I know the time and effort that goes into making that perfectly layered dough, I have a new appreciation for pastry chefs (and their Danishes) everywhere. There is a certain technique and process that’s essential to get the dough just right. Have you ever wondered how all of those buttery layers of dough are created? It may seem daunting, but with some time, patience and good instructions, it’s totally possible.

Apple Danish

For starters, Danish dough is considered a laminate dough, which means that there are layers of fat encased in dough and each layer remains separate. The laminate dough process is tedious but so rewarding. Before I explain the process, here are a few key words to know: beurrage, detrempe and paton. The fat component of the dough is called beurrage, the dough component is called the detrempe and the act of making the dough and encasing the fat in dough is called paton. Okay, enough with the fancy words — let’s get to it.

  • First, make a basic dough with yeast, sugar and cinnamon, and let it rest for about an hour.
  • Next, make sure your butter is very cold and cut it into thin blocks. Flour the butter and line up the blocks of butter into a rectangle. Pound them together with a rolling pin until they form a sheet that is about 10-12 inches wide.
  • Roll out the dough into a rectangle about one-third longer than your butter sheet. Place the butter sheet on the dough and fold into thirds like a letter. Roll the dough out, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the folding and rolling process. Rotate the dough again and repeat.
  • Next, refrigerate the dough for at least an hour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, roll it out and cut into 4×4 inch squares.
  • When ready to bake, you can fill Danish dough with different fruits, jams or pastry creams.

Once you break down the steps, the process is quite simple and the result is the flakiest Danish. Those layers of butter and dough create the amazing structure that made the Danish famous. With this pastry lesson, not only did I master Danish dough, I also stepped out of my comfort zone, challenged my inner baker and acquired a new appreciation for Danishes and laminate doughs.

Apple Danish

Ready to challenge your inner baker with professional culinary training from ICE? Click here for more information.

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. 


By Caitlin Raux

Students enroll in our pastry arts program for many reasons — for some, it’s to mix flour, eggs and sugar for the first time and launch a budding pastry career. For others, it’s to hone their skills and enhance their existing experience. Diploma (and whisk) in hand, our pastry grads set out on a range of career paths — from recipe writers to startup chefs to educators and more. Here’s a snapshot of the many possibilities of what you can do with professional pastry training from ICE:

Pastry Arts alums

  1. Boost your kitchen confidence and enhance your resume as a food writer or editor like Lauren Katz, Associate Recipe Writer at Blue Apron.
  2. Run the pastry program at LA’s most ‘gram-worthy resto with a “major cult following,” like Meadow Ramsey, Pastry Chef of Sqirl.
  3. Conquer the world of cake like Elisa Strauss, chef instructor in ICE’s Cake Decorating program, who started a boutique cake company and a cake design consultancy (not to mention, penned a few cake cookbooks in her spare time).
  4. Use the skills and discipline learned in the pastry arts program to launch your own business… be it bar or bakery, like Ben Wiley, co-owner of five bars in Brooklyn: Bar Great Harry, The Owl Farm, Mission Dolores, Glorietta Baldy and Cardiff Giant.
  5. Follow in the footsteps of one of your pastry chef mentors and go on to lead the pastry kitchen in an acclaimed NYC restaurant like Thea Habjanic, who, after being hired at Le Bernardin by Chef Michael Laiskonis, went on to become Executive Pastry Chef at the restaurant where Chef Michael designed the dessert menu, La Sirena.
  6. Help train the next generation of pastry chefs like Andrea Tutunjian, ICE’s Dean of the School of Pastry & Baking Arts and Director of Education at ICE.
  7. Join the dynamic world of startups like Michal Shelkowitz, Pastry Chef of the San Francisco-based meal delivery service, Munchery.
  8. Flex your restaurateur muscle like Zoe Nathan Loeb, who co-owns several popular California eateries: Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Seasonal Kitchen, Huckleberry, Sweet Rose Creamery, Cassia and Esters Wine Shop & Bar.

Ready to embark on your career in the pastry arts? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.


In a new video from ICE and Direct Eats, Chef James Distefano, former executive pastry chef of the acclaimed Rouge Tomate, delves into baking with alternative butters. First, he shares the recipe for a mouth-watering maple butter crepe cake. Then, he shows us how to whip up blondies made with cashew butter, with an added touch of yum from chocolate chips and salted cashew brittle — delicious and (sorta’) nutritious. Finally, for those of you with peanut allergies, Chef James has a new best friend for you — sunflower butter, a great alternative for recipes calling for peanut butter. He uses sunflower butter to bake his sunflower seed financiers, a light, airy and peanut-free sponge-cake with just a hint of vanilla. Grab a whisk and check out this inventive butter exploration, then scroll down for the complete recipes. 

Cashew Butter Blondie
Yield: Makes about 18 1½” x 1½” squares

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 cups cashew brittle
1½ cup chocolate chips
6 ounces unsalted butter, lightly softened
⅓ cup salted cashew butter
2 cups light brown sugar
2 cups sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Stir together the all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Combine about two tablespoons of your dry mix with your salted cashew brittle and your chocolate chips in a separate bowl and set this aside as well.
  • Place the lightly softened butter, cashew butter and both sugars in to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on to medium speed and allow the mix to blend sufficiently until it is light and fluffy and well mixed. It should not look waxy.
  • Combine the vanilla extract with the eggs.
  • Turn the mixer down to low speed and slowly add the eggs to the mixer (one at a time) making sure the egg is fully absorbed into the sugar base. Repeat until all of the eggs and vanilla have been incorporated.
  • Add all of your dry ingredients (not including the brittle and chips) and mix on low until barely combined.
  • Turn the mixer off, add in the bowl containing the brittle and the chips and turn machine back on and mix until no flour is visible.
  • Spread blondie batter onto your prepared baking tray. Be sure to spread the batter evenly.
  • Bake the blondie for approximately 25-30 minutes or until the blondie is firm to the touch with a golden brown color.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to fully cool (overnight is best) prior to cutting.
  • Cut into small 1 ½ x 1 ½ inch squares and store in an airtight container for up to three days.

For the salted cashew brittle:
Yield: Makes 3 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
¾ cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
¼ stick unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1⅔ cups cashews, toasted (toast for 7 minutes at 350°F)
½ teaspoon baking soda

Preparation:

  • Line a baking tray with a nonstick silicone mat.
  • Place sugar, light corn syrup, water, butter and salt in a medium sauce pot. Gently stir to combine.
  • Bring syrup to a boil over low to medium heat. Be sure to wash the sides of your pot down to prevent the sugar syrup from crystallizing. To do this, dip a pastry brush into a small container of water and apply the wet brush to the sides of the pot.
  • Once the syrup comes to a boil, insert a candy thermometer and allow the syrup to cook until it reaches 300° F. Once it reaches 300° F, turn the flame off and remove the pot from the stove. Be sure NOT to stir the syrup as it boils.
  • Stir in your vanilla extract and the toasted cashews.
  • Wait about 30 seconds before stirring in the baking soda. The addition of the baking soda helps aerate the brittle and gives it a more delicate bite.
  • Pour the hot brittle on your prepared baking tray and, working quickly, spread the brittle as thin as you can with a buttered spatula.
  • Allow the brittle to cool sufficiently before breaking it apart into small, bite-size pieces.
  • Store the brittle in an airtight container for up to two days.

 

Sunflower Seed Financier
Yield: Makes about 15-18 3” cakes

1½ sticks unsalted butter
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
½ tablespoon salt
1¼ cup egg whites (about 8-10 eggs)
4 tablespoons sunflower seed butter
⅔ cups sunflower seeds, toasted (toast for seven minutes at 350° F)
3½ cups powdered sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¾ cup dried cranberry

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. (If using a convection oven, lower your temperature down to 325° F with low fan.)
  • Prepare your molds or baking tins with cooking spray, or butter
  • Place butter, vanilla bean and salt into a small pot and begin to melt over a very low flame.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together your egg whites and sunflower seed butter to form a smooth paste. Set aside.
  • Combine the toasted sunflower seeds, powdered sugar, all-purpose flour and the cornstarch in the bowl of a food processor process until the sunflower seeds are finely ground.
  • Place the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  • Add the egg white-sunflower paste and whisk to evenly combine and form a stiff batter. Turn the speed down to low while you check on your melting butter on the stove.
  • Increase the flame on your melting butter and continue to cook the butter until the butter begins to turn a deep golden brown and gives off a nutty aroma. Whisk the butter to incorporate the toasting milk solids at the bottom of the pot and continue cooking until it foams. Once the butter is a dark, amber brown, turn the flame off.
  • Turning back to the stand mixer, increase the speed to medium and steadily pour the browned butter into the bowl containing the cake batter.
  • Once all of the butter has been incorporated, turn the mixer on high to thoroughly blend all of your ingredients.
  • Turn the machine off and using a piping bag or spoon, divide the batter into your prepared molds.
  • Garnish the individual cakes with some dried cranberries.
  • Bake the cakes at 350° F until they are golden brown around the edges and gently spring back when lightly touched.
  • Allow the cakes to cool in their molds for 15 minutes before unmolding on to a clean tray or plate. Cakes will last up to one day in an airtight container.

Maple Crepe Cakes
Yield: Makes 1 cake

For the crepes batter:
Makes about 30 crepes

Ingredients:

⅞ cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup oat flour
1½ teaspoons sea salt
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon maple butter
1⅓ tablespoons maple syrup
1½ cups milk
5 eggs
¼ stick butter

Preparation:

  • Crack the eggs and whisk them together with the whole milk, maple butter and maple syrup. Reserve in a pitcher and keep cold.
  • Combine your dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, oat flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
  • Create an opening in the center of the bowl and begin to slowly pour your liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients a little bit at a time to avoid any lumps from forming. The batter will be very stiff initially; however, as you incorporate more liquid it will begin to thin out. Use all of your liquid, making sure to avoid any lumps from forming.
  • Melt the butter in a small pot then whisk the warm butter into the crepe batter. Stir to evenly combine.
  • Strain the crepe batter through a large mesh strainer making sure to remove any large lumps in the process. Store the crepe batter in an airtight container for up to two days.

To make the crepes:

  • Gently heat a nonstick pan or a cast iron pan over low heat. Allow the pan to sufficiently warm up.
  • Spray pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Using a small ladle, add some crepe batter to the pan and quickly rotate the pan to evenly coat the bottom in a thin layer.
  • Cook the crepe until the batter has set and it begins to curl up around the edges. Flip the crepe over (you can use a small rubber spatula for this) and cook the other side. The whole cooking process for one crepe is roughly two minutes.
  • Place crepes onto a parchment-lined baking pan in a single layer, cover with another sheet of parchment paper and repeat until all of the crepe batter has been used.
  • Wrap the crepe-filled baking pan with plastic and refrigerate until you are ready to use them.

 

For the pastry cream:
Yield: Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

2 cups milk
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
4 egg yolks
½ stick + 1 teaspoon butter
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation:

  • Whisk together the cornstarch and the sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.
  • Place the milk into a medium pot and slowly bring to a boil over a low flame.
  • Whisk the whole eggs into the cornstarch mixture, then whisk in the egg yolks.
  • Pour one third of the boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to thoroughly combine. Return the remaining milk mixture to a boil.
  • Whisk the egg mixture into the remaining boiling milk. Make sure to whisk and stir with a spatula until the pastry cream comes back to a boil. Maintain the boil for another minute, whisking and stirring continuously with a spatula to avoid any scorching.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract.
  • Pour the pastry cream onto a plastic wrap-lined baking pan and spread it out into a thin layer. Place another piece of plastic wrap directly touching the hot pastry cream so it doesn’t form a skin. Poke a few small holes with the tip of a small knife in the plastic to vent out some of the steam.
  • Place the pastry cream in the refrigerator until it cools down and feels cold to the touch.

To assemble the layered crepe cake:

  • Place a crepe on a clean flat plate.
  • Spread enough pastry cream onto the crepe to evenly coat it without it being too gloppy or overly thick. There should be just enough pastry cream on there to thinly and evenly coat the crepe.
  • Place another crepe on top of the pastry cream and gently and evenly press down to “glue” the crepes together.
  • Repeat steps two and three until you have used 17 layers of crepes and 16 layers of pastry cream.
  • Once the layered crepe cake has been built, wrap with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight so it can set firm. When ready to serve, top with maple-glazed bananas (recipe below).

For the maple-glazed bananas:
Yield: Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter
2½ tablespoons maple butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
⅓ cup maple syrup
¼ teaspoon sea salt
5 ripe bananas

Preparation:

  • Melt the butter in a 12” sauté pan over a medium-low flame.
  • Stir in the maple butter, vanilla extract, light brown sugar, maple syrup and the sea salt.
  • Bring this mixture to a boil and allow to boil for one minute.
  • Peel the bananas and cut them into half-inch slices.
  • Immediately place the bananas into the maple-butter mixture and glaze the bananas for one minute in the hot mixture.
  • Remove the crepe cake from the refrigerator and generously spoon the maple-glazed bananas on top of the crepe cake, allowing the maple glaze to run down the sides of the cake.
  • Cut the cake into wedges and serve immediately.

Ready to master pastry & baking with Chef James? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs. 

By James Distefano – Chef Instructor, School of Baking & Pastry Arts

When I was the executive pastry chef at the original Rouge Tomate, my job was to incorporate more fruits and alternative grains into my baking while cutting back on the refined sugar and flours. I saw this directive as a positive challenge — one in which I could expand both my knowledge of ingredients and also my palette.

My medjool date sticky toffee pudding is a great example of this. It combines sweet medjool dates with whole wheat and buckwheat flours. Using the dates allowed me to cut back on the sugar and still retain the cake’s sweet decadence. I added a touch of cocoa powder to play into that richness while counterbalancing with the cocoa powder’s bitter qualities. Finally, I topped it off with a little banana caramel sauce. You might think that’s bananas, but who doesn’t love a date on Valentine’s Day?

sticky_pudding

Medjool Date Sticky Toffee Pudding
Servings: Makes about 8-10 servings.

Ingredients:

170 grams medjool dates, pitted
6 grams vanilla extract
10 grams baking soda
392 grams water
85 grams butter
227 grams dark brown sugar
75 grams eggs
122 grams all-purpose flour
85 grams whole-wheat flour
14 grams buckwheat flour
56 grams cocoa powder
6.3 grams baking powder
1.5 grams salt

Preparation:

  • Heat oven to 350° F.
  • Place the dates, vanilla extract and baking soda in a medium-size bowl and set aside.
  • Bring the water to a boil, then pour over the dates and cover with plastic wrap to soften them. This should take about five minutes.
  • Once the dates have softened, puree them into a smooth paste utilizing a blender. Set this loose date paste aside.
  • In a bowl fitted for an electric mixer, cream the butter and dark brown sugar on medium speed until it is light and fluffy.
  • Turn machine down to low speed and gradually add the eggs.
  • Alternately add your dry ingredients and the loose date paste, beginning and ending with your dry ingredients until all of the dry ingredients and the date paste have been incorporated.
  • Portion batter into individual molds and bake at 350° F until set. They will feel lightly firm with a soft spring to them.
  • Allow them to cool to room temperature before unmolding.
  • Serve with Banana Caramel (recipe below) or store until ready to serve. These cakes will last up to one day stored in an airtight container.

Banana Caramel Sauce                  

Ingredients:

75 grams granulated sugar
375 grams banana (about 3), very ripe, chopped into small pieces
125 grams whole milk
125 grams heavy cream
3 grams vanilla extract
1.5 grams salt

Preparation:

  • In a small pot heat the whole milk and heavy cream. Set aside.
  • In a second small pot, begin caramelizing the granulated sugar utilizing the dry sugar method.
  • Once all of the sugar has been added to the pot, allow it to turn a deep amber color, right before it begins to smoke.
  • Add the chopped banana to the caramelized sugar and gently stir, allowing the bananas to cook in the hot caramel for one minute.
  • Deglaze the pot with the warm milk/heavy cream and simmer the caramel sauce for five minutes.
  • Place the banana caramel into a blender and begin to process, making sure the blender is on its lowest setting first.
  • Gradually increase the speed until the blender is on its highest setting. Blend for 30 seconds more.
  • Strain the banana caramel through a chinois and immediately chill over an ice bath until it is cold.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

This is a great sauce for the Date Sticky Toffee Pudding and for just about anything else you’d serve with a traditional caramel sauce.

Sweet tooth piqued? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

You know you should be drinking more tea. Heaps of it. But what you probably don’t realize is how creative you can get with tea, especially in its powdered form. That’s why, in a new video from ICE and Direct Eats, Chef Jenny McCoy shows us how to make three sweet and tasty dishes using tea powder: Tropical Tea Ice Cream Sandwiches with Pineapple and Macadamia Nut Cookies, Chai White Hot Chocolate with Chai Marshmallows and Green Tea Cake with Raspberries. Check out the video to see how Chef Jenny gets it done, and then keep scrolling to get the complete recipes.

Tropical Tea Ice Cream Sandwiches with Pineapple and Macadamia Nuts
Servings: makes 12 servings

For the tropical tea ice cream:

Ingredients:

2 cups milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup sugar, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons tropical tea powder
5 large egg yolks
Ice bath

Preparation:

  • In a large bowl, whisk the yolks and ¼ cup of the sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
  • Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.
  • In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, cream, ¼ cup of the sugar, salt and tropical tea powder to a full, rolling boil. Slowly pour the hot liquid over the egg yolks, whisking constantly as to prevent the eggs from curdling. Set the bowl over the ice bath and stir until cooled to room temperature. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and freeze in ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and let freeze for at least four hours to set.
  • To assemble the ice cream sandwiches, place one scoop of ice cream between two pineapple-macadamia cookies (recipe below). Serve immediately or store in the freezer for up to four hours before eating.

For the pineapple and macadamia nut cookies:

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups rolled oats
1 cup macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
½ cup dried pineapple, roughly chopped

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and dark brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Slowly add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and mix until well combined. Add the oats, nuts and pineapple, and mix until just combined.
  • Evenly drop heaping tablespoons of the batter on to the prepared baking sheets, and gently flatten the cookie dough. Bake until light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on the pans until at room temperature before filling with ice cream.

Chai White Hot Chocolate with Chai Marshmallows
Servings: makes 4 servings

For the chai white hot chocolate:

Ingredients:

4 cups milk
2 teaspoons chai tea powder, or to taste
2 pinches salt
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preparation:

  • In a medium pot, combine the milk, chai tea and salt together and bring to a simmer. Remove from the stovetop, add the chocolate chips to the hot mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour into cups and garnish with chai marshmallows (recipe below).

For the chai marshmallows:

Ingredients:

½ cup cold water, divided
4 ½ teaspoons powdered gelatin
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons chai tea powder
½ cup powdered sugar, to coat
½ cup cornstarch, to coat

Preparation:

  • Lightly coat an 8×8-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine ¼ cup of the water and vanilla extract. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the surface of the water and vanilla and stir to combine. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer, fit with the whip attachment, and mix on low speed.
  • Meanwhile, combine the remaining ¼ cup of water, sugar, corn syrup and salt in a small saucepan. Fit the pan with a candy thermometer. Over medium-high heat, cook the mixture until it reaches 245° F. Immediately remove the cooked sugar mixture from the stovetop and slowly pour into the stand mixer while running on low speed.
  • Increase the speed of the mixer to high, add the chai tea and whip until light, fluffy and just slightly warm. Immediately transfer the marshmallows to the prepared pan and let stand overnight to set.
  • Combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Cut marshmallows with a knife lightly coated in nonstick cooking spray. Toss the cut marshmallows in the sugar and cornstarch mixture. Store in an airtight container for up to five days.

Green Tea Cake with Raspberries
Servings: makes one 9×5-inch loaf pan

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
5 teaspoons green tea powder
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups cake flour, sifted
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 325° F. Lightly spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and green tea powder until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Slowly add the flour and baking soda, and mix until well combined. Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix until smooth. Gently fold the raspberries into the batter.
  • Transfer the batter into the loaf pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cake from the pan and let cool on a rack. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to three days.

Have a sweet tooth for the pastry arts? Click here for more information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.