By Caitlin Gunther

In New York, the bagel capital of the world (nice try, Montreal), it’s only proper that the best culinary school offers an exclusive course in bagel making—which is why I found myself aproned and wrist-deep in flour on a Monday afternoon at the Institute of Culinary Education. With a mission to learn the art of making the city’s favorite breakfast food, I signed up for a course in bagels, pretzels and bialys. The class, a mix of culinary students and recreational bakers like myself, was led by ICE’s dean of bread baking and Balthazar’s founding bread baker, Sim Cass. The London native has been deemed the “prince of darkness” for his role in introducing dark-crusted sourdough to this side of the pond. He has a passion for dough and an encyclopedic knowledge of all things leavened. One class with Chef Sim will quash your fear of homemade bagel making.

bagel course at ICE

(credit: Casey Feehan @caseyfeehan)

While mixing, rolling, boiling and baking, I picked up some nuggets of bagel-making wisdom. Here are my top preparation tips for the next time you’re at home and looking for the perfect vehicle for your cream cheese and lox.

  1. Moisture: Wetter dough means crispier bagels. Contrary to what you’d expect, the higher the water content in your dough, the crispier your bagel. In the end, it’s a matter of preference, so don’t be afraid to tweak to your liking. Though the recipe we used called for 62.4% hydration, we lowered it to 60% in order to make chewier, less crispy bagels (that is, 540 grams of water, rather than 570 grams).
  2. Water temp: The colder the better. Due to the time constraints (four hours to get through bagels, pretzels and bialys) we used lukewarm water to mix our bagel dough. This activates the yeast faster. Ideally though, your water should be cold. If you have a couple hours to let your dough rest and rise, use cold water. And if later in the process, your dough is misbehaving (i.e., you’re having trouble kneading or shaping it) refrigerate it briefly and try again.
  3. Dry active yeast: Let it chill. Those tiny granules of yeast are going to have to do a lot of work; without them, your bagels would be mere bagel chips. Be kind to your yeast and give it a moment to rest once you add it to the water. Resist the urge to vigorously whisk the yeast and let it sit on the water surface and start its yeasty magic for three minutes before moving on to the next step.
  4. Flour: Embrace the gluten. Let’s step back for a moment. You’re eating a bagel. Is it really the time to start cutting back on gluten by using whole-wheat flour? But seriously, your bagel dough is going to be pulled and stretched and rolled and boiled—it needs lots of gluten for elasticity. According to Chef Sim, even so-called “whole-wheat” bagels have just a small percentage of whole-wheat flour. (Side note: when it comes to bread, Chef Sim is a rye purest himself. This class made me reconsider my own proclivities towards the whole wheat.) So unless you have a serious intolerance, just commit to having a bagel with full-gluten flour (we used about 87% high-gluten flour and 13% all-purpose flour).
  5. Mixing: Low and slow’s the way to go. To achieve that smooth, stretchy texture necessary for your bagel shaping, mix your dough using an electric mixer with a hook attachment at low speed. Think: 3 and 3. Three minutes of mixing on the lowest speed then three minutes on the second-to-lowest speed.
  6. The rise: Your kitchen climate is A-okay. According to Chef Sim, there’s no need to fret about the warmth or coolness of your kitchen. Nor do you need a special, warmed proofing box to accelerate the rise of your dough. Unless you leave the dough in your garden in the snow (Chef’s words, not mine), it’s going to rise.
  7. Flavor kick: After the proof. Once your dough has had the chance to “proof” (the baker’s term for the final rise before dough shaping), it’s time to add flavors that will be baked into the bagel, if any: cinnamon-raisin, blueberry, honey, sun-dried tomato, anchovies (weird, but I don’t know, maybe that’s your thing). Just make sure if you’re adding something oily, like sun-dried tomatoes, pat them dry to soak off excess oil—we don’t want that messing with our perfect dough. bagel-shaping
  8. Shaping: Think empanadas. Here’s the breakdown of shaping your bagel. Measure 4 ounces of dough and form it into a flat rectangle (here is where you would fold in your flavorings, if any). Then, fold the dough into an empanada shape, pinching around the edges. With generously floured hands, roll your dough to about 10 ½ inches with thin ends (like a snake). Dab cold water on one end and connect to the other to make a circle. Then roll that part to create a sealed seam.
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  9. Spa treatment: A brief boil, then an egg wash. The boiling before baking step is crucial to get that firm, crisp crust and a chewy interior. Using a spider or spatula, gently place your bagels in simmering water (not a rolling boil) for twenty seconds and remove to a lightly oiled sheet pan. Using a brush, treat your boiled bagels to a luxurious egg white wash to ensure that shiny crust.
  10. Toppings: You rule. The beautiful thing about making your own bagels is the freedom to add whichever toppings you want. I am in LOVE with everything bagels. I am NOT in love, however, with caraway seeds, and I wasted countless hours of my childhood flicking every last caraway seed off my everything bagels with cream cheese and butter (don’t judge). When you make your own bagels, you lord over your toppings with no restrictions. Salt bagel with toasted garlic? Go for it. Poppy, pumpkin and sesame seeds? Why not! You’ve done all the hard work—now it’s time to have fun.

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Place your bagels into a convection oven preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (or 400 degrees if using a non-convection oven), bake for 20 minutes and get ready to schmear your heart out.

Hankering for homemade bagels? Click here to check out ICE’s recreational baking courses.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

Kate Edwards 1The Odeon. Balthazar. Per Se. Le Cirque. When it comes to life behind the scenes at New York City’s highest temples of gastronomy, Kate Edwards has seen and done it all. Today, she’s sharing nearly 30 years of restaurant experience—from serving celebrities to delivering expert industry advice as a restaurant consultant—with Culinary Management students at ICE.

Before Kate was recruited by Manhattan’s hottest restaurateurs for her impeccable sense of service and savvy staff training strategy, she was simply a college graduate seeking to start a career in music and theater. “In theater, you study a little bit of everything,” Kate explains, “which planted the seed of being a multitasker and defined the way my mind works.”

Her first job in the city was waitressing at The Odeon—the see-and-be-seen brasserie of 1980s New York—which opened her eyes to other possibilities in the industry and helped her land a job as hostess at Brian McNally’s Royalton Hotel. After a few months serving such regulars as Anna Wintour and Madonna, Kate had learned the ins and outs of how to seat a room, plan a menu and manage the wishes of high profile guests. Kate says, “Relationships with restaurant guests last. You’ll see them again and again over the course of your career. It’s something I’m incredibly fond of.” Soon enough, she was promoted to maitre d’—a mark on her resume that thenceforth served as a professional passport to roles at the city’s best restaurants.

In 1997, Kate joined the team at Keith McNally’s new hotspot, Balthazar, just two weeks after opening to unprecedented buzz and acclaim. Having missed the professional training that benefitted the rest of the staff, Kate became acutely aware of the specific requirements of successful staff training—the area of restaurant management that ranks as her primary specialty today. Meanwhile, Kate had developed a foothold in the music industry as a jazz and R&B singer, but at Balthazar, she realized that working in restaurants was no longer a way to support her musical ambitions—it had become her career.

The bustling scene at Balthazar. Photo Credit: Taste Savant

The bustling scene at Balthazar. Photo Credit: Taste Savant

Kate eventually decided to trade in her two-career lifestyle and applied for a management job at one of the city’s most ambitious fine dining establishments: Per Se. Just five days after opening, the hotly anticipated restaurant was closed due to a fire, and Kate was brought on to help facilitate the postponed reopening. It was a time that Kate remembers acutely, a transition from “the Maitre D’iva” at Balthazar to the new kid, all amongst the stress of a highly-anticipated restaurant whose momentum had come to a screeching halt. “You learn the most when you’re struggling just to make it to the next day,” Kate explains.

Per Se was one of the wildest rides of Kate’s career, a more-than-full-time gig that took up every waking second. So after two years, Kate took a step back—both to plan her wedding and to reconsider her next move. Her inspiration came during a stint at Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s Town Restaurant, while working in management alongside a group of consultants. She realized there, that with all her varied roles and experiences, she had more than a lifetime’s worth of restaurant wisdom to offer.

The pristine, high end kitchen at Per Se.

The pristine, high end kitchen at Per Se.

Her first consulting opportunity came from the newly relocated Le Cirque—which meant Kate would be working alongside New York City’s most legendary maitre d’, Sirio Maccioni. At Le Cirque, Kate’s role was to absorb 30 years of accrued, anecdotal excellence and standardize procedures for a brand new staff. Reflecting on the specific challenges of the experience, Kate reflects, “Always listen to your team. They see things from a different perspective—and can help you do your job. Especially when it comes to the quality of your service and your product.”

Since then, Kate has worked with an impressive list of diverse clients, from Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare and Il Buco to Haven’s Kitchen and the Plaza Hotel. She notes that the “ultimate compliment” has been receiving multiple contracts from the same clients—a testament to her dedication and talent.

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Kate conducting an interactive Culinary Management seminar with three other instructors.

Over the past seven years, in addition to growing her consulting business, Kate has served as a guest lecturer and lead instructor in ICE’s Culinary Management program, helping students reach the next level in their own dynamic careers. “Teaching challenges what you know,” Kate adds. “People come from different walks of life and really open your mind.”

Reflecting on her own winding, dynamic career path, Kate shared some of the advice she gives to Culinary Management students regarding their professional development: “Look for diverse, challenging experiences in your career. People tend to comment on how ‘calm’ I seem for this business. But once you’ve tackled the high volume of Balthazar and the high expectations of Per Se, you become a real professional and learn to hold yourself with a certain degree of poise.”

Want to study with Kate? Click here to learn about ICE’s Culinary Management program.

By Carly DeFilippo

The British baker who shaped the future of New York City’s bread

 

When UK-born Chef Sim Cass first arrived in New York City, the craft of artisanal bread was just beginning to take shape in America. As the founding baker of Balthazar Bakery, Sim’s deeply toasted, crusty loaves earned him the nickname “prince of darkness” and introduced a new benchmark for the city’s aspiring bakers.

sim5Seventeen years later, Balthazar Bakery continues to inspire our nation’s now widespread passion for hand-crafted, naturally fermented loaves, and Sim serves as a bread consultant for some of the world’s most respected restaurants and bakeries. He has been featured in such outlets as the New York Times, Food Arts magazine and the Martha Stewart show. Most recently, he developed the curriculum for ICE’s exclusive Techniques and Art of Professional Bread Baking program, which launched in 2013.

 

Yet at the mere age of 13, Sim was not unlike our young ICE students—eager to leave school and work with his hands. His first job was at a butcher’s shop in London, and by age 16 he had enrolled in a full-time baker’s apprenticeship program. After training in the 5-star kitchens of the Carlton Tower and Park Lane hotels, Sim took a job on board the cruise ship SS Arcadia, working the overnight shift. At sea, Sim’s passion for bread rose to the forefront, and upon his return to London, he found work at the then famous Maison Bouquillon, crafting breads, pastries, laminates and viennoiserie. His skill also began to be recognized by his peers in the industry, earning a silver medal in the Hotel Olympia International Culinary Competition. 

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Having caught the eye of fellow Londoner Keith McNally—deemed “The Man Who Invented Downtown” by the New York Times—Sim launched his New York City career in the kitchen of Lucky Strike. From 1989 through 2006—when he joined the staff at ICE—Sim remained McNally’s prizewinning baker, crafting the signature loaves that helped cement the restaurateur among the industry’s most influential tastemakers.

Balthazar Bakery's signature miche, emblazoned with a B. (Photo Credit: NJ.com)

Balthazar Bakery’s signature miche, emblazoned with a B. (Photo Credit: NJ.com)

Of McNally’s many properties, it was at Balthazar that Sim’s work really shined. Though there were naysayers who claimed, “You won’t be able to sell that bread because it’s too dark,” Sim and his colleague Paula Oland proudly pushed back with their carefully caramelized loaves and found themselves at the center of a true restaurant phenomenon. To this day, Balthazar reigns among the city’s most popular restaurants and was even featured in the New York Times magazine’s 2013 food and drink issue as a paragon of long-term success.

 

sim4Twenty-five years after Sim’s arrival in New York, the state of bread has changed dramatically. Sim remarks that in France and Germany—long known as the epicenters for artisanal European bread—the mastery of hand-crafted loaves now competes with the mass production of supermarkets’ inferior products. At the same time, American micro-bakeries have raised the bar and gained recognition in international bread baking competitions, most notably for the naturally leavened style that Sim’s work has helped popularize.

 

When asked what it takes to succeed in the field of bread baking, Sim explains, “The Spanish bakers say that once you’ve touched and worked with the dough, you have to go back and touch it again, the feel of it. You’ve got to do the practice—the repetition—and the real joy is in the end result that comes from that repetition.”

 

He may be the “Prince of Darkness,” but judging by the legions of passionate ICE students who have studied under Sim, the future of bread has never looked so bright.

Click here to read an interview with Sim about ICE’s Techniques & Art of Bread Baking program.

Ever wonder what’s cooking at ICE? Five-Course Friday gives you a snapshot of what we are whipping up weekly. Whether you pop in to a recreational class, catch a professional demo or watch the transformation from student to chef, there is something scrumptious happening daily.


Bread baked by Sim Cass, one of the founding bakers of Balthazar


Delicious Focaccia baked in the same bread class as above


Bolognese from Culinary Arts students


Panna Cotta from California Wine Country recreational cooking class


Cake Pops to celebrate graduating Pastry Arts class

Have a delicious weekend!

Whew. ServSafe is now under my belt. My Culinary Management class took the exam early this month and we just got our scores back a few days ago. I’m happy to report that I passed. The refresher course has actually come at an ideal time as I just started a new job at Smith Canteen. My first few days involved trying to figure out how to arrange storage so that we were in compliance with health codes.

In the past weeks, Steve taught us about the restaurant experience for guests and opportunities for us to be great. He included ideas like having the chef visit all of the tables in the restaurant. He said that many people find being able to chat with the chef and be able to convey all of their ideas and concerns directly to the person in charge of the food is a great touch. However, he warned that the chef shouldn’t stand and hover creepily over diners without saying anything, because that becomes a negative experience. Last year, at Le Bernardin, I saw Eric Ripert glide out of the kitchen and come and visit one of the tables. Even though he didn’t visit my table, I remember how the entire dining room atmosphere changed and how thrilled I was to see that he was in the kitchen. More…

In my youth, when life was without obligations, like kids and a mortgage, I would find myself in Paris with nothing but a pocketful of francs and the desire to try every pastry shop I passed. Those were glorious days, with every morning spent searching for the perfect pain au chocolat, each afternoon sitting in the parlor at Ladurée and the evenings devoted to the shops of Hermé and Hévin. I ate my way through Paris and try as I might to enjoy the elegant, intricate creations that each shop presented, I found myself drawn back to the classic French patisserie. The simple elegance of the perfect brioche, millefeuille or Paris-Brest. I didn’t need those chocolate and sugar garnishes, the layers of pâte de fruit and mousse au chocolat. Just give me simple but perfect, and I am happy. Of course I had my favorites and one little guy stood out among the rest. The religieuse, a double decker of pâte à choux, (cream puff dough), filled with crème patissiere (custard), dipped in fondant and piped with buttercream, all in a single flavor, traditionally chocolate or coffee although violet, rose and pistachio are excellent as well. It’s named after its shape, which is said to resemble a nun’s habit. For me, it was like finding a little piece of god.

It’s been many years since I have had the pleasure of enjoying one as they seem to be elusive here in the Big Apple. Now suddenly, out of the blue, they seem to be everywhere. My husband surprised me for our wedding anniversary and we had an elegant if somewhat strange dinner at La Grenouille. The room itself was timeless — I could have been anywhere in Paris, with the gilded ceilings and the gorgeous flowers. The food was classic French, heavy cream sauces and the lesser-known body parts. Truth be told, I could have done without the stuffy service and the waitstaff who kept trying to duck under our table, between our legs to plug in the table lamps that constantly unplugged themselves. (Unbelievably, this was true and it was happening not just at our table but all around us.) But dessert was a lovely surprise, a delicious chocolate soufflé and a near perfect coffee religieuse. I say near perfect because, as a purist, I was disappointed by the vanilla buttercream used to garnish it. I felt it should have been coffee. Still, it was great and we fought over the last bites. More…