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 Tina Whelski

Anything worth having is worth waiting for, and that’s especially true with bread. 

Bread baking, especially when using wild yeast, is a faith-based enterprise,” says Chef Sim Cass, dean of bread baking at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). “You need to believe that the bread will rise. Then you have to have the patience required to get your perfect loaf.”

bread

A patient mindset is just one thing students will learn during Chef Sim’s 200-hour Techniques of Artisan Bread Baking course at ICE.

As the founding baker of Balthazar Bakery, London-born Chef Sim helped introduce New Yorkers to naturally fermented, European-style breads, earning him the nickname “the Prince of Darkness” for his deeply toasted, crusty loaves.

The holy grail of bread baking is to make bread with natural yeast,” says Chef Sim. “This dates back thousands and thousands of years. It’s basically using natural yeast that we get out of the air and growing a starter or a natural ferment to make our bread. That’s the base when you make sourdoughs and your nice rye breads. About half of the breads at Balthazar and Bread Ahead in London [where Chef Sim recently worked] are made with natural ferments. It’s the oldest way, but it is now the way of the best bakeries in the world. We’re all baking with natural ferment.”

Working with natural yeast, however, makes some aspiring bakers nervous.

“People are very intimidated by bread for some reason,” says Cass. “They tend to overthink it. It is difficult because it’s a series of methods to obtain one end product. It’s not like cooking. You have to make it over several days. It’s a series of small actions that end up having a good result.”

bread dough

During his career working in restaurants and bakeries around the world, Chef Sim has come to realize that the relationship between bread and people is really the same everywhere. The only difference is the flour.

“Different places have a hard time getting certain flours, so that’s all that changes,” says Chef Sim. “If you work with bakers in Japan or bakers in Australia or bakers anywhere, they’re all of the same head, which is cool.”

The mistakes people make are also universal.

“The most common mistake that I see is people tend to make bread too warm,” says Chef Sim. “Use cold water. You need to keep the temperature of the dough cool because then it is much more manageable and the bread takes longer to make. More time equals more flavor. I’d say the other big one is you need to develop gluten. The dough must have structure. You really must knead the dough until you have good gluten development.”

Chef Sim’s favorite bread of all time is still Balthazar’s signature Pain de Seigle. He also loves a good levain.

“I like things very simple,” says Chef Sim. “I would be very happy if you gave me a fantastic baguette with some salted butter and ham and cheese or just butter and jam. As time goes by, you find that you want less and less.”

bread

One lesson that Chef Sim has learned from baking bread is “you get a chance to rewrite history every day.” His aim with Techniques of Artisan Bread Baking is to equip students with a broad set of skills, such as shaping (through repetition), understanding proof times, working with dodgy ovens and more, so they can make the right decisions at the right time and maybe even form their own philosophies. Above all Chef Sim wants to teach student the value of being patient.

“Don’t rush,” says Cass. “It’s the rushing that messes everybody up.”

Want to learn bread baking with Chef Sim? Click here for more information on ICE’s Techniques of Artisan Bread Baking program.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

Breaking bread may be the traditional cornerstone of any feast, but I’ve always found it to be one of the more intimidating—and time-consuming—food products to make by hand. Beyond the naturally leavened, French-style bread that consumes so much of the current culinary conversation is a whole world of international loaves—many of which are far easier to recreate at home.

hot bread kitchen flatbreads

In New York City, Hot Bread Kitchen is the leading purveyor of unique global breads. Known as much for their social mission—providing job training to female immigrants, many of whom have gone on to work in the city’s top bakeries—as for their products, HBK has become a staple at the city’s markets and upscale groceries.

I have been a longtime fan of the brand’s Moroccan m’smen—which sells like hot cakes—so I was delighted to learn that the team would be sharing their recipes for the m’smen and other international breads in a hands-on class at ICE.

While anyone can purchase an entire cookbook of Hot Bread Kitchen’s diverse recipes, taking an in-person class with HBK founder Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez and the director of the Bakers in Training program, Karen Bornarth, was incredibly helpful. As Karen walked us through each recipe, she shared tips for home cooks working without a stand mixer and bakery deck ovens. She also explained how those of us with busy schedules could break up the baking process into steps (see “notes” in the recipe below), making the dream of home bread baking all the more possible.

Since that night at ICE, I’ve mixed, shaped and fried several batches of m’smen by hand, without a stand mixer! For this ambitious home cook, the dream of homemade bread is finally a reality, and I can’t wait to test out more of Hot Bread Kitchen’s inspiring international recipes.

Click here for upcoming baking classes at ICE or learn more about our professional bread baking program at ICE.edu/BREAD

m'smen hot bread kitchen cookbook

M’smen

Makes 12 (7-inch/18-cm) squares

  • 4 cups/500 g all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/100 g Semolina, plus more for shaping
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1¾ cups/400 g water
  • 2 teaspoons, plus 6 tablespoons/95 g canola oil, plus more for shaping
  • 6 tablespoons/85 g salted butter, melted
  1. Put the flour, semolina and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the water and 2 teaspoons/10 g of the oil and, with the mixer on low, mix until everything is combined well, about two minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth, shiny, elastic, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about six minutes. (Note: If mixing by hand, gradually incorporate the dough into your dry ingredients in the bowl with a spatula. Once all the water has been added, knead by hand for about two minutes. The dough may look a bit shaggy, but will improve upon resting.)
  2. Generously coat a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Coat a large, smooth work surface with oil (a granite, stainless steel or Formica countertop is ideal). Transfer the dough to the oiled surface. Using oiled hands, form a ring with your thumb and index finger and use it to squeeze off pieces of the dough into 12 equal balls (each should weigh about 3 ounces/85 g). Put the balls on the oiled baking sheet and roll them around so that they’re coated with oil, but keep the balls separate from one another. Put the entire baking sheet in a large plastic bag or cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Note: those with busy schedules can chill dough overnight in the refrigerator. Simply remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator 30 minutes before continuing on to step three.)
  3. Meanwhile, put the remaining 6 tablespoons/85 g oil in a small bowl, add the melted butter and stir to combine.
  4. Re-oil the work surface. Working with one piece of dough at a time, use the palm of your hand to flatten the ball and then continue to apply downward pressure with your palm to stretch it out into a rough circle about 10 inches/25 cm across—so thin it’s nearly translucent.
  5. Using your hand, cover the surface of the dough with 1 tablespoon of the butter mixture and then sprinkle with a dusting (about 1 teaspoon) of semolina. Use a rubber spatula to lightly mark the midline.
  6. Fold the top of the dough circle down so that the edge extends about ½ inch/1.5 cm beyond the line. Repeat that fold from the bottom so that the two edges overlap the center. Then fold in each of the other sides in the same way to form a 3-inch/7.5 cm square. Transfer the m’smen squares to the oiled baking sheet seam side down and let rest for at least 15 minutes. Form the remaining bread in the same manner, warming the butter mixture if it begins to solidify.
  7. Proceeding in the same order in which you formed the bread, put each square on a lightly oiled piece of parchment paper and stretch it with your palm until it has slightly more than doubled in size. If it resists stretching, let it rest a bit more before proceeding. Each finished m’smen should be a 7-inch/18 cm square. Cut the parchment so that it extends just slightly beyond the square. Do not stack the bread as you stretch them—they will stick together.
  8. Heat a large griddle over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles away almost immediately.
  9. You can cook as many m’smen as your skillet or griddle will hold at a time. Lay the bread paper side up in the skillet and then peel off the paper as soon as the bread begins to firm—it will come away easily. Cook the m’smen until it turns first translucent and then brown in spots, two to three minutes per side. Transfer to a wire rack while you continue cooking the rest.
  10. M’smen is most delicious eaten warm, but once cooled it can be stored for up to five days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It freezes well for up to three months. Reheat m’smen for one minute on each side in a hot, dry skillet before serving.

Reprinted from The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook. Copyright © 2015 by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez. Photos copyright © by Jennifer May and Evan Sung. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

 

Bread has never occupied such an important place at the American table. Over the past 20 years, trailblazing artisans have shaped the way we bake, eat and think about bread—none more so than Chef Sim Cass, one of the founding bakers of Balthazar Bakery.

Designed and taught by Chef Sim, ICE’s Techniques and Art of Professional Bread Baking is an immersive, eight-week course designed for current food professionals, career changers or those aspiring to a future in artisanal bread. From mixing to fermenting, shaping, proofing and baking, you’ll master an incredible number of bread styles and learn what it takes to succeed in this growing sector of the food industry.

To learn more, visit ICE.edu/breadprogram.


Little T Baker PortlandBy Carly DeFilippo

ICE alum Tim Healea first came to NYC in pursuit of a dynamic career in journalism and publishing. Yet his love of books took his career in a completely different direction when he encountered Chef Nancy Silverton’s Breads from La Brea Bakery. Today, Tim is among the country’s most celebrated bakers, with numerous honors under his belt—including a spot among Food & Wine’s “35 Tastemakers Under the Age of 35” and a medal from the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie. We caught up with Tim to hear more about his company, Little T Baker, and his dynamic 17-year career in the emerging field of bread baking.

Since you got into the bread industry in 1998, what are the major changes you’ve seen, and how have they created new opportunities for professional bread bakers?
The rise of artisanal bread has paralleled this country’s increasing interest in eating good food and cooking with quality ingredients. It was already happening in 1998, but now the reach is much greater. What I’ve learned about the bakery business is that it’s intensely local. Every neighborhood needs a bakery; it’s where the community meets every morning to say good morning and hear the latest gossip. When people travel and experience quality bakeries, they are thrilled when one opens close to their homes, so there’s still an enormous amount of opportunity for new growth as neighborhoods evolve and change. As a professional baker, the biggest change I’ve seen is the increased availability and variety of quality flours available to bakers—especially whole-grain flours. As we learn more about the health benefits of whole grains, heritage wheat and stone milling, there are more and more flour options for bread bakers to use in their daily production. It’s an exciting time to be baking.

Interview Tim Healea Portland Baker

Photo Credit: StarChefs.Com

You often mention that you were influenced to start a career in bread by Nancy Silverton’s Breads from La Brea Bakery. Are there any other texts or mentors who have shaped your bread philosophy?
Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes and Michel Suas’ Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach are both essential reading for professional bread bakers. Craig Ponsford, who owns Ponsford’s Place in San Rafael, California, has had a significant influence on my perspective as a baker, especially in the area of whole-grain baking. And early on, Didier Rosada and Philippe LeCorre at the National Baking Center in Minneapolis (now closed, unfortunately) taught me an incredible amount about baking technology and technique. It goes without saying that the Bread Bakers Guild of America, the organization of artisan bakers based in Sonoma, California, has also been an essential resource for me.

Baker Tim Healea Interview

Photo Credit: LittleTBaker.com

What role have competitions like the Coupe du Monde played in your personal development?
The Coupe was crucial to my early development as a baker for many reasons. First, we trained for more than a year in all types of bakeries and kitchens with different equipment, so it built my confidence to deal with any issues that might come up during a production shift and made me very resourceful. Second, the repetition of making the same thing over and over again under time and pressure dramatically increased my speed and accuracy in the bakeshop. Third, the competition pushed me to develop a creative point of view, which is essential when developing new products. Finally, it opened me up to the community of bread bakers around the world; it’s always great to be able to consult friends who might have gone through the same problems you’re having in your own bakery.

Baker Tim Healea in the Kitchen

Photo Credit: StarChefs.com

How would you describe your “culinary voice”? 
Primarily, my culinary voice is in collaboration with and in support of the six bakers at Little T. In my professional experience, teams work better together when each member feels like he or she is contributing. So most of the new ideas and products come directly from the front-line production bakers. Oftentimes, I act more as an editor, refining a concept or providing feedback. The collaborative process makes the bakery—which sometimes resembles a bread laboratory, with buckets of yeasts, malts, starters and soakers bubbling away—a more exciting place to work and to visit. In general, we take basic ideas of fermentation and experiment with incorporating various grains and liquids, trying to push breads further and develop new flavor profiles. Some of our latest breads have been made with earl grey tea, candy cap mushrooms, rhubarb syrup, red popcorn and potato chips (not all at once!). It’s fun for the bakers, and it keeps the bakery’s offerings fresh for our regular customers.

What do you think it takes to launch a sustainable career in the bread industry?
We have a sign above our shop’s counter that says, “Flour, Science, Hands & Heart.” For me, these are the essential requirements for a baker: to use basic ingredients, to have an understanding of fermentation and baking technology, to have the hand skills to shape effectively and efficiently, and to love baking. The last one might be most important. Baking isn’t a glamorous job. The hours are pretty rough; it’s hot and sweaty; there’s a lot of lifting, and it’s not especially lucrative. But if you can’t imagine not baking and it’s the way you express yourself, then it’s the right thing for you to do.

Eager to launch a career in bread baking? Click here to learn about ICE’s Techniques and Art of Professional Bread Baking Program.

By Michael Laiskonis, ICE Creative Director and Instructor—Advanced Pastry Studies

Over the past twenty years, rarely a week has gone by that I haven’t felt the sudden urge to put my hands into dough. It was the experience of working with bread, back when I was an art student, that unexpectedly pulled me into a life of professional cooking. At some point during those early days there was a critical moment— a turning point—when I realized that bread dough is a living, breathing thing; the baker is merely a facilitator, creating the right conditions for each humble unbaked loaf to transform itself into the very staff of life.

'Grigne' - Whole Wheat

Close-up of “grigne”, the lip of crust on an artisanal loaf of bread.

When we reflect upon the fact that bread is the product of just four basic ingredients—flour, water, salt and yeast—and the variability of what we can coax from their sum (let alone the fact that it becomes anything edible at all), it’s enough to make your head spin. It’s easy to imagine how a young mind, like mine, could be seduced by this transformation, leading to a life-long pursuit of food and cooking in general.

Over time, as my focus shifted to that of a busy pastry chef in a restaurant kitchen, I had less time and space to pursue my interest in bread. When I pick up a smooth ball of dough, sensing its stage of development, shaping it into the loaf it will become, I discover physical memories apart from those of the mind. Just like riding a bicycle or tying your shoes, your body remembers certain movements without thinking. When you fall out of practice with anything, revisiting it feels awkward for a few moments, and yet it comes back and “takes you back” in turn.

My New 'Old' Starter

Sourdough starter

Though my bread skills may have become a bit rusty, I recently had the occasion to circle back to that early career catalyst. It’s a long story, but as a result of a serendipitous Twitter conversation, I found myself on a train headed to Boston to retrieve a small lump of sourdough starter. The starter itself was born some fifteen years ago—in Alaska—and Boston just happened to be its temporary home until I retrieved it. While there may be myth, legend and romanticism surrounding old starters that are continuously fed for decades, my “legitimate” sample came from a busy baker, Carri Thurman of Two Sisters Bakery in the small town of Homer, AK. I have created starters before (and neglected them, too), but here was a chance to see how one might change in a new cross-continental environment and—at the very least—to continue nurturing it out of a sense of baker’s sentimentality.

Whole Wheat

Whole wheat loaf

With just a few feedings of flour and water, the starter quickly sprung back to life after a month of dormancy. Not only did I want to experiment with my new (old) starter, but I liked the general idea of revisiting bread purely for my own amusement. I began with some simple pain au levain, both conventional and rye, and gradually moved on to baguettes, whole wheat, pain au lait and more—all the while rediscovering that bread-borne muscle memory in my hands and giving it ample exercise.

Pain au Lait

Pain au Lait

The experience also quickly reminded me of that other crucial ingredient of bread making: time. Especially when working with wild yeast and spontaneous fermentation, one realizes that bread dough transforms on its own schedule, requiring the baker to intuitively judge the moment it is finished mixing or when it is ready to bake. It’s been said by many bakers that bread’s mystical nature requires a zen-like patience—something I’ve had to re-learn after so many years working in busy restaurants!

Baguettes

Baguettes

My hectic summer schedule has limited me to one bread session each week, but I’ve continued to monitor my starter and sustain it with regular feedings, much like a responsible “parent.” But for all the patience and time that it requires, this return to bread has renewed my interest in the baking rituals that helped determine my path as a cook and chef all those years ago. Thankfully, there still remains much more to discover!

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. 

sim1

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.

 

By Sharon Ho, Pastry Arts Student 

While my first module as an ICE pastry student contained mostly lectures and cooking demonstrations, my second module (“Mod 2” as we students refer to it) was much faster paced and hands-on. Our mission? Bread baking—which requires some seriously vigorous work. It’s all about speed, efficiency and the ability to produce mass quantities of bread without sacrificing quality.

It’s been about a week and a half since we have started this mod and although it’s been hectic, it’s been tons of fun. Sure, there’s a lot more to do than normal and it’s a little more tense in the kitchen, but in the long run, we are enjoying our time baking bread and watching our amazing creations come to life.

image_00008

Baguettes – Photo by Pastry Student Wang Yuan

So there are a few general terms and processes that every aspiring bread baker should know: rising, fermentation, proofing, gluten and turning. Rising refers to the process of letting the kneaded dough rest, untouched, in a bowl with plastic wrap sealed over top. Fermentation is the process where yeast, dry or fresh, produces carbon dioxide in the dough. This makes the dough “rise” and double in size. Proofing is the step before baking the bread. To proof bread, the bread has to rest in a warm place, either a proofing box or under a couche (a proofing cloth), so that the bread can double in size once again. Gluten refers to the protein produced in dough when it is kneaded thoroughly. To test for gluten, you have to check the dough’s elasticity by holding a thin piece up to light. Ideally, a faint web will be visible. That web is gluten. Finally, turning is an action performed during the rising of dough. Turning seals in the existing carbon dioxide bubbles created from the yeast, allowing for the dough to fully rise.

Chef Sim Cass

Chef Sim Cass

The moment we met our instructor for the bread baking, Chef Sim Cass, we knew this would be a fun mod. We could sense right away that he was a great instructor and a swell guy. Chef Sim attempts to make each class as calm and “zen” as possible. Plus, he makes a mean baguette! Among the things that Chef Sim has taught us so far include the different reactions that yeast produces in varying temperatures of liquids, as well as techniques for making high-quality fresh bread in the form of baguettes and a variety of rolls.

My favorite type of bread we made this week was “the pretzel,” although it took a lot of concentration and practice before I eventually got it right. To properly shape a pretzel, you have to master a fancy twisting motion in mid-air. It’s pretty difficult, but I eventually got the hang of it. Practice makes perfect, right? Bagels were also a blast to make. We had the option of making whole wheat or white bagels, and everyone had their personal preference. Then came the toppings. Oh goodness, the toppings! We had everything from onions to poppy seeds, even rock salt! It was nice to see what different people preferred and how the toppings gave each bagel its own character.

image_00009

Hot Cross Buns – Photo by Pastry Student Wang Yuan

We also made hot cross buns, another personal favorite. The buns looked pretty basic until we learned how to make the cross on them. You would think that the buns were just baked like that, but a lot more work is involved. We used an entirely different kind of batter to make the cross (which we placed on the regular bread right after proofing, and then into the oven to bake). This batter is responsible for creating the pale and beautiful cross pattern across freshly-baked hot cross buns.

My impression of bread baking thus far is that it is a surprisingly simple art with some fairly complex variations. The reactions between certain ingredients and the outcomes are similar to high school chemistry class, minus the chemistry homework (thankfully). As I write this, we’re half way through the mod, so I’m sure Chef Sim has many more tricks up his sleeve to share with us. I’m looking forward to it!

 

By Sharon Ho, Pastry and Baking Arts Student

When people think about culinary school, they often think of a juicy skirt steak or a delicious bowl of fresh pasta. However, at ICE, the true magic happens in the Pastry and Baking Arts classrooms. Tucked away on the 5th floor, the sweet smell of freshly baked bread, cookies and cake fills your nose the moment you step off the elevator. No—it isn’t a savory soup or a meaty pot roast; it’s the sweet stuff.

Finishing Cookies & Chocolates-047

That was my experience when I first set foot in ICE for a tour. I reached the front desk and all I smelled was to-die-for freshly baked bread. Walking past kitchen 501, I couldn’t help but stand there and stare at the dinner rolls that were sitting on the kitchen table. I immediately made up my mind: I would enroll at ICE and eventually open a bakery that smelled exactly like the fifth floor of ICE.

It’s been two weeks since my classes started, and I have learned many of the basics so far. There’s been lessons in sanitation, safety lessons and understanding the uses of different ingredients. I have learned countless things I can create out of sugar, chocolate, milk and fruit puree. Learning that much this quickly can be quite overwhelming at times, but in the long run, it’s worth it. Classes are very hands-on, and Chef Kathryn is both an inspiration and an excellent teacher.

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The first time we actually made something on our own was Lesson 4: Gingersnaps. These cookies are simple, sweet and fragrant. We scooped the gingersnap cookie dough onto sheet pans with an ice cream scoop in order to maintain the size and shape of each cookie. While we were making the cookies, Chef Kathryn made us some hot chocolate. She brewed up two kinds—the American kind, made from cocoa powder and milk, and the European kind, made from actual chocolate and cream. She asked us to taste both and then decide which one we liked better. Of course, one was richer than the other. Can you guess which one was the clear winner?

We also worked on some basic math skills that bakers are required to know, mostly multiplying and dividing. There were some rounding exercises and a few recipe exercises, most of which to figure out how much of a certain ingredient would be necessary if the yield was different from the original recipe. It was definitely quite a bit to take in, but these skills are both useful and essential for bakers.

Pate de fruit

Pâte de fruit

Next came Lesson 5: the apricot pâte de fruit. These are essentially little jelly-gummy hybrid candies that taste like apricot. They are made with lots of sugar and some apricot puree. We made them in bonbon molds, then let them set while Chef Kathryn went over different fruit-related ingredients, such as fruit-based wines, syrups and extracts. She also spoke about jams and jellies. I never knew there were so many types of fruit wine or that so many different extracts could be found in my local supermarket.

So far, it’s been an enjoyable and educational two weeks. The ICE community is incredibly helpful and my classmates are very friendly. It’s nice to know we all have each others’ backs. I can’t wait to start my next class!

 

By Carly DeFilippo

 

The first time I ever ate at Le Pain Quotidien was near the old town market in Nice, France. The cafe was charming, with excellent bread, spreads and other pickings. If you had suggested to me that it was a chain, I would have scoffed in disbelief.

 

And yet, Le Pain Quotidien—whose name literally means “the daily bread”—has become a ubiquitous presence in the food industry, with upwards of 170 locations in 17 countries around the world. In fact, it was in Paris that I first realized LPQ was a chain, and even in that renown bread city with hundreds of independent bakeries, the shop’s cozy tables were always crowded with happy customers.

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This week, ICE students were introduced to the recipes behind the brand’s success by none other than Le Pain Quotidien founder, Alain Coumont. Coumont recounted that he never had direct intentions to open a bakery, let alone establish a global brand. As a young chef in Brussels, Coumont struggled to find high quality pain au levain (also known as a “miche”: a large, naturally leavened sourdough loaf). It made more sense economically to bake 150 loaves per day than the 5 or 6 that Coumont might need at his restaurant, so he opened a tiny storefront to sell the extra loaves.

 

Coumont’s focus on quality product shaped his ambitions from then on, with each shop serving an enviable array of breads, baked goods and prepared tartines. For the first time, aspiring bakers can attempt his noteworthy recipes at home, with the release of Le Pain Quotidien Cookbook. See below a recipe for Coumont’s chia seed muffin, a health-conscious spin on this often demonized breakfast sweet.

coumont muffin

Chia Seed & Banana Muffins

Makes about 15 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 4 small ripe bananas (10oz/275g peeled weight), mashed
  • 1 cup (8oz, 250g) soy yogurt
  • 2/3 cup (5oz/150g) canola or soy oil
  • 3/4 cup (6fl oz/175ml) agave syrup
  • 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar or liquid vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cups (7oz/200g) chia seeds

For the topping: additional chia seeds, 1 banana (sliced on the diagonal)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Line a muffin pan with 12-15 paper muffin liners.
  2. Place banana, yogurt, oil, agave syrup, eggs, salt and vanilla sugar into a bowl and mix to a smooth puree using a fork.
  3. Add the flour and baking powder and stir until just combined—be careful not to overmix or the muffins won’t be light and airy. (You can also use a stand mixer with paddle attachment: put the bananas into the bowl first and paddle briefly to eliminate any lumps, add the liquids and sugar and process for 30 seconds, then add the flour and baking powder and process for another 15 seconds.)
  4. Stir the chia seeds into the mixture using a spatula and let stand for 20 minutes (this allows the seeds to plump, absorbing liquid in the batter).
  5. Pour the batter into the muffin pan, filling each liner to the top, then top with a sprinkle of chia seeds and slices of banana.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, until risen and golden. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire track to cool completely.

Note: Coumont substituted squash for banana and fresh chopped strawberries for the sliced banana topping during his demonstration