In a new video from ICE and PEOPLE magazine, ICE Chef Jenny McCoy
 shares the secret to impressing your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day (hint: it’s CHOCOLATE).

Chef Jenny layers her ultra-rich chocolate cake — with an extra dose of delicious from the addition of espresso — with piles of velvety Nutella-mascarpone frosting and adds an exciting crunch from chopped hazelnuts. What’s more; though it looks and tastes impressive, this simple recipe requires minimal ingredients and no stand mixer or fancy tools — who needs the extra stress on the big day? Trust us: it’ll be love at first bite. Watch Chef Jenny demonstrate how to create the cake in the video below — then keep scrolling for the full recipe and her pro tips for whipping it up at home.

Here are some cake-baking tips from Chef Jenny, so you can stress less about dessert and focus more on giving that romance a chance. We can hear Barry White already…

  1. The components of the cake can be made up to two days in advance and assembled right before serving.
  2. Don’t let the cakes cool in the pans for more that 10 minutes, as this can cause them to shrink and stick to the pans.
  3. Can’t find mascarpone? Swap for cream cheese!
  4. Use the plate and wheeled ring in your microwave as a cake turntable substitute. (Want to see how? Check out this video.)
  5. If you don’t have a pastry bag and pastry tip, just use a spatula to spread the filling over the cake layers.
  6. Lining your cake pans with parchment will ensure they don’t stick — but how to cut a circle of parchment to perfectly fit the size of your pan? Watch this.
  7. Thinking about going pro with your cake deco? Check out ICE’s Professional Cake Decorating Program.

Decadent Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe with Nutella-Mascarpone Filling

For the Dark Chocolate Cake
Yield: Makes two 8-inch round cake layers

Ingredients:

1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
1¼ granulated sugar
1 cup brewed coffee, at room temperature

Preparation:

  • Position rack in center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray. Sift flour, cocoa, espresso, salt and baking soda together in a bowl or onto a piece of parchment.
  • In a large bowl, add eggs, sugar and coffee, and whisk until thickened and light in color. Gradually whisk in dry ingredients until smooth.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer cake pans to a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Gently invert and cool to room temperature before using.

For the Nutella-Mascarpone Filling
Yield: Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:

3½ cups Nutella or chocolate-hazelnut spread
1½ cup mascarpone cheese

Preparation:

  • In a large bowl, fold the Nutella and mascarpone together until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use or up to 3 days. If needed, stir the filling to soften before using.

To assemble:

Ingredients:

1 recipe Dark Chocolate Cake
1 recipe Nutella-Mascarpone Filling
1 cup roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Preparation:

  • Place one Dark Chocolate Cake layer on an 8-inch cardboard cake round. Pipe a 3/4-inch thick layer of the Nutella-Mascarpone Filling, starting at the edge of the cake and working your way into the center. Scatter the top of the filling generously with the chopped hazelnuts. Gently place the second layer of cake on top of the filling. Pipe the remaining filling on top of the cake, swirling into a decorative pattern, and sprinkle with remaining nuts.

Want to take your pastry & baking skills to the next level? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs.

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.

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

I’m nearly two weeks into my resolution to create zero food waste in January, and surprisingly, it’s going well. I expected to be throwing out a lot more food. There have been a few losses — like what to do with the food that my toddler refuses to consume. (I don’t yet have an answer, other than compost.) But there have also been some unexpected wins, like the amazing facial scrub I Instagram’d last week, made from coffee grounds and egg shells. Plus, dinner time is no longer a rotation of the same couple dozen dishes. Everyone in my family is pretty happy.

The biggest secret to my success? My freezer.

Jenny's stock

A while back, I contributed to a great article by Marian Bull for Bon Appétit, “The Right Way to Freeze Basically Everything.” In short: I am obsessed with my freezer. I cannot emphasize that enough. Obsessed. Before my family goes out of town, I freeze anything that might not last until our return. That might mean tossing the whole chicken I didn’t get a chance to roast into a freezer bag. It could also mean putting my half full gallon of milk directly into the freezer, plastic jug and all. I asked my husband to clean out the fridge before we left for our Christmas break and upon returning two weeks later to find brown slimy spinach, I sadly asked, “Why didn’t you freeze that?” He thinks I’m a neurotic food hoarder, but really, I just hate seeing good food get dumped. As the BA article indicates, you can freeze anything. So if you notice something in your fridge inching closer and closer to its expiration date, do something about it! Eat it, or freeze it.

Make This: Kitchen Sink Stock

So what about all of those kitchen scraps? Sure, you can compost them. But why not put them in your freezer, too? Each time I prepare a meal, I toss all my vegetable and meat scraps into freezer bags. Once I have two gallon-sized freezer bags stuffed full, I make stock. I call it my kitchen sink stock. It might have a variety of meat bones — chicken, pork, beef. It might have veggies that most wouldn’t add to stock — broccoli stems and bell pepper seeds. But I don’t mind. I toss it all into my pressure cooker, cover it with water and 20 minutes later have great stock. If it tastes like too much bell pepper to use for a cauliflower soup, I use it for a bean soup. If it’s not as flavorful as I’d like, I use it when I cook rice or couscous. And everything goes in it; from garlic and onion skins to herb stems and kale stalks. I’m sure some chefs will read this and weep, as stock making is a very time-honored tradition and the backbone to many cuisines. But in my case, I just want to avoid spending money on store-bought stock — and cut down on food waste in my own home.

Kitchen sink stock

Then Make These: A Couple of My Favorite Recipes

Once you’ve got your Kitchen Sink Stock made, here are few of the hit dishes I’ve made in the last couple of weeks that put it to good use.

Cream of Stem Soup
Servings: Makes about 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:
1 pound broccoli stems, chopped
1 pound cauliflower stems, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnishing
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery
½ stick unsalted butter
6 cups Kitchen Sink Stock
1 cup cream
Dash or two of nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the chopped broccoli and cauliflower stems in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown and caramelized. Set aside at room temperature until ready to use.
  2. In a large pot, sauté the onion and celery in butter until translucent and tender. Add the roasted broccoli, cauliflower and stock, cover and simmer about 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the mixture in batches to a blender and purée until completely smooth (do not fill the blender completely full and be sure to hold the top on with a kitchen towel to protect your hands — the steam from the hot liquid can push the lid off). Return the mixture to the pot and stir in the cream and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

 

Savory Mushroom Stem and Stale Bread Pudding
Servings: Makes 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients:
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
¾ stick unsalted butter
1 pound mushrooms, sliced with entire stem intact
1 bunch kale, chopped
¼ cup water or stock
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 pound stale bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups crème fraiche or sour cream
8 large eggs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup grated parmesan or gruyere cheese

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish with butter. Place the bread in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a large skillet, sauté the onions, celery and garlic in the butter until translucent and tender. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender and light golden brown. Add the kale, cover and let cook about 2 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to sauté until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Add the sautéed vegetables to the bowl of bread and stir to combine.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the cream, crème fraiche and eggs together until smooth. Add the mixture to the bowl of bread and vegetables and stir until combined. Add the salt and pepper and mix well. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake until golden brown and the pudding slightly puffs, about 1 hour. Let stand about 15 minutes to cool slightly before cutting and serving.

Ready to get into the kitchen with Chef Jenny? Click here for information on ICE’s career programs.

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

For many during the holiday season, we are tempted by indulgences and excess. And come the New Year, we feel sickened by it all. After my December of gluttony, I’ve decided to focus on a less-considered side of overabundance – the excess garbage it can create. I’m not going to join a gym or stop eating cookies. I will definitely not be cutting back on my red wine and red meat. Instead, for my 2017 resolution, I will spend the entire 31 days of January creating zero food waste at home.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will share some tips to prepare myself for the journey ahead. Perhaps, you’ll join me and take the challenge, too?

credit: rick

credit: rick

First Thing First: Get Organized

The easiest way to prevent food waste is to organize your grocery shopping. Here are three things to do before even making your shopping list (never go to the grocery store without a list!):

  1. Inventory: Take two minutes to do a quick inventory of what you already have in your fridge and cabinets.
  2. Count your meals: I always look at my weekly calendar and decide how many nights I plan to cook dinner. I estimate how often my family will be eating food from home, including breakfast and lunch, throughout the week.
  3. Choose a menu in advance: I love spending free time flipping through cookbooks, so I expect this will be the most fun part of my game plan. My family loves leftovers, so I try to pick recipes that serve twice the amount needed per meal. Extra tip: Look for recipes that use ingredients already in your inventory.

To the Grocery Store 

You’re organized, you have your list and you’re ready to shop. Now what? Here are some tips for navigating the grocery store:

  1. Minimize impulses (but keep it real): I can’t resist some impulse shopping, but I’m setting a limit for myself: I will buy 90% of what I need and 10% of what I want. In my cart, that means nine of my purchases are off my list and one random item is a wild card (usually a fancy chocolate bar!)
  2. Be practical about fresh produce: I love purchasing a wide variety of fresh produce — it’s so pretty and colorful! But since I don’t eat the bulk of my meals at home, this usually results in a lot of waste. Fresh fruits and veggies are the most perishable items on my grocery list. So instead of having oranges, bananas, apples, strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe and a pineapple each week, I will remind myself that each visit to the grocery store will not be the last time I see fruit again. Also, stick to purchasing produce that is exclusively in season. By narrowing options, you can lessen your chance of purchasing too much perishable food.
  3. Don’t get sucked into sales: Saving money at the store doesn’t always equate to real savings. Since sales tend to make me over-shop, which results in more food in my trashcan, I shall vow to swap a comparable non-sale item from my list for every sale item I believe I must take advantage of – that way, I’ll buy the non-sale item if I truly think it’s worth it.
  4. Shop the store backwards: This is my absolute favorite way to prevent over-purchasing. Did you know that grocery stores are designed to navigate your shopping experience? The main entrance opens up to the glorious produce section, followed by the bakery or meat department and then the dairy section. Next come the dry goods and, finally, the frozen section. Grocers know that you are likely to select more items when you first walk in the door. As your cart starts to fill, you start thinking about your wallet and cut back your shopping. Grocers want to sell their most perishable products first because it’s the most effective method for reducing food waste in their stores. To defeat this system of subtle marketing, my route will be as follows: Dry goods, dairy, meat, deli, bakery, produce and finally, frozen foods (I don’t want my ice cream to melt!). Though I feel like a salmon swimming upstream, it seriously makes a difference (plus it prevents me from squashing my delicate lettuces and tomatoes — oh wait, no more fresh tomatoes for a while).

We’re organized, we stuck to our list (mostly) and now we’re ready to cart our groceries home. What’s next? Check back soon for my second post, where I’ll share more tips for preventing waste and share my progress.

Want to become a pastry arts pro like Chef Jenny? Click here to learn about ICE’s career programs. 

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

Cranberry season is in full swing, and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, what better time to rethink your cranberry sauce? I find people either love cranberry sauce or don’t like it at all. I happen to be someone who loves it. The bright color on my dinner plate pops against the whites, browns and greens of turkey, stuffing and veggies. The super bright and tart flavor is a much-needed contrast against rich and heavy side dishes (often drowned in gravy). Plus, a schmear of cranberry sauce on a leftover turkey sandwich is a crucial component of one of my favorite lunches.

Each year, I change up my recipe to keep myself excited about the sauce, but also to convert a few family members who are convinced they just don’t like it. I’m sharing a few of my favorite recipes, but before we get into the kitchen, let me tell you a few things about America’s quintessential Thanksgiving fruit.

Cranberries by Casey Feehan

(credit: Casey Feehan – @caseyfeehan)

Cranberries: One of the Most American Ingredients

Wild cranberries have long been consumed by New England’s Native Americans, for some 12,000 years. The fruit is one of a handful of our country’s indigenous fruits. Cranberries thrive in their natural environments; bogs created by glaciers thousands of years ago. Prized for their culinary purposes, cranberries were also used for medicinal purposes and as a dye for textiles.

Though the early European settlers enjoyed them, larger-scale cultivation of cranberries didn’t begin until the early 1800s, when Captain Henry Hall, a revolutionary war veteran, noticed that his cranberries grew best when his bogs were covered in wind-blown sand. He moved his vines to more favorable locations and as his production grew, his method of cultivation spread. Other growers adopted his method of covering their berries in sand, increasing the yields of cranberry production throughout the northeast region, especially in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Harvest Time

Have you ever seen a cranberry harvest? You may recall those cranberry juice commercials featuring farmers in waist-high waders, standing in what looked like a pond covered in cranberries. Well, that’s precisely how cranberries are “picked.” Cranberry bogs are filled with water (up to a couple of feet though, not waist-high) the night before harvest. The vines are then raked to loosen the berries from the plants. The berries float to the surface of the water because they contain little air pockets, allowing them to be collected efficiently.

In 2015, over 840 million pounds of cranberries were produced in the United States. While many of us associate New England with cranberry growing, it is Wisconsin that now corners the market, having produced 60% of the country’s annual yield. With 20% of the annual harvest eaten on one day of the year — Thanksgiving — let’s take a moment to celebrate this most American fruit and discover a few new ways to add cranberries to your Thanksgiving table!

 

Go Raw Cranberry Relish
Servings: yields 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:

One 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
2 tangerines (with peels)
1- to 2-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Preparation:

  • Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and chop until fine.
  • Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days before serving.

 

Smoky Bacon Cranberry Sauce
Servings: yields 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:

One 12-ounce bag of cranberries
1 cup light brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ to ¾ cup cooked bacon crumbles, to taste

Preparation:

  • In a medium saucepan, simmer the cranberries, sugar, orange zest and black pepper until the cranberries have broken down and the liquid has thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Let the cranberry sauce cool to room temperature and stir in the paprika and bacon to taste.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days before serving.

 

Herbed Cranberry Relish
Servings: yields 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:

One 12-ounce bag of cranberries
¼ cup honey
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large bunch parsley, stems removed
3 large sprigs fresh rosemary, stems removed
4 cloves garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ bunch scallions, finely sliced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  • In a medium saucepan, simmer cranberries, honey and sugar until the cranberries have broken down and the liquid has thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Let the cranberry sauce cool to room temperature.
  • In the bowl of a food processor, combine parsley, rosemary, garlic and olive oil. Finely chop, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add additional olive oil, if needed.
  • Stir the chopped herbs and garlic mixture into the cooled cranberry sauce. Add the sliced scallions.
  • Add the red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days before serving.

Want to study with Chef Jenny? Click here for information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program. 


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

As a young girl, my family took many long car rides north from Chicago to visit my aunt’s apple and horse farm in Wisconsin. As we pulled up the dirt driveway, the horses ran to the gate to greet us.

We spent each day of our trip working and visiting. Every morning, the sound of beer cans tied to the trees tinkling in the breeze like wind chimes woke us. (My uncle was convinced that the odor would send away the hungry deer.) We went into the orchard first thing, the better part of the morning consumed by gathering bushel after bushel of apples, my brother and I chasing after the best fruit that had already fallen to the ground. Afterwards, we would treat ourselves to an afternoon ride, with a small sack of apples we had saved for the horses. This was followed by evenings of baking and canning, reserving the apple peels and scraps to press for cider and throw to the dogs. The scent of a McIntosh apple and the loud crunch of biting into a freshly picked fruit, juices running down my chin, immediately takes me back to childhood memories of thick wool sweaters, mud-covered shoes and rustling around in piles of hay in the barn.

heirloom-apples1

(credit: Caitlin Gunther)

Later, after my family chose to let go of the apple farm, my grandfather retired and decided to plant a few trees of his own on a small parcel of land next to his home in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The few trees grew into a dozen or so varieties of apples, which often met their fate on the damp leaf-covered ground, before finding their way into a baking dish. All the same, those apples were just fine and introduced me to what would now be considered heirloom varieties, like Cortland, Keepsake and Paula Red.

Every August, as summer seeps into autumn, I impatiently wait for the branches to hang heavy with apples. I say my annual goodbyes to berries and stone fruit and dream up new recipes for the fall bounty. The picking season for apples can last several months, though in most cold weather regions it’s just a few. By March, before the sweets of spring make their way to farmers’ market stands, I think I’d be the happiest baker if I never ate another apple. But for now, in October, I couldn’t be more content to find myself in the middle of apple season.

So what’s a baker to do with the autumn apples that abound? Bake pies, crisps and cobblers, of course. Press cider and can sauce. Eat them fresh or roasted, with a sprinkle of sea salt and a splash of olive oil. Dip them in caramel and fry them in a fritter. Or bob around the farmers’ market and try heirloom varieties that are new to you. No matter how you choose to celebrate America’s most beloved fruit, be sure to enjoy apple season to its fullest. And don’t forget to share your apple stories and favorite recipes: @iceculinary #AppleSeason2016

Here’s a list of different apples I’ve been fortunate to eat and cook with as a pastry chef, plus some notes on how to use them:

  • McIntosh, Cortland, Gravenstein and Empire apples are my go-to choices for baking. They have a softer texture and aren’t as juicy as other varieties, which makes them perfect for baking in a pie without rendering the bottom crust soggy.
  • Pink Lady, Honeycrisp and Cameo apples are among my favorite apples to sauté and roast. They are crisp enough to withstand high heat and especially sweet, so they caramelize beautifully.
  • Gala, Fuji and Braeburn are excellent all-purpose apples. They are great for eating fresh, but also bake nicely, too. They have a lovely balance of sweet and tart flavor with a crisp texture.
  • Granny Smith is a very popular variety. I don’t, however, love them in sweets. Instead, I find them best suited to savory applications. I enjoy pairing them with rich and creamy cheeses, or slicing them for salads and sandwiches, and my absolute favorite: combining them with gorgonzola and pancetta on my pizza!

Want to study with Chef Jenny? Click here to get more info about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.


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

As the summer nears its end, tables at the greenmarket abound with gorgeous fruits and veggies—produce that will be sadly missed in just a few months time. Yet in the modern kitchen, an age-old cooking technique exists to keep enjoying those summery ingredients during chillier months—preservation.

market peaches

For ages, humans have applied a variety of methods to preserve food, through drying, curing, fermentation, pickling and salting. But in 18th century France, Nicolas Appert, a maverick chef, began researching how to preserve foods in a new way, one that would maintain foods closer to their original fresh state. Initially, he believed that removing the presence of air from stored foods would help them last longer. Though a lesser amount of air can aid the preservation process, he wasn’t quite right. Inspired by a contest organized by Napoleon as a means for feeding the military, Appert continued his food preservation experimentation. Eventually, he found a heating process that could allow foods to remain unspoiled for long lengths of time. A decade and a half of his research resulted in a method we still use today: glass jars filled with foods, then corked and sealed with wax. The jars are then boiled until hot enough to kill microbes that cause food to rapidly spoil, pasteurizing their contents. Appert is credited with the “how-to” of this technique; yet it was later that we learned why it works (thanks, Louis Pasteur). Today we have incredibly easy-to-use canning jars which have screw-top lids and rubber rings in place of cork and wax, which create a vacuum when heated, resulting in a hermetic seal (thank you, John Landis Mason).

mason jars and canning

credit: Casey Feehan

Coming back to the present day, I recently paid a visit to Grand Army Plaza, home of Brooklyn’s largest farmers’ market, and loaded up my son’s little red wagon. Courtesy of the enormous assortment grown by Phillips Farms, I did a one-stop-shop and rolled away with flats of blackberries and blueberries, more than a stone of white nectarines, pluots and Jersey peaches, Kirby cucumbers, serrano chiles and jalapeños, and enough varieties of tomatoes to warrant a separate blog post. My neighbor and I shared the bounty and eight hours of canning commenced. We deviated from the classics and made nectarine-coriander mostarda, blueberry-thyme jam and tomato-peach salsa. But we also honored tradition and made good old peach preserves with a hint of lemon and vanilla bean, garlic and dill spears, blackberry jelly, bread and butter slices, and a pack of pickled peppers. After all the gallons of water boiled and dozens of jars filled, the following recipe stood out from the rest, plus: I’ve included a set of simple steps on how to properly can using the water bath method.

plumcots

credit: Casey Feehan

Recipe: Blueberry-Thyme Jam

Yield: About 4 cups

Ingredients:

2 pints blueberries

2 cups granulated sugar

½ cup water

Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

8 to 12 sprigs of fresh thyme

¼ teaspoon salt

Pectin, as needed

Instructions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, cook the blueberries, sugar, water, lemon zest and thyme until mixture is simmering and berries are broken down.
  2. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens to a jam-like consistency. (For faster cooking, mix 1 teaspoon of pectin with 1 teaspoon of sugar and slowly sprinkle over blueberries while stirring constantly. Allow the mixture to boil for a minute to activate the pectin.)
  3. To test the jam for doneness, drop a small spoonful on a cold plate. If the jam develops a skin once cooled, it is thick enough. If it is too thin, continue to either reduce the jam or add more pectin and sugar until desired thickness is achieved. Can the mixture while it’s hot or let cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to can (using the below steps).

How to Hot Water Bath Can:

  1. Sterilize your canning jars prior to filling. You can do this by placing them in boiling water for one minute (without the lids on!), or by running them through the dishwasher. Wash the lids in hot soapy water. Allow the jars and lids to air dry (do not towel dry as this will negate your sterilization efforts).
  2. Fill your jars with hot, warm or room temperature foods (you can also can cold foods, but they take longer to pasteurize so I don’t recommend it). I suggest filling the jars with really hot foods to speed up the canning process. Also, a canning funnel will make life a lot easier. Gently tap the jars on a hard surface to remove air bubbles.
  3. Be sure to wipe any spills or drips on the edge of the jars with a clean paper towel, as they must be clean and dry before closing. Do not use a kitchen towel or your fingers, as this will introduce bacteria into your sterilized jars. When you screw on the lids, secure them tightly—but not as tight as possible.
  4. Set a metal rack on the bottom of a large pot. (The pot must be at least two inches taller than your canning jars.) If you don’t have a rack, fashion a ½- to 1-inch thick pad made of scrunched up aluminum foil. This helps the jars from being set directly on the bottom of the pot, which causes them to rattle around as they boil.
  5. Fill the pot with water to a couple inches from the top and bring to a rolling boil.
  6. Using tongs, carefully place each jar into the boiling water, allowing at least an inch of space around each jar and making sure that there is at least one inch of water above the tops of the jars. You may need to remove some water if your pot threatens to overflow. Cover the pot.
  7. Once the water has returned to a full, rolling boil, set a timer.
    • For jars filled with hot foods, boil the jars for at least 30 seconds for every ounce. For example, an 8-ounce jar will boil for 4 minutes.
    • For jars filled with room temperature foods, boil the jars for 1 minute for every ounce. For example, an 8-ounce jar will boil for 8 minutes.
  8. Once the timer goes off, carefully remove the jars with tongs and set them on a towel-lined countertop. Let them stand at room temperature until completely cool, up to several hours. Do not touch the lids until they are completely cooled, as you may inadvertently seal them by hand. If you hear snapping sounds, don’t worry—that is the vacuum sealing doing its job. Once the jars are at room temperature, any of the jars that did not seal properly can be stored in the refrigerator and eaten immediately. Otherwise, the rest of the canned goods can be stored in the pantry until the seasons change and you crave deliciously sweet raspberries in the dead of winter.

Want to study with Chef Jenny? Click here to get more info about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.


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

Did you know that the history of the s’more dates back as far as the early 1900s? Or that marshmallows were being roasted in the late 1800s? Or better yet, that the marshmallow is a confection that has been around for over 200 years? If you’re the average marshmallow consumer and not a food historian, that can be hard to believe. The commercially made and mass-produced treats that seem to have a never-ending shelf life feel like a product of the 1950s to me, right alongside Cheez Whiz. However, there’s more to the history of marshmallows.

Jenny mccoy smores

In the briefest way, I shall now tell you the history of the marshmallow:

It began with a plant called “marsh mallow,” which happens to grow in swampy, marshy regions of the world, and has a super sticky, thick, white sap. The sap was mostly used for medicinal purposes, often as a remedy for sore throats. Over time the root of the marsh mallow plant was combined with sugar, making it sweet and perhaps the first rendition of a throat lozenge. Fast-forward many, many years (maybe even centuries), the French decided to transform its purpose as cure into confection. The marsh mallow sap was whipped with egg whites and sugar to create what we now know marshmallows to be—a super sweet, soft, fluffy and, when melted, deliciously addictive gooey treat.

According to Tim Richardson’s account in Sweets: A History of Candy, this mild illness remedy turned fancy French confection occurred in the mid-1800s or so. By the late 1800s, the mallow sap was replaced by a less expensive and more readily available ingredient—gelatin. The gelatin was used as the gelling agent in marshmallows to hold their shape—just as they are made today. This replacement reduced the price of the sweets, making them easily procured by all. Marshmallow roasts became popular activities and groups would gather to enjoy these sweet summertime festivities.

But, who could just stop there? As roasting marshmallows became popular, so did the exploration of their uses. Enter: the s’more.

S'mores

Loretta Scott Crew dubbed s’mores as “Some More” in 1927 in Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts. (If that’s not enough to sign your daughters up for the Girl Scouts, I don’t know what is—so clever, those little darlings!). The recipe directs readers to roast marshmallows on a stick over a campfire and press them between two graham crackers and a piece of a chocolate bar, like a sandwich. The recipe also says something like, “while the recipe is called ‘some more,’ eating one is enough.” (Clearly, the author and I have never met.)

So there you have it. S’mores have been around for a looooooooong time. Still, the original method of making a s’more remains the same. The only thing that has changed, really, is the spelling of its name. I can’t say that for a lot of desserts. So mark your calendars and please raise your twigs in their honor, because Wednesday, August 10th is National S’mores Day.

For a fancier twist on s’mores, grab a copy of my latest cookbook, Modern Eclairs: And Other Sweet and Savory Puffs, for a yummy s’mores eclairs recipe!

Want to study with Chef Jenny? Click here to learn more about our award-winning Pastry & Baking Arts program.

By Chef Jenny McCoy

July Fourth-fetti Cake

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.

The number of steps may seem daunting, and this recipe does take some finesse—but don’t let that stop you! They don’t call me “Chef” for nothing, so here are some of my favorite pro tips for success:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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

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

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly spray three eight-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

 

Lemon-Almond Simple Syrup

Makes ½ cup

Ingredients

½ cup simple syrup

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 teaspoons lemon extract

 

Preparation

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

 

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

  1. 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

  1. 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.
  1. 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 with our ICE instructors? Get more information about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

Jenny McCoy Ganache Chocolate Pastry

Photo Credit: Pernille Loof


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

Ganache—which calls for only two ingredients, heavy cream and bittersweet chocolate—is one of the easiest and most fundamental recipes in a pastry chef’s repertoire. Chop chocolate finely, add hot heavy cream, mix them together and voilà, you’re done! While the concept for ganache is quite simple, there are a few basic principles you should know. Once mastered, you’ll find that the uses for ganache are nearly endless, providing plenty of room for creativity in the kitchen!

The Golden Ratios

The ratios listed below are for bittersweet chocolate, not for milk or white chocolate. Milk and white chocolate have a lot of added sugar and/or milk, which means they react in an entirely different way.

  • For a chocolate sauce or a pourable glaze, use one part chocolate to two parts heavy cream.
  • For a thicker cake glaze or a whipped cake filling, combine equal parts chocolate and cream.
  • For a very thick ganache that you could scoop for chocolate truffles, combine two parts chocolate to one part heavy cream.

As you can see, the science is quite easy. If you want a thinner ganache, add more heavy cream. If you want a thicker ganache, add more chocolate. When you consider the textures of the two ingredients at room temperature—chocolate is solid and heavy cream is liquid—it makes sense, right? Once you cool or chill your ganache, the texture will be entirely dictated by the ratio of cream to chocolate that you’ve used.

Choose Your Ingredients

The type of bittersweet chocolate you choose will have a direct effect on the texture and flavor of your ganache. Typically, the more simple a recipe is, the more important it is that you use the best quality ingredients you can find. Fine chocolates, like wine, have a variety of subtle and bold flavors layered within them. Some chocolate might have a bright and fruity flavor while others might have an earthy or smoky flavor. Considering these subtle flavor qualities will make a big difference—particularly if you plan to make truffles, which are essentially a single bite of ganache.

You should also consider the cocoa percentage in the chocolate used. The higher the percentage, the more cocoa solids are present in the chocolate. A higher percentage essentially indicates that less sugar is in the chocolate and vice versa for chocolate with lower percentages. These percentages will affect the texture of your ganache. Like eating a bar of intense 80% chocolate versus a bar of 60% cocoa, the texture of a ganache made with darker chocolate will be more firm, whereas ganache made with lighter chocolate will be softer. Scientifically, this is because added sugar softens chocolate and acts like a liquid when chocolate melts.

As for the heavy cream, I recommend choosing a variety with the highest fat content possible. In grocery stores, most heavy cream has about 36% milk fat, but many professional kitchens opt for heavy cream with 40% milk fat. Higher milk fat content provides richer flavor, smoother texture and a more stable ganache. (Note: please do not be confused by “whipping cream.” It usually contains about 30% milk fat. While it can technically be used for ganache, the results are inferior.)

Chocolate Ganache Glaze Cake Jenny McCoy

Photo Credit: Pernille Loof

Key Techniques

There are a few key guidelines for preparing ganache, all of which are very easy to follow.

  • Finely chop your chocolate. This allows the chocolate to melt more evenly, especially when making a thicker ganache that requires more chocolate than heavy cream.
  • Bring the heavy cream to a simmer, not a full boil. It’s very easy to scorch heavy cream, so take care when heating it and stir frequently.
  • Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes. Ensure that the chocolate is fully submerged in the hot cream as it sits. This begins the melting process of the chocolate and makes mixing the two ingredients quick and easy.
  • There are two ways to properly mix ganache:
    • For a perfectly smooth ganache, use a rubber spatula to combine the two ingredients. This will take a bit more time but results in exceptional truffle fillings or smooth cake glazes that are absolutely air bubble-free.
    • For a light, whipped ganache (used to frost a cake or as a cake filling), use a whisk. Whipping air into the ganache will also help it thicken and become more stable.

Add Extra Flavor

Ganache can be flavored with just about anything! Here are a few methods for developing your signature recipe.

  • Infusion: Infuse the hot cream with herbs and spices like fresh lavender, rosemary or whole pink peppercorns. You can also steep tea leaves or coffee in your heavy cream.
  • Incorporation: Add ground spices to the finished ganache, such as cinnamon or cayenne. Citrus zest, extracts or liqueurs are also fair game.
  • Substitution: For a fruity spin on ganache, substitute some of the heavy cream for fresh fruit purée.

With these guidelines in mind, it’s up to you to experiment and discover what ganache preparations you like best. Try using a whisk and a spatula. Infuse flavor into your cream. Or simply play around with the ratio of chocolate to cream. Take copious notes when you do! You never know when you’ll make a batch that comes out just right.

Ready to master ganache and other essential techniques? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.