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.
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.
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.
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!