By Gabby Guarino,
Student, Culinary Arts ’17 

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

GabG_1

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

Apple Danish

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

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

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

Apple Danish

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

By Brooke Bordelon — Student, Culinary Arts ’17

When I first started at ICE nearly six months ago, I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of everything I would learn in the weeks ahead. From mastering basic knife skills to preparing the perfect Lobster Americain, I was ready to go with guns blazing. However, as I sautéed, roasted and braised my way through modules one through three, I began to feel a creeping sense of unease as our class approached module four: the pastry module.

As many of my culinary-minded classmates could also tell you, baking and cooking are different beasts that require vastly different skills to master. Whereas cooking allows you to throw in a little of this and a pinch of that, baking mandates that you follow the recipe to a T or risk ending up with a disappointing mess. Needless to say, as someone who had always fallen squarely into the cooking camp, I was more than a little wary about the pastry module.

However, six weeks later, with our final pastry exam just around the corner, I am proud to say that not only did this non-baker survive the dreaded pastry module, I even enjoyed it (for the most part). Here are a few critical lessons I’ve learned along the way.

jelly doughnuts

 

1. As much as you want to, resist the urge to get creative with a recipe. 

Unlike cooking, baking is first and foremost a science, so any tinkering with ingredients or measurements can throw off the precise formula of a recipe and ruin your final product. As someone who had grown used to viewing recipes more as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules, this was a lesson I had to learn the hard way. However, with my chef instructor’s urging — “Don’t get creative!”— I learned to stifle that little voice in my head that insisted on improvising and saw a marked improvement in the quality of my work.

2. Weigh out your ingredients for the most consistent results. 

As an ardent eyeballer, weighing out every ingredient seemed incredibly tedious and unnecessary at first — I mean, how much can a few extra teaspoons of butter, flour or eggs really affect a recipe? However, after more flops than I’d like to admit, I realized just how important weighing is to measuring ingredients — cutting corners is out of the question.

While dry measuring cups are easy, they simply can’t provide the accuracy of a scale and can produce inconsistent results. For example, while I plunge a cup measure into flour until it overflows, someone else may carefully spoon the flour into the cup and level it off with a knife. Although technically we both added “a cup” of flour, our final products will be different due to the weight. Once again, this points back to baking as a science. It’s all about precision, precision, precision.

3. Learn to love (and develop) gluten. 

Before starting the pastry module, all I knew about gluten were the evils that my gluten-free friends warned me about. As it turns out, gluten is truly amazing stuff. It’s a strong, sticky protein that forms when wheat flour and water mix, lending baked goods like waffles, pretzels and artisan breads structure and elasticity. However, developing just the right amount of gluten in a recipe is a tricky endeavor.

For example, in order to produce a chewy pizza crust, you want to knead the dough for several minutes to encourage gluten development. When making flaky pastries like pie crusts or biscuits, however, overworking the dough can produce too much gluten development, leaving tough, dense, rubbery results. As a dough-making novice, learning how to develop just the right amount of gluten was a matter of sticking to the recipe and developing a sense for how certain doughs should feel.

4. Using the right tools can make all the difference. 

While cooking, you can usually make do with basic kitchen tools. With just a few good pots and pans, a pair of tongs and a spoon, you can whip up virtually anything. On the other hand, baking requires a more specialized set of tools. I can’t imagine trying to smooth out buttercream frosting on top of a cake without an offset spatula, piping perfect meringue rosettes without a pastry bag or getting tempered chocolate to exactly the right temperature without a thermometer. While relying so heavily on specialty tools was new to me, it taught me the importance of reading recipes in advance so that I know just what baking tools I’ll need.

Ready to find your inner pastry pro? Click here for more information on our career programs.

By Michael Laiskonis—ICE Creative Director

In the past, I’ve written about the parallels between architecture and pastry. I recently judged a competition where architects were asked to express their favorite iconic buildings in the form of cake. Once again, the topic of architecture and pastry arts came to mind.

I think a lot about architecture and design. It’s a closet interest of mine, though I must admit that my passion is limited to: I don’t know much about architecture, but I know what I like. One of the benefits of urban living is being surrounded by so much of it. I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition of various styles, shapes and sizes — sometimes even more than the individual structures themselves. While the streets of Manhattan may be more chaotic than, say, the carefully planned vistas of Paris, a glance down any street or avenue can be just as awe-inspiring. Without overreaching, there are some great analogies to be made between cooking and architecture. Both are seen as lofty arts and technical crafts. Both provide a vehicle for fashionable trends and practical function. Both reflect their immediate environment and in turn, give that place a sense of unique identity. Occasionally, both incite controversy. As two of the three necessities of life, food and shelter hold the kind of sociological importance that can even spawn whole philosophies.

Flatiron Building

You may think you know where I’m headed with this: Toward a discussion of architectural foods such as the towering desserts of years past — but this is just the surface. Of course, presentation is an important factor in fine dining and these trends come and go. In fact, in recent times our food has slowly retreated to the surface of the plate, often appearing as if randomly scattered, sometimes even ignoring the conventional boundary of the rim. The true “architecture” of a dish, however, is less about looks or visual construction and more about the “architecture of taste”— how blending elements creates a visually appealing framework for flavor and texture.

Contemporary cooks take many factors into consideration – materials, technology, aesthetics and matters of perception. Modern cooking seems to be an intersection of engineering and philosophy. Years ago, I read about the construction of a project in Switzerland that perfectly reflected this discussion: The Blur Building, the goal of which was to create an indeterminate “structure” of water vapor. On the same metaphysical level, a chef friend once pondered how to make food float in mid-air. It’s interesting and important for both disciplines to question themselves. Is a building without walls still a building? Was that dish I ate just dinner or something more?

milk chocolate praline pastry

That said, at the end of the day, food is just food. Though I pay way too much rent, I need a solid room in which to rest. As a sentient being, I ultimately seek comfort and pleasure from both. But as a chef, what concerns me is how the various elements of a dish — taste, texture and temperature — are engineered and arranged to provide the maximum impact. We achieve this through complement (classic flavor pairings, as well as the unconventional) and contrast (sweet and tart, smooth and crunchy, hot and cold, etc.). One caveat I learned early on: No matter how well two or more elements might go together, each must also be able to stand alone. Attention is also given to the structure itself — the form of how we eat and experience a dish. The thought process behind how diners will approach a plate of food mirrors how architects envision how a space will be navigated by its inhabitants.

Cooking from an architectural perspective goes beyond creating a pleasant-looking dish. It helps us refine our approach by thoughtfully layering flavors and textures; using techniques to best express the qualities of our ingredients; considering how the consumer will ultimately experience our final product. Though architecture and food serve practical purposes, constructing with an eye for maximizing experiential enjoyment elevates practical forms to a works of art.

Want to study Pastry Arts with Chef Michael? Click here to learn more about our career programs.

By Brooke Bordelon — Student, Culinary Arts ’17

Chefs are no strangers to the world of charity. In addition to filling hungry patrons’ bellies, superstar chefs use their clout to make the world a better place. Philanthropic organizations that help different groups — from struggling farmers and low-income families to at-risk youth — have flourished, largely due to the support of culinary heavyweights like Eric Ripert, José Andrés and Christina Tosi.

With her organization Emma’s Torch, ICE student Kerry Brodie (Culinary Arts, ’17) hopes to join the ranks of these culinary visionaries in the fight for a better tomorrow. Inspired by the words of the famous American poet and refugee advocate Emma Lazarus, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” Kerry’s organization aims to empower refugees in the United States by training them in the culinary arts to gain employment in the culinary industry.

ICE student and Emma's Torch founder Kerry Brodie

ICE student and Emma’s Torch founder Kerry Brodie

I recently chatted with Kerry to discuss her experiences as a culinary student at ICE and as the CEO of Emma’s Torch.

How did you first come up with the vision for Emma’s Torch?

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that food and cooking are things that make us human. I’m the child of immigrants and most people I know are descendants of immigrants or of refugees. I’ve always wanted to do something that would engage immigrants and refugees in the food world to use this universal experience of cooking, eating and sharing meals to create social change.

How have the skills you’ve learned and connections you’ve made at ICE helped you launch Emma’s Torch?

ICE has been invaluable for connecting me with people in the food world and showing me what it means to be a culinary educator. I’ve learned so much from observing our teachers and talking to people in various departments at ICE about what’s important when it comes to training. The instructors have been very supportive in connecting me with chefs and showing me how to set up a kitchen. They’ve been so generous with their time — going above and beyond to show me that they value my vision and that they want to see it come to fruition.

Has any particular chef’s career been an inspiration to you?

On one hand, renowned chefs like José Andrés are inspirational. There are also so many chefs who we don’t hear as much about who quietly, in their own businesses and hiring practices, make differences in people’s lives. One of those chefs, Mary Cleaver, is on our advisory board. She was one of the first restaurant owners to say that we have to do good for the world through our businesses. What inspires me most though are the people you never hear about — the dishwashers, the prep cooks — who work tirelessly because they want to make a better life for themselves and their families, and believe that working hard to make beautiful experiences for people in restaurants is part of that American dream. 

How do you balance school with your work for Emma’s Torch? 

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Seuss is, “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” No matter how overwhelmed I feel sometimes with school and trying to get my business off the ground, I am so in love with the opportunities that both endeavors have given me. As much as I want to catch up on sleep on the weekends, it’s hard because I just want to keep working. Even at my most stressed out moments, I consider myself lucky to be doing what I love.

What has the response been like from students at ICE? 

The response has been powerful and positive. So many of the students in my classes are willing to dedicate what very little free time they have to volunteering with Emma’s Torch. The outpouring of support — both moral support when I’m complaining in the locker room and students volunteering at events — has been humbling.

How do you think your experience at ICE has differed from other students?

I think everybody at ICE has a story. There’s got to be something that drove them to come to ICE and something that they’re aiming for in the long term. What I’m trying to get out of my education is different from someone who wants to work in a restaurant. Another thing that has set my experience apart is that I’ve been focused on how we are being taught, not just on what we are being taught. I’m going to do some teaching and recruit other people to teach culinary classes for Emma’s Torch, so I need to learn the building blocks of a well-rounded culinary curriculum.

How can people get involved with Emma’s Torch?

Very easily! They can email me at Kerry@emmastorch.org, or check out our website, emmastorch.org. We’re always looking for new volunteers and partners. We’re small but we’re flexible and eager to involve more people in our community.

Emma’s Torch will be throwing their launch party on December 18 at Brooklyn FoodWorks from 6-8 p.m. Those in attendance can meet the students and taste appetizers and desserts prepared by the first class of Emma’s Torch. All proceeds from the event will support refugee empowerment programs. To get tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/emmas-torch-launch-party-tickets-29203974875.

Ready to launch your culinary arts career? Click here for information on our career programs. 

By Caitlin Gunther

For the ICE blog “Life as a Student” series, we hand the mic to students from our career programs and give them the chance to share what it’s really like to be a student at ICE. Our newest student blogger, Brooke Bordelon, a California transplant with Louisiana roots, is a student in ICE’s Culinary Arts program with her sights set on the food media realm. Given her lifelong “obsession” with cooking and the skills she’s learning at ICE, we won’t be surprised if we see her in the test kitchen or food publication of her choice. In this interview, we introduce our readers to Brooke.

Brooke Bordelon culinary student

What’s your earliest food memory?

Funnily enough, my earliest food memory doesn’t even involve real food, but that fake, plastic food that kids used to play with back in the 90s. (I don’t know if kids these days still do — they probably have an app for that now.) I remember being obsessed with “cooking” in my miniature kitchen, complete with a pint-sized stove and microwave. Three-year-old me would putter around in that kitchen for hours, talking to myself while sticking all these different fake foods together with Velcro before making my family sit down to “taste” it all. Apparently it was one of the only toys I liked, go figure.

Growing up, was food a big part of your family life?

Both of my parents come from big families in Louisiana, which means that, growing up, I was more-or-less genetically predisposed to love everything to do with food. Before my family moved to California, I had never realized that everybody didn’t regularly have crab boils in their backyards or celebrate Christmas with a massive Cajun feast for 50-plus hungry family members. After moving out west, I began to develop an appreciation for my Southern heritage as I realized how exceptionally unique the food, culture and people of southern Louisiana are. I can definitely say that this part of my background has had a profound effect on how I view food and cooking.

Culinary Student Brooke Bordelon

Why did you choose to go to ICE?

When I was trying to decide which culinary school to attend after college, my train of thought was, “If I am going to go to culinary school, why wouldn’t I go to one in the most exciting food capital of the world?” After attending ICE’s open house, it was clear that the connections and opportunities this school would provide me with would prove invaluable in my quest to build a lasting career in food media. Then, the decision was simple. Within three months, I had schlepped all of my stuff from Dallas (where I went to college) to New York, successfully navigated the subway to buy all of my school supplies and settled into my apartment with just a week to spare before my first day of class.

Describe a day in the life for you as a student at ICE.

My class meets at 8:00 AM every morning, so typically I try to be up by 5:45 AM (“try” being the operative word) so that I have a little time to caffeinate myself and review the day’s recipes before I catch the subway to school. I love that no two days of class are ever the same; one day we may learn how to properly roast a chicken, while the next we delve into how to make perfectly crispy broccoli tempura. After class, I usually hang out in the student lounge with friends while keeping a look-out for treats from the pastry classes to scarf down. Around 1:00 PM, I start making the trek back to my apartment in Murray Hill to catch up on any freelance articles I’m writing at the time and work on homework for the next day’s class.

Sky’s the limit. What’s your dream job after you graduate ICE?

For as long as I can remember, I have always been passionate about writing and cooking. In an ideal world, I would combine the Journalism degree I received from Southern Methodist University with the culinary degree I’ll receive from ICE in order to mold a career for myself in food media. Whether that means writing articles for a food magazine, working in a test kitchen or working on cookbooks, I believe that life is too short to compromise one passion for another when it comes to following your dreams.

Culinary Student Brooke Bordelon

Are there any skills you’re looking forward to acquiring?

Our class just started module three last week, which is particularly exciting because we’re incorporating all of the technical skills we learned in modules one and two — like sautéing, roasting, braising, etc. — into cooking dishes from different regions around the world. Right now we’re focusing on France, but I’m especially eager to get to Asia because the techniques and ingredients used in that part of the world are so different from anything we’ve done thus far. It’ll definitely be a fun challenge and a nice change of pace.

What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned in class so far?

Above all else, the most useful thing I’ve learned in class so far is the importance of keeping yourself organized in the kitchen. If you don’t have your mise en place and tools ready to go, or if your work station is constantly cluttered, you’re bound to make a mistake somewhere down the line. By nature, I’m not the most analytical person, so even though I had to learn this skill the hard way, it has since helped me tremendously. Staying organized keeps my stress levels in the kitchen manageable, allowing me to create a better finished product in the end. (Bonus: I don’t tick off teammates with a dirty workstation anymore.)

What advice would you offer anyone considering culinary school?

The best advice I could offer to anyone considering culinary school is to do your homework to really understand the culinary industry and where you would fit within it. Having an idea of how a degree in the culinary arts or culinary management will help you to shape a future career will be extremely useful in figuring out whether or not culinary school is the right path for you. It may sound a little blunt, but a passion for cooking will only get you so far if you don’t have a plan for how to channel that passion into a livelihood. That being said, you may get to school, do a complete 180°, and decide to follow an altogether different career path from what you thought you wanted. The important thing to remember, though, is to always think about how the skills you’re acquiring in school are helping you to mold your future career. After all, that’s what school is all about.

Ready to launch your culinary career? Click here to learn about ICE’s career programs.

By ICE Staff

According to our students, one of the best parts about studying at ICE is the day-to-day learning and cooking in ICE’s classroom kitchens, which simulate the experience of working in a professional restaurant kitchen. When the time comes to begin their first restaurant gig, our graduates are right at home in their work environments. So what exactly does a “day in the life” look like for ICE culinary students? A new video shows just that: scenes from a culinary arts class led by ICE Chef Instructor James Briscione, from the mise en place to plating to clean-up. Check out the below video for a taste of life at ICE.

Ready to jumpstart your culinary career? Click here for more info on ICE’s culinary career program.

 By ICE Staff

“My mom told me I couldn’t play with my food growing up, but culinary school has taught me otherwise,” said Jessica McCain (Culinary Arts ’16). After following a unique path from college to reality television on MTV’s Real World, the twenty-five year old Jess, who had always dreamed of going to culinary school, woke up one day and thought to herself, “It’s now or never.” She reached out to the Institute of Culinary Education and ten days later she was a student in the Culinary Arts program.

Nowadays, the recent ICE grad and former reality TV star is thinking about a different kind of star. “I owe so much to ICE because I do want to be a Michelin-starred chef and before I didn’t really think it was possible. After coming to ICE, I now know that it’s not too late to achieve my dreams — and that Michelin star can be mine.”

Ready to find your culinary voice? Click here for more information on ICE’s Culinary Arts program.


By Lauren Jessen­—Culinary Arts/Culinary Management ‘16

As a student enrolled in a dual-diploma program at ICE, I juggled a schedule for both the Culinary Arts and Culinary Management programs. Three days a week, I had management classes from 8AM to 12PM and then quickly I’d have to change for my 1PM culinary arts class, which ran until 5PM. On the days I didn’t have management classes, I would spend my mornings working on reading and classwork for management, and then the remainder of my day honing my cooking skills in class.

lauren jessen culinary student institute of culinary education

Once my Culinary Arts program ended, I had one month left of my management classes. The catch? I had just two weeks until I had to start my externship in a fast-paced NYC restaurant. This meant I had to build my management class business plan—the culmination of the Culinary Management program—with a full work schedule. My externship schedule was anything but lax. I worked in the restaurant’s kitchen five days a week—being smart with my time was more important than ever. While I had reading, presentations to deliver and business plans to develop for my management class, I also wanted to do a great job at my externship.

When situations like this happen, time management is crucial. Here are four ways I managed my time between my management class and externship:

  1. Plan ahead. If you know you’re going to be busy in the near future, work extra hard ahead of time to accomplish as much as you can beforehand. This way, when you’re tired and busy during your externship, you’ll feel better knowing that a solid chunk of your work is already done.
  2. Use free hours wisely. Some days I would have a full morning of class and then run to work to start my shift at 1PM, leaving barely any free time in the day. On the days you don’t have class or if you work a morning shift and get out relatively early in the evening, make use of that time by working on your business plan or putting together your presentations for class. Set aside one or two hours during your non-work/class hours to get your important work done.
  3. Focus on one task at a time. At times, the workload of two programs may feel overwhelming. But working step-by-step and checking off small tasks systematically, rather than procrastinating and scrambling to get things done at the very end, will feel more manageable and the payoff is huge.
  4. Prioritize your health. Throughout my management class, my instructor would always tell us to take care of ourselves. Working in the restaurant industry can be physically tiring and the long hours aren’t conducive to good health. When balancing a schedule of working and going to school, rest when you can and don’t neglect down time. If you burn out or get sick you won’t be able to go to class, do your work, or excel at your job.

Ready to launch your culinary career? Click here to learn more about our career programs.


By Jessica McCain—Student, School of Culinary Arts

Before culinary school, when I thought of culinary arts and fine dining, my mind always wandered to the French—at the time, I saw the French as the sole proprietors of exquisite cuisine. From classic dishes such as coq au vin to other dishes with fancy names I could hardly pronounce (before coming to ICE, that is), I was sure that I wanted to focus my culinary studies on French cuisine. In fact, I wanted to master the art of French cooking.

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When classes began and we started cooking our way through different regions, I was exposed to numerous different styles and flavors of the world. Initially, I was still fixated on the French—the classic style and elegance associated with this cuisine was more than captivating. And with ideas of restaurant kitchens like Daniel in my head, I couldn’t shake the idea that French fare was the pinnacle of cuisines.

It was when our class curriculum moved on to the Asian region that my mind began to open to different styles of cooking. Before culinary school, I only knew of the more popular Asian dishes—like sushi rolls and pad Thai—but I never realized the complexity and variety of Asian cuisine. Getting to know the different spices, methods of cooking and the time required to prepare the bases to some of the dishes came as a total shock to me. I discovered new flavors and textures in Asian cuisine that I hadn’t been exposed to previously and found myself excelling at the new methods of preparation—to my surprise, preparing items like bao buns and sushi came naturally to me. When we began exploring the flavors of India and Thailand, I knew my idea of one “supreme” cuisine had changed.

Ming_Tsai_Curriculum_CulinaryArts_6.8.16-15

In addition to learning new cooking styles and ingredients, our classes introduced me to equipment I had never heard of before culinary school—one of my favorite aspects of my education here at ICE. For example, in one of our lessons we had the chance to make naan, a pita-like bread that is made with a special oven called a tandoor. A tandoor is traditionally a clay, wood or charcoal-burning oven—the kind used to cook tandoori chicken. We cooked our naan by pressing the dough firmly against the sides of the tandoor to infuse it with the spices, smoke and flavors of the chicken while simultaneously cooking the bread. This technique means safety gloves and great caution are a must. When done properly, this lengthy process produces an absolutely delicious product, and one that I never would have learned by focusing solely on French cuisine.

From toasting and grinding our own spices to making marinades and curries to rolling our own sushi rolls, Asian cuisine is so much more compelling and delicious than I ever thought. I look back to when I was one-cuisine-minded and I could not be happier with my decision to be here. I have a more complex view and ICE has broadened my culinary horizons beyond French cuisine. I can’t wait to enter the world of pastry in the next module!

Ready to broaden your culinary horizons? Click here to learn more about ICE’s innovative Culinary Arts program. 


By Caitlin Gunther

There are dishes you learn to cook to impress friends and relatives. Others you learn to prepare a traditional holiday dinner. Then there are the dishes that you learn as basic life skills—cards you can pull from your sleeve on any given day, during any season, and your dinner guests, even the pickiest of them, are bound to be satisfied. Homemade pizza falls into this last category. With a base comprised of just a handful of ingredients—flour, water, salt, yeast and olive oil—you can throw together a pizza using what’s already in your cupboard, adding a few fresh toppings to give it that gourmet touch.

Rec-Pizza_Class_Caitlin_Gunther_7.23.16-3

To master this very essential life skill, I took the Homemade Pizza course with Chef Sue Gonçalves last Saturday at the Institute of Culinary Education. We measured, we mixed, we stretched (the dough) and, ultimately, we feasted. In the course of preparing one focaccia and two thin-crusted pizzas, I picked up some tips for crafting your best homemade pie. Though I highly recommend taking the class yourself—for the first-hand experience and because Chef Sue brings a fun, easygoing energy into the kitchen—I’ll share my tips to whet your appetite for homemade pizza making.

  1. Know your ingredients – Always review your recipe and ingredients before you begin mixing the dough. As I quickly learned in class, if you mistake cornmeal for yeast, your dough is not going to rise. Period. You’ll have to begin the dough mixing process all over again, and while your classmates are moving on to focaccia, you’ll still be kneading your first pizza dough.
  2. Watch your time – We used a recipe that called for active dry yeast. This will accelerate the rise and with the right temperature (either in a warmish room or a proofing box), the dough rising process should take an hour or so. You want to allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size, but not much longer. If you’re planning to use the dough the following day, refrigerate once it has risen to halt the rise.
  3. Start from the middle – Once the dough has risen, it’s time to stretch it. You’ll notice that pizza dough has a wonderfully stretchy texture. It’s very tempting to dive into stretching and twirling the dough overhead. Not so fast. To begin, place your dough ball on a lightly oiled surface, and, using your fingertips, gently prod the dough beginning in the middle and pushing outward. Work your fingers around in circles to slowly stretch the dough in all directions. Continue until your dough is a large, mostly flattened circle, slightly thicker on the edge and not too thin in the middle. If your dough is too thin in the middle, it won’t be able to support the toppings and may burn if you try to bake it anyway. Rec-Pizza_Class_Caitlin_Gunther_7.23.16-4
  4. Don’t dress on the table – A classic rookie move is to dress the dough on the table and then attempt to transfer it to your baking surface. Always stretch the dough on your table and transfer to a wooden peel (or pan if you are cooking in a regular oven) before adding toppings.
  5. Brush on the olive oil – To get that crispy, crackly crust, use a brush to slather on some olive oil. Use a flavorful extra virgin olive oil for maximum flavor points.
  6. Cornmeal the peel – You know how the bottom of your pizza is always dusted with those golden speckles? That’s cornmeal! Sprinkle some on your wooden peel before spreading your dough on it. That will help you shimmy the dough, as Chef Sue says, off the peel and transfer it into your pizza oven. Rec-Pizza_Class_Caitlin_Gunther_7.23.16-1
  7. Less is more…with sauce – You may have the urge to get wild with the sauce—that gorgeous color, that rich, vibrant flavor. But the truth is, too much sauce makes for soggy, weak crust. To ensure your pizza will have a sturdy base, especially if you eat your pizza New York-style (grab, fold, devour), go easy with the sauce.
  8. Hide the basil – How does one achieve a Margherita pizza, with basil baked into the pizza, without burning those lovely herbs? Sure enough, laying fresh leaves atop your cheese and baking them in a 500+ degree oven will singe those babies and render them bitter herb crisps. The answer: add the basil on top of the sauce, then top with cheese. The cheese layer will protect your herbs from burning. Rec-Pizza_Class_Caitlin_Gunther_7.23.16-2Rec-Pizza_Class_Caitlin_Gunther_7.23.16-5

Pizza making is an art. Prepare it yourself and you’ll appreciate your next corner slice more than ever. With the above tips in mind, learned from Chef Sue Gonçalves of ICE, you’ll be one step closer to mastering your homemade pizza craft.

Want to learn to make pizza and other delicious dishes? Check out our upcoming recreational courses!