By James Distefano – Chef Instructor, School of Baking & Pastry Arts

When I was the executive pastry chef at the original Rouge Tomate, my job was to incorporate more fruits and alternative grains into my baking while cutting back on the refined sugar and flours. I saw this directive as a positive challenge — one in which I could expand both my knowledge of ingredients and also my palette.

My medjool date sticky toffee pudding is a great example of this. It combines sweet medjool dates with whole wheat and buckwheat flours. Using the dates allowed me to cut back on the sugar and still retain the cake’s sweet decadence. I added a touch of cocoa powder to play into that richness while counterbalancing with the cocoa powder’s bitter qualities. Finally, I topped it off with a little banana caramel sauce. You might think that’s bananas, but who doesn’t love a date on Valentine’s Day?


Medjool Date Sticky Toffee Pudding
Servings: Makes about 8-10 servings.


170 grams medjool dates, pitted
6 grams vanilla extract
10 grams baking soda
392 grams water
85 grams butter
227 grams dark brown sugar
75 grams eggs
122 grams all-purpose flour
85 grams whole-wheat flour
14 grams buckwheat flour
56 grams cocoa powder
6.3 grams baking powder
1.5 grams salt


  • Heat oven to 350° F.
  • Place the dates, vanilla extract and baking soda in a medium-size bowl and set aside.
  • Bring the water to a boil, then pour over the dates and cover with plastic wrap to soften them. This should take about five minutes.
  • Once the dates have softened, puree them into a smooth paste utilizing a blender. Set this loose date paste aside.
  • In a bowl fitted for an electric mixer, cream the butter and dark brown sugar on medium speed until it is light and fluffy.
  • Turn machine down to low speed and gradually add the eggs.
  • Alternately add your dry ingredients and the loose date paste, beginning and ending with your dry ingredients until all of the dry ingredients and the date paste have been incorporated.
  • Portion batter into individual molds and bake at 350° F until set. They will feel lightly firm with a soft spring to them.
  • Allow them to cool to room temperature before unmolding.
  • Serve with Banana Caramel (recipe below) or store until ready to serve. These cakes will last up to one day stored in an airtight container.

Banana Caramel Sauce                  


75 grams granulated sugar
375 grams banana (about 3), very ripe, chopped into small pieces
125 grams whole milk
125 grams heavy cream
3 grams vanilla extract
1.5 grams salt


  • In a small pot heat the whole milk and heavy cream. Set aside.
  • In a second small pot, begin caramelizing the granulated sugar utilizing the dry sugar method.
  • Once all of the sugar has been added to the pot, allow it to turn a deep amber color, right before it begins to smoke.
  • Add the chopped banana to the caramelized sugar and gently stir, allowing the bananas to cook in the hot caramel for one minute.
  • Deglaze the pot with the warm milk/heavy cream and simmer the caramel sauce for five minutes.
  • Place the banana caramel into a blender and begin to process, making sure the blender is on its lowest setting first.
  • Gradually increase the speed until the blender is on its highest setting. Blend for 30 seconds more.
  • Strain the banana caramel through a chinois and immediately chill over an ice bath until it is cold.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

This is a great sauce for the Date Sticky Toffee Pudding and for just about anything else you’d serve with a traditional caramel sauce.

Sweet tooth piqued? Click here to learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.


At ICE, we’re falling for fall. The cozy knits, the bounty of apples, the fall-spiced beverages and, of course, the pumpkins—what’s not to love? The below pumpkin-centric dessert comes from chef and cookbook author Melanie Underwood, who will be teaching the upcoming recreational baking course, Fall Desserts, at ICE. The kitchen classrooms, which are outfitted with BlueStar ovens, are the perfect playgrounds for recreational cooking and baking. Says Chef Melanie, “BlueStar ovens are beautiful and they work great in home kitchens.”

Students in Chef Melanie’s autumnal baking course will try their hand at this recipe for pumpkin whoopie pies. “Pumpkin and maple are two of my favorite autumn flavors and they pair wonderfully with this fun, easy dessert that both kids and adults love,” says Chef Melanie.


(credit: Melanie Underwood)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Servings: makes about 30 2-inch pies


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½  teaspoon salt
1 ¼ sticks (5 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin purée
2 cups filling (see recipe below)


  • Preheat oven to 375º F.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and zest until light and fluffy (on medium speed, about 5-10 minutes).
  • Add the eggs one at time and mix until combined.
  • Turn off mixer, add ⅓ of the dry ingredients and mix on low until mixture comes together. Add ½ of the pumpkin purée and mix until combined. Repeat with remaining flour and pumpkin, ending with the last ⅓ of flour.
  • With an ice cream scoop, scoop mixture (about 2 to 4 tablespoons, depending on the size you like) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes (when done, they should spring back when lightly touched).
  • After the “cookies” cool, spread or pipe the filling on the flat surface of one cookie and top with another cookie, pressing together lightly.

For the filling
Yield: about 2 cups


1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
½ stick butter (2 ounces), room temperature
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Using an electronic mixer with a paddle attachment, combine all of the ingredients together and mix until smooth and creamy.


Click here to register and check out all of the cooking and baking classes at ICE this fall. 


By Caitlin Gunther

Toasted-Almond and Coconut Ice Pops recipe

Recipe reprinted from In A Nutshell: Cooking and Baking with Nuts and Seeds by Cara Tannenbaum and Andrea Tutunjian. Copyright © 2014 by Cara Tannenbaum and Andrea Tutunjian. Photographs copyright © 2014 by Gentl & Hyers. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

With the sun shining and the mercury rising, just the thought of baking can seem ludicrous. What’s the lover of sweets to do? The answer: break out those ice pop molds. These sweet treats on a stick have endless flavor potential and are the perfect way to indulge your sweet tooth throughout the summer.

In celebration of Popsicle Week 2016, we’re sharing recipes for toasted-almond and coconut ice pops from In a Nutshell: Cooking and Baking with Nuts and Seeds, by ICE chefs Cara Tannenbaum and Andrea Tutunjian. They’re so tasty you’ll gobble them up before they have the chance to melt.

Toasted-Almond Ice Pops


For the ice pops:

1 3⁄4 cups (14 ounces) almond milk

1⁄2 cup heavy cream

1⁄4 cup whole milk

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons almond butter


For finishing:

Light corn syrup (optional)

1 cup (4 ounces) crushed toasted sliced almonds



  1. Place all the ingredients for the ice pops in a blender and mix well, 30 to 45 seconds.
  2. Pour the liquid into ice pop molds and set them in the freezer to freeze overnight.
  3. Remove the bars from the freezer. Working with a couple of bars at a time, remove bars from the ice pop molds.
  4. Dip a bar in warm water to melt it slightly, or brush it with light corn syrup. Press the bar into the crushed almonds, covering it on all sides. Place on a parchment-lined pan and return it to the freezer until ready to serve. Repeat with the remaining bars. Store the bars, wrapped well in plastic wrap, for up to one week.


Coconut Ice Pops


For the ice pops:

1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) coconut milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup whole milk

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (2 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut


For finishing:

Light corn syrup (optional)

1 cup (4 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut, toasted



  1. Place all the ingredients for the ice pops except the shredded coconut in a blender and mix well, 30 to 45 seconds.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the 1/2 cup shredded coconut.
  3. Pour the liquid into the ice pop molds and set in the freezer to freeze overnight.
  4. Remove the bars from the freezer. Working with a couple of bars at a time, remove bars from the ice pop molds.
  5. Dip a bar in warm water to melt it slightly, or brush with light corn syrup. Press the bar into the toasted coconut, covering it on all sides. Place on a parchment-lined pan and return it to the freezer. Repeat with the remaining bars. Serve immediately or store, wrapped well in plastic wrap, in the freezer for up to one week.

Want to learn how to make tasty desserts with our ICE instructors? Get more information about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

By Victoria Burghi—Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

The holidays bring out a little extra style and glamour in all of us. In the same way we like to decorate our homes and dress up for our celebrations, we should create festive desserts to match the allure and the magic of the season.

When deciding what to serve at a holiday gathering, I take into consideration a few factors: how easy it is to prepare a dessert, flavors I want to highlight, my budget and—of course—how much I want to impress my guests!


In terms of flavors, I like to keep holiday desserts within the seasonal range. Nothing says the holidays like cranberries, pumpkin, sweet potato or eggnog. After all, we have the rest of the year to make apple pie, don’t we?

Holiday celebrations are also the time to splurge on expensive ingredients that we might avoid otherwise, from nut pastes (pistachio, almond and praline) to expensive chocolates or liqueurs. As far as impressing guests, a beautiful presentation is key. There are some obvious options, like silver and gold dragées, but with a few easy tips, you can make any sweet more glamorous and festive.

If you would like to learn first-hand how to create show-stopping desserts, I will be teaching a Holiday Baking class at ICE on November 14th. In anticipation of the class, I’m sharing one of my favorite creative holiday treats: White Chocolate Bûche de Noël with Cranberry Marmalade.

The sweet nature of white chocolate provides the perfect blank canvas to showcase the tart flavor of cranberries. Cocoa butter is the main ingredient in white chocolate, a vegetable fat found in the cocoa beans of the cacao tree. This recipe uses melted white chocolate as the primary fat in a sponge cake, the base for a rolled cake or “roulade.” To create the roulade, the cake is layered with a thin coating of cranberry and clementine marmalade and filled with a white chocolate mousse. For a final touch, this bûche de noël is decorated with red and white buttercream, silver-dusted holly leaves and candied cranberries.

Cranberry Bouche de Noel 2

White Chocolate Bûche de Noël with Cranberry Marmalade

White Chocolate Roulade (yields 1 rectangular 18”X12” sheet pan)

  • 170 g white chocolate
  • 56 g butter
  • 6 g vanilla
  • 30 g water
  • 320 g eggs
  • 150 g sugar
  • 122 g AP flour
  • 1 g salt
  1. Gently melt white chocolate and butter over a bain-marie. Add the water and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Set aside and keep at room temperature.
  2. Whisk together the sugar and the eggs in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer set over a bain-marie and heat until warm and all the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Transfer the bowl to the machine and whip on medium-high speed until very thick, fluffy and increased in volume (ribbon stage)
  4. Fold in the sifted flour and salt by hand. Mix a small amount of the batter with the white chocolate mixture and then fold in the rest of the white chocolate.
  5. Spread the batter onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes.
  7. Once the sheet cake has cooled for 5 minutes, run a knife around the edges, dust with a small amount of granulated sugar and flip over a piece of parchment paper. Peel off the back of the paper attached to the cake and gently roll up the sponge cake. Allow the cake to cool rolled up until ready to use.

White Chocolate Plastic (for holly leaves)

  • 75 g white chocolate
  • 30 g corn syrup
  1. Gently melt the chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave until completely melted and smooth.
  2. Add the corn syrup and mix only until the mixture thickens and is well blended.
  3. Wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  4. When ready, knead and roll the plastic and cut the holy leaves.
  5. Dust the leaves with silver or pearl dust.                             

Cranberry and Clementine Marmalade

  • 200 g cranberries
  • 200 g sugar
  • 200 g clementine segments
  • 100 g water
  1. Simmer all the ingredients together (low heat), stirring to avoid the mixture from sticking to the pan.
  2. The mixture will be ready when all the water has evaporated and the fruits have disintegrated.

White Chocolate and Clementine Mousse

  • 50 g clementine juice
  • 2 gel sheets
  • 150 g milk
  • 200 g white chocolate
  • Grated zest of one clementine
  • 200 g heavy cream (whipped to soft peaks)
  1. Soak the gelatin leaves in the clementine juice and keep refrigerated for 5 minutes.
  2. Place the white chocolate and the zest in a bowl.
  3. Bring the milk to a boil and pour over the white chocolate.
  4. Add the soaked gelatin and the clementine juice to the white chocolate and whisk to blend into a smooth mixture.
  5. Refrigerate until slightly thickened.
  6. Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks and carefully fold it into the white chocolate mixture.
  7. Refrigerate the mousse for one hour before filling the roulade.


  • 225 g butter, softened
  • 450 g confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 100 g clementine juice
  1. In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar until very light and fluffy.
  2. Slowly begin to add the clementine juice and continue to cream the butter until all the juice is incorporated and the buttercream is smooth.


  1. Unravel the roulade, but keep the paper underneath. Spread the cranberry marmalade over the entire surface.
  2. Spread the white chocolate mousse over the marmalade, leaving a ½” space all around the edge without mousse.
  3. Carefully pick up the edge of the parchment paper and begin to roll up the cake.
  4. Place the roulade on a cardboard with the seam down and freeze it until ready to finish it with the buttercream.
  5. To create a swirled effect with the buttercream, first brush a couple of lines of red food coloring inside the pastry bag previously fitted with a star tip.
  6. Fill the bag with the buttercream and then pipe rosettes all over the surface of the roulade.
  7. Decorate with the holly leaves and cranberries.

Click here to sign up for Chef Victoria’s holiday baking workshop and visit for even more pastry classes.

Blame it on Joe Beef: ever since Chefs Frédéric Morin and David McMillan opened this popular temple of elegant excess in 2005, American magazines and food blogs can’t get enough of the indulgent dishes from the capital of poutine. But while Montreal’s savory dishes get most of the hype, the city has no lack of impressive outposts for sweets. ICE Chef Instructor Victoria Burghi reports back from her recent trip to the “city of saints.”

By Victoria Burghi, Chef-Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

As a pastry chef, I’ve always enjoyed exploring the food scene of a new city—in particular, learning about new styles of sweets. So I was thrilled to visit Montreal this summer and to learn about the city’s wide range of traditional, modern, unique and audacious sweets.

Rhubarb Cannolo - Photo Credit: Trip Advisor

Rhubarb Cannolo – Photo Credit: Trip Advisor

My culinary tour of Montreal began on a Saturday night, at Toqué, one of the city’s most distinguished restaurants. After touring the impressive, highly organized kitchens, our gracious server introduced us to its chef and co-owner Normand Laprise, who greeted us from within an immaculate walk-in refrigerator with a hand shake and a big smile.

After an exceptionally interesting dinner in the hands of Chef Laprise, I only had room for one dessert; but it was a spectacular way to end the meal. Toqué’s rhubarb cannolo consisted of a very thin and crispy tube-shaped tuile filled with cassis chantilly cream and brunoise of strawberries. The filled shell was wrapped in gently poached rhubarb strips, so tender that they fell apart the minute you cracked the shell. This already stunning plate was garnished with mildy sweetened rhubarb purée and a blackcurrant leaf syrup. A creamy, perfectly quenelled juniper ice cream accompanied the dessert.

Needless to say, my first restaurant encounter in Montreal left me hungry for more. So, for the second day of my trip, I embarked on a rambling walk along Rue St. Denis and Rue Mont-Royal.

The first stop of my Sunday tour was Pomarosa, an artisanal gelateria where I sampled avocado gelato, along with the distinctive, tropical fruit flavors of guanabana and lulo. Guanabana fruit has white flesh with hints of banana, pineapple and strawberry. It is a highly acidic fruit, perfect for smoothies or any other frozen dessert, and it’s absolutely divine. The lulo (“little orange”) ice cream was also enjoyable, since it wasn’t too sweet and offered a unique opportunity to enjoy the rhubarb and lime-like flavor of the fruit.

The next stop was D Liche,a quaint cupcake boutique that offers not only sweets, but also a number of baking and decorating tools for aspiring cupcake bakers. Playing off the popularity of miniature desserts, the shop offers two different sizes, which allowed me to indulge in both their key lime and blueberry flavors.

Photo Credit: Point G

Photo Credit: Point G

As I wandered toward Rue Mont-Royal, the range of pastry opportunities continued to grow. One of the spots that would have fit right in with New York’s portable pastry craze was Boutique Point G, a macaron boutique that offers unusual flavors like lime-basil, chocolate-sesame, crème brulée and maple taffy.

A note about local flavor: one word that you quickly learn in Montreal is “érable,” which means maple. Canada is the number one producer of maple syrup in the world, most of it coming from the province of Quebec. Thus, it’s no surprise that it has become a very popular ingredient, seen in maple candies, fudge, butter, cookies and an infinite amount of other confections.

This ubiquitous maple syrup was particularly celebrated at the most memorable of all my stops: À la Folie patisserie. This super sleek, ultramodern pastry shop has infused maple into three classic French pastries—choux, macarons and tarts—and would attract any passerby like honey to a bee.

Photo Credit: A La Folie

Photo Credit: A La Folie

The miniature maple-flavored choux pastries come adorned with small maple-flavored marshmallows, while another noteworthy flavor included a rose water with candied rose petal and pink fondant. Next to these beauties you will encounter happy rows of traditional french macarons, followed by an oversized invention called the YOLO—a large macaron sandwich filled with flavored mousse and cream, then dipped in chocolate.

But the YOLO is only the first of the shop’s creative inventions. I also discovered the frenesie: a choux-macaron hybrid pastry that resembles a traditional French religieuse, a cream puff base topped with a macaron of the same flavor and color. Even more ambitious, À la Folie’s delire is a work of art: the base is a round pâte sablée crust filled with either a fruit purée or cream. Sitting atop the tart is a glazed mousse dome surrounded by tiny macarons and decorated with large chocolate curls.

Even the tarts defy expecations. Instead of a traditional round tart sliced into wedges, the chef filled triangular pâte sablée tarts with frangipane or pastry cream and then, in most cases, topped the cream with a triangle of crèmeux or a light crème patissiere. The triangles are then glazed and decorated accordingly. My personal favorites were the maple and apricot tart, decorated with a half of a chocolate maple leaf, and the apple dulce de leche, whose paper-thin sheets of Granny Smith apple formed a perfectly glazed triangle on top of the crust. The entire shop was truly magical!

If you visit Montreal, you must stop by these dessert destinations and taste the art behind their perfectly executed pastries.

Interested in culinary travel? Don’t miss our Chef Instructors’ guides to Rome, Paris and Puglia.



By Chef Jenny McCoy, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

As summer winds down to a close, we’re all eager to make the most of our favorite warm-weather traditions. When it comes to dessert, there’s nothing that says summer fun like a batch of DIY s’mores. In honor of National S’mores Day, I’m sharing my go-to recipes for fluffy marshmallows and cinnamon graham crackers, plus some of my top tips for making them special—with or without the campfire.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Siegel

Photo Credit: Rebecca Siegel

  1. Indoor s’mores are just as fun. Simply use a stovetop gas burner or hand-held kitchen torch to toast.
  2. Keep it simple. If you don’t have time to make every component from scratch, just make one! (I recommend the homemade marshmallows.)
  3. Or get creative. Try mixing and matching different marshmallow flavors with milk chocolate, semisweet, dark or white chocolate bars.
  4. Know your audience. For kids, good ol’ Hershey’s is the classic pick for a reason. But for adults with more discerning palates, splurge on higher-quality chocolate bars; it will make all the difference.
  5. Skewers are all around you. Twigs, bamboo and metal skewers, or even leftover wooden chopsticks from your Chinese take-out will all work well for toasting marshmallows over an open flame.
  6. Make a big batch. Prefer to do the marshmallow toasting in a single batch? You can brown marshmallows under your broiler for a couple of minutes on piece of aluminum foil, then spread the gooey goodness on graham crackers. (A great option for those without a gas range, kitchen torch or grill!)


Yield: Makes about 84 one-inch cubed marshmallows

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 5 teaspoons (2 envelopes) powdered gelatin
  • ½ cup plus ⅓ cup cold water
  • ⅓ cup light corn syrup
  • 4 large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons vanilla, almond, peppermint, lemon, raspberry, coconut or orange extract, to taste
  • Food coloring, as desired
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch together. Set aside.
  2. Lightly coat a 9” x 9” baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, pressing the film directly onto the base and sides of the pan. Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch mix evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan, reserving the remainder for later use.
  3. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over ½ cup cold water, and let stand to soften.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg whites on low speed. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cook the granulated sugar, corn syrup, remaining ⅓ cup of water and salt over medium-high heat, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 245° F, about 12 minutes.
  5. Remove pan from heat, increase the speed of the mixer to medium, and slowly pour the hot sugar mixture over the egg mixture.
  6. Add the softened gelatin to the mixer, and whip until combined. Add the flavoring and food coloring, as desired. Increase the speed of the mixer to high, and whip until thick, glossy and tripled in volume.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch mix evenly over the top of the marshmallows. Chill marshmallows, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.
  8. Invert the pan onto a large cutting board and gently peel away the plastic wrap. With a large knife, kitchen shears, or a pizza wheel, trim the edges of the marshmallows and cut into desired shapes. Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch mix over cut marshmallows and toss to coat on all sides.


Yield: Makes approximately 30 crackers, depending on size

  • 2 cups graham flour
  • ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon-sugar, for dusting (optional)
  1. Place the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the molasses, milk, and vanilla extract and process until the dough forms a ball, about 1 minute. Press the ball into a ½-inch thick disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Position two racks in the center of the oven and preheat to 350° F
  3. Unwrap the chilled dough, place it on a sheet of parchment paper and cover with a second sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough out to ⅛-inch thick and transfer the rolled dough between parchment papers to a baking sheet.
  4. Gently remove the top sheet of parchment paper and cut the dough, using a pizza cutter and ruler as a guide, into 2-inch square pieces, or desired shapes. Trim and discard any excess dough. Using a fork, poke holes into the cut dough in desired pattern. Leave the crackers on the pan and bake until the edges just start to darken, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven; if using, dust with cinnamon-sugar before cooling. Let the crackers cool on the baking sheet completely. Once completely cool, carefully break into individual pieces.


Click here for more ways to celebrate summer sweets at ICE. Tempted to spend more time in your kitchen? Check out more recipes from ICE.


By Carly DeFilippo


This month, more than fifty guests gathered at ICE for a book signing with internationally renowned pastry chef Francois Payard. Most notably, the evening featured a recipe demonstration from his latest cookbook, Payard Desserts, which celebrates the chef’s signature desserts from more than twenty years in the industry.


A third generation pastry chef, Payard is no stranger to the rigor of superior production. At the beginning of the demonstration, he explained that while he may be perceived as stern, it is only with the utmost precision that the staff at his twelve international shops can provide consistently outstanding products.


And despite his straightforward style, it was clear that Payard has a certain passion for teaching, explaining that the demo was “not about showing what [he] can do, but about what you (the audience) can do.” It is with that spirit that Payard authored his latest book, requiring rigorous testing to ensure that his signature recipes could be reproduced at home.


The dish Payard chose to present was one of his most popular: Rice Crispies with Milk Chocolate and Crispy Chocolate Phyllo. From a production standpoint, it was a very practical dish at his restaurant, as all of the components could be prepared in advance. Moreover, all of the individual components featured flavors and textures that could easily be put to use in other desserts, empowering attendees with not only a new recipe, but a jumping-off point for their own creativity.


Francois Payard was assisted ICE students and staff: Brittni Simon, Carmen Serrano, Felix Buchloh

As he prepared the dish, Payard noted several times, “Being a pastry chef is easy; you just have to read and follow the recipe.” While some may debate that truth, the chef certainly made his process look easy, and guests left with more than their share of practical tips and tricks.



By Chef Jenny McCoy


When it comes to making pumpkin desserts, I love the slightly more starchy quality and super bright orange color of kabocha squash. Roasted alongside sugar pumpkins for your next Thanksgiving pie, I think you’ll agree.



After extensive testing, I now use a 50/50 blend of freshly roasted sugar pumpkin and kabocha squash puree in my recipes—it has a thicker consistency and a much more intense flavor. Simply swap it in for the fresh or canned pumpkin puree called for in any of your favorite fall recipes, or give my pound cake a try!


Pumpkin Pound Cake with a Maple-Pecan Glaze

Makes 12-16 servings



  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 cups Roasted Sugar Pumpkin and Kabocha Squash Puree**
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract



  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Lightly coat a 12-cup bundt cake pan with non-stick cooking spray. Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and dark brown sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Slowly add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until just smooth. Evenly spoon the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick or cake tester comes out clean when inserted in center.
  3. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan on a rack; invert onto a cooling rack and let cool until room temperature. Glaze with the Maple-Pecan Glaze just before serving.


Roasted Sugar Pumpkin and Kabocha Squash Puree

Makes about 8 cups



  • 1 4-pound sugar pumpkin
  • 1 4-pound kabocha squash



  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
  2. Cut pumpkin and squash into eighths. Place in large baking dish, fill with about 1/4-inch of water, and cover with foil. Roast for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until flesh is fork tender. Remove foil and continue to bake until just caramelized, 15 to 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and once cooled enough to handle, use a large spoon to scrape flesh from skin. Puree the pumpkin and squash flesh in a food processor until smooth. Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating or using.


Maple-Pecan Glaze

Makes about 1 1/2 cups



  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped



  1. In a small saucepan, bring the butter, maple syrup, and cream to a boil and let cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the confectioner’s sugar and salt into the hot mixture until smooth.
  3. Let cool for about 15 to 20 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in the pecans, and pour over the cooled cake.




By Michael Laiskonis


Since the very beginning of my career as a pastry chef, I have always tried to keep one foot in the classics, while simultaneously pursuing new techniques and flavor combinations. While there are certainly a number of pastry chefs who have legitimately invented new techniques, I’m not one of them. If I had to apply a label to what I do, it might be ‘new’ or ‘inventive’ interpretations of classics—embracing the challenge of pushing ideas through my own filter and perspective. As time has progressed, I’d like to think my desserts have continued to become more mature, refined, and to the point. At the end of the day, all that matters is taste.

Caramelizing bananas for a reimagined mille feuille.

Caramelizing bananas for a reimagined mille feuille.

Lately, I’ve enjoyed returning back to “basics” but viewing them through a “modernist” lens. My process is an effort to rework and better understand the building blocks of pastry by focusing on the technique—refining processes, while simultaneously introducing newer ideas, ingredients and techniques. The concept of ‘traditional’ or classic’ must be elastic and allow for new ideas to be incorporated into the ever expanding and evolving canon of fundamentals.


With something like pâte à choux or puff pastry, most cooks learn one recipe as a student or apprentice and stick with it their entire career; they take it for granted as a mere vehicle for something else, if they even know how to make it all. I’ve been looking to better understand the mechanics of “basics” like choux, to refine the recipe and techniques. In part, the goal is to maximize quality and consistency, but we can also use such methods to demonstrate the logistics of production, something that pastry students tend to overlook until they enter the workforce.

Paris Brest revisited, as a crunchy choux "eclairs". Mille Feuille with shattered chocolate and caramelized banana.

Traditional Paris Brest, juxtaposed with a new interpretation: crunchy choux paste “eclair”.

Another of my priorities is to introduce and explain more of the underlying science of what we do as pastry chefs. It’s important to understand the basic composition, structure and function of our ingredients, and I believe it should be taught early. Basic preparations such as simple dough, caramel or pastry cream can be a path toward understanding the complex interactions of ingredients and techniques—an understanding that ultimately leads to being a better, more informed cook.

michael tight shot w desserts

Demonstrating “wet method” caramel production.

Whether following a strict approach or applying an inventive twist to these classics, I like to emphasize not only proper technique and attention to detail, but also the idea that pastry chefs must also think like architects. We need to move beyond external appearance and consider how we layer flavors and textures, the proportion and position of each component, and most importantly, how those elements are eaten and experienced by the client. And because young cooks tend to think ‘more is more’, revisiting the basics can help introduce the idea of restraint and minimal, concise presentation. In the early stages of creation, we tend to add to a dish, but it’s the point at which we begin to subtract elements that some degree of ‘essence’ is revealed.


To register for future pastry classes with Chef Laiskonis, click here


By Virginia Monaco


This month, ICE was thrilled to host Chicago’s premier pastry chef, Mindy Segal, for a class featuring signature desserts from her restaurant, HotChocolate.  The 2011 James Beard Award Winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef  discussed her evolving cuisine, her plans to open a bakery, and her future cookbook.


Mindy’s desserts are often personal takes on classic home treats, making them both exotic and familiar. First up, she treated us to an apple confit pie with bacon fat crust.  What’s interesting about Chef Segal is that she frequently deviates from her own recipes, cooking more like a savory chef than a pastry chef. Given that baking is more science than art, her ability to adjust recipes on the fly and add ingredients whenever inspiration strikes is only further proof of her exceptional talent.


In addition to her innate ability to cook from her gut, Mindy also has a deep respect for her ingredients. She prefers to use products in their more natural states, rather than refining them until they are unrecognizably elegant. This was demonstrated in her bacon fat pie dough, in which she doesn’t strain the fat. In fact, she enjoys the residual, smoky flecks of bacon, representative of her rustic signature style. Similarly, Mindy proactively leaves gaps in the top of her crust, allowing the apple filling to bubble and boil over the edges. The effect is that of crave-worthy imperfection, recalling the pleasure children get from their grandmothers’ pies.


Heirloom Apple Confit Pie with Bacon Fat Pie Dough and Caramel Drizzle

Next, we were treated to a brown butter cannoli with almond ice milk and hot chocolate foam. Here, Mindy gave us some important insights into how she composes a dish. She believes contrasting temperatures are important and often overlooked in desserts. She also discussed the need to have a refreshing component on the plate, so as not to make a dish too cloying—in this case, her ice milk, spun without cream or eggs and barely sweetened. As for her cannoli base, Mindy deviated from the norm with an almond flour financier cake batter, again demonstrating that she’s more likely to follow her own imagination than traditional pastry “rules”.


When it came to discussing the business side of her career, Mindy had a hard time vocalizing her triumphs and challenges. It’s clear that it’s not easy for such a passionate person to balance time in the kitchen with the administrative responsibilities of running a business. Gearing up for her second self-owned venture—a bakery—Mindy admitted that the practical aspects of business-ownership aren’t her favorite part of the job. But, based on the outstanding success of HotChocolate, she’s found a way to balance “the numbers” with her creative drive, a delicious means-to-an-end.


Toasted Almond Flour & Brown Butter Cannolis, Caramelized with Banana Ganache, Smoked Almond Ice Milk, with Frothed Hot Chocolate

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