In a new video from ICE and Direct Eats, Chef James Distefano, former executive pastry chef of the acclaimed Rouge Tomate, delves into baking with alternative butters. First, he shares the recipe for a mouth-watering maple butter crepe cake. Then, he shows us how to whip up blondies made with cashew butter, with an added touch of yum from chocolate chips and salted cashew brittle — delicious and (sorta’) nutritious. Finally, for those of you with peanut allergies, Chef James has a new best friend for you — sunflower butter, a great alternative for recipes calling for peanut butter. He uses sunflower butter to bake his sunflower seed financiers, a light, airy and peanut-free sponge-cake with just a hint of vanilla. Grab a whisk and check out this inventive butter exploration, then scroll down for the complete recipes. 

Cashew Butter Blondie
Yield: Makes about 18 1½” x 1½” squares

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 cups cashew brittle
1½ cup chocolate chips
6 ounces unsalted butter, lightly softened
⅓ cup salted cashew butter
2 cups light brown sugar
2 cups sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Stir together the all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Combine about two tablespoons of your dry mix with your salted cashew brittle and your chocolate chips in a separate bowl and set this aside as well.
  • Place the lightly softened butter, cashew butter and both sugars in to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on to medium speed and allow the mix to blend sufficiently until it is light and fluffy and well mixed. It should not look waxy.
  • Combine the vanilla extract with the eggs.
  • Turn the mixer down to low speed and slowly add the eggs to the mixer (one at a time) making sure the egg is fully absorbed into the sugar base. Repeat until all of the eggs and vanilla have been incorporated.
  • Add all of your dry ingredients (not including the brittle and chips) and mix on low until barely combined.
  • Turn the mixer off, add in the bowl containing the brittle and the chips and turn machine back on and mix until no flour is visible.
  • Spread blondie batter onto your prepared baking tray. Be sure to spread the batter evenly.
  • Bake the blondie for approximately 25-30 minutes or until the blondie is firm to the touch with a golden brown color.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to fully cool (overnight is best) prior to cutting.
  • Cut into small 1 ½ x 1 ½ inch squares and store in an airtight container for up to three days.

For the salted cashew brittle:
Yield: Makes 3 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
¾ cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
¼ stick unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1⅔ cups cashews, toasted (toast for 7 minutes at 350°F)
½ teaspoon baking soda

Preparation:

  • Line a baking tray with a nonstick silicone mat.
  • Place sugar, light corn syrup, water, butter and salt in a medium sauce pot. Gently stir to combine.
  • Bring syrup to a boil over low to medium heat. Be sure to wash the sides of your pot down to prevent the sugar syrup from crystallizing. To do this, dip a pastry brush into a small container of water and apply the wet brush to the sides of the pot.
  • Once the syrup comes to a boil, insert a candy thermometer and allow the syrup to cook until it reaches 300° F. Once it reaches 300° F, turn the flame off and remove the pot from the stove. Be sure NOT to stir the syrup as it boils.
  • Stir in your vanilla extract and the toasted cashews.
  • Wait about 30 seconds before stirring in the baking soda. The addition of the baking soda helps aerate the brittle and gives it a more delicate bite.
  • Pour the hot brittle on your prepared baking tray and, working quickly, spread the brittle as thin as you can with a buttered spatula.
  • Allow the brittle to cool sufficiently before breaking it apart into small, bite-size pieces.
  • Store the brittle in an airtight container for up to two days.

 

Sunflower Seed Financier
Yield: Makes about 15-18 3” cakes

1½ sticks unsalted butter
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
½ tablespoon salt
1¼ cup egg whites (about 8-10 eggs)
4 tablespoons sunflower seed butter
⅔ cups sunflower seeds, toasted (toast for seven minutes at 350° F)
3½ cups powdered sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¾ cup dried cranberry

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. (If using a convection oven, lower your temperature down to 325° F with low fan.)
  • Prepare your molds or baking tins with cooking spray, or butter
  • Place butter, vanilla bean and salt into a small pot and begin to melt over a very low flame.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together your egg whites and sunflower seed butter to form a smooth paste. Set aside.
  • Combine the toasted sunflower seeds, powdered sugar, all-purpose flour and the cornstarch in the bowl of a food processor process until the sunflower seeds are finely ground.
  • Place the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  • Add the egg white-sunflower paste and whisk to evenly combine and form a stiff batter. Turn the speed down to low while you check on your melting butter on the stove.
  • Increase the flame on your melting butter and continue to cook the butter until the butter begins to turn a deep golden brown and gives off a nutty aroma. Whisk the butter to incorporate the toasting milk solids at the bottom of the pot and continue cooking until it foams. Once the butter is a dark, amber brown, turn the flame off.
  • Turning back to the stand mixer, increase the speed to medium and steadily pour the browned butter into the bowl containing the cake batter.
  • Once all of the butter has been incorporated, turn the mixer on high to thoroughly blend all of your ingredients.
  • Turn the machine off and using a piping bag or spoon, divide the batter into your prepared molds.
  • Garnish the individual cakes with some dried cranberries.
  • Bake the cakes at 350° F until they are golden brown around the edges and gently spring back when lightly touched.
  • Allow the cakes to cool in their molds for 15 minutes before unmolding on to a clean tray or plate. Cakes will last up to one day in an airtight container.

Maple Crepe Cakes
Yield: Makes 1 cake

For the crepes batter:
Makes about 30 crepes

Ingredients:

⅞ cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup oat flour
1½ teaspoons sea salt
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon maple butter
1⅓ tablespoons maple syrup
1½ cups milk
5 eggs
¼ stick butter

Preparation:

  • Crack the eggs and whisk them together with the whole milk, maple butter and maple syrup. Reserve in a pitcher and keep cold.
  • Combine your dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, oat flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
  • Create an opening in the center of the bowl and begin to slowly pour your liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients a little bit at a time to avoid any lumps from forming. The batter will be very stiff initially; however, as you incorporate more liquid it will begin to thin out. Use all of your liquid, making sure to avoid any lumps from forming.
  • Melt the butter in a small pot then whisk the warm butter into the crepe batter. Stir to evenly combine.
  • Strain the crepe batter through a large mesh strainer making sure to remove any large lumps in the process. Store the crepe batter in an airtight container for up to two days.

To make the crepes:

  • Gently heat a nonstick pan or a cast iron pan over low heat. Allow the pan to sufficiently warm up.
  • Spray pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Using a small ladle, add some crepe batter to the pan and quickly rotate the pan to evenly coat the bottom in a thin layer.
  • Cook the crepe until the batter has set and it begins to curl up around the edges. Flip the crepe over (you can use a small rubber spatula for this) and cook the other side. The whole cooking process for one crepe is roughly two minutes.
  • Place crepes onto a parchment-lined baking pan in a single layer, cover with another sheet of parchment paper and repeat until all of the crepe batter has been used.
  • Wrap the crepe-filled baking pan with plastic and refrigerate until you are ready to use them.

 

For the pastry cream:
Yield: Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

2 cups milk
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
4 egg yolks
½ stick + 1 teaspoon butter
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation:

  • Whisk together the cornstarch and the sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.
  • Place the milk into a medium pot and slowly bring to a boil over a low flame.
  • Whisk the whole eggs into the cornstarch mixture, then whisk in the egg yolks.
  • Pour one third of the boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to thoroughly combine. Return the remaining milk mixture to a boil.
  • Whisk the egg mixture into the remaining boiling milk. Make sure to whisk and stir with a spatula until the pastry cream comes back to a boil. Maintain the boil for another minute, whisking and stirring continuously with a spatula to avoid any scorching.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract.
  • Pour the pastry cream onto a plastic wrap-lined baking pan and spread it out into a thin layer. Place another piece of plastic wrap directly touching the hot pastry cream so it doesn’t form a skin. Poke a few small holes with the tip of a small knife in the plastic to vent out some of the steam.
  • Place the pastry cream in the refrigerator until it cools down and feels cold to the touch.

To assemble the layered crepe cake:

  • Place a crepe on a clean flat plate.
  • Spread enough pastry cream onto the crepe to evenly coat it without it being too gloppy or overly thick. There should be just enough pastry cream on there to thinly and evenly coat the crepe.
  • Place another crepe on top of the pastry cream and gently and evenly press down to “glue” the crepes together.
  • Repeat steps two and three until you have used 17 layers of crepes and 16 layers of pastry cream.
  • Once the layered crepe cake has been built, wrap with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight so it can set firm. When ready to serve, top with maple-glazed bananas (recipe below).

For the maple-glazed bananas:
Yield: Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter
2½ tablespoons maple butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
⅓ cup maple syrup
¼ teaspoon sea salt
5 ripe bananas

Preparation:

  • Melt the butter in a 12” sauté pan over a medium-low flame.
  • Stir in the maple butter, vanilla extract, light brown sugar, maple syrup and the sea salt.
  • Bring this mixture to a boil and allow to boil for one minute.
  • Peel the bananas and cut them into half-inch slices.
  • Immediately place the bananas into the maple-butter mixture and glaze the bananas for one minute in the hot mixture.
  • Remove the crepe cake from the refrigerator and generously spoon the maple-glazed bananas on top of the crepe cake, allowing the maple glaze to run down the sides of the cake.
  • Cut the cake into wedges and serve immediately.

Ready to master pastry & baking with Chef James? Click here for more information on ICE’s career programs. 

Interview by Carly Evans

Inspiration can happen at any moment. For Scott Green, Executive Pastry Chef at The Langham Hotel Chicago and one of Dessert Professional’s Top Ten Pastry Chefs of 2016, his life-changing moment of inspiration occurred back when he was a student with a scholarship to study fine arts in Chicago, while watching a pastry documentary. Shortly after, he switched from fine arts to pastry arts and never looked back. As Chef Scott explains, “One moment of inspiration propelled me along a path as a pastry professional that has spanned more than fifteen years and taken me around the world.”

Chef_Scott_GreenICE is pleased to host Chef Scott in an upcoming course at our Center for Advanced Pastry Studies (CAPS): Project Design for Award-Winning Chocolate Desserts. In this hands-on workshop, Chef Scott will share his unique method of planning a project, working on time schedules, developing flavors and testing designs. Those in attendance will have the chance to work with him on world-class chocolate dessert productions using Guittard Chocolates.

In anticipation of this exclusive ICE workshop, we chatted with Chef Scott about his craft, the next culinary destination and his advice for pastry students.

You have won many awards for your talent in pastry — which was the most challenging competition for you?

My first team competition, the National Pastry Team Championship in 2011, was probably the most challenging. Although I had other competitions under my belt, this was my first team event and first competition at such a high level. Competitions of that nature demand a completely different set of skills in terms of how you work, how you organize, etc., so getting prepared was a steep learning curve. Just a few months beforehand, I felt very underprepared, but we really pulled it together as a team (Josh Johnson, Donald Wressell, Della Gossett and myself) and ended up winning first place. Getting through those circumstances was trial by fire and definitely prepared me for future competitions.

Your restaurant Travelle is in Chicago, a city that has risen as a leading destination for food and drink. Which U.S. city do you see as being the “next” Chicago in terms of a culinary destination?

I don’t know that a city can claim that title. So much has changed and is changing about the restaurant industry — how chefs interpret the dining experience, new definitions of eating out like “fine casual” and food trucks, the prohibitive costs of real estate in major U.S. cities, consumers’ expectations — and the list goes on. It’s changing the fabric of how people eat and eat out at restaurants. There’s also a saturation of restaurants in the major U.S. markets (New York City, Chicago, LA, Miami, San Francisco) and prohibitive costs to keeping those restaurants open. All of this pushes talented chefs and restaurateurs into “undiscovered” locations like Portland, Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Cleveland…just a few cities that have developed sophisticated and diverse food cultures within recent years. I suspect that the current restaurant capitals of the U.S. will maintain their status as dining destinations (including Chicago), but soon you’ll be able to go to the airport in, say, Buffalo, and still find great food.

How have advancements in technology changed your craft over the years?

Technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, chefs can now express greater and more complex creative and artistic visions thanks to technology like 3D printing, molds, advanced stabilizers, ingredients and crossover technology like immersion circulators and rotovap [rotary evaporator]. From a purely artistic standpoint, technology has expanded the boundaries of what is possible and I love that. However, this is not a purely artistic profession. What is most important and what I feel is becoming lost in the buzz and noise of so much technology available to us (including the rise of social media) is the fact that our responsibility as chefs is first and foremost to create food that tastes good. This has always been a profession of skilled technicians and there’s a fine line when technology replaces that skill. Is it really so impressive to envision a cake and then have a machine 3D print a model, hire someone else to make a perfect mold of the shape a machine made and then simply fill that mold with mousse and cake? Is it so amazing to coat a cake in mirror-like glaze if that glaze doesn’t taste good? To me the answer is no. I’m not impressed by that at all — but millions of Instagram users are; so the trends persist. While I embrace technology and all that it offers in the realm of creative expression, it has to be tempered with the foundation of our craft and a constant alignment with what is most important: form follows function.

Chocolate Strawberry

Chocolate Strawberry

Do you think it is important for pastry students to have a background in savory/culinary studies?

I think any and all education is a good thing. Knowledge truly is power. You never know how a certain set of skills or knowhow can be applied to your career or your work. So while I don’t think it’s necessary for pastry students to have a savory background (I have no formal savory education), I also don’t think it’s a bad thing.

What is one piece of general advice you would give pastry students?  

This is easy: Leave your ego and sense of entitlement at the door. I repeat: Leave your ego and sense of entitlement at the door. Get rid of it altogether because it will do nothing to help you succeed in your career. Do what you are told every day, as well as you can, as fast as you can, as clean as you can, and be open to critique and feedback until the day you are told to do something else. This is called work ethic. There’s no timeline that entitles you to a raise or promotion or new set of tasks — that’s just not how our profession works. Keep your head down and work hard. The success will come in time to those who are truly willing to sacrifice in order to achieve it.

Click here to check out our upcoming CAPS offerings and to register for Chef Scott’s workshop at ICE.


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.

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?

sticky_pudding

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

Ingredients:

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

Preparation:

  • 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                  

Ingredients:

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

Preparation:

  • 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.

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 Caitlin Raux

If a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a celebration happens and there is no cake, is it really a celebration? While the first question is debatable, the answer to the second is clear: no cake, no celebration. And with hand painting, air-brushing, sugar flowers and more, celebratory cakes are more elaborate than ever. In anticipation of the upcoming start date for ICE’s Professional Cake Decorating program, which kicks off on February 13, we’re taking a closer look at one popular technique — piping buttercream roses.

Piping_roses_4

I recently had the chance to sit in on one of Chef Toba Garrett’s hands-on cake decorating classes in which she was instructing students on this topic. As it turns out, a lot of books on cake decorating contain dated techniques and cryptic instructions. ICE’s Professional Cake Decorating program demystifies popular cake decorating techniques. “When you become a cake decorating professional, you learn that there are better ways to do things. We’ll teach you those better ways,” said Chef Toba. As she piped gorgeous, buttercream flowers and gave the class step-by-step instructions on how to do the same, I soaked up the following sweet tips from ICE’s resident cake decorating master:

  1. Soften up your frosting. Before the icing even hits the piping bag, it’s important to make sure it’s not rock hard. Starting with a couple of cups, use a small offset spatula to mix the icing. Keep mixing until the frosting is workable but not too soft — the frosting needs to be on the stiff side in order to pipe the details. Try piping some on parchment paper first to test the consistency. Once the frosting is ready, it goes into a pastry bag fitted with a petal piping tip, which has a thin, slightly triangular slit at the end.
  2. Necessary tool: A flower nail. I had never seen this nifty little tool before, but it makes the piping process much more doable. Hold the nail part between your thumb and forefinger, then pipe your rose onto the flat top, turning the nail as needed. Later, when you finish your rose, use kitchen shears to carefully snip the flower base and slide the rose onto your cake. Piping_roses_1
  3. Start with the base. You need a base to support your rose petals. Begin by piping a base — a small mound that tapers at the top and looks more or less like a Hershey Kiss. Speaking of which…Piping_roses_2
  4. Try a chocolate (surprise!) base. Don’t forget that at the end of the day, someone is going to be eating your beautiful creation. Adding in delicious details, like a Hershey Kiss as the base of your rose, will make the eating experience even more enjoyable.
  5. Roses aren’t replicas. When piping flowers with less petals, like lilies and daffodils, you can attempt to pipe the exact number of petals usually found on the flower. But for roses, which at their full size can have 20-40 petals, you’re better off not trying to replicate them exactly. Start by piping one petal for the base, then, in a rainbow-like shape, pipe three petals around the base, then five petals around them, then seven petals around them, for a total of 16 petals.

Piping Roses

Though Chef Toba made piping buttercream roses look like a cinch, it definitely wasn’t as easy as it looked. The only way to become a piping pro is lots of practice and listening to expert tips on how to do things better.

Want to decorate cakes like a pro? Click here for more information on ICE’s cake decorating program.

“It was always something I liked doing; something I was good at naturally. But it was never something that I thought I would do professionally,” explained Jennifer Tafuri (Pastry Arts, ’11) on the hobby that would ultimately become her livelihood. Though she never imagined she would find herself practicing her passion for pastry on a daily basis, one visit to ICE convinced this former anthropologist and recreational baker to enroll in ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

With the launch of our 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge, we’re revisiting stories from our most inspiring alumni. Jennifer popped out of the pastry kitchen at Rotisserie Georgette, where she holds the title of Pastry Chef, to chat with us about her decision to come to ICE and to inspire you to take the leap and enter our scholarship challenge.

Ready to find your culinary voice at ICE? Click here for more information on the 2017 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Challenge and enter today!

By Michael Laiskonis—ICE Creative Director

Forward, always forward. That’s the email signature of a friend of mine and the message never fails to resonate with me. The dawn of a new year acts as a slightly arbitrary but nevertheless symbolic occasion to take stock of one’s goals, past and present. As a cook, I see the arc of my career as a series of obstacles surpassed, an upward trajectory of constantly changing ambitions. Whether a student or seasoned professional, I think it’s crucial to keep leaning forward.

Chef Michael Laiskonis

Five years ago this month, I completed an eight-year run as the pastry chef at Le Bernardin, satisfied (as much as one can be) that I had achieved a handful of notable accomplishments: a James Beard Award in 2007 and playing a role in the restaurant’s many accolades. More difficult to measure is the effect that experience had on my evolution as a cook, in particular, my ability to organize the many moving parts of a top-flight kitchen and my overall confidence in myself. Moving to New York from Michigan in early 2004 was a considerable test of that confidence — while “making it” was always a long-term goal of mine, I never imagined I would enter at the level I did. I was terrified, but when you jump into the deep end of the pool, hard work and perseverance keep you afloat. As I look back on my career, each move I made presented similar challenges. Rather than simply rest on whatever laurels I’ve earned, I still find it vital to press forward in pursuit of new opportunities, to refine and redefine my goals.

That we chefs cook because we love to – the manual act itself, the connection with the materials, the sharing with others – is a given. How we express that passion, however, is something quite personal and something that evolves. At every stage of our career, we should be calibrating our professional lives, making sure that our day-to-day work is getting us closer to our ultimate goals. Of course, those goals can, and perhaps should, change over time. Almost twenty-five years ago I fell into the business, by accident in a sense, while working with bread. Seduced by the complex nature of bread-baking, for some time I was convinced I would specialize in bread alone. But as I started reading about the glories (and rigors) of haute cuisine, I soon drifted into dreams of one day working at that highest level of refinement. From humble beginnings in a small bakery, I took the leap and found my first restaurant job.

michael_laiskonis

Working in a restaurant, everything I thought I knew about cooking technique and navigating a kitchen was turned upside down. My previous exposure to cooking was broad but not very deep. This first restaurant position not only provided the depth I lacked in terms of skill set, but also greater respect for the craft, ingredients and tradition. Having a strong mentor at the helm of that kitchen greatly accelerated my drive to cook better. Under the chef’s watch, I created a pastry chef position for myself out of thin air, while still balancing my savory duties as line cook. A chef that provides that kind of mentorship is rare – someone who offers the guidance to succeed while also allowing space for failure. I was lucky to have found those qualities in each chef I’ve worked for. But that special relationship is a two-way street — the lessons of a master are only as valuable as the willingness of the apprentice to learn them. Rather than jump around from job to job every couple of years, I always chose to stay on much longer in order to absorb every ounce of knowledge I could before moving on to the next opportunity.

To grow professionally, we must be receptive to new challenges, even if it means setting our own objectives. After landing my first restaurant position, the next step in my career was to go “all in” as a pastry chef. I hadn’t had formal training nor had I worked directly under any pastry masters, so again I leapt into frightening territory. Looking back, I remember that my primary goal was receiving some degree of recognition — a shallow wish in retrospect — but in wanting to make a name for myself, I also began to develop my own voice as a chef. I was lucky to grow as a cook as our food culture grew, too — the harsh reality is that few chefs ever reach celebrity status. I like to think that good work attracts attention and in my case being in the right place at the right time (and once again, being receptive to new challenges) meant I caught the eye of Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin. Despite that daring jump into the deep end, I prevailed, and it was during that period of time that my voice as a chef matured.

Chef Michael and colleagues

Chef Michael with culinary industry leaders

When I felt the time was right to leave Le Bernardin, it was time to set new goals. Realizing that much of my time at that point had shifted toward mentoring a new wave of young cooks, I turned toward education and an opportunity to share my experience and skills here at ICE. While there’s a different energy and sense of urgency than a hectic restaurant kitchen, the classroom offers a new set of weights and responsibilities. Once again, not content to just relax, I knew this was a great opportunity to push myself to pursue new goals – but now, instead of sharing the results with guests at the table, I’m sharing them with other cooks and students who will use those ideas in their own culinary journeys. The task of running the ICE Chocolate Lab was yet another opportunity that presented a significant learning curve, and what excites me most is that the more I learn, the more knowledge I can pass on to others.

So, what’s next for me this year? More of the same, of course, but I’m delving into areas I’ve yet to explore, with greater intensity. Together with the side projects I’m invited to work on, my role at ICE has helped me realize my goal to be involved in many different facets of baking, pastry and confections where no two days are exactly alike. As I set both short- and long-term goals for the new year, I will continue to say “yes” to new challenges and to venture outside of my comfort zone. Even this far into my career, I know the importance of learning something new every day. I’m not afraid to move continually forward, to get in over my head, because I long ago learned that’s where the true reward lies.

Want to get into the pastry kitchen with Chef Michael? Click here for information on ICE’s pastry arts program.

“Do you have what it takes to work in my kitchen?” asks Marcus Samuelsson, celebrated chef of NYC’s Red Rooster, in the newly released 2017 #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge video from the Institute of Culinary Education. The video, which also features food heavyweights Ted Allen, Duff Goldman and Donatella Arpaia, marks the launch of the second-ever #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge. It also signals ICE’s continued commitment to finding the next generation of culinary and hospitality talent.

Launched in 2015, the first #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge was a roaring success. Over 1.1 million votes were cast and eight lives were changed — by scholarships that opened up a world of opportunities for the winning individuals. For the 2017 #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge, ICE is upping the ante and giving away $212,000 in scholarships so that 18 ambitious individuals can study at ICE and pursue a career in food or hospitality.

Entering the challenge is simple — upload an original one-minute video to the Scholarship Challenge website that demonstrates your creativity, your passion for food or service or your entrepreneurial flair. In the video, explain who you are, who or what inspires you and what you hope to achieve in the culinary or hospitality industries. Tell the world why you deserve one of 18 scholarships and the chance to study at ICE.

The top 50 #CULINARYVOICE Scholarship Challenge finalists in each category will be determined by public vote, and for every vote, ICE will make a donation to Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) to fund even more scholarships. One full scholarship and two partial scholarships will be awarded for each of ICE’s six award-winning career training programs: Culinary Arts, Pastry & Baking Arts, Restaurant & Culinary Management, Hospitality Management, Bread Baking and Cake Decorating.

Check out the video below and head to the Scholarship Challenge website to enter today.

Ready to share your culinary voice with the world? Click here for more info.

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.