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.


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!

By Carly DeFilippo

Whether you’re spending the holidays in New York City or simply searching for the perfect gift, ICE has a range of end-of-December classes to please all kinds of aspiring chefs.

The Out-of-Towner
If you’re new to NYC or playing host to a few culinary junkies, our three day tour of New York’s global food scene has got you covered. Delve into interactive cooking classes, discover famous and “underground” markets and purveyors, and enjoy a range of meals at the city’s best ethnic eateries.

The Skill Seeker
Know a home cook who “nerds-out” over technique? Treat them to a pan-frying, roasting or braising course from our Back-to-Basics series.

The Sweet Tooth
Satisfy the sugar cravings of aspiring bakers and chocolate makers with our Cake Decorating and Chocolate Truffle courses. They’re sure to thank you with your just desserts.

The New Year’s Eve Host
It’s hard to block out time to prepare cocktail snacks, even if your New Year’s party has long been on the calendar. Pencil in some hors d’oeuvres prep on the morning of December 30th, so you and your guests can celebrate with more than the customary “pigs in a blanket”.

The Ultimate Enthusiast
If you or your loved ones enjoy nothing more than time in the kitchen, why not test out one of our 3-day Boot Camps? Explore the Flavors of Asia, stir up Classic and Contemporary Sauces or get your hands dirty with Dough Essentials: Croissant and Brioche. For a full list of holiday Boot Camp classes, click here.

Interested in taking classes in 2013? The full recreational class schedule will be published in mid-December.

Following the strangely mild New York winter, ramp season came—and ended—very early this year. But that didn’t stop Chef Anthony Sasso from finding some of the last ramps available in New York City.

Celebrated and hailed as the first springtime vegetable to appear in east coast farmers markets, ramps are a foraged wild onion that remind us food-obsessed New Yorkers that a season overflowing with local produce is just around the corner. Sasso, Chef du Cuisine at Casa Mono and also an ICE Recreational Instructor, had no problem luring recreational students to his sold-out class last week, Ramps on Everything, with a menu based entirely on the beloved perennial.


This week, ICE Chef Instructor Chris Gesualdi led a hands-on demonstration on the nature of hydrocolloids and how these common ingredients can transform the texture of everyday foods. This class was the first of its kind for our recreational cooking classes, continuing on ICE’s modernist cooking curriculum for our career training students.The class taught everyday cooks how to use innovative techniques and modern technology to create a unique spin on well-known dishes in their own kitchens at home.

Chef Chris helped students unlock the mysteries of hydrocolloids and demonstrated how these ingredients can be used in the home and applied in a variety of cooking techniques. More…

While growing up in Michigan, my understanding of authentic Southern cooking was anything that came out of the KFC drive-thru. After taking ICE’s class Southern Comfort: American Regional Favorites, I was pleased to learn the Mashed Potato Bowl, with its popcorn chicken, corn kernels, and shredded cheese, is not at all traditional southern food. Chef Instructor Dan Stone set the record straight, leading a recreational cooking class where we cooked traditional Deviled Eggs, Buttermilk Biscuits with Sausage Cream Gravy and Fried Fruit Pies, all while sipping Sweet Tea and Mint Juleps. I left the class not only stuffed full of Fried Chicken and Braised Collard Greens, but with some gastronomical history of the South’s most iconic dishes.

*Bread — in a skillet? Baking cornbread in a hot, well-seasoned, cast-iron skillet helps achieve a nice crisp and golden crust that you can’t get using any old baking dish. We slipped the skillets into the oven while it was preheating to get them warm and then poured the batter in once they were piping hot. More…

It’s not every day you see a pig indoors. But walking into a butchery class at ICE, that is exactly we saw. Along with a group of 16 eager recreational students in ICE’s demonstration kitchen, guest Chef Instructor Gaetano Arnone, Sous Chef at Salumeria Rosi and former butcher at Eataly and Dickson’s Famstand Meats, led us through breaking down an entire 170-pound pig. And amazingly, not a bit went to waste.

Gaetano first became interested in pig butchery while looking for ways to cut corners at his family’s restaurant in Southern California. He quickly realized that by buying whole animals and cutting them down himself, he could drastically save on his foods costs. The only problem was he didn’t exactly know how to properly breakdown an animal. He laughed, “My first pig took me four hours. I destroyed it.” More…

ICE offers one of the country’s largest recreational cooking programs. With over 1,500 cooking classes and over 26,000 students each year, there is something for every cook looking to learn new techniques in the kitchen. Last month, food writer Jamie Feldmar, whose work is regularly seen on Serious Eats and in the Edible magazine series, tackled her fear of baking in Artisan Breads At Home with Daniel Rosati.

Like many people, I am afraid to bake. I can cook — not perfectly, but well enough to feed myself, and with enough confidence to occasionally feed other people. Baking, though, has never been my forte — the measuring, the careful mixing, and the endless waiting for the finished product — it’s just not for me. Bread, in particular, has always been daunting. I don’t understand yeast in the slightest, and I can’t knead to save my life.

So when I was looking for a class at ICE, bread baking was not my first instinct. But as I flipped through the enormous catalogue, circling savory cooking classes that sounded interesting, a nagging voice in the back of my head told me that maybe this was the time to take on a challenge. Maybe it was time to tackle bread. So I signed up, with great trepidation, for Artisan Breads At Home, taught by Daniel Rosati. More…

One of the most classic of all-American dishes is steak. Sadly, it is also one of the easiest dishes to cook incorrectly. You can’t just look at a piece of steak and know that it is done underneath that seared exterior, so how can you tell when you’ve achieved steak perfection? And how do you prepare the perfect steak while also trying to whip up a buffet of accompanying side dishes? These questions have always left me perplexed and most nights, I’ve opted out of even attempting steak.

Luckily for me, I was able to learn how to tackle steak night at home in the Everyone Cooks Everything: Steakhouse recreational cooking class at ICE. Teams of two split up and conquered the entire recipe packet of steakhouse meals, from appetizer to dessert. From beet salad to hash browns, and sautéed spinach to Baked Alaska, we feverishly worked together as we prepared one of the most succulent meals I have ever made.

The showstopper of the night was obviously the 1 3/4–pound Porterhouse steak with a balsamic-thyme reduction. Let me tell you, it was amazing! The balance of tart and sweet in the balsamic drizzled over the tender juicy meat was a match made in heaven. More…

There are endless variations on the classic meatball. Whether you’re a purist looking for a traditional Swedish meatball or an adventurer willing to sample seafood meatballs, the meatball offers something for everyone. In celebration of the launch of his book, The Meatball Shop Cookbook, and his upcoming ICE cooking class, Chef Daniel Holzman of the celebrated The Meatball Shop on the Lower East Side, shared this recipe with us to include in the Winter 2012 issue of The Main Course.

2 pounds 80% lean beef, ground
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon chile flake
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil More…

When I was a kid, I grew up on hearty, home-cooked meat and potatoes meals every night of the week. Looking back on it now, I don’t know how I missed my mom’s Wonder Woman cape! I have no idea how she prepared a fully cooked meal with side dishes — she must have had super powers.

At 27-years-old, I find myself completely exhausted after work, with very little energy to cook anything other than buttered noodles. But, I work at one of the best culinary schools in the nation and decided I needed, and deserved, to step it up to better, more complete meals.

So with my mom as my inspiration, I had to retire my lazy ways and seize the chance to make better meals. When the winter edition of ICE’s newsletter, The Main Course, came out, I jumped at the opportunity to take the Super Fast Weeknights recreational cooking class. More…

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