Archive for the ‘Culinary Institute of America’ Category



May 16, 2010

Some time ago, Michele and I talked about making grissini. Before she brought up the idea of making them, I knew what they were but didn’t know they were called grissini. I just called them “thin breadsticks,” or “those good breadsticks you sometimes get at an Italian restaurant.” Now I’m in-the-know about the name and have made them myself!

Michele and I made different recipes, which I like because then I can see how hers turned out and get ideas for next time. I was doing some catch-up on my blog reading Saturday morning and saw that Kayte and Margaret also made grissini recently! I think everyone else added some flavorings to theirs; I was in the mood for a basic breadstick, so I just sprinkled some kosher salt on mine.

My recipe was a bit different because it uses a pasta maker to roll and cut the dough. I haven’t pulled out my pasta maker in years, so it was fun to use this method and re-acquaint myself with that under-used piece of equipment. The dough was easy to handle, but it was pretty fussy to lay out each strip of dough on the baking sheet.

I made hummus earlier in the day because I thought these would be great for dipping. Actually, they’re so thin and crisp that they’re not good dippers, but they are awesome on their own. I munched through quite a few of them and really enjoyed them. The only problem is that they’re so tall that they don’t fit in any of my containers or bags! I ended up putting them in a plastic container and covering the top with plastic wrap. Be sure to check Michele’s blog to read about her grissini experience!

Recipe notes

The recipe comes from a professional cookbook, so I had to reduce the amount. The full amount makes 8lb 8oz/3.86kg of dough. I made 1/8 of that amount. I didn’t count my breadsticks, but I think I baked six sheets of them (my baking sheets are pretty small though). I don’t guarantee my math, but my calculations worked out for me – I didn’t worry too much about rounding the tenths and hundredths of a gram because it’s such a small amount.


adapted from Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, The Culinary Institute of America*

Ingredient Baker’s % Pounds g/kg 1/8 amount
High-gluten flour 100% 5 lb 2.27 kg 283 g
Instant yeast 1.66% 1.25 oz 35 g 4 g
Whole milk, room temperature 45% 36 fl oz 1.08 L 4.5 fl oz
Butter, soft 15% 12 oz 340 g 42 g
Olive oil 3.75% 3 oz 85 g 10 g
Salt 2.5% 2 oz 57 g 7 g
Malt Syrup 1.9% 1.5 oz 43 g 5 g

Optional garnishes: coarse salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds

Make the dough

  1. Combine the flour and yeast. Add the milk, butter, olive oil, salt, and malt syrup. In a stand mixer using a dough hook, mix on on low speed for 4 minutes and on medium speed for 3 minutes. The dough should be very stiff. Let rest for 15 minutes.
  2. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes.

Shape and bake

  1. Line sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle 12 inches long and the width of the rollers of the pasta machine. Trim one short edge to even it; feed this edge into the pasta machine.
  3. Starting with the rollers at the widest opening and resetting them to the next setting after each complete pass, roll the dough through the pasta machine until it is the desired thickness, about 1/4in/6mm, or setting number 5 on most pasta machines. (I rolled it through twice on each setting, ending with number 5.)
  4. Using the fettuccine cutter attachment or cutting by hand, cut the dough lengthwise into strips 1/4in/6mm wide. Lay the strips on the parchment-lined sheet pans, making sure they do not touch. Brush the strips lightly with olive oil.
  5. Cover and proof until the dough rises slightly, about 15 minutes. Brush lightly again with olive oil and scatter any optional garnishes on top.
  6. Bake at 385 F/196 C until the grissini are golden brown. Start checking at 5 minutes (mine took 6-7 minutes). Cool completely on racks.

* See the note above the recipe about the amounts. I have the 2004 edition of this book; the newest version is from 2009.


Pastry Boot Camp Wrap-Up

September 21, 2008

Pastry Boot Camp is over and sugar free pudding with fat free whipped topping will never be the same again!  I’m happy to report that I don’t feel that I need to buy all kinds of things for the kitchen.  There are a few things I’d like to get, like larger metal mixing bowls, but nothing major.  I hear that Viking’s mixer is far superior to KitchenAid, but I can wait until I’m in need of a new mixer.

So what kind of people sign up for something like this?  Most in my class came alone – there were two pairs and the rest were singles.  A little less than half of the people in the class were in food-related jobs, including people who worked in restaurants, personal chefs, and even a couple of food scientists.  For some of them, this was a work assignment and their employers paid for the trip. How cool would that be?!  The rest didn’t have food-related jobs and most didn’t plan to change careers – this was just a fun educational vacation.  Several people had been to other Boot Camps and had good things to say about their past experiences.

The group spent a lot of time together in and out of the kitchen this week. There is always a mix and clash of personalities in a group, but I think we did a good job of getting along (although they might all be talking about how annoying I was!).  You work in pairs, so if you’re alone, you need to pick a partner.  I was lucky because I had a really nice partner.  We had lots of laughs and worked well together.  I’m not active in any hobbies, so being with a group of people who shared the same enthusiasm for food, baking, and the Food Network was great.  Now the big test…can I do this successfully at home?

A few tips for anyone planning to go to a Boot Camp:

  • Read everything the CIA sends you and everything you can find online.  There was a lot of information in the “About Your Stay” brochure, but it not everyone was familiar with it.
  • That said, they didn’t enforce all of the rules that were in the above brochure. Most of us bought kitchen shoes, but some people wore tennis shoes and nothing was said to them. Same with dress codes for the restaurants – the brochure says business casual, but they didn’t enforce the code if someone arrived wearing jeans.  I think you’ll be more comfortable and present the right image if you follow the rules.
  • Rent a car and stay somewhere as close as possible.  You’ll get a 2.5-3.5 hour break before dinner and you’re going to want to  shower, change, and decompress before a long, social dinner.
  • If you want to do any sightseeing in the area, stay an extra day.  There’s just not enough time to do much during the Boot Camp.
logo chocolate

logo chocolate


Pastry Boot Camp Day 5

September 20, 2008

I joined the usual group for breakfast and had my usual oatmeal.  We were all exhausted and ready to go home yet sad that the class was almost over.  After breakfast, we listened to the morning lecture, which was about souffles and sauces.

In the kitchen, the chef started out by demonstrating how to slice and shape Palmiers – our last puff pastry item.  There’s more to it than just slice and bake: once on the pan, they need to be shaped a certain way and spread out far enough so that they have plenty of room to expand while baking – they spread out rather than up. Palmiers are like an Elephant Ear, but I hate to call them that because these were so much better (and not elephant sized) than what you’d find in a grocery store.  Next the chef demonstrated a basic souffle, using his own recipe rather than the one in our class binder. The method for the base of the souffle is just like making pate a choux dough, then flavoring is added, egg whites folded in, and voila – ready to go in the oven. He made it look so easy, but I was skeptical. Along with the Palmiers and souffle, each team had to sign up to make a dessert sauce.  This was going to be a busy day!

In the kitchen, my partner and I started out with our Palmiers.  Ours didn’t look quite as pro as the chef’s, but we knew that our puff pastry turned out well, so we weren’t concerned. Here they are on the pan.

Palmiers ready to bake

Palmiers ready to bake

Next, it was Lemon Butter Sauce. Now, I haven’t complained about the other people in the class thus far, but I think it’s time for it now.  My partner and I had our sauce on the stove and we were looking at it and discussing whether we thought it had reduced enough yet.  Note that we were just talking to each other and not asking anyone else’s opinion. The guy on the burner next to us – who I had nicknamed Grumpy guy – stuck his head over our pot, grabbed a bowl of water and a pastry brush, and started brushing down the sides of our pot.  While he was doing this, he explained that we needed to do that to prevent the sugar from crystallizing on the side of the pan.  We remained calm on the outside and told him that nothing was crystallizing and we didn’t need to do that for this recipe.  He said “you’re making caramel sauce, aren’t you?”  We said no, it’s Lemon Butter Sauce and he quietly returned to his own burner. There was no harm done, but we could have been making something that would have been damaged by slopping water into it.  He was making caramel sauce and burned it twice and had to have the chef help with the third attempt.  Ha.

Next it was lemon souffles.  Our souffle base was lumpy so we had to push it through a strainer, which was messy and discouraging. We weren’t expecting much, but finished the recipe and put them in the oven. Later on, my partner told me to come over to the oven to look at our souffles – they looked wonderful!  Here’s how they looked when they came out of the oven.

Lemon souffles

Lemon souffles

They tasted delicious too – they had a beautiful texture and a nice lemon flavor.  Before lunch, the group went to one of the baking and pastry classrooms, where the class was practicing production of desserts.  We each had to order a dessert, pick it up from that station, and then eat it. No one was all that excited about this task!  I picked the healthiest one, which was fruit salad with cherry sorbet, and it was delicious.  Then it was on to lunch and we all skipped dessert.  For our last hour in class, the chef made crepe batter and demonstrated making crepes and plating them.  We all took a turn at making and plating crepes.  Mine weren’t worth plating!

And that was it. The chef had some closing comments, we all received a copy of our group photo, and then it was back to the real world.

Click here to continue to Pastry Boot Camp Wrap-Up


Pastry Boot Camp Day 4

September 19, 2008

I was kind of sad this morning because it’s the last full day of class.  Tomorrow we’re done at 1:30 and everyone heads home to the real world.  During our morning break I sampled one of our fruit tarts and then compared it to the fruit tart that Chef Welker made, and I think ours was better.  Ours had more pastry cream and it held together better. My partner agreed, but she’s just as biased as I am. But as the chef says, make it how you like it.  This morning’s lecture on aerated desserts was pretty short and covered mousses and bavarian cream.

Our kitchen work was fun because we already had everything we needed prepared.  We divided our puff pastry into thirds and made a rustic apple tart, palmiers (elephant ears), and Pithivier (which is a round thing that puffs way up and has almond filling).  The hard work of the puff pastry was done, so it was ready to go and easy to work with to put together our creations. Then into the oven…the moment of truth for our puff pastry!  I’m happy to say that our apple tart and Pithivier turned out beautifully (we didn’t bake the Palmiers today). We all sampled the ones the chef made and they were outstanding.  Now I can say that the puff pastry was worth it – it tastes better than the frozen (reference yesterday’s picture of the slab of butter if you’re wondering what makes it better).  There are a heck of a lot of things you can make from it, too, including savory items like cheese straws.

The other task before lunch was to ice our cake.  That went really poorly for a while but had a happy ending.  It’s difficult to cut one cake layer into three.  This is old school – there are no fancy gadgets to use and the chef likes to tell us about everything he had to do by hand during his apprenticeship (this is a chef’s version of walking uphill both ways to school). So our cake was kind of lopsided and even though it looked great before we cut it, it seemed shorter than everyone else’s after we had it assembled and iced.  We were unhappy and my partner decided that we had to add a layer to the cake to avoid total embarrassment.  We had an extra cake, so why should it go to waste?  We added another layer on top and it looked much better.  It was still crooked, so when we tried the decorating comb on the sides, it did not hide all sins as advertised.  Apparently our cake had some pretty big sins. We ended up coating the sides with sliced toasted almonds.  We piped a few rosettes on the top and it really looks pretty good now.

Here’s our cake during its repair. We had frosted the whole thing but then added another layer.

cake repair

cake repair

Here’s our final cake – much better!

final cake

final cake

For lunch, a few of us skipped the standard lunch hosted by the banquets class and went to the Apple Pie Bakery, which is the informal restaurant run by the Baking & Pastry students. I had a vegetable salad – just what I needed.  After lunch, the chef demonstrated chocolate mousse, raspberry mousse, peanut brittle, marbled chocolate, and napoleons.

I’m now known as the class worrier.  Am I worried about that?  Of course!  I worry about everything, which is second nature to me, but there’s nothing like spending a lot of time with a new group of people to learn something about yourself. My partner admitted that my worrying has come in handy this week and has saved us from making some mistakes.  So there.

Dinner was at Escoffier, which is the school’s French restaurant.  It was good, but the majority of us agreed that American Bounty was the best of the restaurants.  Escoffier is the most formal and the food isn’t as approachable as at the other restaurants. A couple of people ordered Bananas Foster, which they prepare tableside, so we had a nice show at dessert.

Since I’m headed home tomorrow, I’ll write up Day 5 and do a final recap over the weekend. No, I will not be reporting my total weight gain. Right now, my clothes still fit.  As they say, what happens in Pastry Boot Camp stays in Pastry Boot Camp!

Click here to continue to Day 5


Pastry Boot Camp Day 3

September 18, 2008

Morning lecture was about puff pastry (which is a laminated dough) and different types of buttercream.  My experience thus far with puff pastry amounted to taking it out of the freezer and following the directions on the box, so it’s good that I did the assigned reading yesterday.  The pastry we made in class will have 289 layers, but it could be made with up to 1500 layers, so you could spend much more time rolling and folding if you want more layers. I think we did four rounds of rolling and folding today.  My opinion of making puff pastry from scratch will depend on how ours turns out!  The pre-lecture class discussion was even more interesting than puff pastry – one of the women had her nose pierced last night, so we got to see it and hear all about it.  What’s next – getting a CIA logo tattoo? In the picture below, you can see the puff pastry dough on the bottom with a slab of butter on top.  Yesterday was cream day and today was butter day.

puff pastry assembly

puff pastry assembly

After starting the puff pastry, we took the cookie dough we made yesterday and made crusts for fruit tarts. Then we made Italian Buttercream, which involves making a dangerously hot sugar syrup and very slowly pouring it into whipped egg whites and then adding butter after it cools down. My partner had already figured out that I’m a worrier, but the following situation confirmed it.  We were watching the chef demonstrate a fruit tart while our buttercream was in the mixer, cooling down.  One of the student assistants came up to me and asked if that was my buttercream in the mixer at the end of the row.  I completely panicked and said “Yes, what’s wrong with it?” as I was ready to run down there and view the disaster. She said “No, I just wanted to say that it looks really good and you’re ready to add your butter after the demo.”  Oh.  Why do I always assume the worst? And I probably upset the poor girl by freaking out.  Even though I’m skeptical about how our puff pastry will turn out, I promised my partner that I won’t lose any sleep over it.  I’m not THAT bad.

After lunch was the final roll and fold and then we assembled our fruit tarts, using the crust we baked today, the pastry cream from Monday, the sponge cake from yesterday, and fresh fruit.  We were supposed to put the buttercream on our cakes today, but I think we got behind schedule. There has been a lot of grumbling about the lack of mixers in the classroom.  Here are the tarts our class made.

fruit tarts

fruit tarts

The afternoon lecture was Chef Cavotti on the subject of chocolate.  What’s not to like about that?  She talked about and demonstrated working with chocolate and had some tasty samples. Dinner was at American Bounty, which is a favorite of the people who have attended other boot camps.  I had crab cakes, heirloom tomato salad, and salmon.  No dessert!  What’s wrong with me? I think it’s just too much food in general. We aren’t really eating much of what we make in class, which surprised me.  I think we’re just too busy and too tired by the time we’re done.  I did wrap up a small fruit tart to sample tomorrow.

Tomorrow we’ll see if our puff pastry puffs!

Click here to continue to Day 4


Pastry Boot Camp Day 2

September 17, 2008

It was not a pretty morning.  As some of you know, I’m not too bad about getting up in the morning.  But 5:45am in the eastern time zone (which is 4:45am at home), after a long day and a lot of food – didn’t go too well.  I put my hair in a ponytail, threw on my uniform and headed to campus.  Only a handful of us showed up for breakfast today. Yes, I had the oatmeal and it was very good.

This morning’s lecture was about different methods for making sponge cakes.  In the kitchen, Chef Welker demonstrated using the warm method for making a sponge cake.  I haven’t made a wide range of cakes, and I had never heard of the warm method before, so it was interesting to watch and then try.  We used a 5qt Kitchenaid mixer, and the batter just about came to the top of the bowl, as you can see in the picture.

Sponge cake in mixer

Sponge cake in mixer

We also made a cookie dough which we’ll use as a crust for fruit tarts tomorrow.  One frustrating thing is that there aren’t enough mixers for each team, so we had to take turns.  The sponge cake had a good 20 minutes of mixing time, so it was a long wait.  We used a really big mixer (maybe 30qt?) to make our cookie dough, so that was kind of fun.

After those two things were completed, we had a demo of Diplomat Cream, which is pastry cream (which we made yesterday) plus heavy cream and a little gelatin to stabilize it.  So we made a cream filling yesterday and then added more cream to it today.  You can flavor it but we left it as-is, and it was tasty that way.  There was much discussion about the ratio of pastry cream to whipped cream – you could add less whipped cream for a denser filling, or you could use just the pastry cream to fill.  The chef made a large batch of ganache (which is chocolate mixed with cream) and we glazed our eclairs with that.  The eclairs look innocent, but there’s a lot of cream in there!  I will note that these are 3-inch eclairs, rather than the giant ones you see at the grocery store, so you could eat in moderation, and no, we were not required to eat 25 of them.

Lunch was back at the same dining room as yesterday.  We had a delicious mozzarella, tomato, and balsamic vinegar salad to start.  The entree was lamb so I opted for the vegetarian choice, which was a vegetable risotto. I toyed with trying the lamb, but I know that I don’t really like it and after I saw it, I was glad I didn’t go there.  The plates had three huge pieces of meat and all were of varying done-ness.  I thought some of it looked totally raw, but the lamb lovers assured me that was the way to eat it.  OK then, I enjoyed my veggie risotto.  No one opted for dessert, because it was profiteroles and we were on our way back to class to try our eclairs and custards. I’ve never thought I’d see the day when I turned down profiteroles!

Back in the kitchen, the chef demonstrated plating our desserts and then we put together our own plate with what we wanted to sample.  I used a kitchen torch for the first time and bruleed(?) my creme brulee (along with partially melting the eclair that I had on the same plate).  I’ve never been a creme brulee fan, but I don’t know why, because it was really good!  I had a bite of creme caramel and didn’t like that nearly as much, so it was interesting to learn how the different custards were made yesterday and then taste test them today.  Our eclairs turned out really good, if I do say so myself.  I expected the sampling to be more formal and to get some feedback from the chef, but that didn’t happen.  I’m not sure if that’s because we were a little rushed or because he doesn’t do that.  I’ll see if that changes as the week goes on.  We get plenty of feedback and can ask a lot of questions during the process, so that’s been very helpful.

Next was a group photo and then a lecture on the Physiology of Taste with chef von Bargen (our 2nd German chef).  The lecture was excellent!  I learned that the average person produces 10,000 gallons of saliva in a lifetime (fun fact to file away for parties).  Plus all kinds of interesting things about taste buds.  We had eight little cups with items to taste (most of which didn’t taste too good), to demonstrate the principles.  The chef was really fun and kept us all going after a long day.

Then it was a 3 hour break until dinner, which went really fast.  I stopped in at the bookstore and then headed back to the hotel and did the reading for tomorrow.  I only discovered today that there is recommended reading for each day – oops – but the chef didn’t mention it, so it can’t be that important. There are also videos that we can watch in the library, but it’s hard to find the time to do everything.

Dinner was at Caterina De Medici, which is the Itailian restaurant on campus. I had a spring vegetable tart, homemade fusilli with eggplant and tomato sauce, and tiramisu.  Mmmmm. Someone at dinner brought up the fact that the chef didn’t taste our food, and we decided to ask him to do it tomorrow.  Several people have been in one or more boot camps before, and they said that the chef always tastes and critiques the food.

Coming tomorrow: puff pastry!

Click here to continue to Day 3


Pastry Boot Camp Day 1

September 16, 2008

5:00am: Alarm

5:45am: Arrive at the Culinary Institute of America for 6:00am orientation.  I wasn’t the first one to get there! We got duffel bags full of stuff: uniforms, a giant (and very heavy) baking and pastry book, ring molds, two sets of large piping tips, a flexible cutting board, travel mug, even a pen and pencil!  Good thing I brought a big suitcase that has plenty of extra space in it.

The group (16 of us) had breakfast in the student dining hall.  We were funneled into an area where someone took your order from choices like eggs benedict, omelets, pancakes, potatoes, sausages, toast…  After we picked up our food, we went into the main dining hall, where there was a bunch more food!  I heard a rumor that there’s oatmeal, so I may need to seek that out tomorrow, although my pancakes were delicious.

Then it was on to lecture with Chef Welker,  complete with a PowerPoint (is there no getting away fromPowerPoint?).  We discussed custards: boiled custard, baked custard, stirred custard.  Then it was on to pate a choux, which is the base for eclairs, cream puffs, and profiteroles.  They call this Boot Camp and I admit I was a bit concerned, especially after reading some tales of cooking school, but there was nothing to worry about.  Chef Welker noted that we probably didn’t all pay a lot of money to come here and be yelled at.  This is true.

After lecture, we headed into the kitchen and learned how to assemble our chef’s touques.  Yes, we’re required to wear kitchen uniforms and hats in the kitchen.  Since most people on campus are wearing the lovely checked pants/white shirt combo, no one really looks dorky.  Chef Welker demonstrated making pastry cream and pate a choux and then set us loose in the kitchen.  The kitchen work went pretty smoothly. There were students there to help us locate things and – this is the good part – to wash our dishes.  I’ll need to remember that when I try this at home and wonder why it takes so much longer to do it.  My team’s pastry cream and pate a choux both seem to have turned out well, but we’ll find out tomorrow when we finish and taste.  Next, teams picked something to make.  Our team made creme brulee and other teams made creme caramel, bread pudding, and clafoutis. The brulee will be finished tomorrow too.  We didn’t taste any of our creations today, but we were warned that we will each have to eat 25 eclairs tomorrow.  Did I mention that Chef Welker is a funny guy?  Here’s a picture of the action.

This is my team's pate a choux batter

This is my team's pate a choux batter

After our kitchen time, we had lunch, which I think was put on by the banquets class. It was kind of like eating at a wedding – everyone was seated at roughly the same time and there was a set menu for the whole room.  The starter was oyster, sausage, and mushroom risotto, which I managed to like despite not being a big fan of oysters, sausage, or mushrooms.  The entree was salmon on a bed of spinach with horseradish mashed potatoes and a buerre rouge (butter sauce with red wine).  After lunch, we went back to the kitchen to weigh ingredients for tomorrow and then we went on a campus tour.  Next we had a 3 hour break so I went back to the hotel and went for a much-needed walk.  Dinner was at St Andrew’s Cafe, and I’m really to full to provide the details right now.

More on the people in the class another day.  So far they’re pretty normal.

Click here to continue to Day 2

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