CIA baking bootcamp photo gallery

Repost from September 2008
CIA day 4

original post titled ‘braids – turtles – flowers’

6:15AM – banana foster crepe and Craquelin for breakfast

7:00AM lecture from Chef Ruder. Chef Welker went fishing for striped bass. Chef Ruder was our instructor for our final class. As their names imply, they are both German and both tell of being an apprentice at an early age and working under their Master to develop their skills. And skills they do have.

8:00AM – Tasting the biscotti from yesterday, as well a other cakes. Today we are again making bread…one lean and one enriched. Chef tossed partial handfulls of flour into the huge Hobart mixer as the dough transformed from flour, water, yeast, and salt into an aromatic mixture, ready to be rested, worked, and formed.

Chef Ruder’s baker’s hands….you would just have to see them work. The pictures capture only a small portion of the magic. Chef shaped two large perfectly rounded balls of dough, one using his right hand and one using his left hand, both at the same time. It’s as if he were a juggler, only with bread dough. The dough yielded to him and shaped perfectly.

Chef Thomas Ruder instructs today. He demos bread mixing, handling, shaping, and baking.

Click HERE to see Chef’s demos

Click HERE to see baking boot campers at work

And if that wasn’t amazing enough, Chef began to braid the dough. He braided using 5 ropes of dough, and then formed the braid into other shapes. After rising, the shapes were sprayed with water and sprinkled with seeds of choice, and baked in the huge, porous floor, steam ovens. The smell of baking bread reached throughout the rooms and up the stairs. Ahhhhhh!

Chef’s whimsical side surfaced as he formed turtles from the enriched dough, using raisins for eyes, and a few snips with the scissors to add authenticity. I asked Chef for a flower, and a flower he produced. Chef stated that sculpting dough would be of a different mixture, but his pieces of ‘art’ were impressive.

11:00AM lunch today was prepared by the students in the banquet section. The food had to be prepared and presented to all tables timely, hot food still hot, each plate looking identical to the plate nearby.

After lunch, we watched the TA’s pipe whipping cream and make Swiss Meringue for the cream pies from Day 3. They had also added the chocolate dip to the hazelnut biscotti, readying it for us to taste. It was quite good, and beautiful in form. The cross-section cuts of the hazelnuts in this dough are very pretty.

Daily, at the end of class, we boxed cookies, cake, scones, pies, breads. Today, we bagged bread for the final time, taking it with us to either give away or consume ourselves. Chef presented each of us with a group photo and we all said our good byes. How many of us will go home and bake? Or, how many of us have to return to our day-to-day world of work, rush, worry, stress, and McDonalds? One thing is for sure…we were all changed by the experience. Changed by the classmates with whom we worked, by the instruction of our Chefs and the three very valuable teachers assistants, changed by the handling of the ingredients, changed by the quality of the items we produced.

In summary:

scales are imperative

scale it out

mise en place


my final walk by the windows of the Apple Pie Bakery…watching the students produce the beautiful breads and pastries

my final gaze over the campus, it beautiful buildings and landscaping along the banks of the Hudson, the aroma of the herbs in the herb garden

…final, only until I return to the CIA for the pastry bookcamp in the future!

I’m exhausted, but the experience was worth every ounce of energy and every cent of tuition.

happy baking…

pie and bread

repost from September 2008

CIA day 3

original post titled ‘bread’

6:15AM – I don’t even remember what I ate for breakfast. My morning pre class routine includes a stroll by the huge windows overlooking the preparation area of the Apple Pie Bakery. Students are hard at work preparing for the day. I could watch them for hours.

7:00AM class greets us with an hour lecture(we begin talking about bread baking today!), and then into the kitchen to watch Chef’s demos and produce as directed. 8:15AM – Scones, cookies, and cake are plated for our early morning snack with coffee or tea.

Today we filled our pie crusts that we made yesterday. Just as a point of reference, we have 7 teams…each team made 4 pie crusts, and Chef made the full recipe, which was 8 crusts. We produce 20++ pies! Cooked fillings included blueberry, apple, and cherry. We made pecan pies. The custard pies are cooling and will be topped with whip cream or meringue tomorrow.

We tasted Chef’s apple pie, cut while still slightly warm. Delicious!!! And the curst……so flakey!!!

I went to the Apple Pie Bakery for lunch today…their paninnis are as good as their breads and pastries.

On to the bread. Dough mixing…dough rising, dough shaping…dough baking…Focaccia…baguettes…

Beautiful baked color, the sound of the crackle after the freshly baked loaves are transfered from the ovens to the work table via the bread peal. We should have waited at least 30 minutes to taste, but the aroma was more powerful than the clock. Delicious! Once again, we’re eating, and evaluating the texture of the bread.

We made hazelnut biscotti….and someone else wanted to make sponge cake. We tasted the cake today…the biscotti still needs to be dipped in chocolate tomorrow.

We had our class photo taken today, and tomorrow we will ‘graduate.’

A walk around this campus could cause one to gain weight. The smells from all the classes producing as instructed and from the restaurants cause one to just stand still and experience…

Dinner tonight at Escoffier. Quail as an appetizer, a chicken main course, and praline-caramel pastry for dessert

Alarm set for 4:45AM…tomorrow is the last day. We are all sad to see the classes end. Our quest for knowledge brought us here, and will continue to drive us.

CIA campus on Hudson River

repost from September 2008

CIA day 2

post originally titled ‘pie dough’

Up and on campus before sunrise..(breakfast is served 5:30 – 7:00 AM) breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, lemon poppy seed muffin, and what tasted like ham and cheese focaccia. Class lecture begins at 7AM.

8:15AM – Time to eat again…we taste the cookies and cakes from our baking the day before.

Today we learn to make pie dough. Chef’s method was the most amazing method I have ever seen. We created the flakiest pie dough ever!!!!! We will bake pies with the dough tomorrow.

Scones were next on the list. Ours were sun dried tomato, basil, and asiago cheese. They were very good…

There are 7 teams in our class, each team producing different items. Then we all taste…..that’s a lot of tasting.

11:00 AM – lunch…and we aren’t hungry. Rolls, soup, and an apple tart was my choice, and we’re back in the kitchen

3:00PM – Afternoon lecture was presented by Denise Hall on coffee/espresso. Afterwards, she took us to the Apple Pie Bakery (wonderful on-campus bakery) where we tasted the CIA’s specially chosen coffees. Along with fresh pastries baked by the students, we tasted 6 coffee varities. I’m not a coffee drinker, but the press coffee we tasted, along with the pastries for a touch of sweet, was delicious!

6:30PM – Dinner was at the Italian restaurant on campus…Caterina de vegetable tart and pasta were an adventure into something new. Ah…but the tiramisu was wonderful.

Alarm set for 4:45AM.

almost ‘same time last year’

This is a repost from September 2008. I’m preparing to attend another CIA bootcamp, and I wanted to take a walk down memory lane.

CIA day 1

repost…previously named ‘butter & sugar’

First of three alarms sounded at 4:30AM EST. By 4:45AM (that’s 3:45 CST!) it was time to get up. My first day at the Culinary Institute of America was to begin with orientation at 6:00AM – Baking Bootcamp. My thought was…some real chef’s/bakers have to do this every day, and perhaps even earlier! When I arrived on campus at about 5:45AM, students were dressed in their uniforms and walking to class. PS: the sun had not yet risen

Orientation, a parking pass, a big bag of goodies including the textbook, workbook, and two uniforms and we are off to breakfast. French Toast was delicious. The fruit plate could have been photographed for a magazine. The kitchens were buzzing with culinary students working their way through the required classes.

Class lecture begins at 7:00AM – the creaming method, and some of Chef’s own personal suggestions for mixing methods & recipe variations. Chef Hans Welker is originally from Germany. He’s a wonderful instructor and has a great sense of humor. He has a little trouble understanding me and I have a little trouble understanding him…

8:15AM – dress in white chef jacket, black shepherd’s check pants, apron, side towel, and hat. Begin scaling, mixing, and ultimately baking. My team baked a blueberry/strawberry Streusel loaf. 15 students divided into 7 groups all trying to become familiar with the kitchen, the utensils, and the ingredients…all at one time…at best…chaos. Tomorrow should be better; at least we will know where the flour and scales are stored!

11:00AM – lunch prepared and served by the real culinary students…it was delicious and beautifully plated.

12:00 Noon – class resumes. Mix the cookies – Russian Tea Cookies. Chef taught us how to make a ‘perfect’ roll of cookie dough to refrigerate/freeze (a great technique using parchment paper and a sheet pan).

Great news..we don’t have to wash our own dishes!

Discussion time, review of the day’s baking, tour of the campus, a trip through the bookstore and library. Now it’s time to dress and return to campus for diner at 6:30PM. Dinner tonight at campus restaurant, American Bounty.

The photos cannot capture the essence of this campus. The smell of the herbs as I walk through the Italian Restaurant’s herb garden, and the aroma of the on campus restaurants preparing for dinner meals is just aahhhhh……

9:30PM-three course dinner complete; everything was wonderful; all the food was plated beautifully.

Alarm is set for 4:55AM

pecan pie Cookies

All the flavor of a piece of pecan pie, in a few handheld bites. These are delicious!

The cookies are soft, probably due somewhat to the filling in the center. Next time (yes, for sure!) I may try baking them in a mini cheesecake pan to see if I can form a more sturdy base to the cookie.
They freeze well. Here’s the link to the recipe.

Tahitian Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

They look very simple….

Look closer…
The seeds from three vanilla beans perfume these simple sugar cookies. They are delicious.
I used a #100 scoop, and made about 6 dozen small, vanilla wafer size cookies. The cookie dough balls need to be scooped soon after mixing, as resting the cookie dough in the refrigerator causes it to harden.
You can find the recipe here. I didn’t add the crystalized sugar to the cookies…it just seemed…wrong.


Page 221 from David Lebovits’s “The Sweet Life in Paris.”

My book ‘falls’ open to this recipe, for I have made them more than once. The recipe is wonderful. Follow his mixing method, and definitely allow the batter to sit for 10 – 12 hours. This resting time allows the lemon flavor to permeate the batter.
Fresh from the oven, they have a slight crunch on the outside edge and are cakey inside. They are equally delicious glazed with the lemon glaze. And, to prevent excessive consumption, I freeze these baked beauties. They are quite good from the freezer.
In addition to the recipes, David has a way with words and is quite the storyteller. He relays every day life of an American in Paris. This is a must read for any American contemplating more than a weekend stay in Paris.