CIA snapshot – day 1 & 2

CIA Pastry Bootcamp is everything I had imagined and more. The same Chef is teaching this class that taught baking bootcamp last year! What a treat. And, I’ve seen one of the TAs from last year and another Chef from one of our classes last year. How wonderful of them to take time to stop by and say hello!

I’ll post bootcamp details next week, when life returns to normal. In the meantime, I’ll give you a short summary of day 1 & 2. (15+ hour long days, and we love it!)
Day 1 – I can’t even remember without looking at my instruction book. We’ve baked and mixed and eaten so much!
Oh yes…pastry cream, pate a choux, and creme caramel. Long gone are my fears of a making a custard and caramelizing sugar. That’s not to say that everything we made was prefect, because it was not. But, we learn from our mistakes as well as our successes.
Day 2 – Filled and glazed pate a choux; unmolded our beautiful creme caramel; mixed, piped, and baked spritz cookies; and, we made a vanilla sponge cake. The mixer turned the sponge cake ingredients into mounds and mounds of stabilized bubbles. Our cakes baked to a golden brown. Tomorrow we will soak them with a flavored simple syrup, and frost with buttercream. The chocolate demo offered instructions regarding various tempering techniques. And Chef brought beautiful, tiny chocolates for us to taste while she piped chocolate butterflies with wings in flight.
The tasting is one of the many benefits of a trip to CIA. Everyone wants you to taste everything. I gazed through the window of our TA’s classroom late in the afternoon. They were making petite fours, invited me into the room, and offered a taste. I just didn’t have room for another bite- what a shame!

Hyde Park, NY – CIA – how exciting

(bridge east across Hudson River, then north to Hyde Park and CIA)

Sunday September 13
I’m really here again! When I left last September, I knew I would return at some point in the future, and here I am. Alarm clocks (yes, more than one) are set for 4:30 AM EST. Orientation begins on campus at 6 AM tomorrow morning.
I drove around the campus earlier today, fondly remembering last year’s week of Baking BootCamp (my links here), and wondering what wonderful experiences are yet to unfold at this Pastry BootCamp.
Does one week make one a pro? NO. But I do know where to park, where to attend class, and where to get the hot water for my morning tea.
It will be an exhausting week, as our days begin at 7AM and end around 9:30PM. I intend to post during the week (intend being an imaginary bold font).
As an aside, the Barnes & Noble bookstore here (in Poughkeepsie) is two stories high. I’ve never seen one that large. I now have the new book, “Confections of a Closet Master Baker – A Memoir.” Rather than reading, I need to be sleeping…..

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

let’s compare some ‘sandy’ sables

(the little coffee cup is 2″ tall)

What is a sable?

My CIA notebook has a recipe for Pecan Sables as follows:
cake flour
no egg
3 parts butter
1 part sugar
1 part cream
1.2 parts flour
refrigerate, slice and bake 
(these were very good)
Baking and Pastry from CIA has a recipe for Sand Cookies:
all purpose flour
no egg
2.7 parts butter
1 part powdered sugar
3.8 parts flour
refrigerate, slice and bake
Viking “Around the World Cookie Swap” lists French Sables Korova:
all purpose flour
no egg
.8 part flour
1 part butter
1 part sugar
refrigerate, slice and bake
(I remember these cookies melting/dissolving in my mouth upon the first bite.)
Joy of Baking lists sable ingredients as:
all purpose flour
1 parts butter
.7 part sugar
1 egg
2 parts flour
refrigerate, slice and bake
Then there is the recipe I followed:
bread flour
1 part butter
.4 part powdered sugar
.2 part egg white
1.1 part flour
pipe with large star tip and bake
I chose this recipe ( ”Butter cookies-sables a la poche-sand in your pocket” found at Baked By Me) because the pictures of the sables on the I Bake What I Like blog were beautiful and quite inspiring.  I didn’t compare ingredient parts (I’ve been reading “Ratio” by Michael Ruhlman and now I’m converting everything to …parts!) ;  I just assumed a sable was a sable.  Bread flour is used in this recipe to help the cookies hold their shape when piped with a large star tip.  The cookies did pipe beautifully, and held their shape after baking.  But, the cookies did not dissolve in my mouth as other sables have.  And, the next time I bake these, I would add much more vanilla, or another flavoring. 

As I said, I baked these because they were – pretty.  I have lemon curd in the freezer.  These cookies would be quite tasty sandwiched together with lemon curd. 
(the mini cupcake holder is about 2″ wide)

I still don’t know what a sable should be…but these cookies are so cute!


This concoction holds an important place in my baking kitchen. I first learned of this mixture while attending a Viking Bakeshop Basics class.  After further research, I found a similar recipe in my “Baking and Pastry – Mastering the Art and Craft – Culinary Institute of America” textbook.

Pan release is designed to be used when baking any batter based mixture.  Forget the can of Pam; forget the ‘grease and flour the pan’ routine!  Pan Release to the rescue!
As we were told in the Viking class, “your baked goods will not stick to the pan if you use this mixture.”  The CIA textbook states that this will create a “nonstick surface.”  I have been using this since October 2008 (7 months), with 100% success.  I’m still using my original mixture; it keeps well if stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.  Initially, I erred on the side of spreading the pan release thickly.  You will need to use a generous coating on your pan, but not an excessive coating.  Too much pan release and you will have a light ‘floury film’ on your baked goods.  After you use this a couple of times, you will easily know how thickly to apply the pan release.
Add this ‘recipe’ to your files today.  
The Viking class recipe stated:  Use equal portions of Crisco, flour, and Vegetable Oil; store in refrigerator.
I followed the CIA instructions as listed on page 826 of the above mentioned book.  
1 lb / 454g Shortening (I used Crisco)
1 lb/ 454g Bread Flour
1 lb/ 454g Vegetable Oil (I used Crisco Oil)
Mix the shortening and flour; gradually add the oil until all is well mixed.  Store in the refrigerator.
Happy No-Stick Baking!