creme caramel was just the beginning

CIA Day 1 (originally written in September 2009)

It’s not yet daylight in the Hudson Valley at 5:30 AM as I make my way north to orientation. As the continuing education coordinator distributes parking passes and food swipe cards, I am nose deep in my instruction manual. What will we be making this week???
Breakfast today was Elvis french toast…what can I say…Memphis is home…I had to try this. It’s almost what you would expect. Two slices of french toast sandwiched to together with banana, peanut butter, and bacon. It’s quite rich, and I didn’t pour on the syrup!
How great to see Chef Welker again. He was my instructor last fall at Baking BootCamp. After watching Chef demo pastry cream, vanilla sauce/creme anglasie, pate a choux, and the wet method of making caramel for creme caramel, we were given our assignments and allowed near the gas cooking flames. How trusting of the CIA to allow this group of people, from all walks of life and all experience levels, free reign in the kitchen.
Pastry cream means whisk constantly and vigourously until your arm feels very, very tired. And then whisk some more. Mary (my bootcamp partner) and I took turns whisking. Now, who’s going to help whisk in my home kitchen?! All the effort was worth the final result; we produced a tray of rich, thick, vanilla seed speckled, pastry cream. (BTW, the CIA uses 2,000 pounds of butter per week.)
Pate a choux did not require any of the heavy duty whisking. We piped lines and circles with the dough…I guess that means we made eclairs and cream puffs. Tomorrow, we will fill these with the pastry cream we made earlier today.
Lunch break was not your ordinary brown bag variety. Caprece salad, lamb, squash, and some type of stuffing. Skipped the cheesecake (I can’t believe I did that!) to get back to class to make the caramel.
And now, on to the hot sugar part of the day. It was just awesome to watch that sugar (we used the wet method to make the caramel) change from white bubbles to golden amber caramel! We will plate these little pots of creme caramel tomorrow.
We finished the afternoon with a very complete tour of the campus. In addition to the baking and chocolate classrooms we observed, we made our way ‘downstairs’ to the fish room and the meat room. I can’t describe will just have to wait for the pictures. Oh, and a quick trip through the store room where they keep the chocolate.
It’s time to dress for dinner at Caterina De Medici; they are expecting us at 7PM. Not to be outdone by the lamb at lunch, I’m sure this dinner will be spectacular.
Dinner service was quite slow; we didn’t finish dessert until 9:30 PM. Today has been a wonderful but very long day.

Here’s a link to another day 1 and 2 post.  I was so tired at the end of the remaining evenings of the week that I didn’t write summaries of the day.  The pictures will have to tell the story…

The above post was written in September 2009.  After the week at CIA Pastry Bootcamp, I returned home to work and everyday stuff.  Now it’s July 2010, and I’m on v a c a t i o n!  And, I now have time to update some partially-completed posts.

So, I’ll soon be posting CIA Pastry Bootcamp pictures from September 2009.  As was the CIA Baking Bootcamp in fall of 2008, this Pastry experience was educational, and fun, and inspiring.  If you are even remotely considering a week at CIA, click that button on the computer screen and commit to taking the class.  It will change your life.

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