The creator of ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program, he has just released a new book, Bake!: Essential Techniques for Perfect Bakingthat book seizes on this current demand for all things pastry and demystifies baking for anyone hoping to create their own pastry masterpiece. A true luminary, Chef Nick was the executive pastry chef at Windows on the World and his books include, The Modern Baker, Chocolate, How to Bake, A Baker’s Tour, Perfect Cakes, and Cookies Unlimited. Along the way, he has won IACP cookbook awards, James Beard awards and was twice named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America by Pastry Art & Design.
Chef Nick’s extensive experience in Europe and America is the basis of ICE’s comprehensive curriculum. Though pastry is exploding now, he has been working, teaching and writing cookbooks for more than 30 years. He said, “When I had a wholesale pastry business in the early ‘80s it was easy to sell to restaurants because nobody had a pastry chef. Pretty soon, fast food joints are going to have pastry chefs.” In his words, as the pastry arts have grown, “People are expecting beautiful desserts. You can find astounding things at commonplace restaurants.” Chef Nick’s Bake! helps recreate some of these types of amazing treats. The book, “takes the intimidation and imagined difficulty out of baking.”
Formatted into 20 short chapters, each chapter of the book opens with an illustrated guide to a technique or exemplary recipe that forms the basis of the rest of the recipes in the chapter. The scope of the book is broad, covering breads, cakes, tarts, cookies and more. “There are savory recipes spread throughout, rather than being all in one place,” said Chef Nick, emphasizing that book’s primary focus is techniques rather than recipes, just as with the Pastry & Baking Arts curriculum.
In addition to creating the career program, Chef Nick teaches classes in ICE’s recreational division. “For me, writing is an extension of teaching. When I am right there in the classroom, the recipe doesn’t need to be as accurate as when a reader is in their kitchen at home with the book and that’s where the writing comes in.” His advice for would-be bakers? “Always read the recipe first.” Even though it is a mistake he admits to making himself, he emphasized that reading the recipe can save you a lot of trouble. “Even if you think you’ve got a bunch of parsley in the fridge, that’s not the same as looking it face to face to make sure you can use it.”
Reading the recipe is even more important in baking. “You may open the cupboard and see a can of baking powder on the shelf. But if you don't open it up, you may start making the recipe and find there is only an 1/8 teaspoon in the can.” The first step is making sure you have all the ingredients, then understanding techniques helps any baker perfect their craft.