Lessons 71-80: Pastry and Patience

If I’ve learned one thing so far about pastry and baking, it’s patience.

I have to admit that I was anxiously awaiting the start to Module 4, which is the pastry and baking portion of ICE’s Culinary Career Program. Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook, but my love affair with food actually began as a result of baking. I was the resident Funfetti Birthday Cake Baker at my high school, and while I have yet to come across such a recipe in Mod 4 (I’m guessing it’s somewhere between the pulled sugar and the Pâte à choux), I’m beside myself with all of our buttery and sugary confections.

Our Chef Instructor for the baking and pastry module is Chef Scott McMillen, who was formerly the executive pastry chef at Manhattan Ocean Club for nearly 10 years and also a contributor to the restaurant’s cookbook. Chef Scott has walked us non-bakers step-by-step through the ins and outs of pastry.

One of the biggest surprises was learning (and experiencing) the amount of work that goes into making classic puff pastry. We mixed, we rolled and we pounded non-stop for four hours. The result? Endless batches of golden brown glory in the form of palmiers, pailletes, bouchees, coques, apple tartlets, prosciutto turnovers and smoked salmon mille feuille. And you better believe that I tasted (at least) one of everything, which inevitably led to a butter coma. But butter will be taking a backseat next week as Chef Scott leads us into the wonderful world of pizza dough, focaccia and calzones. With just two weeks left, Module 5 is in our sights and many of our first steps into professional kitchens are just weeks away.

Coming up next week: Pizza, Focaccia & Calzones