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Culinary School

  • Article

    Cake Decorating with Erin Gardner (Series Intro)

    Pastry chef Erin Gardner is one sweet genius...literally! She competed on the Food Network’s Sweet Genius and won. As the owner of Wild Orchid Baking Company in New Hampshire, she creates gorgeous custom cakes for weddings and parties all over coastal New England. And now she’s sharing her secrets with us.

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  • How-To

    How to Make Shawarma

    Text and recipe by Ana Sortun Everyone in Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, and the rest of the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean knows shawarma (shuh-wahr-mah)-it's a popular street food in those parts of the world and in a lot of North American cities, too. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's essentially a meaty flatbread sandwich, but that generic description doesn't do it justice. The heart of shawarma is the meat-be it beef, lamb, goat, veal, turkey, chicken, or a combination-which is seasoned and stacked with slabs of fat on a vertical spit where it slowly rotates, roasting and self-basting, for hours until tender and juicy. It's then thinly sliced right o­ the spit and used to make a delightfully complex sandwich. All sorts of other goodies, including pickled vegetables, tahini, hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, and even French fries may be layered with the meat inside the bread, which is always very thin and warm. Get the recipe:Braised Lamb Shawarma My own shawarma revelation occurred in a Lebanese deli in an Armenian neighborhood of Los Angeles, of all places. Needing to kill a few minutes between appointments, I popped into the hole-in-the-wall joint that my uncle swore made the best shawarma. I was skeptical-you should have seen the place-but he was right. Their chicken shawarma, topped with a garlic sauce, was truly incredible. But it wasn't the roasted chicken itself or the garlic sauce, even though that was tasty, that made it so unbelievably good. It was the perfect, restrained balance of chewy flatbread, sumptuous meat, and punchy sauce that did me in. I returned to Sofra, my Middle Eastern bakery and café in Cambridge, Massachusetts, set on making a shawarma that was just as good or better. Shawarma isn't typically made at home-street vendors make such delicious versions that most people just buy and eat them on the go-but I was determined. Since my heart belongs to Turkish cuisine, where lamb reigns, I decided to use lamb shoulder chops. We don't have a vertical spit at Sofra, so I braised the lamb, flavoring it with white wine and aromatic seasonings. Post-braise, I broke the tender meat into chunks and tossed it with a bright, rich sauce made from the braising liquid, butter, sweet-and-sour pomegranate molasses, and lemon juice. The true magic came when I layered the succulent lamb on warm homemade flatbread with lightly pickled cabbage and a creamy tahini yogurt sauce. Rolled up tight into a thin, burrito-like shawarma, it was just what I'd hoped to achieve-a perfect balance of flavors in every bite. Here's how to make it for yourself. One taste, and you'll understand why so much of the world is in love with this sandwich. 1. Be gentle when tossing the lamb with its sauce to avoid breaking up the chunks that give the shawarma its great texture. 2. Restraint is the key in assembling shawarma; don't overwhelm the thin flatbread with too much lamb, cabbage, or tahini sauce. 3. Roll the shawarma tightly, pulling back on the edge of the bread after folding it over the filling and tucking the filling under with your fingertips, to create a slender, burrito-like wrap. 4. Toasting the shawarma on just one side heats it through and yields delicious texture: crisp on the toasted side, tender on the other side, and luscious on the inside. For the Yufka (Turkish Flatbread)  This easy-to-make flatbread is sturdy enough to hold the shawarma fillings but thin enough that it doesn't overwhelm them. 1. Roll the balls of yufka dough as thinly as you can, which should give you rounds that are about 9 inches in diameter and ­1/16-inch thick. 2. Cook the dough rounds until they look dry and are pale golden in spots, a minute or two on each side. The bread will be toasted again after the shawarma is assembled, so you don't want it to get too dark at this point.

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  • How-To

    How to Make Creole Shrimp Jambalaya

    New Orleans native, chef, culinary instructor, radio host, and cookbook author Poppy Tooker believes there are a few universal truths when it comes to making a pot of jambalaya—whether it's made in the Creole or Cajan tradition. Find out what those truths are and learn how to make Poppy's Creole-Style Shrimp Jambalaya.

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  • How-To

    How to Shape and Dip Bavarian-Style Soft Pretzels

    By Peter Reinhart Shaping the dough for my Bavarian-Style Pretzels is easy once you get the hang of it, and a dip in food-safe lye makes the crust an appealing dark mahogany-brown and deeply flavorful:  After the first rise, roll the dough into long ropes and twist them into the traditional pretzel shape (watch the video and see the steps detailed below). Instead of using flour to prevent the dough from sticking, I use a little vegetable oil; adding more flour at this point only makes the pretzels tough. To Shape the PretzelsLine a large baking sheet with lightly oiled parchment or a silicone baking mat and set aside. Lightly mist a work surface and, using your palms and fingers, roll each piece of dough on the work surface into a rope that’s about 30 inches long and 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. If the dough resists or shrinks back, let it rest for a few minutes while you work on other pieces; short rests will let the gluten relax enough to allow for the full rollout. Working with 1 dough rope at a time, shape it into a large U that’s 5 to 7 inches across with the curve closest to you. Take the 2 ends of the rope in your fingers and cross one over the other so the ends overhang the cross by about 3 inches. Twist the ends of the rope shortening the overhang to about 2 inches.  Next, pull the twisted end section toward you and fold it down over the bottom curve of the U so the ends are a couple of inches apart and overhang the bottom by about 1/4 inch. Carefully transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly and reshaping as needed. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until hard, at least 2 hours and up to 3 weeks. The next step—freezing the pretzels—is unusual, but it makes all the difference for two reasons: It slows down the fermentation process, which gives the pretzels better flavor, and it helps them hold their shape during the following step, a soak in a lye bath. Dip for a dark, flavorful crustThe secret to a truly great pretzel is a dip in a weak solution of water and lye, an alkali that affects the surface starch so the pretzels can develop a deep, glossy-brown crust in the oven (see tips below for working with lye safely). The alkali is neutralized during baking, making the pretzel safe to eat. If you’d rather not work with lye, you can use baking soda instead. But baking soda is a much milder alkali, and the crust it produces will not be nearly as dark or crusty as one made with lye. If using baking soda, you’ll also need to brush the pretzels with beaten egg or they may bake up streaky. After dipping, the pretzels sit at room temperature to thaw and proof. Then they’re sprinkled with coarse salt—a little goes a long way—and baked to mahogany-brown perfection (or dark golden-brown perfection, if dipped in baking soda). Either way, they’re sure to wow your friends and family. How to work safely with lyeDon’t let the idea of working with lye scare you—it’s really not a big deal if you take basic precautions and keep the following in mind: • Use food-grade lye; it’s been used for centuries in Asian cuisines, to cure olives, make hominy from corn, and alkalize cocoa. You can find it in some Asian markets and online at modernistpantry.com. • Lye is very alkaline, so if it splashes on your skin, it will sting; if it spills on your work surface, it may stain. Use caution, working slowly and deliberately. If splashes occur, immediately rinse with cool water. • Wear protective gloves. If they are nondisposable, wash them in cool soapy water and rinse well after using. • Use a stainless-steel bowl to hold the lye bath and stainless-steel tongs or slotted spoon to dip the pretzels. Never let the lye come in contact with aluminum, including foil; lye reacts to aluminum, releasing flammable hydrogen gas. • Dispose of the lye bath by slowly pouring it down the sink drain and then flush the pipes with cold running water for a few seconds.  

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  • How-To

    How to Make Lemon Meringue Pie

    Homemade lemon meringue pie can’t be beat, but it can be tricky to make. Lemon meringue pie is extremely temperamental: It doesn’t like humidity, and it doesn’t like to be overmixed, undercooked, or overcooked. Over the years, baking expert Carole Walter has worked out most of the kinks in this delicious dessert, and in this video, Fine Cooking's Shelley Wiseman demonstrates Carole's step-by-step recipe—including all of Carole's tricks and pro secrets for the perfect lemon meringue pie.

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  • How-To

    How to Make Classic French Macarons

    In this video, pastry chef Joanne Chang shares her secrets to getting that textural contrast just right. She takes you step by step through the process of making the cookies and then shows you how to prepare two delicious fillings, Lemon Curd and Vanilla Buttercream.

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  • How-To

    How to Make Authentic Pad Thai

    Making pad thai at home is surprisingly easy. The key is balancing the dish's sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and bitter flavors. In this video, Corinne Trang teaches you how to prepare and stir-fry several Thai ingredidents to achive the right mix of flavor and texture for an authentic and delicious pad thai.

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  • How-To

    How to Make Steamed Pork Buns

    In this video, you'll learn  how to make char siu bau from scratch, starting with how to make the dough, the filling, and how to shape and steam them.

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  • How-To

    How to Make Classic Pecan Pie

    For many people in the South, Classic Pecan Pie is a holiday or special occasion dessert, but not for me. I could eat it every day. But I’m not talking about overly sweet, super-gooey pecan pie; there are lots of those recipes out there. My recipe strikes just the right balance—the filling is rich but not cloying, so the pecans take center stage, and the flaky, tender crust has enough salt in it to offset the sweetness of the filling.______________________________________________________________  Three spins on a classic:  Because I can't choose a favorite, I'm sharing recipes for three filling variations close to my southern heart: Chicory Coffee Pecan Pie, Bourbon-Chocolate Pecan Pie, and Bacon and Cane Syrup Pecan Pie. ______________________________________________________________  In this video, I’ll show you how to make the all-butter pie dough in a food processor, roll it out (the trick is to roll from the center to the edges), and blind bake it. Next, I’ll walk you through the simple steps to making the filling and baking the pie. Make the pie doughPut the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the largest pieces are about the size of corn kernels, 8 to 12 one-second pulses. Drizzle 5 Tbs. of the ice water over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture becomes a moist, crumbly-looking dough that holds together when squeezed in your hand, 4 to 6 pulses. If the dough is still dry, add another tablespoon or two of ice water and test again. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Gently gather and press the dough into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days (or freeze for up to 1 month; defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using). Let the dough sit at room temperature to soften slightly (it should be firm but not rock hard), 5 to 20 minutes, depending on how long it was chilled. Roll the dough on a lightly floured work surface with a lightly floured rolling pin until it’s about 13 inches wide and 1/8 inch thick. Roll from the center of the dough to the edges and try to use as few passes as possible to avoid overworking the dough. After every few passes, run an offset spatula or a bench knife under the dough to be sure it isn’t sticking, and give the dough a quarter turn. Reflour the work surface and rolling pin only as needed—excess flour makes the crust tough. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate by rolling it around the rolling pin and unrolling it into the plate. You can also fold the dough in half and unfold it into the plate. To fit the dough into the plate, gently lift the edges to create enough slack to line the sides without stretching the dough. Trim off all but 3/4 inch of the overhang. Roll the dough under itself to build up the edge of the crust. Crimp the edge of the crust with your fingers. With the tines of a fork, prick the crust all over. Chill for up to 1 hour in the refrigerator or about 30 minutes in the freezer. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Line the piecrust with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until the bottom looks dry and the edges are golden, 5 to 7 minutes more. Cool on a rack while you prepare the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and put a large, rimmed baking sheet on the oven rack. Tips for Shaping and blind baking the crust  To avoid tough, overworked dough, always roll from the center out toward the edges, making as few passes as possible. To keep the dough from sticking, I like to run a long offset spatula underneath it every so often. Try not to stretch the dough as you fit it into the pan—stretched dough shrinks when it’s baked. Rolling the overhanging dough under itself, rather than folding it, creates a thicker crust edge, which makes crimping easier. A pie should look as good as it tastes. For a decorative touch, crimp the dough, spacing the flutes about an inch apart. So the crust doesn’t get soggy from the filling, blind bake it first. It’s done when the bottom looks dry and the edges are golden. Make the filling   Put the egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl set on a kitchen towel and add the vanilla. Combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup, cream, and salt in a 1-quart saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring often, just until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisking vigorously and constantly, very slowly pour the hot sugar mixture into the yolks. (NOTE: Constant whisking is my secret to incorporating the hot sugar mixture into the yolks without curdling them. You can stabilize the bowl with a towel.) Strain through a fine strainer set over a 1-quart measuring cup.  Fill and bake the pie  Spread the toasted pecans evenly in the piecrust. Slowly pour the filling over the pecans (NOTE: Pour the filling over the pecans in a slow, spiral motion; if you go too fast, the pecans may move, leaving gaps in the finished pie.). Put the pie on the baking sheet and bake until the center of the pie is slightly firm to the touch and the filling doesn’t wobble when the pie is nudged, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for at least 1 hour before serving. The pie can be made up to 1 day ahead (store covered with plastic at room temperature), but it’s best eaten warm or at room temperature on the day it’s made.

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  • How-To

    Tea-Smoking

    You may have experimented with different kinds of woods to flavor food on the grill, but have you tried using loose tea leaves to do the same?  Tea-smoking is an ancient Chinese technique you can use at home for wonderfully exotic and delicious results. Chicken, duck, salmon, and shrimp turn out beautifully burnished and imbued with a rich and fragrant smokiness. And all that flavor comes from a foil packet filled with tea, rice, brown sugar, spices, and citrus zest. Simply slip the packet under the grill grate—directly on the hot coals or on top of a metal gas burner shield—then close the lid and let the smoke do its magic.

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  • How-To

    How to Make Chinese Dumplings

    In Northern China, serving heaps of dumplings called jiao zi at the start of the Lunar New Year is the favorite way to share wishes of prosperity and success.  The name jiao zi literally means money, since these fat little dumplings look like the gold and silver ingots that were once China's currency.  In this 4-part video series, Thy Tran shows you every step of the dumpling-making process. She starts with kneading together a simple flour and water dough. Next, Thy demonstrates one of her favorite fillings made with ground pork and shrimp. There are also recipes for two more fillings, a luxurious roast duck filling and a vegetarian-friendly egg-and-chive filling. Then we'll move on to how to roll out the dumpling skins, with a special dumpling rolling pin. Tran shows you how to pleat the dumplings for that three-sided shape that's traditional for pan-fried potstickers, and then finally, we'll fry up those potstickers so they're crunchy and golden-brown on the bottom, but still soft and tender on top.

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  • How-To

    How to Make Chocolate Fudge

    In this video from Fine Cooking's Culinary School, Nicki Sizemore demonstrates the art of making smooth chocolate fudge from scratch and shares the Test Kitchen's secrets for keeping the size of the sugar crystals in check, ensuring the proper texture. You'll also learn why it's important not to stir the fudge while the mixture is boiling or cooling and how you can tell precisely when it's time to stop beating the fudge and start pouring it into the pan.

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