Cutting and Piping and Arithmetic

It was a pleasant surprise going into day 3 of pastry school to find out not only were we going to practice piping chocolate, but we were also going to start baking. But, like the science that pastry arts is, some math had to be done before we could start getting our hands dirty. Our class started off by learning how to fold and cut parchment paper to then assemble cornets, or paper cones in French (say it with me, cor-nays). You may be reading this thinking, “why would anyone spend valuable time learning how to cut parchment paper?” Well, pastry chefs use parchment paper every single day. They use cornets to pipe finer icings and melted chocolate, to get that teeeeeny tiny tip just right. And no, it’s just as easy as cutting a piece of paper. Scissors are not always handy to a pastry chef, but wanna know what is? A sharp paring knife and an offset spatula. So that’s what we did– we sliced parchment paper in half, then in half again, and then diagonally to create that classic “a squared plus b squared equals c squared” triangular-shaped piece of parchment.

Lesson 1: I’m not very good at cutting parchment.

We then learned how to properly fold and form them into these adorable little cones.


Lesson 2: I’m semi-okay at making cornets. You have to wrap them tight enough so that you cannot see out of the tip. NO teensy little hole is to be apparent until your cornet is filled with chocolate and ready to be piped. Speaking of which…


Lesson 3: I’m pretty good at piping chocolate, eh?

We then went into a brief exercise converting: grams to cups, quarts to gallons, tablespoons to teaspoons, you name it. This is all essential information to know as a pastry chef. My brain is just going to have to get used to using mental math again.

Lesson 4: A large egg weighs about 50 grams!

Our Chef instructor (Jenny McCoy, she is legit) demonstrated how to make ginger snaps and then put us to the test. This was probably one of the simplest cookie recipes I’ve come across, but they were damn delicious. When 10:00 rolled around, we were each sent home with a box of cookies, a container of chocolate and parchment paper to practice making cornets and piping. I can’t wait to play pastry chef at home!


Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice


One of my favorite parts about the holidays is the massive excuse I have to bake and eat to my heart’s desire. In particular, I love using holiday flavors such as cinnamon and ginger to create that true cozy-up-to-the-fireplace feeling. I have developed the most amazing recipe for chewy ginger spice cookies that will take you right back to your childhood days of coming inside after sledding, brushing the snow off your jacket, rosy cheeks and all, ready for a giant mug of hot cocoa and a plate of fresh cookies. These cookies are great for a holiday party, dunking in tea, or sandwiching around vanilla ice cream.

from top left clockwise: dry ingredients, crystallized ginger, the refrigerated dough, fresh cookies!

from top left clockwise: dry ingredients, crystallized ginger, the refrigerated dough, fresh cookies!


2 cups all purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves (I used just shy of a full teaspoon– cloves can be very overpowering!)

3/4 tsp kosher salt

3/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature

1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 large egg, room temperature

1/4 cup molasses

sugar, for rolling


Combine first six ingredients in medium bowl. Mix in crystallized ginger and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat brown sugar, shortening and butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add egg and molasses and beat until blended. Add flour mixture and mix with a spatula until just blended. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or tin foil. Pour sugar into a small bowl. Form dough into 1 1/4-inch balls and roll in sugar to coat completely. Place balls on prepared sheets and slightly flatten with fingers, spacing two inches apart.

Bake cookies until cracked on top but still soft to the touch, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets and transfer to a cooling rack after 1 minute. Enjoy!

You won't be able to save these for Santa!

You won’t be able to save these for Santa!

Making Use of What’s Left

So as I embark on my bake sale adventure, I have bought an abundance of baking ingredients with most of them only serving a function for one or two recipes (i.e. peanut butter chips, a large bag of m&m’s and buttermilk). I’ve been trying to be economical in my recipe hunting, which is the reason these babies came into existence.

Chocolate buttermilk cupcakes with whipped cream. They made use of a ridiculous amount of cocoa powder and my leftover buttermilk and heavy cream from red velvet cupcakes. While the recipe is more or less not mine, the size of the cupcakes are and so is the fact that they are topped with plain whipped cream, rather than mint-infused. They look as moist as they taste, but they are still fluffy and light, thanks in part to the cloud-like whipped topping. For the full recipe, click here. Here is my take.

INGREDIENTS (makes 24 cupcakes)

for the cupcakes:

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

7 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (i told you it was a lot)

3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

7 tablespoons buttermilk

1 large egg

1 large egg white

for the whipped cream:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 mini 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

With an electric mixer, combine cocoa and 5-7 tablespoons hot water until a thick paste forms (this process intensifies the chocolate flavor).

Add butter, buttermilk, egg, and egg white; beat until combined. Whisk in flour mixture until smooth.

Scoop batter into prepared tin. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 10 minutes.

Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a food processor or with an electric mixer, whip cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Top cooled cupcakes with whipped cream and enjoy.

Let me get my camera… oh, wait…

Everybody has that one friend who can be counted on to bring their camera out with them. No matter where you go, they are bound to whip out the small little metallic box and snap a photo of you, or ask a complete stranger to take one of the group. You know who I’m talking about in your group of friends, don’t you? Well, in my group of friends, I’m that person. “Lauren, get your camera out” is a phrase I hear all too often. Well, guess what, friends?! My camera is broken!!! Cry all you want, but I’m the one who really should be crying. I didn’t break it or drop it, and it is being replaced (it is at the camera doctor being fixed as we speak. Luckily, I bought insurance for my baby after five previous camera catastrophes. Yep, five.). I’m not upset that I can’t take pictures during a night out with the girls or at a cool summer concert, because having an internship this summer has basically prevented me from doing all the above. I’m upset because I can’t visually share all of my culinary creations that have taken place within the last week! For the first few weeks of summer, I was living in a complete hell hole. The blinds didn’t work, the sun woke me up at the crack of dawn, the bathroom managed to heat up to about 90 degrees, and, oh yeah, I had no kitchen. Trader Joe’s prepared meals were my BFF. Not that I really mind them, I’m just thankful to get away from thousands of grams of salt per serving and being able to cook again! But pack to my point, I haven’t been able to do my food justice with a camera phone, and I am not too accepting of a mediocre photo, especially that of food. So yes, I have been cooking and baking and life is back to normal. Unfortunately, I cannot share it will all you readers (yes, I know there are thousands of you out there). But if you’re wondering what I’ve been filling my tummy with, check out these links- photos included- and maybe try one for yourself! I’ve been really quite pleased with all of the baked goods, and there will be plenty more to come throughout summer.  (Insert cutesy photo here… I cry)

The most ridiculous Kitchen Sink Cookies of all time

Chocolate crinkle cookies

Red velvet cake with cream cheese- mascarpone frosting (I made mini cupcakes. They were adorable)

Meatless Monday creamy lemon pasta with zucchini and tomatoes (I added broccoli)

Mixed berry and rhubarb jam

I also had this amazing jar of Tikka Masala sauce that I was using with cauliflower, zucchini, chicken and brown basmati rice but it fell out of my fridge and shattered and I cried. Not really. I’m just being dramatic (if you couldn’t tell).

Nom nom nom nom nom

Sigh. Only four more weeks to go!