Pastry Chef Mindy Segal is a shining example of the high caliber of chefs that teach classes during the annual, one-weekend only, The New York Culinary Experience. Passionate about her craft for the past twenty years, Pastry Chef Mindy Segal's many impressive credentials include a 2012 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef, Share Our Strength's 2009 Chef of the Year for her dedication to Taste of the Nation, and 2005 StarChefs.com Rising Star, to list but a few.
Pastry Chef Mindy Segal
She is someone recognized in her field for her dedication and inspired creations, and as a chef-instructor, she is able to infuse that same passion in her students. As I enjoy making pastry and learning new techniques, I enrolled in her class, Celebrating Strawberries, as it sounded perfect for summertime entertaining.
One of the many benefits of The New York Culinary Experience is that it is a rather unique culinary "playground for foodies," as it provides the opportunity to learn from notable master chefs working the industry, and is open to students of all ages and skill levels to participate in the classes.
The youngest student in Chef Mindy's class was Molly Schwartzberg, age 10, who took the class with her mother Nicole. There were many returning students, parents and their children, siblings, couples, and friends in the class who came to share the experience, some of whom I remembered from cooking and baking alongside during the 2012 experience.
ICC Pastry Chef Instructor Kathy Sadler and
ICC Pastry Student Yue Wan
Over the course of 2 hours and 15 minutes, Chef Mindy Segal would instruct the class in making Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies, making a Strawberry Consommé with Poached Rhubarb, and Buffalo Milk Ricotta Cheesecake with Oat Streusel.
To create the many components of the desserts, students worked in teams of two. As I was taking the class by myself, I had assistance from two student volunteers enrolled in the Pastry Certification program at The International Culinary Center (ICC) Yue Wan and Claire Houck, and from ICC Pastry Chef Instructor Kathy Sadler; I could not have asked for better teammates.
Rolling the Dough Creating a Pattern on Dough
We began by creating the peanut butter cookies and the strawberries preserves that we would use to fill the cookies. For Chef Mindy's recipe, instead of the usual method for making peanut butter cookies, dropping rounded teaspoons of dough onto parchment paper, and then flattening them with a fork, we rolled out the dough into a rectangle, created a pattern on it to give the cookie texture, and then cut the dough with rectangular cookie cutters.
Cutting the Dough Baking the Cookies
Working quickly, I rolled my dough with a French rolling pin, cut the dough into shapes, and transferred them onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Thin, and baked to a golden perfection, we set the cookies off to the side to cool with the tempting aromas wafting in the air.
We hulled, cut, and cooked fresh strawberries with sugar and lemon juice to create the preserves, and while the mixture simmered on the stove, we made the peanut butter frosting using butter, peanut butter, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla. Multi-tasking in the state-of-the art facilities at the ICC was definitely a luxury. Preserves and frosting completed, it was time to create the sandwiches.
Sugared Strawberries Preparing Peanut Butter Frosting
Although you could spread the mixture on the cookies, Chef Mindy had other plans for us. Using a plastic pastry bag, she demonstrated how to open the bag, roll down the sides to create more access, spoon some preserves on one side of the pastry bag, and then add peanut butter to the other side of the bag. Next, she squeezed and twisted the bag to bring the mixture toward, turned the bag upright and cut a small tip off the end of the bag. She then demonstrated how to pipe the mixture onto the bottom of cookie to create a lovely blend of preserves and frosting, and then placed another cookie bottom-side down on the frosting/preserves to create a sandwich. Thin, textured, and filled, they looked, and tasted delicious!
Molly Schwartzberg Piping Frosting with Chef Molly Segal
Our next task was to create the Strawberry Consommé with Poached Rhubarb. Chef Mindy demonstrated proper dicing technique to cut the rhubarb, and while one member of the team cut the rhubarb, the other member prepared and cooked the strawberries with sparkling rosé, sugar, orange juice, and honey to create the consommé, which would later be used to cook the rhubarb.
Dicing Rhubarb Bowl Full of Diced Rhubarb
Strawberries cooked and cooled, we strained the juice through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, and poured the liquid into a saucepot, and reserved the pulp to create more preserves. We brought the liquid to a boil, then added the diced rhubarb, and simmered it until tender.
Clare Houck Straining Strawberries
While we were waiting for the rhubarb to finish cooking, we made the mixture for the Buffalo Milk Ricotta Cheesecakes beating cream cheese, granulated cane sugar, buffalo milk ricotta, eggs, vanilla, heavy cream, and kosher salt, then strained the mixture through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth to create a very smooth batter.
Preparing Cheesecake Batter
Debra Working with Batter
To create a lighter cheesecake, instead of making it with a crust, we sprayed ring molds with vegetable oil, wrapped the bottom and sides of the 2-ounce molds with plastic wrap, and filled the molds three-quarters of the way up the sides with the cheesecake mixture. We baked them slowly in a water bath in the oven for approximately 15-20 minutes until the cheesecakes were just set. We removed them from oven and admired our handiwork, lightly puffed and perfect.
Filling the Molds
For the presentation, we would ladle the strawberry rhubarb consommé into a shallow soup bowl, serve it with a cheesecake, add a sprinkle of oat streusel for texture, and for good measure, serve it a peanut butter sandwich cookie.
I left the class with wonderful recipes for light and delicious desserts celebrating the strawberry season that are perfect for summertime entertaining. I cannot wait to make the recipes at home!
Read the Chefs' Recipes section for the recipes from Pastry Chef Mindy Segal's class, Celebrating Strawberries. Read about the other classes in the Gastronomy section and interviews and recipes from the other Chefs of The New York Culinary Experience in the Chefs' Recipes section.
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For information on attending The New York Culinary Experience 2014, please visit the New York magazine website: www.NYmag.com/nyce.
For information on taking classes throughout the year with the excellent chef instructors at The International Culinary Center at their New York, California, or Italian Campuses, please visit the website: www.InternationalCulinaryCenter.com.
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