The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park is jam packed with accomplished chefs to say the least. In just the Baking and Pastry department alone over half of the chef instructors hold the title of Certified Master Baker, which is one of the highest certifications in the industry. Before coming to the CIA, the chefs ran successful businesses, worked in first class hotels, and studied in some of the most prestigious schools in the world (namely, the CIA...).
The last class I took was Basic and Classical Cakes taught by Chef Dieter Schorner. His experience and expertise is tough to match, and when you combine that with his passion to teach you have a recipe for an excellent class. One of my favorite things about his lectures is that he would teach us the basic recipe or technique, but then expand on it by giving examples of alternative methods and other flavors you can add to make it better. At 76 years old, he had more energy than most of the people I've worked with and he demoed everything for us from puff pastry to building a croquembouche. The stories he told about baking for the Queen of England or having lunch with Salvatore Dali will stick with me for long after school is over. It is one thing to learn how to make a Black Forrest cake from someone, it is another thing to learn how to make a Black Forrest cake from someone who has lived in the actual Black Forrest...
Among other things, Chef Schorner is credited for bringing crème brǔlée to the United States and making it popular. He originally hails from Munich, Germany but he has worked in restaurants and hotels all around the world.
He had his 76th birthday during the second week of my class, and two previous students of his who were just about to graduate made him this cake in the shape of a ramekin and crème brǔlée. The entire department and tons of previous students were there when he was presented with the cake, which he sprinkled sugar on top of the fondant and brǔléed with a blow torch.
On our last day of class he demoed how to make a croquembouche, which is a French wedding cake made from cream puffs dipped in caramel and stacked in a tower. First he handmade this cake stand made from nougatine (almonds and caramel).
He stacked the cream puffs upside down in a chinois to get the cone shape, and then inverted the tower onto the cake stand.
He then demoed how to make a pulled sugar ribbon to top the tower with, and we each shaped a loop from the sugar to make the final ribbon.
He topped the tower with gumpaste flowers made by Chef Kate Cavotti who is the instructor of the cake class we will take post-externship.
Thanks to Chef Schorner for a very educational and inspiring class!