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Richer, Sweeter and More Satisfied

by Jane Worthington-Roth

Well, summer’s over and the children have either gone back to school or are now tackling their résumés and looking for jobs. One set of graduates is certain to have a multitude of opportunities – the recent graduates from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY. I was able to attend the 2014 commencement exercises at the CIA as a friend’s daughter received her Associate Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts. What a phenomenal experience! The graduates all radiated extreme confidence and poise as they were awarded their well-deserved degrees after years of grueling work.

The Commencement Address was given by Elizabeth Falkner, a “bi-cuisinal” chef who has made her mark as both a pastry chef and a savory chef. She is also an author and TV personality who has competed on The Next Iron Chef and Top Chef. In the realm of “chef-dom”, I am always most impressed by the pastry chefs with the precision and chemistry involved in their craft.

Whereas most commencement speeches talk about being “true to yourself” and “living your dream” – Falkner told the CIA graduates to make their world “richer, sweeter and more satisfied” – what fabulous advice! The new chefs hung on her every word, perhaps dreaming about their own future cookbooks and TV shows!

So the question is… what do pastry chefs (both novice and experienced) enjoy when they want a little taste of sweetness and comfort? Here are two easy-to make and delicious recipes that showcase the best of seasonal fruit – one from Chef Maribeth Coons, 2014 graduate of the CIA, and one from Chef Elizabeth Falkner.

Apple Butter
Maribeth Coons (CIA Class of 2014)

This makes a highly concentrated applesauce, where the sugars and apples caramelize, turning it a deep rich brown. It’s perfect on toast, oatmeal or ice cream, or enjoy it Maribeth’s favorite way – eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon! This is the ultimate sweet comfort food with the tastes and smells of autumn.

2 pounds butter
4 cups white sugar
3 cups brown sugar
6 ½ pounds apples, cored and peeled
4 vanilla beans, sliced open
4 whole cinnamon sticks

In a large pot over low heat, melt the butter and sugars together.

Add the apples, vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks. Stir to combine well and cook slowly until the apples melt down and the temperature reaches 180 degrees (on a candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer).

Remove the cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans, and purée the apples until smooth.

Grilled Peaches and Apricots with Yogurt, Honey and Pistachios
Elizabeth Falkner, in “Cooking Off the Clock”

Falkner notes that “this is just perfect when I really want something to end a meal but don’t want it too sweet”.

2 peaches, halved and pitted
2 apricots, halved and pitted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons honey
4 ounces plain Greek yogurt
¼ teaspoon orange blossom water
¼ cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped, for garnish

Preheat a grill to high or heat a cast-iron grill pan over high heat on the stove

Toss the peach and apricot halves with the olive oil, being sure to coat all sides. Set the fruit halves, cut side down, on the hot grill or pan. Grill until grill marks appear, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and drizzle with the honey.

Combine the yogurt and orange blossom water in a small bowl. To serve, divide the yogurt mixture between bowls. Put the peach and apricot halve on top of the yogurt. Garnish with the chopped pistachios and serve.

BerkshireStyle applauds the graduates of the CIA and all those working on Culinary Arts Degrees and look forward to tasting their delicious creations!