Find Sweet Inspiration with Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini’s Easy Desserts
Macy's Culinary Council
Whether he’s launching dessert programs for award-winning restaurateurs such as Daniel Boulud, designing pastries for three-starred Michelin restaurants like Restaurant Jean Georges in New York City, or writing exceptional dessert cookbooks, Johnny Iuzzini’s electric personality shines through his work.
His style of desserts can be defined as works of extraordinary beauty that are deceptively simple. Each one is subtly layered with flavor and complexity. Don’t let the clean look of each sweet work of art fool you; Johnny Iuzzini creates desserts that never stint on the quality of ingredients and are always sophisticated.
Delicious, easy-to-follow recipes are his hallmark and it’s this ease of preparation that has made him a popular cookbook author and television show judge and personality. For those intimidated by the challenge of baking at home, Johnny’s recipes are the perfect entrée into a world of heavenly sweets.
As one of the few pastry chef members of the Macy’s Culinary Council, Johnny Iuzzini brings a refreshing touch of sweetness to the lineup of extraordinary chefs. He shares the Macy’s Culinary Council’s passion for showing Americans how to eat better by cooking at home and is a regular presenter at cooking demonstrations hosted by Macy’s in stores around the country.
These popular demonstrations are a favorite with fans of TV chefs and are a great opportunity to meet the chefs, ask questions, and sample their work. At each demonstration, chefs show home cooks the secret to cooking successfully at home and there are plenty of cooking secrets and tips and techniques to satisfy any ambitious or budding chef and pastry chef.
The Macy’s Culinary Council: An organization that supports American cooks
Like the other members of the Macy’s Culinary Council, Johnny Iuzzini shares the Macy’s Culinary Council’s goal of getting Americans to cook more often at home like a chef. Laborious, fine, and sometimes hours and days long in preparation, baking and pastry is labor intensive. As a result, pastry chefs are notorious tinkers.
They find ingenious uses for all sorts of tools and gadgets that were never designed to be used in a kitchen (like the now-standard rasp used everywhere to grate ginger, chocolate, etc.). Pastry chefs will use almost anything to speed up a process or make it easier to do a tedious job and having the right tool is essential. That’s why pastry chefs like Johnny, and home bakers, head to Macy’s for the right cookware, gadget, tart tin, or pan.
What’s on the Menu
If you’ve ever pined for a taste of Johnny Iuzzini’s desserts, join him during his demonstration and indulge your sweet tooth and maybe chat with the sweet star. He will be greeting guests with a refreshing lychee and raspberry Bellini and then will demonstrate three sensational recipes from his latest book, Sugar Rush. Look for Caramel Smack Corn, Crispy Banana Fritters with Tahini Caramel Sauce, and Smoky Chocolate Ginger Tart.
Johnny describes the dishes this way, “The caramel smack corn is a great starter, and it’s salty, sweet and has lots of great textures. Next, are warm, crispy banana fritters served with a tahini caramel sauce, followed by my smoky chocolate- ginger tart with coco nibs.” When asked if the featured desserts are American, Johnny replied, “I am American and I create them, does that make them American? What is American? Isn’t America a culmination of many cultures and geographic locations and inspirations from around the world? All my desserts are inspired by my travels, by flavors and combinations that I’ve experienced, by my training and by my upbringing.”
For Johnny, “The theme (for this demonstration) is cooking from some point of reference yet learning how to create and develop ideas and new flavor combinations. I always want to show a variation of techniques, talk about how I cook and create and lastly bring the guests with me on an exploration on thinking like a professional at home.
Johnny stresses there are certain desserts that are essential to building skills and having a repertoire of recipes that make you a well-rounded baker. According to him, “I always think the basics are extremely important, for example: meringues, custards, doughs, caramel etc. I always talk about the basics and then how to build upon them.”
A Distinct Culinary Point of View
“I think it is very important to understand that even though a dessert should be sweet it shouldn’t be cloyingly sweet. A dessert should be balanced, I enjoy lots of contrast in desserts, from flavors to temperatures to textures.”
“I wasn’t born a great baker or chef. I am a kid that grew up in upstate NY between a sheep farm and a corn field and I dedicated my life to my career. I believe anyone can be a great cook or baker if they dedicate the time and attention to it and truly have the passion and desire to learn and get better. I always felt that if I wanted to be great I had to work for people I felt were the best. That brought me around the world working for chefs who continue to inspire legions of other chefs. Although I am French-trained and I enjoy the history and tradition of the classics, I also employ a very modern and progressive American approach.”
Here’s what he loves about making pastries and how he puts his unique stamp on every dish, “I love the precision required to make desserts and pastries. It isn’t something you can just “wing it” as you go. It requires organization, planning, patience and technique. I also feel that you can be more creative with desserts than you can with savory food on a menu in a restaurant. Guests are less likely to take chances on their apps and entrees whereas desserts are the jewel box, the treasure, the gift at the end of the meal; rarely do people order desserts because they are hungry. Desserts are often shared or associated with celebrations. I like to give guests an experience where they are exposed to something new and exciting yet they have a point of reference or taps some emotional cue.”
Cook like a Chef with Easy Recipes
Johnny never forgets his work is intended for home cooks so he develops recipes anyone can make at home. He assures his fans that, “…every dessert and recipe in Sugar Rush has been chosen, explained thoroughly and photographed in multiple step by step process shots to give the reader/ baker all the tools they need to be successful in their kitchens.” He believes there are desserts anyone can learn to cook and reiterates, “As I’ve said, I wasn’t born a pastry chef, I practiced, I learned techniques, I learned about ingredients and in all the demos I do with Macys and through my books I share these lessons and experiences that I have spent the last 20+ years honing and refining.”
Cook at Home Like a Chef
So how does chef Johnny suggest home cooks incorporate home cooked meals and desserts into their regular menus? “I think desserts can be included often in family meals. I think they can be as simple as fresh fruits with interesting crumbles and yogurts all the way to constructed cakes or composed desserts. Desserts do not have to be sugary and unhealthy, they can be interesting, light and focused on seasonal ingredients.”
To get kids involved in cooking at home, Johnny suggests, “I believe children are sponges and enjoy learning in the kitchen. Teach them to respect the ingredients, to have pride in what they are doing, from peeling fruit to scooping cookies to frosting cakes. It’s all about positive reinforcements and understanding the how and why of what’s happening in the pan or oven, i.e.: cooking science.”
I asked him what he bakes at home when he’s craving something sweet and he said, “I love warm fresh baked cookies broken up with candied salted nuts, a creamy smooth vanilla ice cream, and cacao nibs. The reason is there is something warm, something cold, something creamy, something crispy, I like the contrast. I also enjoy teaching other people how to make a simple decadent chocolate mousse or shuffle. It requires attention to temperatures and technique and is often rushed by people resulting in a mediocre finished product.”
“Whenever I am stumped about what to make for my guests, I try to think about who they are, what I know about them, what they like. I also enjoy going to the local markets, I see what is in season, what is ripe, what is delicious on its own. I also always like to have lots of random components on hand like doughs in the freezer, compotes or jams in the refrigerator and all sorts of nuts or granolas and fruits around. Once you understand how to balance flavors you can make a dessert out of just about anything. If you don’t have to always start from scratch it makes the task that much less daunting.”
While the recipes are obviously the core of any baked dish, Johnny knows having the right tools is essential and he says, “Two items I could not live without are a Kitchen Aid stand mixer and a digital scale. The Kitchen Aid is a work horse and with all the attachments available now there is very little that the machine can’t do. The digital scale has to do with precision, speed and consistency. Without it I would be lost and would never be able to replicate my desserts.”
If you want to learn how to make a few of Johnny’s beautiful desserts without a lot of fuss and muss then you won’t want to miss his upcoming appearance at Macy’s Domain in Austin, Texas on June 11, 2016. Get tips on how to make great desserts and discover secrets from a successful pastry chef.
2016 Macy’s Culinary Council Cooking Demonstration in Austin, Texas on June 11, 2016
Event Details and Special Offers
Date: June 11, 2016
Time: 2:00 PM
Venue: Macy’s Domain Austin, Texas
Location: Level 2, Home Department
Price per person: Free
Join Macy’s Culinary Council Chef Johnny Iuzzini as we celebrate American Icons with some of his favorite award-winning rockin' dishes! The best part? There will be plenty of scrumptious samples and music to enjoy! Plus, with any purchase of $35* or more in the Home department, receive a special music gift and a copy of Sugar Rush, which he will sign for you!
RSVP and receive a $10 Macy’s gift card** at the event:
Learn more about the Culinary Council and upcoming events by logging on to macys.com/culinarycouncil and follow us on Twitter @culinarycouncil
Event subject to change or cancellation. Seating is first come, first served. *Purchase must be made at Macy's The Domain on June 11, 2016. **One per customer, while supplies last and time permits. Gift card valid June 11-18, 2016 only. Gift card and books distributed on June 11, 2016