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The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts

The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts

Chef Stephen L. Durfee,
The Culinary Institute of America

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The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts

In partnership with
Chef Stephen L. Durfee,
The Culinary Institute of America
Share This Course
4.7 out of 5
31 Reviews
90% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 9253
Video Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

A three-tiered chocolate cake crowned with pillows of whipped cream frosting. A warm-from-the-oven fruit pie complete with a golden-brown latticed crust. A rich, creamy custard whose silky texture reminds you of luxury and refinement.

For many of us, indulging in these and other delicious treats means visiting our local bakery or making unexciting substitutes from boxed mixes. But baking desserts from scratch, even desserts that you’d expect to find only in five-star restaurants, is a lot less difficult than you might think. In fact, anyone with the right mastery of the basic concepts, techniques, and strategies that classically trained pastry chefs use can bake and create desserts that taste spectacular—and look spectacular as well. When you master the secrets of baking, you can

  • elevate everyday meals to restaurant-quality dining experiences,
  • impress your family and friends with your culinary skills,
  • rediscover the sheer joy of baking with everyday and uncommon ingredients,
  • experiment with creating your own unique treats, and
  • not have to resort to boxed mixes and store-bought goods.

Get a quick, easy, and comprehensive guide to the fundamentals of baking like a professional with The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts. These six lessons invite you to join Chef Stephen L. Durfee, an award-winning pastry chef and instructor from the famed Culinary Institute of America, as he demonstrates tried-and-true methods for baking everything from simple cookies and cakes to custards, cream puffs, and chocolate mousse. Filmed on site at the CIA’s Greystone campus in Napa Valley and packed with dynamic studio demonstrations and opportunities to work hands-on in your own kitchen, these lessons give the novice and master baker alike practical tips and insights straight from one of the world’s most respected culinary schools.

Start Baking with More Confidence

Unlike cookbooks (where all you can do is read the recipe, see the beautiful picture, and hope for the best outcome) and popular cooking shows (where the emphasis is more on entertainment than accessibility), The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts is fun to watch while at the same time highly interactive, academically rigorous, and deeply informative. By inviting you to learn with one of the CIA’s great instructors, you know you’ll be getting lessons that are more concerned with your education than with just entertainment.

Central to Chef Durfee’s course is his ability to take the intimidation out of baking and replace it with confidence. You’ll learn how to approach common baking techniques such as

  • creaming eggs and sugar to the right consistency;
  • rolling out and blind-baking flaky and crumbly pastry dough;
  • whipping up your own frosting, whipped cream, and dessert sauces; and
  • plating, decorating, and serving your desserts like a pro.

Along the way, you’ll hone your ability to work with baking instruments from wire whisks, stand mixers, and pastry cream bags to ramekins, molds, and even a blowtorch—not to mention the most important tools any baker owns: his or her hands. You’ll also get tips on setting up your baking station, testing for doneness, measuring ingredients properly, and more.

Learn Insider Tips for Making Delicious Desserts

You’ll practice your skills on a range of baked goods that fit all sorts of meals, occasions, and cravings. Not only will you learn the step-by-step methods to recreating these delectable desserts, you’ll learn insider tips and tricks for elevating your baked goods above everyone else’s.

  • Pound cake: After you’ve poured your batter, wet your finger with water and run it down the center. This will create a weak spot in the center of the cake so that, as it rises, it’ll crack decoratively along that line and add a more homemade flair.
  • Sweet biscuits: Try to get as many biscuits out of one layer of biscuit dough as possible. Biscuits made from rerolled scrap dough will be tougher than those made in the first batch.
  • Chocolate mousse: Be careful to cool your melted chocolate before adding it to your whipped cream; if the melted chocolate is too hot, the cream will deflate and you’ll end up with a mousse that’s extremely dense.
  • Chocolate éclairs: Rather than cut the top of your hollow éclair, fill it with pastry cream from two holes in the bottom. You’ll know the éclair is filled all the way when you see pastry cream come back out of the first hole you’ve piped cream into.

In many instances Chef Durfee takes the time to show you what baked goods look like when they’ve been prepared the wrong way. By comparing successful and unsuccessful finished products, you’ll dodge some of the missteps even the professionals can make.

Regardless of what secrets or tricks he’s showing you, Chef Durfee always makes baking accessible. With more than 10 years of experience as a pastry chef instructor for the CIA, he is the consummate instructor whose expertise and delivery make baking exciting. And as for his artistry at creating eye-catching (and mouth-watering) pastries, his awards and honors speak volumes: the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef and designation as one of America’s Top Ten Pastry Chefs by Pastry Art & Design and Chocolatier magazines, to name a few.

“So many people are interested in learning how to bake, but they’re too intimidated because they think it’s either too complicated or too scientific,” says Chef Durfee. “The truth is that baking can be a lot of fun.”

By the end of The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts, you’ll find yourself in hearty agreement.

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6 lectures
 |  38 minutes each
  • 1
    Handle with Care—Basic Doughs
    Understand several basic techniques and methods you can then expand on to make a wide range of unforgettable desserts. Here, focus on organizing your workspace, methods for proper measuring, and ways to cream butter, sugar, and eggs to the right consistency. Then, watch as Chef Durfee makes cookies and pound cake and shows you what can go right—and what can go wrong as well. x
  • 2
    Mixing It Up—Methods for Cakes
    Regardless of what cake you’re making, they all revolve around several basic mixing methods. What are they? And what are their secrets? Chef Durfee takes you step-by-step through baking a rich devil’s food cake and several egg foam cakes (a chiffon cake and an angel food cake), the latter of which helps demonstrate the right—and wrong—way to whip eggs and cool your cakes. x
  • 3
    Blue-Ribbon Winners—Pies and Biscuits
    Here, learn everything you need to know about flaky dough, which can often be intimidating even for an experienced baker. First, gain confidence in making a buttery pie crust by learning how to mold it with your hands or pastry tools, how to blind-bake it, and even how to make an attractive latticed top. Then, explore some of the secrets to making tender, flaky biscuits and beautifully golden-brown scones (which have their own unique rules for baking). x
  • 4
    Lighter Than Air—Cream Puffs
    Cream-puff pastry is unique in that it’s a twice-cooked pastry dough. And its applications go far beyond what you’d expect. In this lesson, master the art of baking and experimenting with puff pastry and use it to create some unbelievably decadent desserts. Among these: chocolate éclairs, cream puffs, and deep-fried Mexican churros. Along the way, you’ll also get tips on making pastry cream, chocolate ganache, and caramel topping. x
  • 5
    Simple to Elegant—Custards
    Vanilla-infused crème anglaise. Butterscotch pudding. Crème brulée (complete with a blowtorched sugar topping). Learn tips and tricks to wowing your dinner guests with these delectable egg-based custards, all the while strengthening your confidence in the sometimes tricky art of baking with eggs on the stovetop or in the oven. By the end of this lesson, you’ll discover just why custards make a great dessert choice: they’re surprisingly easy to bake and they always lead to an elegant, refined product. x
  • 6
    Final Touches—Mousse and Dessert Sauces
    Whip your more advanced baking skills and techniques into shape in this final lesson devoted to light and luscious mousses and creams. After learning how to make your own whipped cream, chocolate mousse, dessert sauces, and vanilla bean panna cotta, you’ll watch Chef Durfee as he demonstrates the best ways to unmold, plate, and present your desserts with flair and your own unique touch—just like a professional chef. x

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Video DVD
Video Download Includes:
  • Ability to download 6 video lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 6 lectures on 1 DVD
  • 80-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 80-page printed course guidebook
  • Full-color photographs
  • Recipes
  • Glossary

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Your professor

Stephen L. Durfee

About Your Professor

Stephen L. Durfee
The Culinary Institute of America
Stephen L. Durfee is a Pastry Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone, where he has been on staff for more than 10 years. He is a Certified Executive Pastry Chef and a Certified Hospitality Educator. Before then, he was the Executive Pastry Chef at The French Laundry in Yountville, California. While there, he won the 1998 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef and in 1999, he was named one of...
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Also By This Professor


The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 31.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course sent me on a new and exciting course I have watched a number of the cooking courses. This course sent me in a new direction, baking. I have always enjoyed cooking. But now I am exploring baking. Exciting stuff!
Date published: 2016-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This Course Will Make Me Gain Weight I was a bit hesitant to buy this course because it is much shorter than most Great Courses, and I was worried about the value. I still wish this course had several more lessons, but I feel that this course gave tremendous value for what it covered. The professor explains that most desserts from cakes to pies to custards use one of only a handful of basic techniques. The professor focuses on teaching the basic techniques that can then be applied in a variety of applications. The professor is not just a master chef but also an artist. I plan to try making many of the desserts he prepared, but I already know that matching the professor's precision and artistry will be beyond my meager skills. That being said, I believe that I picked-up on techniques that will make my efforts much better. My favorite part of this course was the professor's ability to explain "why" to do something and not just "how" to do it. If I understand the importance of a seemingly unimportant step (like sifting the dry ingredients), it makes me more likely to do it and not try to cut corners. Everything the professor made looked wonderful, and I really appreciate how he walked through each step. For those of you that watch cooking shows on television, this course goes far, far beyond what you may have experienced in that format. In television programs, the principal goal is to entertain the audience so the camera spends most of the time focusing on the celebrity chef's face and the food always looks perfectly manicured with no drips or spills because someone off camera is doctoring the dish to make it look perfect. In this course, the professor's hands get dirty, food spills and splatters and everything is not perfect. In other words, the professor in this course shows real life. That gives me more confidence that I can truly learn the technique. The only bad thing about this course is that I am going to eat more desserts now, which is not good for my weight.
Date published: 2015-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Such a treat Like many others, I wander into the kitchen all too often, and as I grow older I'm less interested in the joys of cakes sold in the bakery aisle of my local grocery store that look uniformly perfect, and taste flavorless. I've been making bread for a number of years but only recently branched out to make other baked goods. I found this course extremely useful. The Chef is clear and easy to follow, offers numerous tips on technique and covers many important topics. In general, such a course can not complete with the more hands on courses that can be found at other sources, but it also does not pretend to be anything than what it is -- a sound overview of different approaches to make tasty products. I enjoyed it greatly.
Date published: 2015-06-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pastries Easy to watch and well organized and presented. Good ideas which I can use. Choices are a little fancier than I would normally choose, but some are worth a try. I liked the part that dealt with the basics, because that had the most useful information. Worth the cost and time spent watching it.
Date published: 2015-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Baking Pastries and Desserts Love this....great points on techniques. Nice presentations. Good for beginners and intermediate bakers! Great wedding gift, etc
Date published: 2015-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent class I loved these sessions, and have watched them all at least twice. I finally had the courage to try some of my favorite restaurant desserts The video made it possible to see what the consistences should be - and a picture is worth a thousand words!
Date published: 2015-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts The course is fantastic in teaching the basics for someone who knows nothing about baking. I watched all of it and it was very informative. I will now print the guidebook which has all the recipes to try them out. The course might not be suitable for advanced bakers but is definitely great for beginners.
Date published: 2015-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable and informative. I hope to see more courses from Chef Durfee.
Date published: 2015-01-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from This Is Why There is Professional Baking School There's only six lectures in this series. I've just finished the Custard lecture, the second to last and the thought that keeps running through my mind is that Chef is slightly over enthusiastic about the baking skills of the general public. He starts off the Custard lecture by saying how easy it is to make custards. Well yes, in a way. But if you view the lecture you would probably think otherwise. I think this course gives good hints by way of watching Chef make cookies, cakes, pies, custards and other baking goods but it really needs to be much more lengthy to really help the lay person come away with professional baking results. Most of us can muddle through cookies and other common baking products but to really make something special I recommend that the viewer either take up a serious baking school course or have TGC make a much longer baking presentation, similar to the Art of Cooking but with Baking.
Date published: 2014-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from baking pastries and desserts I am a home baker and not a professional. I learned a lot from the course and would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn baking. The instructor is very interesting and keeps your attention, also presents information in a way that is easy to learn so if you like to bake I would recommend this course.
Date published: 2014-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful course on the baking I grew up in a family that didn't bake, but it always interested me. This course is a wonderful course for anyone who likes to bake, enjoys learning new tips for the kitchen and would like some ideas for new dessert recipes. I haven't tried any yet, but will be baking up a batch of chocolate chip cookies later today and am looking forward to watching the first video again to refresh the tips and tricks. I love being able to put the videos on my iPad and enjoy them on my daily commute. Excellent video series - if the "Rediscovering the Art of Cooking" is still being offered as a pair, I suggest picking them both up and expanding your repertoire in the kitchen!
Date published: 2014-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Course: outstanding; book: not so much I'm an experienced cook who hasn't mastered pie crust, despite many attempts. Stephen Durfee's demonstration of how to prepare and roll crust was excellent. I made the butterscotch pie for Father's Day dinner and a fellow guest--about to graduate from Cordon Bleu, when I asked for an educated critique so that I could improve, said it was excellent. All of the lectures and demonstrations were great. The book needs work. The butterscotch pie filling is enough for three pies, but doesn't say so. Luckily, I figured that out before I made it and my one-third recipe was just right. Others of the recipes might also be restaurant scale. In the glossary, you'll find "shin wa" that's phonetic spelling of the correct term, "chinois".
Date published: 2014-07-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Ridiculous Would it have killed the creator of this course to include COMPLETE recipes for each of the dishes? I bought this for my 15 year old who has aspirations of being a chef but the directions in the book are incomplete and vague. While trying to make the chiffon cake we had to search and search for the temperature to set the oven. The list of ingredients is there, but not the temperature? If this is for people who have never cooked before, they are going to be completely lost.
Date published: 2014-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WHY you have to do it this way I have several of the Everyday Gourmet courses, and so far this is my favorite. I enjoy baking, and I'm pretty good with following a recipe, but Chef Durfee goes beyond just the what and explains WHY you have to use certain techniques or ingredients, and what you did wrong when things don't turn out the way you wanted them to. Knowing the reason for things keeps me from being tempted to be lazy and take shortcuts with my technique.
Date published: 2014-03-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Unusable for everyday cook Interesting but basically unusable for the everyday cook. For example, the biscuit recipe calls for 4 oz of eggs, 24 oz of flour, 1.5 oz of baking powder, etc. One has to convert or use food scales for biscuits? The recipe yields quite a large batch-- we aren't told how many in the recipe. Many of the techniques might be considered dangerous or "don't do this at home" as he duly tells us. But after all, the point is to do these things at home for an everyday cook. Would love to have had a more usable cook book.
Date published: 2013-12-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Start for Rookie Bakers I now know why my Scottish shortbread was such a chore. The information presented in this course will make my next batch much easier to produce. Wish I had this course years ago. Easy-going, straight forward presentation. Relaxing to watch.
Date published: 2013-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from YUM! Could I give this course a billion stars? I loved it. Excited to try these recipes at home now that I know how to make them.
Date published: 2013-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Yum Terrific course. I love to see and listen to a master of a skill demonstrate their abilities. The professor is very clear and likable. This was a good learning experience. I hope TGC add some more courses from the CIA.
Date published: 2013-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Baking 101 This is a great starter video or a great refresher course for someone getting back to the basics of backing. The only drawback to this video is that Chef Durfee seemed a bit nervous. There was a couple of time that I felt he may have seen himself on a monitor and it distracted him. If this was the case I can understand that since this was his first video. The next question, would I recommend this video? Without a doubt! My grade is A+ for the content and a B for the presentation. There is enough content to rock the county fair food judges, start a bake sale or knock the sock of that special someone you are baking a cake for.
Date published: 2013-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Wonderful Course I received this course as a Christmas gift. My husband and I just finished viewing the course and we both found it extremely well done. The content is excellent, and the teacher is superb. Our only wish is that there were more lessons to view. We have many of the Great Courses and are thankful for them.
Date published: 2013-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course I received this course about one week ago and I have already watched it twice. Chef Durfee does a great job of presenting the material. He is personable and enthusiastic. His pearls alone are worth the price of the course. I have been baking since childhood and even took an introductory pastry course. I followed a tip about creaming and found that my cheesecake did not crack as it cooled. For me this course is too short. I would love to see a more advanced course covering additional techniques like puff pastry. Also a series on bread baking would be great, especially if a person of Chef Durfee's caliber teaches it. I highly recommend this course regardless of your level of baking expertise.
Date published: 2012-12-23
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