The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts

In partnership with
Chef Stephen L. Durfee,
The Culinary Institute of America
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4.5 out of 5
52 Reviews
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Course No. 9253
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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
 |  Average 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

Lecture Titles

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 6 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • 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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The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 56.
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Frustrated beginning As other people mention, the recipes are incomplete. If we are learning and being encouraged to try the method, we need to know how to finish the cookies (I'm only ont he first lesson. What are the times and temperatures for various cookies?! I do like learning more about how the ingredients work together and what happens if I do or do not do something a certain way. I've been baking a long time and learned something new. But please give us the rest of the instructions. I hope the custard section, which I really need answers in, is better.
Date published: 2020-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Useful course Only started but already can see that this will be a useful course. Thank you
Date published: 2020-08-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not good- below par I have been asked to re-submit my original review b/c The Great Courses higher ups didn't like what I had to say about this course.So I am sugar-coating this so they WILL PUBLISH it. I felt this course was far below the high standards of TGC. The instructor made it seem like there were just too many things the Average Joe- like me- would not be able to handle in making these recipes. His cautions and constant references to the myriad of mistakes that are made, sent a clear message to me about making pastries and deserts that: "You are too inept to do this and you will probably screw it up... so just go buy the stuff from a bakery." Didn't like the approach of the chef, in what I thought to be an instructional course. Will never buy a course with him as instructor again. I wasted my time and money.
Date published: 2020-07-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Title has a clear message I purchased this produce a couple of weeks ago and found it very useful. I have been cooking for 40 years and haven't put a lot of time into making desserts except for making pastry and I liked this course because it has helped me to expand my ideas about this area of interest and in particular the versatility of custards and creams in relation to pastry and as part of other deserts. I also loved the cake making and biscuit demonstrations. To see how these are made and the methods applied has given me more confidence in my own kitchen
Date published: 2020-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This Is My Weakness In Cooking... I've never been much on baking bread, cookies, pastries, etc. With The Culinary Institute Of America (CIA), I TRUST the education they provide. First class operation / facility! I feel confident, that Chef Durfee with CIA, will be of great assistance in helping me accomplish these culinary items! :)
Date published: 2020-03-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loving it, incomplete I'm really loving this series, and while I know my way around a baking pan, I'm still learning lots of things I didn't realize, think about, understand. I would give this five stars, BUT, the recipes included in the book that goes with this series do NOT have complete directions. The oven temperature and baking time are left out! It does me no good to have a recipe booklet that doesn't include crucial information: oven temp and baking time. I guess I can Google similar recipes and guess what oven temp to use....but having paid for the course, you would think that basic information would be included.
Date published: 2020-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Six lectures doesn't seem like a lot, but this course is packed with instruction and demonstrations on all the fundamental techniques for making desserts. Baking has always been something of a black box to me personally. Not only does baking seem notoriously easy to screw up even when using commercial mixes, North American dessert recipes invariably come with dozens of ingredients and twice as many steps. Going through this course, you'll learn quickly it doesn't need to be that way. The lectures simplify everything, from the rationale behind each ingredient, to what to watch for in order to avoid problems, to presentation tricks, to ideas on how to get creative when finishing your desserts. A scale is the only thing you might be missing from the most basic of kitchen setups to take a stab at each recipe. This is a course I've gone back to again and again to make desserts for my family and friends. I can't think of a more ringing endorsement.
Date published: 2020-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An enjoyable course Learned a lot of handy little tips and I'm very happy I purchased this.
Date published: 2020-01-13
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