Composting comes to the Center

Summer is almost here!  Summer is the growing season, the sunny season, the season for energy, recreation and fun.  It’s a perfect season to spend at the center.

Our Management and Educational staff met yesterday with Sashti from Lower East Side Ecology Center.

Sashti teaches us all about composting in NYC

Sashti teaches us all about composting in NYC

Sashti introduced us to our new composting worm bin!  Filled with hundreds of hungry worms, we learned about how they will take our café coffee grounds, afterschool apple cores and banana peels, and all the fruit and vegetable tops and peels from our Make a Mess Cooking classes to create composting soil.

worm bin complete!

Our Management staff was excited to learn how to lower our ecological footprint at Manhattan Youth, and our Educational Staff immediately started brainstorming lessons for our Animal Hour, Summer Science and Make a Mess Cook and Compost classes coming this summer.

To learn more about Lower East Side Ecology Center and the fine work they do including City Commuter Composting, E-waste Drop off, recycling and more, visit them at

To our Greenest Summer ever!

Baker’s Blog — Soft Caramels and Hard Candies

Caramel is sugar that has been cooked until it turns golden. There are 2 methods to caramelizing sugar, the wet method, and the dry method. In the wet method, the sugar is first combined with water and boiled to make syrup. Corn syrup (glucose) or an acid like lemon juice or cream of tartar may be added to prevent crystallization. In the dry method, the sugar is melted in a dry pan. Often an acid like lemon juice is added to the sugar and rubbed in so the crystals are slightly moist. Remember that sugar, when turning to caramel, is very hot, well over 300F (150C). Liquids added to hot caramel could spatter dangerously. Hard candy is simply a flavored (colored) syrup boiled until it is brittle.

Recipe by Isabelle Lapin


Soft Caramel:
Preparation: 15 min
Cooking: 20 min
Cooling: 3 hours (overnight better)
Makes 3 Lbs

6 cups (1 ½ L) heavy cream
1 ½ Lbs. (750g.) sugar
6.5 oz. (200g.) corn syrup
2 tsp. kosher salt or any flaky or chunky salt more for sprinkling
6½ oz. (200g) butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Preparation: Oil a pan of your choice and cover it with oiled parchment paper. Combine the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring until the mixture reaches 230F (110C). Add the butter and vanilla. Continue to cook slowly, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 245F (118C). Pour onto the pan. Wait 15 minutes to sprinkle the salt. Allow the mixture to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Tips and info: After adding the butter you can add 3 1/5 ounces of dark chocolate (70% cocoa) or milk chocolate to the caramel to make chocolate caramels.

Old Fashioned Hard candies:

Preparation: 5 minSoftCaramels1

Cooking: 40 min
Makes 16 servings


2 cups sugar
1-cup water
2/3-cup corn syrup
1 tsp. lemon oil (peppermint or other flavored oils)
1 tsp. yellow food coloring

Preparation: Sprinkle a cookie sheet with confectioner’s sugar and set aside. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir together the white sugar, water and corn syrup until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until it reaches 300 to 310F. Remove from heat, and stir in the flavored oil and the coloring. Immediately pour the sugar mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet. When the candy is cool enough for the outer edge to hold its shape, cut into bite size pieces with a pair of scissors.

Tips and info: Hard candy is simply a flavored (colored) syrup boiled until  brittle. You can cut them out into shapes and colored to your taste.

This Week at the Center – a photo slideshow

Here’s a small sample of this week’s morning Center classes.

Scroll through the slideshow below to see Make a Mess: Science, Mommy & Me Ceramics, MY Move, and Music Singalongs.
This week at the Center

Learn more here.


Sushi was first created in Southeast Asia. At it’s inception, it was a piece of fermented fish wrapped in sour rice. The seasoned rice was used to preserve the fish. The dish spread to China, and eventually to Japan, where the version we know originated. The sushi that we’re most familiar with today was invented by Hanaya Yohei in Japan sometime at the end of the Edo period, around 1868. They began as cheap fast food, because it was essentially a quick snack to eat with your hands. Traditionally, only sashimi, which is raw slices of fish, is eaten with chopsticks.

VEGETARIAN SUSHIS:Recipe by Isabelle Lapin


Preparation: 30 min
Cooking: 30 min
Makes: 10 full-sized rolls

3 Lb. 8 oz. (1.59 kg) short grain rice
64 fl. oz. (1.92 L) water
6 fl. oz. (180 ml) unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
vegetable-sushi-3 2-¼ oz. (35 g) fine sea salt
Zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, cucumbers, avocadosImitation crabsticks
Extra firm tofu cut in sticks
Cold omelet cut lengthwise
Cream cheese (dairy or tofu)
Seaweed leaves

Rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs semi-clear. Drain well. In a deep dish, combine the rice with water. Steam the rice until it’s almost completely cooked, after about 30 minutes. Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes. Combine the salt and vinegar. Warm over low heat to dissolve the salt but do not let the mixture boil. Cool at room temperature. Transfer the rice to 2 plates and drizzle the vinegar mixture. “Cut” and fold the rice over using a wooden rice paddle or flat wooden spatula. Continue until the mixture has cooled.
Cut all the desired vegetables into sticks ¼ inch thick. Make the sushi rolls.

The vinegar mixture is optional. You can use plain sushi rice. Wrap your sushi mat in plastic wrap it will be easier to clean. Do not put too much rice and filling on the seaweed leaf otherwise it won’t close. You can create any kind of sushi rolls, using cooked sweet potatoes and butternut squash, even dessert ones with your favorite fruits. Make a fruit or chocolate sauce to dip your dessert sushi.

Sushi rolls are called Maki, from the Japanese Makisu, which is the bamboo mat we use to make the rolls. The Japanese people prefer nigiri, which is a piece of fish pressed on top of a strip of rice. Maki can be wrapped in soy paper, cucumber or egg, not just Nori seaweed. There are 10,000 recognized varieties of seaweed in the world.  Many seaweeds look like plants and are categorized by their color: green, brown, or red algae.

Baker’s Blog — Cheese-Filled Danishes

Danish pastries are made with a laminated dough. The croissant dough and the puff pastry dough are the two other kind of laminated dough. It is called laminated because it has layers of dough and butter. These layers are created by folding the dough while the butter is locked in the dough. You make like a wallet by folding the dough in thirds and turning it then rolling it and folding it again. You make three turns. It is a very long process but the result is worth it. If you don’t have the time you can always buy frozen puff pastry dough.

Recipe by Isabelle Lapin

Preparation: 30 min
Cooking: 15-20 min
Proofing till dough double Makes 8 portions

(12 oz. dough for 1 ring) ¾ oz.
(1Tbsp.+1 tsp.; 12g. dry yeast) fresh yeast
½ cup warm milk
3 cups (390g.)
all-purpose flour ¼ cup (50g.)
sugar 1 tsp. (5g.)
salt ¼ tsp.
baking powder 8 oz.
(226g.; 2 sticks) cold butter cut in pieces
2 large eggs (100g.)

Cream cheese filling:
8 oz. soften cream cheese
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or any extract)
1 large egg yolk
Fruit preserve, fresh fruits or pie filling (optional)

Preparation: Combine the yeast and the warm milk and pinch of sugar.  It should become frothy and bubbly.  If it does not make bubbles your yeast is dead and you must change it.  Combine all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Mix, then add the butter and process until it resembles coarse meal.  You can do that with two knives or your fingertips. Add the eggs and yeast mixture.  Mix until it makes a soft ball not sticky.  Place in an oiled bowl cover with plastic wrap.  Place the bowl in a warm place.  Allow to double in size (about 2 hours).  Press down gently to release the gasses and weigh 12 ounces.  Roll it into a rectangle 12’ by 8’.  Spread the filling and roll the dough jellyroll style.  Make 3 cuts around the outside and gather the ends by pinching them together.  Put on baking sheet cover with parchment paper and let stand for 1 hour. Brush with egg wash (1 large egg+1 yolk+ pinch salt).

Filling: Preheat the oven at 400F.  Cream the cheese.  Add the sugar and the vanilla and then the yolk.

Tips and info: Spread the cream cheese filling first then spread the pie filling against the cheese filling and roll the dough.  You can use any flavored filling you like. You can also use fresh seasonal fruits or fruits in jars. We call a certain kind of pastry, filled with cheese or fruit, “Danish pastry”. Is it really from Denmark? Well, Danish pastry may have come to the United States from Denmark.  But its name in Denmark suggests that it did not originate there.  The Danes call this pastry Wienerbrod, or “Vienna Bread”, and Vienna is a city in Austria. What happened is that in 1850 bakery workers in Denmark went on strike. It forced the owners to hire workers from abroad, among them several Austrian bakers, who brought along new baking traditions and pastry recipes. The Danish bakers adjusted these recipes to their own liking and it became what we know now as Danish pastry. Danish immigrants brought Danish pastry to the U.S. Lauritz Klitteng popularized this pastry around 1915-1920. According to Mr. Klitteng, he made Danish pastry for the wedding of President Wilson in December 1915.  In 1962, Mr. Gertner befriended the Danish baker who convinced him that Danish pastry might be well received in New York.  Mr. Gertner began serving the pastry in his restaurant and it immediately was a success.

Tasty Tuesdays — Pizza A la Carte

You’ll be surprised to find out that pizza did not originate in Italy. It was actually first baked by the Greeks and was first round and flat bread topped with various foods like potatoes, spices and olive oil. Tomatoes were not used, because at this time, they hadn’t been discovered yet. In the 18th century, the chef of queen Margherita, Rafaelle Esposito made a very special pizza just for her. He baked a pizza topped with tomatoes, Mozzarella cheese and fresh basil (to represent the colors of the Italian flag: red, white and green.) in Naples. The pizza Margharita was born. Variations of this dish began to arise in Italy. In Bologna, for example, meat was added. After World War II, pizza spread to America, France, England, and Spain. I hope you will have as much fun as I did when creating your own toppings. Enjoy your delicious creation!

Recipe by Isabelle Lapin


Makes around 10 portions
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients: 2 .1 Lb. (500g) All purpose flour
1 cube of fresh yeast (around 42g., 1.1/2oz.)
14g active dry yeast or 2 packets of instant dry yeast (depending on the brand the number of packets may vary)
2 cups tepid (warm)waterPizza1
2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil

Toppings: Tomato sauce, fresh sliced tomatoes, eggplants, zucchinis, mushrooms, hart of palm, artichokes, peppers, onions, olives, fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme), cheese (mozzarella, goat cheese, Swiss cheese, cheddar, brie, or a mixture of your choice), you can also put meats (sliced salami or pepperoni) or tuna.

For a desert pizza: Heat the oven at 405F. Roll out the dough, spread soft Nutella on it, and then spread 2oz. of butter cut up in pieces on top. Bake for 15 minutes. You can slice banana on top and sprinkle with coconut.  Check the pizza after the 10 first minutes in the oven. Instead of the Nutella you can also melt 8oz. of chocolate with 2oz. of butter.

Preparation: In a bowl add flour, salt, and olive oil, add the yeast dissolved in the water. Kneed the dough until it obtains a soft consistency.  Form a ball, cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. Roll out the dough. Place it on floured oven tray. Add your favorite toppings.  Drizzle with olive oil before baking at 405F for around 15 to 20 minutes.  Check the top, the cheese should be melted.

Tips and info: Cut the vegetables in very thin slices or small pieces because the cheese tends to cook faster. If you are using fresh herbs, hide them under the cheese so that they don’t burn. Some popular pizza toppings in Japan are squid and Mayo Jaga (mayonnaise, potato and bacon).  In the U.S. pepperoni is the most famous topping, and is more popular than other toppings like mushrooms, extra cheese, sausages, green peppers, or onions. Each person in America eats about 46 slices a year. Seventeen percent of all restaurants in America are pizzerias. Thirty-six percent of Americans consider pizza the perfect breakfast.  Women are twice likely as men to order vegetables on their pizza. Finally, ninety-three percent of Americans eat at least one pizza per month.


Matzo Brei is a classic dish that can be compared to French toast. Today, a lot of different ingredients are used to make this dish either sweet or savory. Eggs and broken matzo are the two common ingredients; the rest can differ, depending on where you are from or what you like to eat. Some cultures traditionally eat this dish savory and others traditionally eat it as a sweet dish. Brei is German for a mash, or a semi-solid food. In modern Yiddish, brei means “to fry.” You can also eat matzo brei for lunch or dinner with cheese and vegetables. I chose to make a sweet apple and cinnamon dish, but bananas and chocolate could also be a great option. Enjoy!

Recipe by Isabelle Lapin


Preparation: 10 min
Cooking: 15/20 min
Makes 6 servings

6-7 matzos, broken in pieces
2 Cortland apples, peeled and dicedmatzo
2 to 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
½ to 1-cup raisins
6 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Butter for frying
Milk for soaking
Sugar, maple syrup, whipped cream

In a bowl, mix together the apples, sugar and cinnamon. Put some butter in a frying pan and sauté the apples until they are caramelized. Meanwhile, soak the broken matzos in milk until soft. Transfer the matzos in a bowl and add the whisked eggs. Pour the matzos mixture over the apples and cook cover on medium heat until brown. Transfer to a plate and flip onto another plate. Transfer back onto the frying pan and cook until the other side is brown. Transfer to a plate and cut it like a pie.

Tips and info:
Thousands years ago Pharaoh, after much convincing (and 10 plagues), agreed to let Moses’ enslaved people go. The Jews left their home so fast that they did not have time to prepare bread for their journey. They baked an unleavened mixture of only flour and water. To commemorate their freedom Jews will forgo for eight days anything made to rise with yeast, baking powder, etc. in favor of the “bread of affliction” called matzo.
According to rabbinic law, once the flour is combined with water, matzo dough must be kneaded, rolled and baked within 18 minutes, otherwise it will begin to rise. A Frenchman named Isaac Singer in 1838 invented the first matzo-dough-rolling machine, which will make the making of matzo so much easier. Originally, matzo was made round and by hand. The first matzo-making factory opened in 1888 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dov Behr named his factory the B. Manischewitz.The matzos were cheaper, more available  and square! The Lower east Side Streits Company opened in 1925. It now makes, organic, gluten-free and all kind of flavored matzo sold all-year around. Passover matzo production at Streit’s occurs from October to March, with 50,000 pounds of matzo baked daily.
Matzo Brei is a classic dish that can be compared to French toast. Today a lot of different ingredients are used to make this dish sweet or savory. Eggs and broken matzo are the two common ingredients; the rest can differ depending on where you are from, or what you like to eat. Polish or Hungarian people eat it sweet and German, Lithuanian and Russian people prefer it savory. Brei is German for a mash, or a semi-solid food. In modern Yiddish, brei means to fry.


Did you know that the first American pioneer housewives used to bake a pie for every meal of the week. Settlers could not finish a meal without their pie. In the winter when it was very difficult or impossible to find fruits they used to bake pies with potatoes. But when blueberry season arrived every housewife got to make blueberry pies. April 28th is National Blueberry Pie Day. Here is my version. Enjoy!

Recipe by Isabelle Lapin


Preparation: 30 min
Cooking: 30 min
Makes: Three 9” or Four 8” pies

5 Lb. frozen, unsweetened blueberries
1 2/3cups (12oz.375ml) drained juice plus waterblueberrypie2
1-cup sugar (175g, 6oz)
¾ cup cold water (190ml, 6oz)
2/3 cup to ¾ cup (3oz.90g) tapioca flour (or instant tapioca or potato starch)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
5 to 6 Tbsp. lemon juice (Add 3 Tbsp. first and taste the blueberry mixture before adding the rest)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Thaw the berries in their unopened original bag. Drain the berries. Add enough water to the juice to measure 12 oz. (375ml). Add the sugar. Mix the cold water with the starch. Add the starch mixture to the juice and bring to a boil while mixing until it thicken.  Add the berries and the lemon juice. Stir over the heat until it is just boiling.  Mix gently. Cool completely. Fill pie shells. Bake at 425F about 30 minutes.

Pie dough: 3-2-1 Mealy dough modified method:

1Lb.4oz. (3 3/4 cup, 500g.) pastry flour
13oz. (325g. 2cups) shortening (can be butter or margarine)
½ cup (5oz.) cold water
2tsp. salt
5tsp. sugar

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the shortening and rub with your fingers or cut it into the flour until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Dissolve salt and sugar in water. Add the water in the flour mixture. Mix very gently, just until the water is absorbed. Do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic film and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Assemble the pie:
Preheat the oven to 425F. Roll out the dough. Place it in the pie pans. Fill it with the prepared filling. Cover with another piece of dough and seal the sides well with egg wash (1egg+1pinch salt+2 Tbsp. milk). Bake until the top is golden brown.
To make flaky dough put 14oz. of shortening instead of 13 and put 6oz. of cold water instead of 5oz. Also when adding the fat, cut it in the flour until the fat is the size of peas. Mealy dough is used for bottom crust, especially in baked fruit pies and soft custard-type pies, because it resists sogginess. Flaky dough is used for top crusts and sometimes-prebaked shells.
Blackberries, raspberries and cherries can be used instead of blueberries. If you want to use apples or pears they will tasete better if you cook them in butter instead of water.
Egg-washed made with beaten egg and a pinch of salt will give you a shiny finish. If you brush the pie only with milk, cream or melted butter you will have a home-baked look.

About soggy bottom:

Soggy bottoms can be avoided in several ways:
1- Using mealy dough is a good idea because it absorbs less liquid than flaky dough.
2- At the beginning of the baking use the bottom shelf of your oven to bake your pie. It will set the crust quickly. You can move it to the middle rack in mid-cooking.
3- Do not add hot filling to unbaked crusts. Let the filling cool before pouring it ion the crust.
4- For fruit pies, line the bottom of the pie shell with almond meal, crushed pumpkin seeds or cake crumbs before pouring the filling. This will help absorb some juice.

Baker’s Blog — Profiteroles

Long before Catherine de Medici’s cook set foot on French soil; cooks during the 13th century in southern Germany and France had created puff pastries filled with rich cheese mixtures. Pastry dough was cooked in a hot oven until it puffed. Then it was sliced open and cheese was  inserted. The warm pastry melted the cheese center. This little pastry evolved in the 19th century during the Victorian era and became known as profiterole in France and England. In the United States, the first recorded mention of the cream puff on dates back to 1851 on a restaurant menu at the Revere House Restaurant in Boston.
Profiteroles are now a very classic dessert. They are made of cream puffs filled with vanilla ice cream. Hot chocolate sauce is pored over it and immediately served. The contrast between cold ice cream and hot sauce is what makes it delicious. Enjoy!

Recipe by Isabelle Lapin


Preparation: 30 min
Cooking: 30-45 minProfiteroles1

Makes 20 big éclairs

1 Lb. (500g.) water
8oz. (250g.) butter
1 tsp. salt
12 oz. bread flour
1Lb.4oz. Eggs (10 eggs)
2 egg yolks for egg wash

Preheat the oven at 425F. In a big saucepan, combine the water with the pieces of butter and the salt. When the mixture begins to boil, add flour. Lower the fire and mix vigorously until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the side of the pot. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the eggs little by little, mixing each time. Make sure you mix until they become completely incorporated before adding more. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Fit a large pastry bag with a plain tip and put the dough in. Pipe out strips 2 to 3 inches long. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 375F and continue baking until the dough is a deep golden brown and very crisp.  Let the éclairs cool before filling with chocolate pastry cream. Dip the top into chocolate icing of fondant.

Pipe out round mounds of dough or drop dough with a spoon. Slice the top to fill the dough. Fill with whipped cream, pastry cream, or ice cream for profiteroles. Feel free to add other fillings like salmon mousse.  For sweet cream puffs, dust with confectioner’s sugar or dip in colored icing or fondant. For profiteroles, take the cream puffs from the freezer just before serving and pour hot chocolate sauce on top. Serve immediately.

Chocolate pastry cream:
Add 4oz. of dark chocolate in pieces to the hot pastry cream. You can find the recipe for pastry cream in the “Fresh Fruit Tarts” blog post. (week 9).

Chocolate icing:
Melt 3 oz. dark chocolate with 4 Tablespoons of butter. Add 3 oz. of sifted confectioner’s sugar (add more if needed) and 3 to 6 Tbsp. of water or milk, depending on your desired consistency. Mix well until smooth. Remove from heat. Cool slightly and cover the top of the éclairs.

Tips and info:
Éclairs and cream puffs are made from a dough called éclair paste, or choux paste. The French name pate à choux means “cabbage paste” referring to the resemblance of cream puffs to little cabbages. In principle, éclair paste is similar to popover batter, even though the former is a thick dough and the latter is a thin batter. Both are leavened by steam, which expands the pastries rapidly and forms large holes in the center of the puff. Éclair paste must be firm enough to hold its shape when  being piped from a pastry bag.

Pastry cream: (crème patissière):
Preparation: 10 min
Cooking: 20 min
For 4 people

300g. Milk
3 egg yolks
20g. Cornstarch
50 g. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Boil the milk. Beat the yolks with the sugar. Add the vanilla and the starch and whisk. While mixing, slowly pour some of the boiling milk on the egg mixture. Mix well and add the rest of the milk. Pour back into the pot and return to a medium flame. Mix constantly and boil for 3 minutes. Turn the fire off. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap on contact with the cream. Let it cool before using.

Tasty Tuesdays — Spring Vegetables Au Gratin

Gratin is a culinary technique in which a dish is topped with a brown crust. This is often done using breadcrumbs, grated cheese, eggs and/or butter. Gratin originated in French cuisine and is usually prepared in a shallow dish of some kind. A gratin is baked under an overhead grill or broiler to form a golden crust on top and is traditionally served in its baking dish. Gratin Languedocien is a preparation made with eggplant and tomato, covered in breadcrumbs and oil, then browned. Other vegetables commonly used in gratin dishes include cauliflower, spinach and butternut squash.
Sauces, (most commonly béchamel sauces and Mornay sauces) are most often used in the preparation of gratinéed vegetable dishes, as well as many other gratin dishes.

Recipe by Isabelle Lapin


Preparation: 1 hour
Cooking: 30 min
6 adult portions

One vegetable of your choice:
800g. (1Lb.12oz.) broccoli, cauliflower, zucchinis, asparagus.augratian2 Shredded cheese for topping (Swiss, Parmesan or cheddar)
Béchamel Sauce:
30g. (1.05oz.) butter
30g. (1.05oz.) all-purpose flour
30g. (1.05oz.) milk
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Peel, cut, and wash the vegetables. You can either boil , steam or sauté the vegetables. Drain them, and then place them in a buttered gratin dish (like an oven proof glass dish.)
To make the béchamel sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and mix (it is called a “roux”). To avoid lumps, add the milk slowly whist whisking. Adjust the consistency of the sauce by adding milk if it is too thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the béchamel over the vegetables. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until the cheese is golden brown.

You can also add additional flavor to the béchamel by adding cheese, some lemon juice, grated nutmeg, or fresh garlic. For a gluten-free sauce, replace the flour with corn or potato starch. You can add richness to the sauce by adding heavy cream and/or a beaten egg yolk at the end of the preparation to add richness to the sauce. You can add fresh fish filets (sole, tilapia, red snapper…) on top of the vegetables before pouring the sauce.