The Fresh Loaf

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are professional baking classes useful for home bakers?

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Kroha's picture
Kroha

are professional baking classes useful for home bakers?

Hello everyone,


I am trying to figure out if taking professional baking courses will be useful for me.  I have been dreaming about formal training for a while now, and have an opportunity to take classes in the Certificate in Pastry Arts program at Newbury College in Boston.  I am currently a stay at home mom, but also have a good profession and am not intending to work in the food industry.  My son has a severe food allergy and I am motivated to become an excellent baker so I can bake for him, but it is also something I enjoy doing anyway, so getting comprehensive professional training appeals to me, as does being able to consistently make amazing desserts for parties that I like to give.  My husband believes that professional training will prepare me to work in a commercial environment, but will not contribute much to my ability to bake at home.  I believe that professional training is an overkill for my goals, but that I will find it useful and enjoyable.  In addition, I was not able to find comprehensive courses for home bakers in my area (King Arthur is too far and ends up being super expensive when traveling and babysitting expenses are taken into consideration).  I wonder if those of you who have had professional training could weigh in with your experience and opinion on this before I spend the time and the money.


Thank you so much in advance,


Kroha

Chausiubao's picture
Chausiubao

The only way to really know is to find out about the program you're thinking about attending. That can be as simple as asking an admissions counselor, or as complicated as auditing a class (as I did before I started earning my baking and pastry certificate).


But in either case, go forward and ask the school!


 


--Chausiubao

Franko's picture
Franko

Formal training will cut years off of either becoming a professional baker or a very high end home baker. Most importantly.. because you enjoy baking, you're going to have a lot of fun doing it. It will expose you to aspects of baking that you'd probably  never get to experience otherwise. You might find that working with chocolate and doing sugar work is right up your alley, or maybe cake decorating and pastillage. Whatever the case , it won't be a waste of time as it's something you'll be able to use for the rest of your life.


Franko

Jw's picture
Jw

Kroha,


I am an amateur baker, but the word 'dreaming' in your post got my attention. If it is your dream, go for it! Or: just try it out for a few weeks/months, I'am sure that will be possible. You might not want to go back to wondering whether it is a good idea.


Cheers,
Jw.


 

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

attending a bread making class at the SFBI at some point It would be even more expensive for me as I'm from Hong Kong.  However, I'm a little concerned that it may be too advanced for me. I only bake during the occasional weekends and also attend cooking classes in my spare time but unfortunately they only offer basic bread courses.   I'm hoping that by attending an intensive course,  i may be able to pick up some bread making know-how that I wouldn't nornally be able to obtain from reading books.  I do a lot of reading but nothing beats the actual hands-on experience esp when it come to feeling dough. I've been making bread for a short while only but my kneading and shaping skills are still far from being satisfactory.


Like you, I 'm not about to enter the food/catering industry (I'm nearing retirement age myself) but  I know it'll be enjoyable and it's something that I've wanted to do even as a child.  If time and money is not an issue, then I'd say go for it, if not now then maybe a few years later from now  when your son is older and won't be needing a babysitter.


I'd be very happy to stay in HK if I can find the right courses on offer. 

turosdolci's picture
turosdolci

I agree with post above.  Many community colleges offer classes. Also look into technical schools in your area, they also have excellent courses. My cousin is a assistant principal at a technical school in Worcester for example that offers culinary classes. Some caterers also offer these classes etc. And Johnston & Wales, which I believe is is RI has programs for non-certificate students and even weekend baking and pastry classes.


I'm sure with a little reserach you could find a program in your local area.  


Have fun it and good luck,


Patricia

mimifix's picture
mimifix

I agree with Patricia and Dillbert. There's no point in enrolling in an expensive certificate program if you aren't planning on a pastry arts career. Since you're already an accomplished home baker, pick the courses that appeal to you instead of fulfilling requirements that won't help you achieve your dream. 


Also, those courses teach technique, not special diets. Reading cookbooks can be more helpful than taking pastry courses.


Mimi


 


 

patricia hains's picture
patricia hains

I am replying from the student and teacher perspective since I continue to do both.  I have taken several classes and now teach both privately and community college continuing education courses.  Not only are the courses valuable but you also meet a wonderful variety of people who have similar interests. 


Taking the classes is much like logging in every day to the Fresh Loaf...so much to learn and so many willing to share the knowledge.  As far as allergies go...I have taught gluten free, dairy free, egg free classes and know for sure this is an interest in every community.  Check your local coop, farmer's market, community colleges and Community Supported Agriculture for classes.  Some are free or minimal in cost.  Have fun and I wish you lived closer...I would get you hooked up!  Good luck!

j9house's picture
j9house

Here's another "Me too" post. I am "retirement age" and 1.5 years ago my job was sent overseas. The US GOV'T is retraining me for a new career that has less chance to be offshored (LOL) I did research on private and public schools in my area and found our local Community College to be the best value, and the best education. Granted, there's not as much cachet compared to "Name" schools, but I'm not going to work long enough to recover the additional cost. I have been taking more baking classes than anything else, and I live to bake bread. I can say without reservation that exposure to "professional" methods and techniques has made me a much better home cook. It takes no more effort to make 12 loaves as it does 1 loaf. Bakeries know this and so we are taught how to plan, freeze, proof and bake so we only make a pre-ferement once a week and keep using it all week, or freeze until the next. Culinary math is fractions and word problems, and practice makes calculating in your head MUCH easier. Many community colleges have "Community Education" short classes on selected topics, so that may be an option. Two of the prerequisites for the Baking classes at my school are "Knife Skills" and "Safety and Sanitation" Those two classes will change your life. Well. that seems more like than my 2cents worth, and your mileage may vary.


Mary

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Kroha,


You didn't say what your goals are or what you are dreaming of being able to make. It sounds like you have a solid background for a home baker already. Depending on what you want to get out of your training, I think you could teach yourself just about any aspect of baking. With the Internet and sites like this being so helpful and the video training sites on just about any task you might want to learn, you can learn anything on line. Oh, and it's free, plus you need not trust a third party with child care. My 2 cents.


 


I recently decided to try to learn how to bake cakes and decorate them. It's harder than it looks:>) but I'm making progress. All online. Most, OK all of my shortcomings will be overcome by practice.


Eric

Jwhite8040's picture
Jwhite8040

I took a week long bread baking class at ICE in New York as part of their Recreational division.  It was 40 hours of baking bread alone with a focus on getting through a book of recipes and it was fantastic.  It made me fearless.  Since I was with others like myself, the environment was supportive and fun and I had the very best instruction, tools and recipes.  The cost was reasonable and you could try this without breaking the bank and see if you still felt the need to spend all that money and time on classes with a "professional" focus.  


 


 

patricia hains's picture
patricia hains

I too took a five day course and it was fabulous.  And I love your word, "fearless" because that is exactly what happened to me.  It gives you the confidence that no recipe or cookbook can render!  Nicely stated.

Bread Buddy's picture
Bread Buddy

In answer to your question - YES by all means professional baking classes are a great help to the home baker.  I had enjoyed baking bread for many years before taking professional classes.  The bread I made was good but now it is outstanding.  I learned so much that I did not know about technique, ingredients, and the science of bread.  It may be more than the average home bread baker needs to know but it certainly makes a difference if your goal is to make the best bread possible.


I took a week-long course three years ago for Artisan Bread at the French Culinary Institute in NYC.  It was an intense course (not for the faint of heart or anyone not really serious about their baking) and I highly recommend the school and the course.  A week-long professional course is costly - especially if there are traveling expenses such as plane fare and hotel stays.  But for a serious baker who is looking to hone their skills, it is very worthwhile.

tmarz's picture
tmarz

I would say yes. It really helps you understand some of the science behind it all, plus making things professionally can be applied to your smaller baking productions.

Kroha's picture
Kroha

for all the different perspectives provided above.  It seems that those who have taken formal classes found the training useful.  I decided to take the first two courses in the Newbury College program (general culinary concepts course and then a 64-hour course on bread baking) and then decide whether or not to go forward in the program.  I will have completed the two courses by the end of December 2010.  Newbury College is a 15 minute walk from my house, so you can't beat the convenience, and their program is very highly rated.


@ehanner -- I agree that there are many educational opportunities on-line.  I made and decorated a huge three-dimensional train cake for my twins' last birthday, and every technique I used I got on line.  But I discovered that it takes time just to find good videos, and there is certainly a lot of trial and error involved.  The efficiency of taking a class and availability of professional feedback, as well as the social aspect of being with a group of people interested in the same subject, appeal to me. 


Thanks again for all your wonderful insights!


Kroha

turosdolci's picture
turosdolci

I am so pleased that you deicded to go forward in this manner.  It makes a lot of sense and I think you will gain a lot of knowledge.  It will help you make an informed decision about how you want to go forward.  I wish you a lot of luck and would love to hear how you are getting along and your impressions of the program you as you go through this program. 


It is wonderful that all the imput you received helped you in your decision and the people on this site are great in giving their support to others.


Regards, and good luck!


Patricia