The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

are professional baking classes useful for home bakers?

Kroha's picture

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,


Chausiubao's picture

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!



Franko's picture

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.


Jw's picture


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.



jyslouey's picture

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

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,


mimifix's picture

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.




ehanner's picture


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.


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

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

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!


turosdolci's picture

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!