The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking Class

carltonb's picture

Baking Class

I am a professional baker and pastry chef, having been in the industry for almost 40 years. For the last 25 plus I have been teaching at a secondary Career and Technical Education school.

 I have recently been asked by the director of our evening adult education program to teach some baking classes to non professionals. They are particularly interested in working with breads. I have taken many classes at SFBI, King Arthur, American Institute of Baking and many other places. Most of my experience lies in the commercial end of the industry. I typically do not bake at home.

 I now have to design a course for  the non professional, and I need some help. At this point I do not know if the class is going to be a single session, or for how long, or much other detail. Most of this will depend upon what I here from you.

 Does anyone have a curriculum, or ideas of what can be done. I know that I can teach the skills, but will have to adapt what I know to small batches, home style equipment and so on.

Any suggestion will be most helpful.

 Thank you


Carlton Brooks CEPC, CCE

Roggie's picture

Thank you for allowing me to become a member of a very interesting and very informative website. I have been reading as much as possible about the baking of bread and the tips supplied by tour users. I find that I have gained a lot of helpful ideas and information about the subject of bread baking. Keep up all the hints, tips and extremely useful information. I really appreciate it. Roggie

SteveB's picture


It's difficult to make a recommendation for a curriculum without first knowing the structure and duration of the course (sort of a chicken or egg situation).  As a starting point, I would probably look at making a simple French bread with a direct dough (no pre-ferment).  If the course is of sufficient duration, various pre-ferments can be introduced and ultimately, naturally leavened bread.

At the risk of blowing my own horn, might I suggest taking a look here (  The blog is written specifically with the challenges of the home baker in mind.  The posts are also in an order which could make for a logically laid-out course outline.

I would strongly recommend that you teach your students hand mixing rather than using a conventional table-top planetary mixer.  I have yet to get results approaching professional quality with a home mixer while hand mixing can get me there with little problem.  There really are some significant issues faced by home bakers that don't come into play in a commercial setting because of the differences in the scale involved.  I'd be glad to go into further detail with you off-line, if you'd like.


JERSK's picture

  I think the biggest problem you'll face is time. Adult-ed evening classes really can't last longer than three hours, not enough time to even make a loaf of bread. Maybe you would be best to just teach theory and some hands on techniques. If you teach them to use baker's percentages, all recipes can be ultimately scaled for home or commercial use. Another good book geared to home baking is Rose Levy Berenbaum's "The Bread Bible". Everything is converted from volume measures to weights(metric and English) and uses percentages.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I've been teaching classes aimed at home bakers for about 6 years now.

In addition to the discussion refered to above, the two key elements are probably time and focus. 

How much time do you have?  That controls what you can do.  4 hours is the bare minimum, 6 to 8 are better, though hard to sell.

Focus is another matter.  What do your hypothetical students want to learn?  What can they reasonably learn in the amount of time you have? 


My finding is that students want to have a good time, not be too burdened with low level technical stuff, and want to go home with something good that they made. 

I do cover the rule of 240 repeatedly.  Every class.  And the value of weighing.

I spend a lot of time demonstrating and coaching kneading.  I do all hand work in my classes  Partly because I can't afford that many mixers, partly because I feel students learn more about how dough develops when it happens under their fingertips than when it happens in a bowl.  (As an aside, many students are amazed at how easy it is to develop bread by hand.  KitchenAid has done a great job of convincing people that kneading is hard to do by hand.)


Flexiblity is important.  If you dough is taking too long to rise, whatcha gonna do?  If you have enough class time, you can do a demo.  We make lemon curd in one class, we make pizzas for lunch in several classes (though we're moving towards focaccia.)

If you have a tight time limit, you can make pan breads and use disposable aluminum pans - the students can take the dough home and bake it there.

Acting is important.  People want a teacher who is a little larger than life.  Explain what you're doing and why.  Enthusiasm is essential.  The only think you like more than baking is teaching others to do so.  Praise liberally.  Even when you are correcting a student.  "You're doing great, but I think if you changed your kneading technique so you were doing this instead of that it would be even better!'  I find I have to stress kneading because kneading is a lot like sex in that everyone seems to think they know how to do it without training.  And then they complain kneading takes so long....The difference between doing something and doing something well usually lies in training and attention to detail.


Two sites will give you some ideas.  Look for "bake with" at Google.  You'll find Bake! with Zing and Bake With Mike.  The first site is Zingerman's and very nice.  The second site is mine.  I need to work on the site some more.


Good luck,



ClimbHi's picture

If your class lengths do not allow for making, rising and cooking bread, I think the most valuable thing a student can learn from a class is what proper dough should feel like, and how to adjust to get there. If you want them to leave with hot bread, make up dough beforehand to bake during class. Let them make and take theirs home to rise and bake themselves.

Another good topic would be what causes the typical problems: Didn't rise, burned on the bottom, dense, deflated after rising, etc. Prepare and distribute a card like you see in the back of manuals for, e.g., electronic equipment:  a Problem/Cause/Cure table.

Discuss different types of flour, different grains, and the pros/cons/tricks/issues with each.

Sourdough vs. yeast.

Hey -- I'll sign up! ;-)

Pittsburgh, PA

goldrhim's picture

Hello ClimbHi!

I am also from Pittsburgh, but I'm relatively new to the board... Are you aware of any baking classes/groups that are in the Pittsburgh area?  I haven't been able to find any on any local searches...



proth5's picture

and then stick with them. 

I once tried a baking class that billed itself as an "Advanced Artisan Bread - Classic Techniques" class.

We were given measuring cups to measure flour. We were told to oil the work surface to shape baguettes and then were told that this was not the right way to do it - but it was easier this way. I could go on.

It was "Bread 101" and had it described itself as such I would not have gone, would not have gotten angry about the value delivered, and would not have asked for my money back.

Whatever you decide to teach, decribe it accurately and deliver on that description.  Professional level students want to become professionals and there is pretty much a given set of expectations, but home bakers vary from the advanced home baker who is thrilled with baker's math to the person who just wants to learn a couple recipes and have fun making some bread with the kids to everything in between.  If expectations are managed up front (as in "Beginners Bread Baking - Have fun getting into the dough!" or "Artisan Baking - adapting professional techniques for the serious home baker") you will find that there will be a better match amongst the students in the class and a better outcome for all.

(Not to contradict Mike, but not all "home baker" students want to have a good time, not be too burdened with low level technical stuff, or even go home with something good that they baked - many do - but not all. But if that is what you are aiming for in your class, let the prospective students know and those folks will seek instruction elsewhere.  They will be happier, your other students will be happier, and you will be more successful.)(Did I just go on and on?)

Another thing is to actually use the right type of equipment. Let's say you have been clear in saying that this is a class about making free standing loaves for beginning home bakers.  So you have resisted the spiral mixer and hand developed the dough.  The free standing loaves are shaped and proofed.  Please do not put them on the loader, load them in the deck oven and turn on the steam unless you also are prepared to take a peel (or whatever you think they should use), load some loaves on a pizza stone (again, or whatever...) and do whatever it is you recommend (or not) to steam (or not) the home oven (I've had that happen, too.  Now personally I love playing with the big toys, but how does that help my home baking - or the home baking of the other folks who came to class because they want to bake a few loaves at home?).  Again, set and live up to expectations. (Now I have gone on and on...)

Hope this helps and good luck with your new venture! 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

proth5 commented:

(Not to contradict Mike, but not all "home baker" students want to have a good time, not be too burdened with low level technical stuff, or even go home with something good that they baked - many do - but not all. But if that is what you are aiming for in your class, let the prospective students know and those folks will seek instruction elsewhere. They will be happier, your other students will be happier, and you will be more successful.)


Let's put it in perspective. If you're a college teacher and you are teaching a class that everyone has to take to graduate in your major, you can do anything you want. You've got tenure, and you can be boring, obnoxious and drive you students like rented cars.

However, if you don't make an extension or adult learning class enjoyable you won't repeat business. And while your students will talk about your classes, they won't be recommending them.


The level of detail you can convey in such a class has three limitations. The amount of time you have. The attention span of the students. And the varied backgrounds of the students. My students range in age from 10 to about 85 years old. I'm not going to spend too much time talking about the proteins that combine to form gluten. I'll take a hands on approach.


Most of the students I see have wanted to bake for years and have never been happy with their results or were too intimidated to actually try it. I give them encouragement, guidance, a few corny stories, recipes, the chance to get their hands in dough to learn what it feels like, a good bit of knowledge, and success.


It's been a good formula.




proth5's picture

Yes, a good formula.  Because after reading your class descriptions, I self selected out of your classes, because as nice as they sounded, I knew that they would not address what I wanted to learn, nor my learning style. (Sincerely, I mean no offense - I would have been a pain in your "side") I selected classes elsewhere - that met my somewhat different objectives.

The teacher of the class I selected was not boring and did not drive me like a rented anything.  But, I would call the level of instruction very high, the material detailed, and the funny stories - minimal.  It was a great class for me (emphasis on "for me" )and I would recommend it (but not on these pages -only privately) to anyone with objectives similar to mine.

Which speaks to my point of setting expectations.

And the fact that there is more than one way to teach us amateurs...

SteveB's picture

Bravo, Pat!  I couldn't have said it better.


holds99's picture

First, let me say that I have never taught a bread baking class.  I have taught computer science classes and the one thing that I found that causes turmoil in a class is mixng the level of student proficiency in classes.  For example, if you mix entry level students, who as Mike says, want to take something home with them, with intermediate and advanced level students, who already know the fundamentals and have different goals and objectives (want to know how and why things happen), as Proth indicated, you will invariably have a problem. 

So, from my experience, it is in the best interest of the instructor and students to have a homogeneous group of students in each class who have approximately the same skill levels, goals and objectives.  My suggestion is, as Proth says, title your class as precisely as possible e.g. Bread Baking 101, and create your syllabus in a manner that there is no misunderstanding re: what will be taught, making it clear as to the stated goals and objectives of the class...and maintain "control" in the class.  That's not to say you have to rule with an iron fist.  But there's usually a student or two who "know it all".  Don't let them blur the focus and/or and take the class "off track" particularly inportant if you're working against the clock.  One final thought, give handouts at each class session along with recommened texts (in your handouts) that provide reference/reseach sources.

Best of luck to you.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

nbicomputers's picture

thats why i dont take any baking classes. anymore

while i have a personal rule that i follow which is no man is my inferior because i may learn from him.

but in a class room i would ether get board because i know the subject or will be able to follow along at a very fast pace even antisapating the next step before instruction which get other students asking wou to you do that so fast

if i take the time to explane it distracts from and is disrespectfull uf the instructor.


LindyD's picture

I find it fascinating that Zingerman's baking classes are four hours long but send you home with bread you've baked, the recipe, and more.

Their Power of Flour class sounds interesting and takes up the full day.

Hmm...Ann Arbor is but five hours south. Has any TF Loafer taken a class there?



GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture

Carlton, will you have time to teach the makings of a starter?  If so, you could begin the journey there.  While that item grows for future reference and recruitment you could explain the fundamentals, or environments necessary to cultivate the loaf, and its many refinements.  But, don't overwhelm.  Whether the audience is novice, or the experienced, you want to capture and hold them by the basics.  Flour, water, a bit of salt.  Time=loaf

I'd love to watch your adventure unfold.  Please come back from time to time and share it with us. 

This group is tremendous in their support.  I used to think I was a breadmaker, oh I got so worked up over putting that yeast to water, a sprinkle of sugar and, Voila...phoof..."here, have a bite". It was not until I learned to rethink my journey, subtract the distractions, and to focus on the basics that I would claim greater success. 

Keep it simple.  You will be rewarded by your students own amazement when they reveal that those basic ingredients yielded, the very staff of life!

Best of luck to you. 

nbicomputers's picture

along time ago  ago when i first started learning the instructior was an old time baker and even though we were in reach of mixers we were not alowed to us them i would say

you should start with a comericial size (small shop) formaula say a simple white bread and break your class into teams of four have each team making there own mix.

have each team member  take turns mixing and scaling and kneding  a 4 to 8 pound of flour batch of dougn

this could be on day one along with classroom instruction

the dough should be scalled into presses or say 4 lb 8 oz pieces and retarder for the next day

on the next day you could scale the lofes teach shapping and proof and bake

you could teach two diferent breads in a 4 day week and each student could go home with a fresh lofe 2 times a week

the only thing that changes in the home kitchen is the mixer and oven capiaity everything elce stays the same using a two day 3.5 hour per day you could teach anything from white bread to danish and if the retarder is in good shate you could have the first class on tue and finish on thurs you could teach thongs like biscuts and cookies on one day.

please email me at and i could help you plan some classes as i have done several training programs in the past