The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Baking Teacher

sustainthebaker's picture

Baking Teacher

I will be teaching a class on baking soon and wanted to gather what we all thought would be valuable to teach to beginners. Just curious as to what you all out there think is important to know and what you learned first and thought was invaluable to your baking skills. I have been baking at home for over four years now and am self taught. I want to make sure I am not missing anything important.

Any thoughts?

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Can you narrow your topic?

If it's a basic bread course, then I'd recommend you avoid all bread jargon ("Gluten is...and if your hydration is...autolysis will result in...") and get them from flour, water, yeast, salt to YUMMY! in 2-3 hours.

sustainthebaker's picture

Yes, I can. I will be teaching people, with limited baking experience how to make bread. I think I will be focused on a good wholesome bread that can fit into busy schedules. I don't plan on getting into the jargon of baking right off the bat but want my students to understand the why and how of baking.

PastryPaul's picture

"Teaching a class" can mean many things. Is this part of a overall course of study for future professionals, or more like a seminar for home cooks/hobbyists?

I'm assuming it is the latter, in which case, follow thomaschacon's concept of "flour, water, yeast, salt to YUMMY! in 2-3 hours." Get the more techie stuff ready just in case your audience is into that sort of thing.



MNBäcker's picture

While teaching how to make bread, there will be lots of "downtime" while the dough is fermenting/resting/proofing/baking. Those are ideal times to talk about the "details". A chalkboard or whiteboard will be helpful. Give a basic idea on how to make a starter from scratch, maybe an easy recipe or two for different kind of breads. I think when people write things down themselves, they are more likely to pay attention and retain information than if you give them a handout on paper. Also lots of time for Q and A...

Good luck, and don't forget to have fun!


sustainthebaker's picture

good idea, thank you and I will consider the downtime...Cheers!

Ford's picture

My first thought is to teach that time is the secret ingredient of bread.   Patience is one of the most important qualities of a good baker, whether he (she) is using commercial yeast or sourdourgh starter.  Give your students the concept of retardation so they can fit the baking into their "busy" scheduals and not try to rush into the next step.  Be sure to make a rehersal run of each lesson.


dabrownman's picture

to have fun baking.  Smile a lot,  tell them how good they are doing and ask them if they are having fun.  Let them know they will get better with practice and before long, they will be making good baked goods and feeling good about their fine accomplishments and themselves.

I would start with baking history in a fun way going back to the Egyptians when they were building the pyramids and being paid in bread and beer.  Then some baking terms and vocabulary then on how to doing some baking but not too easy - make them stretch a little.  I like deserts, especially chocolate ones, so I would start easy yummy! Cookies and cakes.  I like the way Rachel Allen teaches her students at the Ballymaloe Cooking School in Ireland.  I loved it when I stayed there on vacation.  I think watching her in action would help you.

Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself - how would I want to learn this baking stuff?

Generosity is the highest and most difficult of the character attributes, to have and hold dear, that are required for success.  Teaching is the highest form of generosity.  So, be generous with your students and teach them everything you know without expecting anything in return.  You will be rewarded many times over. 

Good luck sustainthebaker and keep smiling :-)

SteveB's picture

I would start with baking history in a fun way going back to the Egyptians when they were building the pyramids and being paid in bread and beer.

dabrownman, my guess is that your wife might consider that 'bread and beer' to be not so much a payment but rather just sustenance to keep the slaves who built the pyramids alive.  Bread and beer in those days were equivalent to bread and water today. 



dabrownman's picture

You assume that Jewish slaves built the pyramids?  Even experts fail when they learn their assumptions are wrong.  You aren't claiming that Jews built the pyramids are you?  The pyramids were pretty old when Ramses the Great was Pharaoh and let the 'chosen people' go.  Jews would have been Egyptian slaves for how long by then? I've learned something new today - that Jews actually built the Pyramids.  Who knew? No matter though.

Back then, when things, like cash,  didn't exist, beer and bread were right up there with IPads and Scions.   That was how the pyramid builders were paid because they demanded to be paid that way.  It was how they existed - or they rioted to get their bread and beer - they just couldn't live without them.  Just like now, when cash allows folks to exist to buy bread, beer and other stuff.

To call it bread and water today, makes beer seem inconse1quential and beer is far short of that.  It is one of the 6 food groups with sugar, chocolate, pizza, donuts and bourbon :-)

Broc's picture

Well... since you didn't ask...

Egyptians considered bread and beer as the first-fruits of the field... products of the life-sustaining cereal crops.  And, bread and beer were made in the same process... bread being solid beer, and beer being liquid bread.

In their burial rituals, the most common ritual prayer went like this --

htp di nsw n wsir hnty-ntw, nb Ddw nb AbDw m prt hrw m t hnkt, etc.

"A kingly offering to Osiris, lord of Djedu, lord of Abedju -- this prayer offering of bread and beer [and on to the first fruits of the flock, of the earth, etc]

The ancent Egyptian hierogyph for bread is a bun-like sign.

FWIW -- The Hebrews may not have been "slaves" in our construct of the word, but rather very low-caste Asiatics performing the most menial of duties.  That said, it certainly is easy to understand that later generations of Hebrews, looking backward,  could have considered their forebears as slaves...

Also, the city of Pi-Rameses has been partially excavated and the world's oldest inscription mentioning the Hebrew diety of war and storm, YHWH [not in Hebrew script, which hadn't evolved before that time] has been found there.  It is probable that archaeological digging at this site may remain suspended while Egypt suspends democratic reforms.  Currently, the site has been covered over and planted, and is completely off limits to archaeology.

dabrownman's picture

I'm taking this to a new thread so as not to hijack this one.  Plese ghere

proth5's picture

Some thoughts:

  • Set expectations.  "I'm going to teach you techniques that can be used at home with no special equipment" "I'm going to teach you how to make bread using a mixer" I'm going to show you how you can make bread in only three hours using a mixer."  Admit to the fact that there are other ways and other methods – but that you are teaching this and want to stay on track.
  • Ask the students their expectations and manage them.  If someone really wants to understand all the science (and even some beginners are like this…) tell them that you will not be covering this until the main expectations are met – or will do this one on one – or that you won’t be covering it and have some suggestions for “homework.” - Have a list of references handy.
  • Budget for oven space. If you have eight people and they each want to bake a good sized loaf, how will they get them all in to the oven?  Will they be taking dough home?  What?
  • Budget for sundries.  Are you doing panned bread?  Does everyone get a pan to take home or bring a pan from home.  Have enough bowls/ingredient bins/scales/brushes/bench space so that people are not waiting too long to mix/scale/shape etc. (This is really not what to teach, but an atmosphere where people are constantly waiting to use a resource will make it harder to teach.)
  • If you are not scaling ingredients (and maybe even if you are) teach the proper “scoop and sweep” method for measuring flour volumetrically.  As an aside to this decide on the measuring method you will be using.  If you decide weight – stick to it.  If you decide volume – same thing.  DIscuss the other method, if you will, but "this is what we are doing in this class, because..."
  • Budget for downtime.  Perhaps you can have an already mixed dough that can be retarded overnight and shaped during the bulk fermentation of the mixed dough, proofed and baked while you are waiting for other things.  Maybe do a basic braided bread – these are easy and pretty and give people a sense of accomplishment.
  • Do cover the fundamentals of what makes bread.  Knowing the chemical composition of gluten may not be important, but knowing that there is such a thing and that it is available in varying degrees in various flours is important.  Knowing that yeast is a fungus and that it needs proper conditions in which to both “belch” the gas that raises our bread (Thank you Alton Brown for that mental image) and to reproduce is important.  Knowing that in the supermarket you will encounter different kinds of yeast (and what they are) is important.
  • Do tell people the exact type of yeast you are using and what to do if they are confronted with a different yeast (or if they can change Active dry for instant in your recipe.) You can discuss this during downtime.
  • Do not disseminate inaccurate information.  I can’t tell you the things that I have heard from the lips of “instructors” – OK – like using an oiled surface to shape baguettes (which even the instructor admitted was wrong and at which time I snapped “Then why teach us to do it?).  Really – research what you are telling people.  If you are not sure of something, admit to being not sure or discuss the different schools of thought. (Same teacher told me that letting instant yeast touch salt would kill all the yeast - and yes, I did get my money back from that class...)
  • If you are teaching a sourdough class you should give out a sample of your active starter as well as providing instructions on how to make your own.  However, it does not seem like you are doing a sourdough class.  If you aren't leave this topic for individual discussion
  • There is nothing more important than learning how the bread should feel.  Mix dough yourself and have students feel your dough before they mix theirs.  Coach individuals to feel the dough – feel the fermented dough – feel the proofed loaves - feel the baked loaves - ask them what they feel.
  • You don’t have to do the whole lecture on desired dough temperature (although I consider it to be fundamental), but you should show your students how to gauge the proper water temperature – with and without a thermometer.
  • Do get a bunch of inexpensive bowl scrapers and give them as parting gifts (you can mix with them, scrape with them, and on and on).  Give people a tangible tool that they can use in the future.
  • I don’t come from the generation that requires constant positive feedback, so I say this with caution: Don’t be afraid to correct someone when they are obviously doing something in a way that will lead to failure.  I once watched a guy swab on an egg wash thickly enough to create an omelet and the “instructor” just watched him keep swabbing.  His bread suffered quite terribly and it could have easily been fixed. If it had been me, I’d rather be told I was doing something really wrong.
  • If it were me, on the first day of the first time someone handed me a bread formula – I wish they would have told me about baker’s math.  But that’s me.  I don’t think most people care. 

I'm so far from the beginning of bread baking that I can't really remember what it is like to not know how to bake bread (I think I was 8 years old when I left that phase of my life…) but I have taken classes with both excellent and as I have cited above not so excellent instructors and I have observed a few things.

Do not assume that everyone just wants to be jollied along and be told funny stories.  (Frankly, an instructor repeatedly asking me if I am having fun will get me to walk out so I don't deck him/her - but again, that's me.) I love a good story, but even when I am doing beginner subjects, I’d rather learn than hear stories, so keep a careful balance unless you know your audience really well.

I wish you good luck!

JeremyCherfas's picture

I would go further with measurements, and just tell students that they really ought to get used to the idea of weighing the ingredients.

And I would use some of the downtime to explain suggest that if they find a recipe they like (even one with volumes) they should do the conversion and then repeat two or three or more times, tweaking one thing at a time.


Windischgirl's picture

I have been baking since I was 13, but for the heck of it attended a "learn to bake bread" class at my local library a few years ago.  It was terrible! 

So from that experience, I'll share what I would have wanted:

(1) find out what your students already know.  Have they ever baked bread or worked with yeast before?  This way you can gauge how and what to present so that it's not too elementary or too complex.  Nothing worse than being in a class thinking "I could teach this!" or feeling totally confused.

(2) teach your students how to measure.  Baking is chemistry and in order for it to work, ratios need to be precise.  I'd really encourage students to weigh their ingredients--have scales handy--and let them know that a decent digital scale can be had pretty cheaply ($15 at the post office--really!--or at Harbor Freight).  Once I started weighing my ingredients, the quality of my bread improved.  (our instructor did not measure ingredients, but used the eyeball method...which makes it impossible for a newbie to reproduce the results at home; I can bet that no one in that class was inspired to make bread regularly!)

(3) Choose a simple recipe--a basic white bread, maybe with a pinch of rye or whole wheat for flavor.  (Our instructor had us make 100% WW bread b/c that's what she liked...without thinking that achieving proper hydration with WW can be complex).  Discuss pan bread vs. free form loaves.

(4) have students bring a large bowl or wooden board for kneading (we were kneading on plastic wrap; can you say %$#* ?)

(5) I liked the suggestion by another poster for you to have a sample dough for students to feel.  Knowing the proper texture for dough can only be done by feel; didn't Nagymama (Grandma) tell us the dough was ready when it "felt right?"  But if you've never done it before, you have no idea what the feel should be.  If you like the windowpane test, teach that too.

(6) have a printed "cheat sheet" with the more technical terms and guidelines.  Knowing about "retard" and "levain" are more advanced concepts, but they also make baking fun and might form the basis for a more advanced class.  Yes, the class shouldn't be a comedy act, but part of the reason I bake bread is for the pleasure of it--the smells, the feel, the appearance of a golden crust or a perfect form, the taste of the wheat, the blessing the bread is to my much better than anything I could ever buy.  So share your passion for the joy of baking bread as well.

Good luck!


Thaichef's picture

Good Morning Proth5:  Your information on teaching beginner how to make breads are priceless!  I love it. It is so very useful. I "bookmarked" it for my reference. 

 I am a self taught person by learning from cookbook and from the "Freshloaf". I wished that we live closer so I can learn more from you! I taught two beginner classes already last year and now we are branching into "Focaccia" with preferment.  Your information will help me a great deal in my next classes. (These are adults who have little baking experiences).

For my first classes, I taught the "no knead bread" and Health grains bread". Students sampled my breads, I showed them how to, and they  mix their own and took the dough home to retard overnight. They baked it and send back the pictures of their breads (with crumb shots). We called it "show off your babies". It was a lot of fun and now my students start making their own breads. 

I also did a public service "bread baking classes" which I charged $3.00 and people measured their own flour, yeast and took the ingredients home to bake.  I did it at the public library and 17 people show up for the classes with 4-5 on a waiting list. It was two years ago when we were in the economy slump. I had two loaves ready to bake and loaded it in the oven. The smell of bread baking  in the oven made everyone very excited. I served it with my homemade plum jam hot from the oven.( I taught using PowerPoint and short lecture there.)

Thank you for all the information.




proth5's picture


I actually have done "baking days" with beginning bakers - they will shape and bake about six types of bread and mix at least three.  It's a long day with emphasis on good technique and my favorite - baker's math.  I think it's a bit much for most folks, but the student walks away with a plastic scraper, a lot of formulas, and a lot of experience handling different doughs (as well as a lot of bread to take home...)

This more intensive program suits my intense personality and I think one's teaching style will always reflect one's personality.

I'm not really as grim as my comment makes me sound - I'm pretty involved in the enjoyment of process and I think that I'd rather focus on that.  It should actually flow naturally from the actions required to make bread.  As for being asked about "having fun" - I consider that the teacher should have a plan in case the student says "No, I'm not having fun."  What then?  I'd rather not ask or be asked.  Which is why I emphasize setting and managing expectations.  The one class as I cite as a bad one had advertised itself as being "Advanced Artisan Baking" and set expectations in the class description that we would be working on advanced techniques.  Then we were measuring flour with measuring cups and oiling worksurfaces to make baguettes.  Had it advertised itself as "Fun with Flour" - I would have given it a big miss and everyone concerned would have had more "fun."  :>)