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If you have a passion for baking, then you might consider attending a baking school. This type of school focuses on teaching you all the different aspects of baking. The challenge will be finding a school dedicated to just baking. More often, you will find baking courses as part of a culinary education program. Some culinary schools may offer a baking option. You may also have to take pastry courses because schools often lump these classes together.

The Difference Between Culinary, Pastry and Baking

gourmet chef
gourmet chef
baker

It is important to understand that culinary programs and baking programs are different. Culinary programs focus on producing meals, appetizers, soups and other food items that are not dessert-related. Even a pastry course and a baking course differ. A pastry course would focus on pies, tarts and similar foods. Baking courses specifically focus on baked goods, such as cakes and cookies. While pastry and baking are similar in that they focus on sweets, they do not always teach the same concepts, which is important to understand.

Before choosing a program, you really have to find out what type of program it is and ensure it will teach the concepts you need to learn related to baking. You also probably want to avoid having to take cooking classes if you have no desire to become a chef and wish to solely focus on baking. Learning some pastry techniques will typically be a part of any baking program, so that's not as big of a concern.

Coursework

kneading dough

Once you find a good program, you can expect that it will cover many different baking techniques and practices. Some of the things you may learn in a program include:

  • Food science: Baking is a science because it requires specific measurements to bring about reactions that produce the type of baked good you are making. You have to understand the science behind baking to be really skilled at it.
  • Kitchen math: Measuring is an important part of baking. You will learn all about how to measure the different types of ingredients, including measuring by weight.
  • Eggs: You may think there isn't much to learn about eggs, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are plenty of baked goods that rely on eggs to make them what they are, such as meringue and souffles. You will usually have an in-depth study of eggs and how to use them correctly, how to choose them, how to know when they are good or bad and how they affect your baked goods.
  • Yeast: Yeast is another important ingredient in baking. It is a very tricky ingredient, so you will learn how to use it properly. You will also learn the science behind yeast to help ensure your yeast-based baked goods always turn out.
  • Cake decoration: This is a true art and involves many different techniques that you are sure to learn in a baking program.
  • Sugar work: Sugar is an important part of any baked good. You will learn how to work with it and use it to create amazing treats.
  • Plating techniques: Serving up your finished baked goods can be done with flair. A program may include classes on how to plate your baked goods or how to finish them so they look wonderful.
  • Safety: Baking can be dangerous. You are working around hot ovens and machinery. Most programs will have courses on kitchen safety.
  • Sanitation: You always have to think about keeping a clean workspace and not doing anything that could make people sick. Courses will usually cover sanitation requirements and techniques.

You will also likely learn to make specific baked goods. Here's a list of things you may learn to make while attending baking school:

  1. Choux pastry
  2. Bread
  3. Buttercream
  4. Cookies
  5. Layer cakes

Some programs may be more business focused, offering you courses and classes that teach how to run your own bakery. Additional topics covered in such a program may include how to manage inventory, how to market and how to plan your menu.

How to Know If Baking School Is the Right Choice

making deserts

Not everyone is meant to be a baker. In fact, many professional chefs shy away from baking. It is one of the hardest culinary arts to master because it requires preciseness and is science-based. Obviously, if you have a natural inclination towards baking or you already like to bake, then you probably don't even need to ask if this is the right path for you. However, if you are on the fence, it may help to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you mind working in a hot environment?
  2. Do you want a job where you are on your feet for long hours?
  3. Do enjoy working with people?
  4. Are you a creative person?
  5. Do have good attention to detail?
  6. Are you physically able to lift heavy things?

Your answers to these questions are important because working as a baker requires you to work long hours in a hot kitchen. You will be on your feet for many hours a day. You will have to work with customers to get orders and make sales. You have to be creative, so you can make items that people will want to buy. Attention to detail is a must or you won't be able to create yummy and beautiful treats. Finally, you will be lifting large bags or tubs of ingredients and hauling around baked goods a lot, so you need to have some muscle.

Of course, the exact job duties you have will depend on where you want to work. There are plenty of options. You could work in a bakery, a grocery store, a restaurant or own your own business. There are even opportunities with large companies and private individuals. Where you work can bring about other obstacles. For example, starting your own business requires taking on all the duties of a business owner in addition to baking.

The bottom line is that you should make sure baking really is your passion before you invest in school. Baking school can be intense and time-consuming. You don't want to spend money and time on something that is not going to turn into a career. You may be better off taking a hobby class in cake decorating or pastry making instead of enrolling in a baking school.

Words of Advice

If you are committed to enrolling in baking school, then you should get prepared before you embark on this journey. There are many aspects to the process that you may not even think about, especially if you are just excited about getting your start in the field.

The first thing you should know is that it will be intense. Bakers take their craft very seriously. You will probably be taught by instructors who have dedicated their lives to baking. They want to help you succeed, but if you aren't taking things seriously, they will know, and they won't be happy about it. They will expect perfection or as close to it as possible. You may have to bake the same item over and over before the instructor passes you on it. Expect to spend plenty of time outside of school baking and perfecting your techniques.

head chef

Baking school tools are much different than your kitchen tools. Not only are the instructors intense, but the tools you'll use are intense. You will probably use commercial grade products to bake with. They may work differently than your home tools. Be ready for a learning curve as you get used to using them.

Accidents can and will happen. You are working with sharp knives, high-speed mixers and steaming hot ovens. There is bound to be an accident or two. Safety in the kitchen will be highly stressed, so severe accidents are usually avoided, but do not be surprised to get some burns and cuts as you work through the program.

Finally, it can be an emotional experience. Baking is art, and anything that you put your heart and soul into can be draining. You may struggle with certain assignments. There may be techniques that you just can't seem to get. You may beat yourself up over it. You may get upset. All of this is totally normal. In fact, if you weren't so passionate about baking, you probably wouldn't care, and that is not good. Just know that you may be all over the spectrum of emotions.

Wrapping Up

chef miniature on top of cake

Baking school can be a great option if you really want to be a professional baker. Through such a program, you will learn all the formal techniques and practices that will help you to become a master at your craft. Remember, though, finding a baking program may be tricky since baking sometimes is lumped in with pastry and culinary programs. Just choose carefully.

Furthermore, a formal education in baking may not be for everyone. Make sure you have the passion to go through with a program. In the end, if you really are a baker at heart, you will be so happy that you took the time to ensure it was the right path. You will have many avenues open up to you for a career in the field of baking and be prepared to tackle any baking challenge that comes your way.

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