like many people, I’ve developed some tough new habits during the pandemic, both good and bad. I run or walk the same road in the same clockwise direction almost every day. You have become more than just a night owl. I try to check with my friends often. I also found it difficult to research big projects, but when I had the opportunity to try an ambitious online cooking class, I took it.
After I read about her Global Online Education, I signed up for a comprehensive course in pastry French Pastry School in Chicago Via a cooking platform called Rouxbe. Pastry has always been a weak point in my culinary knowledge, and I was curious whether spending $700 on a course to fill that gap would be a worthwhile investment.
The Introduction to Pastry Arts course Divided into 229 individual tasks in 20 units. There are written lessons with pictures and videos. Tests and exams. Shows the recipe and the recipes themselves, which you prepare at home, photographing several steps along the way. The French Pastry School calls it a “120-day course”, but what that really means is that you have a 120-day pass to the more interactive aspect of it, like submitting your work and getting feedback, but you get access to the content for life. The course is comprehensive! It includes cookies, pancakes, brownies, bread, mousse and macarons. There are weeks of practical assignments.
The first several modules set expectations, explain the course structure, and define what you know – which also gives you a sense of where you are. It starts with the smart basics: kitchen sanitation, danger zone for bacteria, FIFO (first in, first out, aka “old things first use”). There is a great emphasis on using kitchen scales to measure ingredients by weight. There is a fair amount of classwork that happens before any baking takes place, and when teachers finally ask you to tie your apron, your first kitchen assignment is to “make whatever you want.” I chose the no-knead bread, and uploaded pictures as I went. I’ve sent a picture of Maze ‘n Place – all ingredients are weighted and ready to use before baking begins. I cut one out of the dough after I’ve had an overnight guide and the other off the finished loaf, cut in two to show the crust and crumbs. Signing up for a class was a bit weird and then I immediately did something I already knew, but it’s also a clever and kind invitation to get things started in full swing.
While I happily work as a cook in restaurant kitchens, pastry is her specialty. I was quickly moving into a new world and I wanted to succeed. The courses also emphasized how important bread was to detail, something that gave both sides of my OCD a warm mystery.
I started a custom notebook and pages filled with notes on whisking egg whites and heavy cream together, and more about how to fold them into a batter. (Light to heavy, in stages, gently, if you’re curious.) I also got into pie dough, making the classic sucré pie, where working with ingredients at room temperature is key to making dough, but then letting it cool in the fridge is best to roll it out. .