How can I master the art of baking and pastry without going to pastry school?

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Joined Aug 28, 2010
I thought I would get the advice of professionals as you guys have plenty of experience under your respective belts.

I'm an undergrad engineering student at the moment, and I love what I'm studying. Pastry/baking work the other side of my brain and is another passion, haha. I have no desire to start my own business, perhaps do a little catering for friends or small dinners etc, but mostly for my own fulfillment. How can I hone this skill?

Advice, experience, tips are greatly appreciated.

Thank you :D
 

kuan

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You need to work in a scratch pastry shop.  There may be other ways but there's no faster way of learning to work with your hands than doing it again and again... and again.    People say baking is a science but I still maintain it's more handcrafting and feel.
 

chefpeon

Kitchen Dork
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The best thing to do is buy a pastry book outlining the basics and bake your way through it. It's amazing what you can learn just by baking on your own. My favorite book on the basics is "Baking and Pastry, Mastering the Art and Craft" by the Culinary Institute of America. 
 
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I agree that nothing compares to working in an actual pastry shop, but if you are looking to just hone your skills at home, I agree that understanding the theory and techniques behind pastries will make a world of difference.

I second chef peon on the Baking and Pastry textbook. Another great textbook is "Professional Baking" by Wayne Gisslen. Also, "How Baking Works" by Paula Figoni goes even deeper into baking science.
 
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Joined May 4, 2010
thanks for tips on the CIA book I didn't realize they had a pastry book too, I'm a big fan of their "savory" textbook, but was starting to think that it was their baking book too - glad to hear it's not (cause it's of course lacking).

Just going to throw out the idea of the "On Baking" book out of the On Cooking series which the non-CIA schools often use as textbooks too. having said that my first pastry chef instructor (CIA trained) gave us mostly different recipes because several just don't work =p Having said that, having the On Baking book has given me insane freedom for experimenting and having solutions where no others seemed to exist. it also is a real stickler in using percentages so it's real easy to scale with.

(on the tomas keller tip: is Bouchon a good book for pastry? the way french laundry is fer savory?)

agreed on the physical dexterity being an important aspect - just sayin, watch a real pastry show off a little (a simple roll, or throwing around foccacia like it's their beer coaster) and you'll understand quickly about the dexterity thing. (muscle memory ftw)
 
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Joined Jun 13, 2010
BlackAnemone,

I've been a home cook for years, passionate about baking and pastry. I've always wanted to take it a step further, so I enrolled in culinary school 3 years ago. The community college in Indianapolis offers courses part time. I take courses one night a week. Some of the courses are available online (sanitation, management, nutrition, etc.) which make it even easier.

School is my stress reliever from being a psychiatrist. It's the best thing I've ever done. Check around. Culinary school may not be out of your reach.
 
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