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A sweet trip around the world at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts

Linzer Cookies Alfajores Pesche Shortbread cookies at Bonnie Gordon College Toronto

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to participate in the “International Cookies” class at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary** Arts – part of the Part Time Bakery Essentials Certificate.  A unique programme designed for students who wish to study baking and pastry arts part-time, the course teaches skills and techniques for making various cakes, cupcakes, cookies, breads, quick breads, fillings and ganaches.  The classes, led by industry professionals, integrate theory with the hands-on component, teaching students an understanding of how ingredients work and their functions.  Students are also introduced to various mixing methods, how to build and assemble cakes, storage and transportation and basic kitchen etiquette and sanitation and will graduate fully trained to begin their career in baking. The program is open to students of all levels (homebakers who do not wish to work in a bakery at the end of the course are also welcome to apply). Sounds right up my alley, doesn’t it?

I joined the small group of women around 8.30 on Sunday morning, donning my chef whites, just like a “real baker”!

Instructor Amanda Robinson led the class, seamlessly adding theory and baking tips to her instruction, making everything seem so “do-able”. Amanda would demo a recipe then, with the exception of chocolate chip cookies, we’d go off and make our own batches (and then clean up our station – so much washing up!) with a partner.  On the menu? Shortbread, Alfajores, Pesche and Linzer Cookies – a sweet tour of the world!

I found the kitchen calm, methodical. The women worked through the recipes quietly and efficiently, really only stopping to chat at the washing up stations, where we seemed to find ourselves more often than at our stations. So. Much. Washing. Up. But an excellent introduction to the realities of a a pastry kitchen.

It was a joy to work in the beautiful months-old kitchen – with everything you could possibly imagine at your fingertips. Quite the change from my home kitchen!

As for the recipes and techniques themselves, nothing too complicated there. Essential techniques, nonetheless and even for someone like me who is always experimenting in the kitchen, it’s good to get back to basics every now and then.

I really liked the theory parts of the class actually.  I find that quite often I know how to do or make something but I don’t know how to explain why it works. This course walks students through information necessary to answer questions like “What is the difference between a cake and a cookie” (it’s the different moisture levels which makes one a cookie and one a cake)

We learned how most cookies contain a few ingredients only and the different proportions and methods used to combine them help create different textures (from moist and chewy to crispy or flaky).

Did you know that using more white sugar than brown will result in a crispier cookie.  Egg yolk as opposed to egg white would create a chewy textured cookie. Melting the butter (in a chocolate chip cookie, for example) will result in puffier cookies. Oh I could go on and on about the fun cookie facts I learned!

In our Linzer cookie dough, we used hard-boiled egg yolk to help give a flakier pastry (strangely enough, I just made a shortbread cookie this past weekend – posting this Friday – using a hard-boiled egg yolk too! Never seen it in a recipe before last week!).

Probably the most intriguing cookie we made were “Pesche Dolci” – Italian peach cookies. Basically a small, hard round cookie, hollowed out when it’s still warm, filled with pastry cream, dipped in a coloured sugar syrup (with or without rum), then rolled in sugar…

All along the process we were a little skeptical as to how they would turn out…

In the end, I think we did a pretty good job!

They’re just missing their little clove “stems” and mint leaves to make them look like real peaches!

My cookies were well enjoyed by both my colleagues (on the first day back after March Break) and Neil’s. I have to admit, the end result is pretty professional looking…

Find out more about:

The Bonnie Gordon Confectionary Arts Diploma Programme
The Bonnie Gordon Full Time Designer Cakes Certificate Programme
The Bonnie Gordon Full Time Bakery Essentials Certificate

and check out the Bonnie Gordon Continuing Education Programmes Catalogue too!

* Disclosure: I attended the class as a guest of Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts. I was not asked to post about this experience and I am not being compensated for doing so. All opinions 100% my own.

** According to the Bonnie Gordon website, “the term ‘confectionary’ (with an “a”) is commonly used as an adjective as in, confectionary sugar, while confectionery ( with an ‘e’), usually refers to a shop or facility which manufactures confections and sugary treats.”

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12 Responses to A sweet trip around the world at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts

  1. Geoff April 1, 2013 at 16:01 #

    Really informative post, Mardi.
    And, yes, they really do look like peaches.
    Nice pics too.

  2. yummychunklet April 1, 2013 at 19:24 #

    What sweet looking pastries!

  3. Colette from JFF! April 2, 2013 at 13:43 #

    Those pesche dolci look so cute.
    I might gather enough courage to try to make them myself someday….soon!

  4. Dina April 3, 2013 at 20:00 #

    my kind of world tour! the peche look great!

  5. Cakelaw April 5, 2013 at 01:27 #

    Oohhh, see those little peaches – I want to make those! I saw them on Martha Stewart an age ago and have wanted to make them ever since. You all look so professional!

    • Mardi Michels April 5, 2013 at 05:35 #

      Those are very similar to the Martha recipe actually – and much easier than they look!

  6. Hilda April 7, 2013 at 10:12 #

    Mardi thank you for sharing your photos and experience with us. Those cookies look delicious and oh so professional. You guys did a great job. The peach cookies are familiar to me , years ago when i got married i had some aunts that all pitched in to make some for the sweet table and that was my first introduction to them. gorgeous looking.

    • Mardi Michels April 26, 2013 at 20:24 #

      I am so impressed myself Hilda! Thanks for stopping by!

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