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)
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…
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…
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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.”