Well I’m not a government spy. But I did attend pastry boot camp at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) this past summer. As I was thinking about what I took away from 2015, that experience stood out in my mind. When I returned home from the CIA, so many people asked what I learned. Considering the instructors were veteran pastry chefs from fancy hotels and bakeries around the world, you better believe I took a lot of notes. Some of the things I learned might surprise you, like how I never want to work in a bakery again.
I imagine you’ve been a home cook and baker for years, maybe you’ve even attended a fun cooking class with your friends. This course at the CIA was basically like stepping into Willy Wonka’s dream world for 5 days. Here are the top 10 things I learned at boot camp. Hopefully the tips help you embark on more baking adventures this year!
- Measure ingredients before you start. I was never on board with this before I attended class at the CIA, but it really does save time.
- Clean as you go. Again, wasn’t really on board with this. However, I’m also not on board with having a sink full of dirty dishes and countertops caked with sugar when I just want to lay on the couch waiting for the cookies to be finished baking. If you tidy up after each step of the recipe, it saves a lot of time after you’re finished.
- Use a trusted recipe. The Culinary Institute of America spends years perfecting recipes. They measure everything down to the gram, and you can see a difference in their product. I am very picky about where I get my recipes from, so know that you can always trust Bake Like A Champ.
- Don’t make substitutions. Unless you’re a professional baker, you probably don’t understand the chemistry behind baking ingredients. Save yourself the heartache of a baking failure, and just stick to the recipe.
- Don’t waste anything. This one goes out to my mom. I was always the girl who saved an embarrassing amount of cake batter to eat raw while the cake is in the oven. She yelled at me. Similar to the CIA’s strict measurement guidelines, not using all of the batter in a recipe will likely give you a different result than the recipe suggests. You also don’t need to throw away scraps, such as pie crust. I learned that I can use the remnants from pie dough to make pie crust cookies. Just brush the scraps with cinnamon sugar, and bake! Sorry, I just ruined you. They’re pretty addicting.
- Line everything with parchment paper. I’ve told you this before. Just do it.
- Bake what you crave. Our instructor was constantly reminding us that the purpose of baking is to show love to our friends and family. If you wouldn’t want to eat it, don’t bake it.
- I never want to make puff pastry again. This took so many hours, and it had so many steps! I’ll continue to buy it at the grocery store. What? Ina Garten says we can. BTW, my favorite brand of frozen puff pastry is Dufour. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it.
- Making chocolate mousse is really hard. It doesn’t seem that hard, but it is. And I screwed it up 2 out of 2 times while at the CIA. It was a little embarrassing. Let’s stick with cakes, cookies, and pies. Trust me.
- I never want to work in a bakery again. The hot kitchen, the long hours, the early mornings, the low pay… I commend all bakery employees and owners. It’s truly a labor of love. I’ll stick to baking simple, yet gourmet treats in my own kitchen.
Anything surprise you in here?
If you’d like to hear more about my experience at the CIA, I’m happy to share. Just reach out to me on my Contact page. Don’t worry, I’m not being paid by them. How can I not promote eating dessert all day for 5 straight days? I think this summer I’ll try one of their Italian boot camps… who’s with me?
I hope you were able to enjoy some time off, hang with friends and family, and bake yummy treats. Time for detox, am I right?