Changing Courses: Pro Baking on the Horizon

The Yumarama Bread Blog is about to see a slight change in focus. It seems, you see, that I’ve somehow got myself enrolled into a Professional Baking Course at the local university  – Vancouver Island University, a.k.a. VIU, a.k.a The Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island –  which happens to be literally 5 minutes away from home.

What’s the focus and how will it affect what I post here?

The course is focused on a number of baking practices and areas, aside from straight up bread making. The course outline states:

“In addition to theory courses, the program covers artisan and commercial breads, rolls, sweet yeast products, pies, puff pastry, cookies, cakes, decoration, icing and finishing, French pastries, muffins, cup cakes, marzipan and chocolate. Also covered in the program are safety, conventional kitchen skills, sanitation, personal skills, and elementary management procedures. Students will also be trained in the operation and use of our newly built wood-fired brick oven (the first in a Canadian Educational facility).”

Basically, it’s a “full on bakery” education, less emphasis on bread lab (where the primary focus would be delving intricately into specific kinds of breads) and more on learning overall production skills, managing time and creation of multiple types of baked goods. I’ll also be getting back into cakes which I had stepped away from for the last couple of years.


The main instructors are department head Mr. Martin Barnett (above, left) and Pastry Chef Ken Harper. 

Now how will my full-time immersion into baking affect this blog? Well, most obviously will be that I’ll have a lot more info to share, from discussing the products we made to better grounded knowledge to impart when I discover and learn new stuff.

I’ll also be able to diversify the topics a little more as I cover those new aspects I had not yet touched like the desert and pastry end of things.

To the right, students loading bread into the on-campus wood-fired oven. Finally, I’ll get to handle and see what a wood-fired oven is capable of!

Although I already had both of the course’s suggested optional bread books Hamelman’s BREAD and Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice, I just picked up the course’s required book, Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen and started reading it. So far, it’s a fascinating and well put together book created, obviously, as a baking school textbook. At nearly 800 pages, it will take a bit to get through it bit having gone through the first couple of chapters, I’m rather pleased with the direction it’s gone. I’ll give a more detailed review once I’ve actually read and made use of it for a while.

For the Cake side, the book we are going to use is The Essential Guide to Cake Decorating, an editorial effort by Jane Price and the folk at Whitecap Publishing so it has no single author. So far I’ve just ruffled through some of the pages and it seems quite well put together. It is loaded with recipes and techniques and overflowing with beautiful photos. Again, I’ll try to give it a better review once I’ve had time to make use of it.

Since my goal, other than simply expanding my knowledge and hands-on experience, is to hopefully set up a small bakery, this is clearly an invaluable learning experience. True, it’s not specifically a “bread baking” course but that can come at its own pace later or if I can/choose to follow along with the following two years Apprenticeship program or perhaps get a bakery job for a year or three. This will all depend on where Punkin and I are at the end of this school year.

In the meantime, I intend to really absorb everything I can from class time, both the hands on and the more cerebral and practical management info. All the while, I expect I’ll be able to add a lot of fresh posts to the blog and maybe get to sow a little helpful info into the wide web world of baking aficionados.

Stick around, it should be fun! Classes start next week, although the first several days are more about getting oriented and learning safety and other school/class basics. But since we are expected to churn out the baked goods for the students’ meals in about a week’s time (yipes!) I highly suspect we’ll be getting into the thick of it pretty fast. Mornings will start at 6 a.m. to get those muffins and pastries out for the breakfast crowd!


5 Replies to “Changing Courses: Pro Baking on the Horizon”

  1. Congrats, Paul! This sounds like such an exciting adventure…I am eagerly anticipating all of your updates from the baking school world. =) (After I read your post, I was so excited, I googled baking schools in my area…just to check…alas, none that sound doable or as lovely as yours…so I will just have to live vicariously through you.)
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  2. Congratulations Paul on your find and the opportunity to take these courses! I can hardly wait to see how it goes and to read your posts. I would love to do something like this myself, but usually its too expensive for me to even consider. Good luck!!!

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