Even people who love to cook can find be put off by baking. Some get so frustrated they give up after a failed first attempt.
Why is baking so hard for first-timers? Well, it’s more technical than cooking and requires patience and an eye for detail. There’s definitely not as much freedom or room for error when you’re baking a cake compared to, say, spaghetti bolognaise.
It can also be intimidating and confusing. Bakers throw around mysterious and fancy-sounding terms, such as “autolyse” (letting flour and water rest to let the gluten form). The wealth of information out there (what is the difference between baking powder and baking soda?) can be overwhelming and enough to put the novice baker off for good.
Baking also takes lots of time – bread, in particular, can require anything from three hours to an entire night for the dough to ferment.
But… once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to fall in love with the art of baking. Its formulaic nature means you need to trust in the process and let practice guide you. You also need to follow recipes precisely – cutting corners won’t get you anywhere.
Take it from me: I used to be terrified of baking – now I’m just somewhat fearful, but I have at least conquered my phobia of baking bread. It all came about from making a basic white bread one day, using a recipe from the internet. I was surprised at how good it turned out.
Encouraged by the results and the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread, I continued practising, baking every few days and giving the loaves away to friends and family.
After getting more confident handling the dough, I now make my own sourdough loaves. While I may be more experienced with bread, I still loathe baking cakes and pastries – none of my attempts have been successful, and I have no clue as to why.
Knowing what went wrong is the first step to more successful bakes. That’s why baking classes are becoming more popular than ever – you can get expert advice on the spot, and hopefully avoid baking disasters in the first place. Baking should be a fun process, not an exasperating one.
Learners want an in-person, hands-on experience with valuable tips from the professionals, and they’re not put off by classes that cost a few hundred dollars.
Some courses are also subsidised by SkillsFuture, a Singapore government initiative that encourages citizens to pick up new skills. This has contributed to their immense popularity.
Ms Jamil, a first-time baker, is keen on using her SkillsFuture funds to attend a breadmaking class. She’s passionate about cooking but also appreciates artisan bread on occasion, and is looking forward to creating her first homemade loaf.
“I am not familiar with the bread-making process and I thought it would be more effective learning from the experts than learning it on my own or through recipes on the Internet. I want to succeed in my first few tries,” she says.
With that in mind, let’s take a close look at some noteworthy baking schools and the classes they offer.
Baking classes for complete beginners
Brettschneider’s Baking & Cooking School
Helmed by Dean Brettschneider, founder of the Baker & Cook group of bistros, the Brettschneider’s Baking & Cooking School offers classes for beginners to advanced home bakers. Teaching everything from flatbreads to cakes, this school is highly popular among the baking crowd.
For bread, the school offers a five-day basic breadmaking course at the end of which you’ll be able to bake a range of breads, such as a basic bread, grain bread and sourdough, as well as Danish pastries. If a five-day course sounds like a stretch, the school also offers single-day basic breadmaking courses.
As for biscuits, cakes and pastries, you can learn how to make everything from chocolate cookies and European layered cakes with elaborate buttercreams and glazes to Baker & Cook’s famous carrot cake, Black Forest gateau and French macarons. However, the school is not covered under the SkillsFuture scheme.
Baker’s Brew offers mainly cake-making classes held throughout various locations in Singapore. These courses include chocolate techniques, making buttercream and baking basic bread. Some of Baker’s Brew’s courses are claimable under the SkillsFuture programme, but not all – the ondeh ondeh cake and sea salt dark chocolate cake classes are not covered by the scheme.
Baking supplies store Phoon Huat offers baking classes under the name of its Redman baking goods brand. Participants can learn to make matcha cakes, chocolate gateau, sourdough bread, doughnuts and challah, among other things.
Intermediates and advanced homebakers
Culinary school Palate Sensations has a range of masterclasses for those looking to perfect their baking techniques. But book your slot quick: it will be phasing out its SkillsFuture claimable courses in May 2020.
Advanced classes include “Mastering of American Pies”, where attendees will learn how to bake tart shells and make the fillings for chicken pie and apple pie.
We all know that making croissants is no easy feat – it involves layering dough on cold butter and repeating the process several times. Those who like a challenge can take the school’s croissant and jam-making course.
ABC Cooking Studio
Originating in Japan, the ABC Cooking Studio’s baking classes focus on cakes, bread and wagashi, a range of luxurious traditional sweets from Japan. Basic courses cover macarons, chocolate mousse, tiramisu, mixed berry tart and orange chiffon. Master course lessons will teach students how to make apple pie, eclairs, a gingerbread house and mocha gateau.
Courses are available in packages – for example, basic courses come in six, 12 and 18 lessons, and will be taught sequentially. ABC Cooking Studio also offers a 12-lesson master course for graduates of the basic course. Classes are wildly popular, so make sure to book your slot early!