Learning to be a master baker and pastry chef is fun, rewarding, and challenging. If you have always enjoyed baking and making sweets, a career in a pastelería may be a great option. It’s fun to play around in your own kitchen, but there are some skills and baking and pastry techniques that you just can’t teach yourself. You need to learn from the expertise of real pastry chefs.
That’s exactly what you get at Florida Technical College when you enroll in the baking and pastelería diploma program. New courses start every month and you can finish your diploma in baking and pastry and be a master pastry artist in as little as 13 months.
In these courses, taught in real kitchens, you’ll learn hands-on baking skills and decorating techniques. There is both an art and a skill to pastry, sugar, and chocolate work. Read on to get a better idea of just a few of the fun and practical skills you can learn in our pastry and baking courses.
Sugar Cookies: Baking and Pastry Techniques 101
You have to start somewhere in your pastry education and learn to master the basic culinary techniques in baking and pastry before moving on to more advanced skills. One of the simplest, yet tastiest and useful recipes you’ll learn at FTC is for sugar cookies. These cookies make a great canvas for decorating for any occasion. You can roll the dough out and cut the cookies into shapes for the holidays, for birthdays, graduation parties, or any other special occasion. The simple but delicious cookies can then be decorated with icing and other add-ons.
The Sugar Cookies Recipe
A basic sugar cookie recipe is one of many important baking and pastry techniques and it begins with sugar and butter. You need 6 ounces of room temperature, unsalted butter and 2 ounces of powdered sugar. Cream them together by mixing, either by hand or with a stand mixer, which is easier and faster. When you have a smooth, consistent mixture, add in one egg, a half teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix until they are well incorporated.
The next step is to add in the flour and baking powder. A great technique that you won’t necessarily learn from a cookbook or recipe, but which you will get from your expert culinary instructors is to sift the flour before adding it to the wet mixture. Sifting is simple an easy but makes a world of difference. It breaks up lumps, aerates the flour, and allows you to measure the amount more accurately. Mix a half teaspoon of baking powder into 8 ounces of flour and then sift. Add the sifted mixture to your mixing bowl and mix until evenly incorporated.
Chilling, Cutting, Baking
Another of the many baking and pastry techniques you won’t learn just anywhere is that you get better cookies when you chill the dough before baking it. Wrap your dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or for 20 minutes in the freezer if your time is limited. Once you have chilled it well you can remove the dough, roll it thinly with a rolling pin and cut out shapes with cookies cutters.
Bake the cookies on a cookie sheet in a 325 °F oven for about 12 minutes or until the edges turn a golden brown. When they are finished, remove the cookies and place them on a cooling rack using a spatula. Let them cool thoroughly before decorating with icing, sprinkles, and more.
When it comes to baking and pastry techniques, sugar cookies belong in the entry-level course. All bakers and pastry chefs have mastered this simple and versatile recipe. When you find your new job in pastries and baking, you’ll be glad to have this one under your belt so you can impress your new employer with your solid foundation in baking.
The Art of Pulled Sugar
Among the top baking school techniques are pulled sugar candy and decorations. This is a more advanced example of the many baking and pastry techniques you will learn as a culinary student. It takes practice and the guidance of an instructor experienced in sugar work to master this craft. Once you have it mastered, you will be able to impress prospective employers and clients with beautiful, ribbon-like candy.
Pulling sugar is a technique that is used to create ribbons of candy, but also other shapes. The secret is to get the recipe right, but also to consider the effects of temperature, how long the sugar is boiled, and how you manipulate it. Once you master this skill you can make ribbons, candy flowers, and many other kinds of sugar sculptures.
A History of Pulled Sugar
Using sugar to create shapes and sculptures date back to the Middle East in Medieval times. People used sugar art in celebrations, but also as medicine. The practice moved from there into Europe where royalty and aristocrats displayed their wealth with elaborate sculptures made from pulled sugar. Today, the practice of art from sugar is an important one of many baking and pastry techniques that all pastry chefs need to know.
The Pulled Sugar Recipe
Recipes for pulled sugar vary and you will learn to get it just right during your baking and pastry classes. An example of a recipe for sugar ribbons is to heat five cups, or one kilogram of sugar, three tablespoons of white vinegar, and a cup plus two tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Temperature is crucial in working with sugar, so you will need a candy thermometer to get it just right. You need to heat the ingredients together until they reach a temperature of 320 °F.
Mastering the Baking and Pastry Techniques for Pulling Sugar into Ribbons
Once the mixture has reached this temperature, pour it onto a large silicone baking mat or several if the sugar won’t all fit on one. At this point, you can add food coloring or flavorings by mixing a few drops in with a wooden skewer. The next steps in working with sugar take practice to master and the best way to learn them is through instruction in pastry schools. You need to work the sugar in from the outer edges of the mat toward the center, without burning your fingers. Fold the sugar as you work it inward.
When you have the sugar in the middle of the mat, it’s time to pull. Pick it up and pull and fold the sugar until it becomes glossy and shiny. If you used multiple colorings and flavorings, separate these sections of sugar and pull them each separately. To make the ribbons, you have to pull the sugar thin multiple times until it has cooled into the shape and thickness you want.
Baking and Pastry Techniques with Chocolate: Sculpturing
Chocolate is another sweet medium for decorating and making edible sweets. Chocolate is a little more complicated than the basic pulled sugar recipe, but like working with sugar, this is a skill that takes guidance and practice to master. Chocolate sculpting is a popular adornment for modern desserts and a practical skill you can learn at a bakery school like FTC.
There are many different techniques for making chocolate sculptures, including using molds, but a popular technique used to create any shape and to get different colors is to make modeling chocolate. You can use milk, semisweet, or bittersweet chocolate, but white chocolate allows you to add food coloring. The basic recipe for white modeling chocolate is to heat and melt together two cups of white chocolate with one-third of a cup of corn syrup.
As it cools and you kneed and fold the chocolate, you can separate it and add different colors or flavors to each portion. It takes some practice, and guidance from expert instructors, to know exactly how much corn syrup to use for different consistencies, how long to let the chocolate cool, and how much to work it. Once you have the right consistency and color, you can shape your chocolate like clay to make any kind of sculpture you want.
Chocolate Sculpting: Practical Baking and Pastry Techniques
Elaborate cakes are all the rage these days. There are even reality TV shows based solely on the most outrageous cakes. Many of these master bakers rely on modeling chocolate to make some of the trickier elements. It can be used to make just about any shape for decorating a cake. You can even cover an entire cake in rolled-out modeling chocolate.
As a graduate of the baking and pastelería diploma program, you will have this important and useful skill in your pastry tool kit. Any bakery will want employees to be able to make and use modeling chocolate. And if you strike out on your own as a baker, your clients will surely demand the kinds of elaborate cakes that call for modeling chocolate.
You can learn these three baking and pastry techniques, and many more, when you enroll in FTC’s culinary diploma program. Work hands-on in a kitchen with chefs and knowledgeable instructors and gain the practical experience you need to work in a bakery, restaurant, hotel, or even your own pastry business!