Adventures in Pastry School

My life has changed exponentially in the last two weeks!

Why? Because I’ve started pastry school!

And it’s great — actually, better than great — no, better than better than great — it’s amazing! I love it to bits. For the first time in my life, I wake up (at 5:30am) actually excited for class.

This is a big change for me, considering that I normally hate, hate, hate school.

Not that I hate learning — I love to learn, but the standard institution in which education is applied has some serious failings. University was a place in which I never really felt like I fit in or had a passion for (save for a couple Sociology and English classes — but truly enjoying only 4 or 5 out of the 40-something classes you have to take for a BA makes for some frustrating years of your life).

To be honest, I’m always surprised that I even got through university.

But pastry school is totally different! The chef instructors like me and they don’t seem to mind that I’ve got a seriously willful, independent streak.

As one chef often tells me (and I take this as a huge compliment), “Christine, I like your moxie!”

I’m learning all sorts of technical and scientific stuff about baking — because pastry arts, as it’s called, is very theory-intensive.

There’s a ton of reading to do every night — lots of protein names and chemical reactions and temperatures and step-by-step processes to memorize. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up and still have time to get errands and laundry and cooking and blogging done, but that’s cool with me. I’m following my dream!

Speaking of which: no more lazy time — I’m on a strict schedule of early bedtimes and even earlier mornings (and still working on the weekends).

Class starts at 7am on the button and you can not be late. Three lates make one unexcused absence, three unexcused absences make an automatic fail, and the pass/fail cut-off is 70%. Yeesh!

Getting to class, caffeinated, fed, and in uniform (complete with goofy blue hat) hasn’t been a problem so far, but I wonder how I’m going to feel when mornings in Vancouver get ridiculously cold and dark — ask me again how I like busing my butt to school when its -10°C outside. Ha!

Anyways, the school curriculum began in the most basic and most challenging place to start: bread.

Bread only has to have four basic ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt — yet there’s so much that can go wrong! We’ve been learning lots of technical terms for bread-making, like “bulk fermentation” (the first rise), and “deflating” (punching down), and “bench rest” (the second rise), etc., and all about using starters and CO2 production and the gluten window.

I used to be afraid of making bread because mine always tasted good but looked stupid-demented.

Turns out the oven I’ve been using really is the worst possible way to break your bread! Bread and convection ovens? No, no, no! The air whistles rise through the precious bread, prematurely removing gas bubbles that need to expand, which is why my bread never rose right.

See? I didn’t know that two weeks ago.

Which is good, since we’ve already had our first practical test in bread making. The assignment was to develop a recipe and make a bread of our choosing — I chose to make an enriched bread (read: bread with eggs, sugar, and fat) with — you guessed it! — chestnut flour.

I even shaped it like a chestnut and egg-washed the top two-thirds of the bread to make it look like a chestnut. It was super cute and had a sweet, earthy flavour — really tasty first thing in the morning with a bit of butter and tea.

I just wish I had remembered to take a photo before I sliced it open! Derp.

Anyways, my fellow patisseries-in-training seem nice — half of them are fresh out of high school, but everyone has a unique personality.

There are a couple high-strung ones, a couple laid back ones, a couple lazy ones, a couple hardworking ones — the same sort of mix you’ll find anywhere. I’m bonding well with at least one other classmate and my baking partner (we work in pairs), so it’s all good to me.

As one might expect, the class is mostly made up of young women, but there are two guys in the class (who have no complaints about hanging out with a bunch of fine and floury ladies all morning)! Ha!

Tomorrow we’re moving on to viennoiserie — the proper term for croissant, danish, brioche, and other sweet, yeasty delicious bread stuffs.

We did a test run on croissant-making on Friday and mine turned out pretty damned good for a first try — good taste, texture, and I actually didn’t mess up making the lamination (delicate layers of dough and butter)! I’ll get another shot at croissant on Monday, so I’ll see if I can duplicate my lack-of-failure again.

Anyways, for those of you who’re wondering, I’ll still be posting recipes at least once a week. There are no plans to turn my blog into some kind of lame-o diary about pastry school, but recipes will have to be less frequent than before (this makes me sadface, but I’ve got to be smart with my time) and I do want to occasionally post about school adventures, too!

Please look forward the changes around here as Angry Cherry evolves with me! As always, thanks for reading!

PS: Like this dorky photo of me in my uniform? It was taken by my class partner. I just know some of you have always been curious as to what I look like — and I’m definitely going to try to be less camera shy from now on.

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28 thoughts on “Adventures in Pastry School

  1. A Tablespoon of Liz says:

    you’re making me so nostalgic for school!! haha. I can relate to so much of this, especially the early mornings. And danish are probably my favorite things to make (or eat) everrrr. I always filled them the same way, a mixture of goat/cream cheese topped with olives and roasted red peppers. uuhhh mazing. You look like you’re having a blast, And I totally feel you on baking bread in a convection oven! It’s practically impossible. One day, I’m going to win the lottery and build a brick oven in my backyard.

    • Christine says:

      Haha, one day I want to have my very own deck oven! And a huge fridge-freezer with sliding plexiglass doors! Forget a HD TV, a nice sports car, or tropical cruises — I WANT TO SPEND MY MOOLAH ON SERIOUS KITCHEN APPLIANCES!

  2. One of my best friends is a Pastry Chef 🙂 And.. My fiance is a Chef!! It’s awesome that you have taken this step!! Good Luck!!

  3. girl you are gorgeous! i love the pink streak in your hair!
    and pastry school sounds so exciting…im so glad you are having fun!

  4. Meg says:

    Pastry school sounds intensive but fun! I love all the scientific aspects of cooking. It makes bread seem so amazing, and your Chestnut bread looks delicious!
    I completely agree with you about the university system. I’m just getting out of college with my BFA; and I’m now considering enrolling in an atelier(which sound a bit like pastry school) so that I’ll have some understanding of painting.

    • Christine says:

      Yeah — unfortunately around here (Vancouver) and most major cities (which is where people with BAs, MBAs, BFAs, MAs, etc., go, it seems that you need some kind of secondary training to compliment the 4-year education in order to compete! It’s really nuts. At least your atelier will be related to your BFA tho. 🙂

  5. daisy says:

    You are going to have the time of your life! It’s going to be crazy fun and intense. Most days you’ll be on cloud nine following your dream and being passionate about it, and some days you’ll wonder why you’re doing this to yourself and paying a ton of money, to boot. In the end, I’ll be a blur, so enjoy every single minute of it.

    I went to culinary school, not knowing how to cook at all and I never baked in my life. I came out of it sixteen months later, so passionate about food and eating. I even managed to be the top of my baking class. I had a great time and had the opportunity to cater some high-end events along the way. It was a great opportunity for me and I’m sure it will be for you, too.

    Best wishes, Christine!

    • Christine says:

      Thanks, Daisy! You totally hit the nail on the head — I did a lot of emotional see-sawing during the first week. It’s been a big adjustment, but now I’m on week 3 and settling into it nicely. 🙂

  6. Good luck with your schooling, you seem to be very committed, which is always good! As for getting to school in the middle of winter, remember it could be much worse — you could live in Saskatchewan! Here in Saskatoon it gets down to -30-something°C most winter days. We’ve even managed to be the coldest city in the world a couple of times at -51°C (which is extremely rare, but still). So anyway good luck again! Perhaps you could share new recipes you’ve picked up in school sometime?

    • Christine says:

      Arrrgh! I know. Us Vancouverites enjoy the cushiest weather in Canada and yet we complain about it being cold and rainy more than anyone else. 😛

      There’s another girl in my pastry program from Saskatchewan, too — I’m sure she’s going to laugh the people from BC who freak out when it snows an inch (transit and the airport shuts down if we get more than 5cm — no kidding)!

      • Haha wow I can’t even imagine. We’d be shut down all winter if they did that here. As a kid I was always jealous of people who got “snow days”, because where I went to school we weren’t even aloud to go inside and warm up for a minute during recess. Anyway, my cousin lives in Victoria and she loves it — I wonder what she thinks of the locals in winter haha.

  7. kaliesthoughts says:

    This post reminded me of how much I want to complete my goal of becoming a pastry chef. I need to start researching about this and find me a school to go to! Thank you and youre gorgeous in your uniform<3

    • Christine says:

      Aw, thanks, Kalie!

      The first step to on the road to becoming a pastry chef is definitely figuring out where you wanna go. If you’re not sure about a school, I recommending Googling some of the chef instructors — good ones should pop up on a search engine.

  8. Just wanted you to know that I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award!!

  9. Joanne says:

    I love the picture of you in your chef uniform, you look very cute and professional. I am so glad that you have found your niche! Where is the bread? Just kidding!

  10. You are extremely lucky! I can’t wait to go to culinary school 😀

    • Christine says:

      I wish I had the time and money to do culinary school, too! It looks awesome — I think you get a lot more hands-on time and fun-with-food time than you do in pastry arts, where we watch a lot of dough spin on a hook or batter get beat with a whisk.

  11. Just go by my blog and the rules are posted for accepting it 🙂

  12. lulu says:

    Hi Christine – where in Vancouver are you taking your pastry training? I’m in Vancouver, too!

  13. Christine, I’m so envious I could burst! This sounds absolutely fantastic and I’m delighted you’re getting the opportunity to chase your dreams and indulge in your passions! Really looking forward to hearing about your learning and seeing the results as you progress.

    Laura x

    PS. you’ve managed to pull off the uniform pretty well from where I’m sitting 🙂

  14. kaliesthoughts says:

    Thanks for the advice.

  15. Melanie says:

    I just start pastry school too, so it’s fun to read about someone else’s experience. Good luck with your schooling!

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