The blog of cooking-ez.com

The Holy Grail of French bakers


The Holy Grail of French bakers
While browsing through the recipes on this site, you may have noticed that while I adore cooking (everything, in fact, to do with eating and drinking), I am particularly drawn to bakery: bread, viennoiseries and all that goes with them – it’s a real passion of mine; I love making them and I enjoy eating them just as much.

For a long time I made do, finding recipes and information here and there, getting quite a long way by trial and error. But an idea was gradually taking root in my mind: I really needed to go and learn properly, and from real bakers.
15K 4.7/5 based on 15 reviews
Grade this page:

Last modified on: March 24th 2018

Keywords for this post:BakerBakeryTrainingInbp
The Holy Grail of French bakers
The best plan seemed to be to take a CAP course (vocational qualification with certificate) in baking. This meant I would need to find not only the time necessary, but also the money (and this training doesn’t come cheap) and somewhere to do it.

I can tell you, it didn’t take long to decide on the “where”. As any French baker in the know will tell you, there’s one institute that really counts: the Institut National de la Boulangerie Pâtisserie (INBP) in Rouen – more or less the Holy Grail of professional bakers in France. If I had to come up with an analogy from a parallel universe, it would be the Harvard or MIT of bakers, no less.

From first having the idea to actually making this project happen took several years. To get on this famous course in Rouen I had to raid my piggy bank and clear five and a half months of sabbatical leave, temporarily leaving behind the world of IT in Brest and, along the way, dipping a toe back into student life (and as a rather “mature” student, you might have guessed).

Well, I managed it. Now here I am, training in Rouen since the beginning of January 2018, totally immersed in the world of baking!

I can sum it all up for you quite easily in two words: exciting and exhausting.

Exciting, because the training is extremely enriching, led by trainers with near encyclopaedic knowledge, who know all there is to know and can reply to every question. Their technical know-how and practical skills are simply amazing. These guys (yes, we haven’t have a woman tutor so far) are capable of explaining all the how and why to do with the importance, reasons, angle, size and number of cuts to make with a blade on the top of a loaf before it goes in the oven. Exciting, as I was saying – I’m learning so much from rubbing shoulders with them and I’m thrilled to bits about it.

Exhausting, too, because we have 4 baking sessions per week (minimum), each one lasting six and a half hours, starting at either six in the morning or one in the afternoon. Believe me, there’s no down time at all for the whole session: we calculate, weigh, knead, divide out, shape, prepare, decorate, cook and finish. We are all completely wiped out by the end of the session, happy to a greater or lesser degree with what we have produced (bread and viennoiseries), as you can imagine.

Baking is a school of “the perfect gesture”, and it’s very difficult to get this just right. There’s no secret: the only way is to do it again and again, over and over, in order to improve by small steps. Sometimes proud of what one has made when it comes out of the oven (rarely), sometimes disappointed (often), but always happy because, after all, it’s there to be eaten and it tastes good, even if it doesn’t look particularly beautiful, well-shaped or regular.

I’m about halfway through the course as I write these lines, and when I look at the photos of my first croissants, just over a month ago, and the ones I’m making now, I tell myself that there is still hope.

And why am I telling you all this, I hear you ask? Well, because it is affecting the website in two ways:

1) You may have noticed that the frequency of new recipes had gone down considerably. This is simply because I’m a long way from my own kitchen and this course is taking up close to 100% of my time, so I have very little left for publishing.

2) Also, I’m now aware that quite a lot of what I have written in the bakery articles and recipes is in need of a freshen-up, with better explanations, additions and, in some cases, corrections. But don’t worry; as soon as I have earned the title of Baker, and have the certificate to prove it, I’ll be on the case and get down to it seriously.

So, wish me luck, and the stamina to make it to the end… :-)


Lasts posts
Clean your mixer easily
Clean your mixer easily
If you use a "bowl" or "blender" mixer, as opposed to a plunger, you've probably noticed that it's a bit of a hassle to clean it after use. And yet, with a simple trick, it can be done very quickly. See how here.
1,6925 June 26th 2024
Preserving egg yolks
Preserving egg yolks
If you're using only the egg whites in a recipe (such as meringues ), you'll need to store the yolks until you're ready to use them again. There's nothing very complicated about this in principle - all you have to do is chill them, but there are a few pitfalls to be avoided in practice.
2,2235 June 18th 2024
Preservative oil, an asset for taste
Preservative oil, an asset for taste
When you prepare a dish using an ingredient that has been preserved in fat, for example a springtime mixed salad with tuna in oil or sun-dried tomatoes, you're probably going to make a french dressing (vinaigrette) next. In that case, why not use the preserved oil from the tuna or tomatoes?
2,3555 June 5th 2024
Don't throw away disposable piping bags
Don't throw away disposable piping bags
Nowadays, it's fairly easy to find what professionals use as piping bags, i.e. disposable or "single-use" plastic ones. They're practical, functional and inexpensive, but disposable? That's debatable...
3,7555 May 28th 2024
Should asparagus really be cooked in bunches?
Should asparagus really be cooked in bunches?
You'll probably read recipes here and there explaining how to cook asparagus "en botte", i.e. in a small package (the famous "botte"). Is this really the right way to cook asparagus?
2,8865 May 22th 2024
Other pages you may also like
Egg yolks and caster sugar
Egg yolks and caster sugar
We often come across recipes where we need to mix egg yolks with caster sugar. This would appear to be a very ordinary and simple thing to do but, be warned, these two ingredients can behave oddly together.
73K 24.4 February 15th 2018
What can I use for blind baking a pastry case?
What can I use for blind baking a pastry case?
When it comes to home-made desserts, tarts are always popular. They can be divided into two basic types: those cooked with their filling, such as an apricot and almond cream tart, and those where the filling is added after baking the pastry case, such as a strawberry tart or chocolate tart. For...
105K4.5 May 2nd 2017
The golden-brown finish on puff pastry
The golden-brown finish on puff pastry
Let's take a look at the tricky matter of producing puff pastry with an attractive, golden-brown finish. French pastry chefs call this "dorure" (literally, "gilding"). Behind this quirky term there lurks a real problem (and the solution): when using puff pastry (pâte feuilletée) for a pie, or...
40K 24.6 February 8th 2018
The French baguette and UNESCO
The French baguette and UNESCO
As you may have already read here or there, France has initiated for some time the procedure to try to have the French baguette classified as an intangible world heritage by UNESCO. When you put it like that, it sounds a bit namby-pamby, and it would be tempting to imagine an American (for...
11K4.9 March 18th 2020
Cleaning endives
Cleaning endives
If you buy your endives elsewhere than in supermarkets, and in this case the best is of course from a market gardener, he or she is the one who planted and harvested them, in this case you will have endives full of earth or sand, depending on where they were grown, which is normal and reassuring, we...
19K4.6 March 24th 2020
Post a comment or question
Posted by:
I am not a leaving thing
The 3 comments already posted on this page
  • Congratulations and good luck!
    Posted by hmijail may 17th 2020 at 06:31 n° 3
  • Thank you Daniela!
    Posted by jh april 3rd 2018 at 18:34 n° 2
  • Good luck Jean-Hugues at INBP.
    Posted by Daniela march 25th 2018 at 00:05 n° 1
Follow this page (as 2 people already do)
If you are interested in this page, you can "follow" it, by entering your email address here. You will then receive a notification immediately each time the page is modified or a new comment is added. Please note that you will need to confirm this following.
I am not a leaving thing
Note: We'll never share your e-mail address with anyone else.
Alternatively: you can subscribe to the mailing list of cooling-ez.com , you will receive a e-mail for each new recipe published on the site.

Back to top of page