The blog of cooking-ez.com

The Holy Grail of French bakers


10,291 33.7/5 for 3 ratings
Grade this page:

Last modified on: March 24th 2018

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.

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.

INBP



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… :-)

Back to top of page

Lasts posts

Other pages you may also like

A few tips for effective kneading at home
A few tips for effective kneading at home
When you have to knead dough for bread or some other recipe, you may well use a food processor or the type of machine known as a stand mixer. The best-known brands are Kenwood and KitchenAid. They are useful tools, but here are a few tips to help you get the best out of them.Let's start with...
6,149 23.7/5 for 52 ratings
Fruits which can ruin your jelly
Fruits which can ruin your jelly
There are many ways of making a fruit mousse, but one of the simplest is to prepare a fruit jelly (basically a fresh fruit coulis with gelatine) and then mix this jelly before it sets completely with whipped cream.The result is perfect for filling a charlotte, for example.But do beware;...
4,845 23.6/5 for 15 ratings
Steam for baking bread
Steam for baking bread
What does steam have to do with bread-making?This is not only a bakers' secret, it is something you might not think of at all: if you make bread and bake it like a cake, you will end up with this: It is certainly bread, but pale and with a thick, hard crust – a long way from the golden-brown...
6,080 304.3/5 for 22 ratings
What is the difference between bakery and patisserie?
What is the difference between bakery and patisserie?
This is a question that you may well have asked yourself and which I will attempt to answer. In France the two trades of "boulangerie" (bakery) and "pâtisserie" (patisserie and confectionery) have always been quite distinct, but where exactly do the boundaries lie? If you were to ask any...
24,829 44.1/5 for 27 ratings
Candied fruits: don't get ripped off
Candied fruits: don't get ripped off
Do you like candied fruit? You might like to nibble a handful or add it to a recipe, like a classic fruit cake or delicious Italian specialities like panettone or sicilian epiphany pie. So, if you enjoy them and you want to make a recipe that asks for them, you will probably go to buy them in a...
5,9153/5 for 7 ratings

Post your comment or question

I am not a leaving thing

Your 3 comments or questions on this page

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 email 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