Have you ever dreamed of going to pastry school — in Paris, perhaps? Do you lust after show-stopping layer cakes? Do you desire the secrets of perfect chewy cookies? Are you contemplating the mysteries of a sourdough starter, or just wish you were a more adept and confident bread baker?
Now is your moment, because Baking School is coming to The Kitchn! It's a free 20-day program to become a better baker. You can follow along at home, and it's all happening here, starting Monday, October 5. Here's a look at what we're going to cover over the next four weeks, with a list of the equipment and ingredients you'll need. Ready to bake? Start here!
Baking School: 20 Days to Become a Better Baker
Baking School will take you beyond just recipes and lists of ingredients. Instead, over the course of 20 lessons in 20 days, we will be learning, discussing, and practicing all the fundamental techniques that make us better bakers.
We will touch on classic French pastry, bread baking, cake decorating, and more. You'll walk through some of the swankiest types of baking to make you feel like you did indeed touch down in Paris, croissant in hand; but with plenty of helpful, practical basics as well, like bread, cookies, and those glorious layer cakes.
Not only will we explore a few dozen different pastries and baking methods, we will also take a peek at some of the science involved in turning dough and raw ingredients into tender pastries and delicious baked goods. We will be adding a few new words to your vocabulary (can we say pâte à choux and dorure?), taking a look at how things like egg proteins and gluten work, and even getting familiar with some friendly lactobacilli in the form of sourdough yeast.
The Syllabus: What You'll Learn in Baking School
The first week starts us off with the almighty egg. We will talk about its role in the pastry kitchen, as well as take a closer look at making pâte à choux, pastry cream, meringue, and soufflés.
- Day 1: All About Eggs
- Day 2: Pâte à Choux
- Day 3: Pastry Cream
- Day 4: Meringue
- Day 5: Sweet and Savory Soufflés
Week two is all about butter. What's baking without butter? We will be covering buttercream, pâte sablée, pâte brisée, and puff pastry.
- Day 6: All About Butter
- Day 7: Buttercream
- Day 8: Pâte Sablée
- Day 9: Pâte Brisée
- Day 10: Puff Pastry
Week three is a primer on yeast and conquering our bread-making fears. In addition to basic yeast-risen breads, we will also learn about rich and sweet yeast breads (like brioche and cinnamon rolls), sourdough breads, and flaky croissants.
- Day 11: All About Yeast and Baking
- Day 12: Basic Yeast Breads
- Day 13: Rich Yeast Breads & Sweet Breads
- Day 14: Sourdough Breads
- Day 15: Croissants
Week four is dedicated to sugar! This super-fun week to round out Baking School includes cookies, basic dessert sauces (caramel, ganache, coulis — oh my!), layer cakes, and cake decorating.
- Day 16: All About Sugar and Baking
- Day 17: Cookies
- Day 18: Basic Dessert Sauces
- Day 19: Layer Cakes
- Day 20: Cake Decorating
Do Your Homework!
After each lesson, we encourage you to challenge yourself in your own kitchen. There will be nightly homework assignments to further enrich your knowledge and experience with each topic. Each day you will have three assignments to choose from, so pick the one that matches your abilities (easy, medium, or difficult) and fits your schedule.
You can make your first batch of pâte à choux one night and then take it easy the next by watching a video, or save it all and do the assignments on the weekends — you get to pick your own pace.
The goal is to gain knowledge about different methods and a better understanding of the roles each ingredients plays, then apply everything to your own recipes at home.
The Final Class Project
At the end of Baking School, we'll bring together many of your new skills into one big project: a spectacular frosted layer cake with chocolate drizzle and meringue kisses on top. That probably sounds a little intimidating now, but by the time we get there, you'll be ready for it!
The Joys of Baking
Ultimately, Baking School is going to be a set of fun, practical lessons and assignments to give you more confidence and joy in the satisfying, nourishing work of baking beautiful things for people you love. Whether you learn just one new skill, or go over the top to master croissants and layer cake and puff pastry in the space of a short month, we're rooting for you!
Yes, there's some minor homework before we open the baking kitchen on Monday. Take a look at your list of tools and ingredients and double-check you have what you'll need.
Equipment for Baking School
If you want to get a jump-start over the weekend, here is a list of some of the tools and equipment we will be getting to know over the next month.
Basic Kitchen Equipment
- Mixing bowls
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Medium saucepan
- Plastic wrap and parchment paper
- Kitchen scale
- Rolling pin
- Ice cream scoop
- Fine-mesh strainer
- Instant-read thermometer
- Baking sheets
- Cake pans
- Bread loaf pans
- Pie pan
- Tart pan
- 1-cup ramekins
Specialty Baking Equipment
A note on mixers: A stand mixer is not essential for Baking School. However, we will be covering some projects — like meringue, buttercream, and other things — that are much better with some kind of electric mixer. If you have a new stand mixer, consider this a full month to help you break it in and use it better!
- Stand mixer (or hand mixer)
- Piping bags and tips
- Pastry scraper
- Pie weights
Gather Your Ingredients
There are also some basic ingredients you'll probably want stocked in your cupboards and fridges for your homework, quick kitchen experiments, and baking projects. Your exact shopping list may vary based on which projects you choose to do, but here are a few basics you might want to pick up at the store.
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
- All-purpose flour
- Active dry or instant yeast
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- High-quality chocolate, bittersweet
Welcome Bakers! Any Questions?
Do you have any questions about what you'll need or what to expect in Baking School? Ask here and we'll do our best to answer quickly!