Now that I’m back in the States and done with my breadbaking course, I figured I’d give more of an overview of my impressions of the class.
Overall, I enjoyed it. It was less hands-on than I’d hoped (and expected), but I’m chalking that up partially to the fact that this was Chef Boudot’s first time teaching it– he did ask for our feedback on the third day, and seemed receptive to the idea of making fewer types of bread but allowing us more hands-on work for each. If I’d been able to design the class from scratch with unlimited resources, I’d have paired up students and given each a batch of ingredients and a separate dough mixer. That way each pair could following along with the instructor to add the ingredients and watch the kneading process up close, shape the dough, and prepare it for a single-oven baking session with the whole class. As it was we did a lot of standing around, watching Chef Boudot add ingredients, weigh out dough for everyone to shape, and do the detail work. I’m hopeful that for future classes he can cut down on the amount of bread (which was already more than any student could consume) and increase the experience level.
This would also help reduce the inevitable confusion that resulted from trying to work with 4-7 recipes per day, each with multiple steps spaced out over several hours. It was difficult at times to follow whether a particular step or discussion was regarding one recipe or another, particularly where both involved similar ingredients and steps.
Interestingly, the part that I’d been worried about before– the fact that the class was taught entirely in French with an English translator– wasn’t an issue at all. Our translator was excellent, a chef in his own right, and did a great job relaying our questions and the chef’s answers to everyone, even over the noise of the mixer.
Hmm, what else to mention? The chef had several assistants during our class, all young women from South Korea or China, who all spoke excellent French and ran here and there, prepping and carrying ingredients and getting all of the utensils and other components in order. I hope they were getting some good experience (or at least class credit) out of it!
My fellow students were generally great– everyone was very excited about the course, and it’s always nice to be in a room full of people as enthusiastic as you are about a specific subject. We spent our down-time swapping tips and stories about previous baking projects, and recommending things to do in Paris while we were there.
Anyway, great class. Definitely something to do if you’re interested in bread or baking in general. Final thoughts? Bring family to help you to eat the bread, an extra sweater for croissant-day (brrr!) and above all COMFORTABLE SHOES.