Traditional Breadbaking at Le Cordon Bleu Paris: Wrap-up

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.

Traditional Breadbaking at Le Cordon Bleu Paris: Day 4

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So this is it. The last day of class. Chef Boudot said we’d be doing less fabrication than on other days, but it sure didn’t seem like it! We had a ton of work to do, probably because this day’s recipes involved a lot more fussing and construction.

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Traditional Breadbaking at Le Cordon Bleu Paris: Day 3

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I’m back from Day 3 of the breadbaking course, and my most enduring memory of the day is that it was cold (16 degrees C). With good reason, of course– we were making brioche and it was necessary to keep the dough (and all the butter inside) cold while we worked with it. We also got to do a lot more hands-on work, which made me happy. What did we make? Let’s see! Continue reading

Traditional Breadbaking at Le Cordon Bleu Paris: Day 2

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The second day at Le Cordon Bleu was, sadly, not nearly as much fun as the first. I think they did a bunch of interesting, hands-on stuff the first day to get us hooked (not that it makes much difference, we all paid months ago). The biggest issue was that rather than getting to mix up the dough by hand and do all the kneading and shaping ourselves, we spent the vast majority of our time watching our (admittedly talented) instructor do all of the work. And while I can understand having him mix up a big batch of dough rather than have us each do individual batches, there was no reason we couldn’t have shaped our own individual loaves before they went into the oven. Continue reading

Traditional Breadbaking at Le Cordon Bleu Paris: Day 1

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Guess where I am right now? … Well, yes, you’ve read the title of the post so clearly I’m in Paris, but let’s pretend it was a surprise. I’m taking a 4-day short course in Traditional Breadbaking at Le Cordon Bleu Paris!

I just finished Day 1, which included baguettes, kugelhopf, pain de champagne (country style bread with fermented dough), pain complet (whole wheat bread), Pain d’ epices (gingerbread), and chouquettes. The class is being taught by Oliver Boudot entirely in French, but there’s an English translator on hand translating everything, so it was really easy to follow. We were supplied with aprons, tea towels, and everything we needed to follow along and bake from 8:30am to 3:00pm! Continue reading