“BAKING is really quite simple,” a friend once told me. “You just mix the ingredients, pour it into a pan, pop it into the oven, and hey presto!”
Although I can’t be sure, I think there must be some truth in that… after all, she bakes cakes on the side and works a stressful job in a financial institution. At one point, she was baking cakes after work just about every day and weekend and decorating the pretty little boxes which will eventually contain the goodies.
But I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s gotta be talent. And (a great deal of) interest. I must confess I have none of the former and some of the latter — although it revolves mostly around eating the finished product more than anything else.
Still, I have resolved to learn how to bake properly one day, and not just the usual cup cakes and butter cakes. We’re talking the whole nine yards of icing, sugaring, etc… In short, a work of art; the premium stuff. It’s just that I’m quite put off by the whole idea of having to enroll for a two-year course in a hospitality institution and sit through countless of theory classes just to learn how to make macaroons, panna cotta or even a wedding cake.
See, I have a short attention span. I can’t just sit and listen for hours and try to imagine. I prefer to get in to the kitchen and do stuff because that’s the best way to learn and remember. Especially when it comes to things that involve the creative process.
So you can imagine my delight when I found out about the Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia. The institute offers short term baking and pastry art courses, including sugar art and chocolate. These range from two-day specialty programmes conducted by award-winning guest chefs from Asia and Europe, to three- and nine-month courses conducted by Chef Guillaume Lejeune, the school’s resident French chef and director of pastry studies. Most of the learning is done on the job; very little of it is done in the classroom.
And you’re not given unrealistic expectations. The school’s commitment is in grooming the best ready-to-perform pastry professionals entering the hotel industry or related pastry fields. Meaning you’re not an expert the moment you graduate with a certificate, but you will certainly be better trained to immediately start work in the industry if you so choose; you’ll not look at the head chef with a blank look if he asked you to perform a task. And they’re not pretentious — hobbyists are welcome, too.
I paid a visit to the academy last week. It was exciting to see a table laden with all kinds of sweet delights. While I don’t have a sweet tooth, I certainly do enjoy looking at pretty things.
What really got me all excited was a demonstration on making panna cotta — one of my favourite desserts — by Chef Lejeune. It sounds quite simple, really. Heat cream sprinkled with vanilla pods and sugar in a pan. Add gelatin (already dissolved in water, and not too much or the panna cotta will turn out too stiff) and stir until consistency thickens. Turn off the pan and pour mixture into mould. Pop it into the fridge and let it set.
Get creative. Use strawberries.
Or mix two flavours — say vanilla and pistachio. Voila.
There’s plenty to learn. If you work hard at it, you can even set up your own shop! Find out more about the Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia at http://www.academyofpastryartsmalaysia.com/or check out a video on Eduwebtv right here.