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Final Reflection

Yes! Final reflection!

Over these past 11 months while I have been in this program I have learned a lot. The amount of skills, and knowledge I have gained from being in the Baking & Pasty Program at VCC is innumerable. Where shall I begin? I suppose first things first.

When I started I had a totally different class. We started off our journey in Basic Methodology. In that course I learned the basics. I learned the correct way to portion, how to scale ingredients, how products should look when they are finished, the general “doneness” of a baked products, and other basic things. This course was my first feel at how life working in a bakery would probably look like. The shift from home baking to VCC, and in a way baking in the industry, baking is significantly different than baking at home. Learning how to properly use the ovens, mixers, etc. were key. I also learned about ’cause, and effect’.

In budgeting & cost control, I learned how learned how to cost items. In this course we also did our first menu design. It was fun to accomplish recipes that at that point were far in advance. Some items made were very beneficial, and the “advanced” gained knowledge could be further built on in subsequent courses. For example, one of the items I made were lemon meringue tarts, which is taught in term 3! From making those tarts I learned how not to scramble the eggs in my lemon curd, how to fix it in the event that it has lumps (robo coupe, to the rescue!), etc. I also discovered that lemon emulsion is gross.

In retail operations, we got to experience the flip side of working in a bakery, the front of house! For two weeks half the class was upstairs in the bakery, and the other half was downstairs competing the orders that were gained by the upstairs group. Then vise versa. When we were upstairs we were encouraged to go collect orders, and collect orders I did! During that course we were also paired up to do our retail project. We had to create a theme for the bakery, decorate the bakery, and create a special product (that aligned with the theme) to sell too. I enjoyed that course a lot as I got to interact with the customers, and organize the bakery (drives me nuts when it is messy in the bakery. Must………Organize……..). Selling products, such as pizza, to people was also lots of fun. I learned that it’s lots of fun working in the front of house, but buy the end of the 2 weeks, I also learned that it can be very tiring too.

I learned what it means to be professional, how to be professional, and how to be better organized when we were in the professionalism & organization course.

Ah, Fermentation! Yeast doughs! In this course I learned how to make bread, handle bread, bake bread, etc. I learned how to make all sorts of bread products (such as challah), yeast dough based products (such as coffee cakes), the works! I acquired knowledge on how to make sourdough bread, feed & take care of sour (I have an ice cream bucket full of sour in my freezer now for whenever I make sourdough bread.) and generally how to work with the dough. When making bread time, temperature, & ingredients, are all important in making successful bread. However if you don’t handle the dough correctly all your hard work goes down the drain, and you have to make your bread into something else. I am very comfortable making bread. In face, I absolutely love making bread. At the beginning of the baking & pastry arts program, I thought that I would love to be a cake decorator, man, has that ever changed! Bread Forever!!

The frying course was pretty short as it was only a week long course. It was fun to fry the doughnuts, then be able to decorate them. I learned what happens if you leave a doughnut in the fryer for too long (it absorbs copious amounts of the fat), and what doughnuts are made of.

Then came lamination…… this was not my favourite course. I learned that the sheeter can be your best friend. I also learned how to laminate dough, different folding techniques, and how to work fast so that the dough doesn’t start proofing while you are working with it. One of the folding techniques called the French Method is amazing, and much easier than the classic English method. I found that rolling the dough into a cross with a large dough square in the middle, placing the butter on top, folding the cross’ “arms” in so that it covered the butter, then rolling dough to length for 1st fold, worked much better for me.

Next came the “intro to cakes” courses. Aeration & Emulsification, and Decoration & Design were very beneficial in developing early cake skills, and improving any previous knowledge of cake making/decorating. I learned how to make mousse for the chocolate truffle mousse cake, how to make sponge cake, and learned other basic cake related knowledge such as assembling & decorating a cake. I have improved in the area of slicing a cake into layers. After this point I sadly had to depart from my class. I have seen that this current class has done character plaques for 2 of their cakes. It would have been interesting to have been able learn how to make one.

Finally, after a year of being on the wait list, spots opened up, and I was able to continue in the baking & pastry program.

Chocolate was first. I learned that chocolate is very temperamental (pun intended). Tempering the chocolate can take a lot of time, and patience. Especially patience, for if you are not cool, calm and collected, the chocolate will not work. Chococolate is sadistic. I thought chocolate, and I might be friends as my hands are usually cold, but no such luck. I learned different ways of tempering the chocolate, what different types of chocolates consist of, and experienced how they work in products. I found that the marbling technique of tempering worked best for me. We never got to learn how to use spraying chocolate, or got to make jellies. Overall, I learned a lot, can successfully temper chocolate. Chocolate & I are still not friends; in fact ours is a love-hate relationship (love to eat, greatly dislike to work with).

The two more “advanced” cake courses followed. In the dessert cake course, we made a opera cakes, opera slices, various cheese cakes, & mousse cakes galore. We also got to design, and execute a signature cake. For my signature cake I made a piña colada mousse cake with a coconut gèlee. The small cakes course was basically just the dessert cakes course, except everything was shrunk down to single serve cakes. In that course, along with all the other prescribed items such as japonais, madelines, dobos pyramids, macarons, etc., we had to design, and execute a signature tart. I made a raspberry white peach tart. During both of these courses, I learned how to make a classic mousse, a bavarois, daquois, among a lot of other things. We pretty much had mousse running out of our ears! I think I am all moussed out now.

Plated desserts was our third to last in class course. It was one of my favourite courses. We got to make an ice cream/sorbet, and create our own plated desserts based on a theme of our choosing. I chose to do a Malaysian themed restaurant. My signature plated dessert was a Malaysian favourite called Cendol (my favourite!). I made the cendol (green noodle like strings) a good amount of times to try to get it to look like it should. For presentation decorated the plate with a pandan leaf, a drizzle of Gula Melaka, and fresh mango cubes. I discovered that the vita mix was very useful when I neede to crush ice for the Cendol. For my other plated desserts, I made a mango cheesecake decorated with tuille, a cannell of whipped cream, mango gel, and fresh raspberries. Also a rich dark chocolate cheesecake with fresh strawberries, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream that was made in class. My chocolate cake recipe was very “lively” so I had to be extra, extra careful when portioning out the batter, so that they wouldn’t become chocolate lava spewing volcanos. All in all I am very proud of the plated desserts I accomplished. It was fun learning how to plate desserts.

In the wedding cake course we made 3 cakes (aside from the class cake). We made a royal icing wedding  cake, a rolled fondant wedding cake & an edible rolled fondant with marzipan theme cake. I learned how to work, with royal icing, and I acquired more knowledge on how to better to work with fondant. I also learned how to make fondant, and side piping techniques which I still need to improve on. For both of my wedding cakes, I was aiming for a simple, look. My royal icing cake’s flowers were brighter than I had anticipated. It could have used a bit of simple side pipings, as it was too plain at the back. I think I over simplified my fondant wedding cake. Through doing the fondant wedding cake, I discovered/learned that working with dark coloured fondant is very hard as the fondant becomes brittle, and hard to work with when it is saturated with such with dark colours. I didn’t quite get the blue I was aiming for when colouring the fondant for the ribbon. However, my back to school theme cake turned out nicely, and I am proud of it. I refined my drawing down, and created something even better than my original drawing.

It was nice to have the catering & special orders course as a refresher on all the things we’ve done before. I was estate company to get to do breads again, even though I had to Crouton a few of my mishandled braided breads. Crouton making is pretty fun too. Slicing up mishandled bread, combining spices, and mixing them all together with melted butter to create absolutely delicious croutons! Yum! My other breads turned out better. Due to being busy with special orders, I was not able to execute/execute some items that I wish I could have done such as retrying the Chai tea macarons, or attempting a different flavour of macaron. Maybe even refreshing on something like apple squares.

And then there was one. Capstone. I decided to do my capstone on ‘healthy’ sugar substitutes. It was a lot of work, and of course when you need a device to work for you it won’t. Like my resume, my capstone looked a lot better in Microsoft Word than it does once posted on WordPress. Through researching for capstoneI learned about sugar substitutes that I had never heard of before, or only briefly heard of the source from where it comes. I know have a better understanding of sugar substitutes, what some taste like, and which the best ones are. I grouped the pictures in the ePortfolio into sections so that it would be organized.

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Catering & Special Orders

Last in class course!! Wooooo!!!

These last 3 weeks have been a refresher on what we have already learned in all the past courses. We got to choose what we wanted to make based on what stations we were at each week.

The stations were: Yeast doughs, Barista, Orders, & General baking. I think the course was organized well, and since I didn’t really have any expectations going into this course, I suppose you could say that they were very easily met. The amount of tours that came through surprised me, I don’t really mind tours, so it didn’t really bother me.

During this course I encountered some challenges such as over baking the Barista peanut butter cookies. They are kind of tricky to bake as when they are done, they still feel soft as if they aren’t quite done. If you leave them in longer, they will get over brown, and when they cool they are pretty hard. I overcame this challenge by learning (by experience) how they feel when they are done.

Skills that I have improved on vary. I have honed my Italian buttercream making skills, communication skills, and organizational skills. I think I have improved most on my hard skills.

At this point I feel quite prepared for work experience. I am looking forward to working with people, and maybe even learning some more tricks of the trade. I am also looking forward to hopefully being able to work with more bread products.

As far as the ITA exam goes, I would highly reccommend MOODLE!!! I would suggest that a student use moodle to study as you can take the quizzes as many times as you’d like. Reading Gisslen (and Rudolph is also good I hear) is also good, but if you are all “textbooked out,” read as much as you can, and use Moodle to help you! Don’t underestimate Moodle’s helpfulness!

Currently capstone is coming along fine, and am fairly certain that I will be finished on time. I will probably be looking for books, as I may need them for further research on my topic. A challenge I am currently facing is how to compile all of my research so that it doesn’t look listy. I will approach this coming challenge by asking my “study buddy,” (and probably friends, & family) for advise. I will do this by sending/showing them a draft, and seeing what they have to say about it. I will be seeking advice/support from my “study buddy” via email.

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