Back to School
By Bakers Journal
Back to School” is a deeply nostalgic term. It brings me back to the smell of new notebooks, fresh pens, and a chance to start anew. With this edition of Bakers Journal, students of all ages are learning something new, and with it, the olfactory memories of school supplies means the smell of something delicious in the oven.
Bread and the grains that form it are changing. Some consumers are opting for gluten-free breads made with spelt or oats, and gluten-reduced bread like sourdough. While the attitudes towards bread itself are diverse, we are still drawn towards artisanal or “old-fashioned ways” of baking it, no matter which way trends might swing.
Students are looking for ways to revive the ancient craft of bread making, from baking it in a wood-fired oven, to learning how to create dough using traditional methods. To these students, everything old is new again. Chef Thorsen Pannek took this year’s students and brought them back in time to learn how to bake in a nineteenth-century style oven. His class took place in a nearly two-hundred-year-old former inn, and the methods of raising sourdough loaves are as unchanged as the walls that surround his students.
As I stood in the old Montgomery Inn, what struck me was how the museum’s workers all were connected through bread. The museum volunteers run the outdoor bread oven, and sell the bread the museum makes. Each loaf supports those who want to keep the past alive, and provides funding for bread-related activities, like keeping the brick oven and the museum in good repair. The past and the future of bread were connected through a network of people who were working for more than just their daily bread.
One of the volunteers who worked at the Ward Museum used bread as a way to bridge cultural differences, and to welcome new Canadian youth to the city. Her program was appropriately called “Breaking Bread.” It involved having each member sharing a form of bread from their country and telling fellow participants about the history of its origins. Wherever we’re from, there’s bread to share and it has a story to tell.
How we learn and what we learn speaks of who we are, either as a culture or an individual. A baker who wants to train to be the best in their field needs a curiosity about the world around them, and an awareness of new techniques. Good baking recognizes tradition, if not necessarily abides by it.
I’ve loved learning about different methods of baking, and what teachers have to offer. Karen Barr’s article explores trends in teaching about food, and her piece brings insights to the world of culinary education. If anyone is considering going back to school to refine or refresh their skills, her piece is sure to fire your urge to learn from the best. After proofing the photos from Humber’s confectionary arts program, I was half tempted to run off and enrol, if only so I can bring a metre high sugar and chocolate sculpture to a dinner party in a blasé manner. “Oh this? It was no effort, really, it’s just a scaled replica of the CN tower made of sugar and chocolate. I’m glad you like it. It makes a lovely dessert that also serves as a centrepiece, or eye-catching coatrack. Just don’t keep it too close to the radiator.”
Students who learn a culinary art have the responsibility of choosing tradition over trends, but also carry the weight of customers’ expectations. Will these students become master chefs, or own a small café that is the heart of a community? Will the next generation of graduates become Instagram celebrities who specialize in a singular dessert or be quietly renown for their local talent?
Whether your inspiration comes from the past and can be found in the bricks and mortar location like a museum, or if you’re looking towards the future and want to catch a trend before it happens, we hope you’ll find your resource within our pages.