With Ilocano blood running through my veins, thriftiness comes naturally to me. But I have an unquenchable thirst for learning, which is why I jumped from painting sunsets, dancing for fitness, and writing in calligraphy, to making food. I believe that if there’s a will, there’s a way, so I taught myself to bake. Even if I’m no bread master or pastry chef, I’ve come to a point that putting together a happiness-inducing meal-ender is as easy as pie for me. Below, I’m spilling five of my secrets on how you can also learn within the comforts of your home and your budget.
Books, both cookbooks and reference books, are inexpensive treasure troves for lifelong learners. Arm yourself with the baking terms, ingredients, tools, procedures, and common mishaps so you feel more prepared.
I’ve been baking for quite some time now but books still offer ideas that could’ve made my initial experiments a lot easier. You don’t have to read them from cover to cover, but do find materials specific to the kind of baking you want to do and written in a language you can understand.
My mom used to bake when she was my age, and I’m absorbing as much as I can from the books she passed down to me. For totally new bakers, there’s no shame in reading Baking for Dummies by Emily Nolan—and trust me, you’ll learn so much!
I get it: sometimes it’s hard to imagine a perfectly proofed bread, stiff peaks, or an unfamiliar spice by reading. If you’re a visual learner and want to see how traybake should look or how to properly measure flour by “leveling with a knife,” YouTube is your best friend.
Many chefs, schools, and hobbyists have generously given their time and tips in the form of video content, and it can complement the information you read from books. King Arthur Baking Company has plenty of non-intimidating how-to videos and a complete series dedicated to beginning bread bakers.
I’ve developed a habit of watching one to two videos of a difficult recipe I’m trying, so I can choose techniques that seem easier for me or combine ingredients to make the original version more me.
Before I was engulfed in the sweet world of baking, I already enjoyed binge-watching food docuseries on Netflix, including Ugly Delicious, Nadiya’s Time to Eat, and Chef’s Table. They fostered my love for traveling for food and experimenting with new ingredients.
Although, it was the comedic-show-slash-baking-competition Nailed It! that had me whipping up in the kitchen to prove I can do better. We all learn from mistakes, and there’s only so much you can make with every trial. By watching non-bakers bake, I’ve picked up troubleshooting tips to failproof my future creations.
If your favorite cookbook author or celebrity chef has their own shows, by all means, watch them too for inspiration.
Le Cordon Bleu is a dream of many, but for home bakers and foodies who are content with the oohs and aahs of colleagues at the sight of their banana bread, workshops and online courses can already boost their baking skills. Because these platforms are more affordable than formal education, they often cover just the basics, a genre of bakery products, or a selection of recipes to try with a small community (either virtual or actual).
I tried Baker Bettie’s Fundamentals of Baking course, and I learned through videos and modules how to mise en place, read recipes, and master the functions of common ingredients. The free course is divided into two parts, but the first section was enough for my boyfriend to make the perfect batch of oatmeal cranberry pecan cookies.
If you have a few bucks to spare, invest in actual classes that you’re really interested in. Just make sure you do your research prior to ensure it fits your schedule, skill level, available equipment, and dietary needs.
To make the passion last and continuously improve your skills, practice as much as you can. If you don’t have a lot of eager eaters at home or live alone, cut recipes in half so you can keep experimenting. Once you become more experienced and understand the science of baking, you’ll be more confident to tweak recipes to your liking or even combine your favorites.
Buy a small journal or a pad of post-its to stick to your cookbooks and leave notes for your future self to follow. Include what worked, what didn’t, and what you should try next time. Writing them down forces you to analyze your work, research the solutions to your mistakes, and, ultimately, become a better baker one bake at a time.
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