Pastry chef courses make up the core coursework of pastry and baking arts associate degree and certificate programs. Many bachelor's degrees in baking and pastry arts management also include these courses. Pastry chef coursework involves a combination of theoretical classroom discussion and hands-on training in the kitchen.Concepts that are commonly explored in pastry chef programs include:
- Food science
- Menu planning
- Baking methods for pastries, pies and breads
- Presentation methods
- Retail baking
Some advanced pastry and baking arts programs include coursework in hospitality management, including marketing, operations and cost control. Programs often include an internship and might also include a baking competition, thesis and field research.
Overview of Pastry Chef Courses
Pastry Technique Course
Pastry technique courses introduce aspiring pastry chefs to pastry preparation methods such as lamination, creaming, blending, foaming and thickening. After students use these methods to create pastries, they are taught to finish their products with glazes, fillings and sauces. Most pastry technique courses also cover product presentation.
Baking Fundamentals Course
Before creating elaborate pastries and cakes, students must first understand basic baking principles. Accordingly, an introductory course in baking skills and concepts is usually required at the beginning of the pastry arts degree program. Instructors cover topics like baking terminology, equipment operation, mixing methods and measurements. By the end of the course, aspiring pastry chefs can mix and bake dough and are able to evaluate the quality of the finished products.
Proper ingredient selection is paramount to the quality of pastries. Pastry chef students take a course in ingredients toward the beginning of the degree program, during which they learn to identify and select quality grains, fats and oils, dairy products, spices, flours and chocolates. Students also learn which ingredients complement each other and which should rarely be used in the same pastry.
Sanitation and Safety Course
The sanitation portion of the course educates students on food-borne illnesses and instructs them on how to maintain a clean baking environment. Prospective pastry chefs also learn to plan a safe cooking facility, including basic safety measures to follow in the kitchen. The course is usually offered at the beginning of the degree program, allowing students to practice safe and sanitary procedures while baking in class.
Chocolates and Confections Course
This course typically introduces students to the history and production of chocolates and confections before teaching students how to create their own. Students not only master brownie, mousse and hot chocolate recipes but also try their hand at chocolate tempering, a more advanced technique used to create truffles. The confections portion of the course prepares students to prepare candies filled with ingredients like marzipan, ganache, caramel, and jelly.
Cake Decorating Course
Cake decorating courses help students to conceptualize and execute elaborate cake designs. Because cake decorating is a skill required for only one type of baking creation, courses are typically offered toward the end of a pastry arts degree or certificate program. After first learning to cover and trim cake with icing, candidates study more difficult decoration techniques like stenciling, gel transfer and airbrushing. Advanced courses in this subject often focus on tiered wedding cake construction and decoration.