Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Advanced Baking Class

by CIA Student Morgan

Advanced Baking Principles is a second year class in the Baking and Pastry program at the CIA taught by Chef Coppedge. It's the last bakeshop class you'll have before moving on to your final semester in the AOS program that is Wines Class and "Restaurant Row"...but more on that later. In Advanced Baking we spent the first two days taking our 5th term practical and then dove directly into a week long lecture and experiment series addressing four of the largest dietary restrictions for baking: gluten-free, dairy free, sugar free and vegan. 

Each day begins in lecture, learning the ins and outs of the different ingredients you can use as substitutions to meet the specific requirements to be gluten free, kosher or vegan. It was eye opening to realize just how many products are available and to see how each one affects the outcome of a baked good differently. Chef Coppedge split the class in groups and we took turns baking different variations and then compared them all together as a class. One of the biggest things that I will take from this class are the gluten-free flour blends that Chef has developed. Six in total with multiple different purposes and made from a range of gluten-free flours and proteins, these recipes are golden! Converting a traditional recipe into gluten-free was a cinch after learning about them.

And that came in handy when we got to the third and final part of this class that is a project in which the students chose a traditional recipe and develop two or three different variations that comply with four total dietary restrictions. It is an individual project and a lot of work to do on your own, but I thought it was hands down one of the most valuable assignments that we've had so far in culinary school. I loved the experimentation phase the most when we could recipe test and adjust ratios and ingredients to figure out how they made your final product look and taste. We considered flavor, texture, "essence" and appearance when deciding what to keep and what to substitute.

My class had projects on everything from a Smith Island cake from Maryland, to a Nanaimo bar from Canada.

We presented sample sizes of all of our products and opened the bakeshop to just about any passersby to come in and taste. In addition to recipe development, we also had to provide nutritional information (which we found using software provided by the CIA), the historical relevance of our products and an analysis on how it fit a certain dietary restriction. Without a doubt, Advanced Baking is one of the highlights of the Baking and Pastry Program, and a class that you won't see at most other schools. 

And here are my lovely ladies with Chef Coppedge on our last day, all in our blue service uniform because our next stop after Advanced Baking was Wines Class!

PSSSST: The CIA also offers several boot camps and Continuing Education classes that are taught by Chef Coppedge if you're interested in baking for dietary restrictions but you're not in line to become a full student here. You can check them out on our website by clicking here. He also wrote a book that we used as a textbook for this course called "Gluten Free Baking with the Culinary Institute of America."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Culinary Classes Overview, pt. 2 (First Semester Academic Classes)

To continue on the same train of thought as my post the other day, I will give an overview of the academic classes that the average student will have completed up-to-point that I am in the Culinary Arts program (I just started Seafood ID and Fabrication class which puts me in the second block of my second semester). As I continue through the program I will continue with this series of posts.

Timeline (to put the timing in perspective)

Semester 1
Culinary Math & Food Safety (each twice a week for 6 week)
Nutrition & Introduction to Gastronomy (each twice a week for 6 week)
Product Knowledge (once a week for 12 weeks)
Professionalism and Life Skills (once a week for 12 weeks)

Semester 2
College Writing & Introduction to Management (each twice a week for 6 week)

Culinary Math 

Coming into the CIA I had heard that Culinary Math was the hardest academic class (apart from Wines). That was possibly the most inaccurate statement I have ever heard. Granted, I have always had an easy time with math (Calculus is still my favorite discipline, if that tells you anything). Regardless, if you passed elementary school math then you really shouldn’t have any trouble (dividing fractions was the “hardest” thing we had to do in that class). With all that said, I would still recommend taking the course if you haven’t used math in relation to the foodservice industry. I had never costed recipes or done yield tests before and although the equations were boringly easy, the application was completely new for me. Some of the topics we covered included:

·      Unit conversions
·      Kitchen ratios
·      Purchasing, portioning and finding yield percents
·      Recipe costing and comparative costin

Although most of this is probably self-teachable, I would definitely recommend to take class (even if just as a GPA booster!).

Food Safety

During the same period of time as taking Culinary Math (first six weeks of the first semester) I also took three other courses, one them being Food Safety. This class was about exactly what it sounds like; how to receive, store, cook, hold, and serve food safely. This topic encompasses much more than what the average person would imagine. Did you know that food that gets delivered to your restaurant or establishment should (generally) be no more than 40˚F or you should reject it? Or that infusing olive oil with garlic and herbs could actually cause botulism to grow in that environment? The smallest foodborne illness outbreak that started at your restaurant or establishment due to one dishwasher being sick could easily close your business forever and ruin your credibility. The purpose is not to scare you, but ignorance is not actually bliss when your livelihood is on the line. At the end of the course you take the official ServSafe exam (you are actually required to pass in order to pass the course), which some establishments require but it is always a mark in your favor when on the job hunt.

Product Knowledge

Product Knowledge is possibly my favorite non-“kitchen” class that I have taken so far. During this class we learn about many different vegetables, fruits, herbs, and dairy products including what different variations of them taste like, what they should look like and even get to taste a lot of them. We also learn about the ideas and practicality of buying produce locally and in season, which in my opinion is an absolute necessity for any restaurant regardless of the type of food being produced. This class was only once a week (Wednesdays) but for twelve weeks instead of just six. Regardless, if the course were twice as long we still would have only scratched the surface. Instead, I think we should take this course for our entire time here at the CIA, or at least for the first two semesters before externship. Here is broad rundown of each of the 12 days of class:

Day 1:           “Orientation to Product Knowledge, Storeroom Visit”
Day 2:           “Grade, Quality Condition, Organic, Local, GMO’s”
Day 3:           “Growth; Development; Maturation and Ripeness”
Day 4:           “Lettuces, Salad Greens, Cooking Greens”
Day 5:           “Cabbage”
Day 6:           “Mushrooms, Stalks”
Day 7:           “Onions, Tubers”
Day 8:           “Roots, Pods”
Day 9:           “Tomatoes, Peppers, Squash”
Day 10:       “Herbs, Apples, Pears, Grapes”
Day 11:       “Dairy, Cheese, Nuts and Seeds”
Day 12:       Final ID Test

*Day to day may vary from chef to chef and the topic of each day may vary as well. These
  titles come from the course guide.

Professionalism and Life Skills

This class could best be related to a Freshman 100 course at another university or college. Although there were several topics that I found quite informative, generally speaking I found the content of this class to be a little bit boring. The main saving grace for this course was our awesome Professor who helped make this class more interesting by relating the topics to real life examples as well as doing more than just lecturing, but rather teaching us through more interactive activities. Some of the concepts we learned that I found particularly useful are:

·      The idea of a “compassionate kitchen.”
·      Time management skills including using a thorough calendar and to-do lists.
·      Money management skills.
·      Writing cover letters, resumes, and job interviewing.
·      Making a personal website that acts as a portfolio for your own work.

This was a pretty easy course, but there are definitely some valuable parts that can be taken from it. I had this class once a week for the duration of both Culinary Math/Food Safety as well as Nutrition/Gastronomy

Introduction to Gastronomy

This class took the place of Culinary Math after that course was finished. This was easily the hardest of the academic classes during the first semester but one of the most enjoyable ones at the same time. Through lecture, essay readings, and discussion we covered concepts such as “The History of French and American Haute Cuisine”, “The Physiology of Taste and the Senses”, and “Contemporary Issues in Agriculture”. This class also included a group project that was on a specific, notable chef. My group got Alice Waters which ended up being wildly interesting. One of my group members even managed to talk to her on the phone and get some quotes from her for our project! A difficult class that required a decent amount of reading but if you put the energy in, it’ll not only be much easier but you will much more out of it.


In Nutrition we learned about macronutrients vs. micronutrients, about the different energy sources (lipids, carbohydrates, proteins), as well as about vitamins and minerals. We also learned about current issues in nutrition and how to manage dietary needs in a restaurant or foodservice establishment. This class was challenging in the sense that it was a lot of material and I had never covered any of it before. However, it is something that is particularly useful for all CIA students.

I am currently taking Introduction to Management and when I complete that I will let you guys know how that went. I had transfer credits for College Writing so although I won’t personally be able to give an overview of the class I am hoping to get one my classmates to write it for me.