Experience from baking workshop

This is a review of a workshop I attended on basic cake baking, conducted by Shaheen of Purple foodie. Shaheen is a chef based in London, trained in France and sometimes visits Mumbai to take baking workshops. Now, I have not done any sort of baking in my life apart from using those premixes from betty crocker or couple of pizza dough. I happened to reach Shaheen’s website when I was just out of curiosity, searching for baking workshops around my home in worli, Mumbai. I booked it next day after asking few questions..

  1. Is it a hands on Workshop? — No It is a demo, that has worked best for Shaheen and her students
  2. Any prerequisites ? — Nothing. Just show up with some boxes to carry some cakes back home.
  3. Usual Gender ratio (:P I wanted to know if this kind of thing is popular among guys or not). ? — Almost all females (80–100%).
  4. Post Workshop Support, QnA, etc — A whatsapp group of all old and new students, for potential knowledge sharing. and also Shaheen is available on email.

These answers are not verbatim as they were discussed on whatsapp, and had some conversational elements stripped.

On the weekend, I was excited to be part of the workshop. Main reason why I wanted to do this was just exploratory. As I had found it during my few pizza baking sessions that this is the most relaxing activities which one could do and get ready for the next week’s grind. However, there were couple of shocks waiting for me on the day of workshop.

I found Shaheen not only amazing baker, but a very approachable teacher as well. She was answering all questions which everyone had, with an air of openness, I had not heard of in exotic/artsy fields. (Yes, baking seems like an exotic field to me.) Not a single time she replied “NO. YOU CANNOT DO THIS THING”. Her replies were of the nature.. well you could do that but it would be bad for so and so reason but instead you can think of doing … (she gives the possibilities and their boundaries).

The shock was, I was the most novice of all the participants. Like, by far novice of the novice. Other participants were either professional bakers came to one-up their skill or were regular participants (coming to her workshops since couple of years). The whole workshop was like a information firehose, I tried to take as much notes as possible. Tried to assimilate as much visual info as much I could.

During the workshop, she demo-ed 5 different recipes 4 cakes, 1 biscotti. All kickass, but I have never eaten such a biscotti ever.

Another shock to me was the importance of `preciseness` in baking. Even though I had skimmed through her blog baking essentials which mentioned this fact. In one of the recipes, you had to mix two things exactly at 118C. One or two degree Celsius here & there would cause troubles. Baking is more science, less art. More proficiency oriented, less exotic.

On the other hand, I feel the workshop was a bit too much for a beginner, a bit overwhelming with information, with techniques, with tricks of the trade. I was in no position to ask a single question, just trying to make sense of what is going around. It would have been better if I had tried (failed) baking at least 5–10 times before doing this workshop. Also, the whatsapp group is pretty dull as there hasnt been any activity past week. Learning is a social activity, there is much value in sharing your experiences and learning from each other. I have written in detail over it elsewhere. It would have been awesome if the online community was functional. But, the blame falls on me too, since I was also the participant. Overall, I am concerned about these things just because the workshop they impair is really good one. There is so much that complete novices like me can learn from Shaheen (and the group). There is a complete shift in approach I had towards baking after this workshop.

The workshop concludes with cutting all cakes and sharing the spoils of the toil. During one of the processes, I had slightly burned my finger while using a blow torch and hence I felt I somehow deserve a bigger piece. After this workshop, it will be really hard to eat those artificial commercial bakery cakes.

Mission for next week is to gather all the supplies, buy instruments and tooling.