Teaching French Pastries and Small Cakes Class

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These are a few of the products that my class made in their French Pastries and Small Desserts Course. From top to bottom, clockwise: Apple Tarte Tatin, Lemon Meringue Tartlettes, Assorted French Pastries, Petit Four Glace.

I was called to fill-in and teach this class for 5 days. Being an on-call instructor is always a challenge because I always jump-in somewhere in the middle and the students already have established their own system with their regular instructor. So, I am always trying to find a balance not to overstep on anyone’s toes. I usually observe and see what their skill level is at before I step in.  I also have the responsibility of making sure that things get done based on what needs to be accomplished as per their instructor’s instructions. I also work on establishing a rapport with the students to make it a more meaningful experience for me and for them.

For this particular class, I wanted to make it more learner-centered and to apply some “Teaching Naked” methods by Jose Bowen from our PIDP 3240 textbook. It was the first time I conducted a cooperative quiz which I think went well. I realized a few things about the students’ self-assessment, as well. There will always be students who are quite harsh on themselves. They are the typical high achievers. I suppose I knew that was coming. It is also good to know that there are those who know themselves pretty well. I believe, that cooperative quizzes can be beneficial because students are able to practice collaborative learning and to learn how to negotiate with each other.

In the kitchen lab, it was great to see their creativity shine as I gave them tasks and it was up to them to decide how to go about it. I believe recipes are there to be followed and once students are comfortable they can adjust it according to their desired outcomes. Besides, this is one of the goals/outcomes of the course. What I really enjoyed about this class was students who are more advanced were able to experiment on recipes and those that needed more guidance were happy to stick with the original recipes. So, here a lot of discovery and learning happened. I was able to show new techniques to those who were ready to advance and guidance to those who needed more practice.

New products were created like a new version of the chocolate raspberry tart utilizing both dark and milk chocolate for the ganache which originally used only dark chocolate. My student who took on this challenge was very happy with the result of her product and she learned something that was not in the books. I believe that these are the things that will make a difference for them in the future, when they are able to empower themselves by taking that step in taking risks and they know that the school kitchen  lab is that  safe place to do it. Hopefully, in the future this will develop their self-confidence to experiment on their own.

Another group was tasked to make a quarter slab cake which really is not a small cake nor a French pastry.So, how does this work into the curriculum? I was able to show them that when this slab cake is cut smaller, it becomes a small cake and when cut even smaller it can be a French pastry. It was a really fun activity because they learned on many different levels and not just being limited to making small desserts and French pastries. They learned how to assemble a slab cake as it is an entirely different process or preparation and  adjusting recipes to make it work. Then learning the way it is cut can make a difference. So, in the end they made a slab cake, a quarter slab, a small cake and French pastries.  Of course, learning to decorate large cakes and French pastries were practiced, too. For me, I was very happy to be able to teach outside the box and provide this kind of learning.

As the end came to this course, the students moved on to learning sugar from their regular instructor. So, learning tips from Jose Bowen on teaching naked, I sent them links on sugar art a couple days before their sugar class started. I wanted to see the impact of this. Well, I was happy to learn that some students actually watched the video links I sent and got them interested. Their instructor also appreciated that he doesn’t have to start from scratch. For me, it was a learning process ,too. I was very happy to find the videos in YouTube and I wouldn’t  have known it was there if I didn’t look for it. In fact, I found  a link of a YouTube video by Susan Notter, a famous Pastry Chef known for her sugar work who is the wife of the Pastry Chef who is the author of the Sugar Book that the instructor I am filling in for uses. It is great to discover all these resources available in the internet that I can use in teaching. This is something I will definitely adapt in my future classes. There is still so much to learn about teaching naked and in applying all the things I am learning in PIDP 3240. It’s really a continuous learning process for me. I believe, teachers have as much to learn as students in this new age of teaching with technology.

Here is a link , I would like to share:


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