Baking (rec.food.baking) For bakers, would-be bakers, and fans and consumers of breads, pastries, cakes, pies, cookies, crackers, bagels, and other items commonly found in a bakery. Includes all methods of preparation, both conventional and not.

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Old 29-09-2005, 09:00 AM
Giggles
 
Posts: n/a
Default What's your favorite cake & icing?

Hi all,

I'm taking my first Wilton cake decorating course and I'm having fun
learning new things. For the course we have to make this buttercream which
is mostly made up of vegetable shortening & icing sugar it's great for
piping flowers & doing th boarders & of course frosting the cake. But I
don't like the idea of all that shortening. Is there another icing that is
good for this? What's the name so I can find a recipe?

Also for the course I've been using boxed cake mixes for the cakes, but I
find that the cakes are to soft and crumbly when I have to slice them in
half to make layers for the filling. What are some tasty cake that are a
little more dence and not as crumbly.

Thanks in advance,
Giggles



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Old 29-09-2005, 10:03 AM
Roy
 
Posts: n/a
Default

I'm taking my first Wilton cake decorating course and I'm having fun
learning new things. For the course we have to make this buttercream which
is mostly made up of vegetable shortening & icing sugar it's great for
piping flowers & doing th boarders & of course frosting the cake. But I
don't like the idea of all that shortening..


I think what you sorely need as a beginner is some words of advice not
new materials to play upon your fledgling capability..

There are some modification of the formulations where you can use
butter and shortening blend or even other form of buttercream. where
pure butter is used; but that knowldedge should be better be learned
when you are already competent with your decorating ability.
I would say that you better improve your skills first before you jump
on more challenging materials for your icings and cakes..There is
nothing wrrong with a shortening based icings if your are still
developing your skills
If you find that the cakes appear fragile for your icing chore;
practice on a styropor cake look alike cut outs before you try on real
cakes!
.. Once you attained the confidence and improved your skill you can then
jump in doing it on real stuff!
The common defect of beginners is too much initial confidence
grin..which usually is just a flash in the pan.
...That is not good for building your skill.if you had a long term goal
to be a competent cake decorator be patient . Cake decorating is one of
those endeavors where patience, carefully developed skill and
attentions to detail is more important than jumping from one product to
another and untrammeled enthusiasm.
Meanwhile ;;;
Bexed cakes can be rectified by modifying the make up formulations to
make it stronger for decorations
I think there is book devoted to such kind of cake mix doctoring.
Find it.
Roy

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Old 29-09-2005, 09:54 PM
 
Posts: n/a
Default


Giggles wrote:
Hi all,

I'm taking my first Wilton cake decorating course and I'm having fun
learning new things. For the course we have to make this buttercream which
is mostly made up of vegetable shortening & icing sugar it's great for
piping flowers & doing th boarders & of course frosting the cake. But I
don't like the idea of all that shortening. Is there another icing that is
good for this? What's the name so I can find a recipe?

Also for the course I've been using boxed cake mixes for the cakes, but I
find that the cakes are to soft and crumbly when I have to slice them in
half to make layers for the filling. What are some tasty cake that are a
little more dence and not as crumbly.

Thanks in advance,
Giggles



This site has several icing recipes.

http://dessert.allrecipes.com/directory/368.asp

As far as slicing cakes made from a boxed cake mix is concerned, first
make sure the cake is completely cool, it may help if the cake is
actually chilled. Second, use a serrated knife and make sure the blade
of the knife you're using is at least as long as the diameter of the
cake.

  #4 (permalink)   Report Post  
Old 04-10-2005, 10:35 AM
Alex Rast
 
Posts: n/a
Default

at Thu, 29 Sep 2005 09:03:17 GMT in
.com,
(Roy) wrote :

I'm taking my first Wilton cake decorating course and I'm having fun
learning new things. For the course we have to make this buttercream
which is mostly made up of vegetable shortening & icing sugar it's
great for piping flowers & doing th boarders & of course frosting the
cake. But I don't like the idea of all that shortening..


I think what you sorely need as a beginner is some words of advice not
new materials to play upon your fledgling capability..

There are some modification of the formulations where you can use
butter and shortening blend or even other form of buttercream. where
pure butter is used; but that knowldedge should be better be learned
when you are already competent with your decorating ability.
I would say that you better improve your skills first before you jump
on more challenging materials for your icings and cakes.


I will voice a philosophical disagreement here. In my view limiting your
initial learning to a narrow range (of materials, techniques, etc...) risks
setting notions in your head that become more difficult to escape from in
the long run and develops skills along a particular direction that can be
very hard to undo. If we start out learning as a "blank slate" a lot of the
basic structure of that slate gets set in the early phase of learning and,
once it's set, is difficult to change. If that structure is set up in ways
that aren't compatible with new skills or materials, then one can end up
spending more time "un-learning" ideas that only work for what you learned
on in order then to re-learn with whatever new concept you've introduced.
So, for instance, if you were working with shortenings you might get used
to certain aspects of handling properties (a good example is that they have
a much wider range of working temperatures, so the priority to work fast is
relaxed), then essentially expect, if not mentally then from a standpoint
of instinctive physical/mechanical movements, other ingredients to behave
in like manner. It could then easily become very difficult to learn how to
do it right with the new one (e.g. if you then switched to butter with
narrow working temperature, you might not have developed the kind of
coordination or mind-set to work as fast as you need, and so all your old
experience would have to be jettisoned while you figured out how to move
*quickly*).

I think it's better to experiment early and often so that you get a good
broad base from the outset on the range of techniques and properties that
you'd need to learn about. This also helps your creativity because you will
have a much better idea of the sort of tradeoffs you're accepting in
choosing one style or ingredient over another. It also often gives you a
much more detailed insight into recipe choices and especially on recipe
instructions, so that you can decipher what something will actually do,
what results you can expect, and what is the reason for some seemingly
strange or time-consuming step (or indeed, if there is no reason as often
happens if someone adapts another recipe without that knowledge and blindly
copies over one of the steps that only applied to a part of the recipe
that's no longer being used)

Of course the downside is that you can spend more time gaining basic
competence, but in the end, it's worth it because you now have much more
solid skills.

As for "favourite" cake and icing, that would be easy. Check under my previous
posts for Chocolate Death and you'll find the one that is *my* personal
favourite.

However, for decorating, here's a recipe I posted some time back that's also
delightful (for a cake flavoured with rosewater - great for weddings) and which
also includes an icing recipe and a recipe for marzipan. The icing is a good
one to play around with for decorating. It isn't as fluffy as a true
buttercream, which IMHO is a plus - makes for a cake that isn't overloaded with
heaps of fluffy frosting. Meanwhile marzipan is another decorating tool -
usable for moulding shapes, or for making pre-covers (many cakes are covered
initially with marzipan to give a smooth, sealed surface, then frosted), or as
a covering/icing substitute in its own right (which makes an appearance
somewhat similar to rolled fondant). If you don't feel up to the task of making
marzipan yourself, you can, of course, always buy it.

Almond-Rose cake


2 cups white pastry flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/2 lb butter
5 eggs
2 oz almonds
2 tbsp rosewater
1/2 tsp salt


Preheat the oven to 350F. Thoroughly grease a tall 8" springform pan.
Blanch the almonds in boiling water quickly to slip off the skins, then
chop very finely. Put 2/3 cup of the sugar and the butter in a medium-sized
bowl and cream well. (I use a wooden spoon and cream manually.) In a second,
larger bowl, whisk the eggs with the remaining sugar until it is at least
double in volume, pale lemon in color, and very foamy. Add the salt, then
fold in the flour slowly. Fold in the creamed butter. Divide the batter
evenly between the 2 bowls and add the chopped almonds to one and the
rosewater to the other. Spoon the batters alternately into the pan. Bake for
1 1/2 hour or until the top of the cake is quite dark and a thin skewer
inserted in the center comes out more or less clean. Cool the cake completely
on a cooling rack.


Marzipan


1/2 lb almonds
3/4 cup caster sugar
4 tbsp butter


Blanch the almonds, removing skins, and grind (using a manual grinder - not to
butter - to fine grounds) into a bowl. Melt the butter and cool until solid
again. Mix the butter into the ground almonds with a spoon. Add the sugar,
then mix with the same spoon, pressing down with each stroke into the mixture,
until it becomes crumbly and just barely cohesive, like pasta dough. Press
with the spoon very firmly into an 8" springform pan line with parchment using
the spoon, and smooth the surface. As you press it in the marzipan should
adhere together and assume its familiar texture. It should become very
malleable and plastic enough for you to smooth the top as flat as a table.
Chill in the refrigerator.

Butter Ganache Icing


12 tbsp butter
2 cups milk (I used nonfat in the event)
8 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp water (approx.)


Put the milk in a heavy saucepan, not nonstick. Heat to a simmer over medium
heat, and, stirring constantly, reduce to 1/4 cup. At this point it should be
very think indeed, and a tan color. This will take a long time and is very
tedious - and you must keep stirring constantly, you can't leave it alone no
matter how much you will want to do so 1 hour into the process or more. Set
the pan, covered, in the refrigerator to cool. You can prepare this the night
before, or even days before if you store the product in a sealed jar. Put the
sugar in a heavy saucepan and add the water - the amount is approximate - use
enough to make it just fluid without being watery, like a grainy syrup. Bring
to a full boil, minimizing stirring, and cook until a candy thermometer
reaches the firm-ball stage - 247 F. While the sugar cooks, scrape the
now-chilled condensed milk (it will be very solid) into a medium-size bowl,
leaving it refrigerated until the sugar is ready. As soon as the sugar comes
to temperature, pour it over the condensed milk and begin beating with an
electric mixer. Add the butter, 1/2 tbsp at a time, beating constantly with a
uniform circular motion using the mixer. Once all the butter has been beaten
in it should have a very definitive smooth texture just like ganache before
it's firmed up. This textural transformation will happen suddenly and
dramatically near the end of the process. Spread over the cake of your choice
and refrigerate. Makes enough to ice a 2 layer 8" cake.

--
Alex Rast

(remove d., .7, not, and .NOSPAM to reply)
  #5 (permalink)   Report Post  
Old 04-10-2005, 03:43 PM
Wendy
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Roy - good luck and enjoy the course. There is lots to learn and it is
important to practice, practice, practice. Which is what makes the
buttercream with shortening feasible. It can be reused and its cheap. Real
buttercream icing can be make with only butter and the one I've used also
included corn syrup as I recall. It is trickier to work with though. Lots
of time for that later. In the mean time, enjoy the course. Wendy
----- Original Message -----
From: "Alex Rast"
Newsgroups: rec.food.baking
To:
Sent: Tuesday, October 04, 2005 5:35 AM
Subject: What's your favorite cake & icing?


at Thu, 29 Sep 2005 09:03:17 GMT in
.com,
(Roy) wrote :

I'm taking my first Wilton cake decorating course and I'm having fun
learning new things. For the course we have to make this buttercream
which is mostly made up of vegetable shortening & icing sugar it's
great for piping flowers & doing th boarders & of course frosting the
cake. But I don't like the idea of all that shortening..


I think what you sorely need as a beginner is some words of advice not
new materials to play upon your fledgling capability..

There are some modification of the formulations where you can use
butter and shortening blend or even other form of buttercream. where
pure butter is used; but that knowldedge should be better be learned
when you are already competent with your decorating ability.
I would say that you better improve your skills first before you jump
on more challenging materials for your icings and cakes.


I will voice a philosophical disagreement here. In my view limiting your
initial learning to a narrow range (of materials, techniques, etc...)

risks
setting notions in your head that become more difficult to escape from in
the long run and develops skills along a particular direction that can be
very hard to undo. If we start out learning as a "blank slate" a lot of

the
basic structure of that slate gets set in the early phase of learning and,
once it's set, is difficult to change. If that structure is set up in ways
that aren't compatible with new skills or materials, then one can end up
spending more time "un-learning" ideas that only work for what you learned
on in order then to re-learn with whatever new concept you've introduced.
So, for instance, if you were working with shortenings you might get used
to certain aspects of handling properties (a good example is that they

have
a much wider range of working temperatures, so the priority to work fast

is
relaxed), then essentially expect, if not mentally then from a standpoint
of instinctive physical/mechanical movements, other ingredients to behave
in like manner. It could then easily become very difficult to learn how to
do it right with the new one (e.g. if you then switched to butter with
narrow working temperature, you might not have developed the kind of
coordination or mind-set to work as fast as you need, and so all your old
experience would have to be jettisoned while you figured out how to move
*quickly*).

I think it's better to experiment early and often so that you get a good
broad base from the outset on the range of techniques and properties that
you'd need to learn about. This also helps your creativity because you

will
have a much better idea of the sort of tradeoffs you're accepting in
choosing one style or ingredient over another. It also often gives you a
much more detailed insight into recipe choices and especially on recipe
instructions, so that you can decipher what something will actually do,
what results you can expect, and what is the reason for some seemingly
strange or time-consuming step (or indeed, if there is no reason as often
happens if someone adapts another recipe without that knowledge and

blindly
copies over one of the steps that only applied to a part of the recipe
that's no longer being used)

Of course the downside is that you can spend more time gaining basic
competence, but in the end, it's worth it because you now have much more
solid skills.

As for "favourite" cake and icing, that would be easy. Check under my

previous
posts for Chocolate Death and you'll find the one that is *my* personal
favourite.

However, for decorating, here's a recipe I posted some time back that's

also
delightful (for a cake flavoured with rosewater - great for weddings) and

which
also includes an icing recipe and a recipe for marzipan. The icing is a

good
one to play around with for decorating. It isn't as fluffy as a true
buttercream, which IMHO is a plus - makes for a cake that isn't overloaded

with
heaps of fluffy frosting. Meanwhile marzipan is another decorating tool -
usable for moulding shapes, or for making pre-covers (many cakes are

covered
initially with marzipan to give a smooth, sealed surface, then frosted),

or as
a covering/icing substitute in its own right (which makes an appearance
somewhat similar to rolled fondant). If you don't feel up to the task of

making
marzipan yourself, you can, of course, always buy it.

Almond-Rose cake


2 cups white pastry flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/2 lb butter
5 eggs
2 oz almonds
2 tbsp rosewater
1/2 tsp salt


Preheat the oven to 350F. Thoroughly grease a tall 8" springform pan.
Blanch the almonds in boiling water quickly to slip off the skins, then
chop very finely. Put 2/3 cup of the sugar and the butter in a

medium-sized
bowl and cream well. (I use a wooden spoon and cream manually.) In a

second,
larger bowl, whisk the eggs with the remaining sugar until it is at least
double in volume, pale lemon in color, and very foamy. Add the salt, then
fold in the flour slowly. Fold in the creamed butter. Divide the batter
evenly between the 2 bowls and add the chopped almonds to one and the
rosewater to the other. Spoon the batters alternately into the pan. Bake

for
1 1/2 hour or until the top of the cake is quite dark and a thin skewer
inserted in the center comes out more or less clean. Cool the cake

completely
on a cooling rack.


Marzipan


1/2 lb almonds
3/4 cup caster sugar
4 tbsp butter


Blanch the almonds, removing skins, and grind (using a manual grinder -

not to
butter - to fine grounds) into a bowl. Melt the butter and cool until

solid
again. Mix the butter into the ground almonds with a spoon. Add the sugar,
then mix with the same spoon, pressing down with each stroke into the

mixture,
until it becomes crumbly and just barely cohesive, like pasta dough. Press
with the spoon very firmly into an 8" springform pan line with parchment

using
the spoon, and smooth the surface. As you press it in the marzipan should
adhere together and assume its familiar texture. It should become very
malleable and plastic enough for you to smooth the top as flat as a table.
Chill in the refrigerator.

Butter Ganache Icing


12 tbsp butter
2 cups milk (I used nonfat in the event)
8 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp water (approx.)


Put the milk in a heavy saucepan, not nonstick. Heat to a simmer over

medium
heat, and, stirring constantly, reduce to 1/4 cup. At this point it should

be
very think indeed, and a tan color. This will take a long time and is very
tedious - and you must keep stirring constantly, you can't leave it alone

no
matter how much you will want to do so 1 hour into the process or more.

Set
the pan, covered, in the refrigerator to cool. You can prepare this the

night
before, or even days before if you store the product in a sealed jar. Put

the
sugar in a heavy saucepan and add the water - the amount is approximate -

use
enough to make it just fluid without being watery, like a grainy syrup.

Bring
to a full boil, minimizing stirring, and cook until a candy thermometer
reaches the firm-ball stage - 247 F. While the sugar cooks, scrape the
now-chilled condensed milk (it will be very solid) into a medium-size

bowl,
leaving it refrigerated until the sugar is ready. As soon as the sugar

comes
to temperature, pour it over the condensed milk and begin beating with an
electric mixer. Add the butter, 1/2 tbsp at a time, beating constantly

with a
uniform circular motion using the mixer. Once all the butter has been

beaten
in it should have a very definitive smooth texture just like ganache

before
it's firmed up. This textural transformation will happen suddenly and
dramatically near the end of the process. Spread over the cake of your

choice
and refrigerate. Makes enough to ice a 2 layer 8" cake.

--
Alex Rast

(remove d., .7, not, and .NOSPAM to reply)
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  #6 (permalink)   Report Post  
Old 05-10-2005, 12:20 AM
chembake
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Alex Rast wrote
I will voice a philosophical disagreement here. In my view limiting your
initial learning to a narrow range (of materials, techniques, etc...) risks
setting notions in your head that become more difficult to escape from in
the long run and develops skills along a particular direction that can be
very hard to undo.


I think that is the reason that I found you to have limited and narrow
capabilities in your craft, I t think in your formative years your are
trained also in a narrow minded manner

I had experienced and seen similar individuals that have narrow range
of perspective that right at the start they want to work with the best
ingredient and they cannot tolerate if somebody who wants to exert
development of skills first on ordinary materials before trying out
different and advanced mediums.
IMO You are the kind of person who has prejudice to certain materials
and would not to touch it with a ten foot polegrin..

If we start out learning as a "blank slate" a lot of the
basic structure of that slate gets set in the early phase of learning and,
once it's set, is difficult to change.


I would disagree on that, if you had grasped the science at the start
while gradually improving your skill you will never become a fanatic of
a certain medium. You are even open to cross training and
multi-skilling and trying out different ways how to interpret a recipe
a technique etc. . But from how I see in many of your post I presume
you have a narrow scope in your training. You are just a mere
tradesman
.. You will have difficulty seeing your craft from a higher vantage
point and be able to grasp the essence of things that no matter what
medium you use the principle remains the same..
I tell you as an example me , I had attended ' a sort of
apprenticeship'.in my younger years in part time kitchen work( while
studying in the university ) and one of my mentor/work supervisor ,
a highly skilled baker still drilled me on skill development even if
I had already a substantial experience in baking as a kid from my
mother instruction.
..He believe that my skill is still not good as I cannot equally work
effectively with other ingredients in the kitchen and would prefer what
I am used to previously. For example;
I prefer to work with butter for my croissants and disliked margarine;
nor I would use shortening also in some icing preparation as I find it
tasteless.
He kept seeing that many of my work is not to his standard and being
inflexible with ingredients is working against my skill development.

My supervisor who incidentally is also as former special forces
soldier and veteran of Vietnam war( one time called me in his office)
in order to enlighten me,change my mindset and therefore improved my
skills and be more productive..
He told me directly
Son you had talent for this craft but unfortunately your mindset is
narrow which prevent you from being flexible and therefore from
further improving your skill.
.. He tried to compare some of his previous soldiery training to
bakery craft and want me to recognize the similarity.
He said that as (a soldier) that in battle its not important (as
there are times) you have to strictly use your service rifle you
trained for to kill the enemy) but how can you effectively deliver the
task your superiors have ordered you to do.
.. There are times that You can use an enemy's weapons to kept on
fighting and defeat them with their own hardware.. As a soldier (he
told me ) when you are already well trained as a fighter, you should
familiarize and train also with your enemy's weaponry. That guy
claimed was an expert and flexible in handling wide assorted
weaponries including many small arms such as the M-16,M-14
rifles,shotguns, assorted carbines, the Chinese and Russian made AK-
47,AKM rifle the US Colt caliber 45, assorted revolvers and the
communist supplied sidearms) and claimed to have used those enemy
weapons in certain times. In infiltration and actual combat with the
North Vietnamese Army.
He emphasized what makes a special forces soldier different from a
common infantryman is the deeper & wider scope of training and cross
training and the ability to be not transfixed on what weapons (you are
supplied with or well trained) to be successful in combat.
That is one reason what makes them superior as a fighter compared to
an ordinary solider
Therefore he said to me:
What makes a superior baker or pastry chef is to be flexible and be
able to deliver what your boss wants you to do and get the job done.Be
open to cross training, baking is not limited to what you see in the
shops its more than that! Think about it!
If you are truly skilled, it does not matter what ingredients to use a
s you can get the goods done to keep your customers happy and his
business prosperous .
Besides there are wide range of customers and different product range.
Its not the ingredients that counts but what you can make from it and
what the customers wants for a certain price.
..
That pep talk had remained in my mind after I left that firm and
transferred to a series of shops (I kept it in my mind) and made me a
competent baker and a pastry chef and at the same time earning
university credits as chemist, and food technologist, which I had
ample time to apply such training in my succeeding employments In later
life also become manufacturing confectioner by still being interested
in cross training from confectionery schools.
I can in equal competence work in the home kitchen and in the food
research laboratory and in a industrial bakery/confectionery and even
other food processing plant such as prepared mix plant to the envy of
other tradesmen( including you Alex).

that aren't compatible with new skills or materials, then one can end up
spending more time "un-learning" ideas that only work for what you learned
on in order then to re-learn with whatever new concept you've introduced.
So, for instance, if you were working with shortenings you might get used
to certain aspects of handling properties (a good example is that they have
a much wider range of working temperatures, so the priority to work fast is
relaxed), then essentially expect, if not mentally then from a standpoint


I don't agree with that either, I worked with wide variety of fats
flours, real chocolates and compounded ones, various . sugars and
other functional ingredients that only an extremely few bakers and
pastry chef ever had .
I can equally make assorted industrial bakery products as well as
gourmet artisanal varieties . Create ,develop and formulate assorted
products ranging from scratch to mixes from bakery to confectionery
from the small kitchen or laboratory scale to the production batches
..With these wide range of competence I did not unlearn anything ,
rather improved my flexibility, knowledge and market value as a
professional in food processing..

of instinctive physical/mechanical movements, other ingredients to behave
in like manner. It could then easily become very difficult to learn how to
do it right with the new one (e.g. if you then switched to butter with
narrow working temperature, you might not have developed the kind of
coordination or mind-set to work as fast as you need, and so all your old
experience would have to be jettisoned while you figured out how to move

*quickly*).

I disagree on that either, In particular to this thread If I work with
butter I understand its peculiarities, how it differs from pure and
fractionated anhydrous milk fat,margarine and vegetable shortening.
I believe A good foundation in manipulative skills honed through
proper training, consistent practice and accompanied with the
intimate understanding of ingredient knowledge is what all it takes.
to succeed with any available materials.
If you start as blank slate, its better be that your mind is not
conditioned to BIAS on what is best or worse but as a professional
what is beneficial to your employers business.
As a trainee you have to set a long term goal and have specific
objective why you train for a certain craft. That will minimize your
bias against certain things If you look for it as a career then better
be broadminded, but you look at its as hobby then you can (stupidly
)perpetuate your prejudice against certain ingredients.
A mere hobbyist is usually a fanatic due to their inflexibility with
ideas and techniques.

An admonitions may not be appealing to young trainee but if she or he
had specific long term goal in mind he or she should set aside what I
call ' ONION SKINNED' behavior. and ego and follow the advice.
The poster ( Giggles ) I presume is a neophyte in cake decorating, and
therefore its her best interest for( if that what she want) her cake
decorating career to be focused on acquiring sound skills first than
collecting recipes which can only lead in confusion.

GET TO THE BASICS and BE GOOD AT IT AT THE START IS THE ESSENCE OF
GOOD LEARNING AND INSTRUCTION in any craft including baking and other
forms of cookery.

Inferior tutors try to impress the trainees with certain ingredients
and recipes initially; but that does not led to good skill development
at the start. They should be initiated with something which is simpler(
and that is using vegetable shortening) then later when they had
learned how to deal with it and be competent they can modify( the
medium )add butter to it, and finally try work with real stuff( 100%
butter).using different recipes.
And that is the way how proper training goes, in stepwise manner and
not in SPRINTS and JUMPS.
Therefore I don't see anything wrong with training with shortening or
cake dummy to practice one cake decorating skills. In my opinion a
good baking school want their students to be well grounded on
fundamentals than flooding their minds with recipes.

True competence in any field is the result of proper and sound training
and not what your capricious uncultivated minds tells you to do.

  #7 (permalink)   Report Post  
Old 05-10-2005, 11:09 AM
Alex Rast
 
Posts: n/a
Default

at Tue, 04 Oct 2005 23:20:32 GMT in
.com,
(chembake) wrote :

Alex Rast wrote
I will voice a philosophical disagreement here. In my view limiting
your initial learning to a narrow range (of materials, techniques,
etc...) risks setting notions in your head that become more difficult
to escape from in the long run and develops skills along a particular
direction that can be very hard to undo.


I think that is the reason that I found you to have limited and narrow
capabilities in your craft, I t think in your formative years your are
trained also in a narrow minded manner


I'm sorry if my comments rubbed you the wrong way. Please understand that I
wasn't trying to make a personal attack or to dismiss the value of your
opinions. In fact, that's why I called it a "philosophical" disagreement.
In other words, what I meant to say is that my comments were open for
debate and certainly not to be taken as gospel but rather just a different
point of view.

I had experienced and seen similar individuals that have narrow range
of perspective that right at the start they want to work with the best
ingredient and they cannot tolerate if somebody who wants to exert
development of skills first on ordinary materials before trying out
different and advanced mediums.


However, that wasn't my position. In fact, that was rather the reverse of
what I was trying to say because if you were to do that you would simply be
limiting yourself to a different skill set. My thinking, however, is more
experimental - i.e try a lot of different ideas with many different
methods, materials, ratios, etc. Now, in this approach you'll get a lot of
disasters, that much is certainly true. And you would need to be willing to
accept the possibility of disaster at the outset - i.e. instead of going
for a steady build-up of successes, you accept failure as part of the
learning process. But in so doing you will learn the underlying reasons
*why* something is done in such-and-such a way. And by "why" in this case
I'm not speaking from a standpoint so much of chemical or mechanical
processes as much as from a standpoint of effects on end results. In other
words, "why" in terms of "that will make a cake flat" as opposed to "water
molecules will bind to starch grains..." - and again not that these 2
counterexamples are meant to correspond to the same effect.

If we start out learning as a "blank slate" a lot of the
basic structure of that slate gets set in the early phase of learning
and, once it's set, is difficult to change.


I would disagree on that, if you had grasped the science at the start
while gradually improving your skill you will never become a fanatic of
a certain medium. You are even open to cross training and
multi-skilling and trying out different ways how to interpret a recipe
a technique etc. . But from how I see in many of your post I presume
you have a narrow scope in your training. You are just a mere
tradesman


I'm an amateur baker and have never made any representations as being a
professional. However, it is my opinion that it is not automatic that the
professional will know everything that any given amateur might know, or
that the expert will know everything the beginner knows. It's also not
automatic that the opinions of the expert are more valid than the opinions
of the beginner. And people opinions can differ, and be equally valid, no
matter what their comparative level of experience.

Meanwhile a good example of the risk I was outlining is in driving a stick
shift vs. an automatic transmission. I've seen many, many drivers
experience great difficulties in learning how to drive a stick shift,
having learned on an automatic, difficulties far greater than those the
absolutely new driver learning on a stick shift from the outset seems to
encounter. Not everyone is like that - some make the transition
effortlessly. But others don't, and by confining their learning at the
outset you risk creating additional difficulties later.

Now, there are some drivers who from the beginning, don't want to learn a
stick and never do want to learn. That's their choice and, as long as
they're comfortable with an automatic, it's not an issue. However, for
those who wish to learn both, I believe it's productive to start learning
from the beginning with many types of vehicles.

long counterexample snipped for brevity

I can in equal competence work in the home kitchen and in the food
research laboratory and in a industrial bakery/confectionery and even
other food processing plant such as prepared mix plant to the envy of
other tradesmen( including you Alex).


From your posts in the past it's clear you have a wealth of technical and
practical experience. Your focus and specialisation is professional baking
and it's hard to deny that the professional arena confronts the would-be
baker with a wide variety of situations to adapt to.

It's also probably true to say that in the professional arena there isn't
the opportunity to experiment in the way one might do as an amateur. When
time and money are critical and you have to make a profit in the here and
now you can't most likely afford any failures. However, it's also my
opinion that to a certain extent it would be wise if not essential to have
experimented with multiple techniques, materials, ratios, etc. long before
even deciding to enter the professional field.

that aren't compatible with new skills or materials, then one can end
up spending more time "un-learning" ideas that only work for what you
learned on in order then to re-learn with whatever new concept you've
introduced. So, for instance, if you were working with shortenings you
might get used to certain aspects of handling properties (a good
example is that they have a much wider range of working temperatures,
so the priority to work fast is relaxed), then essentially expect, if
not mentally then from a standpoint


I don't agree with that either, I worked with wide variety of fats
flours, real chocolates and compounded ones, various . sugars and
other functional ingredients that only an extremely few bakers and
pastry chef ever had...
.With these wide range of competence I did not unlearn anything ,
rather improved my flexibility, knowledge and market value as a
professional in food processing..


Your experience, fortunately, seems to have been a good one. In my initial
post I'll concede that I didn't make it clear when I indicated the risks
that these possibilities wouldn't happen to everyone. Indeed, some people
seem to be able to learn entirely incrementally and can adjust skills
without difficulty with new information. However, there are others who, not
given the most general principle at the outset, will *never* really cope
successfully with situations different from the examples they were given.

There really is a difference in learning style. People from the former
group often learn best by example and in fact get frustrated and confused.
when people try to give them the general principles from the start or to
introduce them to a wide variety of scenarios early on. People from the
latter group learn best by being given the widest possible information base
to draw from right away and instead encounter frustration if much later
people introduce variables that they'd previously withheld.

....
The poster ( Giggles ) I presume is a neophyte in cake decorating, and
therefore its her best interest for( if that what she want) her cake
decorating career to be focused on acquiring sound skills first than
collecting recipes which can only lead in confusion.


Well, part of the difference here is that I didn't assume the OP was
specifically aiming at a professional career. The post never mentioned
his/her long-term goals.

Meanwhile, as I was talking about above, collecting recipes would lead to
confusion for some, understanding for others. Some would be best served
doing the same thing until they mastered that one thing, others by trying a
variety of things and developing an understanding for the principles
underlying *all* variations on the skills or recipes.

GET TO THE BASICS and BE GOOD AT IT AT THE START IS THE ESSENCE OF
GOOD LEARNING AND INSTRUCTION in any craft including baking and other
forms of cookery.


I think the method at least as you outlined it - by "Get to the Basics" I
am interpreting that you mean that process of mastering a specific skill or
ingredient set - is one valid learning style but not the only one.
....
And that is the way how proper training goes, in stepwise manner and
not in SPRINTS and JUMPS.


Some people learn much better by incremental learning, some by much more
discontinuous "jumps". One of my work colleagues, for example, is of the
"jump" style. If you try to train him on anything by an incremental
process, he very quickly gives up in frustration. And this frustration is
real, not arrogance or narrow-mindedness, because one can watch him learn
very effectively and quickly exactly the same information by a "jump"
process. It's amazing to watch. He will immerse himself in a field and
experiment with *everything* - even options you hadn't even conceived of.
His level of competence initially is all over the map, but then suddenly he
makes the big jump and then he's truly an expert and you can see he's
really mastered the field.

Where I think problems *do* occur is when you pair an instructor who
believes in one approach with a pupil who responds to the other. Have, for
instance, this colleague try to train another person who learns
incrementally, (as in fact happened a couple of times) and both fail
miserably.

This is why, as I say, it's a philosophy. There are probably other
approaches as well - I've simplified things by talking about 2
diametrically opposed learning styles. But I don't believe it's one-size-
fits all and because of that I see no difficulty or risk in giving recipes
to the OP as they requested.


--
Alex Rast

(remove d., .7, not, and .NOSPAM to reply)


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