Baking Cooking Class Travel

Paris Adventure 1: Bread Training Scholarship


Breads Galore

Bonjour! It has been a while since I’ve updated my blog, the year 2014 started off particularly busy for me, as if I was experiencing a whole year in 3 months of time. My friend and I participated in the Baker’s Market for the third time, work was busy, went to New York for vacation and I went to Paris for the first time! In fact, it was my first time in Europe!

The city of Paris, as seen from the iconic Eiffel Tower.

The city of Paris, as seen from the iconic Eiffel Tower.

So how did I end up in Paris, you may wonder. In February of last year, I decided to find work in bakeries, as I was unmotivated to work in graphic design. I felt that I needed to do something to different, something perhaps more inspirational  - why not do something that I already love? So I decided to apply for a morning baker position at a start up French bakery. I was a home baker, I don’t have professional training nor have I worked in a commercial kitchen before. No need to say, the first few weeks were especially harsh. Waking up at ungodly morning hours was exhausting and the position is also more physically demanding from my previous job. With great determination, I have made it through and now I am very grateful to be able to work at one of the fastest growing bakeries in Vancouver, BC. I am very thankful that the company has decided to put in the time and effort to train me for this position. Do I think I’ve made the right decision to join this little bakery? Yes, because I love working with all the talented and passionate individuals and the environment provides me with so much room to grow.

As an incentive for the bakers working there, my boss (one of the best leaders I know) has created a scholarship, the “Paris Project” for the best performing bakers to travel to Paris and to learn from some of the best pastry chefs. I have never imagined that I would receive the scholarship. (I don’t speak French.) I just can’t believe how lucky I am when my boss told me she is bringing me to Paris to learn about pastries. Though the trip lasted for only one week, the experience was almost surreal. I chose to do a breads class because I knew I would learn a great deal. It did indeed opened up my eyes to a whole new world of bread making.


Group photo of the class, local French students and international students from England, Canada, US, Taiwan and Japan.

Before going to Paris, I attempted to learn some simple French conversation and recipe vocabulary. My French is only limited to baking ingredients, temperatures, times, and mixing vocabulary. The three-day class was conducted only in French by a M.O.F. instructor at École Gastronomique Bellouet Conseil Paris. M.O.F. (Meilleur Ouvrier de France), is a prestigious title awarded to some of the best craftsmen in France, and our instructor is a M.O.F. boulanger – a bread chef. (Note that in France, “pastries” and”breads” are technically of different fields.) I was lucky to have met a nice lady in class who could speak fluent English and French was able to translate the technical details for me. Seeing a master at work was truly inspiring, even if it was just watching how he handle and shaped the doughs.  All the recipes made in class required a pre-ferment or a levain and were allowed ferment slowly for the best flavour and texture – no shortcuts!


Potato Bread with Cornmeal

This bread was a revelation! When I tasted it, I thought to myself, “Is this bread?” because it was so delicious. It was crusty outside, soft, buttery and creamy inside almost like mashed potatoes, I was so surprised. If only I can replicate this bread at home. All the breads tasted in class were amazing. I have never doubted that the French made good bread, but it didn’t cross my mind that bread could have such depth in flavours and textures. In pastry and bread making, details make all the difference. Treating each ingredient and step of the process with respect will earn you great rewards. 

I’ve also had the chance to take a look at some of the private showing of the pastries done in other classes, such as sugar arts and tarts. Each of them were pieces of artwork, capturing your attention with its vibrant colours, shapes, and dimensions. Here are photos of some of the works I’ve seen in school.

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Paris has so much to see, sharing it on one post is not enough! Make sure you don’t miss the second part of this adventure!

Baking Bread Recipes

Whole Wheat Country Hearth Bread


It is almost near the end of January of 2014, last year passed by really quick. I changed my career, did many birthday and wedding cake projects. I hope this year will be just as exciting as the last if not more.

New year resolutions, anyone? I thought I would post a healthy bread recipe to kick off the new year. If you have never baked bread in a cast iron pot, also known as the Dutch or French oven, you are missing out. Baking a rustic loaf such as this recipe in a preheated cast iron pot with tight fitted lid somewhat mimics a professional steam-injected bread oven. It produces a very good “crackling” crust and flavour with a chewy center. If you don’t have a cast iron pot, you can also bake it on a pizza stone and spray the bread with water as it enters the oven. I love the wheat flavour of this bread, not to mention that is also quite wholesome, as the recipe only calls for flour, water, yeast and salt. It tastes best fresh with butter, and I love having it toasted and slathering it with butter and honey for breakfast.

This recipe requires preparing a soaker and biga starter. This method takes longer 1-2 days long to make the bread, but the it is well worth the time and effort because it develops better texture and flavour. A soaker is usually a mixture of whole grains and water soaked overnight so the grains can absorb the water and soften up. A biga starter is type of preferment, by making a preferment, it will create a nice yeast-y flavour in the final bread.

Whole Wheat Country Hearth Bread

Yield: 1 loaf


  • 227 g Whole Wheat Flour
  • 4 g Salt
  • 170 g Water
  • Biga Starter
  • 227 g Unbleached Bread Flour
  • 1 g Instant Yeast
  • 142 g Filtered or Spring Water (21 C / 70 F)
  • Final Dough
  • All of the Soaker
  • All of the Biga Starter
  • 28.5 g Whole Wheat Flour
  • 5 g Salt
  • 7 g Instant Yeast
  • 60 g Water
  • Extra Whole Wheat Flour for adjustments


  1. Mix for 1 minute and form a ball of dough.
  2. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours or up to 3 days in the fridge.
  3. Biga Starter
  4. Mix to form dough, let it sit for 5 minutes, knead again for 1 minute with wet hands.
  5. Transfer dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.
  6. About two hours before mixing the dough, remove from the fridge to de-chill.
  7. Final Dough
  8. Chop soaker and biga starter into 12 smaller pieces each, dust with flour to prevent them from sticking together.
  9. Combine soaker, biga starter, and final dough ingredients in a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon vigorously or knead with hands for about 2 minutes.
  10. Knead for 3-4 minutes, let it sit for 5 minutes.
  11. Resume to kneading for 1 minute, let the dough rise for 45-60 minutes in a oiled bowl until about 2 times bigger in volume.
  12. Shape into a boule (ball), let it rise in a floured proofing basket (or a medium bowl lined with a floured cloth) for 45-60 minutes (1.5-2 times bigger).
  13. At least 45 minutes before the dough is proofed to the desired size, preheat oven with cast iron pot to 475 F / 245 C.
  14. When the dough is ready to bake, take out preheated cast iron pot from oven, remove lid.
  15. Carefully invert proofed dough onto a lightly floured surface, place the dough (using your palms) into the pot. BE VERY CAREFUL not to burn yourself as the pot is extremely hot. Use oven mitts to place lid back onto the pot.
  16. Bake the bread for 30 minutes with the lid on. Remove lid after 30 minutes and bake for another 20-30 minutes. Check after 15 minutes, in case your oven is too hot.
  17. Remove pot from the oven and carefully turn loaf out and cool on a rack.Let the loaf sit at least 20 minutes before slicing.


Adapted from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor.

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How To Make Good Old-Fashioned Grape Soda

Did you ever wish that you could enjoy your favorite soft drink without having to put up with all of the artificial colors, artificial flavors and things such as phosphoric acid that can damage your teeth? Well, you can. Long before we were hooked on buying pop in the supermarket, we used to make our own using natural ingredients such as fruit juices, yeast and water. Why not give it a go and see just how delicious and healthy it is? Here’s a simple recipe for grape soda to get you started.

The first thing you’ll need to do is to get some bottles so that you can put your soda into them. You may be tempted to get glass bottles, but it’s really better to use plastic ones. Once you make the soda, it will be under high pressure because of the yeast you’re going to put in it – this will produce fizzy carbon dioxide. If you use glass bottles, there’s a chance that these will explode and hurt you. However, you shouldn’t use old plastic bottles – these can be contaminated. Instead, buy plastic bottles @ eBottles.


Now, take 1/2 gallon of grape juice, 1/2 gallon of water and 3/4 of a cup of sugar, and put these all into a large stockpot. Simmer the mixture for 30 minutes, and then let it cool. Once it has reached room temperature, add 1/2 teaspoon of yeast – this can be either brewer’s yeast or champagne yeast. Let the mixture stand for 24 hours, and then get ready to bottle it.


At this point, you need to sterilize your plastic bottles. Unlike glass bottles, it’s not a good idea to try to do this with boiling water. Instead, put 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water, pour this into the bottles, and then leave them for 20 minutes. Then, rinse the bottles out thoroughly to get rid of any residual bleach.


The best way to bottle your grape soda is to pour it into the bottles using a funnel. Make sure that you leave at least 1 inch of room at the top of each bottle, so that there is room for the carbon dioxide to build up. Seal the bottles, and then store them in a warm place for 24 hours. After this, put the bottles in the refrigerator – this will stop the yeast fermenting. Leave the bottles in the refrigerator for a couple of days – and then get ready to taste the best grape soda that you have ever had. Just remember to drink your soda within about four weeks – otherwise it can go flat.

Of course, you don’t just have to stick to grape soda. There are lots of other great recipes online for things such as ginger ale, root beer and even orange pop. Try experimenting yourself – for instance, why not make an infusion of roses and substitute this for the grape juice? You’ll get a drink that tastes remarkably like Turkish delight.

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