Week 9: How to survive a practical pastry exam with “ease”

Last week was a big week for me and my class, we had two full days of exam – a three hour theory exam first thing on monday morning, followed by our practical exam that continued into the tuesday.

I have never had a practical exam before, at least not like this. It was tense, but I felt good about it and managed to stay calm the whole time (I think). I knew I was prepared as best that I could be. I felt good after the written exam too, which helped me feel more calm for the practical. I really put in the time to study and ensured I slept well the night before.

Now after my experience, I will share a smart tip with future pastry students on how to survive a practical exam with “ease”.

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Week 8: The pace is on, and practice makes perfect!

The pace is on. As mentioned before, we are in the crunch period of the curriculum and this past week definitely felt like it. Not much time to reflect on the days, we just moved on to the next task and day’s agenda.

The week began with our second quiz which I was happy about, again. I studied well, and was glad that it was over with at the top of the day. The quiz was followed by a practice day for our big entremet (layered cake) project that was due on wednesday, then executed and judged for marks. We also had doughnut day on Tuesday.


Friday was buffet day with the culinary students who prepared a massive Indian and Thai buffet for the whole school. We shared our cakes with them, for the dessert platter. We ate together at long tables for lunch – like a family. It was awesome to sit together, enjoy their food and company, and it was a wonderful way to wrap up an full week. The food was amazing.

My friday buffet lunch plate.

My friday buffet lunch plate.

My Entremet Project: After the quiz, the balance of Monday was a practice day for our entremet project preparation. We tested recipes we planned to use. It was a little chaotic that day, compared to usual, because all 12 of us were doing different things (rather than the same thing).

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Week 7: Entering the halfway point of pasty school


Strawberry Fromage Entremet – layers of strawberry bavaroise, cream cheese mousse, and sponge cake, topped with meringue. Many of these cakes take about two days to make.

Well we just had another week of cakes and it was only a four day week. We had friday off in lieu of a different long weekend that conflicts with exams. Last week we learned about more entremets, buttercream cakes and practiced some rolled fondant a piping. Overall, it was another great week.  But as I mentioned in my last post, we are entering the crunch period of the program.

We have two big weeks ahead of us. I have another quiz tomorrow, our idea journals are due (which we have been working on throughout the term), and then we have a BIG entremet project due on wednesday morning. The project includes a large written component, then we have to execute our cake plan over the next two days, wednesday and thursday.

I was brainstorming ideas for the past couple weeks and finally decided on a s’more entremet. More to come on that in the next post. I’m pretty excited about it though, and hope it turns out the way I plan.

Because I still have more work to do tonight, I’m trying to keep this short and leave you with my favourite photos of last week, and a couple other notes from the week.

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Week 6: Cake week, and the challenges of pastry school

Week 6 done! We are nearing the halfway mark of the program, which means our midterm theory and practical exams are approaching, plus a big entremet project coming up. We also have our second quiz as well. After all of these are over then I have to give my presentation to the class on Alternative Baking (a topic that I chose from the list of options provided). Basically it’s crunch time, and we’re in the midst of cake week. Which I am loving.

Once happy cake baker here. My delicious carrot cake.

One happy cake baker here. My delicious carrot cake.

If I thought the first 6 weeks were challenging, well, I think the next few weeks will be even more so. Which is why I’m focussing really hard on studying a little bit each day. I know from the past that cramming doesn’t serve me well, and especially won’t for retaining this knowledge in the longterm. As I said in my school application, I am here to learn. Continue reading

Week 5: Five baking tips from a pastry student

It has been five weeks into the program at Northwest, and despite my exhaustion, I still love every minute of it. I can hardly believe there are still 10 weeks to go because we have already covered so much. What else is there? Well, we still have to learn about cakes, chocolate, sugar work, frozen desserts, etc… Yes!

Rather than detailing through each day’s rises and falls with yeast, I thought I would share some of the lessons I have observed from class to share with you in your kitchen, and some more photos from class…. just because I love looking at my photos (and hope you do too).

Last week, we wrapped up the second week of bread and I think I speak for most of the class when I say we were ready to move on from bread. There was a lot of yeast, bread flour, kneading, kneading, and more kneading… all by hand too (so we are familiar with the dough feels). My hands are super dry from all the work with flour and frequent hand washing. The sampling of bread was FILLING too. I felt more tired after bread days than in previous weeks, just because of the bread samples. It all tastes so good though. Mmm. Fresh bread.

I don’t want to leave you with the wrong impression about bread week though, I loved learning about bread, working with yeast and gluten, and how to make both yield the bread you desire. It’s truly a science and I found it fascinating. But after two weeks, I think I have decided working purely with bread full-time, might not be for me.


My first brioche buns! I am holding a traditionally shaped brioche bun, with a little ball of dough on top. Brioche dough is soft and it was hard to shape – I need more practice.

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Bread week: baguettes, bagels, and boules, oh my!



My first “lean” loaf of bread! A lean loaf is a very basic bread recipe. Bread week began last week, and continues this week. Lots to learn about yeast!

“Bread week” started last week and continues this week – that means two weeks of all flour and yeast all the time! I love it all.

These posts are becoming harder to know where to start, I have so much to say about each day of the week. Each bread day has been a longer day than in previous weeks too, covering a lot material.

Bread week is also literally more filling too – with samples of each bread! Good thing kneading all the dough by hand takes some real effort. No need to bring carbs for lunch or eat carbs in general, for that matter. My lunches have consisted of fruit and vegetables each day, knowing we will be sampling.

Once again, we donate almost all of the bread to food runners (a Food Bank program), and take up to a quarter of what we make home if we want/can. I can’t eat that much so I often take less than that home.

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Fun with food, and fearless at Terra Nova Farm!

Catching up here a bit this weekend after last weekend was a long weekend and it threw me off schedule. I’m not complaining though, it was nice to have an extra day off! This weekend has been great too, I enjoy sharing these updates with you.

Last weekend almost felt like a four-day weekend to me because it started on Friday at Terra Nova Farm, in Richmond, for our pastry school term field trip. It was so amazing to be outside all day and learn about the cycle of food, bees, and baking in a cob oven. It was a working day, lots to learn, but it was really fun too.

This post has a lot of photos, which really tell the story of the day best. I can’t wait to go back and help out again. There is a lot to be done there and my school has a few plots in the community garden their too.

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Week 2: Team work is the best work, especially in the kitchen.

Morning glory muffins ready to bake.

How my week started: Morning Glory muffins deliciously filled with finely diced pineapple, apple, grated carrot, spices and more yummy things…

Fresh baked puffed pastry

How week 2 wrapped up: fresh baked puff pastry on a sunny day.

I feel like every experience I have had to date has prepared me for this pastry school experience. From high school foods class, to personal home baking experiences (and failures), chemistry, biology, math classes, and art too. These are all some of foundational skills of a Chef. But the lesson and skill to understand and know (that I think is one of the most important) to survive in a kitchen is about team work. Continue reading

Week 1: Passion with a capital P (and cookies galore)!

Well, it’s been one whole week, and it’s the night before my second week of full-time pastry school. I realized very quickly into the week that I won’t be blogging nightly, well, at least not in the first couple weeks because there is a lot to adjust to and take in, but I’m finding my rhythm already.

The first day will forever be tattooed in my brain because it was an anxious morning for me to arrive on time and settle in. But within no time at all, I felt completely in the right place, in a room full of like-minded people – there for the same reasons. I am very grateful to have this amazing opportunity/experience and it was an emotion filled day for me.

On a side note: I received an email from my Twitter account recently, congratulating me on 5 years of tweeting @beyondthedough. The account started when I began this blog, which means I have been blogging here for 5 years. I find it a wonderful coincidence that this anniversary falls on the same week as my first week of pastry school. A good sign.

Back to first week: the first morning in school consisted of checking in, receiving our uniforms, toolkits, getting a locker in the change room, finding our stations, and meeting everyone. Here I am below in my uniform, at the end of Day 2, notice my name is embroidered on the jacket – TOTALLY AWESOME!


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