Part Time Course at Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia

Life has so few surprises left that sometimes we need to venture out of our daily routines to learn something new and unexpected. In mid 2015, I decided to join a part-time course at Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia, which took up 12 hours per weekend for 12 weeks.

01 Cover Photo

As a novice baker, starting this course felt like entering a magic portal into an entirely new world so different from my own.  My prior experience on pastry and bread making was limited so there were a lot of first times trials. I was in constant awe. The experience in this academy taught me more than just the basic skills in pastry arts; observing and listening to the teaching chefs opened my eyes to new perspectives and definitely increased my admiration and respect towards them. While not all the skills can be translated into home kitchen, it is interesting to know the techniques and skills that go into every piece.

Week 1 – Bread

02 Bread

Bread – including soft rolls, baguette, rye bread, focaccia, pizza

In my first class, Bread, one of my earliest recollections was watching Chef Angelo’s eyes lit up as he passionately explained the theory behind bread making, from optimum temperature of water to yeast fermentation to windowpane test. His enthusiasm was infectious as he raved about how he “fell in love” with bread after taking it up as an elective.

Week 2 – Breakfast Pastries

03 Breakfast Pastries

Breakfast pastries – including croissants, danish, puff pastry, brioche, doughnuts, scones

Breakfast Pastries week was taught by two different chefs on two separate days. Each chef had their preferred techniques and I observed how the chefs handled their disagreements respectfully. On the second day, after a discussion and understanding of Chef Abu’s method on layering, I listened as Chef Angelo explained his lock-down and layering method and the differences between their methods. Instead of discrediting the other method which produced fewer layers, he explained how certain pastries like Danish and Puff pastry can do with fewer layers. Croissants, however, looked and tasted better with 49 layers (left) compared to 25 layers (right).

03 Breakfast - Croissants

Difference between 49 layers and 25 layers croissants

Chef Angelo explaining about croissants

Chef Angelo explaining about croissants

Week 2 - Breakfast Pastries

Breakfast pastries week with Chef Abu (not in picture) & Chef Angelo

Week 3 – Tarts

04 - Tarts

Tarts – including quiche, lemon tart, chocolate tart, pear tart, fruit tartlet and linzer tart

I was introduced to the term “blind bake” in Tart week, among many new methods such as using pie weights, freezing pie dough and emulsification of tart filling.

Chef Lim (left) & Chef Peter (right)

Chef Lim (left) & Chef Peter (right)

This was the first time I noticed how efficient the assistants were. We got a glimpse of what these full-time students of the academy, who volunteered their time even after a hectic weekday schedule, learn as they assisted the chefs with ease. The ingredients were also meticulously measured and separated into individual containers – sounded simple but tedious when there were so many types of ingredients and they have to repeat the measurements for each group of two.

Week 3 - Tarts

Tarts week with Chef Lim (not in picture) & Chef Peter

Week 4 – Chocolates

05 - Chocolates

Chocolates, heavenly chocolates

Chocolates week was one of my favourite class; I learnt about the two distinct types of chocolates – compound and couverture. I tasted how quality couvertures were smooth at the back of the throat with no sticky aftertaste. As couvertures are expensive, Chef Lim pointed out they can easily be wasted unknowingly, especially during the rolling of truffles; if 1g of chocolate was wasted in every truffle rolling, 100 truffles will waste 100g of chocolate, accumulated to an estimated loss of RM20 for 100g.

05 - Chocolates (1)

Chocolate bonbon

I finally understood why chocolate bonbons are extremely pricey as it took a lot of effort and precision, not to mention the high quality ingredient. Depending on the type of chocolate (dark, milk or white), the chocolate has to be melted and tempered or seeded until it reaches a narrow temperature range to create the melt-in-the-mouth effect. If the chocolate exceeds the working temperature by one degree, the whole process of melting and tempering has to be done.

05 - Chef

Chef Lim final touchups

Week 4 - Chocolates

Chocolates week with Chef Lim

Week 5 – Travel Cakes

06 - Travel Cakes

Travel Cakes – including butter cake, orange & chocolate bread, spice bread, madeleine, apricot crumble.

During Travel Cakes week, Chef Chong revealed the method to maintain the moisture of the cakes; freezing the batter at least an hour before baking it in the oven and after baking, when it is still warm, coat the outer layer of the cake with a sugar syrup and freeze immediately. I see the glimmer of satisfaction in his eyes as one of the madeleine batches were close to perfection – so satisfied that he took a picture of it!

Chef Chong

Chef Chong

06 - Travel Cakes (1)

Pretty Madeleines

While we saw how flawless and effortless these end products were made, we sometimes overlooked the hard work and sacrifices they made. Until Chef Chong said something that struck a chord:

“What you see during the class is us succeeding on our first time. When I studied this field from MIB, we did not have recipes handed to us. You did not see the trial and error process behind; the hours I spent trying to get the techniques right. I worked till 3 am at times and no one saw it. We experimented. We failed. And we try again. Until we get it right. ” – Chef Chong

Maybe not in those exact words, but it was the day my admiration and respect towards all chefs grew tenfold.

Week 5 - Travel Cakes

Travel Cakes week with Chef Chong

Week 6 – Cheesecakes & Petit Fours

As the course progressed, I realised that our petit fours were so different compared to the full timers.

07 - Cheesecake & Petit Four

Cheese cakes & petit fours

This week was least favourable as I came face to face with my mortal enemy – banana cakes. I scrunched my nose and stood at the corner of the room as the overripe banana were peeled and poured into the mixer. It was soon balanced out with my love for macarons and brownies. As macarons were tricky, Chef Jess taught how a precise temperature of the sugar syrup was required before mixing in with the meringue.

Chef Jess piping macarons shells

Chef Jess piping macarons shells

Week 6 - Cheesecakes and Petit Fours

Cheesecakes & petit fours with Chef Jess

Week 7 & 9 – Classic Cakes and Plated Desserts

08 - Classic Cakes

Classic Cakes – including opera, paris brest, black forest cake and swiss roll

09 - Plated Desserts

Plated Desserts (clockwise from top left)- Creme brule, chocolate fondant, crepe suzette, panna cotta, & creme caramel

As I missed the Wedding Cake week (which can be replaced in the next 3 months), Chef Peter taught me two classes consecutively; Classic Cakes and Plated Desserts. The most interesting part of the classes were assembling the opera cake and cutting a successfully baked chocolate fondant! I enjoyed his class most as he had a good sense of humour, with a balance between seriousness when explaining the baking techniques and easy-going in between.

Sugar decoration for creme caramel

Sugar decoration for creme caramel

Week 7 - Classic Cakes

Classic Cakes week with Chef Peter

Week 10 – Cookies

10 - Cookies

Cookies including sebastapol, amaretti, diamond cookie, sable viennois, financier, biscotti, & florentine

Cookies class was probably the most dramatic as I was caught in between cross fires of a somewhat wretched, absurd squabble between part time students. I observed as the drama unfolded, driving a wedge of irreconcilable differences between a group of people that used to be friends. The unpredictability of human nature was fascinating and the truth of the situation was still open for interpretation.

Chef Jess

Chef Jess

Week 10 - Cookies

Cookies week with Chef Jess

Week 11 – Ice Cream & Sorbet

11 - Ice Cream

Ice Cream – vacherin

Before the Ice Cream & Sorbet class started, I wondered how one could spend 12 hours teaching about ice cream. Chef Otoman, often dubbed the ice cream expert, proved that it was possible as he condensed the theoretical part as much as he could. Did you know that there are so many types of frozen desserts such as ice cream, gelato, crème glaze, sorbet, sherbet etc?

Chef Otoman introductory lesson to ice cream.

Chef Otoman introductory lesson to ice cream.

Chef Tan removing earl grey parfait with chocolate ice cream from silicon mould

Chef Tan removing earl grey parfait with chocolate ice cream from silicon mould

Week 11 - Ice Cream & Sorbet

Ice Cream week with Chef Otoman (not in pic) & Chef Tan

Week 12 – Assessment

12 - Assessment

The Final Assessment

The final week was the Assessment, which was not as scary as I expected. The assessing chef was evidently lenient as he told us that it was not about the marks we achieved in the assessment, but rather to test our ability to produce what we learnt in the academy on our own, whether in a home kitchen, a bakery or even a hotel. To be able to use the skills we accumulate and to acknowledge what went wrong and what could be improved on without any help.

FHM 2015

I was fortunate to see the preparation for FHM 2015, a competition I would not have known about if not for this academy. During this period, the full-time students were assisting the chefs in a separate kitchen. I watched in amazement from behind the window as they sculpted chocolate displays and build sugar displays, mesmerized by the concentration and swiftness of their movements. It was like watching elves working in Santa’s workshop, if it existed.

13 - FHM 1

Preparation for FHM 2015

I admired the passion and dedication of these chefs and their respect for each others’ opinion. I remembered Chef Lawrence came to our Week 5 class, asking Chef Chong’s opinion on the layered cake (for the lack of a better term) that Chef Otoman was experimenting on in preparation for the competition. I overheard the discussion on how the layers were not sticking enough, how one layer is too thin in comparison to another while to untrained eyes like mine, it was a perfectly good cake.

14 - FHM 2

(left) discussion during Week 5 and (right) pictured during FHM 2015 [Picture courtesy of Chef Otoman]

Between classes, Chef Peter shared his thoughts and inspirations and took us through his progress on his cold chocolate display for FHM 2015. Being a sugar art master, he revealed that it was his first time taking part in a cold chocolate display competition (and he won first prize!). I later knew that the academy itself won several prizes including Most Outstanding Sugar Showpiece and Chocolate Challenge.

16 - FHM 3

With Chef Peter and his chocolate woman 😉

On the day itself, I attended the FHM 2015 in KLCC. While I missed the live shows due to mesmerisation of a world so familiar, I caught the sugar demonstration by Chef Tan. I remembered the last smile of satisfaction on both Chef Tan and his assistant when they put the final touchups on the display. The heartwarming part was when he rushed off to cheer his colleague and friend, Chef Otoman, during the final moments of his live show.

15 - FHM

FHM 2015 – Sugar Demonstration

A week before my course ended, a close friend asked “What do you enjoy most about the course?”

The people I met.

The chefs – already establishing themselves as one of the front-runners of the industry, they are continuously polishing their skills in various divisions of the field. Their passion in teaching and pastry arts itself were inspiring to say the least. The synergy between chefs to constantly drive each other to better themselves kept the academy running like a well-oiled machine.

Their appreciation of the Managing Director, Chef Niklesh, for his leadership and management skills – accordingly, things changed for the better when he took over. In addition, the ingredients in preparation for the chocolate displays and sugar displays racked up a bill among other things.

18 - Academy

If we took the spotlights off the chefs and management for a moment and shine it to the aspiring full time students, such as Asmaa, Cassie, Wai Hong, Jack, Kenneth, Gracie, Hilary (to name a few) for assisting us during part-time courses and setting exemplary examples of what we could be if we proceed in this field. Their hard work and steep learning curve were occasionally featured in their impressive showcase during Open Days, assisting the part-time classes and the chefs during FHM 2015 on their own time.

17 - Students

To the people that crossed paths during this course, both inspirational and unreasonable, thank you for making this path interesting.

Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia 

Website: http://academyofpastryartsmalaysia.com/

Location: Lot 2-A, 2nd floor, Wisma Thrifty, No. 19, Jalan Barat, 46200, PJ, Selangor.

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15 thoughts on “Part Time Course at Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia

  1. kirizar says:

    I am actively envying you here. What a marvelous class to have taken. And what a beautiful photo display, I’m amazed you had time to even think of getting pictures in addition to learning all of this. I have learned that I’ve definitely been lazy about my croissants. I never even reached 25 layers. Not even close! I do wonder why you might have to freeze the batter for an hour before baking a madeleine, but since I am not a huge fan of that particular pastry, I doubt I will ever have a reason to know. What was your favorite thing to make/learn/eat?

    • Jill says:

      Hey Kirizar, thanks! I do enjoy the classes; it’s been two weeks since it ended and missing it a bit now that my weekends are free again.

      Part-time classes are less hectic compared to the full-time ones hence we have more room to breathe (and take pictures!). I took all these pictures using my phone (it’s fortunate that technology evolves so quickly, yes?). I love taking pictures of pretty things and there are so many pretty AND delicious bread and pastries to take picture of!

      If you managed to make croissants at home, you are awesome! I love croissants though I haven’t got a chance to try making it at home yet.

      The number of layers they got was primarily due to the lock-in method and laminating it twice after (i think!). Here’s how the 49 layers first step looks like:

      My personal opinion of freezing batter is that it would be more convenient for mass production. If I’m not mistaken, madeleines batter do not need to be frozen as they are piped into the mould immediately. The texture looks somewhat like this:

      I enjoyed all the classes because it was a huge learning curve for me. If I had to choose, it will have to be chocolates week the most because I love chocolates!

      Jill.

  2. Cake's Lover says:

    Hello, I would like to know if there is anyone who knows a part time class for baking around Miri a real class like this one? I would loooove to enrol myself in such classes.. Thank youuu

  3. eeling says:

    Hi Jill, I’ve been thinking of joining the 12 weekend part time course but still thinking about it. Then I read about your post, and I would like to ask you some questions.

    1. Did you get to hands on trying to bake those items in the class? Or is it just purely observing the chef?

    2. Do you still practice those lessons that you have learnt in the course at home? Those lessons you learnt there are practical to do them at home?

    3. Choosing this part time course instead of the full time course does that mean that you learn lesser? Or do you think they are sufficient just for leisure?

    • Jill says:

      Hi Ee Ling,

      To answer your questions:

      1. Yes, the chefs do encourage hands-on experience. The class will start with a condensed theory on the subject and the chef will demonstrate the method once. Depending on the lessons, you either get to work on your own batch, with a partner or a bulk batch with the entire class.

      2. The full-time class is tailored for commercial/ home business purposes, but for part-time, they do provide alternative on how to use home equipment. They offer tips on cost-saving method too. Most of the lessons can be used for home preparation, but this depends on the extent of your kitchen facilities.

      3. Yes, definitely. A 12-week part time course is a summary of the 3-months full time course; it is condensing a (minimum of) 40 hours week worth of materials into 12 hours. If you’re planning a career in baking or have 3 months to spare, you can opt for the full-time course.

      Hope this helps.

      Jill.

  4. Sabrina says:

    Hi! I was just thinking of taking this part time course and after reading this post of yours, I think I really need to try it out. Thank you so much for writing about your experience, truly helped me a lot!

    • Jill says:

      Hi Sabrina! It is definitely worth it. The chefs/ teachers are really passionate about what they do, and learning from people who really love their jobs makes you enjoy the experience even more! If you ever see Chef Peter, send him my regards. 🙂

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