The Pastry School Diaries: The Best-Kept Secrets of Bread Baking

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Baking & Pastry Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences!

One of the best parts about having a renowned bread baker as your bread unit instructor? Besides his world of knowledge and years of experience, he has an unending supply of tips that you won’t find in any cookbook. Every day as I come into class, I can expect to learn something new about the art of bread baking, and not just about the technique. Whether it’s a secret last step to making perfectly textured dough or a traditional British recipe that differs from its American counterpart, Chef Sim has shared a wealth of information that has infinitely improved my creations. And now I can share that information with you!



Tip 1: Bake your bread until the crust is extremely dark

It may even look burnt in some places, but trust me, it’s not. As “The Prince of Darkness” has taught us, a darker crust enables a deeper flavor all the way though the bread. Your crust should have a full ombre effect of coloring–from very dark to golden brown. His bread is the real deal.


Tip 2: Don’t add butter or oil to your focaccia dough

Doing so only inhibits the gluten and rising process. Instead, coat both sides of your dough in olive oil and bake it on a sheet pan. This will create a crispy, buttery crust and leave the inside of the bread light and airy.


Tip 3: When making focaccia, ice water is your best friend

Just before baking your dough, dip your fingers in ice water. Make impressions with your fingers in the dough. Repeat twice. I think some sort of magic happens, but the dough bakes up beautifully light with lots of holes. Just the way you want it.


Tip 4: When it comes to making cinnamon rolls, less is more!

This week we made Chelsea Buns, which are quite similar to a cinnamon rolls, except the filling is a mixture of cinnamon, brown sugar and currants. Rather than glazing them with a thick icing how we do in the states, the British recipe simply calls for a generous sprinkling of sugar. And let me tell you, on pastry this good, no icing necessary!


I hope you’ve taken away a tip or two that can be helpful in your home baking! Check back next week for more fun tips and tricks.

Creative Loafing

To beat the clock and get beautiful bread in no time, you’ve gotta bake smart. Our recommendation: Start with store-bought dough (it’ll be our little secret!), then shape and flavor it how you like. These treats are pretty enough for any breadbasket.



 Red Onion Pinwheels are the savory sister of the cinnamon bun and full of swirls of flavor.


Try these Salty Sticks – that remind us of pretzels! — when you’re tired of your average breadstick!


Grapes add a bit of sweetness in our Grape Focaccia, which is a traditional pillowy Italian bread.


Get more homemade bread recipes!