When I meet someone new and mention what I do, they always ask how long it takes to learn how to bake bread. And then they ask, how can you get into bread baking? This is usually followed by how long did it take me learn how to be excellent at baking bread.
I’ll be honest, I try and avoid these questions.
But hey, this is what this site is about. So for anyone interested in learning to bake bread at home, or become a professional baker I've got a few tips.
I’ve taught many new bakers so have a good idea of how long it takes to learn how to bake bread.
What it takes to learn how to bake bread
I’m still learning what makes the ideal candidate to learn how to bake bread.
Baking attracts all sorts of people.
There’s always a new reason for someone who wishes to take on baking as a new role or to learn it as a hobby.
It's never been that simple!
The feeling of being able to present your work to others, works that gives pleasure is fantastic. Whilst being able to learn new recipes and methods from across the world captivates me.
These are the reasons I continue to learn how to make bread.
For it is a skill that I don't think you can truly master. I don't think I will ever learn everything about bread baking.
When I first got into learning to bake i didn't decide on it, I was pushed.
As I learned more on how to bake bread, not the basics now but later on, bread baking started to absorb me. By this point I was actively discovering new artisan breads all the time.
Baking bread took over my life, learning new bread recipes became a key part of my existence.
But what does it take to want to learn to begin with?
I’ve created the two typical personas of people who want to learn how to bake bread.
The personality types that want to learn bread baking
There seems to be two types of wannabe professional baker.
Many applicants will have elements of both personas but their motivation for wanting the new career usually leans towards one or the other personas.
The first personality is desperate to learn the trade. This is often about the relationship they have with a baker.
They may have a family member in the industry, friend or a tv bakers that they see as a role model.
Then again they might be fascinated in the endless possibilities in bread making. Perhaps they are in awe of the industry and would like to see whether they can cut their teeth into it.
The give it go baker
The other typical interviewee is someone who's more in the right place at the right time.
They’ll “give it a go”. And yes, I've heard this phrase sad at interview many times!
They've seen an advertisement to discover the hours, pay and conditions are a match and they've applied.
Paul Hollywood seems pretty cool?
Either of these personalities can be perfect for a long term career in dough. Even if they don’t know it at first.
The second personality type may not intend to stay in the role as long. But this can often change when they get into it. It's easy to fall in love with baking.
These persona's are still true when taking baking up as a hobby as much as they are for a professional role. Some are fascinated by learning to bake, others want something to replace another dated hobby or have an event that they wish to give bread baking a go.
So another reason to learn bread baking is that you don't need to know everything or study for years to do it. After a few tips and a decent recipe, you can make something that tastes amazing.
How I became a baker
I’m not going to lie, I was definitely the second option. I hated the thought of starting as early as 6am, had no interest in baking when I started. But it was better than the job I was doing and I thought I’d give it a go and hopefully move on to a more senior role as soon as possible.
But I caught the bug, hook line and sinker. Loved baking and found it hard to get out. Especially when I’m creating quality products every day. Even more so when I’m crafting my own recipes.
There’s little champagne and late night parties in bread baking so it can’t be a rock n’ roll lifestyle they seek, it’s the sense of pride in creating exciting products from scratch every day.
Key skills of a professional baker
I’ve always said to interviewees, to be a good baker you need to be able to move fast, be able to calculate basic maths quickly, have a good sense of humour and always want to improve.
If they are determined to improve, that's even better.
Those with these keys skills tend to thrive in a bakery environment. Those that don’t, tend to not turn up for the second day. It’s a harsh lesson, but for many it’s a big change in career and lifestyle.
It’s best to know the demands of the job before they begin. You wouldn’t say to a session musician joining Led Zeppelin it’s a 9-5 and you’re not going to be expected to party with the band to the early hours every night.
It’s going to happen. Let’s keep it realistic!
What does it take learn to be a home baker?
Providing someone can immerse themselves into the process and isn’t afraid to make mistakes then they can learn how to bake pretty quickly.
If only planning to be baking a few loaves at a time then speed doesn’t play a factor.
Take as long as you need, if you follow the techniques I show you then you’ll get it right fairly quickly. There’s also no early mornings when you bake at home which I’m quite jealous of!
It may be tough at the beginning when you learn how to bake. Without any proper training, it’s a hard gig. That’s why I’ve written a course to teach anyone how to bake.
Can I learn professional baking at home?
Without proper support, its easy to get a kneading technique wrong, or shaping and fail to understand how to extract a good performance from your oven. It takes a persistence to get right without effective training, many give up early on, leaving it to the professionals.
That's why I started the school, I want all of my students to learn the techniques they’ll need to make quality bread in a step by step way.
It’s easy to find a lot of bad advice online, much of the rubbish you’ll find on YouTube are home bakers with one recipe. And they are usually technically flawed.
Having said that, it is possible to make a loaf that’s impressive with a recipe that a traditional baker would snarl at and through in the bin. But following this way of learning bread baking is not long-standing. I'm desperate to share the baking skills that can be transferred to any recipe. Stuff you’ll be able to pull out the draw for life, or set up a business on.
If you’re thinking about learning how to bake then whether you choose to enrol on my course or not, I recommend you follow recipes from a trusted source. From experienced people who bake artisan bread for a living.
I’ve gone off on a tangent here, let’s go back to the topic of the post:
How quick can you learn to bake bread?
It takes about 5 bakes to nail the first recipe. Then it’ll take 5 recipes to be able to bake with confidence. Sometimes, it takes longer. Problems with technique or unlearning previous habits can slow it down. I think it’s important to learn hand kneading first, it’s far less complicated than using equipment, mainly because they can not be up to scratch.
For a home baker that practices twice a week, it should take about 2 months till you’re feeling rewarded by your efforts and 3-4 till you feel like a proper baker.
After that it becomes easy.
When it comes to being a professional baker, some pick up everything in a couple of weeks.
Some get the process fast but take 6 months to get consistent.
Others need 6 months of inconsistency to get good.
It’s not wrong to fall. In fact failing is good. I urge you to fail. You learn how to avoid problems in the future like this.
It felt like it took ages to be able to get my bread quality good enough and my output enough in a baking shift. But it probably wasn’t as long as it felt. Once I got it right, I became a better baker for all the mistakes I’d made.
Is 6 months the longest the basic training can last?
After 6 months a new baker should be reasonably competent to bake the recipes they need to in the required time. You may not be confident in say, adjusting your proving times or perhaps a particular shaping technique becomes a struggle. It may take take longer. But you’ll be confident in baking some really quality stuff that will be easily sellable as artisan bread -if that’s what you wish to do.
The more experience you have with dough in your hands, the better you’ll understand bread.
Is it worth learning to bake a home before becoming a professional?
Learning to bake at home if you don’t have access to a fully equipped commercial bakery but intend to soon is recommended if you have the time.
The same things happen in a home kitchen as on a bigger scale.
Understanding what’s going on during the bread making process and able to maximise the quality out of the tools and ingredients you have will make you a much stronger baker.
By learning how to bake one or two loaves at a time you will make you feel a lot more confident when in a commercial bakery.
If you are planning to open a new bakery, spending time at home to develop your recipes is ideal as you’ll soon have big overheads and less time to do so.
With a professional environment comes the added pressure of delivering enough yield in your time. The profit margins in bread are tight so you need to be fast enough to make enough bread that can be sold to pay your expenses pretty fast. If you gain a role in a small bakery operation this is especially important.
Learning how to bake bread at home will give you a head start.
When I make the change from amateur baker to professional, what will happen?
It’s often true that working fast to keep up with the tempo demands in a busy commercial bakery leads to better quality bread too. You learn to think quicker, act impulsively and work smarter. Essential once you learn how to bake the basics and wish to be a professional bread baker.
It is important that professional bakers are able to communicate with their team well, you’ll need to help your baking partners out when there’s big dough on the table or a large amount of waging up to do (yes, that’s part of it!). You can’t learn this at home, but in a good work environment it is easy.
If you get a job in a commercial bakery you'll get more intense training than being at home, you’ll do bigger dough batches which allow you to practice dividing and moulding skills in a more intense manner than at home. Learning like this forces you to be effective with your time when baking. Coming from this environment I share as much as I can about efficiency in the course, but there is not substitute for being and living it.
Is it worth learning to bake bread?
Oh yes!! Being able to knock up some spectacular bread for dinner or the kids rolls for school lunch is a fantastic feeling. Not only are you making a healthier product but your making better tasting and fresher food. It’s totally rewarding.