As I go to sleep at night, I am already looking forward to teaching the next day. My work life has changed drastically over the past month, but actually, instead of dreading delivering my lessons online, I'm really, really excited.
It was a Wednesday when my college, City of Liverpool College, closed to all students. That night, I sent my level 2 and level 3 patisserie classes a link to a Zoom lesson for the next morning. When they logged on, they saw me in the college kitchen (the building was still open to staff at that time) making Easter eggs. They loved it, I loved it and I decided to roll with it.
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I did a lot of learning to begin with, figuring out how to get my videos to stream from Zoom to Facebook for those who couldn’t access Zoom. I said to my boss: "I think I’m doing more work at home learning about these things than I did at college!" But it’s a new skill to add, you’ve got to grab these opportunities.
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The first thing I do is send out the recipe to students so they know what ingredients they’ll need. I try to make things from my cupboards that hopefully most people will have: flour, butter, sugar, etc. If they haven’t got the ingredients, I suggest alternatives that could work. If there is no fresh cream, for example, I’ll show them how to make it with milk instead.
I get up early on the mornings of the live lessons and pre-make the recipe in my home kitchen: it’s a bit like TV cooking. I then remake it again, and once I’m finished encourage the students to make it in their own time and send me pictures of the finished product. So far, we’ve made Chelsea buns, doughnuts, iced fingers, Nutella bread, chocolate work, tarte tatin, puff pastry, carrot cake – and, as an Easter special, today, on Good Friday, I'll be making hot cross buns and Easter eggs live at 1pm.
In the week running up to Easter Sunday, I posted pictures of the Easter eggs I have made over the years and asked students to share the photos of the Easter Eggs they've made.
Unwittingly, by sharing the lessons on Facebook, I have gained a wider audience than my learners. People from all over the world have been watching me bake live: after the first video, I must have received more than 200 messages from viewers sending me their pictures or asking me questions.
It’s funny: as I do it, I can see my pupils sat at home watching on Zoom and strangers commenting and chatting to each other within the Facebook comments. When we were baking bread last week, someone commented on Facebook to say they didn't have strong flour. Another lady replied to say she added gluten powder to plain flour and sent a link to where you could buy it. It’s become quite a good support network for other people.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1pm I do the live lessons for the students and general public and then do private lessons for my level 2 and level 3 students – both as a class and individually. Every Thursday at 9.30am, we all hop on Zoom as a class and just chat to each other. They all really miss that social interaction with each other and it's so nice to see them chatting away, supporting each other and having a giggle.
All in all, I see them on Zoom calls four times a week. The attendance in the virtual practical lessons has been really good as the students will sit and watch a Facebook live from home.
Once things go back to normal, I will carry on recording the lessons and putting them on my YouTube channel so that if learners aren’t able to attend college, they can access them at home. They love learning via technology – and if I can continue teaching that way, why wouldn’t I?
Siobhan Sweet is a patisserie lecturer at City of Liverpool College
If you want to join in live with Siobhan today at 1pm, here are the ingredients you will need:
Hot cross buns
- 500g strong flour
- 30g fresh yeast (10g dried quick yeast or 14g original dry yeast)
- 6g salt
- 137ml water
- 137ml milk
- 50g butter
- 50g castor sugar
- 150g mixed fruit
- 50g mixed peel
- Zest of one orange
- 2tsp mixed spice
- 100g sugar
- 50ml water
The cross mix
- 75g strong flour
- Water to mix
Chocolate Easter eggs
- 600g dark, milk or white couverture chocolate.
- Coloured cocoa butter (don’t worry if you haven’t got this).
- Digital thermometer.