Home chefs and professional bakers alike can learn everything from bread basics to fancy pastry making at King Arthur Baking Company’s School in Norwich, Vermont.
By Lisa Cavanaugh
On the sylvan grounds of a venerable New England business, bakers of all levels are busy learning how to roll out perfect cookies, toss ideal pizza dough, and whip up delicious tarts, cream puffs, and flatbreads. This is the King Arthur Baking School, which started in 2000 to complement the baking ingredients offered by King Arthur Flour, a company first founded in 1790.
The Norwich, Vermont-based business rebranded itself in 2020 as the King Arthur Baking Company to reflect its many additional products and services. Dedicated to supporting bakers of all kinds, King Arthur Baking Company still supplies premium baking flour but offers a whole lot more.
“Our goal is to help you through the process. Whether you bake every week or you’ve never baked before, we have something for you here at the Baking School,” says Amber Eisler, Director of the Baking School at King Arthur Baking Company. The school offers in-person workshops and classes at the Norwich, Vermont, headquarters, where they present the more robust curriculum, and at the King Arthur Baking School at the Bread Lab, in Skagit Valley, Washington. “We have everything from kids classes up to professional level courses, and they range in duration from three-hour workshops to week-long intensives,” says Eisler. “Our shorter-format classes offer more basic instruction on specific items, while the multi-day courses take a bit of a deeper dive into higher-level baking skills.”
Since the onset of the Covid pandemic, the school has hosted a selection of online courses as well, including professional development classes. “The courses were a response to the pandemic, but they have proved so popular that we are planning on continuing these indefinitely,” says Eisler. “The real beauty of the online program is the increased accessibility for people, who, for whatever reason, can’t travel to Vermont or Washington but are really interested in taking an interactive baking class.” A point of differentiation for the King Arthur Baking School online classes is that they are fully interactive. “The instructors are on a Zoom screen baking right along with participants, giving them real-time tips and instruction,” says Eisler. “We are making sure that everyone, despite all the differences and equipment that people might have in their home kitchens, is adapting well, making some great baked products and having a good time doing it.”
Mouth-watering seasonal course subjects can range from Buns and Rolls: Sweet & Savory and Rustic Autumn Tarts Decorating to Whole Grain Artisan Breads and Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies. Eisler says one of the most popular classes remains their classic baguette-making course. “The French macaron workshops have been very popular in the past couple of years also, as they are tricky little pastries to make,” she adds. “And pizza, of course, is always a perennial favorite.”
Students come from all over New England and farther afield. “We have students in our Vermont location from all 50 states and international students as well,” says Eisler. “We definitely see repeat participants. Sometimes we might have a group coming for a girls’ getaway weekend, and they have a great time and decide to do it every year, for example,” she says. “Or a student might take one course and it just sparks something within them. They return for more workshops; then they start taking our multi-day classes to build upon the things they’ve learned, branch out and gain more excitement around baking.” She touts the school’s excellent instructors, which include 16 in Vermont and five at the Washington location. “We also have many guest instructors who are leaders in the baking industry,” says Eisler. “They are passionate about something in the baking world and eager to share their knowledge with our students.”
She describes the Norwich headquarters as a “bakers’ Disney World,” with a well-supplied store and cafe. “It’s a full experience, where we have a little bit of everything, says Eisler. “You can watch the bakers through glass windows as they make all of the breads and pastries that are sold in the cafe, you can have breakfast and lunch, you can go shopping, and you can just enjoy our beautiful campus here.”
Learning to bake, or improving upon your baking skills, with talented instructors and engaged fellow students can be a great point of connection, says Eisler. “We are available for support after the course is finished as well,” she says. “Our King Arthur bakers’ hotline is a free service. You can call us, you can live chat, or you can send us an e-mail, and there are bakers here whose sole job is to answer baking questions and talk you through any kind of baking situation and help you succeed in your baking journey.”
King Arthur Baking School released its first full-colored cookbook this fall, The King Arthur Baking School: Lessons and Recipes for Every Baker. “It is just an absolutely gorgeous, phenomenal cookbook,” says Eisler. “It is another way we want to help people learn to love baking and feel confident in their skills.”
She reiterates that the King Arthur Baking School loves students of all levels. “Don’t worry about your skills,” says Eisler. “Just come on in. We have an apron waiting for you!”