Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What do you REALLY do all day?

So how DO I spend my days? I've given you lists, but things have actually changed somewhat, in that I now have all of the croissant production in my hands. Well, I punch in a little before 7:00 am; I like to get there a little early, but the boss doesn't really care that much--the second day of work he told me that I could be a few minutes late and it wouldn't matter. (Before I punch in I put on my kitchen clothes, braid my hair and put a spandexy band around my head, and put on an apron.) I grab five sheet pans, position the scale, and flour the table. I drag the 60 pounds of croissant dough out of the walk-in and over to the work table; the dough is in a big plastic storage-type bin. I get whoever is walking by to help me dump it on the table, and then I spread it out. I cut it into six-pound pieces, putting two rectangular pieces on each floured sheet pan. I cover each pair of dough pieces with a plastic garbage bag (the light plastic bags, with the bottoms cut off so they're stretch-out-able, not the big green things) and put the sheet pans in the freezer. (Sometimes I have to rummage around to find space in the freezer.) I get out 15 pounds of butter, a rolling pin, and a big piece of plastic, and I cut up the butter into 1.5-pound chunks. I pound each chunk into a rectangle that's about half the area of a piece of dough and then put all the butter into the walk-in. Today I also moved two pieces of already-laminated dough from yesterday from the freezer to the walk-in to thaw out; I didn't feel like doing them yesterday, but that means more croissants to shape today.

At this point, I have about an hour to an hour and a half to do something else. I had to fill an order for 45 "Irish potatoes," which are our chocolate rum ball mix shaped into something that looks like a dog turd and then covered with marzipan and dusted with cocoa powder--they really do look like potatoes, so it's pretty entertaining. Johnnie had made the mix and I'd shaped the potatoes yesterday, so I rolled out the marzipan and covered the potatoes today.

By now it's about 9:30 and time to laminate my dough. I take each sheet pan out of the freezer, take the dough and run it through the sheeter a little bit, position the butter, cut the dough so it's a butter-and-dough "sandwich," roll it out and put a single fold into the dough (which means I fold it in thirds; a double, or "book" fold means you fold each end toward the middle and then fold the whole thing in half). This starts creating layers of butter and dough. I have to trim the edges and such so it fits properly, which takes a little time; after that, I put the pan back in the freezer. After I've laminated all ten pieces, I start with the first piece again, rolling it out on the sheeter and putting a double fold into each piece. (Four of the pieces, the ones slated for plain croissants, get two double folds; the others get a single fold and a double fold.)

By now it's probably about 10:45. Today I shaped more potatoes from a new batch of mix from Johnnie and put marzipan and cocoa on another ten so they could be sold in the store; I'll do the rest tomorrow before the laminating. When I finished with that and put everything away, I moved the sheet pans with the croissant dough from the freezer to the walk-in; frozen dough doesn't roll out very well. I took a break around noon for about 20 minutes, then came back and started with the croissants.

In preparation for that, I made some egg wash (eggs and a little salt, in our case; in school we added some cream, too, and extra yolks), stacked a bunch of sheet pans lined with paper, and got out the almond filling. I made some almond ones first, then some ham and cheese. At this point, the guys were on the make-up line, making some kind of coffee cakes; this line is back-to-back with the sheeter I need to roll out my dough, so I made my croissant dough for tomorrow in the meantime. (This involves lugging a 50-pound sack of flour up from the basement; because I use about 34.5 pounds of flour, it's easier to bring up a sack and remove the 15 pounds than to scale out the 35 pounds.) That takes about 20 minutes or so, then the dough gets put into one of the bins, I check the temperature (78 degrees F is the preferred temp), and put a timer on top of it for 30 minutes, after which I drag the thing into the walk-in for tomorrow. I helped out briefly with the coffee cakes, then went back to my croissants.

I made four more pieces of dough into chocolate croissants. I put the chocolate, ham and cheese, and almond on a rolling rack (and put the extras in the freezer), and then made six pieces of dough into plain croissants. I get about 36 plain croissants and about 24 filled croissants from a given piece of dough; each croissant gets egg-washed after making, and some get egg wash during the construction to help seal something. After putting the plain croissants for tomorrow on the rack, I put the whole rack into the walk-in, where it will sit until the guy who does the baking comes in. I froze the rest of the plain croissants, cleaned up, shrink-wrapped five small pans of brownies for Brad (who had to leave before the shrink-wrap tunnel was hot), and that was it. I punched out a little after 4:00.

There really isn't much opportunity for slacking, unlike with desk jobs (where you can almost always do a little web-surfing, or make a personal call, or exchange emails, or whatever). There isn't much privacy, either, in the sense that everything's happening in one big room--at one point today, the spiral, the 40-quart, and the 80-quart mixers were all going, and I was using the dough sheeter, which makes its own noises. On the other hand, everyone's busy doing his or her tasks, so there's not a lot of conversation most days--which affords privacy of a different kind.

I also asked my boss about what it costs to buy a bakery--and he doesn't think it will cost much at all, which is interesting. And encouraging. Not that I'm ready to do that yet, but it doesn't hurt to gather information.

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