Friday, May 19, 2006

Croissants, anyone?

My brain has been deciding that 3:30 or 4:00 am is a FINE time to wake up. I disagree, but I've learned that there's little arguing with my brain on this point. I know that some of it is circumstantial, but some of it is circadian, too; I'm much more likely to do this when the days are long and sunrise comes early. It's catching up with me today, though, and it's going to be a grueling day at work, so I'm not as pleased about it as you might think.

I've been trying to fit a full week's production of croissants into four days; the only upside is that the farmers' markets have only just begun, so I'll probably only make about 2,000 croissants this week. That number will go up to closer to 3,000, as best I can tell, by the height of the markets. I can't make them all myself, at least not in a nine-hour day, so I have to be organized enough to get everyone else involved, too. Wednesday we did almond croissants, which involved Jefe feeding blocks of laminated dough through the sheeter and then through the feeder/roller, the dishwasher brushing the flour off, the machine cutting the dough in half horizontally, me using a plastic guide to cut four-inch-wide strips, Brad squirting almond filling (of which I'd made a huge batch) and egg-washing the edges cut by the horizontal cutter, Brad and the baker rolling the croissants and egg-washing the outside, and the whistler dipping the egg-washed croissants into sliced almonds and putting them on sheet pans. We made approximately 250 croissants this way.

Then we switched to chocolate, and we called in the college guy who manages the front of the bakery to help with placing the bars of chocolate and rolling the pieces up. We only made about 140 of those on Wednesday, but Brad, Jefe, and I made another 175 or so of those yesterday, plus we made over 300 plain croissants and about 65 cinnamon raisin. (I can still handle the ham-and-cheese production, because we don't sell those at the markets.) There's apparently a machine that rolls the plain ones, but one of the belts doesn't work right now, so I sheeted the dough, Jefe cut, and Jefe and Brad rolled the pieces.

I've been making 24 pieces of dough at a time--for those of you doing the math at home, that's 24 6-pound pieces, plus 36 pounds of butter, once the dough is laminated. Tuesday and Wednesday I made 144 pounds of dough, divided into three bins. Wednesday and Thursday mornings, I divided the dough into six-pound pieces (two pieces per floured sheet pan), covered it in plastic, and shlepped it downstairs to the walk-in freezer, where I have to have someone help me actually get it in the freezer. While it rests, I pound the 36 pounds of butter into pound-and-a-half rectangles and put it in the walk-in refrigerator. I then have a little time to do something else; I've tried to have a couple of pieces of frozen laminated dough sitting out to thaw, which means I can make some ham and cheese croissants while the new dough is resting. When it's sufficiently cold, I drag the rack of dough out of the freezer downstairs and wrestle it back to the walk-in refrigerator, and Jefe and I start laminating. Even with his help and a steady pace, it takes awhile to laminate all that dough. After that's done, I give each of the 24 pieces a second turn, then take the rack BACK down to the freezer. I find something to do for an hour or so, including taking a break in there somewhere, and then start production.

In subsequent weeks, I think I'm going to organize production so we do the almond croissants for the week on Tuesday, the chocolate on Wednesday, and the plain and cinnamon on Thursday, and maybe some plain on Friday as well. This also means being sufficiently organized so there's enough dough to do all of each kind on the designated day, and it means being sufficiently organized so I have enough of the other kinds to fill the wholesale orders and produce croissants for the store as well. And this can't be done too far ahead, because the laminated dough only lasts for a week or so (either as dough or as a frozen croissant). My guess is that I'll be getting some overtime, which is fine for me.

Which brings me to the next tale. I talked to my mom last night, giving her enough info about what's been happening here (and I have not told you all, and will not unless/until D decides he's comfortable sharing the info) to explain D's absence tomorrow/Sunday. She's worried about his job and his ability/willingness to support me, so of course her first response (after concern for his and my well-being) is to tell me that I have to quit this bakery thing and get a higher-paying job. I told her I did not want to hear that from her again. She has been the absolutely least supportive person with regard to this career change--shit, she's not supportive at all. The part I really like is how I'm supposed to go get some fabulous high-paying job. Um, mom? I tried that. My failure to achieve that was part of what made me rethink this whole thing. And have you noticed that I don't exactly have a personality or a resume likely to get me a high-paying corporate job? Quite the opposite, actually.

I have to admit to my own anxieties in this regard, and I've realized that I really must start drumming up some side work. The guy who does the computer stuff and website for the bakery says that his customers need people to write stuff for them, which I can do. Basically, I have to find writing, editing, and/or proofreading jobs that I can do on my own time. Of course, I also have to seal the new apartment deal, pack my stuff, and move in the next six weeks, but what the fuck ever. Hardly a surprise that I'm waking up at 3:30 am with little anxieties running through my brain. I'm hoping that I can get through this weekend (including two flights--did I mention I HATE to fly?--in three days) and then begin to focus a little better.

Which reminds me of something my yoga teacher said a few weeks ago. One of the Big-Name teachers she really likes is Gary Kraftsow, though he's not as famous as some of them. He points out that we tend to measure our physical selves with a lot of numbers--height, weight, bench-press ability, cholesterol level, etc.--and suggests three other criteria: lightness of body (by which he does not mean weight, per se); ability to withstand change (which is not the same thing as, say, adapting to change); and ability to focus. By those criteria, I'm doing doing too badly; I can also see the ways I'm not doing as well as I'd like. Of course, more yoga would help in that regard.

Okay, time to get moving here. If I don't talk to y'all until after I get back, you'll understand, I hope.

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