A Day's Work
I should try to keep track of and report what I do for a week, just so you get an idea and I have a memory of it. I started off today making cheese filling for these cherry-cheese or apple-cheese squares (some kind of par-baked pie-crusty base, then the aforementioned cheese filling, then cherries or apples, then streusel, then baked again); the recipe calls for 24 pounds of cream cheese, plus sugar, margarine, and something called 1333, which is apparently a cornstarch-like substance. I distributed the cheese filling among six sheet pans of pie-crusty base, spreading it to the sides, then I threw all six sheet pans in the freezer so Johnnie could throw the fruit and streusel on them later. I spread some cream cheese frosting on the carrot cakes. I started putting paper muffin cups into tins for the yellow and chocolate cake cupcakes, and then the owner took over for me so I could start depositing batter in said cups. After depositing about 50 dozen yellow cupcakes, I switched to the large cranberry muffins; again, the owner had put in the paper cups for me. There were maybe 20 dozen of those, and then I switched to the chocolate cupcakes. (Each switch requires putting new batter in the hopper--from a 60-quart bowl on a big chain and pulley--and resetting the machine for the correct amount of batter per deposit.) There were about the same number of chocolate cupcakes as yellow, I believe. I didn't do any of the baking, I just loaded up the trucks. Then I took apart the machine (which is a royal pain in the ass and must be done each time one uses the machine, so there're usually more than one kind of muffin or cupcake), washed the bits, and washed down the machine, then left everything to dry while I had some lunch. Everything I've described here took from about 7 to about 12:30. I ate lunch, put the machine back together, and started the croissants. I didn't have to put the butter into the dough today (i.e., laminate the dough) because Johnnie made a double batch yesterday. Johnnie thinks of the croissants in terms of pieces of dough, each piece weighing approximately six pounds. I've been managing to get about two dozen ham and cheese, chocolate, or almond croissants out of each six-pound piece, and maybe three dozen plain croissants. I sliced some cheese, got some chocolate batons, got out the egg wash, got out the almond filling, and set up a dozen or so sheet pans with parchment paper (Jackie was using the sheeter, so I was doing as much prep as possible). I made all of the croissants myself today (one piece each of ham and cheese and almond, and two each of chocolate and plain), as Johnnie was making something else; Brad rolled some of the plain ones, but mostly it was me. I cleaned up that stuff, then rolled six loaves of apple bread in cinnamon sugar. Then I punched out, a little after 3:00.
As this narrative probably makes clear, there's a lot of grunt work--it's pretty much ALL grunt work, at some level. Several things make it bearable (and even pleasant, in its own way). For one, everyone pitches in with something--as noted, the owner put the paper muffin cups in the tins for me, and Brad rolled some croissants, just as I smoothed the frosting on the carrot cakes and put the acetate bands around them for Johnnie. At least two people are needed to put batter in the hopper for the depositing machine, because the mixing bowls are large, heavy, unwieldy, etc.; one person guides and holds the mixing bowl, while someone else (usually me) stands on a bucket and scrapes batter into the hopper.
A second thing that makes it bearable is that, as I'm sure I've noted before, and as many have noted before me, there's a rhythm to any job, particularly any physical job, and, once you find that rhythm, you can get into the flow of it. You can think of nothing, or you can think of other things (though I doubt I could write a novel in my head, say), or you can talk to the people around you. There's not a whole lot of that, because the owner gets called to the phone a lot, and Brad is always doing something managerial, and the Hispanic guys don't speak great English and I speak no Spanish; the Hispanic guys talk to each other a little, but it's just as common for everyone to be doing his or her job without any talk.
Really, though, I shouldn't write in terms of making it "bearable," because that makes it sound unpleasant, and it's really not. It's not an intellectual challenge, of course, but I knew that going into it. I like that the owner continues to try new things, is open to new ideas, is even willing to try new recipes; he, too, reads Food Porn Bimonthly (i.e., Cooks Illustrated). I like the opportunity to see the cyclical bits--we're doing heart-shaped things now, of course, given the proximity of Valentine's Day, and things in general will start to pick up in March. There are also King Cakes in March, I think. The summer baking for the farmers' markets sounds insane, and I'm looking forward to it (and dreading it); I'll maybe even get some overtime out of that. There are a ton of cakes through June, what with graduation at the nearby university and so on, plus Mothers' and Fathers' Days. What I want to do is start thinking about how my bakery would run--what products I want to have, what specialties I want to offer, things like that. My schedule has been wacky, though: last week, I spent nearly every non-working moment either sleeping or interacting intensely with someone. That particular brand of intensity is unlikely to continue at that volume (though one never knows), but I've agreed to do a freelance job, which will take substantial time and energy. And I still try to squeeze in handball and yoga, though I'm lucky if I manage once a week for each of them (which bums me out).
Ah, well. It keeps things interesting. Meanwhile, I have to go start on our taxes, which will be less than interesting, but the sooner we file, the sooner we get some money back. It's going to be strange filing a joint return--I've never done that before. Crawdaddy is more than happy to let me take a hack at it, so I'm going to do that. But it will still be strange.