1:45am – The alarm on my cell phone explodes like a mortar shell next to my bed and I manage a half-hearted groan as I somehow manage to claw my way to it. My hands fumble over the screen and press every button at once until the sound stops. “Hide your eyes love.” The blankets shuffle and I hear a low sigh, the lights flicker on. Disoriented, I pull on my jeans, grab a t-shirt and my coat and head for the door. “Have a good day at work.” “You too.”
2:45am – Trampling my half burnt cigarette I find the key to the bakery and slide it into the lock, taking a deep breath. I push the door open and slip in, locking the door behind me. I turn the corner and flip on the lights to the back, but leave the front dark. The order book sits open on the barista’s desk and I flip through until I reach this morning to find it empty. Relieved, I wake up the oven. Power, burner, lights, turn the dial to 375°, done. Walking into the back I look to either side of the baking section of the kitchen to find that my starters were moved, not that it upset me, but where they had been sat a stack of sheet trays. Confused, I head for the walk-in, throw open the door, and flip the light switch.
The pastry rack is empty, something I dread every morning as I open the doors to the bakery. Well, empty isn’t the truth. The pastry rack sits empty, except for a lonely sheet tray. What’s sitting on this sheet tray, you ask? Croissant dough. Frustrated I pull the pastry rack out of the walk-in and get to work. My hands tremble with stress as I take the temperature of the air and the flour bin. Typical morning for temperatures at least, roughly 70° each. Our total dough temperature needs to be 243°, so, let’s do the math; two hundred and forty-three, minus one hundred forty, equals one hundred and three degrees. Now you subtract another ten degrees for the temperature gained during mixing, for a total of ninety-three degrees. Whats the significance of 93°? That’s the temperature your water needs to be. I fiddle with the nobs on the sink until I get the temperature right, pop off the lids to the starters, and get to work. First I add my water quantities, then weigh out yeast and add it. The multi-grain starter goes in the mixer first, next to the baguette, which has its own mixer everyday; today we’re doing seventy-four pounds. I weigh out the flour and salt for the baguette, then the dry ingredients for the multi. Six minutes for the multi, the baguette stays on hold, but gets shut off when the multi is done. I weigh out for the next bread, buttermilk raisin. The multi stops, I hit the big red button on the baguette, reach back, grab the seed mix, shake it, lift the lid, and pour it out, mix two more minutes, same for the baguette. I do the dishes (how often I forget to mention doing dishes, which I am doing as I’m moving back and forth across the tiny, concrete, wood, and stainless steel kitchen) and grab a stack of bus tubs and lids, passing by the freezer to swoop in and grab galette rounds prepped several days before to thaw. The multi clicks, telling me its off, and I rush back, slapping the tubs and lids onto the bench, and reach across to slap the big red stop button on the baguette again. The multi gets pulled out into a sprayed tub, lidded, and set aside to proof, the bowl and hook get rinsed (washing at this point makes no sense, if you mix your dough in order of lightest to darkest, keeping in mind ingredients, you don’t risk messing up the dough temp with by over heating the bowl, and you save a lot of time), and the contents of the raisin get sloshed into the mixer, seven minutes. While this is mixing I’m pulling the baguette dough into bus tubs, setting them with the multi to proof, and cleaning everything I can until, click, the raisins go into the dough, one more minute, clean clean clean, pull the dough, wash the bowl and hook. Everything gets put away and I groan as the sheet of croissant dough glares, and in my mind at least, barks at me like a vicious dog. Lets get something straight, I love baking, I love baking bread, but I’m not the fastest, or most skilled pastry engineer, if you will, thats ever graced this world. But I’m set to the task, because let’s be honest, my job is at stake. With rolling-pin in hand, flour just about everywhere, and the handy rolling cutter tools my boss has, I slowly, but surely get the dough rolled out and formed. A dozen classic croissants, fourteen savory croissants, sixteen rectangles for chocolate filled and almond filled croissants, and a large square of dough untouched for cinnamon snails. I form the pastries neatly, it takes longer than I want it to though, but I guess that just means I have something to improve on. I slide the trays of croissant pastries onto the rack, seeing it with more than one tray is a good start. Scones turn out to be lemon and poppy-seed, something quick I can mix off and throw in the oven for the morning, and rhubarb filling is scooped greedily into the galette rounds, which are then cornered and tossed lovingly into the oven. But I’m forgetting something, and it hits me like a rock, twice baked croissants. I scurry back to the freezer and pull a bag of day old frozen croissants, split them with a bread knife, and soak them in (thankfully pre-prepped) simple syrup, then load a generous load of almond filling between the halfs, close, and top with a little more filling and shaved almonds. These too are thrown in.