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Everything posted by jeniac42

  1. Yeah, I'm not posting the link to the bakery web site just out of paranoia, but you're probably right. We do have a really extensive list of stuff. Thanks for the information on the Indianer. We don't have molds; it's just piped out onto a tray, but it sounds like the same general idea. And Neil, it sure is hard to stand up again, but I try to keep the breaks short enough that I don't get used to sitting. I think I need more padding in my shoes because by the end of the day my heels are killing me.
  2. I'm hourly, and I do clock out for breaks. 10 hours is too much though!
  3. Oh, ew. I haven't tried them but I have eaten leftover wings from my last job (cold, reheated) and I know exactly the taste/texture you're talking about. I really don't think even the biggest bowl in the world would help that. I have a White Castle in my front yard and feel obliged to report that if you have an actual White Castle, the fish sandwiches are the best thing going there. Jalapeno cheeseburgers are muy tasty when drunk, but they will haunt you with your next-morning's hangover.
  4. Neat blog! I'd love a banana ice cream with a pecan pie/chocolate drizzle, but vanilla done well is always good. I love making caramel. I don't have the science of it down, exactly; most of my experience was making it on the line at my last job, where candy thermometers were unknown, so I always just kind of guessed. I got to the point where I could make consistent results but I don't know what I was doing, exactly. But sitting around and pouring it off the spoon is way too much fun. I also like to stick my hands in ice water and play with the caramel a little bit while it's still hot, or put it on the counter and let it cool fractionally and then squish it around as it sets up. NB I have almost no feeling in my thumb and first two fingers on the right hand so this may not be advisable. Making creme brulees was always a good time, too. Until the torch got all dirty and nobody knew how to clean it, anyway.
  5. Ludja - since you have a special interest in the Austrian pastries, do you know of any good books? I'm kind of deficient in that area, despite working at an Austrian bakery. Also, do you know what Indianer is, exactly? I mean, I have a recipe for it but I've never heard of it before. What's it normally used for? Today was another long day, 10 1/2 hours. My feet, as usual, hurt. Mostly I put together peaches (5 hours), finished rum balls (1/2 an hour), cut the damned apples (1 hour), trayed up and bagged breads (30 minutes), and ran the line and cleaned up. The thing that kills me most about restaurant work is the cleanup. Maybe I should switch jobs with the afternoon guy, who never cleans anything and doesn't even put away half the stuff he cooked during the day! So in that long day, I had perhaps 10 minutes worth of breaks. Most of the pastry-only kids never take breaks. The German kitchen manager works 15 hours a day and I've never seen him stop even for a minute, so it makes me feel bad, but sometimes I just have to get off my feet for five minutes (and, I will admit, get my nicotine levels back to normal). Question: Is this a normal working situation in a bakery? At both of my other restaurant jobs, it was OK to take a ten minute break after eight hours or so. I mean, I know legally I have to be allowed breaks, and I'm sure nobody would have a problem with it, but culturally it just doesn't seem right to take a few minutes.
  6. Today was cookie-making day. I filled, assembled, and dipped about 3500 cookies. My right hand is numb from all the wrist action that was required. In three days I've worked 31 hours, which isn't much I suppose but my feet hurt so bad I can feel every bone, not to mention all my calluses. I just tried to look at it as good experience with a piping bag, but after six hours that kind of wore off. I didn't even have time to eat today so I'm about to pass out from hunger but am extraordinarily unmotivated to make anything (ran out of the frozen chili and lasagna earlier this week). The thing is, sometimes while I'm at work I hate my job. I can't wait to get home so I don't have to do it anymore. But now that I'm home, at the end of the day, I realize I do like it. Of course, with all those cookies baking all day long I'm not sure I ever want to eat another pastry again... the smell... ugh. The people I work with are great, though. One guy works from 5:30am until 7:30pm, six days a week. Another guy, older, works the night shift and gets all cross when his table isn't free and he has to wait to work. He's got to be the fastest mofo I've ever seen, though; he can finish four projects in the three hours we're there together. I can learn so much just from watching, and he's close enough to retirement that he doesn't give a rat's patoot about telling me any secret I care to know. And yeah, I worked in a (very) well-paid office job, three weeks of vacation a year, insurance, the whole nine. I couldn't stand it though, and felt the same way - spent all my time off of work dreading having to go back into work. Now I just dread it when I wake up in the morning and I know I'm going to spend all day putting cookies into boxes. Heh. I will try to put together a list of the stuff we serve. Right now my brain is starting to protest... need... calories....
  7. I was lucky and unlucky. I decided to abandon my old, stable, making-lots-of-money life to pursue culinary arts. I've loved it and regretted it badly. My ex is a "kitchen widow" and my life is a wreck, but hey, I get to bake all day long and get paid for it. Sure, I'm on my feet for 10-12 hours/day, and I am currently soggy from doing dishes, and as AB said "nothing like 400 covers on a Saturday night to make you hate cooking", but in the end I don't hate it. I love it. Why am I here, READING about pastry when that's what I do ALL DAY LONG SHOOT ME NOW? But seriously, Enzian, for love? Do it at home. Having been cooking professionally for only a year, I've realized that cooking at home is fun, is love. Cooking at work, it's love, but it's also work. I've got my timing down, and even putting out Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people is nothing at all, but it's fun, because if dinner comes out an hour late nobody's going to fire me. Sorry, I'm having one of those quarter-life crises. I was a computer programmer for five years professionally. I used to love the beauty, the art of the code, and then once it was my job I realized all the politics, making an extra 10 cents a year for the stockholders, is all it's about. I thought food might be different. I started out serving in a place that was very "family" but not terribly culinary. I was frustrated: did nobody care that it was beautiful food? I then moved to a high-volume fine-dining "soul food" place and saw the produce they accepted from vendors. Most of it I'd have passed over at the grocery store, yet the customer didn't seem to care and they were happy to pay 10x what it would've cost them to make at home for the experience. Now I work at a small-business bakery. People care about the product, and they don't. In the end, you've got to be able to pay your bills and your vendors or it's a vicious circle. So you cut the corners you can, and the thing is, the clients don't know the difference, or are so used to fast food it doesn't matter. My dream is to have a place where I make all my fillings, my marzipan, everything from scratch. But reading these forums, will it be as good as the stuff you can buy from Amoretti or even BakeMark? Why serve seasonal desserts when the majority of your clientele wants to buy pumpkin pie in July? Sorry. I'm really not as bitter as I sound. Doing dishes for an hour at the end of your shift can really put a bad note on the end of your day, huh? As far as ye olde job goes, I feel terrible about it. I work hard while I'm there. This is a semi-foreign concept to me; throughout school, I was one of "those people" to whom everything came naturally. I never had to work for anything, and pitied those who did. Now that I'm in a manual-labor field, I have to work hard for everything, and I'm totally not the best person in the place. It's humbling but it's good for me. Right now I am tempted to go do dishes without clocking in for a few hours, just so somebody else doesn't have to do them when they show up at 5am. At the same time, the part of me that got paid 4-5x as much as I do now is saying, "Are you crazy? Is your time worth nothing?" But I learn, every day, and that's worth a lot.
  8. Saturday was a non-pastry kind of day. I walked in and, because of the farmer's market, there was nobody to tell me what to do, so I just made 50 peaches. Then the other line guy had to leave so I just started prepping and cooking orders. Bleah. Sunday and Monday are my days off (regular-like!) so nothing there either. I relaxed and packed up stuff at my house a little bit, and not much else. Today I went in and learned to work the counter up front. It was a nice change of pace, plus it means I get to share in the tips. Woo hoo! The owner there is a really good guy, as far as I can tell. He expects a lot from his employees but seems to actually care about them, which goes a long way in my book. Anyway, I was supposed to work on cakes today; that would have been a first, professionally. But we were all out of peaches so I did those instead. Unfortunately today was the first half of the assembly, which is a lot less fun than the second half. I ended up working almost 11 hours. I hurt, and am so tired as to be incoherent, so there's not much interesting to report here.
  9. Oh, signature. I forget where I got it from; it's some quote from a TV show or web page or commercial or something. Heh.
  10. Well, I'll preface this entry by saying that I had a White Russian or two at the bar on my way home from work. My job is so close, I can walk there and back - big advantage when the bank's about to repo your car and anyway it has a flat tire, right? So unexpectedly I ran into the owner of the bakery there, and he was very kind and picked up my tab for me. He's a really good guy - expects us to work like dogs but I get the impression he looks out for his employees. Anyway, today I did no pastry work (aside from the damned 4kg of apples, but more on that later). It was all line stuff; old hat to me now. This place has a very easy menu, very easy prep. Basically I spent all day cleaning, organizing my coolers, and slicing and dicing. We had a big storm and the power went out twice. Always fun to be wielding a knife and have the lights go out, eh? Today, I tried a new strategy with the apples. I peeled them with my handheld peeler, instead of the windy thingamabob. After the first four or five this was actually faster. Then I cut them in quarters and just used my knife to take out the core part; again, much faster (for me) and much easier on my wrist. I've got burgeoning carpal tunnel anyway and wear a wrist brace sometimes, so anything that helps in that department is double plus good. Question for those who use the melon baller: What do you do about the blossom end of the apple? Do you just cut to that point and discard the ends? I'll probably go buy a melon baller tomorrow, and I hate to look stupid (must always know what I'm doing; I hate having to ask for help, although I will when it's necessary). A few replies, now. First, chef jackets: I actually like the things. Sure, they make me sweat my metaphorical balls off, but they also protect my arms from flying grease. And sticking my arm all the way into the big ovens to get the sheet trays out of the back scares the heck out of me, so arm covering is welcome. I've got plenty of burn scars but they're mostly from the hot side, so this whole oven thing is a new and scary burn opportunity. We don't have uniform service there, so I'm going to have to buy a few jackets and wash them myself. Ugh. My t-shirt today has nice black marks from carrying sheet trays waiter-style. As far as my "level" goes (i.e. doing the peaches): I'm a rank newbie. I haven't ever made buttercream in a professional capacity. I was in charge of desserts at my last restaurant, but there wasn't much technical proficiency involved. Basically, I fabricated a recipe for cookie dough based on percentages from "On Food And Cooking", made bread pudding (anglaise), and made the creme brulées, which I can now do in my sleep. Love custards, but once you figure it out they're not so hard. I can't fill and frost a cake very well; it takes me easily four times as long as the people I work with. Plus it looks like hell. So the marzipan peaches don't really seem a thing to me; mostly they're just good fun. Shoes: I have Danskos, which are great. They save me a lot of foot pain over other shoes I've worn. I have really high arches, and fairly large feet, and these shoes are great. However, they're almost three years old and I really have got to buy a new pair. Just gotta save up a little from each paycheck. The only complaint I have is the total lack of padding, but I've got calluses the size of Montana. I also try to wear the Thorlo socks when I have a pair clean, and that helps a lot. And yes, I work from noon until 9 or 10pm, which is kind of a strange schedule for pastry. Mostly I landed the job because I could run the line for dinner (we never get slammed so I just do it myself); they don't usually hire people with no pastry experience, so I feel like I lucked out. That and the reference from a local chocolatier. I think this post is probably already longer than anyone will read, so I'll go, until I realize I forgot to add something important.
  11. How do you use the melon baller? Cut the apples in half first and just take out the very middle?
  12. I'll keep updating this thread blog-style. Steve Klc said folks might be interested, and heaven knows I like to run my mouth, so. Yesterday, I went in and finished the peaches I hadn't gotten to the previous day. I got to use a new can of marzipan so they turned out a lot nicer and the work went quite a bit faster. I love making the peaches, because I can just totally zone out and five hours is gone before I know it. I learned the trick of keeping the cake spheres in the freezer and only bringing out 20-30 at a time; that way the cake doesn't get soft and it's a lot easier to cover them in marzipan without smashing the cake all to bits. Here is a picture; I wanted to take a photo of the whole sheet tray because I'm still impressed by the sheer quantity of stuff we make there. Unfortunately we ended up using over half of them today so it wouldn't have been that cool, anyhow. Also yesterday, I peeled and cut about 12 kilos of apples. That's got to be my least favorite job there. I use the apple peeling device, and it sucks (but not as much as the peelers there; I have to remember to bring mine in). There's a wingnut on it that sticks up and chews into the apples that are too big. Then I have to core them, which I just can't seem to do right. I always punch through diagonally and have to try two or three times to get all the seeds out. Then clean up the peeling job, since there's always peel left, and then cut them into chunks. My life would be so much easier if I could use the corer on the apple peeler, but it spirals the apples and the resulting slices are too thin for the strudel. Argh! I've been doing this nearly every day and I've gotten a little faster but it's just as frustrating because I'm terrible at it. Any helpful hints would be appreciated. I also put together a few pastry boxes, which isn't too hard; I just gather all the petits fours and pipe some whipped cream onto the mini key lime pies and put the stuff in a box. After that, I just ran the line for dinner and helped clean up and reorganize. Today I made 11 large key lime pies and 144 minis, again. It took me an hour and fifteen minutes to make the crust, get it in the pans, and bake it. Then another two hours to make the filling, get it in the pans, and get them in the oven. I've managed to shave a good hour and a half off my time on that task, though. When I put the minis away, I have to flip them out of the muffin tins and onto a sheet tray. I was really nervous about just upending them, but it's much faster and I only mangled three out of the 144. AND... another 4 kilos of apples. Shoot me, please. Things are crazy there right now; they're basically doing a major overhaul of the kitchen, moving sinks around and storing everything in new places. Nobody can find anything so it takes 10 times as long to get anything done. I found out that the big Hobart is a 140-quart model. Yipes. I also hate the way my feet hurt progressively more each day that I work. By Saturday I'll be unable to move. You'd think after two years of restaurant work I'd be used to all the standing (and I am; I sat down for a total of about four minutes in my 9 1/2 hour shift) but ouch.
  13. Wendy, I do the same thing (holding everything against my body) but I do try as hard as I can to stay clean. I'm better than I was but some days are just hopeless (see the picture above!). Today I made 85 of the peaches. It was supposed to be 150 but there's a lot of non-baking work to be done right now due to some weird circumstances. I feel, of course, terrible. I am slow! But the marzipan was really dry and hard to work with, so everything was slower than it should've been. Ugh. Frustrating.
  14. This week was a good week for learning. I tried dipping the chocolate petits fours (that didn't go so well), cut the nut petits fours and decorated the tops (with a piping bag! I'm getting better at piping, anyway!). Alas, today I woke up very, very ill. The kind where you spend all your time either unconcsious or in the bathroom. Could've been the hot dogs I ate last night, could've been some kind of virus, who can tell? Point being that I had to call off. Now, when I worked in an office, I called off all the time because it didn't matter. But in my restaurant employment history I have called off twice in three years, once because we had to put our dog to sleep and once because I was similarly GI-tract afflicted. So now, I don't work again until Tuesday, and I get to sit around and fret about the fact that, because of me, someone else probably had to do twice the work and stay a lot longer to get things done. Guilt, guilt, guilt.
  15. Ooh, Kinder Bueno. I lived off those for the first 12 hours I was in Paris (hey, it was Sunday and everything else was closed around the hostel, and also what's wrong with eating chocolate/hazelnut stuff as a subsistence diet?). Nutella. *swoons* Eating it off of a spoon isn't good enough? I've eaten it out of the jar with my tongue when faced with a lack of spoons. The chocolate-hazelnut tarte in Herme's chocolate book is good, but not hazelnutty enough. I've never had German Nutella but maybe I should ask the German PC to bring some for me when he next visits.
  16. Yeah, I am soooo too anal-retentive to spend all my time covered in chocolate. I tell myself it's just because everything is a new task, and I can't do it neatly yet. I'm one of Those People who likes to keep my uniform looking clean, and I wipe down my counters every 30 seconds, etc. Hopefully one day I'll figure it out. Meantime maybe I'll buy some black chef jackets... they don't provide them at this job (gasp! horror!) so may as well. Plus I'll probably look so stylin' with the jackets and the houndstooth clown pants....
  17. You know what drives me C.R.A.Z.Y.? People picking their teeth with straws. My mom does this, and I love her dearly but it makes me want to scream. I understand needing to get the stuff out (I have cavities, weird teeth, and no dental insurance, so I occasionally find entire steaks between my teeth) but UGH. Carry some floss and go to the restroom (or, if you're like me, pick a piece of string off your chef pants - they're great for having stray strings - and go to the restroom - unsanitary in the extreme, but private). I will admit to the spoon trick. I have a very small mouth and sometimes I get more on the spoon than I can fit. I try to be conscious of it but I know when my SO feeds me ice cream I have to do that all the time.
  18. Oh, and I'm sure you know this, sinclair, but it was a new trick to me. To get everything back out of the pastry bags, we lay them flat on a counter and use the plastic bench scrapers to push everything to the end. That might help with the s.c. milk bags?
  19. Yeah, there's only really one hand-washing sink there and it's inconveniently located back in the corner. I usually have to negotiate several speed racks full of baked goods to get to it. I've been coping by keeping a wet towel on the counter so I can at least wipe my hands off a little bit. The five-gallon buckets of raspberry filling give me issues. When I have to scrape out the last little bit I end up with raspberry all over my arms. Plus I'm not too good at loading up piping bags yet, and I tend to get stuff all over my hands in the process (though I have improved). I'm definitely following melmck's thread! Today I made another 16 key lime pies. I put the crust in 8 of them before I realized I'd forgotten to grease the pans so I had to start all over but all in all it took me a whole hour less today to do the whole process. Plus I used a better can opener and getting out the s.c. milk went much less stickily. I was reprimanded by several people for having cut the biscotti unevenly, but hey. Lesson learned; next time I'll measure them out with the knife. I also did about 200 chocolate truffles, in between cooking orders on the line (lots of schnitzel tonight). I ended up all covered in chocolate. Heh.
  20. Oh, and man, the big Hobart bowls are crazy. I'm not sure about the capacity, maybe 80 or 100 quarts? But there are metal wheelie things just to move them around, and the Hobart raises the bowl itself (hydraulically?). I haven't made anything in those yet, but damn they're big.
  21. I'm amazed people remembered me! Thanks Today I made 11 Key lime pies and 144 minis. I don't get to do a whole lot of pastry work yet, since I switch to the line after four hours and I'm pretty slow, so I can't be given a whole big list of stuff to do. No peaches today, though (someone else took care of them)! It took me quite a while to do the graham cracker crusts. First, I put too much butter in the mixture, so I had to add a bunch more crumbs. Since I don't really like graham cracker crusts, I never make them at home, and it took a few pans to figure out the best way to do it. (I started with the sides and then did the bottom - any suggestions for best technique on this?) I also ended up covered in sweetened condensed milk. I'm not used to being all sticky all the time yet... uck. So far one of the coolest things has been using the dough sheeter. That thing is crazy. It's so fast! And so neat! The hardest part has been not eating all the marzipan for the peaches.
  22. Hello. By now probably most eGulleteers have forgotten me. My life has been in a state of upheaval for about a year now, and the Internet activity has been kept to a minimum. Things seem to be evening out a bit, so I'll probably be participating more. In case you don't remember, at this time last year I was still working in the computer industry. In July, I made the switch to line work at a new restaurant in Columbus. I opened the place, and ended up kind-of-sort-of taking over the desserts when the chef and his sister (who did our dessert work) left. Alas, it was the sort of place where the owners were just as happy to buy frozen cheesecakes and premade pies (in their defense, the clientele didn't seem to care). Once I realized I wasn't going to learn anything else there, I decided to move on. Thanks to a chocolatier friend of mine here, I managed to land a job at an Austrian bakery; I would consider it the best bakery in town, and I feel very lucky to have gotten the job. I do pastry work in the afternoon and work the line for them at night (they serve a limited lunch/dinner menu). I make less money than ever (woo!) and work harder than I ever have. The experience has been amazing so far, and all I've done is marzipan peaches (white cake, raspberry jam, peach buttercream, wrapped in marzipan, airbrushed to look like a peach and rolled in sugar) and a few cookies (filling and dipping in chocolate). It's crazy for me to see the level of production every day, all the cakes and cookies and bread and pastries. Everyone there works really, really hard, which is a great environment for me. I just thought I would post this update, and I'm going to try to participate more regularly. I think pastry is the area I'd like to work in, and this job is confirming that, so far. I'll probably be moving to Portland within a year and a half, and hopefully it will stand me in good stead there.
  23. There's a recipe for chocolate hamantaschen in the Alice Medrich "A Year in Chocolate" book. I haven't tried it but if your library has the book, you might use the filling from that recipe and see if it works for you.
  24. A bit late here, but I'll add what I know. I haven't ever seen the foamy layer problem, but I have successfully used a torch to remove small surface bubbles to make a smooth-topped custard. I always make sure the water bath is at the same level as the custard in the ramekin, which seems to work rather well for me. I cook my brulees in a hotel pan covered with foil and cut holes in it to allow extra steam to escape - this is the way I was taught to do them but it seems to work quite well. Experienced opinions on why this works would be appreciated. The convection oven at work has the Fan from Hell and I didn't tighten the foil down enough one time, and found that the resulting brulees looked like they were baked in a wind tunnel. That was fun. Joe, it's hard to explain online but I remove the brulees from the oven when the edges are set and the center is still wobbly. I get to make about 40 brulees a week (we don't sell that many of them) and it's been my little kitchen moment of Zen, so I love reading this thread to see what other people know. The folks I work with in the kitchen know the methods but not always the whys of the methods, so it's really interesting to get other perspectives.
  25. In my collection at present I have a Japanese knife I really, really dig. I'm not sure it's what you're looking for, because the blade is thick at the top and tapers down, but I actually find it easier to use for precise cuts. It's a Bunmei 7" usuba. I like the balance of it; the handle is light and it doesn't have a bolster. The thing feels like a finger extension to me. I use it for pretty much everything at work (since I work in the pantry, almost all of my chopping is limited to things vegetable). If you can feel one in the store, give it a try. It's some kind of crazy molybdenum stainless steel, and I haven't sharpened it yet. After four months of daily use (about a good solid three hours' worth each day) I can still use it to take hair off my arm. The disadvantage is that if you leave anything acidic on the blade it develops little rust spots. I also like the MAC knife of similar shape. That one doesn't belong to me so I'll have to find out the exact specs, but the blade is very thin and very sharp. I'll ask my boyfriend (who works two kitchen jobs, one mostly prep, so it sees a lot of use) how the edge is holding. My chef has a Messermeister usuba, also very thin and very sharp. I haven't been online in forever. I think I've forgotten how to write message board posts, so forgive me if this is overlong.
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