Last Friday, we shut down the kitchen at baking school, and I cleaned out my locker. On Monday, we wrote our final exam. This is how my iPhone recorded the year:
Remember September? When we all thought baking school was going to kill me? Remember those ridiculous lockers? We battled with them all year. It took a few weeks to master taking a run at ’em to get our gear wedged in. (Forget about getting it back out.) There were uniforms, kits and textbooks, wine tours and our first loaves of bread. At the end of the month I gave myself a 10% chance of graduating.
Everything was in quantity. Why make one if you can make a hundred? There were… challenges. I felt sick every morning for about three months. We were supported by gas ranges, 60-quart mixers, proofers, deck ovens and convection awesomeness.
There were holiday bake sales and seasonal treats. Exams and assessments. I finally stopped feeling sick in December. We became efficient. We learned about timing products, marketing and running a bakery outlet. We sold thousands of baked treats. Things that were hard in September began to feel easy. I gave myself at least a 25% chance of graduating by the time Christmas rolled around.
There was a lot of snacking, and I still managed to lose weight. We learned about all things culinary – not just baking. We started to laugh more in the kitchen. And cheer! We took courses in baking theory, communications, computers and small entrepreneurship.
Cakes. Lots of ’em. They almost made up for eight months without sleep.
There were bagels, biscotti, and breads shaped like animals. We mastered European and advanced breads, and had the expertise to question recipes and methods. We were able to think on our feet, spot mistakes, and adapt when necessary.
There were miraculous jelly rolls, swans, feats of dough rolling and an amazing school library.
There was mise en place every day, my legendary San Andreas Fault pie, sweet presentations and friends waiting at home.
There was team work. And celebrations. And a stormy morning which found us all but alone on the campus, so we shared breakfast and talked shop.
Now the kitchen is quiet. I feel like I closed my eyes for but a moment, and now it’s all over. I think I will miss it all…
A few weeks ago, I made a product list for my portfolio. Here are the highlights:
Old Dough/Pâte Fermentée/Biga · French Loaves · Baguettes · Plié Breton · Pain de Campagne · Pain au Levain · Pain Rustique · Pain Pugliese · Pain d’Epi · Fougasse · Pullman Loaves & White Pan Bread · Rosemary Olive Oil · Kaiser · Whole Wheat · Raisin · Cheese · Cracked Wheat · Golden Flax · Rye · Stollen · Panettone · Italian Loaves · Ciabatta · Focaccia · Bhaturas · Tandoori Rotis · Naan · Parathas · Chapatis · Lavash
Swedish Yule Logs · Jelly Rolls/Sponge Cake · Genoise · New York Cheesecake · Chocolate Layer Cake · Black Forest Cake · Angel Food Cake · Pound Cake · Fruit Cake
Checkerboard Cookies · Speculaas · Biscotti · Sand Cookies · Sugar Cookies · Lebkuchen
American Buttercream · French Buttercream · Royal Icing · Marzipan · Gum Arabic Glaze · Gum Paste/Pastillage · Fondant
English Muffins · Country Biscuits · Morning Glory Muffins · Cinnamon Buns · Pizza Dough · Bagels · Pretzels · Sweet Yeast Dough · Danish Dough · Choux Pastries · Gingerbread · Pies · Linzer Torte · Gluten Free Muffins, Breads and Cakes
So, I can bake some stuff. And many variations of that stuff. We head off to work terms next week – I’m betting it will feel like September all over again. I’ve got a few more baking school stories to share in the coming weeks, and some recipes waiting in the wings. In the meantime, why don’t you hit your own kitchen and make me a graduation cake? Because I’m, like, 90% sure it’s gunna happen.