Bakers Wake Up Earrrly

What are you doing up at 4:30 in the morning? Baking scones and gougères? Oh wait, that's me. Yes, I wake up at the same time I used to go to sleep on a Saturday (that's a lie, but just go with it) so people like yourself can have their hot buns at 7:30am.

I've been externing at the kick-ass Tartine for just over a month now and it's been going swimmingly. I've been working on a few different stations: cookies/bars, shelling (lining/baking pastry shells for tarts/quiches) and the morning bake team which is either "quiche side" or "scone side" as they call it. Each station has been stellar and I've loved all the variety. Hell, I've even enjoyed working the 4:30am shift, who knew?! Those days actually fly by and the kitchen is less chaotic the first half of the day, due to the fact that there's usually only 5 of us there in vs 20+.

So one of the things Tartine is known for is it's line, due to it's popularity. Lines are the worst, but there's a reason for it. The food is legit guys! I can attest to this because I've tried most of the menu by now. #patsonbuddahbelly I actually think it's kind of exciting that people are willing to wait in line for Tartine's goodies. Yes, perhaps people are just in line because of the hype, but I'd be a liar if I said that the hype isn't justified and the line isn't worth waiting in. DO IT, or even better, holler at me when you're coming and I'll buy you a warm croissant to keep you company in line.

Surprises so far? The amount of heavy labor! Tartine is cranking out a ton of products for the masses so the yield is always LARGE. These LARGE yields need to be chopped, stirred and folded by hand sometimes which is, frankly, a workout and a half. For example, I break a sweat every time I make gougères (which requires vigorous continuous stirring by hand) and I have a gougère calluses on my hand to show for it.

Another surprise, that has nothing to do with any of the above, is I've become a biker! Not the Hells Angels kind (I'm certain that's what you were imagining), but the bicycle kind. My sweet ride is from junior high, so it's real hip. At least I don't have to worry about it ever getting stolen...

Back on subject again, here are some solid things I've learned so far while working at Tartine:

Lift with your knees, not your back! I've been aware of this tip, but it's an important one to recall when you have to lift a 50lb bag of flour. Those bags are no joke! It seriously feels like I'm carrying a large child through the kitchen.

Hands and arms make fantastic tools! Bowl scrapers and spatulas are nice and all, but sometimes ya gotta get in there with your hand or even your arm to get all the sneaky hidden spots. Also, folding brownie batter with your hand/arm is ridiculously fun.

Have one clean hand and one dirty hand. Love this one, but it's a challenge to follow sometimes. When you need to scrape down a bowl using either your hand or bowl scraper, that hand will likely get batter and such on it, so in turn it becomes your "dirty hand." The other hand, by default, is your "clean hand" and should be used to do "clean tasks" like turn the mixer on/off and raise/lower the mixer. This is especially useful for recipes that require you to scrape down the bowl several times over several rounds. In the end, having these clean/dirty hands will avoid more cleanup- making you more efficient! #winning

Refill the line if there's a lull. This is the new "If you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean." Sooo "if you've got time to lean, you've got time to refill?" Where's a poet when I need one?

Walking by a pot? Give it a stir sister! This kitchen multi-tasks like champions so the stove top is always full. If you find yourself passing by, why not stir that chocolate or pastry cream or apples for a hot second? Thaaaaanks.

Behind! Hot! Sharp! I hear the phrase "behind" at least 100x a day, "hot" about 40x a day and "sharp" a solid 10x. There's a reason for this- no one wants a run-in with 3 sheet trays of shells or a hot pot of bacon fat or perhaps get stabbed in the thigh with a chef's knife. That would make for a bad day.

Be efficient! Try to take as few trips as possible when gathering what you need- ingredients, tools etc. Also, try to re-use bowls, measuring cups and such when you're putting a recipe together. Work smart you dummy!

When in doubt, write it down! Pounds and ounces and grams, oh my! Perhaps if I had a photographic memory, I'd have no use for a notepad, but alas, my memory is more like a goldfisheseseses.

And lastly,
No one is awake at 4am except crackheads and bakers! When I bike to Tartine at this ungodly hour, I bike like zombies are chasing me (the fast "28 Days Later" kind of zombies, not the slow "Walking Dead" kind). I hope I don't come across humans (or zombies) because most likely they're up to no good and will surely steal my junior high bike and break my knee-caps if they spot me. #fact

This would be the part where I'd cue a song and show you all the beautiful things I've been working on, but sadly, I've got nothing for you. Pulling out your phone at work to take selfies and food porn photos are frowned upon- I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to have a photo shoot with croissants/cookies/cakes/bread/bars etc. Where's a Google Glass to take surreptitious pics when I need one?!

If you'd like to see me in action and eat all the pastries, come visit me! I've got only 3 weeks left!

image cred:

Carb Loaded For Life

Friends! It's been awhile. Like 4 weeks awhile. Lots of pastry school updates to be had, but lets start in reverse order, because I have exciting recent news.

We found out this week where we got placed for our externships. This is where we'll be working and spending all of our time for the last two months of the program, it's MAJOR. A few weeks ago, we all had a one-on-one with the founder of the school and ever since then, I've been anxiously-nervously-excitedly wondering where the devil I'll end up! On Wednesday morning, we were told that we'll all find out at lunchtime. Deep breath. Eeks magee. Lunchtime rolls around, and every one of us are silently on our phones, obsessively refreshing our email like a bunch of buffoons. And then, like dominoes, one by one, the emails start coming. Murmuring and smiles come next. I refresh my email for the 20th time and there it is. I open my email to see that I got placed at the same location where this journey began: Tartine Bakery! Motherf*&%ing Tartine! So SO excited. Want to know where everyone else got placed? Yeah ya do! NOPA, Chez Panisse, Quince, State Bird Provisions, Feve, Jane on Larkin, Little Bee Baking, Neighbor Bakehouse, Craftsman and Wolves, Della Fattoria and Cake Coquette. Bad. Ass. So excited for my pastry school peeps.


Lets continue this Memento-like order recap in reverse, shall we?

Week 13: Breads 2
That's what it said in our syllabus: "Breads 2." Pretty self-explanatory <insert sarcastic looking emoji of your choice here>. We only had two days of class this week before Thanksgiving break and they were filled with "quick breads," mostly breakfast-type pastries. Waffles, coffee cake (best I've ever had), muffins, brioche to name a few and one of the BEST croissants I've ever had: a PRETZEL croissant! Yes, it's as good as it sounds. Actually, it's better than it sounds.

Week 12: Laminated Dough
Translation: CROISSANTS!! There was a lot of <under the radar> happy dancing and fist-pumps this week. Laminated dough is dough consisting of many thin layers of dough separated by butter, produced by repeated folding and rolling. Fun Fact: Croissants have 81 layers, while puff pastry typically has about 1000. #mindblown We had chef Brian Wood from Starter Bakery come in to show us how croissant making is done. He's the king of all things croissant, and also, you haven't lived if you haven't eaten his kouign amann. #lifechanging Chef Brian also kindly participated in a "Last Supper" photo you can get a glimpse of below. He makes an excellent Jesus. We finished out the week with a visit to the kickass Craftman and Wolves facility. Chef William Werner gave us a personal tour of the digs and his soon to be expansion. It was beautiful, spotless and I noted that they had pretty much one of every tool and machine a pastry gal could dream of. Chef William really impressed us. Confident, business savvy and smart as a whip. I want to be like him when I grow up.

Week 11: Breads 1
The first installment of bread. This week was eye-opening. We made more of your classic loaves and baguettes this week. Guest chef Michael Kalanty joined us for a day to show us his way of making some classic breads like pan au levain and San Francisco sour dough. He takes the cake for my favorite guest chef. He's not only hugely entertaining and hilarious, but he's a fantastic teacher. Sign up for one of his classes, and thank me later. Other notable things we made: bagels, pretzels and babka, oh my! We closed out the week with a field trip to Central Milling in Petaluma. Nicky Giusto was our fabulous host who took us on a baguette making adventure. Chef Nicky is competing in the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris (a.k.a. The World Cup of bread baking), representing for team U.S.A. He's that good!

Week 10: Ice Cream, Gelato, Frozen Desserts
Yes, yes and yes. Guest chefs Bill Corbett, former pastry chef of Absinthe, and Patti Dellamonica-Bauler, pastry chef at One Market, paid us separate visits and taught us their style of ice cream making. Chef Bill is all about the science angle of ice cream making utilizing emulsifiers and stabilizers such as Cremodan 30 that give ice cream viscosity and also delays the melting of ice cream. Too much of this can give ice cream a chalky, gummy mouth feel though so watch yourself. Chef Patti's angle was all natural, sans stabilizers. Ironically enough, one of our freezers broke during this week. Reminded me of the good ol' Pottery Barn days when the printer broke at clutch times like before a film review. Figures. All in all, it was an ice cream-tastic week.

So you might have noticed that we had three three glorious weeks of bread. THREE! That's some serious carb-loading.

And now, while I start my bread detox, here's a photo montage of the last 4 weeks. Oh, and cue this song first because I said so.