15 February 2010
Amy's Bread...The Book
Last Monday night, Kevin and I packed up the kids and headed into the city for Amy’s book release event. She and co-author Toy Dupree were set up in Chelsea Market, signing the re-release of their book, Amy’s Bread. It was a wonderful evening. I got to catch up with my former colleagues and friends. Amy had a huge spread of bread and sweets, representing the recipes in her books. (She released ‘The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread last year) I was very happy to partake in the coconut dream bars. I missed them so.
Everything in the bakery had pretty much remained the same. I was surprised to see the same retail staff as was there three years ago. It is unheard of to have such low turnover in bakery retail staff. It speaks volumes for Amy’s culture. The retail manager, Luke, recently married and bought a corner store on Lake Placid. He’s moving in six weeks. I guess I’m not the only one who decided to change things up in a big way.
Kendall and Ann were busy getting the Thanksgiving lug plan started; just kidding…they were great and I loved seeing them. I call Kendall whenever I need a pick-me-up or whenever I have a question about weights and pricing. She’s full of spunk and she’s always laughing. She and Josie hit it off right away. Josie, of course, went Mommy hopping through the bakery. This kid loves Mommies and if there’s another Mommy in the room, she wants nothing to do with Kevin and I. She hugged and cuddled with Ann and Jessica, the operations manager at the bakery, too.
I spent a while catching up with David, formerly my daytime counterpart. He’s known as the ‘peacekeeper’ in the bakery. He was my ‘go to’ guy whenever I had staffing woes. I have a very big decision to make, which I will write about once it is made; David gave me great advice as he always did. He’s been at Amy’s for 10ish years now, which means he has seen it all and he knows how to handle just about anything that comes his way.
Truth be told, I never read the 1st edition of Amy’s Bread. It was out of print when I was considering a job at Amy’s and though it was on her bookshelf in the office, I never sat down to read through it. When I got home from the signing, I cracked open my new book. I was anxious to read what Amy and Toy wrote and I was eager to see how everything turned out. I was working at Amy’s during the recipe testing and the re-write process. This book isn’t just new packaging, Amy and Toy retested and updated all the recipes and much of the text has been completely revised.
Writers have a voice and every writer’s voice is different. My style of story telling is totally different than say, Frank McCourt (and hopefully more uplifting). Amy and I have a very similar voice. In fact, if I were to write a book about bread, this would be it. Her way of explaining the bread baking process is unlike any other I’ve read. It is very down to earth and simplified though it maintains its scientific integrity. When preparing to write this, I was thinking about what makes us different. Why can Amy and I explain this process in a way that’s easy to understand and attainable for a non-professional baker? What sets us apart from Jeffery Hammelman, Joe Ortiz, Ciril Hitz and Michael Suas? It took a while for me to see the obvious. We’re moms! Amy is doing what moms do best…making something complicated, easy to understand. I remember getting an email from her about a product being ‘yucky,’ and thinking, this is what I love about Amy. She isn’t afraid to shy away from the technical jargon and put things on a real level. I’m sure the hardcore, old school men in the business wouldn’t appreciate ‘yucky’ in the same way I do but I truly value her candor. I didn’t realize how rare these qualities were until I left Amy’s and spent time at other bakeries…she is one of a kind.
Bottom line, if you enjoy reading my blog, buy this book! It includes my absolute favorite bread from Amy’s, pumpkin pecan. I think it is my favorite because it was only made in November and I looked forward to it all year. I actually froze several loaves to eat them throughout the rest of the year. It also has a recipe for whole-wheat challah which I helped test during the research process. I’ve been writing this post while watching the snowfall outside and waiting for my mini-batch of whole-wheat challah to rise. It just came out of the oven and I broke the cardinal rule of baking…I cut it open and at a hot slice. Hot bread is never bad and this one is no exception. It transported me right back to Chelsea Market. I know I’m being a little sappy but I got teary eyed. I miss the frenzy, the smells, the bakery team, the city life. Maybe there’s still time…..