10 April 2010

I Killed the Easter Bunny

Inevitably there will come a time when a huge mistake causes a production delay.  These mistakes are rarely made twice.  I remember the time I forgot the salt in the whole wheat dough or when I added the yeast for the double recipe in the single recipe.  New bakers tend to make more mistakes than us well seasoned life-ers (because we made them way back when).  When a member of my staff makes their first big blunder, this is the story I share to make them feel a little better….

My first week at Amy’s Bread was a whirl wind.  I spent three days helping the baguette team shape and bake baguettes.  The fourth day, I trained on the rack ovens.  At the time there was one convection oven which held 30 pans of product.  At the start of the shift, all the rolls and sweet breads had to be pulled from the walk-in cooler and left on the production floor to proof.  The spaces in the racks proofed at different times so you had to constantly rotate, turn and move trays.  In addition, different spaces in the oven baked faster than others so the same tango had to be danced during the bake.  Typically, a new hire trains for a week on this position before being cut loose on their own.  I had one night!

My second night, my first solo night, on the rack oven was the night before Easter.  There was a huge increase in breads to be baked in the rack oven due to the holiday.  I had to bake about 100 dozen hot cross buns as well as several dozen cardamom egg rings.  The eggs in the cardamom rings were dyed bright colors.  The colorful eggs sit at room temperature and are baked into the bread uncooked.  They finish as hard boiled eggs.  If they are cold when they go into the oven they will burst open, like a chilled glass run under hot water.  

Most of the special Easter products had already been sold.  They were for orders that were to be picked up later that day in one of the retail locations. I loaded the entirety of the rings onto the rack to go into the oven.  If I remember correctly, there were at least 120 rings baking at once.  The rack oven is programmed with the bake times, temperatures and amount of steam to be released for each product.  There are several categories of products that bake at similar settings.  During my night of training, Jose told me what to bake on which settings...the chocolate twists bake on the brioche roll setting, and so on.  I couldn't remember on what setting the cardamon rings baked.  I put them in as 'hot cross buns'.  I figured, Easter Bread as Easter Bread, check.  

I walked away from the oven to set up more racks of product and when I returned I was horrified.  All the color from the eggs disappeared.  Wait, no, it didn't disappear, it ran off into the bread itself.  They were ruined.  What happened?  Doh, hot cross buns get steamed and cardamon rings don't.  The steam washed away the dye from the eggs.  I just killed the Easter Bunny!

How did I fix it?  Well, I didn't.  It was one of those times that I had to send out less than perfect product because not sending it would be a worse tragedy.  It was too late to make more dough and at the time I had no idea how to make it.  The night was almost over and the orders would be picked up in a couple hours.  The only saving grace came much later when I retold the story of killing the Easter Bunny to a new baker who burnt an entire stone deck of rustic French rolls.  Everyone gets initiated.  I've been told, you're not a real baker until you have a bread massacre under your belt.

Over the Easter weekend, I taught a class at the Patisserie on this bread as well as Hot Cross Buns.  The cardamon rings were beautiful and I have pictures to show for it thanks to Barbara Fiore, one of my students who is also an excellent photographer.  Her art is visible on her blog  http://barbarafiore-lifewithpeter.blogspot.com