Sunday, 22 January 2012

Bread Gone a Rye

This week was productive, exciting and practically flawless, that is until Thursday came around.

It started out as a regular day in the pastry shop. I strolled in half awake and seriously considering hooking up a permanent coffee IV into my arm for my next morning rotation. I stumbled to my station, plunked my knife kit on the counter and looked over my list of duties for the morning.

To do:
-          Kaisers
-          Rolls
-          Bread of your choice

Simple enough and straight forward. There should be no problems. With the Kaiser dough comfortably rising at the end of the counter and the rolls in the proofer, I had time to make the bread of my choice. I had prepped and copied out a recipe for a delicious cheddar and onion rye bread I had found the night before. Step one was to find a large and delicious onion. I said found onion in the culinary kitchen dry storage, a favourite spot of mine. I love sneaking in there to steal sun dried tomatoes, peek at all the assorted spices, and sample any yummy tidbits that might be lying around. The hunt for cheddar cheese was less than fruitful as there was none to be had in the fridge. Grumpy, still a little sleepy, and frustrated I pulled the chef aside and explained with a pout that there was no cheddar cheese in the fridge. I had found mozzarella and spiced havarti but they didn’t have the right sharpness I needed to compliment the onion. Chef Richard disappeared for a moment and returned with a delicious Swiss cheese. But before he handed it over to me he borrowed my knife for an instant and cut off a piece and popped it in his mouth. “Research purposes.” Chef explained.

With all my ingredients in front of me I pulled up my sleeves and started with the onion. I am the worst at cutting onions, mainly because I cry buckets when I do. However, this morning I was the only one in the kitchen not crying. I have the beginnings of a cold and so my sinuses were stuffed, a perfect defense against the potent vegetable. My classmates were at the mercy of the onion. The onion won.

Finally the onion was chopped, the cheese was grated and all the ingredients were happily whipping around the mixer. Like magic they came together, bonded by flour, water, yeast and the G-forces from the mixer. I covered the dough to let it rise and tended to my other duties.

After baking out the Kaisers and rolls I could devote the remainder of my morning to my precious onion Swiss cheese rye bread. Using my chef knife I cut the massive dough into 4 equal parts, they looked just about right, not to big and not to small, I was pleased. I popped them in the oven and walked away to help clean up.

While I was sweeping up excess flour that had spilled onto the flour by the weighing station I suddenly heard a gasp from the direction of the oven. “Who’s bread is this?” Someone asked. My head snapped up and I ran to the oven. My bread, who had once been a normal size had grown to Mutant proportions. I was deeply embarrassed and prayed that the Chef wouldn’t find out. I seemed to be in luck, class was nearly over and Chef hadn’t said or noticed anything. Then, just as I was slinging my knife kit over my shoulder, Chef walked to the cooling rack pulled out the tray with my Mutant rye bread and asked, “Who’s bread is this?” I sheepishly admitted it was mine. “Did you weigh your loaves before you baked it? 540 grams?” I looked at him confused. I was supposed to weigh them? I thought to myself. “Umm, no Chef, I just cut them in half until they looked even. They were normal sized before I put them in the oven.” I sputtered trying to save my dignity. As always, Chef laughed, gave me a wink and said, “Next time you weigh them. Remember, things grow in the oven.” I hung my head, cheeks burning red with embarrassment, “Yes Chef.”

Before putting the loaves out in the cafeteria for sale we weighed them, just out of curiosity. I plunked a loaf onto the scale and watched in horror as the numbers climbed higher and higher. The scale stopped at 2.30 pounds, that is twice the weight of what they are supposed to be. Not only did the bread weigh 2 pounds but it was approximately the size of a new born baby. I didn’t make bread, I made mutant onion cheese babies! I learned a valuable lesson in the importance of weighing your dough that day.

The next day was German Pretzel Friday and to my surprised I was placed in charge of making them. However, before signing on to complete the task I had to promise I would weigh the dough before baking them out. I am pleased to tell you that each and every pretzel came out of the oven golden, crispy, and all the same size and weight. No mutant German Pretzels today.

This past week, with each early morning walk to school, I have noticed another layer of Christmas remnants vanish from the streets of Charlottetown. Province house has taken down it’s two big beautiful Christmas ever greens, as has the street corners from Grafton to Queen, King and University. The festive Christmas lights have been rolled up and stored away for next year and wreaths have left front doors naked. However, what remains is not dismal. The promise of snow lingers in the air and to my delight it has snowed on and off all week, we have not met our 12 foot quota yet, but I remain hopeful. A crisp snap is in the air and follows you every where. However, the cold here is invasive and sly. Unlike an Ontario cold that would rather hit you in the face and knock you on your ass, a PEI cold greets you with a deceptive smile as you walk out the door. As you linger in the streets and walk to your destination it follows you silently getting closer to you with every step you take. Before you notice your bones are rattling, your shoulders are hunched forward trying to meet in the middle of your chest to hold the heat in and your step has slowed. A PEI cold absorbs into your body, wraps its wet icy fingers around your joints and is reluctant to let go. A well brewed cup of coffee or tea is the only defense against this enemy. 

But the ocean climate isn’t all bad in the winter department. When it snows it is magical and breathtaking. Snow floats down in soft fluffs, lazily meandering through the air, until it settles on your nose and eye lashes. Sigh, it’s like Narnia and Road to Avonlea all rolled into the perfect world.

Despite the hiccup with the mutant onion cheese baby bread and the bitter cold weather, this past week has been quite enjoyable and full of other bread triumphs. I made some fabulous French baguettes, perfected my Italian bread I made last week, and created another signature Mama Jo style bread: Apple cinnamon bread. All in all I'd say it was a Mama Jo approved week :)

                                            French Baguettes

                                                 Apple Cinnamon Bread

                     Mutant Onion Cheese Rye Baby Bread. Two whole pounds of it!

                               German Pretzels the size of your face!!

          Perfected Italian bread with sundried tomatoes, oregano and parmesian cheese.

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