Friday, October 26, 2007

cranking up the pie factory

Today was all about batch sizes. Breaking down the recipe that calls for a 20 qt. mixer into a fourth of its size to try it in the 5 qt. kitchen aid. Realizing a quart of base is not going to yield many pies and that you will be able to fit 2 quarts in the kitchen aid, though three would probably be a lil tight. Kind of like the cream cheese frosting at the cupcake shop...

I am making caramel pumpkin pie and whiskey pecan pie, both in sucree shells. Why? because sucree is the dough that will be provided to me off the farm, in 8" disposable shells. The recipes are historic (and no doubt, storied). When no one could find the farm's recipe for pumpkin pie we got the green light to use my predecessor's recipe for caramel pumpkin pie. I made it, gave some away for tasting, decided it was well meaning but boring and I certainly wouldn't take it out on a date, and tried some things to ramp it up. Better, but also going up on the size of batter in the mini tartlet shells caused them all to crack. Who would have thought an ounce could be so powerful? Today I baked them in the entremet (to use my new vocabulary word) and got nice shells. That said, it was a bitch squeezing the entremet back on prebaked shells, and definitely not for the faint of heart! And, the dough is *still* fragile beyond anyone's belief except for maybe those I gave tarts to who found lil packages of exploded good intention.

I realized it took an hour to prepare a batch that yields 24 mini tartlets, and 3 to 4 big ones (depending on which size I use). It takes so long because I've got to wait for my sugar to caramelize and then I've got to pour on all this cream (which should be infused, but the guys threw out the herbs I was drying and I just didn't feel like dealing with it today)

The whiskey pecan pie is much quicker and takes half an hour to throw together a batch of base but the process just might get you drunk. No joke. I tasted one of the dried cherries we'd been soaking in Jack Daniels and it was like a shot. Then I had to measure out my intoxicated peaches and cherries and those fumes were overpowering. And then I had to get 3 oz. of Jack for the batter, and then when I realized the entire process only yielded me 18 mini tartlets *and* didn't utilize all the space of the mixer, I made a 2 quart batch. And had to taste test the first. One square inch of pie=another shot.

I'd told my manager we needed 8 inch shells. How Am I Supposed To Know How Much Pie I Get From One Recipe If We're Not Baking Them in The Right Molds? I said during Thanksgiving meeting 2. And while she was not able to get me 8 inch shells from the farm she stopped at Safeway before work to get 4 shells and another giant bottle of Jack because I spent last week soaking 1 pound of peaches on 2c Jack and 3 pounds cherries in 6 c Jack...hence the dizzying effect of eating just one on a baker going off three hours sleep and little food.

We tasted the first batch of the whiskey pie together and after one bite my manager had a reaction that didn't entirely surprise me: This Is Not What He Made Last Year, she said.
More Fruit? More Whiskey? I asked. The recipe called for a paltry ounce of each dried fruit, which was like 6 cherries and a peach half. I hoped it was just a matter of punching up the goodies in the batter and not the recipe being entirely unlike the written recipe, and therefore lost.
Add More Stuff she declared, and she helped me dice pecans so we could get everything tossed in there to get me a batter that weight about 6 pounds and will bake one each of 7, 8, 9 in tarts and 12 perhaps minis.

So we are getting there for numbers and for quality control. Next up is timing, and how long to prebake the 8 inch shells for. Since they're made in deeper pie pans the filling takes longer to cook and getting the prebake to the same golden color as everything else means the edges will burn, which means I should probably go for anemic coloring on the prebake...Timing and product duration. Can I freeze the pumpkin filling? How long can it keep in the refrigerator?

I'll be stopping in midweek some time once I get the restaurant schedule (how lucky for me both jobs are in the same neighborhood) to test bake the product over the course of the week.

Today we were all getting in one another's way. I had mise all over the bakeshop for these pie projects and had other products cooling and my prep cook pal kept shoving it back over on my table where I'd just cleared space to fill shell. My manager kept summoning me over to try to make excel work on the computer. Secrets come out and surprises leave everyone curious and hesitant.

But there were some moments throughout the day of gratitude. Being grateful that my manager and I are on the same page concerning the Thanksgiving pie factory, that she does not want to burden me unfairly and wants foremost a good quality product delivered in a reliable timeline, and that these are exactly the things I want. That she remembered we were out of whiskey. That she found a way to get me 8 inch shells, because she understood I couldn't really be giving her accurate information without it. To my chef and my sous chef at the other job, because even though I think I would be preparing my mental mise in the same way were it not for the restaurant job, who can really say? When someone's forced patterns start to become yours in an automatic way it's hard to tell, and each time I found myself reaching for the pen holder on the left arm of my jacket hoping to find an offset there I felt somehow less alone.

A coworker and I at the restaurant were helping savory people prep party apps the other day. I was supposed to be minding the pastry station but was really just making cornets to have on hand and watching the garde manger person slowly begin to get in the weeds between the party stuff and the normal tickets. When she skittered off to the back for something I asked my coworker who was helping out with the party if we shouldn't prepare another platter of apps since there were about five lingering on a plate. I started punching flatbread circles and she got to work quenelling toppings. The cutter consigned to the job was a dented, dull pathetic lil thing and as I slammed into it with my hand I said somewhat plaintively to my coworker:

Chef Would Never Make Us Use Something Like This. And I held it out to her, so she could see.
Chef Would Never *Have* Something Like That, she countered.

And were we to even be doing something like that, we would find a way to do it more efficiently in the first place.

Sometimes it's nice to know what you have. In things or in people. What you can rely on them for. And then in turn what you owe them. I've been at FH long enough to know what I can expect to have (but the new job is still too new) but it's still great to feel backed by my manager, and like we're in accord. Fairly soon I hope to have an idea of the number of pies one person with another full time job can prepare in the off hours (what off hours, anyway? My boss just called and before asking me to run the errand she asked me to run, she was like You're Not Asleep? No {sigh}. I did not tell her that I'd just eaten dinner and spun my ice cream).

I'm looking forward to the rest of product testing. Though I am somewhat afraid of passing out due to some sort of secondhand drunkenness from that whiskey aroma. Hot damn.

Where, and how, did that recipe make its way to FH?

Lastly, per gratitude, today I saw the xmas order form and asked my manager what she was expecting xmas to entail, because (tho I didn't tell her this)I'm pretty sure it's going to be crazy with parties at the restaurant around that time. The menu items they'd listed were all farm products, same as the Thanksgiving stuff, or strange cakes my predecessor had been tasked with. Flipping through the large and disorganized binder I found strewn like lil gifts those recipes, should I need them. Generous and unexpected.

Sleepy. Working a double tomorrow. Road trip last night left me home at one am, dios mio.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have returned, changed and restless. You've made many *long* blog entries in my absence. You must be feeling prolific! Yay!