Flakey, buttery, mini-failures.

by piecurious

Today just isn’t my day.  Truth be told, it hasn’t really been my week. Perhaps I might blame it on the transition that’s before us—that between summer and fall.  But so far it’s only brought the return of good things I’d forgotten I missed, like scarves, Mutsu apples at the Farmer’s Market and rainy days that force you to take the time to curl up on the couch with a good book, leaving your to-do list(s) to wait another day.

But there have been other transitions that have coincided with the changing of the seasons that have made life more tumultuous than usual.  I’ve recently started a new job at another local bakery.  I’ve left behind long nights baking bread for early mornings making scones. Despite my passion for bread baking, I learned rather quickly that I was simply unwilling to conform to the life of a night labourer.  It’s not that I couldn’t handle the twelve, sometimes thirteen-hour shifts.  It’s not that I couldn’t adjust to my morning starting at 8pm and my evenings beginning at 8am.  It’s that I forbade myself to sleep when the sun was shining, dragging my weary body out of bed to stroll the market, to sip espresso on café patios in the declining summer sun and to share stories and conversations while nursing cool beer on warm evenings. Needless to say, the change was desired, if not needed.

Yet, there are always stresses when taking on new employment.  There is the stress of navigating a new work environment and trying to fit in, of tempering your eagerness to learn and your desire to prove yourself a worthy employee with the need to pay attention to detail and listen to instructions—of ensuring that you don’t jump before you look.  Or you might end up like me at 6am this morning staring down at half a crumbling gingerbread bundt cake, a special order, no less, with the other half stuck to the insides of the bundt pan—my heart, sinking through my chest and down to the floor, attempting to escape the creeping sense of failure swelling up inside me.

We all have different ways of understanding, as well as dealing with success or failure.  All my life I have stubbornly expected myself to be an expert at any activity I chose to undertake.  Never once has this ever been the case, nor will it ever be.  And yet, even with this knowledge, a devastating feeling of failure overwhelms me when I fall short of my own clearly unrealistic expectations.

Luckily, this is often followed by an equally intense desire to achieve success—to learn the lesson and try again.  Which is still how I feel after my second less than successful attempt at baking croissants at home this week.  Not to mention about removing gingerbread from bundt pans.

The challenge of baking croissants comes from The Daring Bakers—a group of bloggers and non-bloggers alike who are equally dedicated to baking a new and interesting recipe each month.

The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!  The challenge and recipe can be found here.

The choice of croissants for my first month with the Daring Bakers, and my failure to produce a decent product was doubly ironic.  In my previous position as a bread baker, I was rolling 300 croissants a night.  The first day after my last day on the job involved… rolling croissants.  Except, there were no croissants to roll because my dough failed to rise and instead found it’s way to the trash bin before ever coming face to face with butter.

So I tried again.  Over three days my dough successfully performed how it should.  Then it came to rolling and cutting, the instructions provided by the Daring Bakers being rather different than how I was used to rolling croissants at the bakery.  Confusion led to mini-croissants and pinwheel Danishes (shown above).  An old oven kicked up to 475F for the first time led to crispy tips and burnt edges.  Nevertheless the croissants were relatively flakey, the layers clearly visible in the cross section, and the cinnamon-sugar topped pinwheel Danish invoked the sensation and nostalgia of cinnamon toast made by mom that I had intended.

Perhaps not a complete success, but the next ones might be!