Baking in The Real World

I realize I have been VERY quiet these past few months, and the reason is that I have been doing my externship, a four-month long stint of baking in “the real world.” I’m nearly halfway through and am learning a ton about how the pastry kitchen in a busy hotel (The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, to be specific) functions–that is to say, in a state of somewhat organized chaos.

I’ve been working the overnight shift here. I go in at 9 p.m. and leave anywhere from 4 a.m. to 8 or even 9 a.m. Occasionally I’ve stayed even later than that, when the hotel is particularly busy. Right now things are quiet, but Christmas and New Year’s Eve nearly did me in.

So what do I do? I am responsible for baking breakfast pastries–croissants, danish, muffins, and so on. While my coworkers mix and shape the doughs (I do get to help with the shaping nearly every night) and bake the various types of bread used throughout the hotel, I proof everything, egg wash tray after tray of croissants and pains au chocolat, fill cream cheese danish, spread pans with smear and fill them with pecans for sticky buns, scoop muffins and sprinkle toppings on them, cut up fruit for the fruit danish, etc. It’s all very repetitive, but after the constant newness of everything at school, having the chance to practice things over and over and build up my speed is kind of refreshing.

When the hotel is quiet, I have the chance to help with other projects too. Nearly every night, my coworkers bake ciabatta, cheese rolls (filled with gruyere and topped with cheddar before baking), pizza crusts, and other breads, and I’ve been known to help with mixing, shaping, and baking all of these items as well. In spite of the brutal hours, the experience is definitely teaching me a lot about what it takes to be a baker in the real world.

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