A lot has happened over the past two months, so at this point a catch up post is in order.
Over the past two months, I’ve been working at the San Francisco Baking Institute as a pastry cook for it’s bakery, Thoroughbread and Pastry, which is located in the Castro neighborhood in the city.
One might be wondering how I went from obsessively baking bread to pastry, given that they are two very different worlds. People say that timing is everything in life. This axiom proved true in my case, because I was very fortunate to land a position working in pastry production at SFBI not long after I finished up a second week of classes, the course on sourdough bread. In this class, we made our own starters using 100% rye flour. I named mine after my hero, Sourdough Sam.
While moving to one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. to work in pastry was not necessarily what I envisioned my as my next step, I knew opportunity to work at SFBI was one that I just couldn’t pass up. After the first day of bread class back in March, I already had the sense that SFBI was a special place. The combination of a french-style bakery and a school led by highly-skilled professionals, which is overseen by owner and baking master Michel Suas, creates a very unique environment. Don’t get me wrong – my love for bread is stronger than ever – but I never thought that I would find pastry to be so rewarding and fun!
https://instagram.com/p/5hvtV_ovRp/?taken-by=san_francisco_baking_institute Entering the job without any formal pastry experience was definitely intimidating, but my managers and coworkers recognized my eagerness to learn and take on the challenge. Their time and patience combined with my fervor and enthusiasm helped me hit the ground running, though I have so much to learn. How could you ask for a better way to learn than from a pastry instructor? Call it luck…call it fate. Regardless, I feel very fortunate to be where I am now, even when I’m frosting carrot cakes, which as everyone knows, is not easy for me. https://instagram.com/p/5Pi5DlovY3/?taken-by=san_francisco_baking_institute After an intense month of pastry training, I began training on the bread bake. Normally, pastry starts at a civilized hour – 5:00 AM. The bread bakers, on the other hand, start at 3:00 AM. I knew that bakers started early, but man, 3:00 is early. When your alarm goes off at 2:20 AM you start to wonder if the whole thing is just a little crazy! At the moment, I’m only starting in the middle of the night (morning?) once per week to cover the Sunday bake. Even as a morning person, it took me about a month to get used to the pastry hours.
I’ve also started training on the mixing and shaping of the dough.
https://instagram.com/p/4hAmEzovWN/?taken-by=san_francisco_baking_institute Pastry is all about the details. Each day of the week we make different products, some of which are in process over a period of several days. Each product has very specific measurements, temperatures, chilling times, numbers of folds… the list goes on. As a big picture person, working pastry has definitely been a challenge, but the processes and chemistry behind how our favorite desserts are created is fascinating. Making chocolate mousse is one of my favorite things to do – and not just because I get to spray them with chocolate using a paint gun.
On occasion, I’ve also been able to experiment with my own recipes, such as a pizza dough with kamut flour (an ancient grain), a yummy whole grain sourdough (upcoming post!), and browned butter chocolate chip cookies.
Baking is an intense job, yet a very rewarding one. I look forward to what the future brings at SFBI as a pastelero ·