- What I have learned during the first two weeks of group working
At the beginning, we were so exited to make our products in the kitchen lab. Since we worked as a group, some group members were good at looking for ingredients, some were good at mixing all the stuff. It looked like very simple to make those items. We succeeded to make the Bird’s Nest Cookies under teacher’s instructions; however, I failed to do it at home. My homemade cookies didn’t seem like bird’s nest. Instead, they looked like eyes. They were not flat, because of not spreading out. After asking my instructor and classmates, I thought there were several mistakes I’ve made. The first one was that I didn’t use enough butter. When I scaled those ingredients, I found there was a little butter left. I only put about three-quarter butter in the mixer. Lack of butter leaded the dough hold together instead of spreading out while baking. The second reason was that I put the dough in the fridge for a while before cutting them to pieces. My purpose was to divide the dough easily, but I didn’t realize that the butter in the chilled dough melt slower. After that, I’ve tried to make Bird’s Nest Cookies another two times. I used all required ingredients, and followed the standard procedure to make them. Luckily, I didn’t fail again.
Sometimes we can use the same recipe to make different products. For example, after replacing raisin with apricot, we made Apricot Scones with Raisin Scones recipe. To do this, there are two basic principles. On the one hand, for some key elements, you can’t change their percentage in the recipe. For example, you usually should not double the baking soda. Too much baking soda let the products look darker and taste weird. Normally, you should also avoid putting too much salt in the bread base because salt controls the development of gluten. On the other hand, we do need to change something slightly. As I said, we made Apricot Scones with Raisin Scones recipe. During the procedure, we reduced the amount of water. The reason was that we replaced dry raisin with wet apricot. Otherwise, it would be hard to handle the dough with too much water in it.
For group work, the communication is very important. Once my team was mixing sweet bun dough and faced a big problem. The dough was too sticky and wet. No one knew why that happened and how to fix it. Since our instructor didn’t monitor us all the time, she could only tell us the possible reasons. The first possibility might be at the method. The recipe asks for the “modified straight dough” method, but we didn’t put all the flour in the mixer at the same time, instead we added the dry flour gradually. The wrong method developed more gluten in the dough. The other possibility might be at the scaling step. Since it was a group work, some people did weight and someone else did the mixing job. Our teacher asked us scale the whole dough. It was supposed to be 2700 grams, but the real weight was about 2400 grams. The dough was short of 300 grams. When we checked our recipe book, we found the pastry flour should be 340 grams. It is highly possible that we didn’t even put the pastry flour in the bowl when we thought all flour was ready. After adding pastry flour in our mixer, and mixed it for a while, our dough had the same shape with other groups’ dough. We had a good lesson on this. To work as a team, different person is in charge of different job, we should coordinate very well. Don’t forget to double check when you are in doubt. Like the ingredient’s weights, the baking time, the baking temperature, and so on.
- the first week of individual working
This week was our first week of working on our own. But our group is more special than other group. We were taking care of the oven and packaging all the baked products. For this reason, everyone in our group couldn’t focus their own job except the oven guy who had to pay attention to the baking. We had to help the oven guy or the packaging guy. Although all of us were very busy, we cooperated very well.
On Tuesday, I was the oven guy. Sadly, I didn’t finish my job very well. At the beginning, I was confident to do it alone. At that time there weren’t too many items in the oven, that’s why I could do it easily. But after a while, more and more trays were sent to me, I became anxious gradually. Because I was not familiar with the color of doneness, I baked some items for a long time. I totally burned three items on that day. I felt very sorry for my classmates. They did very well, and they gave their perfect works to me, but I ruined some of them. It was a big challenge for me. I should learn how to handle many things at the same time. I thought it was hard for female students, but I was wrong. My two other female group members baked more successfully than me the next day. I know it takes some time to learn how to handle it. Another reason that I failed to bake was that I am too easy to be freaked out, especially when I am under pressure. My teacher is always asking me to calm down. To avoid over-baking goods, I should do more practice. When I master how to check the doneness of the baking things, and when I am familiar with the right color of the baking products, I am sure I can take care of the oven myself.
Also, I made some mistakes and didn’t work very efficiently. For example, I didn’t put the mixer in the right place when I worked alone at the first time. The mixer shook a bit while it was working. Fortunately, the mixer didn’t fall off or splash too much flour out. I was lucky, but I don’t think I will be lucky next time. So, I drew this lesson and carefully set my mixers every time since then. I made some white breads on Tuesday. I put the dough on the bench for a long time. For bread dough, the Bulk Fermentation time was a bit longer. That’s why the white breads were very chewy. I brought one home. Everyone in my family said it was too hard to cut the bread. There was might another reason. My breads didn’t stay on the racks for enough time. We put them into the plastic bags too soon while they were still warm. And the plastic bags don’t have holes. Speaking of not working efficiently, I made a similar problem many times. When I was dividing the products, such as fruit bars and log of dough, I didn’t divide then in a right way. I just cut the logs one piece by one piece. It took a long time to finish this job. I should’ve known it’s easy to put them together and use a big knife to cut them.
To sum up my first individual working week, I am a kind of satisfied with the items I made. First of all, I think the planning is very important. If I didn’t plan what I was going to do before the class, I wouldn’t finish three items in the given time. Secondly, the good organization is very essential. Such as, I mixed the bread dough first, and I could make the Peanut Butter Cookies while the bread dough was relaxing on the bench for the Bulk Fermentation. Or, after I put my Sweet bun dough in the fridge, I could clean my mixer and tools at the same time.
- What I am looking forward for the next few weeks
To be honest, I am a little nervous about the future’s learning. There are too many new things to learn. And the most distracting thing is my listening. This weakness put me in a big trouble. I am eager to understand every sentence which our instructor tells to us, but I can’t catch them totally. If I am able to overcome this problem, I will make big improvement on my baking learning. Since Rome wasn’t built in a day, what I should do is to pay more attention to the listening, and clarify with my teacher. The other good way to hone my skills is to review more and practice more. Get any chance to learn from the teacher and other classmates.
It’s a long way to be a good baker!!!