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Reflection for Lamination

Finally, the course of Lamination started this week. I have been waiting for learning how to make Croissants for long time. I like to eat Croissants. I thought it was hard to make the Croissant dough, so I never tried to make Croissants at home. The first time that I saw how to make them was in one movie named It’s Complicated starring Meryl Streep.

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She and her architect are making Chocolate Croissant in her bakery.

It looks like easy to produce those goods. So the magic must be in the dough. But the answer is something out of my expectation. It’s not difficult to mix the Croissant dough. Of course, if we had to make the Croissant dough in the beginning, I wouldn’t say so. After making the other laminated dough, we already knew how to make the Croissant dough. Perhaps our team was lucky. Our products were so popular. When our Croissants were cool enough, they were gone in a few seconds. My partner and I couldn’t have enough time to pick one package.

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Our Croissants are so beautiful, and the texture is perfect.

Let me go through how we could make so wonderful products. At first, our instructor suggested us to add some extra milk in the dough because the final dough of his was a little bit dry. Then we followed all the procedures exactly. We didn’t over mix the dough. The only big problem was to roll the butter into the dough. It’s hard to mold the butter into the expected shape. Every time, when we place the butter on the dough, it couldn’t cover the bottom two-thirds of the rectangle dough. We had to scrape some butter to fill a vacancy.

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Because we already made classic puff dough and Danish dough then, we knew how to laminate the dough. And we knew we should rest the dough 30 minutes in the fridge before next laminating. Another important issue is that we only gave our Croissants 3/4 proof. If we proofed them too much, they wouldn’t keep their shape, or maybe they would collapse after taken out of the oven. Our instructor said 3/4 proof is important for Danish, Puff and Croissant laminated dough. The air cells in those dough will be bigger when be heated. If the dough already are full proof, the air cells will open up in the oven. This situation happened to my Congress tarts. The Congress tarts always collapse after taken out of the oven for a while because of too many air cells are in the fillings.

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Anyway, I was successful at the first time to make Croissants. I am looking forward to doing it again, and I hope I can continue to be successful.

Next, I want to talk about some practices that we have to pay more attention to during making laminated items. The first one is the dough’s temperature. Our instructor emphasized that we had to keep our dough cool. It’s easy to control the cold dough. If they are warmer, we can’t make good shape items or it’s very difficult to work with room temperature dough. That’s why we always keep the left dough in the fridge after we cut some dough from the big one. It’s not a good practice to leave the left dough on the bench.

The other thing I want to mention is the dusting flour. We use some dusting flour to avoid the dough stick to the bench while folding the lamination dough. Before every time’s folding, we always brush off excess dusting flour. If we don’t do so, our products will open during baking. But for beginners, we forget to brush the flour sometimes.

There is a difference between laminated items and bread or cookies we have made before. For the first ones, we can’t take them out from the oven and leave them outside over two minutes then put them back into the oven. If we do so, we will burn the goods instead of fully baking them. Since the fat in puff dough creates the physical steam. If we take the items out of the oven and let them set out longer, the fat will absorb into the dough. There is no steam anymore. If we put the products back into the oven, they can’t be fully baked. They will be burned. For bread or cookies, sometimes we put the items which already cool back into the oven for longer baking. We can get the better-baked goods and we don’t worry about it’s easy to burn them.

Another thing I can’t understand is the scrapes from the laminated dough. After four days’ learning, we got a lot of scrapes that we kept in the fridge. Our instructor asked us to keep them flat. He said we would use them to make Country loaf. I don’t know why we have to keep the scrapes flat. I’m sure I will understand next week. There must be some reasons to do so. I should have asked the teacher.

This week, we also made some Danish dough products. Frankly, I didn’t do well about those items. To make Danish things we need some techniques.

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These are some Diamonds we made at the first time. They look so different, right?

The top one in the picture is not a good shape. Also, the proof time has an effect on Danish items. How to handle the proof time is a key point. It’s hard to say how the unbaked products look like 3/4 proof or full proof. We need more time to practice and gain the experience.

And for Croissants and Danish pastry, their baking time is short. They are yeast dough and they are proofed before baking. So their texture is loose. While baking, the heat can go through those items easily. We must be very careful to set the baking time. In the beginning, it’s good idea to set less time to bake. On the other hand, the items from Quick puff dough or Classic dough need long time to bake. There is no yeast in that dough, and the products don’t need proof. We always take them out from the freezer and put them in the oven directly. Never thaw them in the room temperature environment.

About the doneness of puff items which have liquid filling inside, it’s hard for me to tell whether they are fully baked or not. Like Apples turnover or Strudel. There is a thin skin around the filling. The skin looks like raw dough. In fact, the fully baked turnovers still have this skin. At the first time, I thought it was under baked. But after tasting, I could tell it was OK to eat. However, I am not sure my items are fully baked or not next time. I still need more practices.

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I have learned a lot from the Lamination course. I know single-fold’s meaning, and what is double-fold. Quite frankly, I was frustrated to roll dough into rectangular shapes. It looked so easy to shape the dough when we were watching our teacher’s demo. The only way to solve this problem is to practice again and again. There is no shortcut.

I really enjoyed this course. Before I finish this reflection, let me show you my cream horn.

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I am very satisfied with my cream horn.

I practiced filling the cream in one horn. The bottom is very beautiful, right? I used the same skills while I decorate the blueberry pie. So the skills are connected. I hope I can gain more knowledge.

If I want to be a good baker, I should be proud of my work!  

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Reflection for the three weeks’ learning of fermentation

My exploring for fermentation in VCC program is ending, but my learning of fermentation will continue for a long time. No one can be a good artisan bread baker in three weeks. To be honest, I don’t think I did very well in these three weeks. To be frank, with so many mistakes I have made,  I almost lost my confidence on the last day of this course. That’s the bad news. However, the good news is I have learned a lot from my failures. Let me talk about the failures which I have got during these three weeks first.

First of all, bakers must remember what kind of doughs they are handling at all times. Lean dough and rich dough need different treats. I’d like use a chart to show how different between them.

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It’s not easy to remember the every detail. I have made same mistakes again and again. For example, when I was making Rye bread (no sour), I forgot to score four cuts for each bread. Do you think they are Rye breads?

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I steamed the Rye breads, but I forgot to open the bumper ten minutes later. That’s why these breads were little soft with the right color outside. I had to put them back to the oven for a few minutes. Dry them a little bit.

The best way to make bread is to be familiar with recipes of these products. For beginners as us, we should check our recipe books as often as possible, don’t assume to anything. It happened often that I saw French bread in one oven with 190℃. And someone put the Gugelhopf in the same oven which some Rye bread already were in. They were not supposed to be put in the same oven. But some classmates only thought about the space and didn’t think about their bread’s special needs.

The second problem for me is that I misunderstood how to use the recipes. They are just guidelines. We have to adjust any factors when we are making baking products. My experience of making Cheese bread can prove this idea. The recipe says bake products at 205℃ for 45 minutes. I set the time cautiously for 40 minutes. I thought the five minutes shorter could let me have enough time to check if the goods were done or not. But I was wrong. When the time was over, it was too late to take these cheese breads out. They were already burned.

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The Cheese bread on the bottom of the rack meet standards. Mine were darker. I was so sad and didn’t take pictures of them.

Even though the oven temperature was right according to the recipe, but the five minutes shorter couldn’t save my breads. My instructor said the safe way to bake items is to cut the baking time longer. If the recipe calls for 45 minutes, we’d better set 35 minutes. In that case, we will have much leeway. If those goods are under baked, we can continue to bake them. But for over baked goods, we can do nothing to save them.

The same tragedy happened to my Stollen. The recipe says double panned at 190℃ for 40 minutes. I reduced the baking time. I set 30 minutes for those items. And I put them in the rack oven instead of deck oven. Before I took the breads out, raisins in the surface were too dark. I’ve been thinking about this problem for a while. I am still confused why I failed. If I have a chance to do it again, I will bake Stollen in deck oven at 180℃ instead of 190℃.

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The raisin in the outside was  bitter, and inside of the bread was under baked. We couldn’t sell the Stollen. Next week, we will try to use the bread to make Bread pudding.

The next, I want to talk about yeasts. They are alive, so they don’t act like common chemical substance. Many factors can affect their function. For instance, the dough’s temperature, the amount of yeasts, the bulk fermentation time, the proof time, even the folding style can make a difference for these yeast doughs. I have made French bread twice. The first time, I prepared the dough for next Tuesday, but I made it on Friday, and put the dough in the fridge. Before we left our kitchen lab, my instructor suggested me to remove the dough into the freezer. I did that. On the next Monday, I took out the dough and put it in the fridge. Many classmates warned me that it was wrong to make the lean dough ahead. At that time, I doubted my decision and regretted to mix the dough so early. However, the result exceeded expectations.

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These are my French bread. My instructor gave these breads highly praise. I was so proud of them.

However, it was too early to happy about that. As our instructor said just one or two times’ success doesn’t mean that you master the skills or you already know how to make the  bread. It only proves that you are lucky. That’s all. My following experience explained this idea clearly.

I was overconfident to make French bread again on Thursday. I took it for granted that I could mix the dough on Thursday and made the breads on Friday. The only different way was I didn’t put the dough in the freezer. I put it in the fridge. The ingredients were totally same comparing to the first time. I also reduced the amount of yeasts. I found something wrong after I checked the molded breads which were in the proofer. They were supposed to be bigger after the certain time of proofing, but they were not. They just spread out. At last, I had no choice, and I put them in the oven. Unfortunately, this time I wasn’t as lucky as last time.

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Till now, I am not sure where I was wrong. There are some factors I have to count. Like the fermentation time. For first time, the fermentation time is longer than the next one. And the dough was resting on the bench for a while after I took it out from the fridge. For the second time, I didn’t give the dough same fermentation time. Maybe this was the key point that I failed. It’s hard to say accurately that where I can fix the problem. I have to try more times.

Once, I asked the instructor why it’s so hard to do successful on making yeast breads, and why it’s easy to make quick bread or cookies. He said the reason is yeast. For baking soda or baking powder, they are not alive. The leavening action is from the chemical reaction. On the contrary, the yeasts are alive. They are sensitive for the environment. That’s why it’s not easy to control their behaviors. One interesting thing he mentioned was that long ago students in VCC learned how to make yeast bread first then learned how to make quick breads and cookies. It was crazy, right. Even though I have learned in this program for six month, I still feel not very confident to make artisan bread. I don’t know what my bread will look like next time. I am not sure everything will go well.

OK, I have talked too much about my failures. I won’t let them beat me down. I will seek more chance to learn more. Besides, there is another important thing I want to discuss. It is the teamwork. Each week, we would work with different classmates. We know our instructor arrange this issue on purpose. They hope that we can cooperate with all kinds of people. If we just work with our own friends, we can’t learn how to compromise. I have to admit that there are some classmates I don’t like to work with. It’s hard to communicate with them or reach consensus. I know that I can’t choose my co-workers when I work. So it’s very essential to get along with my colleagues. Generally, I didn’t face big troubles with my teammates. If I have to say, I will say in the second week, there were some misunderstanding between me and other team mate. I thought I already clarified my opinion, but she misunderstood. The consequence was both us made the same type doughs. So, in the future, I will double check to make sure there aren’t any misinterpretations in our working group.

The last week, I worked happily with my team members. There were four members in our group. I learned some skills from the other teammates. One of them worked very efficiently. Maybe she equals triple of me. Sometimes, I focus on details which aren’t important. Or, maybe I need more time to practice how to use my two hands to mold the doughs. Sometimes I was cheating to use two hands to round dough instead of two doughs. Our instructors always ask us to do things use two hands. One instructor made a joke about that. He said the boss would pay half wages for those guys who only use one hand to work. Another team mate is good at making fancy buns. Those strands turned into very beautiful buns in her hands easily. I should watch and learn more from her. I am not a handy guy, but I can improve my skills through learning or copying.

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My bagels look like buns. Those bagels have normal circle are from my teammate.

Meanwhile, I want to say good communication and cooperation are very useful for our work. For example, there weren’t enough certain size mixers in our kitchen lab. If one of my teammates uses 12 quart mixer to mix French dough and I am going to make 10 loaves of Baguette, I can use the same mixer after she finishes. In this case, she can save time to wash the mixer, and I can save time to look for the suitable mixer. Another good example is about when we were making the Stollen. Because it took long time to proof Stollen dough, we had to save more time on mixing or molding time. So one of us made the sponge before the day in which we were going to make this item. At the beginning of the class, three of us delegated the task (one teammate was absent at that day). One was scaling the filling and molded them into the desired shape. Another was creaming the butter, sugar and eggs. The last one scaled the left ingredients. We completed our Stollen in time.

Lastly, what I want to talk about is some my successes. I said I had made a lot of mistakes, but I still did some things very well. I was so proud of my Cheese & Onion buns.

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Their color was very attractive and their taste was good.

One classmate told me it was the best Cheese & Onion bun he ate. Anyway, it was my first time to make such item. Maybe I was just lucky. If next time I get the same results, I will believe I can handle this product successfully.

There is no doubt that I have gained some knowledge of baking during these three weeks. And I really enjoyed the experience. Our instructors are humorous. Even though someone said workers could work fast when they felt pressures, I still think I can learn more in a relaxed atmosphere. I hope I will have the same feeling in the future’s learning.

Baking happily is what I want!

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(photocopied from http://www.truelocal.com.au)

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Reflection for Fermentation

This week’s theme is Fermentation. We practiced to make lean dough and rich dough. Although they both need yeast to ferment, their characteristics are so different. So do the mixing methods and oven temperature. For lean dough, it has less or none butter, sugar and eggs. For rich dough, it’s better for it to mix by modified method. This method can ensure even distribution of the fat and sugar. Speaking of the oven temperature, lean dough needs high heat to let products jump, on the other side, rich dough needs low temperature for the high content of sugar and butter. Lean dough and rich dough are so different. When we handle these two kinds of dough, we should be aware of this difference.

I have to say this first day was very hard for me. On Monday, our instructor taught us to make eight kinds of products.

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Furthermore, I was the leader of group two. In such short time, I couldn’t catch all of the information. I had to organize our group’s task. My feeling was so bad. I was worried to make too many mistakes. At Monday’s night, I reviewed what I had learned and prepared for the next day. In the following days, the situation was getting better. I think the reason that I felt better is I have plans for the next day. In other words, I prepare or organize for the next day. Our group discussed what we were going to make and delegate the task. When I have clear thoughts for my own job, I can do very well. That’s the significance for us to have the course of Professionalism and Organization.

Sometimes, I feel we don’t just learn to use our hands. We also use our other senses. For example, our sights can judge the color of products. For certain items, the color should be brown. If the items are too dark, it means they are burned. If the items are too light, it means they are under baked. We still can use our ears to decide bread is ready or not. If the bread is done, when we thump the bottom of the bread, it sounds hollow. We also taste the loaves we made. Our instructor hopes us can feel the difference of lean dough items and rich dough items. For this reason, at the end of each day, he let us taste some goods and explain the details. Good baker should have good taste. The most interesting thing I want to talk is the smell. On Tuesday, we made Cheese & Onion Buns. I thought there were only cheese and green onion in the dough, but our instructor surprised all of us. He put those spices in the dough. These spices have very strong smell.

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After the first batch of Cheese and Onion Buns were taken out of the oven, we wanted to taste them immediately. The smell was so attractive. Finally, everyone ate a bun. All of us like it. However, the strong spices are not suitable for everyone. I brought one bag of Cheese and Onion Buns home, but my mom felt not good after eating one. In the future, I will be more careful to use spices, or let my customers know what is in my goods.

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This week, we learned a lot of theory and operations. I want to talk about three things. The first one is about the use of steam. In the past, we didn’t use steam during baking. The past four months, we learned to make quick breads, cookies, white or whole-wheat bread and pies. They don’t need steam. So I couldn’t understand why we use steam when we bake the lean dough products. Hard-crusted breads are made from lean dough, and they are baked in high temperature. However, there is a problem. In high heat, the dough expands quickly while the outside crust set firmly. In this case, the crust will be broken by the expanding. If we use the steam to keep the crust soft, the crust will hold its shape. And we use the steam during the first stage of baking. Normally, we set ten minutes for this stage. How to operate the steam correctly is a challenge for me. Like when is the right time to close or open the bumper? Or while we push the button for steam, we should push the door of deck oven very hard. There are some different actions when we use the rack oven. I need more chance to practice.

The second one is about the use of perforated tray. I never thought the types of tray can affect the result of proofing. For lean dough, they are short of sugar and fat. If we want to let lean dough proof quickly, we should let more heat go through the dough. The function of perforated tray is letting more heat reach the dough. That’s why we use it. On the other hand, rich dough has high content of sugar and fat. It’s easy for yeast to ferment. So we can put rich dough on solid trays.

The last one is about the right place to put the trays when we proof the dough or bake the products. We always put trays near the proofer’s door, because it’s convenient for us to take them out. The same things happen when we put trays in the oven. However, both of these actions are not good for products. In the future, I will push my trays as far as possible in the proofer or oven.

I also want to discuss the mistakes I have made or some classmates have made. It’s good for me to learn from failure. Once I use the third speed to mix my rich dough. Fortunately, our instructor noticed it in time. He stopped my mixer and told me that I was ruining the dough. Yes, he is right. The third speed is too strong for the gluten. I wanted to develop the gluten quickly, but I didn’t think the fast speed can break the structure of gluten. If I mix the dough for a longer time at the third speed, finally, my dough can’t hold its shape or I can’t mold it into the desired shape.

Another problem is the listening skill. Sometimes I really heard the instructor’s directions, but I didn’t think it over. For instance, when we were learning to make the fancy buns, our instructor said we had to show him the first four single strand braids then we could make other styles. I didn’t follow his directions. After finishing the single strand braids, I just continued to make other styles. I was wrong. Imagine that I worked in a bakery, and I didn’t follow my manager’s order. What would happen? So, I have to improve my understanding skill. Don’t ignore the order or directions from instructors.

Another mistake I want to talk is the demonstration. Sometimes, we like to assume. For example, the cuts for Long French bread and Baguetts are totally different. If we use the same style cutting to cut them, our products won’t be accepted by our customers. Baguette should look like Baguette.

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If I were a customer, I wouldn’t buy one Baguette among them 🙂

Safety is another thing I want to say. It’s very important for us. No one wants to be hurt in his or her workplace. So, don’t underestimate it. I almost made a mistake. While our instructor was demonstrating how to use the peel to put Home made bread in the oven, I stood behind him and he wasn’t aware of it. I didn’t recognize the peel would hit me if our instructor pulled the peel further. It was so close. Also there was another accident happened in our kitchen lab. One classmate used a small size mixer to mix too much ingredient, and she was away when the mixer fell down to the floor. No one was hurt, but we should learn from this accident. Don’t leave your mixer alone, especially for small mixers. They might move to the edge of the bench gradually.

I am happy about something I did well. For example, the first time I used the divider to divide fancy funs dough. Those small pieces didn’t look uniform. Some were very big, and some were very small. Our group fixed the problem by our hands. But after two times practices, I did better and better. Let me show you what I divided today. These small doughs look very even.

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Next week, we are going to learn how to make new products, such as Gugelhopf, Stollen, Coffee Cake, and so on. We are supposed to gain more knowledge about fermentation. I’m really curious about the sourdough. Today, we were showed one bucket of sour. It smells very strong. I want to know how to feed it and how to use it to make Artisan Breads.

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Reflection for Professionalism & Organization

Compare to the past learning time, this week was so different for me. In the past, we focused on learning hard skills, such as mixing methods, the ways to operate equipment, knowledge of basic baking, and so on. But this week, we were discussing about professionalism and organization. They are meaningful. Or I should say they include a lot of things. I think I don’t totally understand all of them, but I want to tell something that I already got from this week’s learning.

Every industry has its own industrial standards. If I want to be a successful baker, I have to be aware those standards and obey them. Here, I’m going to talk about three concepts that gave me big impressions.

The first one is working smart. In my mind, I used to think that bosses like such employees who work very hard. They never complain and can do heavy task by themselves. However, I was wrong. Even if you work over eight hours and don’t take a break, it doesn’t mean your work is efficient. Your manager admires you by your efficiency. For example, you and your coworker make same amount of products. You only take one item when you go to get the ingredients. You don’t plan very well. Before you go to get those goods, you don’t think carefully. On the other hand, your coworker plans ahead. He goes to the walk-in cooler and takes all that he need at the same time. Even if your boss sees you walk back and forth many times. He won’t assume that you work effectively. There are many ways to work smart. I will learn from other classmates and instructors. I thought hardworking was a good characteristic. After this course, I changed my mind.

The second concept is being organized. We studied in the kitchen lab before. At that time, we only needed to make three items in five hours. It was very easy for us. I never heard that any one hadn’t finished their task on time. However, if we are given a certain time to make more items, it would be a big challenge for us. In this week, each group was asked to make a mock plan about organization. For instance, our group was Team Amsterdam. QQ图片20150307083833We had to make eight types baking goods in four hours. Firstly, we decided everyone makes one item which needs long time to ferment. Then we could prepare for other item during the fermentation time. After we put those bread or baguettes in the oven, we could continue to make the left goods. In the ideal situation, we don’t need four hours to finish all of them. But I think we can’t really finish our task in the real kitchen. Our calculation of time was based on the assumption that everyone did his or her job very efficiently. We didn’t think about everyone’s strength. There are some aspects we can improve. For example, one person is good at making the pie shells, and another peels the apples very fast. If we let everyone do their strength things, that would be very successful for our group to finish the task on time. Organization is very important. Until now, my baking experience is limited. I can’t imagine more situations about how to organize very well. But I feel there are always some good methods to let things go smoothly and fast.

The last one that I intend to talk about is communication. In bakeries, good communication can let us make more profit. I don’t exaggerate the importance of communication. Imagine if one helper misunderstands his baker’s directions. The products that he is making might be destroyed. In other words, he wasted not only his time, but also the ingredients. Maybe, the baker would be very angry. The bad atmosphere will effect on everyone in the kitchen. They can’t concentrate on their work. The fewer products are made, the less profit for us. I don’t want to make this kind of mistake. So I will work hard on my English studying. Good language skills can avoid the problem of communication. Also, I should know how to listen and how to clarify the message. Don’t hesitate to ask the speaker to repeat. He or she maybe is a little upset about your request, but it’s better than misunderstanding. Good communication can let coworkers cooperate very well. Besides, it can lead to good products. That’s why we always like to talk about teamwork. There must be good communication in a good team. We can solve problems before they become bigger and bigger.

Speaking to challenges in this week, I want to discuss two big challenges. The first one is flexibility. Food industry is very special. The morning shift normally starts from 3 or 4 am. And depend on diversity of situations, workers in food industry have to get used to any shifts. Sometimes, you don’t feel too much pressure when there are too many orders or no coworker is silk or on vacation. But most of time, we have to face a lot of pressure. We should know how to handle those troubles. On this issue, there is a long way for me. I should learn to be a flexible person, and get used to all kind of difficult situations.

The other challenge is the mock interview. I haven’t had any interview for a long time. And those interviews which I had been through weren’t professional at all. Furthermore, the culture of interview in Canada is so different. I have to learn many things, such as how to write a good resume, how to shake hands, how to use right body language, how to answer those tricky questions. This week, we did many practices on job interviews. Our instructor gave us a lot of precious feedback. But I have to say that the information was so overwhelming for me. I need more time to digest it. I hope those skills gradually become one part of mine after practicing again and again.

Next week, we are going back to kitchen lab. To be honest, I’m so happy about that. I really enjoy baking. But I’ve already left our kitchen for at least five weeks. Even though I baked some cookies and muffins at home sometimes, that’s not enough for me to enjoy baking. There isn’t the suitable equipment at my home, and I don’t have all kinds of ingredients to make new baking goods. Moreover, I want to learn new skills. The fermentation is our next course. I’m looking forward to know the details. Though our English instructor already gave us a heads up about fermentation, those professional words are so abstract for me. I can’t reflect the real baking things when I read those terms. I hope I can imagine the artisan breads’ smell when someone just talks about its name after I have learned this course. I wait to go back to the kitchen lab impatience. I have brought back my text-book home. It’s good to prepare for the new course.

I’m confident that I am able to master the new skills. I will open my eyes, and absorb as much as possible information during my studying.

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Waste Management

After six weeks of learning in the kitchen lab, I found it’s a big challenge about how to deal with the waste management. Wasting anything means losing money in vain. The goal of running a business is to make profit, so wasting too much is an enemy of business owners. For bakery owners, they always try to minimize the waste in their kitchens. As of my observation, the waste in kitchen can be divided into three categories: time, ingredients and energy waste. And I have some ideas about how to control them.

 

[Time waste]

As students, if we don’t have a plan before the class, we will have to spend some time on thinking or planning after we get into the lab. We only have five hours in lab everyday. I saw some classmates glancing over their recipes to search the products they wanted to make, or calculating the amount of ingredients required. They were supposed to do those things before class. I always plan what I’m going to do for the next day’s class. That’s why I am able to start my work immediately. Likewise, bakery managers should make detailed work plans, and must make sure to let their employees understand the plans and prepare for them very well. In that case, their products can be served to customers in time. More satisfaction from the customers, more profit they can earn.

Another kind of time waste is bad organization. For example, we know that breads need long time to be fermented, proofed and baked. We have to complete three items on one learning day. We should prepare the bread dough first, and let it ferment on the bench so we can do other things parallel and make sure we can put the breads into oven in time when they are ready. In our lab, we faced a troublesome problem once. There was some bread still in the oven when we already cleaned up and waited for dismissal. Can you imagine that happens in real bakery business? Customers have been waiting for a long time, and the foods are still in the process of making.

 

[Material waste]

It’s usual to see some flour or sugar on the floor. Our instructor said she even saw some banana scrap on the floor134843485. If we take ingredients more carefully, they won’t be dropped. Like we learned that ingredients are liquid assets. Wasting materials means throw the money down the drain. For us, a good method to take ingredients is to bring our bowls to the storage bins. In that way, we are able to put what we need in our bowls immediately. We not only save the ingredients, but also save the time. Sometimes, we have to get the ingredients back and forth several times.

Another kind of material waste is to use too much ingredient on a certain products. Let’s assume that one box of chocolate pecan cookies’ unit cost is $1.00. If you double the amount of chocolate, you will increase the unit cost but the sell price stays the same. A similar episode happened to one of my classmates. He put too much pecan in his pecan pies. It took me a while to find out why his digital scale showed the right numbers even it’s so obvious that the amount of pecan wasn’t right. The reason is that his scale was put on a book. The digital scale works right only when it is placed horizontally.

I think the biggest material waste happens during the process of baking. Since we are students, we aren’t familiar with the doneness of every type of baked goods. Sometimes, we set the temperature wrong. At the end, the baked goods lost their designed shape. Or, we baked the goods for too long time and burned them. No one wants to buy failed goods, so we lose money on ruining products. For bakery owners, they should avoid those things happen a lot. They can train their workers seriously, or hire conscientious and skilled employees.

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(photocopied from namelymarly.com)

[Energy Waste]

In the lab, we use electricity a lot. Almost every machine in our kitchen needs electricity. Even though our instructor told us close the door of walk-in fridge as soon as possible, I still found some classmates didn’t follow the rules. Some people even like to look for ingredients in the walk-in fridge with the door open widely. Or some classmate forgot to close the door after they got out. If I were a bakery owner, I would demand my employees form a good habit to close the fridge door after them. The longer the refrigerator is opened, the more electricity power is wasted.

The ovens need a lot of electricity, too. So, a good organization of using the ovens is essential. For example, we can put five muffin pans instead of three at the same time.

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The five pans can be baked together. In other words, we can bake more products with the same amount of power in the same period of time.

When we use the rack oven, we should put in products with same temperature and baking time requirements together as many as possible. It’s better to push a full rack of trays into the oven rather than just one or two trays on it. Also, always turn off any machines that we don’t need. Like proofer, packaging machine, and some layers of deck oven.

 

The competition in bakery industry is very intense. If we want to be a winner, we should pay more attention to waste management. It’s controllable and I hope I can learn more about how to reduce waste in the future’s learning. Sometimes, we lose the profit like the sand which leaking from our hands without our being aware of it!

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(photocopied from visualphotos.com)

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The summary of the first three weeks in the kitchen lab

 

  • 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!!!

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