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  #1  
Old 12-08-2012, 06:55 PM
Baker Baker is offline
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Ask the baker/cafe person/caterer

I work as a baker in a cafe. It's located in our public library, but I'm not a library employee. The cafe facility itself is owned by the library but leased to my boss.

The library has meeting rooms that the public can reserve.The lease we have says that if they want to have food at their meetings or events it has to be catered from us. But we can't cater off-premise, except in very special circumstances. The only three times I remember were for events that involved a big wheel in the library foundation. As I said, very special circumstances.

The biggest event we ever did was for between five and six hundred people, in 2002, at the grand re-opening of the library, after it's rebuilding. The guest of honor was the First Lady, Laura Bush. Some people didn't think we could handle it, but we did! Hardest I've ever worked in my life.

People that don't understand food service can ask the darndest questions about service, menus, and, to top it all, prices. I've always wanted to do one of these threads, so, do you have any questions for how a place works, or what people do?
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  #2  
Old 12-08-2012, 07:09 PM
congodwarf congodwarf is offline
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Were you a baker before you started working for the library? Just how big a library is this? The only library I've seen with a cafe is the one at my school and even that cafe basically serves coffee, tea, candy, and soup or baked stuff made elsewhere on campus and carted in.


What's your favorite thing to bake?
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  #3  
Old 12-08-2012, 07:11 PM
Digital is the new Analog Digital is the new Analog is offline
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Yay..I have questions..

What's your typical day like? As in..how much of different stuff do you make?

Do you find some recipes monotonous, or do you find ways to be creative?

Do you ever get burned out from work, and not want to bake for friends? For instance, I have a few friends who are professional cake decorators. They'll bring really cool stuff to parties, but it has to be someone special, and a really big event, for them to bring a cake.

That's probably enough to start..

-D/a
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Old 12-08-2012, 07:15 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Coke or Pepsi?
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Old 12-08-2012, 07:27 PM
KSO KSO is offline
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I have just started to wade into the field of baking, starting with super easy things like cookies because I finally have an oven that works properly but I do have a few questions:

1. I recently read that it is preferable to measure for baking by weight rather than volume. True? Does that mean that if I want to get serious I need to get a kitchen scale?

2. I've also read/seen on cooking shows that ingredients like eggs should be at room temperature before using. True? How about ingredients like milk or cream? Does it matter depending on what I'm making?

3. How can I become a more advanced baker? Are there any baking websites or cookbooks you would recommend? Should I look into local baking classes?

Thanks!
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Old 12-08-2012, 07:39 PM
Baker Baker is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by congodwarf View Post
Were you a baker before you started working for the library? Just how big a library is this? The only library I've seen with a cafe is the one at my school and even that cafe basically serves coffee, tea, candy, and soup or baked stuff made elsewhere on campus and carted in.


What's your favorite thing to bake?
Yes, I was a baker for years before this cafť. I worked at a big Wal-Mart, in a high school(that was the worst), in a residential psychiatric hospital, and now in this cafť. The library fairly big.

We have soup, sandwiches, a daily special, a limited breakfast menu, and many baked goods. The boss likes to put out good stuff. I donít have time to do ALL of what we sell, but of the pre-made items, there isnít anything I couldnít do. I make, from scratch, pie, cake, muffins, scones, biscuits, bread, cookies, cinnamon and pecan rolls, sandwich buns, quiche, biscotti, plus other things as well. I can take special orders for stuff that isnít on the regular menu. I also am a cake decorator, and do special cakes.

My favorite thing to make are breads. And I love to watch pocket pita bread poof up in the hot oven. I use James Beardís recipe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Digital is the new Analog View Post
Yay..I have questions..

What's your typical day like? As in..how much of different stuff do you make?

Do you find some recipes monotonous, or do you find ways to be creative?

Do you ever get burned out from work, and not want to bake for friends? For instance, I have a few friends who are professional cake decorators. They'll bring really cool stuff to parties, but it has to be someone special, and a really big event, for them to bring a cake.

That's probably enough to start..

-D/a
A lot of what I make I mentioned above. But generally the first thing I do in the morning is check what we have left from the day before, to know what I need to make today. Then I start the dough rising for the sweet rolls, and make the muffins. After that it depends on if we have any special caterings, the order I do things in. I try to find ways to expand the items we have but there isnít a whole lot of display space, so to do a new thing would mean to take out an old one. Christmas is a good time because people like lots of special goodies.

I donít bake a lot at home now because itís almost easier to make what I want at work! And I do like to bake to take to dinners or parties, because I can do more elaborate things than Iíd do for myself at home, as I live by myself.

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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Coke or Pepsi?
Coke products.

The coffee comes from a local company, and we have a barista who does all the usual coffee drinks.

Our chili and vegetable beef soup is made from scratch, did I mention? I love the chili, while my mother loves the veggie beef.
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:01 PM
Baker Baker is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KSO View Post
I have just started to wade into the field of baking, starting with super easy things like cookies because I finally have an oven that works properly but I do have a few questions:

1. I recently read that it is preferable to measure for baking by weight rather than volume. True? Does that mean that if I want to get serious I need to get a kitchen scale?

2. I've also read/seen on cooking shows that ingredients like eggs should be at room temperature before using. True? How about ingredients like milk or cream? Does it matter depending on what I'm making?

3. How can I become a more advanced baker? Are there any baking websites or cookbooks you would recommend? Should I look into local baking classes?

Thanks!
I do work on a bigger scale than the average home, and most of my recipes are weighed out. Itís faster and easier to weigh say, ten pounds of flour than scoop it out. And you have probably seen how brown sugar is supposed to be ďwell packedĒ Weighing it eliminates wondering whether or not itís packed firm enough.

But I have also weighed measured items, so that I know how to convert from measuring to weighing. For example, that flour I use weighs about 36 ounces(1020 grams) for seven cups.

I keep eggs and dairy products cool, itís safer that way. One exception is egg whites, when Iím going to whip up meringue, They definitely need to be at room temperature.

To become more advanced, all I can say is practice, practice practice. One good website is www.allrecipes.com It has comments sections, nutritional information, and several really good search functions. It will convert recipes from metric to ďAmericanĒ system of measures, and will change the yield. If you are math challenged, and canít figure how to scale up from eight servings to, say, thirty-seven, it will do it for you.

Books? For bread there are many great books but my favorite is James Beardís Beard on Bread I have many of his other books as well, they are well worth checking out. And although some are dated, a couple of the Time-Life series are not to be sneezed at. I have the complete Good Cook series, and the Foods of the World. Actually, I have a BIG collection of cookbooks of all types. I may never make one percent of the recipes, but itís great having them for reference.

Last edited by Baker; 12-08-2012 at 08:04 PM..
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  #8  
Old 12-08-2012, 10:30 PM
China Guy China Guy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baker View Post
My favorite thing to make are breads. And I love to watch pocket pita bread poof up in the hot oven. I use James Beardís recipe.
Please, I need help. And I have a copy of beard on bread. I have tried every once in a while to make my own pita and haven't quite figured it out.

First, how think should pita bread dough be when rolled out? Can you use a measurement like number of quarters stacked up or something like that?

Second, how wet (or sticky) should the pita bread dough be? I just don't get it this part.

Third, how do you actually bake the pita? Hot oven and what? One a cookie sheet, on heated cast iron, do you flip or just let it poof?

What happens is my pita tend to only semi-poof up. I end up making those into pita chips. Second issue, is if the pita is too thick, I get the bottom side maybe 2 quarters thick and the top is thin as a dime. I want something on the thin side where both sides are pretty even (say a quarter or two quarters thick after baked and both side are roughly even).
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  #9  
Old 12-08-2012, 11:06 PM
etv78 etv78 is online now
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I assume food is verboten in the stacks? BTW, is there any baked good that's un-veganable?
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  #10  
Old 12-09-2012, 07:47 AM
Baker Baker is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by China Guy View Post
Please, I need help. And I have a copy of beard on bread. I have tried every once in a while to make my own pita and haven't quite figured it out.

First, how think should pita bread dough be when rolled out? Can you use a measurement like number of quarters stacked up or something like that?

Second, how wet (or sticky) should the pita bread dough be? I just don't get it this part.

Third, how do you actually bake the pita? Hot oven and what? One a cookie sheet, on heated cast iron, do you flip or just let it poof?

What happens is my pita tend to only semi-poof up. I end up making those into pita chips. Second issue, is if the pita is too thick, I get the bottom side maybe 2 quarters thick and the top is thin as a dime. I want something on the thin side where both sides are pretty even (say a quarter or two quarters thick after baked and both side are roughly even).
The pitas I make are fairly large, because we use them, cut in half, for picket pita sandwiches. The lump of dough I use is 5-3/4 ounces, and I roll it to a circle between six and seven inches across. I don't know how thin that is, but it's no more than a quarter inch. The dough is not sticky, I roll it out on a very lightly covered table. The pans I bake on are heavy metal, I line them with a sheet of parchment paper. I don't turn them while baking as the time is so short. The oven is very hot, the hottest I ever bake at. 450 degrees F in a conventional oven, or 400 degrees in our convection oven. I bake for no more than six minutes. Pitas can be smaller, but should be about the same thickness.

After rolling them out they must sit and proof for at least another half hour before baking, but it won't hurt to let them go longer. You should see a very modest change in thickness if the warmth and moisture where you have them is enough.

Hope this helps!

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Originally Posted by etv78 View Post
I assume food is verboten in the stacks? BTW, is there any baked good that's un-veganable?
I think the rule is you can have covered drinks out in the library, but no food.

I don't know about being un-veganable, but if you have a specific example of a product I can research it. I've done a little no-gluten baking, and some folks ask for recipes for diabetics, but there hasn't been much call for vegan. Vegetarian yes, vegan no.

What irritates me is when patrons ask "Why don't you have more (insert specialty type here)?", and then, when we give them a try, nobody buys them. Everyone talks about wanting to eat healthy but it's our desserts that get bought the most. Right now it's hard to keep iced Christmas cookies in stock.
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Old 12-09-2012, 11:06 PM
China Guy China Guy is offline
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thanks. I'll give this another shot soon. Maybe the 30 minute proofing after rolling them out is what I need.

Interesting that the dough doesn't need to be really wet.

I want to make sandwiches and your method seems to be about the right size.

That said, if all else fails, pita chips!
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  #12  
Old 12-10-2012, 09:46 AM
Kansas Beekeeper Kansas Beekeeper is offline
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As someone who has eaten at the cafe in the Topeka library many times, I can attest that it's got surprisingly good food generally, and especially good baked products.

A question for you Baker, what do you think of bread machines? Do you personally own one? If so, have you found a 100% whole wheat recipe that works well in a bread machine?
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Old 12-10-2012, 11:31 AM
Baker Baker is offline
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I don't own a bread machine. If doing bread at home I love to get my hands in it!

At work I use a Hobart mixer with a bread hook, as the doughs will be too big to knead by hand efficiently.
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Old 12-10-2012, 01:48 PM
Dr. Woo Dr. Woo is offline
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What time do you have to start in the morning to have your yeast stuff ready by opening time? Are you kneading bread at 4:30am?
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Old 12-10-2012, 02:28 PM
Baker Baker is offline
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I'm usually in to work by 5:30. What I try to do is shape the sweet rolls the day before, just before I leave. So when I arrive I pull them out of the walk-in refrigerator, place them in the proof box, and get them to rising.

I still have to make dough in the morning, first thing, for dinner rolls and such. After I put that to it's first rise I do other things as needed.

You know what happened today was someone called in a last minute order for boxed lunches. This particular customer has been told many times that we need a week's notice for a catered meal, and if he waits until the day before all he can get is boxed lunches or salads. We don't have a huge storage area so we have to know in advance what people want, so we can order it. Today he waited until the day of the meal, two and a half hours before he needed food, to order.

People, when your caterer sets a deadline for ordering, listen to them! And don't call the morning of your event and say "we have twenty extra people, will that be a problem?" because if you have to ask it is a problem.

We don't automatically make extra just in case you might need more of an item. And if, for example, you order sandwich meat for twenty people, and twenty five show up, don't call and tell us WE shorted you.

As I said in the OP we are a business apart from the library. So don't bring your Burger King or pizza into the cafe and sit down here, and then get all upset when we ask you, politely, to leave.

Okay, Baker, take deep breaths. Sorry, I pushed the button, didn't I?
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Old 12-10-2012, 02:38 PM
Kansas Beekeeper Kansas Beekeeper is offline
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The gravy with the biscuits has some flavor, some herb maybe, that I've not tasted in other biscuits and gravy. Can you reveal the secret?
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  #17  
Old 12-10-2012, 03:11 PM
Intergalactic Gladiator Intergalactic Gladiator is offline
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Did you ever watch the show Party Down?

Last edited by Intergalactic Gladiator; 12-10-2012 at 03:12 PM.. Reason: Wrong title! Agh! For why!!!??
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  #18  
Old 12-10-2012, 03:11 PM
Baker Baker is offline
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It may be part of the sausage itself, because I think the gravy has salt, pepper, and garlic. I make the biscuits but not the gravy. It's the usual type, a roux is made, milk added until it begins to thicken, then the crumbled cooked sausage is added to simmer for a while.
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:12 PM
Baker Baker is offline
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Did you ever watch the show Waiting?
No, I haven't heard of it. What channel is it on?
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:13 PM
Intergalactic Gladiator Intergalactic Gladiator is offline
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oops, I meant Party Down.

Last edited by Intergalactic Gladiator; 12-10-2012 at 03:14 PM..
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  #21  
Old 12-10-2012, 03:34 PM
Kansas Beekeeper Kansas Beekeeper is offline
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Originally Posted by Baker View Post
It may be part of the sausage itself, because I think the gravy has salt, pepper, and garlic. I make the biscuits but not the gravy. It's the usual type, a roux is made, milk added until it begins to thicken, then the crumbled cooked sausage is added to simmer for a while.
Maybe it's just the garlic. So often gravy on biscusts and gravy has little if any flavor at all. In any event, it's good.
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