Today was one of those days when I wanted to go home, crawl back under the covers, and pretend it just didn't happen. In the short span of less than 24 hours we -- as in all of us at the bakery -- made two kitchen blunders worthy of a reality show. Not necessarily avoidable but hopefully lessons were learned.
Lesson #1: The Biscotti
Biscotti are cookies that are baked twice in the oven so they can be stored for long periods of time. This is the way they are SUPPOSED to look.
These particular biscotti are made with semolina flour. Semolina is not as soft as flour and takes a while to hydrate, so the preparation before baking is longer than most cookies. The fact that they are baked, sliced, and baked again adds even more time to the total process.
The point I am trying to make is that a lot of labor goes into these little buggers. Factor in the relative high cost of of some of the ingredients (pistachios and dried cranberries), and you'll understand why we charge $1.95 each for these cookies.
Any of my employees will tell you I lecture them on the best time to make a mistake -- BEFORE ALL THE VALUE IS ADDED.
These poor biscotti had been mixed, baked, sliced and baked again before being left in the oven too long. The well-meaning employee had turned the oven off and left the biscotti in the (still very hot) oven assuming they would simply dry out a little bit more. When you think hard about it, you realize the residual heat in the oven might cause the cookies to continue baking, and I am sure the realization sunk in (I HOPE the realization sunk in...).
Lesson #2: The Blondies
Blondies were made this morning for an order tomorrow. They looked OK when I started to ice them. When I began to cut the sheet into squares I realized something was wrong. They were soft and undercooked. The more I cut, the worse it got. We could not sell these. They were not worthy.
And while it pained me to trash and entire sheet pan of caramel-iced blondies, I knew it had to be done. "Make them over" was all I said, and I was not that pleasant about it.
The second time around nobody wanted to take responsibility for judging them done, so I was called to the oven a dozen times over 90 minutes. No, not yet...not yet again...nope... Now I knew there was something else seriously wrong.
"I followed the recipe." I hate that excuse because if you follow the same recipe every time it comes out the same every time. I opened the master recipe book to see for myself.
Baking is a science. In the delicate balance of ingredients in cakes (and blondies), each ingredient plays a role. Fats and sugars are the tenderizers. Too much and the cake will not "set" and will fall due to lack of structure. Too little and you create a dry and chewy crumb.
This is why we have recipes. Most of us (myself included) are not inclined to "guess" the right formulas for everything we bake. When we get it right we write it down. That being said, we HAD a recipe for blondies that we have used many, many times. It called for 2-2/3 cups of butter and 8 cups of sugar.
Someone had translated that volume measure to weight and written the translation into pounds and ounces next to the cups on the master recipe page. This would not have been a problem had it been done correctly. It was off by at about 100%. The "correct" amounts had been penciled in at the bottom of the page, but any reasonable person looking at the recipe would have no idea what to make of it unless they did the math (correctly) themselves.
Once fixed, the third time was a charm.
As Banjamin Franklin said: "Experience keeps a dear school..." It's certainly a school we have all attended at one time or another.