The following is from the article I wrote for the Fall 2016 edition of Breadlines, the Bread Bakers Guild of America's quarterly publication.
The barista knew not to bother me at 6am when I was fumbling around in the flour bin, cursing under my breath and dropping measuring cups. I hate baking was my mantra every morning I was on The Scone Shift. You see, I am not one of those crossover chefs; dough and I do not speak the same language. What I can pull off in a big stock pot, coaxing flavors from a humble onion, I routinely fail at in the mixing bowl. The exacting patience necessary to excel at the craft of baking is not a skill that I possess.
In my favor, I do have a knack for self preservation. So when in the same year I married a baker and became the opening chef in a new bakery/cafe, I knew I would never need to bake again. AtM.H. Bread & Butter, the kitchen and the bakery are run quite separately. I have my own team of cooks, work space, and storage. We share all of the basic items - butter, eggs, herbs - and crossover on ordering a bit. But the true value of having us both under one roof is clear when we are able to collaborate. I put dishes on my menu that I never would have before (because they involve dough). One favorite is a savory galette — I change the toppings seasonally and have fun using a fantastic flaky dough that sits, rolled out and waiting for me, in the walk in every day. They even dock it! Such nice bakers!
Soon after opening we decided to shift our hours around to serve breakfast and lunch, as opposed to the lunch and dinner service we had been running. A more casual type of service fits our space better, and our customers wanted to have the option to have both eggs and pastries. I was dubious at first as to how I could make breakfast my own, and stay away from the ubiquitous two eggs, potatoes and sausage plate. I started with toast. In addition to the old butter and seasonal jam combo, I started whipping up all kinds of things — maple almond butter, chocolate hazelnut spread and my new pistachio “nutella” — to top thick slices of our country loaf. But all hail the avocado toast! Organic olive oil, maledon sea salt and a ripping slow fermentation bread make this a runaway favorite that we sell 5 to 1 of all other toasts combined.
Aside from toast, a bakery/cafe must have some sort of warm battered item for breakfast, right? This is where my heart fluttered. No way do we have room for pancakes with our oddly designed kitchen. Nathan Yanko, owner and head baker, swooped in with a great suggestion - Baked Brioche French Toast. It turned out to be quite a bit of work for the bakers - first baking the brioche, then slicing and toasting it, packing it into a pan, filling with custard and baking again. The next day in the kitchen we cut thick slices, brown it in butter, and depending on the season, spoon roasted apricots or poached pears over the top and finish with a mound of whipped mascarpone. An amazing dish, the work shared. Once again, the bakers have saved my tooshie.
I like to think that we make their lives easier too. At farmer’s market I buy piles of fresh fruit for their tarts. My sous chef roasts a mean pork shoulder for family meal tacos. And I crack jokes and try to keep the atmosphere light...sometimes, it’s the little things.
So I have firmly become a chef eternally grateful for my baker. We are a fine team.