Thursday, December 3, 2009

Baked: Day 2

"Esta muerto," Carlos shook his head and prodded my limp dough. Everyone laughed. I had succeeded in murdering my French roll. Again. And thus, ended Day 2 of my internship at X.

I spent my day with my stomach in knots. I am the only intern who wasn't a culinary school grad and without professional kitchen experience. Everything I did wrong, from improperly flouring a banneton, those woooden baskets that help sourdough proof, to my inability to shape dough, meant that everyone else on my team had to pick up the slack.

The day consisted of an 8 hour shift with a 45 minute break. After the bannetons are floured, we go straight into shaping dough for the remainder of the day.

"Bolas!" Carlos barked. "Watch!" He deftly maneuvred the dough into a large ball and rolled it a few times to give it shape and tossed it onto the wooden board. Bola, known by its proper French term, boule, was for me, the bane of my short kitchen existence.

80's rock blared through the kitchen. I struggled with the dough as it stuck to my fingers at every opportunity. Carlos and Jesus slung dough from both hands, like they were slinging guns in a spaghetti Western.

Carlos is a diminutive man in his 40s with dark hair and olive eyes. I report directly to him. While he does not yell at me, he is firm and expects me to react quickly. Merely a raise of his eyebrow or a "Hmmph!" would send me scurrying off with telepathic orders to scrape down the work table or grab more pans.

The conversation started with Shakira's latest concert in NY. Carlos and Jesus were obvious fans from the way they eagerly discussed her repertoire and lamented the lack of Spanish songs in it.

The hours passed quickly and was matched by the frenetic pace of the kitchen. We worked with different doughs with different shapes to tackle and no shortage of herbs, olives, raisins and chocolate. Carlos and Jesus would patiently reshape my doughs and each taught me their techniques.

"Tranquila..." Jesus said, grinning from ear to ear. "It's your first time. Keep practising!"

And there it was, the holy grail. Practise. Get in there. Don't be afraid to dive right in and get your hands dirty, work with confidence and where you have to, be firm.

It must have been well into Hour 6, and averaging 1 boule per 1.5 minutes, Carlos finally muttered, "Coffee break!"

He turned to me and with a quick nod said, "You made 2 good bolas."

No comments: