Several years ago (a lifetime away, before Baking Fix) I’d accepted a high-status position as the Executive Pastry Chef for a national market and bakery. My new employer had enticed me with flattery about my baking skills and superb instincts for running a business. But after a short training period I realized that I’d made a mistake.
Have you ever fantasized about the wonderful life of a pastry chef? Here’s a peek into reality: from The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix page 49
Perfectly Pointless Cookies
Three weeks before Christmas the cookie recipes finally arrived. The attached note said we were to bake a few of each and mail them to [person-in-charge Corporate Pastry Chef] Susan. Most of these recipes were tedious to produce and had flavor issues in the balance of spices. I decided not to comment. At least I had already learned something: don’t give feedback, no one wanted my opinion.
I had no idea how Susan had decided on shape, flavor, or appropriateness to both the holiday and the staffing. Overtime for the hourly workers was not allowed, so I had the privilege of making these new recipes all by my lonesome. The first recipe I baked included lots of dried fruits and a store-bought breakfast cereal as main ingredients. I can’t tell you what the binder was, or I’d be giving away a trade secret, but suffice it to say that it didn’t bind all that well.
The recipe made a large amount of dough and I had to scoop miniature-sized cookies from a huge 80-quart mixer bowl. The instructions noted that they needed to be mixed carefully, so the cereal didn’t get crushed. Get crushed? The hard metal mixer paddle, along with thirty pounds of dried fruit had already smashed that delicate and crispy cereal into crumbs. By the time I put the unbaked trays into the cooler, most of these globs had already fallen apart.
Another one of these tiny cookies was a simple dough with an egg wash to hold down “perfectly sliced nuts carefully placed on the center top with the points facing outward like a little star.” Oh, please. Any novice baker knows that a twenty-five or thirty pound box of thinly sliced nuts has been jostled, stacked, and crushed before it arrives at its destination. We would never be lucky to find enough perfectly sliced pieces with their points intact. And, place them exactly in the center with the points all in the same direction? If I lasted a year, which was looking doubtful, I would voice an opinion on the realistic production of Christmas cookies. This bakery needed a dough depositor, a relatively small piece of equipment that could replace the hand-scooping of all their products.
In addition to the Perfectly Pointless Cookies and Susan’s Cereal Nightmare Cookies, there were three or four others, each with their own problems and each quite time-consuming. I mixed all the doughs and scooped thousands of these little cookie balls. I baked a few samples from each of the recipes and they all looked perfectly pathetic. I just figured it was another failure to add to my list of failures.
When [Corporate Trainer] Seranne decided to send Susan the box, she preferred to bake off some herself because mine looked terrible. But her attempt was worse than the ones I had baked. Hers were burned, deformed and very anti-Christmas. Next to her cookies, mine looked ‘perfectly’ awesome…
When Phanh started his shift, Seranne asked if he had any recipes. He had just come from his full-time job at the Marriott; in his pocket was the Marriott Christmas cookie formula, a bland sugar cookie distinguished by a sprinkling of red or green sugar. I don’t know what happened to the unbaked refrigerated trays of cookies I’d already made, but now I was told to bake this misappropriated recipe under the Planet Feasty name.
The Joy of Cooking had better recipes. I stated my disappointment that Feasty’s, with Susan’s supposedly high standards, unethically took another business’ recipe. “This is a case of ‘Do what I say, not what I do,’” I wrote in my nightly report. Not that I cared anymore, I just wanted management to know someone was watching. The next day, a week before Christmas, Seranne called her sister, whose home-sized batch of nut cookies replaced the Marriott cookies…
Too bad they hadn’t asked me, cookie baker extraordinaire and their new Corporate Pastry Chef. We could have made these easy sugar cookies. The recipe is adaptable to numerous variations. For the holidays I like to
add cranberries and pistachios
or bake small cookies and sandwich together with jam, then dip in chocolate and holiday sprinkles.
Yield: approximately 10 dozen large or 40 dozen small
1 ½ pounds butter
1 ½ pounds shortening
6 pounds granulated sugar
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup corn syrup
6 tablespoons vanilla extract
¼ cup baking powder
1 ½ tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon salt
5 ½ pounds all-purpose flour
Optional toppings: sprinkles, colored sugar, chocolate chips, nuts, non-pareils, cinnamon sugar (Snickerdoodles), etc.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F; line cookie pans with parchment paper or silicone sheets.
2. Cream first three ingredients; make sure to scrape down the bowl and under the paddle.
3. Add the next four ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended. Scrape bowl again.
4. Add dry ingredients; blend carefully so flour doesn’t escape over the sides of the bowl. Scrape down paddle and bowl again; mix until thoroughly combined.
5. Pour topping ingredients into large, flat bowls. Using an ice cream scoop as portion control, drop cookie dough onto the topping, place dough (topping side up) on cookie sheets, at least 1” apart and flatten slightly. (Pan 48 small cookies per full sheet tray.)
6. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until edges are light golden brown.
Home-Based Baking at its Best! What are you making and selling this holiday season?
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