Me and my peeps are sitting in the restaurant of a nice hotel in Saint Paul.
We are there to review a new pastry program.
Like most meetings, everybody sits down, stretches out, and then the ritual starts....
We're gonna start off this event with small talk.
On the drive over, I was tempted to B-Line in a totally different direction. The sun was out, shining....and the temperture is 25-30 degrees warmer than its been for around 1/2 a year.
Hennessy was with us, and she hasn't been to a lot of our shindigz so I use this oppurtunity to recycle some neighborhood legends.
"Listen Kris, in the foyer they have a really big...oh I don't know what you'd call it, a fountain, or a pond, but whatever...in the pond thing they actually keep live ducks, so if you want to have some fun, you should down a couple Rusty Nails and go over there and quack at them.
A couple years ago, some dude got really waisted and picked up a rock, threw it...and the rock struck a mallard and broke its neck. The poor thing drowned since it couldn't raise its head out of the water.
The jerk who did this got busted and was sent to court, but they let the guy off with 40 hours of community service and 2 years of probation.
If it were up to me.....electric chair city!"
Hennessy rolls her eyes as if she was annoyed, but that may have been more energy than she wanted to exert.....
"Yeah, I know. Kevin (Hennessy's husband) used to work here. In fact we spent our wedding night here. When we walked into the hotel, we were still dressed in our wedding clothes and the counter staff looked at us like we were ghosts....
One of the braver women behind the counter asked....
"Were you in that wedding party tonight where people were shot?"
So now those of us hearing Hennessy's story are waiting as anxiously as I'm guessing the counter woman were, but when Kris realized we were'nt certain her wedding wasn't the "drive by" one.....she became annoyed and hid her mug behind a menu.
Our server hadn't come to get our order yet, and since there was a brief silence, my mind began to wander.
Would you like to enter the pathway of Klecko's thought process?
After hearing about a wedding were people got shot up.............
(Thought #1 - Columbine Massacre)
I remember the day the whole Columbine deal went down because it was on April 20th. Whenever anybody mentions April 20th...I am always quick to ask...."Hmmmm Hitler's Birthday?" and of course you can imagine most people give you a second look, one of those....."I never thought Klecko was one of those nazi guys, isn't he married to a Jew? Well...either way it wouldn't suprise me if he was into something weird" kinda looks.
LOL - but the real reason I remember April 20th is The Fuhr's day of birth is because one of my sisters, my oldest sister in fact was also born on April 20th.
I remember when she was 10ish or twelve and I was forced to join in on singing her birthday song, I'd chime in......
"Happy Birthday dear Hitler.....Happy Birthday to you."
Remember, I was only 8 years old, and when it came time to say the name, I'd say it soft enough that nobody else could hear it,but my sis did...everytime, and she would get so pissed. Why are little brothers like that? My sister was nice to me and certainly didn't deserve such hazing, but I thought this "tribute" was epic at the time.
(Thought #2 - Whole Grain Breads)
After reliving that part of my life, almost as if I was starring in a Klecko-HBO version of Scrooge....the ghost of Death took me back to the day of the Columbine shootings. I was at work, and we were hearing the events on the radio. All kinds of people were calling the station and blaming video games for molding the cortex of the shooters.
As if Nintendo was at fault now. Many of us in the bakery were young men, and gamers, so typically a topic like this would have been enough to get us worked up all night, but tonight...it didn't. We had troubles of our own.
Earlier in the evening a full oven load of Honey Whole Wheat bread turned to s*** and the rest of the crew was pissed off. This meant we would all have to work at least 1 more additional hour. somebody pinned the fault on the oven man and said he over proofed it and the crumbwall collapsed in the bake.
Oven-Dude denied it vehemently.
But when things go wrong.....sobody always has to take the wrap.
So everybody went back to work, the next time we ran the Honey Wheat, everybody was really attentive and used extreme caution throughout the production process.
Lo and Behold....batch #2 turned to crap as well.
The mixer, oven guy and bench hands all stood in a circle mystified.
Our shift supervisor told the rest of us......
"Yeah, every couple of years you'll see this happen, one specific dough will just decide it doesn't want to work. it ALWAYS happens during a season change. I ain't no scientist, but ya know a guy never does know where that flour was before he got it.
Some of this stuff comes in on freight cars from trains and shoot....some of these bags may have been on the bottom of some multi ton stack inside a box car where the temperture gets really high, so who knows? Maybe theres too much, or not enough moisture in this flour.
I've seen this in the past, and I should have known when that first batch fell like that, but Billy was running the ovens so I just figured he was being his typical dumb a** self."
Even Billy laughed.
The lead man continued.....
"But usually these things sort them selves out in a couple of days, so lets just try it one more time, only we'll use the patent flour instead of the high glutem and we'll add some vital wheat gluten to strengthen the protien level."
Often times you'll find that bakers don't know the actual science of their craft, but they do know how to remedy the situation.
Recently I saw something posted by Dr. Klaus Tenbergen who is a Master Baker that works out of Cal State. The following was reported in Modern Baking magizine.
Q: After our latest delivery of flour, our breads have been unequal in volume. We have checked the formula, make up procedures and proofing times, but cannot pin point the problem. What do you think is happening.
C.P. Helena Montana
A: It could be starch damage in the flour. This causes the starch to gelatinize at different intervales and the bread retain more water and caramelize faster. The finished loaves will have more volume, as the yeast has more sugars available to use to convert into carbon dioxide; therefore loaves will be unequal in sizes.
As usual....if you ever have a serious baking question....go to the Germans.
They are miles ahead of the rest.
Be safe out there.