For the last month, I've been working at a bakery a few days a week as a temporary helper during the holiday season. The existence of this very blog would attest: this is the realization of a small but very persistent dream of mine. And even with the heavy pans and sore feet and pounds and pounds of bread dough to cut and knead, bake and bag, I have yet to become disenchanted.
When there's five of us standing around the long kneading table, pushing dough and watching snow fall out the front windows, I don't think of what I'm doing as work. The world beyond the arched wood rafters of the bakery fades, and I lose sense of passing time. But I do wonder: would I feel the same if I did this every day?
Last week my mom and sister and I had our annual Christmas bake. I took charge of the biscotti, those dry, crunchy Italian cookies that are made for dipping in coffee. The process for these is rather drawn out compared to other cookies, as one batch hits the oven three separate times before it's done. I may have considered this a rather tiresome to-do had I not helped bake, slice, and package hundreds of biscotti just a few days prior. Woah, perspective.
At the bakery, each of these biscotti slabs is about the size of an eight-month-old. We cut into them with long bread knives on extra large cutting boards before laying the oblong cookies on their sides and sliding them back into the rotating rack oven. Halfway through the second bake, we stand at its hot open mouth and burn our fingers flipping each cookie.
And I'm hardly complaining. I think I could be happy in a bakery, making my living -- day after day, year after year -- among chocolate chips and the smell of warm bread. But if I had to choose between baking by trade or baking by hobby, I feel quite certain of which I'd pick.
I want to bake in small batches. I want to cut my small biscotti on a small cutting board with a small serrated knife, and I want to pull them from the oven as Johnny Mathis sings to us through the record player. I want to look out the window and see pine trees. And I want to finish the cookies by lamplight because the sky is swimming with gray clouds -- or in this case, fog.
If I had to choose, that's what I'd choose.