Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Day in the Life of an Extern

I'm currently on externship at a super cool cafe called Roman Candle Baking Co. in Southeast Portland.They're open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and on the baking side we make pastries and breads and since I've only been there for 2 weeks I'm sure there's a lot more we make that I haven't come across yet. My favorite things to do in school were bread and laminated dough (aka puff pastry aka delicious, flaky pastries like croissants) and luckily that's a lot of what they do at Roman Candle. Just for kicks, here's a little peek into what my days have looked like so far...

12:30 am

Wake up time! Alarm goes off and I get up, say goodnight to T who is usually going to bed around this time and get ready for the day. Do some stretches, nibble on something, brush my teeth and get my caffeine drip started. Really, I just start drinking Cherry Limeade Nuun Energy. By 1:20 am I'm on my way into the city.

1:45-1:50 am

Get to work, climb up to the loft to get my chef's coat (I can't believe they actually call them that and let me wear one) and apron and coats and aprons for whoever else is working with me that day. Bathroom, hand washing, all that stuff.

2:00 am

Get to work! Pull the pre-ferments from the walk-in, grab a bowl for the dusting flour, turn on the small convection oven (someone else gets the deck pre-heated since I don't work with that oven yet) and start chopping dough for shaping. It's also somewhere during this hour that the laminates (think croissants and danish) go into the proofer.

3:00-3:20 am

This is the goal time for having everything into the proofer. The day I was mostly on my own and trying to hit the time goal for the first time I had everything in by 3:30. A little late but not too far off. Once everything is in the proofer we start scaling and mixing for the next day. Slider dough, French bread, Grissini and Carta crackers, Tomato Basil bread and any special orders. Depending on what time the dough for the potato rolls went into the proofer, we will also pull theme out for dressing. The dough is de-gassed (i.e. patted down to push the air bubbles out), placed on a wet towel and then into the toppings. We do an onion potato roll, sesame potato roll and everything bun from this dough. Then back into the proofer.

3:45 am

Turn on the Revent oven to preheat and check the laminates to see how they're proofing. Also check the doughs from the morning depending on when they went in to proof and stretch the Trapazini in the pans if needed.

4:00 am

If not started earlier, breads start going into the ovens. I don't know what time the sourdoughs and ciabattas go into the deck oven but usually around this time the timers start going off and whoever is working with them is getting things going. Hopefully I'll get to learn more about them! This is also a good opportunity to do some cleaning so I sweep and do dishes for a little while.

4:30 am

Jump over from the bread side to pastry and get the morning bake procedure started. Check the laminates again, if they are starting to proof too quickly or the butter is starting to get melty, pull them from the proofer and let them finish up at room temp. Check the list for the pastry numbers to see what needs to be made that morning. Into the walk in to grab scones, cookie doughs, pop tarts, and any other pastries for the day. Arrange and prep all the pastries so they can go into the small convection oven quickly. Throw everything that bakes at 330 degrees into the oven: ginger cookies, poptarts, and triple chocolate cookies. Set a 6 minute timer. Check the laminates again and egg wash them. Keep an eye on the bread team to see when a break will be to put the laminates into the Revent oven. Once the timer goes off, rotate the trays and set the oven for 5 more minutes. Scoop and top the muffin batter then pull the ginger cookies and poptarts. Set more time for the triple chocolates. Pull the quiche shells from the freezer and fill them with everything except the custard and put back into freezer. Pull the triple chocolate cookies and crank the oven temp to 350, let it preheat. Pull the quiche back out, fill the shells with custard and put them, the scones and muffins into the oven. Set a 12 minute timer. Dress and plate the torta ditas and hostess cupcakes and start frosting the poptarts. Once the timer goes off, rotate and set another timer, usually around 8 minutes. Sometimes the laminates are ready to go into the big Revent oven at this point so in they go for 20 minutes. Torch the poptart fluff and sprinkle the chocolate and hazelnut topping, put on the rack for retail. Pipe mascarpone filling into the ginger cookies and put them on the rack for retail. Pull the scones, quiche and muffins from the oven. Move the triple chocolate cookies to the retail rack. Once the scones, quiche and muffins have cooled, de-pan the muffins and quiche and move everything to the retail rack. When the laminates are finished, de-pan the kouign amann immediately and sprinkle with salt. De-pan the morning buns and Danish. Coat the morning buns with sugar and glaze the Danish then when everything is cooled, put them on the retail rack. And the morning bake is done!

6:00 am

Somewhere around this time I finish up the morning bake and since I clean as I go there's no big clean up so I can jump back in with the bread team. The doughs for the next day's laminates are usually mixed by this time so I help out with stretching the dough into the pans and chilling it.

6:30 am

Time to pre-shape the sourdoughs for the next day. We pre-shape most of them into rounds then let them rest for about an hour. The time all depends on how the dough feels that day and how many varieties we're doing.

7:00 am

While we wait for the sours, we do some light cleaning and then prep the pre-ferments for the next day. We also restock and start putting the morning's breads out for retail and take the daily order to the restaurant next door. We also eat breakfast sometimes.

8:00 am

Final shaping of the sourdoughs then we put them into the retarder for the night.

8:45 am

Deep clean for the end of the shift by the bread team. Sometimes I help them clean and then leave a little before 10, sometimes I jump back over to pastry and help do some mixing until 10. It just depends on how the day is going and how many people are there.

Once I'm finished, I head home, change and go to the gym (or outside to run) on Mondays and Tuesdays. Sometimes I need a nap, sometimes I don't. Then I just live life until I go to bed which can be anywhere between 5-6:30 pm.

So there's my life 4 days per week for the next 4-5 weeks. Pray for me.

Monday, February 15, 2016


I don't remember when it was that I heard about Bend, Oregon for the first time but whenever it was I instantly knew I needed to go there. I assume it was from a blog and probably from Sweaty Emily or Sarah OUAL. It wasn't very long ago that I heard about this magical place with it's mountain views and bright sunshine but when we moved to Oregon I set immediately to planning a trip to my homeland.

I really had no background on Bend and didn't know anything about it aside from the beautiful photos I'd seen on insta and beyond. We planned the trip for our anniversary weekend and I high fived myself again for planning a September wedding date because the weather is pretty much perfect everywhere that time of year with central Oregon being no exception. It's about a 3 hour drive from Portland to Bend but you get off the highway around Salem (roughly 40 miles south) and ride on a mostly 2 lane road the rest of the way. The weather switched regularly between clouds, sun and drizzle as we drove but no amount of weather could make the views any less spectacular.

I'd never used Airbnb before so I was pretty nervous but Marilyn (the owner) was really responsive beforehand and ended up being a great person to work with. The place we were staying was an attachment she'd built onto her home but with a private entrance, small yard, 2 locking bedrooms with private bathrooms and a shared kitchen space. Nobody had rented the other private room which was actually kind of nice but she still ensured our privacy and made sure we had keys to lock up as we saw fit. 

Her house was within walking distance to a big shopping and food area right on the Deschutes River. She gave us some recommendations and let us know her whereabouts over the next couple of days in case we needed her. Here's a link to her rental in case you're interested in heading out. I'd highly recommend her!

Because T really values relaxation, he made a few calls and managed to get us a massage booked within walking distance a couple of hours after we got into town. The massages were amazing and the location was right in the middle of everything so we got some food at a Mexican restaurant and had quite literally the best tableside guacamole I've ever had. For the life of me I can't remember the name of the place but I remember exactly where it was and we made a point to go there for guac more than once. 

We made sure to be out and about as much as we could during the day and I insisted on visiting the home of Atlas Cider Co. which happens to brew THE BEST cider possibly on earth. We also drove out to Mt. Bachelor and took nice long walks around the Deschutes while really trendy Oregonians utilized their SUPs and kayaks. 

Eventually the time came when we had to tell Bend to put her top back on and quit showing off. The show was over and we had to head home. We stopped off to check out the Three Sisters on the ride home and then continued to pout until...maybe last week or so. I loved Bend and can't wait to go back. It's a beautiful area!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Welcome Back

Man oh man has moving west changed my life for the better. I moved out here planning to find a nonprofit or public relations job, make a nice little salary and settle into my 9-5 and hellishly long commutes from the burbs to the city.

A photo posted by Rennay Cooke Marshall (@rnay225) on

Life has a way of saying no to your best laid plans.

I started out working from home for a database company based in Louisville and did a pretty good job of getting up early, getting dressed and settling into a work day. The summer was absurdly hot and since the majority of Oregonians (especially in apartments) don't have ac it made for some really miserable work days. I tried not to turn on the TV much while I was working and for a while we didn't have cable so that was pretty easy but database work isn't always the most exciting so I gave in every now and then. Every single time I turned on the TV I saw the same commercial for the Baking and Pastry program at Oregon Culinary Institute. Long story short, one day I decided to go there and see about becoming a pastry chef. A day or so later, I was registered for the July 29th start date.

A photo posted by Rennay Cooke Marshall (@rnay225) on

I could go on and on about what an experience it has been, what each and every class was like, the dozens of formulas and procedures I had to work through and how many cuts and burns I had to suffer through but I'll spare you for now. In a nutshell (and I'm ironically eating from a container of mixed nuts...) school was/has been incredibly difficult and even though I am praying for time to speed up so that I can be completely finished (I've finished all of my classes and am now on my 240 hour externship at an Italian bakery/restaurant downtown) I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. Hopefully now that my days no longer look like this:

4:00 am - Wake Up
4:45 am - Leave for work
5:20 am - Start working
11:30 am - Get home from work
12:00 pm - Wake up from nap, eat and change into school uniform. Also wash off the dough bits and debris that somehow make it all the way to my elbows over the sink since there's no time for a shower
12:30 pm - Leave for school
1:00 pm - Into the kitchen at school
6:00 pm - Break for snack before classroom and kitchen demo for the next day
8:45 pm - Home from school
9:00 pm - Eat then shower and probably fall asleep

I'll be able to blog more regularly. I'd forgotten how much I missed writing (and reading, and running) and I'm hopeful to add it back in as a regular part of my life.