After a rough night at the Farmhouse with two batches of wasted bread, I wasn't thrilled to be headed back for a second round. But I was hopeful that my batch of chilled dough would quicken the process and I would be in and out in a few hours.
It was Saturday afternoon, and I desperately wanted a night at home with my husband. Our schedules were both extremely full now. I worked Monday nights, he worked Wednesday and Thursday nights, I worked Friday nights, we both worked 9-5 Monday through Friday. That meant that Tuesday night, Saturday and Sunday were OURS. Having been married less than a year, we actually still enjoyed each other's company and we tried to make the most of our time together.
Louie had promised that he would take the dough out of the walk-in a couple hours before my arrival so that it would be proofed and ready to go into loaf pans. Unfortunately, when I got to the Farmhouse, the bread was still very cold and enjoying its snooze in the refrigerator. Knowing how much Louie had on his plate, this came as no surprise. When he was running the show and working the line six to seven days a week (sometimes open to close), he was bound to forget things. I couldn't hold it against him. I knew he meant well. But since I had never done an overnight chill with the recipe before, I had no
idea if it would turn out. So I took the dough out to warm while I
started on another double batch. I was not coming back again tomorrow
in the event that the chilled dough didn't come out right.
While the three batches were rising, I sat back to observe. It was an unusually busy night at the cafe. Maybe word had gotten out that there were new bathrooms? I'm sure the customers that had been coming to the restaurant for years were curious to see the updates. This place was somewhat of a staple in the city's diner scene. The food wasn't something that would blow you away and the decor needed a face lift, but the cafe itself was a constant. I think people liked the thought of a place that had been around forever. It was comforting to know that time would inevitably tick on and things would continually change, but the Farmhouse would still be there.
Since the remodel had closed the kitchen for most of the week and taken up all of Louie's time, there were only a couple sad looking servings of dessert left for the dinner rush. And as people finished their meals, requests for carrot cake started coming in. The servers looked dismayed as they were informed there were no desserts for their customers. Louie was busy working the line, so he couldn't handle doing that and baking a cake. Since I was just waiting on my bread at that point, I quickly volunteered.
"I'm happy to make some carrot cake if you want - I'm just waiting on the bread to rise."
Louie gladly spouted off the recipe to me - memorized of course - and I scribbled it down and got to work. Midway through mixing the ingredients, the owner of the Farmhouse came back to the kitchen and started to interrogate Louie as to why there was no carrot cake. He happily pointed to me and said, 'We're on it!' Confrontation averted.
There was just one problem. The cake was ready to go into the ovens, but the first two ovens were maxed out with three batches of my bread and the pilot light had gone out in the third oven. Not surprisingly, no one wanted to deal with that in the middle of the Saturday dinner rush, so two ovens is what I had to work with. Finally there was space in the blazing hot oven, but Louie wouldn't let me put the cake in that one. So I played the waiting game and time ticked on... so much for my Saturday night.
In the meantime, Pam had come back to the kitchen in search of vegan chocolate pudding. Of course, we were out of that too.
Louie jokingly volunteered, "If they want to wait 20 minutes, I can whip some up."
Unfortunately for him, Pam took him seriously, and the customer agreed to wait. In between his many dishes on the line, he started melting some chocolate and sent me in search of some tofu. Between the three of us (Pam, Louie and I), we scrambled to blend all of the ingredients together and got them into the freezer for a quick chill.
And of course more orders were coming in for carrot cake. I must have filled the pans too full of batter though, because they were taking much longer to bake than they should have and they had risen into a huge lopsided dome in the oven. After multiple toothpick tests, they were finally ready. We quickly knocked the steaming cakes out of their pans and Louie sawed off the domed tops. Then they were thrown into the fridge to cool while we started on the frosting. If we had been smart, we would have taken out the butter and cream cheese when we started the whole cake making process, but alas, we were not so smart after all. So cold cream cheese and cold butter were tossed into the mixer. It was then that Louie revealed his secret weapon; the blow torch.
"This is a trick I learned when you're crunched for time," he said firing up the torch and holding the flame up to the mixing bowl while it whipped the ingredients. Then he handed the torch to me and went back to work on the line. My husband would have been the first to warn him about entrusting me with a flaming torch, but lucky for me, he wasn't there. Luckily for everyone else, I did not burn the cafe down that night.
A few more secret ingredients and the frosting was ready. Even though the cakes had been in refrigeration, it wasn't nearly enough time to cool. But people needed their carrot cake! So we slopped the frosting onto a hot cake and called it done. The servings of cake that night were not their most beautiful with the warm, drippy frosting sliding off the slices onto the plate, but hey, at least it was fresh!
In the midst of all the commotion, Louie had missed his insulin shot and his blood sugar had crashed. We rushed to get him some soda and finally we could all take a step back and breathe. I cleaned up my station, passed out the butchered cake top to the wait staff and called it a night. Thoroughly defeated, I headed home. It was 10pm - at least two hours later than I had planned.
After everything that had happened that night, I found myself wondering if I was really cut out for this whole food service thing. Was it time to reconsider? Could I honestly think that I could work a full time job and be a successful baker on the side while still maintaining my marriage and social life? Something eventually had to give, but being the selfish only child that I was, I wasn't willing to give anything up yet. I wanted it all dammit! So I decided to keep pushing things until I found the breaking point. Whichever thing broke first, I guess that would be my decision. I just hoped it wouldn't be my marriage.