"We went through my game plan, which was none. I only knew what I was making, how I made it, and that I'd have to know how to make lots of it, all at once, the minute the magazine hit the shelves."—Gesine Bullock-Prado, Confections of a Closet Master Baker
I've never worked in a bakery, although when I was in my 20s, I remember reading a job ad for one. I enjoyed baking and it seemed like there were worse things in life than working in a place that smelled like freshly baked bread. I nearly applied—the ad said they would train the right person so I wasn't worried about my lack of professional qualifications—but then I noticed the job hours. The shift began at 3 a.m.! Somehow it never occurred to me that if you were going to sell croissants at 6 or 7 in the morning that you'd need to make them in the wee hours before that.
While my bakery dream was short-lived, I couldn't resist picking up a copy of the memoir Confections of a Closet Master Baker at my local (and sadly, now defunct) used bookstore. The author, the younger sister of actress Sandra Bullock, tells the true story of how she left her miserable Hollywood job to open a small bakery in Vermont. She arranges her tales to mimic the hours at the bakery. The first chapter begins with her waking up in the middle of the night to go to work and the penultimate chapter describes her evening run after closing the shop. Baking disasters, childhood reminisces of her German mother, memorable sketches of employees and customers, snippets of her former career in a town that fervently hoped to one day outlaw carbohydrates, all spill out in her distinct voice: cranky, honest, hilarious, wise.
The book contains more than a dozen recipes for bakery favorites, both familiar ones such as apple pie and lesser known ones such as mandelhoernchen, a German almond cookie. The recipes are written in a frank, friendly tone that tell you not just which ingredients to mix together or how long to bake them, but also include advice which can easily be applied to other areas of your life. She writes about her maple Pecan Sticky Buns: "Be brave but patient. If you screw up—and you really should a few times if you want to get good—keep trying."
Highly recommended for anyone who harbors bakery shop dreams or owns her own small business.
Quotation source: Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado. (Paperback title: My Life From Scratch)