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One of the worst things I find myself saying repeatedly at and about my job is "nobody ever tells the pastry chef." Unfortunately, I know I'm not alone in that sentiment.
I've had my schedule radically change with nothing but an "oh by the way" at the end of my day, when I was really looking forward to what I thought was a much-needed day off. I've had menu items pulled and reinstated against my wishes and presentations changed when I wasn't around.
Several times I've found myself walking into a kitchen full of cooks preparing for a special party or event that no one bothered to mention to me. Sometimes chefs deliberately don't mention it because desserts either aren't involved or are from the regular menu, but that still seriously disrupts the flow of work for anyone else in the kitchen. Service is suddenly going on a couple hours early? Great, then I'll have to wait until tomorrow to get anything I needed to cook on the stovetop. Have a special VIP confit working in the oven? Too bad for anything that needed to bake at anything more than a low-and-slow warming, at least for the next couple of hours.
I've been packed up and ready to walk out the door for the evening and had someone casually ask how many of something I had prepared. That's when they mention something to the effect of needing at least twice as many for the event that night—a fact that had gone unmentioned until then.
Not too long ago, I heard the word "brunch" mentioned in passing between coworkers. That's a word that sends fear into the hearts of pretty much every cook, and can mean quite a lot of extra work for pastry employees. At my old job, I had plenty of advanced warning when we opened for brunch service, but the owner would frequently spring parties and holiday weekend Monday brunches on us with very little, if any, warning. This threw the whole kitchen into chaos and resulted in fights between myself and prep cooks over the single oven that lived on the line. They needed to bake potatoes, I needed to bake an assortment of muffins and other pastries for our ever-popular brunch pastry basket.
One of the only things that was a constant in that basket was a unique take on banana bread, though it also took the longest to bake. I would often bake it earlier in the week and freeze it, then let it thaw while I baked everything else. Like many baked goods, banana oatmeal bread actually benefits from a chilling period (freezing included), but you may not be able to resist this fluffy-yet-hearty quickbread straight from the oven.
Banana bread is something that I generally don't ever make the same way twice at home, but for the purpose of consistency in a restaurant pastry basket, I had to come up with something with an actual recipe and reasoning behind it. Oatmeal adds a wholesome flavor and an interesting texture. There are no wet chunks of banana in the bread because the wet ingredients are mixed in the blender, a technique I like to use for everything from flan to pumpkin pie filling, but you still get the moisture, sweetness and most importantly flavor from the bananas. It's amazing toasted with a schmear of cream cheese or just on its own, and would probably make an insane sandwich with bacon and whatever else you dared to put in there.
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About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna.
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