The main jobs I did in Dad’s bakeries were frying doughnuts and packing orders ready for dispatch. But I was also a general odd job boy. Sometimes I would start the process from the beginning and take it all the way through to whatever means of cooking was being used – baking or frying. Sometimes I would do one part of the process, adding cherries, sprinkling nuts, dipping the choux paste cases into chocolate, putting fondant on the Danish pastries, traying up the finished but uncooked goods, brushing on the egg wash finish which gave a brown crust to puff pastry, making custard tart pastry shells, assembling the dough mixes, traying up as the loaves came out of the five deck oven, greasing the tins, making the apple turnovers, filling the mince pies, putting the flakes on the chocolate flake cakes, mixing the Eccles filling, filling the jam tarts, creaming up the éclairs, bagging the roles, slicing the loaves for cut bread and, of course, making the tea.
One of the best jobs was working on the crusty bread – helping to tray up when the dough was proved or transferring the hot loaves as they were knocked out of their tines when baked, onto the racks to take them onto dispatch.
I would do all these jobs with the sound track of the bake house playing relentlessly in the background. There would be tins crashing, voices shouting, machines rolling and radios playing the endless night time easy listening or mindlessly banal phone-ins. The hiss of the steam escaping from either the prover to help the yeast do its work or the oven to help the bread crust would suddenly rise above the first layer of sound. Then the engines of vans would start as we got closer to dawn, adding exhaust to the smells which mingled with the noises. Smaller sounds could also be picked out: the wire baskets crashing down empty onto to the tiled floor to be filled with orders. The hum of the mixing machines motors as they moved their great arms and formed the ingredients into doughs. Cutting through all this would come human voices, the barked commands, the growl of complaints, swearing, and the endless banter. All these individual noises of this orchestra of production never merged into a pleasing melody but their energy was directed to producing a room full of baked goods. Somehow the goods would come together and slowly at first and then with mounting speed the goods would emerge from the production area in trolleys and racks of trays. The sounds becoming triumphant as great bands of breads and great tribes of cakes were ready to be sent out. Then the silences would come as the machines were turned off, the processes finished and the shifts switched. The cacophony of sounds and actions that made the shift formed one part of the complex mix that made up the life of a baker like my father. If his working life could have been confined to dealing with the production and conducting of these sounds he would have been a very happy man indeed.
Sonhood continues here
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