Yale bakers must wield up to 750 pounds of dough to fill all the orders they've received from the campus community for home-style baked goods for Thanksgiving, but the experienced employees in the University's Bake Shop say meeting the demand will be almost
"as easy as pie."
Early next week, the shop's bakers will begin making the dough, pressing out pie crusts and preparing the fillings for approximately 1,000 apple, pumpkin, mincemeat and pecan pies, which they will bake around midnight on Nov. 24. At the same time, other bakers will be hard at work making some 300 breads, including date nut, pumpkin and cranberry. By 6 a.m. on Nov. 25, all of the pies and breads will be ready for shipment to the campus dining halls and other food operations, where they will be picked up by Yale faculty, staff and students were placed.
While the Bake Shop's pace is more hectic during the Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas holidays, the bakers are accustomed to providing huge supplies of pastries, cakes, cookies, scones, brownies, pies and breads on a daily basis. The shop, which is part of the University's Dining Services, prepares nearly all of the baked goods for 22 food operations on campus, including the residential college dining halls; University Commons; the dining halls at the Law School, the School of Management and Kline Biology Tower; the A&A Penthouse cafe; Durfee's Sweet Shoppe; and the kitchen at the University's Health Services Center. The shop is located in the basement of University Commons
In a typical week, the shop's five bakers and one apprentice baker prepare about 120 different items while working round-the-clock in staggered eight-hour shifts. Each week, they make approximately 850 loaves of bread (in some 20 different varieties); nearly 120-dozen chocolate chip cookies (and another 300-dozen assorted other cookies); 140-dozen muffins (in 10 different flavors); 23-dozen assorted scones; nearly 50 individual pies as well as seven full sheets of Boston creme pie; and 20 sheets of lemon and fudge-nut bars; in addition to a variety of other baked goods, such as coffee cakes and rolls. Often, these creations are still hot when they are delivered by truck shortly after daybreak to the dining halls for that day's consumption.
According to the shop's manager, Ed Bebyn, the Yale bakers have a file of about 300 recipes. "It's easier to list what we don't make than what we do," he explains. "The only things we don't make are bagels, sliced breads, and hamburger and hotdog rolls. Other than that, we bake just about everything."
In addition, the shop staff also prepares a wide range of treats for special events on campus, and will make decorated birthday cakes and other special items for any interested member of the Yale community. The Bake Shop also supplies birthday cakes for the Student Cake Agency, a student-run group that delivers cakes, balloons and other celebratory items campus-wide. The service is particularly popular with parents of undergraduates, SEZ WHO?.
While Yale affiliates frequently turn to the Yale Bake Shop for holiday goods, many staff members and students don't realize that the shop will bake special items throughout the year, notes baker Gary Gulino. A former bakery owner who has worked at Yale for five years, he says that making special cakes for birthdays and other occasions is his favorite part of the job. Last year, Mr. Gulino created two particularly unusual cakes: a near life-sized bust of Carm Cozza for the former Yale football coach's retirement party, and a large replica of the New Haven Free Public Library for its 100th-anniversary celebration.
Baker Lisa Sundwall, on the other hand, enjoys trying out new creations as part of the Yale Dining Hall's new "Feature Dessert" offering. Each Tuesday and Thursday, under this new initiative, the bakers can put aside the regular menu and make a dessert of their own choosing; the program is designed to be a treat for both the bakers and campus diners. Though "Feature Dessert" was launched only last week, Ms. Sundwall and the other bakers have already received a note from a student complimenting them on one of the new offerings, a lemon jelly roll.
"People don't often take the time to tell you when something is good, but they will let you know when they don't like something," says Ms. Sundwall, who has worked at the Bake Shop for just over a year. "So it was nice to hear so quickly from someone who enjoyed one of our new desserts."
The growing popularity of the Yale Bake Shop among University affiliates can be attributed both to its "talented bakers" and the shop's ability to provide "institutional" baking while maintaining quality, according to Mr. Bebyn. He notes, for example, that while cookies are dropped onto a sheet by machine rather than by hand, the top crusts of the Thanksgiving apple pies are all rolled by hand, and the majority of food made in the shop is baked from scratch.
"When it makes sense to use a mix, we use a mix, but if using a mix means that we can't come close to having something taste homemade, then we won't do it," explains Mr. Bebyn. "For our chocolate cake, for example, we do use a mix, and we don't think that we've compromised the taste by doing so. But we haven't found any carrot cake mix that meets our standards, so we always make that from scratch."
Even the bakers themselves turn to the Yale Bake Shop when they need cakes or other treats for their holiday feasts or other special occasions. "We are proud of our work," admits Ms. Sundwall. "I wouldn't bake anything here that I wouldn't feel pride in serving to my own family."
Holiday pies and breads cab be ordered through Friday, Nov. 21, at noon at the A&A Penthouse, Commons Dining Hall, Donaldson Commons, Harkness Medical School, the Health Center kitchen, Kline Biology Tower Dining Hall, the Law School Dining or the Bake Shop office. Pies (10-inch) are $6.50 each; 24-ounce breads are $3 each. For further information, contact the Bake Shop at 432-0474.