| This book has been written to accommodate the wide range of career choices for today's pastry chefs. Some chefs work in restaurants, others in bakeries, coffee shops, and catering kitchens. A smaller number venture out on their own, starting a wedding cake business, for example. With that in mind, all the recipes in this book can be made at home with good results and without expensive equipment beyond a 5-quart capacity heavy-duty stand mixer and a reliable oven. Throughout the book, however, you may notice references to specialized pieces of equipment that are commonly found in midsize bakeries. Below is a brief summary of each.
As long as an oven is temperature-accurate and doesn't have pronounced hot and cold spots, it is fine for bread and pastry. These basic ovens are called conventional ovens. Many bakeries have sets of double-doored convection ovens. Convection ovens have fans that circulate the hot air throughout the oven, making it cook more efficiently and evenly. As a result, convection ovens appear to bake "hotter" than other ovens. The recipes in this book have been tested in a conventional oven, so if you use them in a convection oven, decrease the heat by 25°F. The fans in most convection ovens can be turned off, which is often necessary when baking soufflés, pâte à choux, and meringue-topped pies.
Bread bakers seek out special ovens. Deck ovens, steam injection ovens, and masonry ovens make baking artisanal bread easier and more efficient. Masonry ovens radiate and hold much more heat than do other ovens, and "steam injection" means that no one has to spray the baking loaves by hand every few minutes.
I left out cooktops as a category because most chefs can produce fine custard and candy even off a rickety old electric range. That said, portable cooktops can be very helpful. Long the mainstay of catering, portable cooktops give pastry chefs working in restaurants some space of their own. Modern ones, like the induction cooktop, heat only the contents in the pan. The cooktop stays cool and less heat radiates into the room.
Mixers in bakeries are usually just larger versions of the home cook's trusty KitchenAid-that is, until we get to the large industrial-size bakeries. Though the brand name Hobart dominates, any heavy-duty stand mixer is fine. Hobarts start at 20-quart capacity and go on up to 140 quarts, usually in increments of 20 quarts. You will need the three basic mixing attachments: the paddle, the whip, and the dough hook. Try to have several bowls for your mixer. Many other attachments can be purchased for a Hobart, such as a grinder.
Bread dough mixers are much more expensive than regular mixers and much more specialized. First, mixing bread in a machine requires a lot of power, and if you plan to have a large bread selection, your stand mixer may not be up to the stress. Second, specialized dough mixers have a more gentle mixing action that better mimics hand kneading. Often, the mixing bowl itself revolves. Third, a good dough mixer has a special tilting function, so you can easily pour the dough out of the bowl.
Proofers and retarders look like refrigerators, but they are much more sophisticated. They can be programmed to slowly increase temperature and humidity, or quickly bring the temperature down. This allows the fermentation rate of yeasted doughs to be easily and carefully controlled to maximize flavor, improve the texture of the finished product, and even save on labor. If your proofer is programmed to slowly thaw Danish dough and bring it through a rise, then you may not have to be in the kitchen at 3 A.M.
Dough sheeters are used to perfectly roll out pie dough, laminate doughs, and cookie doughs. If you make pastries and pies every day and have a small staff, a dough sheeter will save you money in the long run from all the time it takes to do turns on croissants and roll tart shells by hand. The dough passes between two rollers, which can be set to varying distances apart, and comes out smooth and even. If you have a very small space, a portable tabletop model is a possibility, but the constant rearranging can be a hassle.
If you plan to fry anything regularly, get a deep fryer. There is only one doughnut recipe in this book; however, one of the greatest bits of pastry wisdom to be passed around is to not fry without a dedicated fryer. It is safer, wastes less oil, is easier to control, and makes the process bearable. Ovens are hot, but frying is hotter.
Every pastry kitchen should have one food processor, at least a large-capacity Cuisinart or, even better, a commercial machine.