Mise en place

What exactly does mise en place mean?

I asked myself that very same question the first time I heard it.

“Mise en place” is a French phrase meaning everything in its place. It is considered as the first commandment in a professional kitchen.

Why is it so important? Organization. My love for cooking began by watching great cooks on TV. Unfortunately one doesn’t see what actually takes place behind the entertainment end of reality TV.

Organization is key to manage, run and maintain certain standards in a kitchen. Not to mention the hours of prep work required for that days service. And it never ends. In most cases business are open 365 days a week. Perhaps that is why some culinary institutions require students to have at least 6 months experience in a kitchen as a pre-requisite for applying. Fortunately for us, we can enjoy our passion for baking at home without having the stresses of actually having to work in a professional kitchen and can simply enjoy the art of it.

That being said however, it is important before beginning any project to make sure you have all the ingredients prepped (scaled out), utensils, and equipment needed set and ready to go. This includes having your pans greased and lined with parchment and pre-heating your oven to the correct temperature (at least 15 minutes prior to baking). By doing so, you are safeguarding that you have everything needed to make the item. By following these simple steps, you will find that your efficiency and productivity will increase and your products will become more consistent.

Bakers are the chemists of the kitchen. They use specific formulas and temperatures to recreate their products consistently. Yes, formulas. In the “business”, bakers use formulas to document their recipes. Unlike the cook who uses a recipe to begin, then uses his intuition, experiences, and taste buds to season and adjust the balance of a dish; a baker relies on time proven formulas to make specific items. There are exact times, oven temperatures, mixing techniques, chemical reactions, and procedures that need to be followed in order to create a product producing an intended result. If you want to make French bread, you need to follow the formula for French bread. No ifs, ands, or buts.

That's not to say you can’t experiment. But that comes with time, experience, and an understanding of processes that are involved. Practicing your craft will make you a better artisan. Keep a diary. Jot down what the weather was like that day, was it hot, rainy, or humid? What the dough smelled like after the first proofing? What was the texture of the dough like after kneading it? How long it took for the dough to double in size? The more perceptive you are, the more your comfort level will increase, and the more fun it will be to explore different flavors, textures, aromas, and look appeal your item has. One thing I always strive for is to make it better the next time.

I love bread. My endocrinologist keeps telling me that it will be the end of me. But I can’t resist making it. I am amazed that just using 4 simple ingredients (yeast, flour, water, and salt) can produce so many varieties of flavors, textures, and smells. It is magical. Baking bread, as simple as it looks to make, can only be mastered through truly understanding the elements and processes involved in making it.

Everything in its place, a simple rule to follow that will add a bit of discipline and organization for a more enjoyable cooking experience.

Thanks for visiting and remember; life is as sweet as you make it!

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