If you know anything about mass baking then you know that it’s full of repetitive tasks. Scooping the dough and flattening them out onto baking trays. Cutting shapes of rolled dough with a cookie cutter, each and every cookie pressed down from cold sheets of dough by hand. It’s like home baking x 100. Then you have to package it all. I think it takes a certain type of person and a certain type of mindset to be able to do this day in and day out. Mark is like a machine in that sense; he can crank out thousands of cookies in a day and if he has a little help like he did this month from our friend Annie who came into the kitchen 2-3 times a week, then the quantities can multiply. This is how you get through the busiest time of year.
I rarely make an appearance in the kitchen, but I did come in to pack marshmallows this week (I’m useless in the baking department), but that too requires hours upon hours of putting one and a half inch cubes into little bags. I think everyone has a different methodology to get through tedious tasks. Maybe you turn on music and zone out, your movements pretty much on automatic. Or maybe you play mind games and challenge yourself. I tend to do the latter, imagining that I’m playing Tetris while trying to stack 2 rows of 6 marshmallow cubes as perfectly as I can in each bag. With brownies, I challenge myself to see how fast I can wrap each one. So far I can consistently wrap a brownie in 7 seconds. That’s about 8 brownies a minute. I’ve cut my brownie wrapping time in half over the last few years.
One thing that might get overlooked is how organized you have to be to run this business. Quite honestly? I don’t know how Mark does it. All I know is that he keeps track of how many cookies he needs to bake in random sheets of scrap paper with tick marks next to each item. With about 30 products in our shop, it’s a lot to keep track of. You have to be highly organized and on top of everything to know what orders need to go out when. At holiday time it can be killer, but in the 5 years we’ve been in business, we have only sent out wrong orders equal to the number of fingers we can count on one hand – and each mistake feels devastating. But human errors do happen occasionally and we try to make up each and every one.
Mark has wrapped up his holiday baking for the year. He’s at the Brooklyn Flea at One Hanson in downtown Brooklyn Saturday and Sunday for one more holiday fling and then a few days off. He’s looking forward to an evening of just sitting on the couch. Right now, however, he’s thrilled that he doesn’t have to bake anything for a whole week.
photo by Matt Feddersen for Brooklyn Magazine