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Dani Jensen

Boise's busiest baker

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Thanksgiving Day has its parade in New York City, but there's another holiday spectacle that plays out each morning of the three days prior to Turkey Day. According to Dani (pronounced Donny) Jensen, the bakery manager at the Boise Costco since 1998, as many as 800 customers line up outside the door of the mega-wholesaler the week leading up to Thanksgiving.

"It's like an army," said Jensen. "And they're all coming down the aisle straight for the pumpkin pies."

Jensen and her bakery team love the parade.

"It's so exciting," she said. "I have everybody come out and watch."

How many bakery employees do you have?

Twenty. About half are full time, half part time. The week before Thanksgiving, we accumulate a lot of people from other departments in the store, and we go up to about 45 people in bakery.

What are your top sellers?

Definitely muffins. We have a lot of vendors come in to buy our muffins. Plus croissants, bagels and cheesecakes. We run No. 1 in the nation for cheesecake.

Are you saying the Boise location sells more cheesecakes than any other Costco in the United States?

Yes. The Treasure Valley adores our cheesecakes. It's pretty amazing.

Is Thanksgiving your tent-pole holiday?

It's definitely our biggest holiday. Thanksgiving builds to a huge crescendo. Christmas drags on for a couple of weeks.

Do you change your menu for Thanksgiving or do you just make a lot more of your traditional items?

We do bring in some holiday items like maple cupcakes and pumpkin cheese loaf, but we focus on about 30 core items and do much, much more of those.

Let's talk pies.

It's pumpkin, pecan and apple. The last three days before Thanksgiving, we'll see 7,000 pumpkin pies, 1,100 pecan and about 1,100 apple. We have three huge ovens, and of course all those pies take a little more than an hour to bake. So we're talking about baking 9,200 pies, plus all of our breads, rolls, bagels and everything else.

Three ovens take care of everything?

We work around the clock the week before Thanksgiving--24 hours. Plus, keep in mind that we can't freeze any of our products that we bake. We have a very narrow shelf life because we don't use preservatives. We have to orchestrate everything very closely.

So there has to be an art and a science to scheduling all of this?

I feel like I'm running a ballet, a really well choreographed ballet. Every minute has to be scheduled for each oven. They can't be sitting still.

But your pies are judged individually. They're going to be stacked up against one pie that someone may work on for hours.

We have to taste like homemade. It's very similar, but of course, we're making 90 pies in each batch.

What makes a good crust?

We use trans-fat-free shortening. The biggest key is the blending and how well you work a cutter into the mix so it gets to the right consistency. It has to be fluffy and flaky.

How big are your coolers?

We have huge pallets of eggs and sour cream. It's pretty huge. For those 7,000 pumpkin pies, we'll use 2,700 pounds of eggs and 1,400 No. 10 cans of pumpkin. And again, that's just for three days.

Are many of your staff premium bakers?

Yes. A lot of them have been here as long as 20 years. Nobody ever leaves.

When you have to hire someone new, what are you looking for?

Personality. We like to train them for what they'll be doing, but we're looking for initiative and a positive personality. We're back in the bakery like a little family.

So what will be on your family's Thanksgiving table?

We'll have 12 for dinner. Two pumpkin, one apple, one pecan. I never get tired of pastries.

Plain or whipped cream?

Whipped cream.

And come Friday morning, you start looking toward Christmas.

We have one week where we're back to normal, and then all of the holiday parties start coming in.

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