Monday, July 30, 2012

And then there are Mondays

So first thing Monday morning started with a discovery that the croissants had not been put into the fridge to proof. So began the mad dash to warm them up and get them ready for the ovens.

And then there was the discovery that the whole wheat flour had gone bad. Luckily, we take steps to check out all of our ingredients before baking with them.

After that there was an entire tray of brioche cinnamon rolls that slid off the rack and onto the floor. Which means we have to make more sooner rather than later.

Then the coffee grinder crapped out and we found a green piece of plastic in it. Meanwhile, the grease trap started overflowing again, and then trying to address that, the shelf near the dish pit fell off the wall.

And we had just moments earlier as a group agreed we were grumpy.

But funny how through all the grumpiness, we pulled together, as if in a mini-war zone, and were able to serve coffee with our chins up, get the dishes done in the mop sink, and then slowly pull everything back together, put a little bit of tape over our wounds, and carry on through the rest of the day.

I'm very proud of my staff today.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Salvation in Bread

Those of you who know me know that I have this thing, this little diatribe I do that Jesus must have been a loaf of bread. Literally. I make that point very emphatically, to the point of annoying people at dinner parties.

It's just too easy a comparison to think about how when you make bread, you let it rise (on the cross) until doubled, "punch it down" (or watch it die), and then let it rise again (resurrect).

And lest we forget the miracle of the loaves and fishes? When good bread is made, a small portion of the dough is left behind as a "starter" for the next loaves of bread. Thusly, thousands of people can be fed from just one loaf.

But what happened on Friday was a different type of salvation.

After being a bit blue on Thursday, fending off angry customers and encroaching competition, I decided to make chili which meant cornbread. But not just any cornbread. I was thinking I wanted to make Sourdough Cornbread. So I turned to my favorite girl on the internet. I knew she'd have it and sure enough, there it was.

We're talking all of the cornbread fun without all the sweetness. It was dense like a good loaf of country sourdough, but meatier. I had 4 (maybe 5) slices with some good butter and kosher salt. I had another two slices the next day with butter and a spoon of Boat Street Pickled Plums.

Everything about my grumpy Thursday dissolved away in the creamy substance of this bread.

So whether or not Jesus or bread is my ultimate salvation is anybody's guess. I just know making something I like saves the day.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Who we want to be?

Everybody needs goals. Perhaps it’s a great way to be as a baker since if you know where you want to end up, it’s just a few quick steps to get there.

After being open four and a half years, mostly being in survival mode, it has become clear that we need to take a step back. Things have started to run more smoothly. The staff has taken charge of the bakery, and they now know instinctively what to do. We’d like to move the bakery to the next level, which is going to be a big shift in how we handle our daily tasks. I’d like to build better partnerships with my suppliers. In fact, I’d like to find better suppliers, and not rely so heavily of large box vendors where I don’t have a real person to deal with. There are going to be struggles. There are going to be inconsistencies, there are going to be days when we don’t have strawberries, but I am dedicated to bringing in the best quality ingredients to the shop, taking full advantage of the bounty that we have in the Pacific Northwest. Seizing the moment so to speak. Life is too short for the same old mediocre stuff every day.

The other goal I have is to grow the business, and perhaps open another retail entity. Unfortunately, we aren’t going to be able to stay at our current location forever, so it’s time to broaden our horizons. I have been taking some time to look deep into my heart and find my passion. Sure, I love food and I love pastries. But now that I’ve successfully opened a bakery, what do I really want to give back to the world? With strength, focus, and determination, I feel ready to take on the challenges of moving forward, no matter which direction the future takes me to.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Choosing your family

My cousin once told me that you can choose your family. At first I thought she meant as a baby you could choose which birth canal to shoot out of. Of course I soon realized she really meant that you can choose how much you want to interact with the family you are born into. That you do have control of the situation. That it's not just family, some moral obligatory obligation you have no choice but to accept the demands of.

I think a lot about what my cousin said every time my mom would get us involved in a wacky situation. I used to think about this every time I had to call my mom back, knowing full well that I was in for two hours of her blabbing on to get things off her chest, saying things like, "it helps me to talk about it". I thought about this when my brother went missing for a few years while he sorted out some things in his life. But now my mother is gone and my family is different. I still have my brother and my dad yes, but things are just not the same. I think it might be time for me to make some choices, to choose a new family. It is not that I do not want my brother and my dad in my family, it is just that without my mother, my dad, brother and I are a different family. It's just that we are all adjusting to the new situation at different rates. We have to be patient with each other.

So lately I have been investing a lot of energy in my family at work. I spend a lot of time thinking about my employees, their lives, hopes, dreams, and such. I invite them to dinner. I go to parties at their houses. I go for drinks with them. I support them when they need me by giving them days off when they need them. I ask them about their lives a lot. We laugh a lot. I no longer feel as compelled to fall into the destructive behaviors where I criticize them and make them feel stupid for doing something wrong. But i do still do that a little bit, and I feel terrible afterwards. I wish I could tell them the right thing to do more often. That would make me feel good.

And I've also been investing energy in my family at home. I've been cooking a lot, taking naps with the dog a lot even though I know she would prefer a walk. I bath my older cat because he's too old to do it himself anymore. I try to lure my crazy cat out from under the bed for a quick game of fetch. I try to be nicer to my husband and not take him for granted.

For right now, without my mother, these are the families I choose. I am sure, because family was so important to her, that she would be proud that I my family is growing.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saying no

It's getting to the point where everybody wants more. Dairy free? Vegan? When when when? Customers are h offing me from all sides wanting more. Do they realize we only have a 2 door refrigerator that is so full that we have to store our milk in our display refrigerator. And our hot water heater is smaller than the one I have at home. Shoot, have more amps at my house too. But they keep asking for more. So we try to add more. It's never enough. Then we run out of some things because we have to make less of them to allow for more variety. Then we run out of three types of cookies in one day. Better get those wrists warmed up for some heavy scooping. Then on a Friday all of a sudden all the cakes are gone and people are calling for more. We give a little, but then it's just too much. We have to say no. Can you do wholesale? We would buy at least 50 pieces per day. That would be every day. But were not open on Sunday. And would we be open for a $60 wholesale order that the bakery would get about $5 in profit? And then the dude who wants the wholesale thinks I'm making a big mistake. And the person wanting vegan thinks I'm making a big mistake. I think trying to do everything is a big mistake. There are bakeries that do wholesale. There are bakeries that do vegan there are taco trucks that do tacos.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bread on hold for now

I made bagels again today for my hubby who is preparing for a 100 mile ride tomorrow. whole wheat. Topped some with cheddar/green onion, some with roasted tomatoes and oregano, and the remaining plain. I'm going to make him 3 bagel/cream cheese sammies to bring. Yesterday, I made some banana/almond/chocolate chip granola bars. They are pretty crumbly but delicious. I basically took my granola recipe and pushed it into a pan. I felt as I was doing so it needed a binder like egg, but I was trying to make them vegan for something we might be able to sell at the bakery.

We've got a few gluten-free products well under way, and customers seem to be responding quite positively. So far, since sweets are my favorite and I love to make my favorites, we've been focusing on sweets, but will soon push out a nice savory item as well. We hired one of our interns part time, so it's a breath of fresh air for me allowing me to focus on product development and growing the business.

My husband wants me to buy a soft serve machine. Ice cream is probably my favorite thing so I'm suprised I haven't ventured there. Sure, I have a really nice ice cream maker at home, and sure, I do use it, but I guess I know I love ice cream so much that I probably don't want the temptation. But it would be cool to offer ice cream sandwiches with our cookies. Like that would be really great...made to order ice cream sammies. HMMMM....????

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bread 101: Part Deux

After a busy morning in the bakery, I realized I had forgotten to make my second week's baguette.

In fact the whole week was really busy as we'd had several large orders and I was frantically working on a new logo to send to the printers before we ran out of stickers. I was on antibiotics trying to finally kill this bronchitis that was cramping my style. I hadn't been to the gym all week. My brain was pretty much at the end. So I let my animal brain take over and sloppily put together my second week's baguette.

This time, I added a touch more yeast (now a total of 3/4 tsp). I also followed the proportions of flour and water a little more closely so the dough was quite a bit more stiff. I didn't do an autolyse, but had wanted to add the salt right before kneading; however, I forgot to add it until after I kneaded a bit, so I ended up adding the salt about half way through the kneading process.

It was tricky to get the salt incorporated into the dough which felt a little bit like it had just come home from the beach. When I stopped feeling granules, I stopped kneading and let the dough rest for a little while while I jumped upstairs for more work on the new logo.

When forming the baguette, you're supposed to form it into a rectangle and then let it rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten. I was in a rush so I just tried my best to roll a perfect cylinder. As I was transferring it to the sheet pan, I realized it was probably too big, so I cut it in half and tried to tidy up the ends. I thought about starting the reforming process again, but decided against it. I let it rest for about 30 minutes, then slashed it and sent it to the oven.

As you can see,I'm still not getting the slashes deep enough as there are a couple of blowouts at the base of the baguette. Also, what I suspected would happen is the salt, not having totally dissolved, made little salty spots on the dough. What's different is I sprayed this with water before loading it into the oven so the color is a little better, but the exterior is still not even close to what I want.

The flavor is good, a little chewy, but not quite light enough to be the baguette I'm wanting. We're officially out of stickers, but the logo is not ready. Will have to figure out a way to get just a few more stickers printed (not my usual 10,000).