Sunday, April 25, 2010

True Geek Happiness...

So, we had a customer call who wanted to order a cake for a friend's bday-then she said she wanted it to look like the cryogenic box that River from Firefly was stored in-OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously, one of the best shows of all times!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Absolute GEEK OUT moment on my part ensued, okay-geek out week but hey, I love the show.
Anyhow, I kept quoting from Firefly all week which got weird looks from most of the staff as the majority of them have not watched the show...Something that must be remedied ASAP!!!!...which reminds me I think I need to watch the show over again asap myself... sigh of happiness.

Persnickety appliances

You would think that industrial coolers would operate without much fuss, sure every now and then the power goes out or a part needs to be replaced but overall, these coolers and freezers are meant to be heavy duty...however, they are actually very sensitive and temperamental pieces of equipment, especially when the weather changes-I keep hearing from people that the time of the year has no effect on them but every time the season changes or people get complacent about how to use them, they get grumpy and then there's a lot more cleaning than usual involved.

A case in point is our walk in freezer. Saturday morning it's condenser froze up and therefore shut down which meant it was starting to warm up-I sooooo don't understand how that makes sense, I mean isn't that what a freezer is meant to do in the first place is to freeze? Anyhow, we got it repaired very quickly-Thanks Joel at Adam's Refrigerated Trailers!!!!!!!!!!!!!- I surmised and he confirmed that the door had been left open too long the day before so it froze up. Basically, if the door is open for any length of time, whether the fans are running or not, the condenser is working much harder than it should be. So, no more leaving the door open for any reason!!!!!!! As much as I adore Joel, I really don't want to see him on a frequent basis.
On the plus side, while it was defrosting, I pulled everything out and stored them in appropriate places and cleaned the heck out of that sucker-which surprisingly wasn't as bad as I thought it was and here are the shiny, pre-move stuff back in-results.

bakers when they are bored...

Or have been working a little too long in front of the ovens tend to get a little weird. This was from a couple of years ago when we were getting some ingredients measured for a batch of cookies. It was left on the table for our morning baker to find when she arrived. It was given the name of "Shortening baby". Sometimes you've just got to leaven your day with a little humor:) no matter how weird it may seem to others. We can seem like straightforward, down to earth people but under the right conditions...the oddness flows like a river of ganache.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dutch oven

I have an old school Dutch oven, it's heavy and there is a rich patina covering its surface. I borrowed it from my Grandmother for a P.E. class years ago-I know, a P.E. class for Dutch Oven cooking! All of the class regulars (it was a very popular class) were drooling over it when I pulled it out of it's carrying tote the first time.
Anyhow, my Grandmother let me keep it as I was using it so much and she told me about some of the cooking and baking that she had done in it over the years. She also told me that she had purchased it brand new for $1.25 when she first got married.
It has seen everything from curried Cauliflower to several attempts at a Chocolate pudding cake, plus a really good batch of Jambalaya since I've had it. The Dutch has always done what has been asked of it and all it needs in return is an occasional wipe down with some oil and to be put to use.
On the stove top, in the oven, or over some low burning coals-once you learn how your Dutch oven (or any good cast iron pot or pan for that matter) responds, then it will become one of your best and favorite tools. Good food and good memories, that's the best sort of legacy for any cast iron, especially my Dutch oven.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

origins of the blog title

It would be remiss of me if I didn't give credit it where it's due. Our friend "baker in a coma" aka Scott mentioned that this would be a good phrase for us. You have done well, young weed hopper:) It will be showing up other places shortly (maniacal laugh ensues).

White cake rant for the day

White cakes, REAL white cakes (no mixes involved) tend to be dry. Let's just put that out there right now.
Many Americans' taste buds have become so used to the white cakes available at the local mega mart or the cake mixes they've purchased, that when they encounter an actual, made from scratch white cake, it throws them for a loop.

White cake made from scratch has a different texture; it is firmer and drier than what these people have become used to. Most people, once they've adjusted to the differences appreciate the scratch made cakes more because they discover that these cakes aren't as cloyingly sweet, that the flavor is more refined, that the cakes can work better with a huge variety of frosting and fillings, and that they plain just taste good.

For those few people who want scratch made white cakes to be exactly like ones they've purchased at the mega marts, or from mixes and recipes that they've made at home ( then massively adjusting or simple syruping the heck out of the cake to make it more moist), I suggest that they continue to do so because there seems to be no room in their lives for variety.
If this very vocal minority chooses to buy a scratch made white cake then they need to get off their high horses about what they think white cake is. There is more than one version of white cake and if these people still can not appreciate those differences then maybe they should stick to their insipid ideals.

Chemistry at home

Baking is applicable chemistry and tasty chemistry at that. Every ingredient and every environmental condition will have some effect on the finished product. Too much of one ingredient or not enough of another, air that is too dry or too damp, and even the season ingredients were harvested in; all of these are variables in the chemical equation of whatever you are baking. Even a person's mood can really affect the finished product.

Recipes have done most of the equation for you. Follow these steps, use this ingredient rather than that one and 98% of the time you will wind up with a dessert or bread that you can be proud of.
Commercial mixes have simplified the process even further for a person who, doesn't think that there is ever time enough to make something from scratch or doesn't keep some of the basic ingredients on hand. Often, with mixes, all one has to do is add some water then heat for an appropriate length of time and presto! Pull it out of the oven and you have something that isn't quite homemade but it's close enough for most people and is usually is pretty tasty.

However, mixes often come with a hidden price that most people don't stop to consider. They lose sight of the fact that you only needs a few basic ingredients really to make something truly satisfying whether it's a cake, bread, pie, or cookie. They ignore that there are additional chemicals in many mixes that have no use when you bake from scratch: emulsifiers, tenderizers, preservatives, added "fiber", other chemicals to tweak the flavors, etc. I am not advocating that people go and mine their own baking soda, but rather that they stop and think a little bit first about what that "convenience" really entails.

People become insulated from what scratch baking is about, that it's something that can be fun and satisfying to the soul. Trying out new ingredients, learning what those ingredients will bring to or take away from a recipe, adding things at different times , or even preparing an ingredient differently (i.e., butter that is softened instead of melted) can completely transform a finished product.
It's also a way to connect with other cultures, history, to one's present, the future, and one's past, and it's a darn tasty way to do it.

This is the very soul of Chemistry-something I think a lot of Chemistry classes should embrace and take to heart. Now, go bake!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday thoughts

The bakery is quiet today, occassional hum of the coolers turning on is the only sound disturbing the quiet. A day to sit and really think about what I want this blog to be about. It's about our bakery primarily, the good things and bad, the wonderful staff we have, and some occassional fun things we know of whether they are relevant to the baking realms or not. My thoughts fly in so many directions with things I want to say and things that need to be said, some serious and some light hearted, and on that note I think it's time for some tea, a shortbread cookie, and to listen to some guitar music by Rodrigo y Gabriela or maybe Los Romeros.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cake decorating competition

Wow, just got back from the Skills Championships Cake Decorating event held by SkillsUSA Oregon at Linn Benton College in Albany. The students were all working so hard. I know now why I haven't entered competitions ...I would be an absolute BASKET CASE!!!! The students however were all cool under pressure, or at least appeared to be. It was a lot of fun to help out and the students should all be very proud of themselves!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cake musings

Eat cake. That should be a mantra really. ommmmmmmmmeatommmmmmmcakeommmmmm. It's such a part of everyone's lives really, in some form or another. Cake is something to be shared with friends and family or eaten at 2am as one sits alone on a couch with an old Perry Mason episode flickering on the television screen. Cake is for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and sometimes for no reason at all. It is for new beginnings and old memories, it is cake. So, go and bake one, buy one, and eat a slice and enjoy that moment for what it is. A good slice of cake should be savoured.