Friday, November 30, 2012

How Does Cooking Translate for a Baker?

I meant to bake today, but as I stared at the mournful vegetables in my kitchen, I decided it was about time they met in some medley before they reach the dump. I am not a cook. It's not that I don't cook, I just haven't ever focused on cooking in the way I bake. When I cook it's usually an effort to save ingredients that I purchased and forgot to use. They aren't bad, but verging on it.

Alright, that doesn't sound like a person you'd take a recipe from...but I signed up for a Skillshare class today called Creative Cooking: Design a Unique Recipe with Local Ingredients (it's free, so you should too!). I've always viewed cooking as a form of improvisation. The more you know about flavors and techniques, the better your improvisation will be, but the rest of it is like baking: your mood, ingredients and patience. The soup turned out well. I sauteed garlic, mushrooms and potatoes in red wine and spices (rosemary, basil, parsley) and added beans, carrot, and celery. Still, I call it my trial before I take the eat local course--that recipe I will share!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bake Till You Drop

On Sunday I nearly lost it. I mean sitting in a chair, face flat on hands: I can't bake anymore. I made 20 Biscaitie each for 15 different people, that's 300 Biscaitie all made out of my dinky home oven. On top of that was packaging: wrap them, bag them, tie a bow, label and cushion them, tape them up in boxes and trudge them down to the post office. I'm not ungrateful for the task, because running a baking company I realize is mostly figuring out the logistics. Plus the sense of accomplishment at the end was immense! But the whole "bake till you drop" got me thinking: what is it about starting a new process that can be so frustrating? 

It's the learning curve. I started a new job recently too. I'm a barista at The Queens Kickshaw in Astoria. As with starting my last job, there's a lot of details to remember fast when someone orders a drink. Everything has a place that it's kept, every drink has a cup it's prepared in, every second counts. But when you're learning you make mistakes. You do the wrong thing and it's the only way to seal the idea in your mind that no, an americano is does not go in the small latte cup.

The good news? Every time you repeat a process it gets easier. I now know all the things I need for my shipping including tidbits like "to" and "from." So long as you don't drop, you've learned something. With this in mind, I push on to the next order: this time 100 boxes to ship, followed by a holiday bazaar and a catered office Holiday Party!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What I Call Market Research...#Mmm

I'm starting a new initiative I call #Mmm (Magnificent Morsel Monday) which means I'm going to sample a new dessert every week (and write about it on Monday) so I can absorb ideas about flavors, meet amazing bakers and learn more about confectionery entrepreneurs. Please connect through this blog post, facebook or #Mmm @Biscaitie if you have any suggestions or know someone I should meet!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Baking a Winter's Tale

I haven't set up and sold Biscaitie since the Skidmore Market days in college. Lucky for me I stumbled upon a couple of Shakespeare entrepreneurs who have started their own Accidental Shakespeare Company. Imagine this: all the actors are cast and do not rehearse their performance until opening night. There are props strewn for them to play with and a tally system to keep them on track with their lines. It's like watching Shakespeare improv, and everyone is laughing.

Plus did I mention, there's plenty of wine too! I themed my flavors for the occasion:

Sprites and Goblins: Mint Chocolate Chunk
Pursued by a Bear: Chocolate Coconut White Chocolate Chip
The Hermione: Lemon Poppyseed
Bohemian Winter: Gingerbread
La Perdita: Peanut Butter White Chocolate

Here's to eating, drinking and being merry!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Peanut Nutella Yogurt Cookies

When I first heard about gluten free baking my friend, Hannah, introduced me to a simple recipe for peanut butter cookies. I forgot until recently about making such delights! I adjusted the recipe and discovered these make great tea cookies: small, crisp and sweet.

Quick&Easy Peanut Nutella Butter Crisps

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp nutella
1 tbsp greek yogurt
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Mix peanut butter and sugar until well combined.
3. Add nutella, yogurt and egg and beat well.
4. Sprinkle baking powder over mixture and fold in until well dispersed throughout.
5. Make 1 tbsp sized balls out of the dough and roll them in a bowl of sugar (smaller sizes hold their shape better, as these are delicate cookies). Place the balls on the cookie sheet and press with a fork for a textured top.
6. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges brown.
7. Cool, tray, devour.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Food for Thought and Thoughts on Food

People love to tune out on subways. It's a commute and for many, their only chunk of mental solitude in a bustling day of work and home life. And as I sit here, tuning out and subsequently trying to tune back in, I wonder: what is it that brings us all back together?

Well, food. Yes, we all love food. We love to socialize over food, express our culture and personalities through food. We celebrate with food and mourn with food. We meet over food and part over food. In fact, food interjects in our lives more times a day than most anything else. How much do you think about food? I would love to learn more about the impact that food has on our personalities. I read an article yesterday that claims the aroma of bread makes people friendlier. Think of all the times you've walked into a bakery and instantly felt more at ease. It's no wonder that we associate baking with comfort: it's built into feelings of nostalgia and the presence of good company--at least for those who have the luxury of such plenty. So here's to congregating over food!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Oatmeal or Chocolate Chip?

I saw a Sugar Loco tweet this morning: "Raisin cookies that look like chocolate chip cookies is one of the main reasons I have trust issues." I definitely don't agree, but it does make me wonder, why do people have such strong opinions about food? What do flavors bring out in us that make us so passionate one way or another?

I was never a picky eater growing up. My parents adopted a firm policy of "you don't have to like it, but you have to try it." And there were a selection of desserts that I would not touch: all pies, cooked fruit of any description, and any combination of peanut butter and chocolate. Ha! It's funny now to think how much all that has changed... The trend started with watching my parent's eating habits and ended when I began to experiment with my own tastes and opinions about everything. I remember my first bite of pumpkin pie (after realizing that it must be good if everyone in the family devours it). It was fantastic and I knew I had to try more. Not only that, but I started watching my aunt and grandmother make pie so I could make more myself.

It's a luxury to be a picky eater, and there's a foundation that supports our specific tastes (granted some are completely involuntary, so geneticists say). When did you develop your habits?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chai Pumpkin Pie

I realized in the midst of my pumpkin obsession that pumpkin spice and chai spice are quite similar. The difference is that chai is a little more spicy--with cardamom and black pepper. So why not make the pie a little more spicy too?

I adjusted my trusted recipe for a richer flavor and was not disappointed:

Chai Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp clove
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cardamom

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1 15 oz can evaporated milk

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
2. Prepare a single crust for your pie (either purchased or homemade).
3. Whisk the dry ingredients well in a separate bowl. 
4. Add pumpkin puree to dry ingredients and combine well before adding eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla.
5. Pour the evaporated milk in a small steady stream into the pie mix, stirring as you go.
6. Pour pie custard into prepared crust and bake in oven for 15 mins or until the exposed crust browns.
7. Reduce oven to 350 F and bake an additional 30 mins or until the center of the pie is firm.
8. Cool and place in the fridge until cold.
9. Share the sugar, delight in the spice.