Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Vegan Cranberry-Pear Pie

I am having a very hard time deciding how I am going to organize the menu for the bakery. This makes sense, considering how anal I am. I just got a new wallet today, and deciding how to organize my stuff in it has been driving me nuts. There are too many different compartments, and I the stuff I have doesn't organize into the compartments properly. Frustration.

 Anyway, so I've been throwing around ideas for the bakery menu, and it's giving me trouble. Should I separate it by baked good type (breakfast, breads, desserts), or by specialized type of good (regular, vegan, gluten-free, vegan and gluten-free)? Should I only offer specific combinations of dessert, or offer different crusts/fillings/cakes/frostings etc. and for orders let people put together whatever they want? I could also just have a menu of desserts and specify what they were available in, whether it be vegan, gluten-free, both, or neither. I'm beginning to lean towards doing it by make-your-own, at least for the desserts, since there are so many specialized types of goods, and then I could make menu suggestions and then just bake whatever combination I wanted on whatever given day depending on how I felt.
Let me know what y'all would think, plz.
Anyway, here is my pear-cranberry pie with almond crust. The recipe I used actually had so much leftover filling that I made another open-face pie with an oat crust. Overall the feedback was pretty positive. People also thought the pear was actually apple at first, but most people figured it out after a few bites. I think next time I will add more cranberries and less pear, because while it was good, I felt it was bordering on apple-pie-like, and I'd prefer for it to have more of a punch than apple pie. The only criticism was that a crispier crust would have been good. I covered it with tin foil for the first two thirds of the baking time, so next time I'll lower that time or not do tinfoil all together.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chipotle-Cheddar Bread

For a first attempt at this bread, it ended up almost perfect. It went over very well overall, and the two loaves were eaten in a matter of hours. I'm already beginning to find that it's hard to test these things out and get constructive feedback besides "om nom nom!", but for the most part people said the spiciness of the bread was good but not overwhelming, and that more cream cheese might be good. The crust was my favorite part, and usually I don't like crust as much. It was crispy and crunchy, like the bottom of a pizza, or the top of a pan of baked macaroni. I ate the ends, actually, since it was more than half crust, and it was so delicious.
Each loaf was about nine inches long and gave 10-12 slices each. Obviously this isn't a vegan bread -- it has cheddar, cream cheese AND parmesan -- but I am sure it could be modified to make a really delicious vegan bread, maybe with mango chunks or tomatoes. Or both. Yum. I am also sure I could make a decent gluten-free version of it. There are a few things I might do differently next time, but I think overall this bread is really awesome and a total keeper.

Baked Goods and Social Action.

When it comes to the 'hiring homeless people' aspect of my business, I think that is what, overall, I'm beginning to see as the most risky or controversial aspect of the bakery. I am going to preface this by saying that this idea as part of the bakery is absolutely non-negotiable; if I can't have this aspect of my bakery in the long-term, then I am not going to start up the bakery. When I see myself doing anything long-term that takes up a lot of time, I believe that it has to serve a higher purpose and help people on a social level. I've just found that when I work in fields where I feel I'm not benefiting other people, I start to feel incredibly guilty and sad. It's the white liberal in me. I know not everyone feels this way, and that's totally cool. It's just a personal feeling that I can't help, and I promise I won't beat you over the head with it.
I have asked people if the idea of hiring the homeless would deter them from going to that particular bakery, and most of the response I've gotten has been: "It wouldn't bother me, but other people aren't going to like it". Overall the consensus is that hiring people affected by poverty might imply dirtiness. That brings up the "why not just donate?" thread again, which of course I want to do, but I have a problem with just doing that in the long run.
Why? Let me put it this way. I don't have a problem with straight-up charity. I  think it is really great in a lot of ways, and there's nothing wrong with donating food or clothing that you don't need so that other people can be full or warm. Everyone deserves those things. However -- and this can piss people off, so I'm prefacing this by saying that I don't mean to offend -- I think there are a lot of problems inherent in the modern charity system, and that when you think about it in the long run, it doesn't help anyone, and actually perpetuates poverty. A nice little proverb sums it up, and I'm sure it's one that you have heard before: give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. Just giving people stuff doesn't really help them. Give them free food, they're full today, but what about tomorrow? They're going to be hungry again, and you're just going to have to keep giving them food. So why not, rather than give them a sandwich every day, empower them to eventually be able to work and buy that sandwich themselves? I think when you ask most people what they'd rather have, they would choose a steady job over a handout. Charity can be humiliating to the people you're giving to.
So while I don't find donating baked goods to be a bad thing, it is only a band-aid; a temporary fix that does little overall. That is why I feel like projects like The Cara Program are so great -- it empowers people to lift themselves out of poverty and live their lives with dignity. That is why this aspect of the bakery is so important to me, and without it, I feel the endeavor is pointless.
(Also, word on the street is homeless people are, in fact, capable of bathing, washing their hands, and practicing other sanitary measures. Go figure!)
Now I just need to find a market for people who are altruistic and would find that aspect of the bakery a selling point for them, without making it sound like we pick drifters up off the street and put them straight to work. Also, I need a way to fit that philosophy on the back of a brochure. Lots of work ahead of us, then.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Baked Goods.

They are delicious and satisfying.
I am going to start a bakery in a few years. I am aware that this requires a lot of planning. My biggest problem is assuming people actually want to buy what I have to make. Upon looking into small business stuff, I have found that it seems the most important thing is understanding your market and figuring out how to get to them. Which, I'm sure any business major out there is all: "duh." But for someone like me, that is somewhat of a revelation. Oh, yeah, I totes forgot! I need people to actually buy my stuff for me to have a successful business! So I guess I have to consider the whole 'who am I going to pander to' thing.
After much discussion, the tentative name for the company is going to be the Home Sweet Home Baking Company. This is for several reasons. One, this business might have to start out as an at-home delivery type deal, and 'baking company' sounds better suited to that than 'bakery', which implies a specific place, so it leaves our options open. Two, the Home Sweet Home Baking Company (hereafter known as HSH) is a total panderer to the altruistic market. That is, our company's pledge will be that for every pie or cake you order, we will bake another one for a homeless shelter, thus giving them a little bit of homeyness. When we eventually manage to get ourselves a physical bakery, we would also like to work with a program such as The Cara Program, and hire bakers that are people affected by homelessness trying to get a fresh start in the job market.
Hmmm...maybe that can be our motto. Fresh bread and fresh starts. Ha ha ha.
HSH also provides baked goods for niche markets, that is, people with dietary restrictions. There will be extensive menus of vegan and gluten-free products.
I'm getting ahead of myself, though. This blog is more about the fun side of all that stuff, which is...testing out baked goods! I have an extensive team of experts at my disposal (my roommates), and plenty of crazy recipes to try out. My goal is to bake at least 2 things a week, and get together a review panel to test the stuff and see how good they find it, and what suggestions they would have. I will post the results here, along with occasional recipes, 'cause I love you and I want to share my baked goodness with the world.
This is mostly just a place for me to try and fail, to tinker with crazy recipes and try combinations of things I've always wanted to try. I have a list to test, so join me as I try, succeed, and/or fail.
First up for Trial:
-Plain White Bread
-Chipotle-Cheddar Bread
-Pear-cranberry Pie with Almond Crust
See you on the flip side, lovers.