Friday, January 29, 2010

last year of the lousy pretzel???

It's finally here!! Our pretzel dipper. Very close family friend, who I grew up with, as well as my cousin, both became grandmothers' this week. Both baby girls. Sorry, babies aren't as pretty as our pretzel dipper. This thing is the real deal. I'm sure I mentioned, it was shipped, from Germany, in two pieces. So off to the welding shop it went. They did a great job in Germany, marking the way it should go together. I'll make it a point to post a picture of it, here. I promised the folks in Germany, pictures, also. Right after Paczki Day, I'm gonna start looking into, next years' Christkindlmarkt, in the loop. I can't allow you folks of Chicago, to be subjected to those alleged pretzels, another year. You'll thank me later.

Cold kinda chased 'em away yesterday. We did well with sandwiches, and hot chocolate, but otherwise, kinda quiet. Looking forward to warmer days, we made lemon macarons yesterday. Don't matter how far, you've got to come, they're worth the drive. We added blue poppy seeds to the shells, and cooked the a fore mentioned, lemon cremeux, and added it to white chocolate ganache, for the filling. Really pretty. We made strawberry as well.

I happened to catch "Chicago Tonite" on WTTW, last night. Host Phil Ponce had three food bloggers as his guest. They mentioned this will be the year of the macaron. Most interesting, is their mention of how difficult they are to produce. Not so difficult as tricky. I'm gonna email all three of them. Every trip to France, I see more and more. I get the monthly "Cafe-Sweets", magazine from Japan. It's their pastry/chocolate/coffee publication, for professionals. More and more in every issue, macarons. Kinda funny, they profile bakeries and pastry shops in France, Italy, Germany, L.A. and New York. I can't read a lick, other than numbers, and a few address's, once in a while. But, oh the pictures. It's a big, thick issue, all colour photos. I think it's up to $24 an issue, but if I catch one idea, even a small idea, worth every cent. In one issue, they profiled at least fifty macaron shops in Paris. Interesting how different they all are. They also profiled the more prominent macaron shops in Japan. Gonna be big here, soon.

Gotta run, I forgot all about Mr. Christy. I apologized to him in an email. Gotta get started on some more strudel. Goin' out Monday, scouts honor.

Monday, January 25, 2010

busy times

Well, White Sale week is done. We were very pleased with the turn out we had. Our customer count was up 6.94% over the previous week, and for the week, we were up 12.64%, over last years' White Sale week. With all our wonderful, computer generated reports that tell me how many of this and how many of that, I don't keep good records of the weather. Last week was great, no snow! It seems last year, we had awful weather in December, buy January was good to us. Baker buddy, Mike Weber keeps good track of the weather. If I wanna know, I can call him. I'm not so good with keepin' notes. Even when I save it in a computer, I never can remember which one I used.

A lady called me last week, this is another example of my office skills, one of those, "Been comin' to the bakery for years. I knew your mom". If it's true I would recognize her, I'm sure. Said her husband "Really likes the tart au citron, they eat in Paris. It's his birthday and I'd like two for Sunday". No problem, I always wanted to make that. My buddy William, out in Seattle, makes loads of it. I have a great formula for lemon filling, so, let's give it a shot. Straight up, sorry, in a word, bada_s! I used an all butter tart dough that Jennifer uses for her fruit tarts. Lined a few tart rings, and baked em'. I cooked a "Lemon creameaux" filling. French for "Super creamy, like never before, lemon pie filling". No water, lemon juice, eggs, sugar, butter, loads o' butter, vanilla bean, and a pinch of gelatin. You cook the eggs, sugar and lemon juice over boiling water, to 80c. Allow it to cool to 60c. You add cubed butter with an immersion blender, so it gets really smooth. Pour the filling in the baked tart shells, and allow it to set overnight.This recipe has it all,cloudy from the butter, intense yellow from the eggs, specks of black gold(vanilla seeds), crunchy almond infused tart shell, under toasted meringue. I talked to Jennifer, we're gonna start makin' four inch versions for the store. Oh, as for my office skills. I never wrote down her name, just relied on my memory to have them ready for yesterday.I assume she came in. All the tarts are gone. Dey some lucky folk!

Gotta get upstairs and get this thing started. Got cleaned out, over the weekend. Or as my dad would say "We took a severe beating about the head and shoulders".

Friday, January 22, 2010

I've seen the light

I just ate a glazed donut, a fresh glazed donut. I don't know if I ever talked about it here, but growing up, I never ate the fresh stuff. Never, never, ever, ate anything that we could sell, wasn't allowed. To this day, there are items we make, that I've never eaten, fresh. I've always been confused about pumpkin pie. We sell boat loads of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. I never sat down at a Thanksgiving dinner and ate pumpkin pie. We always had lemon meringue pie, that the meringue had slid off. Every morning I eat out of the stale pile. I am my mother's son, she died in 1987. Funny how that stuff stays with you. Anyway, a fresh glazed donut, MY GOD! No wonder none of them ever make it to the stale pile. Soft, shiny, crunchy sweetness, not a trace of grease. Artuo, you da man.

My favorites out of the stale pile, are our cinnamon rolls. No actually, cheese danish is my favorite. I gotta better chance of winnin' the big ball game in the Illinois lottery, than gettin' a cheese danish. Two, three times a week there is a cinnamon roll, usually the ones that get torn when the store folks break them apart to sell them. We bake them so they bake together, the result is a roll that has no crust, soft all the way around. I like to dunk 'em in milk, whole milk, not the stuff we use at home, until they are mushy, just to the point of needing a spoon.

Since we got our new creme whipping machine, and started using 100% pure creme, I do break a cupcake in half and just stand above fifteen liters of sweetened, heavy creme, fluffy like shaving creme. I've found that one is never enough, cause ya always leave crumbs from the first one. Ya need that second one to chase away the crumbs from the first. If only we could sell that experience!

It kills me when my one of my daughters, comes thru the front door of the bakery, instead of the back door. They always enter the shop looking for me, eating a fresh, Bennison's sandwich and drinking a bottle of orange juice. What? I've never eaten a fresh sandwich. Once in a while I'll eat a day old Monaco(turkey) sandwich, on a Sunday morning. Oh, the guilt.

That glazed donut won't do it for me today. Won't make til' lunch. Since we were busy yesterday, slim pickins in the stale pile. Gotta get upstairs and find an reason for Franky to get some creme whipped early.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

ya never know who's watching

I mentioned yesterday, that I would post the letter I got from Hermann Ried. Mr. Ried builds a full line of pretzel producing equipment, donut fryers and grease filters. He also has a written a book about homemade jams. Not sure how the two are related but....
He is a baker and konditor as well. Here is the post that I mentioned:

Dear Jory,

the parcel together with your friendly message has arrived recently. Cordially thanks for that !

I would like to respond in detail to the parcel´s content. You may know, that we as Germans are not so convinced on both US food and the habits of eating in your country. We also know about strange combinations of flavors in the US, at least we think it is.

According to all that we were very skeptic to what you´ve sent us.

Never before we found ourselves so surprised ! Beside the wonderful FLORENTINER your STOLLEN: a real masterpiece ! For years I had never been eating such a stollen. And believe me, this compliment is meant just honest.

I know what to talk about, because I am master (Handwerksmeister) in both as baker and confectioner and still like to consume cookies and sweets.

Unfortunately here Stollen is going to become gradually worsening in quality and taste, a mass product during the season. Our bakers should try the American Stollen …

Again, many thanks (and when your pretzels taste like your stollen, it would be a good advise to rent a booth at the Munich Octoberfest !)

Kind reagrds from Germany,


Hermann Ried
Hochvogelweg 18
D-87463 Dietmannsried

I took this an ultimate compliment. I also heard from Yvonne, our pretzel dipper smuggler, and she told me that he contacted her, and wanted me to know that his comments were not to be taken lightly. I also sent the women that did all the work getting our stollen forms/moulds thru customs. I think English was an issue for her, her "Thank you" response, to me, was funny, and cute, at the same time. We had a call last week from a customer that wanted stollen, only four. Had it been twelve, I'd a made it. Make twelve for her and another six or eight for myself, get me thru til' Thanksgiving.

Yesterday. Matt ordered a new monitor to be used in our store. We've been running various recordings, Raymond Calvel instructional video's and footage from past Coupe competitions, on a regular video recorder,dvd player/television. A few months ago, we bought an upscale video camera. Matt has been shooting, whatever is going on behind the scenes. He will put together a really cool video, that we will run all day long. Something about our new server having more capacity. We plan to do holiday ones as well. Nothing can catch someone's eye, better than the construction of a gingerbread house. Hope to have it all running by the first of February.

Mr. George Christy called me yesterday, from Pasadena, California. Said "I've been following your blog. Can you send me a few things"? He wants apfelstrudel. I told him "Doesn't travel well". He said "Doesn't matter just wrap it up and send it". I told him "It's goin' out Monday". He doesn't know how jazzed I can get over a call like that.

Gotta get upstairs, got some apples to peel.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

paczki eating contest

Man, been a while! I feel we are returning to a more "Normal" schedule after the holidays. I've remembered how we spend our days, without focusing on things that are only red and green. It is a welcome thing, this month of January. It's a nice change of pace, getting home before the streetlights are on. Although we are running a good bit ahead of last January.

Last Saturday, the 16th, we had our first "Winter market". The theme was "For love of the game". They had a lot of game producers there and a nice menu of chef demos. We had a great spot, right inside the door, on the first floor. The market occupied three floors of the Notebart Nature Museum. We were sold out at 10:30. We'll be better prepared on February 13th.

This is the third day of our "White sale". Been going well. I made the first batch of "White" pound cake, on Saturday. I wanted it cooled well enough to cut, and wrap, Sunday. Came out really nice. Old school, Chicago pound cake formula. Made with hi-ratio shortening, no butter. I tried making the second batch, replacing part of the shortening with butter. Not such a good idea. The loaves lost a lot of volume in the oven. So much for trying to improve things! Scratch cake mixes need to be in balance, very important. To make cakes sweet enough for American palette, they must contain more sugar than flour. To dissolve the high amount of sugar, it takes more liquid. There are emulsifiers added to the "Cake" shortening we use, to allow better adhesion between the liquid and the fat. There are limited amounts of lecithin in butter, as well as egg yolks, but trace amounts. So by replacing emulsified shortening with butter, the mix started to almost separate.

The biggest news is our upcoming Paczki Eating contest. We are going to do it on Saturday the 13th of February. We are planning on eight, two man teams. We are holding it as a fundraiser for Hatian relief, thru the Red Cross. We've got one team secured. Info is going to the sororities and fraternities on the Northwestern campus today.

Oh, almost forgot, our pretzel dipper has been shipped from Germany! Coolest news is the response I got from the goods that we sent to them. I sent a stollen, some florentine and some springele to both the folks that made the dipper and the young lady that acted as our pretzel dipper trafficker. The fellow that builds pretzel dippers is a baker. He had wonderful things to say about our stollen. I will post his letter tomorrow.

Gotta run, got "White sale" goods to bake.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

not sure where they come from

Had a great day yesterday. Don't know if folks were runnin' out before the snow, or it was the Epiphany thing. We sold more than king cakes and pithiver. The hispanic bakeries really cranked yesterday, sellin' their "Roscas". My buddy John Roeser(Roeser's Bakery) did very well, down near Humboldt Park. Not typically thought of the go-to-place for a Hispanic king cake, he sold a lot. He does it right, buys the quince and guava paste, buys the proper boxes. He deserves to sell 'em.

We have the store decorated for our "White Sale". Passed out a lot of fliers already. If the weather is fair that week, we will do well. The dates are the 18th to the 24th. We've ordered all the proper packaging/ingredients, etc. Last year, we saw an increase in store traffic, that week, by 449 people. That was compared to the previous week. Don't know if it was the White Sale, or the fact that we were a week further from New Year's diet resolutions, or could've been the weather. Who knows?

We don't seem to be getting the "Rush week" orders we are accustomed to. I feel it's next week, but not so much on the books yet. We've always done pretty well with that. Sororities order a lot of baked goods for that week, well used to, anyway. Baked foods at these events, could have gone by the way of the "Corporate Christmas party". Second Christmas in a row here, nothin'. We used to do large, large Christmas parties, for offices and business's here in town. We had more country club work this holiday season, but small to medium size places, nothin'!

I came in a couple hours ago. It was startin' to snow. I gotta get some salt spread, out on the sidewalk. Hollertacha later.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

little ol' lady made my day

Well, we installed our new server yesterday. Boxes arrived from Newegg and within a couple hours it was up and running. Sixteen computers in the bakery now. Of course, with any upgrade or addition, there is always a computer somewhere that someone needs in the middle of the night that didn't receive the proper "IP address" or the network wasn't set up properly. I got here this morning and there was an error message about "Accepting the newest change", or something. So I acted like any other night baker, and started clicking away. I got lucky, at least it seems. Our "IT guy", Matt will be here soon. He really is amazing. I'm one generation late for all this technology stuff. But, I'm learning.

We have plans to decorate the store today for our "White Sale". We are gonna do that the week of the 18th. It did well the last couple of years. The store really looks good, when we get the clotheslines up. Sorry to see the Christmas stuff come down. Christmas is when our store looks it's best.

Yesterday afternoon, Matt and I were in the office here, and a call came in on the office number and the answering machine picked up. An elderly women's voice, a little apprehensive about speaking to our machine, said "Just before Christmas, I purchased a stollen. I have to tell you, it's been years since I enjoyed stollen that much. It was very nice. Thank you. That's all", click. No name or phone number. Made my day. Made my week. My dad and I have been eating a stollen, thin slices for the last week. It's almost gone(I just sniffled). Kinda like frosty the snowman, "I'll be back again someday". Eating that stollen, I find myself staring at the crumb, how nice and light, the colour is. I eat it and I think, "We made this, How did we do this"? Excellent crumb, terrific flavour. Yeah, I know it's just stollen, but it's perfect. Oh well, next November.

Hey, time to get back to it. White sale comin' up, lots of king cakes, paczki, hell, that magical spring day will be here soon. "Pitchers and catchers report".

Saturday, January 2, 2010

the coffee here has great power

I think the colour has come back in my face. It was an incredibly successful Christmas season. The weather played out perfect. December '08, the weather wasn't so kind. So the increase we felt, was a little false. But none the less.

Not much left. A couple of house kits, twelve to fifteen pounds of cookies that never got packed. Pretty much, whatever we had left, was left because it got lost. The bakery was so full of stuff, I can understand how it happens.

First time we ever baked stollen for New Year's. Sold it all. All but the one we cut. Gotta say, pretty incredible stuff. No wonder we sold so much of it. I plan on baking more. I think we will sell it thru the Epiphany. New Years' Eve was very busy as well. We could've sold another fifty baguettes and a boat load of ciabatta. Sold a lot of cakes, as well. French silk pies, chocolate leaf tortes, and of course, red velvet cakes.

So, it wasn't all pristine here either. On the night of the 18th, I had a fever, like never before. No chance to take any sleep aiding drugs. Working the twenty on and four off schedule, it's tough to beat a virus. I coughed, and my chest rattled for eight days. It went thru the bakery, bad. My wife and son were very, very sick. But we played hurt. Lots of tea, Sudafed, and Z-Pac. We were closed for two days, the 25th and 26th. I woke up on the 26th, my back was killing me. I couldn't stand up straight. I came down to the bakery to get things mixed for that night, rememeber the artisan process thing? Levains' need to be fed. poolish and ciabatta need to be mixed. I made a pot of coffee, carried a couple of bags of flour up the stairs, and instantly felt better. Guess I needed some flour in my lungs.

The morning of the 24th, about 6:15am, pos computers crashed. Matt was here, got 'em back right away, except he had to "Relocate the server". We've been getting by. We're having to retrieve data in a roundabout way. New server will be here on Monday. I guess we are going to a remote server. One that there will be no access to. I just try to make sure there is salt and yeast in all of our doughs'.

Well, gonna get upstairs. Last week I told Patti, "I can't remember how we spend our days here, if we are not making Christmas goods". Gonna take a few days before I remember. Our 2010 farmer's market application is due, here in Evanston, on Monday.

Happy New Year.