Saturday, July 19, 2014
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
I never was a cupcake maker.
I have no childhood memories of baking cupcakes with my mom.
I have childhood memories of selecting cupcakes at Cub Scouts meetings when I was very wee. I have childhood memories of looking for the cupcake with the most frosting. I have childhood memories of scraping the paper cupcake liner against my bottom teeth to capture the bit of cupcake that was left behind.
But the only cupcake-baking episode I can recall happened a couple of years ago and resulted in the cupcake at the top of this post. I baked a whole batch. I didn't frost most of them. I threw most of them away. My pursuit was a singular, picture-perfect cupcake. I did eventually eat it. It was OK.
Yesterday, when I read that Crumbs, the cupcake chain, had closed all of its locations overnight, my only thought was "Of course it did. Fads don't last."
How anyone thought they could build a sustainable business on a single food product is beyond me. McDonald's doesn't just sell hamburgers. Starbucks doesn't just sell coffee.
But even if they did, hamburgers and coffee are much more staples of the American diet than cupcakes.
The precipitous rise of the cupcake foretold its precipitous fall.
I never did buy into the cupcake craze. I never ate a Crumbs cupcake. I never set foot into a Crumbs store. (The reaction on Twitter yesterday was decidedly anti-Crumbs. If tweeters are to be believed, Crumbs cupcakes were dry and topped with overly sweet frosting. If that was truly the case, it's no wonder Crumbs didn't last: There are only so many curious first-timers in the cupcake world.)
For that matter, I've never had a Magnolia Bakery cupcake or any other. Cupcakes don't entice me. And I really dislike fads.
I make really good blueberry muffins and I make really good cream currant scones. I bake sensational brownies, I don't mind boasting. But cookies are my thing.
And cookies are my thing because the borders of cookies are so malleable. When I baked monthly cookies for Angelo, and I would clack out ideas, many were the time that I had to rein in my thoughts because I was really exceeding the boundaries of what constitutes a cookie.
But, like hamburgers and coffee, cookies will never go out of style. Cookies are as timeless as they are infinite.
If I ever do open a bakery, though, I will sell more than just cookies. Not much more. I will not try to be all things to all people, but if someone walks in and wants a brownie, they will be able to buy a brownie. Biscotti? You bet. (Yes, I know they're cookies, but some biscotti are second cousins to cement and have gotten a bad rap and are sometimes shunned. Mine are buttery and crunchy but pleasantly so.) Scones? Maybe not every day. Maybe I'll have a rotating special.
But if anyone wants a cupcake, they'll have to go elsewhere.
If there's anywhere left to go.
Monday, June 23, 2014
Good Times: Summer Begins Edition ...
And I really do love creating cookies for Angelo's blog, and I'm not sure why I never thought of this hybrid before, but now I have.
Wednesday, June 04, 2014
The Weather Gods Have Been Appeased ...
I have been resisting the urge to make peanut butter cookies but today's rain wore me down.
They are stupidly simple, go together in a half a minute, and bake nearly as quickly. Twenty minutes, start to finish, assuming you're going to eat a few warm.
1 cup peanut butter (I use creamy Jif)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dump everything into a bowl. Stir to combine. Portion* onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350°F for 15 miuntes.** Cool five minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a cooling rack.
* I use a two-tablespoon cookie scoop.
** Space the oven racks in the upper-third and lower-third positions; halfway through baking, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back.
Friday, April 25, 2014
Good Times, Not Necessarily Planned Edition ...
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
One Conundrum At A Time ...
This was going to be the year that I finally started baking professionally. Commercially. Baking and selling instead of baking and giving away.
I would start with sablés because they'd kind of become my thing. I'd perfected them. People liked them. I had more than one flavor to offer. They were sturdy for shipping. They stayed fresh over time. It was a good plan.
I spent a day compiling numbers. I really hate compiling numbers. But I needed to figure out about how many I could bake per week and how much I would pay for ingredients and how much I would pay to the commercial kitchen where I'd do my baking and how much I'd pay for packaging materials and how much I'd pay for shipping and figured out about what I'd have to charge for all of this to make sense.
And the number was a bit ridiculous. Who pays that for cookies, I wondered.
But friends assured me that people really do pay a lot for baked goods if they're worthy.
So I kept the plan in place, with the intention of getting started as soon as I had the money to pay for insurance and materials and space and such. I didn't want to start the venture in the hole.
This was also the year, though, that I read more and more about grains and their impacts on our health.
I already knew they weren't great for me, but I'd kept on eating them, kept on baking with them.
But as the year wore on, I read more and more that convinced me that I really should eliminate them from my life, wheat chief among them.
Wheat. As in flour. As in the basis of pretty much everything I bake.
So I ditched the plan.
My conscience wouldn't allow me to profit from selling something I knew to be harmful.
"But people have free will!" helpful friends said. "They can decide whether to eat it or not!"
But still, no. I couldn't make a living off of selling something I wouldn't be willing to eat myself.
And then I found a lovely group of grain-free folks and told them of my erstwhile baking plans, and they immediately told me that if I could find a way to bake with grain-free ingredients, the world would beat a path to my door.
Folks who have given up grains don't necessarily want to give up traditionally grain-based foods. They still want cookies and such.
So I resolved to learn how to bake with almond flour.
I set for myself the goal of perfecting an almond-flour sablé.
And then I saw the price of almond flour.
And I laughed.
At the moment, I'm looking at a site that offers a 25-pound bag of almond flour that's well recommended by those who bake with it.
For reference's sake, a 25-pound bag of Ceresota, my wheat flour of choice, can be had for, oh, about 10 bucks.
A 25-pound bag of this almond flour lists for $153.99.
And I thought the cookies were going to be expensive before?!
I still want to perfect the cookie. (I shall be starting with a much smaller quantity of flour, though even a 5-pound bag is $39.99.) And then I'll figure out what the price would have to be, per dozen, if I were to sell them. And I shall consult my grain-free friends and see if that's a price they'd be willing to pay.
So the baking plan may yet move forward, slightly different from what I'd envisioned.
And I may even offer the wheat version alongside the non-wheat treats. Let people decide, indeed.
I keep saying that I don't want to be anyone's food police. If people want to buy wheat-based cookies, so be it.
But wow. Ten dollars versus one hundred and fifty four.
It'll be interesting to see what the market will bear.